Excellent Ethernet Audio Cable Debunk!

Man… Im reposting soemthing I just read elsewhere becuse the guys really nails the whole logic around what a network cable really does…

Enjoy… and sell that 400 Ethernet cable now!

If any of you is interested in the science of data transmission read further.
I work in the N/W industry and do know a bit of this stuff.

The 2 most common n/w protocols used for data transfer or streaming are:

  • TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)
  • UDP (User Datagram Protocol)
    TCP is a “connection oriented” mechanism which is required for data integrity and for time insensitive transfers.
    UDP is a “connection less” mechanism which is used for data transfer which is time sensitive.

Common examples of TCP being used are file transfers, web browsing, etc. Here data integrity is paramount. It is OK for the web page to load in 0.5 secs or 1.5 secs, but it should load correctly and completely. How does TCP guarantee this? Connection oriented mechanism. If there is a loss of data, re-transmission is applied until everything is delivered.

Common examples of UDP being used are audio/video transfers. Here data is time sensitive. If a chuck of audio or video data arrives late, it is useless. Re-transmission does not help. But this protocol is light weight compared to TCP hence the wide usage.

Let’s talk about Audio streaming.
Streaming service (e.g Spotify/Tidal) ↔ ISPYour home routerApplication/playerDACAmpSpeakers
Networking is involved from the Streaming service to Application/player (note the bi-di arrows to highlight networking segment)
Here the service may choose to use TCP to render their collection for user browsing etc and UDP for actual audio streaming.
Why?
One cannot browse if the data integrity is compromised or incomplete.
But one can still hear songs even if a small chunk of data was lost. It will only result in a jump or a null in the song.
So does Spotify/Tidal use UDP? Actually, no. They use TCP, because TCP allows data throttling based on end user speed (read your great or lousy ISP). With TCP, streaming services can utilize available bandwidth better as compared to UDP. More and more services are switching to TCP, if not using it already.

In the Application/player, there is something called a buffer (or fifo). This is required to pre-fetch a chunk of data during playback.
Usually these buffers are determined by application or sometimes user has a bit of control.
Buffer under run is when audio problems materialize. This happens only when your ISP connection is bad (very low data rate say 1 or 2 Mbps)
Otherwise audio files will stream without any degradation or improvement over the dinky fiber/copper through the humble router and ethernet cable. Yes, even yesteryear cat 5 cable at 100Mbps. It just works for audio and even high speed video.

All of the dark magic is DAC onwards.
Say DAC is Voldemort (villain), Amp is Sauron (villain), Speakers are like Thanos (villain) and the room is like, well … Loki (god of mischief) the entire network is a cute little Santa elf. It is a harmless little elf that keeps delivering the goods.
After all the villains in your audio chain, you will still be like “Mogambo khush hua” (For international FMs, Mogambo was a very famous Indian film villain, and his favorite line roughly translates to “Mogambo is happy”)

The network will not corrupt the audio experience at minute level which can be discerned by golden ears. Only at gross level, works or not works.
If you still want to invest in audio grade router (+ LPSU) and CAT x cables, go ahead. It does not have any bearing to audio sound quality, period.
Where you hear differences are from DAC onwards only.

PS:
This slipped my mind when I was typing out the above explanation.
TCP/UDP are protocols that ride on top of IP and L2 (layer 2)
L2 has FCS (frame check sequence), IP has a checksum, TCP/UDP has checksums, application layer may have its own data integrity checks.
There is no way a 1 can become a 0 or vice versa or quasi level without being flagged as a data error followed by re-transmission if using TCP.
If data error occurs when using UDP, packet loss happens and there will be a null or gap in music.

3 Likes

Like this post most “debunks” miss the point entirely. No one really thinks that there are bit errors with a reasonably set up system. No one really thinks that jitter upstream of the dac causes errors. (Well, some do, but that’s not the point.)

What really needs to be analyzed is what the changes in RFI from the changes in the network infrastructure do to the rest of the audio system. Similarly analyzing what the conducted noise from the network infrastructure (including thru the mains) does to the rest of the audio system. Ground loops are obvious examples of potential interactions (and no, transformers in the network infrastructure don’t isolate ground loops.)

It’s also important to note that right at the DAC any noise can become jitter and any jitter can become noise and that that’s the only place jitter matters. Most DAC chip manufacturers have tech notes on the types and magnitude of the analog errors in the output that are caused by phase noise or jitter. This stuff does matter.

31 Likes

Amen, Brother Ted…Amen.

I did not have the will to post a similar response (sigh…).

Thanks for posting and for your ongoing demonstration of clarity of thought and technical knowledge.

Cheers.

6 Likes

This is oh so not true. I have tried different ethernet cables from the router to the streamer, and they don’t sound exactly the same. Technically I can’t be sure what is going on, but it could be some cables is picking up more than just the bits only and cause a dirtier and duller sound, but it is there. Also I have done back and fourth comparisons on ethernet switches with my brother, and believe it or not, they also can sound quite different, and even different power supplies to the switches has a impact on the sound. I compared the SR UEF ethernet switch with a TP-Link from Amazon and boy, was there a difference. Yes, I’m afraid quality matters, even with ethernet components.

6 Likes

Basic networking 101. Doesn’t address what may really be any root cause for what could affect what we hear.

Oh, I see Ted already replied to this. So there you go.

Cables don’t matter is and should be “Let’s not do this here” sort of thing. You can quote all the scientific data you wish. We have been down this road too many times. Enjoy your point of view. Don’t worry that I don’t accept it myself. The truth is out there.

11 Likes

For the record, I firmly believe that almost all cables matter. The cat6 connecting my streamer to myDAC is the only wire I’m having a hard time believing needs to replaced with high end cable. It operates on a completely different level than audio cables.

You are talking about data integrity, which no one is questioning, and ignoring noise and timing.

3 Likes

So you choose to believe. We get it. Next topic.

2 Likes

After Master Ted’s profound statement, I could not produce anything else useful to contribute.

But most of you know my thought on the importance of ethernet cable; make that for any cable (and power cord).

2 Likes

I don’t believe in cables! Money thrown away, blah!

6 Likes

Why don’t you just try an upgraded cable and listen…

4 Likes

Sorry I was kidding, a few members here know very well my cables addiction.

8 Likes

use Bluetooth rather than cables, galvanic isolation!

1 Like

Wait! Were you kidding? You could have fooled me. I was going to suggest to try some Stealth cables, and you should hear 0.00000000001% improvement :laughing:

2 Likes

They are going to arrive within the end of this week!

4 Likes

I’m excited to hear that for you! It will be of interest to hear your evaluation between Dragon and Stealth top dogs. From my own experience I was amazed to find how differently the top line cords could sound.

3 Likes

No, I dont think you get it. I’m willing to check out any solution that could lead to a better listening expereince.
With that in mind I’ve decided to test the theory for myself and purchase a high end cable and “see” what I hear. If the results are favorable I will be stunned, but very happy to admit that my “logical approach” to thinking about this topic was wrong.

3 Likes

Given your title of the thread and your subsequent comments, I suspect you will have a great deal of trouble remaining open-minded.

7 Likes

Its not about open mindedness. Its about a healthy use of logic as opposed to be swindled by some of the crazy crap that people attempt to sell us in this hobby.

If Im wrong, I’ll admit it. If I hear absolutly no difference, then I will say so.

I “suspect” you wont listen either way since you seem to be convinced of your position.

1 Like