Valley of "audiophile" ethernet cables

(Sean) #327

Makes sense from what I’ve learnt from John Swenson and Rob Watts.

Shielded ethernet cables that have their shield connected to ground can provide a path for ground and leakage currents. UTP ethernet cables break this loop (they block most of the leakage currents) - depending on what’s connected upstream and downstream and what ‘loop/s’ are formed.

Leakage currents through the cables cause them to act as an RF antenna.

According to Rob Watts, the more detailed sound is often mistaken for what’s actually more RFI while the warmer/darker sound is usually the result of less RFI.

John’s post:

From some of Rob Watts (Chord) public postings:

“the warmer, smoother or softer sounding is the more transparent, as the mechanism for changing the sound is RF noise creating noise floor modulation - and more noise modulation always sounds brighter. Moreover, it’s very easy to confuse a bright sound with more transparency.”

Some other learnings from Rob on RFI:

  1. “no ground loops, so no current flow into the ground planes, then no RF noise pick-up in the DAC and so no problem…”

  2. “As to external RF, it only matters if there is a ground loop, so battery operation should mean no currents flowing into the DAC ground plane…”

  3. “We need current through the ground plane to set up voltages - and it is these voltages that the analogue electronics pick up. So no current, no voltage on the ground plane, no pick-up… The common mode noise, won’t affect the analogue electronics at all.”

So I guess these are some of the extra benefits of blocking ground loops and leakage current loops, via the DAC anyway. And how shielded ethernet cables feeding a DAC can potentially do harm, depending on what the DAC is connected to (i.e. how it forms part of a ‘loop’)

There’s plenty of his thoughts on RFI all over the Head-Fi forums:

Bad sound quality with Roon [Resolved, Ethernet Switch]
(Chris ) #328

This is all very interesting, I think? But I just don’t get the urge to bugger about with cables and am thankful to people who do as it also means I don’t have to.
I just listen to my system, it sounds great. People who come round (normal people) are stunned and perhaps a little intimidated by how good it sounds. They almost feel unworthy of great sound and so don’t invest in Roon or much else. (Go Figure)

I have a QNAP i3 NAS upstairs. Basic Cat 5e cables around the house. Basic switches and I mean basic, I bought them all used for £5.00 max.
I have a Meridian G61 R fed by an MS200 with Meridian M60 and M33 active speakers playing mostly Trifield.
I have Bluesound Pulse 2 and Mini in other rooms with an Explorer 2 for headphones.

That’s it folks. A system that fits into my life for TV Music Radio and Movie enjoyment and I expect I would have to spend a lot of money to improve it. I can’t see cable fiddling being worth the time and effort for me.

Others may well disagree, but as you get older life gets shorter and the importance of all this diminishes greatly.
Stop fiddling and start just enjoying the music is my advice, unless of course, you enjoy fiddling.

Clearly I have been snowed in for to long. Cabin crazy lol enjoy, Chris

(Sean) #329

Lol thanks for sharing Chris. We don’t need to read thread topics that don’t interest us and definitely don’t need to comment on those topics, just to tell the world this topic doesn’t interest us.

Not directed at you mate. There’s a lot of it on CA Forum. For those not interested in a particular topic, just skip the thread and read a different one that interests you :slight_smile:

(Chris ) #330

I am curiously interested on one level as maybe I will learn something I can practically apply. That great breakthrough that will make a differance could be just around the corner and as such am grateful people persue all of this.
Really I am just putting in a real world perspective into the discussion for what it’s worth.

I do hope people do keep chasing the Dragon…


@Chrislayeruk You’re right about people sometimes fiddling endlessly and missing out. This is why I have 3 different stereo/TV systems along with portable devices and boomboxes. On all of them I have never changed any cables or components since installing them many years ago. They are there simply to enjoy the material. I never even think of changing stuff around on them.

It’s only the desktop/reference rig where I change things. One part of it is indeed wanting to find ways to get ‘better’ sound along the way and see what works/doesn’t work, and the other part is just curiosity for curiosity’s sake and trying to make sense of things.

I certainly hope people can find joy while simultaneously playing around. I know I certainly do…on most days.


Hi Sean,

Thanks for the links.

