Valley of "audiophile" ethernet cables


(Adam Woodbridge) #1

NOTE FROM MODERATOR

This topic was split out from a thread where someone asked about a specific cable that did not work with Roon. The topic quickly devolved into a typical situation on this topic.

Leaving this all here in case you want to argue it out, or if you want to ignore it. Enjoy!

ORIGINAL

No. Despite the fact that some people desperately want there to be audiophile Ethernet cables, there simply is no such thing. The IEEE standards do not include a superset of specifications that make a regular Cat-7 cable into an “audiophile” Cat-7 cable.

And a $500 price tag also does not make it an “audiophile” cable, especially as it doesn’t even adhere to published specifications.

Save your money and buy this:

http://amazon.com/Ethernet-Internet-Dual-Shielded-Supports-Snagless/dp/B00GBBS9LO/

Two Cat-7 cables, 6-ft., $8.50.


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#2

Do you understand what is special with this cable, and how it’s done ?
And did you notice the price ?

Also this cable does not follow any standard, nor does the AQ Vodka as an example.

The cable you suggest, may be a source to ground loop.


#3

This is completly wrong. Please inform yourself how an ethernet cable works


(Adam Woodbridge) #4

Apart from the free Velcro straps and the absurdly high price tag, I see nothing special about this cable. I suppose it does look quite attractive.

But I think you missed the point of my last post: If it is doing anything “special”, it’s doing it wrong.

Only in the imagination of an audiophile.


#6

May I say the same to you :grinning:
http://www.belden.com/docs/upload/The_case_for_UTP_WP.pdf

Data sheet for that cable
https://www.e-catalog.beldensolutions.com/imported-datasheet/data/Broadcast%20Cables/Audio%20Cables/1303E_V3.pdf;jsessionid=E8382E071C35912A91A991528B754884?ip=false&type=pdf

And finally:


#7

Nope.
Cause the shield is NOT connected to the plugs.
The shield together with the small wire creates a Faraday Cage.

The suggested Amazon cable is a Cat 6a, with shield connected to the connectors.

But Blue Jeans Cable 6a as another example does not have metal plugs, and hence the shield in that case my cause a problem. So better use a BJC cat 6 cable, which use Belden Bonded pair.


(Adam Woodbridge) #8

Ethernet cables DO NOT HAVE A SOUND.

And pasting links to industry white papers describing the uses and applications of twisted pair cabling is not an argument.


#9

And now, once again, we are off and running.:weary:


(Adam Woodbridge) #10

There seems to be a reluctance on the part of some to accept the nature of digital and packet-based communication.


#12

(Adam Woodbridge) #14

Articles from Digital Audio Review don’t count as an argument, either.

Here’s a photo of a Cat-5e cable I made for less than $1.

It’s objectively better than both the $70 cable and the $500 cable, because I used a cable testing unit and it passed.


(GaryM) #15

I have never read more incorrect or misleading information about how digital audio or computer networking works than the things I’ve read over the years at Computer Audiophile. I quit reading there years ago, but occasionally get pulled back in when someone posts a link. Afterwards, after shaking my head, I repeat 10 times: “Never click on a computeraudiophile link”. :disappointed_relieved:


(Adam Woodbridge) #17

I’ll probably take a lot of flak by saying it, but this is in no small part a generational problem: Audiophiles in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that are completely mystified by computers, can’t accept that they really are mostly a matter of plug-and-play, and desperately trying to apply their analog tinkering habits of decades ago to equipment where it’s no longer relevant.


#18

Great theory to prove/disprove by a survey of forum members. I’ll try to think of an appropriate way to phrase the question and see if there are enough responses to make any judgements. Objective, you know, not subjective.:sunglasses:


(GaryM) #19

I understand your point and tend to agree with the premise. There probably is some age correlation on this. On the other hand, I’m a (recovering) audiophile in my 60s, but happen to be pretty computer/network savvy. And I learned many years ago to not try to apply analog concepts to digital music. It may be because I work in a scientific field and I’ve been forced to keep up with (and use) technology.


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(bearFNF) #20

I think the other side of the coin is the younger crowd that wants the next best “insert marketing hype” thing that looks cool, NOW, but don’t really understand the physics and reality behind how it works. Gotta have the newest phone, sunglasses, fidget spinner, etc… :slight_smile:


(Danny Dulai) #22

@Adam_Woodbridge @AE67 @garym and others:

Before I start, I need to say that while I understand what the opposing argument is, I am not endorsing the impact of these comments on sound quality.

