ISO: Advice on Optimizing General Connectivity and Network Performance in an Urban Apartment

First post here looking to get some general feedback on a few questions I have regarding making the best out of my audio equipment, network equipment, computer and Roon. I hope i picked the correct forum category and if any mod feels like this topic belongs somewhere else, please let me know. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading about these various topics on here and have the following questions:

My goal:
To maximize the quality of my audio output based on a reasonable budget and simple set up without requiring a ton of tinkering. I’m okay with a little tinkering but mainly I’d like to make the best situation with a moderate appetite for information consumption.

My current set up:
Urban apartment in an apartment building with a lot of wifi activity, Kef LS50W [endpoint], Rel t7i, my main PC as the Roon core, an 8tb WD Easystore external, ASUS ac56u router and Moto SB6121 modem. I have a pretty decent live music concert collection as well as Jazz, and make an effort to collect everything in FLAC format. I also have and frequently use a Tidal Hifi subscription.

PC/Core is located about 25ft away from my router and connected via ethernet, my endpoint is connected via wifi and possibly ethernet to the router, about 5ft from my router. My router sits on my entertainment stand near the video games and TV.

Top priority question: New Router?
I read on Kef’s website that a router with a 5ghz wifi speed of at least 1300Mbps is recommended. My current router is almost 10 years old and reflects a max speed of about half the recommendation so i figured it’s about time for a new router. Given I live by myself with no family in an apartment, i don’t think i need a mesh system or anything too complicated. I just ordered the ASUS ac86u as it seemed sufficiently fast and should last me another 10 years [i plan to continue living in a single floor space for the near future, i think].

Given the router was about $200 new on amazon - is it overkill compared to the older ac68u that’s new for $150? Are used markets encouraged? I’ve been reading that a lot of people have mesh systems on here, which i don’t think is necessary for my situation, but that a few people use enterprise/business hardware for consumer use in order to cut down on external wifi traffic/noise/etc. Given i live in an apartment building, would this be recommended? I’m not really network fluent so i’d prefer to keep things rather simple. QOS and basic channel analysis/selection is really as far as i’d like to go. Also - this could all be moot if i just plug in my endpoint directly into the router, no? In that case would the ac86u be completely unnecessary? I figure a router upgrade is in the cards either way.

Question #2
In the event i go with the ac86u, is there a recommendation between plugging my endpoint into the router via ethernet vs USB? I know my current router has two USB ports and the new one would as well, so i’m not sure if there’s a preference here between the two cables? For the past 6mo or so i’ve been just using 2.4ghz wifi and think i’ve been reasonably pleased. After taking some time to really dig into my structure, i think improvements can be made and thus the need for this post.

Alternatively, i could plug my core directly into my endpoint via either ethernet or USB, right? Is there a preference towards this approach rather than going through the router? I guess this wouldn’t allow the remote to control anything, right? I use the Roon app on an android phone for that. Also given my PC is far from my endpoint, doesn’t seem like a good option unless i bought a new endpoint, which brings me to…

Question #3
Eventually i’d like to whip up some sort of music server or ROCK system instead of pushing everything through my regular-use PC. ROCK sounds quite tempting and applicable, but it would be cool to make the server a bit more robust with additional video media and/or video game emulators [QNAP maybe?]. I may choose to have separates, leaving ROCK to its own device. An NUC seems to be the preference - what would be the best bang for buck on a used unit be? I’m familiar with building PCs so i’d probably look for a barebones unit and put in my own SSD and RAM and plug my easystore external into it. I really like the idea that these newer ones are very low on power consumption. PC + Kefs + Work Laptop = increasing electricity bill. This combined with the unit being purely dedicated to ROCK means i can probably be okay with a more affordable model and wouldn’t need to go for top of the current-line. The Nucleus is a beaut, but pretty pricey - maybe someday down the road.

