I am not a network expert, or at least enough of one. I used to use managed switches at home, thinking that I knew enough of what everything needed and that my experience building data centres around the world would be sufficient, but I couldn’t find the exact right set of controls / firmware / blah blah to make it work well. Hubris is a master teacher.
The best thing I did at home recently was to rip out every piece of cable (I found a Cat5 from the late 90s!), replacing everything with new cat6a (a few cat7 for some longer runs runs). And, only use wifi for control devices (eg iPads, Surfaces etc). And, I went flat, dumb, name brand, new switches. And now everything is under a millisecond on average (yes, I use rrdtool to keep track).
So, I tend to agree with Roon on this one – networking is actually hard, and even if you understand what is happening on the wire that that doesn’t enable everyone to create a config that works well (YMMV – some people can, but alas not me).
To someone starting out, without deep networking skills, I would suggest something like:
- Buy only name brand, un-managed switches. Buy twice the capacity that you think you need.
- Buy a set of new cat6a cables from a reliable source for every connection (all the same, all new). Use Blue Jeans Cable if you want something tested for spec.
- If you can’t run ethernet in the walls, run them on the wall (white cables in corners or low to the ground can work in many situations.)
- Don’t use wifi for audio endpoints if at all possible, only for control devices.
- Don’t use ethernet over power.
- Test using ping from a wired device: everything should be within a millisecond or two within a normal home wired network most of the time. If not, resolve (remove a link at a time until you isolate the problem).