The claim here is not that the digital bits on the cable (via the Ethernet frames -> IP frames -> TCP packets) are being altered. The claim, especially in regards to ground loops, is that the ethernet cable is connecting the ground of power going into the switch and the ground of the power going into the device. Thus, you have a system that has “2 grounds”. It is then further claimed that these ground loops, using the hardware given, produce a notable hum or degradation of quality in the D->A conversion, or even later in the chain in analog.

If someone claimed that the bits were being altered and this was impacting audio streams over digitally reliable protocols (in a way other than skips or pops), I would delete that post/topic, because that would be entirely bullshit.


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(Sean) #24

The ethernet cable will definitely contribute to having a sound if it’s passing a groundloop and leakage current loop in the system, through it’s shield (not talking about the transformer isolation at each end here, but the shield). It will be system (and hearing) dependent as to whether the effect is big or small or can’t be heard at all, but I do think groundloops and leakage current loops can be a real problem, not something of fiction.

I could be wrong (please do correct me if so) but the Cat 7 spec specifies the shielding to be grounded. If that’s the case I would avoid any Cat 7 cable for audio unless the groundloop/leakage current loop is broken further downstream of course.

As suggested earlier, a great and cheap ethernet cable with a floating shield design is the Blue Jeans Cable Cat 6a (based on the Belden 10GX series). The shield is not connected to the connectors (not grounded) at each end, so groundloops and leakage current loops are broken.

An ethernet cable will also ‘have a sound’ if it’s not even properly constructed to a specification (dropped bits). Blue Jeans Cable also provide a test certificate with each ethernet cable they ship, so you will know that each individual cable is built and tested to the spec.

My recommendation to anyone is stick with Blue Jeans Cable Cat 6 (unshielded) or Cat 6a (floating shield) and be done with it for the reasons above: they’re built and individually tested to a standard and they will break groundloops and leakage current loops. Just my opinion but if an ethernet cable ticks these boxes, then they shouldn’t have a sound (parasitic capacitance is another thing for another day lol).

I don’t think it’s particularly helpful or nice to insult audiophiles in their 60’s or above either. Let’s try not to become the Computer Audiophile forum.


(Danny Dulai) #25

That is not at all what I am implying… When a digital audio stream is altered it can happen a few ways:

  1. bits are changed and/or lost and caught by error correction techniques causing a retransmit
  2. bits are changed and/or lost and not caught by error correction techniques so they are allowed to be played

In the case of #1, if the errors are caught, a retransmit can be requested and if the retransmitted data arrives fast enough that the buffer is not emptied, then the resultant stream is still perfect with no error.

Checksums and sequences numbers can prevent #2 easily, but #1’s retransmits can still take too long to arrive. This can result in a buffer emptying. If the buffer is emptied, you will hear a loop of the buffer or zeros or something else bogus. The sound wave has been damaged; the DAC will not find a continuous audio wave, and will output very unexpected results.

This usually can be heard as a large click or pop, or as silence. A non-networked example of this that we have all heard is a CD that skips. That just means it couldn’t read the data off the CD (and it can verify that the data is valid using the same techniques listed above) before the buffer ran out. There is no “quality loss” when a CD skips… it’s just an “obvious error”. It’s not like the sound got muddy or lost fidelity in some way, it just went to shit.

The worst of the worst ethernet cable would result in the bits being damaged/lost – a good protocol can catch #2, so #1 is the case to worry about. That case would result in retransmits, which if the cable was bad enough, wouldnt arrive in time in a verifiable manner, meaning you would hear “obvious errors”, and not fidelity loss.

The reality of these retransmits is that they happen fast and buffers are relatively long, so even if your network is shit, things probably just work fine. The digital stream can not be altered along the way. That’s the point of making it digital.

Note that ALL of the above is purely in the digital part of this signal path, and claims about a bad cable, noise, ground loops can not affect it, because digital is built on mathematics, and not the realities of electricity. Either it arrives there good and verifiable, or it does not. This binary good or bad nature of a “reliable digital stream” is what drives the “bits are bits” guys nuts when audio guys talk about digital streams being affected by anything.

The claims about noise, ground loops, or whatever else is purely in how that digital stream is interpreted into analog, which is not a digital process. That stuff can not be verified – thus all the trouble. This is what drives the audio guys nuts when the “bits are bits” guys tell them they are old and not versed in information theory.


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(Mark Allen) #26

That’s the best explanation I’ve heard. Preach on Dany, preach on! Educate us all!