Overall, i know I have some purchases coming soon with regards to networking and core/organization, so i’d like to approach them with a reasonable budget while getting the best quality of music i can out of my rather simple set up. I’d like this new approach to be relatively future proof and opssibly allow for some additional expansion whether that’s more endpoints in a bedroom, on a porch, etc.

Thanks for taking the time to read all this and hopefully if the conversation becomes robust enough, this could be a good post for anyone looking for such an approach in the future. :point_up:

First of all, your speakers are very cool! I’d love to hear them, along with that sub. So, you’ve got the most important part of your system figured out.

In my experience, messing with the network, especially router changes, doesn’t change or improve sound quality. I would only make changes to network if your are having problems, like dropouts or other performance issues. 5Ghz wifi will not sound better than 2.4Ghz. Maybe a newer router will offer faster, more seamless wifi as you add zones to your system. If you find a gently used router to upgrade to then go for it if you want.

I suggest trying USB, ethernet, wifi and going with what works best. With respect to sound quality, I think the consensus is ethernet allows better isolation from PC in comparison to USB, so it may offer less noise. Your active speakers are probably very revealing so you may discern a difference in noise and/or sound quality, but I doubt it. So, go with what works best for you, what causes the least amount of problems. There’s no right answer.

With respect to the router and network, if it’s working, why upgrade? New router may provide a more seamless wifi experience as you add zones to your system, but it will not impact sound quality. If you are able to find a gently used router to save some bucks, then good for you!

Avoiding the router altogether, may or may not improve sound quality, but try it, see how it sounds.

If your PC is isolated from your system via ethernet (or wifi), I wouldn’t bother changing it to a lower noise solution like a Nucleus or NUC.

To improve sound quality, I think your best bang for buck would likely be a software solution, like room correction filter or adding HQPlayer --if HQP will interface with the DAC within your speaker.

In an urban area, wifi is likely highly saturated so of your old kit is only using 2.4ghz then an update here can help, improve bandwidth and overall stability as long as the other hardware you have supports it. Those that don’t can still use 2.4ghz.

For any WiFi network it’s best to do a scan of the area where you router is placed and then in areas where your system is. This way you can work out which is the best channel to have your WiFi set to that causes less interference from other WiFi in the immediate area. One should never leave the options for channels on auto. For 2.4ghz you should only use channels 1,6, 12 so choose one of these that has less other networks using it. For 5ghz set it to 40Mhz and set channel on one that has less other networks also using. 40Mhz will give you a better distance on 5ghz as its effected more by walls and other solid things and this will give more channels to play with so not overlap with others.

Also look at a mesh system if you find the apartment has too many blackspots.

None of this will effect sq, although others will beg to differ, but it will make your network better overall.

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Appreciate the responses - sounds like while it could help regarding any outstanding issues or protect against future network issues, a new router isn’t entirely significant or a huge priority in improving the experience. I’ll keep an eye on the used market and see what sort of bargain i can find. I’ll likely stick to the asus models and put the merlin firmware on them.

REW/DSP is for sure next on the list of rabbit holes to fall into. I actually had a noticeable increase in sound using the KEF’s basic DSP so i’m excited to see how an REW assessment could go. I don’t really know too much with regards to frequency lingo so looking forward to the future hours spend on getting the hang of it.

I’ll mess around with ethernet vs USB and see how things go. Maybe start looking at used i7 NUCs as potential projects. Some of those akasa cases are pretty slick - would be fun to set up.

If you are looking for a new router check this one out. Asus GT-AC5300 - 8 Ethernet ports, 3 wireless bands, 1 - 2.4 ghz and 2 5ghz. Wireless covers my whole house and I’m getting over 50mbps on Samsung Note 9 as an endpoint player in my shop 40 feet from the house. It is specified as a gaming router but I’m not a gamer. I needed the 8 Ethernet ports and strong WiFi. It fits my need very well. Could be overkill for you but worth a look if you’re in the market.