Tuesday, May 2, 2017

networking - my audio data highway

Years back I mentioned that the network and associated components do have quite an impact on your audio performance. 
Meanwhile this became common knowledge in - let's call it - audiophile minded circles. 

As usual, I prefer reasonably (priced) highest performance solutions. 
Usually a healthy mix of DIY efforts and commercial stuff gets me there. 

Today I'd like to introduce my "currently" preferred "audio" streaming network solution.











Now. What do we have here?

* a TP-Link WR902AC - AC750 router working as a wireless client,
   basically est
ablishing a wireless bridge to my home router
* a high quality iFi iPower 5V power supply
* a hand made (by me) ethernet cable 







1. The router 
     I've chosen this TP-Link router because it's small, runs low power
     and runs at 5V. 
     The wireless performance is sufficient for the purpose.
     It's pretty up2date on its networking features and technology.
     Most important, it can run as wireless client.
     The community feedback was quite OK too.
     Setting it up properly was not the most straight forward part though.
     But -- as soon you're making it into the config menu, you'll manage. 

2. The power
    As usual, I'm using iFi iPower. IMO one of the best supplies out there.
    (I don't even see a chance to get the cost down by going the DIY route.) 
    (No. I don't even see a chance to get the performance up by using linear supplies either.
    I tried it by applying several linear supplies)) 

    It's again 5V. I love it.
    Powering a network device with a quality supply can make a difference!
    I'd recommend to give it a try.
    I used the mirco USB adapter, which comes with the iFi.
    (While you're at it - you might even try to power your home main router properly!)

3. The handmade cable
     I basically used 
     1. a quality unshielded cat6 cable (just cut the plugs off a cable and keep it short)
     2. Telegaertner MFP8 plugs.  (you'll find related  Youtube howtos)

        NOTE: Most prefabricated cables are type B cables! (defined by the plug-wiring!)        
        You need to figure out how your network is currently configured.
        Then make sure you buy the right plug! ( e.g. Telegaertner J00026A2001 - type B)
        
        The Telegaertners are very well made. They come with printed circuits boards
        as line termination inside the plugs.
        It is said this builds a high quality termination with proper impedance,
        especially when compared to EL-Cheapo connectors. 


     3. a 2-pair wiring scheme (only orange/green pairs are used ) - very important !
 


    4. an imo nice jacket
     
      Just to underline it - the cable plays a big role in the game!

All in all, a roughly $100/€100 investment and 2 hours of work.

I think it's well worth the effort.
 

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What do I achieve with above?

100% network isolation and still using the ethernet jack of and the ethernet stack on the streamer.

Some audio companies would call it  - RePower-ReClock-ReGenerate
and would charge you an arm and a leg for it.

The network is a noisy and highly dynamic beast. 

WLAN, ground loops, poor cable, poor connectors, crosstalk, EMI/RFI, ....

Most of that stuff can make it into your DAC/streamer, messing with its performance.
...even with the isolation transformers build-in into the ethernet jacks!

There are numerous approaches on the market. I don't want to dig into 
every possible option. I tried several approaches though. 

I used to run a well powered Cisco GB ethernet hub in front of my PI3 streamer.
This setup has been much better then using a straight cable.
Beside that, it allowed me to run also video streams over that very same network. 
All the other clients attached to the same network were causing even worse groundloops 
- by e.g. the attached TV cable network - though.

Onboard Wifi, on e.g. PI3 interferes from several angles. That for sure is another NoGo solution from my side.

Glas. Fibre is a nice isolator. Bandwidth is high. But you've got two endpoints to be taken care of and it's much more expensive. I do not feel tempted to go for that solution either.

That's why I ended up with above. I now have the WLAN away from my music source,
I have a rather clean power supply and a nice and quite short customized cable.
And the price/performance ratio is IMO more than fair.

If you have sufficient WLAN coverage, you might have a look at above approach.

From my perspective: Project goal - achieved!

Highly recommended.

In the 2nd post about this networking subject, you can read on about how I improved the RPI3 ethernet port.

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PS: If you're interested in testing such a DIY ethernet cable - PM me.

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5 comments:

  1. What is the specific model TP-Link AC750? TL-WR902AC?

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  2. I came up with pretty much the same solution for my RPi picoreplayer (with Allo Boss), using an old TP Link WF841N running in bridged mode, thus isolating it from my main wifi lan. This was not so much an attempt to improve the sound as it was a way to avoid running cat 5 to my hifi setup, but I can see your point. I have since switched to a EDUP dongle and installed LMS on the picoreplayer, so wifi bandwidth is not an issue for that player. If I add additional players I will probably go back to the bridged router scheme or just put a standalone LMS (RPi based) directly connected to the main router via cat 5. Also, video streaming in my house is via an Amazon Fire Stick running on the 5 GHz band - so somewhat isolated from audio streams on the 2.4 GHz band.

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  3. Thanks for this, it does make a difference! At present I'm using a standard Cat6 network cable with the blue and brown pairs snipped out. Do the Telegaertener plugs make much difference?
    Regards, John

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    Replies
    1. "Much difference" !?!? I don't have anything to compare it with. From workmanship view I'd say there's nothing better then that for the customization purpose on the market.
      From what I heard the TGs do also impose a much more exact termination impedance then el-cheapo connectors. And then cable and plugs build a unit.
      To distinguish who is contributing what is almost impossible.
      For sure just cutting the wires (as I also did in the past) is the 2nd best option.

      Delete