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LAN-1.0 PA + RLI-1 + router.
This comparison had been made swapping a single cable connecting the network player with the router. Now I added to that the cable between router and networked hard-drive. I had similar impressions again although the bigger change arose in the first case. The second cable only completed the picture. Connecting first one, then two and finally three filters (one between server and router and the other two on the ends of the cable connecting router and network player) brought additional changes. Those were again small and seemed reversible, meaning that it seemed I could live without them. Here I wasn’t completely sure however. The evaluation of the character of changes will depend on our preferences and system even more than with the cable.

The RLI-1 made everything softer and more delicate. But this wasn’t about any damping of the signal since here we dealt with a digital signal whose amplitude did not translate to output volume. Even so I felt that I could move the volume knob up one or two notches (1-2dB). Now it was clear that the sound was smoother, more delicate, more analog in the sense of being less aggressive. Yet I’m convinced that not everyone will prefer it. The internal tension of some recordings disappeared and with powerful numbers that tension or minor aggression is essential. Only with small ensembles was its absence consistently preferable since everything became more palpable, smoother, fuller and more satisfying.

In the company materials we read that "… due to the fact that the product is aimed at the audiophile market, the RLI-1 does not have side effects like any loss of energy or a reduction of dynamics, which cannot be avoided when we use isolators otherwise used for medical equipment…”.

At least in my system I cannot agree fully. Lowered dynamics were a fact for me. Even so the assets of the RLI-1 were significant enough where in some systems they may outweigh the shortcomings.

Conclusion. The haters of course didn’t make it this far. Of this I’m 99.999999% (8N) sure. The only ones still reading are those who were interested in the strange experiment of exchanging an ordinary Ethernet cable between player/router and server/router with a specialty cable. The second part of the experiment was to add filters to remove high-frequency noise. For you folks I have an important realization. A LAN/Ethernet cable is as important as an analog interconnect. I will go farther and say that the destructive influence of an inferior cable as a derivative of weak digital signal transmission and poor word clocking is much more severe because it affects digital files which are especially sensitive to jitter. Those files can sound splendid if we are able to transmit and decode them properly even with a cheaper player and DAC. The cable then either becomes the bottleneck to the amount and quality of data processed or passes on all of it to translate to a more natural truthful sound.

The isolators go a step further but won’t work equally well in every system. Are they worth the price? I cannot answer that. It would be similar to me trying to answer if it is worth drinking better wine, wearing better shoes and enjoying finer watches. But I can answer two other questions. Do these products change the sound? Absolutely! And for the better? Yes.

Review methodology
I used five network players: the HDI Dune TV-101, HDI Dune MAX, Popcorn Hour A-300, Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC and Ayon Audio S-3. I used the LinkSys WG320N router and a 4 x 2TB Synology DiskStation DS410sj server in a RAID array with one spare. Server and player connected to the router with thick solid unbranded cables. Server, router and player all plugged into the same Oyaide MTS-4e power strip and this via Gigawatt LS-1 power cord plugged into a separate Furutech FT-SWS(R) wall socket. I compared the cables in two modes – switching between them (one or the other connected) every 30 seconds without interrupting the track; and switching them every 2 minutes starting the piece from the beginning. Those were A/B comparisons against known A and B.

Description. The LAN-1.0 PA is a local area network or Ethernet cable designed to transfer digital data in a home computer network. It is made of ultra-pure single core PCOCC-A copper with a copper-foil shield. The plugs are made from gold-plated copper elements covered with a plastic coating to remove static electricity. The dielectric is based on  PFC fluorocarbon. The RLI-1 LAN isolator is a high-frequency filter. It is a plastic box with a socket and short Ethernet pig tail. The whole contraption is 79mm long and weighs 40g. Inside the box we have coils and tiny isolation transformers. The internal wiring is the same as in the LAN-1.0 PA, i.e. solid-core PCOCC-A copper. The influence of the RLI-1 on the signal is shown on measurements available on the manufacturer’s website.
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