After 4 hours of cursing in my basement running new CAT7 ethernet cabling through the drop ceiling and down walls/closets, I am sitting here astounded by the improvement in sound quality for music streamed to my DirectStream. I’ve used the network bridge with my PWD, and then DirectStream. Most recently, I’m using an Aurelic Aries streamer to stream my JRiver music and also to stream Tidal to my DirectStream. Main point being, almost all of my listening is from music streamed over my network, sourced either from local network storage or lossless streaming over the internet via Tidal.
My current cabling was a potpourri of CAT 5e cabling from various manufacturers. Truthfully, I never paid it much mind. I upgraded all of my ethernet cabling to CAT 7. Including runs from my Verizon FiOS endpoint to my router, and all cabling to/from internal switches to my PC, NAS storage, and to the Aurelic Aries connected to my DirectStream by a very good pure silver USB cable. CAT 7 cabling is made for 10Gigabit. I’m not running 10 gigabit, but the advantage of CAT 7 cabling is double-shielding- each conductor inside the cable is shielded, and then the whole outer part of the cable is shielded. I think the windings are different/tighter too. In any case, you get much better rejection of RF interference and much higher bandwidth on the cable.
Sound quality has improved on all fronts - tone is more natural, imaging is better, detail is better, soundstage is better. Dollar for dollar, this is one of the best upgrades I’ve ever done. I cannot recommend this upgrade more strongly for folks that stream their music over the network. I had a friend over while I was incrementally plugging in upgraded CAT 7 cables, and he heard the same improvements I did. They are not imagined nor subtle… this is a notable improvement in sound quality.
The cabling is decent quality CAT 7 I bought online (Tera Grand is the brand, I’m sure other brands are fine too). That said, this is not crazy expensive Audioquest ethernet cabling I bought… I needed a few 50’ lengths, and they were $30 each. I also bought several 7’ lengths for $11. Point being, depending on how much cabling you need to upgrade, this is something in the $50-$200 range. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Audioquest cable sounds even better through higher quality conductor materials, though you will certainly pay extra for it.
Clearly there was data loss/mangling on my CAT 5 cabling from RF or others sources that the better CAT 7 ethernet cabling is mitigating. It actually makes sense that sound quality is improved. Consider that almost all streaming is done with UDP instead of TCP. As such, if packets are lost/mangled, they are gone. Unlike TCP, there is no error correction with UDP, so your quality-of-service is best-effort.
I was surprised at the improvement in sound quality for music streamed from my NAS, but even more surprised at the improvement in sound quality from Tidal. Clearly Verizon’s fiber optic FiOS network is doing a damn good job getting Tidal’s bitstream to me, and clearly my own local network cabling was losing/mangling an audibly significant amount of data.
Anyway, I’m thrilled with the improvement in sound quality – very highly recommended upgrade!