Concept & tech. On first use, I thought something was wrong with these RJ45 sockets (one in, three out). I had a much harder time getting the plugs in than usual. That of course wasn't bad but proof of excellent contact grip. Hello Amphenol parts which are fully shielded and without the typical green network LED. According to Innuos boss Nuno Vitorino, those LED are ingress points for noise so one better does without 'em. In fact there isn't a single LED on this machine, not even an on/off idiot light. That shouldn't really smart since we do best to never power the Innuos PhoenixNet down. More on why later. For Innuos, noise is public enemy #1 so its suppression key. That explains the four isolation transformers greeting the incoming signal, the 100Mbit-class Switch chip on the mother board. As Melco of Japan argue too, Vitorino finds Gbit chips sub-optimal for audiophile purposes. To eliminate on-chip regulators which drive up noise, Innuos supply theirs with three external Analog Devices LT3045 voltage regs.

The bigger silver casing contains the OXCO clock, the smaller one adjacent the Switch chip. Easily visible too are the black isolation transformers behind each LAN socket.

For Innuos, power delivery is a big deal. For years our Portuguese thus have collaborated already with Dr. Sean Jacobs who designed the so-called CX module inside the PhoenixNet. That suppresses DC hum in their low-current range by a factor of 1'000. With the Phoenix circuits for both LAN and USB, that's key since they consume less than 1 ampere. The Innuos switch thus houses two linear power supplies, one for the Switch chip, one for the clock. That gets us at the third critical task: precision clocking. King of quartz clocks is the oven-controlled crystal oscillator aka OCXO where an encapsulated 'oven' holds the operating temperature steady to minimize variations which influence the clock's beat. OCXO clocks work magnitudes more precise than TCXO which are more accurate than basic XO without temperature compensation.

Now we've arrived at why one shouldn't turn this machine off. Running it constantly gives the best temperature stability of 3ppb so 0.003 parts per million. Vitorino simply clams up when it comes to the specific part he selected. Instead he emphasizes that their quartz oven sits right adjacent to their Switch chip for the shortest connection. That's far superior than working with external clocks whose cable connections for clock distribution can undermine the precision of the clock signal. The PhoenixNet packs into a solid case designed to minimize electromagnetic disturbances and vibrations. To that end the already upscale Amphenol RJ45 ports embed in silicon decoupler rings and the chassis lid is lined with a damping mat while the three absorber feet underneath the chassis would cut a good figure also under top-quality main gear.

Impressions & comparisons. Cynics would expect little sonic leeway. To my surprise, I did hear something. With the PhoenixNet in the loop, sonics gained some sonority to feel a tad earthier. I didn't think this was butter added to the lower midrange. Rather it 'cleaned up' the treble to render the upper octaves purer even a tick milder.

Clearly the strings and particularly cello of the Cuarteto Casals on Beethoven's complete string quartets III of Apotheosis grew a bit fuller, embodied and woody because tone colors had more coverage. On classic fare that really suited so was a welcome gain.