I think I should clarify regarding the shielding and grounding as I did get a PM about it. I’ve mentioned it before, but in pieces here and there. So it’s best to probably summarize it again.

"I have multiple versions of the same S/STP cable with various grounding. One is grounded on both ends. The other is floating on both ends. I have taken the metal tabs apart manually on the RJ45 connectors. At one point, I also had a cable that was only grounded at one side.

Furthermore, I also had two different switches. One was shielded (D-Link DGS-108), the other wasn’t (D-Link DGS-1005). The BDP-1 has a shielded metal port. So I did have a chance to go through the various combinations."

(Sean) #333

No worries at all zoom.

Just wanted to share some of the explanations from a couple experts (and designers of gear a lot of Roonies enjoy) to let you know you weren’t hallucinating at all :grin:

Maybe those explanations apply, maybe they don’t. I find it all interesting though.

John’s and Rob’s tips (both public and private) have surprisingly made the music sound better and even more enjoyable for me, which is always a nice little bonus :wink:

(Bill Soukoreff) #334

Thanks guys, I enjoy these posts even though I am technically challenged! I am using Blue Jeans Belden Cat6a (floated shield) based on John’s early recommendations. Is that still a decent way to go without getting into modifying the cables?

(Sean) #335

Hi Bill, you can’t go wrong with John’s tips and BJC cables in general. BJC Cat6A is based on the Belden 10GX Series and has a floating shield design. Sensibly priced too which is always nice.

I’m using the Belden 10GX series Cat6 which is unshielded but per the post I linked above from John, I’ve tried to block the leakage currents in the first instance, especially the last ethernet cable that’s feeding my microRendu, using some cheap recommendations/tricks from him (which are in that thread I linked).

(Daniel Beyer) #336

Personally, I only use Cat 5e non shielded cables.


Cat 5e UTP only for me too.

I also use the NetGear GS108 switch that John Swenson recommends and I tie the negative line of the power supply (the outside conductor of the barrel connector) to ground. This, based on John’s measurements, virtually eliminates noise from the switch. This obviates any benefit I might get from using optical isolation.


As a starting point, I’d be curious to know how people here do in this test:

I’d love to know if you got it right/wrong, or if you had a strong hunch for a particular file, and more importantly what was your thinking process in trying to figure it out. What was your reasoning? What did you look for?


I just changed all my cables to cat7 for my audio routing to see if I could hear any differences and changed my switch to a cisco one (as a lot of people seem to swear by them on the Naim forum although not an expensive one). I came in to the venture sceptical it would change anything as I just struggle to believe all this nonsense. Well I did not notice any chang so still a sceptic,. Thankfully the whole change cost less than £40 and most of that was the new switch. I was looking to update it anyway as needed more ports so no loss there.

(Bill Soukoreff) #340

This is old now, but a good read.


I do have 2 pieces from Belden: “Belden IBDN PS6+ 4pr/23 solid…UTP Cat 6”

Not sure how closely it compares with what BJC sells?

The other thing I would ask John is if the signal integrity from the other cables/devices coming into the switch have any difference on the signal integrity of other links?

I am running thing as bare bone as possible. 3 cables in total. Only 2 are active during playback. One from the iMac to the switch, the other from the switch to the BDP-1. These are the active one. There is another between a spare router (with wireless disabled and no internet or any other devices) and the switch which is there just to keep things connected. It’s not active during playback.


Worth the read:

Has information on return loss as well.

(Steve) #343

I admit this is an intriguing thread , but also admit after reading through it I am more confused than ever :grinning:

The cables debate will always be contentious I think . I just buy a half decent one and try not to give it too much thought after ‘that .

I got the AQ Cinnamon , and I would love to try a super expensive one but will probably never get the chance

(Daniel Beyer) #344

You are using a super expensive one, imho.

You can try the test the opposite way. Get a well made basic cable and compare it to your AQ. Try a basic bonded CAT 5e cable, Cat 5e Patch Cords–Belden 1700A 2 feet. about 7 dollars.

(Steve) #345

Yeah I have already done that, didn’t hear a difference.
When I said expensive I meant say a top of the range one, like £900 or something.
I doubt I will get the chance though :grinning:

(Daniel Beyer) #346

I’ve seen ones that go for well over 10,000 USD. :scream: