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This review first appeared in the March 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Acoustic Revive. - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe, Miyajima Laboratory Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature Version with Regenerator power
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω version
Interconnects: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (on all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD player, Acoustic Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD player and preamplifier. Pro Audio Bono platform under Leben CS300
Review component retail in Poland: zł 1.190 for 1m cable, zł 1.190 for filter

Haters impossible, unite.
This review is for you. And may you have a good laugh. Please. This is about the sonic influence of a LAN cable and isolator (the latter known from medical products). The Japanese Acoustic Revive company has introduced two new products to the market – the LAN-1.0 PA cable and RLI-1 isolator. These are aimed at improving systems whose source is a network player with music files stored on a server or network drive. Feel free to laugh now and get it over with. Because then we can tackle a serious matter. If somebody had told me a few years ago that I would be reviewing LAN cables, I too would have smiled. Perhaps without malice because I’m used to accepting how little is known (and how little I know) about the mechanisms of sound reproduction - but I would have smiled with some distrust. My changed attitude shows that on one hand I really know little about the nature of signal transmission, on the other hand how big of a leap playback quality over a network has made.

What is a LAN cable used for? To transmit digital signals in so-called packets  over a local area network. Common sense would lead to the conclusion that adherence to a few basic rules—a good CAT-5e cable with clean quality contacts etc— would eliminate any sonic influence across this bit of the signal path. Yet it doesn’t.

My first introduction to this subject came from the man who spent the last two years researching digital transmission and the  interaction of a network player with a local area network including NAS and servers. I am talking about Gerhard Hirt and his networked Ayon Audio S-3 player. Gerhard collaborated on his player with one of the best teams for this task, StreamUnlimited from Vienna. That’s a group of Austrian and American engineers who worked for Philips and during the late 70s designed the mechanical drives for CD players which eventually led to the CD Pro-2. After starting their own company they designed and built the world’s first music server. Now they specialize in CD and DVD/BD drives as well as central processing units for file players. Their modules are used by companies like Musical Fidelity, Audio Research, Pro-Ject and Ayon Audio.

During our meeting Gerhard told me how it had taken their team a long time to understand why the sound of the player was far worse when files were played from a pen drive plugged into the USB port and much better when the signal arrived via LAN from a server. They came to the same conclusions the Linn people did some time ago - LAN allows for much better clock synchronization between network player and network file storage. I don’t know whether you remember but for a long time—perhaps until today—Linn did purposely not include any USB ports in their players. The signal always entered via LAN port.

My second motivator on the subject came from another person related to audio technology whilst at the same time being the HifiCritic’s editor, Malcolm Steward. In his article Build Your Own NAS he described his experiences with eSATA cables and how their different versions influenced the data transfer (Malcolm Steward, The Infamous SATA Cable Saga in Build Your Own NAS, HifiCritic, October/November/December 2011, Vol5, No4, s. 23). Such revelations about digital data which shouldn’t care about the method of their transfer made manufacturers rethink the role of the LAN cable in audio systems. Thus a lot of specialized cables came into existence which can be found in the catalogues of Supra and many others, including Acoustic Revive. The latter  designed today’s LAN-1.0 (the two-meter version is called LAN-2.0) and a low-pass filter which cleans the LAN network from HF interference. Such filters are standard for medical devices where high performance and low distortion are top priority. They are simple isolation transformers. Acoustic Revive examined their influence on the sound and claim that using just the transformers diminished dynamics whereas adding some coils and rearranging the filter circuit much improved it. Thus the RLI-1 filter was born. It plugs between router and server or router and player or better yet, both.