Sunday, May 10, 2020

Level II Improving your Network for Streaming

This tip is not mine, but from a customer. I assume you have already read my first post entitled "Simple, Inexpensive & Effective Ways To Improve Your Streaming Experience"

If you haven't, you should.

Tip#1

Not everyone will be able to do this, but for those of you who's internet provider has supplied you with a Modem AND a wireless router, this tip will help to offload noise and traffic from your audio equipment's network connection.

It's fairly simple. Instead of connecting your ISP's modem directly to their (or your) wireless router, you are going to purchase an ethernet (not wireless) router and connect the modem to that.

In the diagram below, the modem is receiving the connection from the internet, the output is connected to an Ethernet router.
From here, connect your NAS and Streamers via hard wired Ethernet connections, and also connect your wireless router. The wireless router will give connectivity to all of your other household devices as well as connect your controllers to your streamers.  This does two things:
1. It offloads hard wired network processing of your streaming devices and NAS to the Ethernet router. 
2. it creates more separation of the wireless components from the Ethernet connected devices. Meaning less noise.

Try it!

Tip #2

Before you rush out to buy that Ethernet router, make sure you get one that has at least one optical Ethernet port (SFP). That may come in handy in the very near future. :)
Ethernet Router with a single Optical Ethernet port (port is on the far left)



Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Simple, Inexpensive & Effective Ways To Improve Your Streaming Experience


I sell a lot of streamers. I probably sell more streamers than any other product on my site currently. With those sales comes a lot of experience in troubleshooting when things are not going as planned for my customers. I hope these recommendations will help avoid some of those issues when you set up your new streamer.

Many Variables

When you connect a streamer to your audio system, you are also connecting a modem, a router, a server (if you have a music library of your own) maybe a network switch, maybe a hundred feet or more of Ethernet cable.  All of these things can have an effect on the streaming experience. Not to mention the software one uses to control the streamer and  connect to their music library and streaming services. That's a lot of variables!

It is also about more than sound, that's why I frame this in terms of the streaming "experience". It's network connectivity, speed, and user interface in addition to sound. 

With that in mind, here are a few basic, relatively inexpensive tips I give to those that ask. I thought I would post them publicly so I could just reference my blog instead of rewriting these in an email. So here you go.

  1.  A high quality router -  First, make sure you are using a router that is less than 3 years old. internal processors, and clocking mechanisms improve greatly every year, so making sure you have a router that is up to date and capable of handling the bandwidth available with ease is generally helpful. I have Spectrum as my provider, and they gave me a modem and router when I started out with their service. The modem I was stuck with, but I was able to upgrade the router to a Netgear Nighthawk and there was a subtle sonic improvement initially (more on that later). The big thing though was my iPad and phone stopped losing their connection to the streamer and server. It became rock solid. That made my experience much more enjoyable because now my controller wasn't losing connection to my server and having to "find" it every 30 minutes. 
    Netgear Nighthawk Router

  2. Linear power supplies for your modem, routers, switches, etc. - The next thing I did was buy linear power supplies to replace the cheap switching power supplies that came with these devices. Jameco makes all kinds of small, inexpensive linear power supplies that are way less noisy and not terribly expensive, like under $15. What I did was look at the voltage and amperage requirements of the existing power supply on the modem, router, switch and try to get as close as you can. you can usually find this information in the instruction manual, written on the power supply itself, or where the power supply input is on the device. For me, I ordered a 12v and a 15v 1 amp power supply for my router and modem and they were quite happy. You can, of course because it's audio, go nuts with linear power supplies, and they do get better if you spend more and get higher quality. My point is, you can get a lot of improvement without spending a fortune just by getting an inexpensive linear supply.
    Item 143722
    Jameco 12v 2 amp linear power supply
  3. Balanced isolation transformers - Another thing that reduces noise, and isolates computer components (meaning does not allow them to put noise back on the AC lines) are balanced power transformers. Ebay sells these nice 4 outlet versions for about $200 shipped. Balanced power cuts the noise on the AC line feeding the power supplies by 50%. That, coupled with the new linear power supplies made a significant difference on the sound of my streamer. Balanced power on audio equipment is hit and miss performance wise, but on computer equipment I feel it is always an improvement

  4. Ethernet cables - Keeping with the cheap and cheerful nature of this post, I am not going to recommend an audiophile ethernet cable. Many times the ethernet cables that come packaged with products or are part of the installation of our modems are sub par in data transmission capabilities. I have had service people in my home troubleshooting my network and finding faulty ethernet cables. I have found these ethernet cables on Amazon to be of good quality, and frankly they sound just fine as far as I can tell. Your mileage may vary of course.

There you have it. For not much more than a couple hundred bucks you can significantly lower the noise getting into your network,  improve the sound of your streaming system and keep the network components from injecting noise back into your home's AC grid. I hope you found this helpful!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Using Add Powr Products on your Audio Data Stream


With moving to a new home, the opportunities for experimenting with acoustics, AC treatments, etc are plentiful. In this specific case we are talking about tweaks to the devices that connect to the internet, and stream music over our home networks to our audio components.

Not all of these are "Audiophile grade", the modem and/or router from your internet provider most likely was not designed with high quality parts or a low noise linear power supply. They are electronically very noisy devices. Not at all like the audio components most of us own that go to great lengths to have low signal to noise ratios, filter power as well as not put any noise back on our home's electrical grid.  I have found a few things that work to reduce the noise, and make the digital signal sound better when converted to analog.

1. Get A Balanced Power Supply

I make absolutely no money from this recommendation, and I don't care. Most of the time we are stuck with the noisy switching power supplies on routers, switches and modems. not only do they produce noise that gets into the signal path, they also inject noise into our home's electrical grid. A balanced power supply does 2 things: First it cuts the noise on incoming power by 50%. Less garbage in, less garbage out. Second, it uses an isolation transformer, which will electronically isolate anything plugged into it from getting in to your home's AC grid. That is perfect for all of those switching power supplies on your data components.

I've covered balanced power on Computer gear in a previous blog which you can read here.
Balanced power supply. This unit has 4 ac receptacles on the back, and can be found on ebay for around $200.


2. Try an ADD Powr Symphony or Symphony Pro

I stumbled upon this after getting my system set up and fairly dialed in. We have a large panel in one of our bedroom closets that houses all of the Ethernet and coax cables. I'll call it the network closet for the sake of less confusion. In the network closet, the security system and the modem/router from our ISP is connected. I was tidying up the wiring and electrical connections here, and had already installed the balanced power supply for powering all of these devices when I started experimenting.  I had an ADD-Powr Symphony Pro on hand,  and wanted to see if it had any effect on the devices in the closet. As I said I had the audio system fairly dialed in, and was used to what it was delivering in terms of musical characteristics. It took me days of playing with speaker placement to get to a "good place", and I was pretty familiar with the sound of the system in the new room.
Front and rear view of the ADD-Powr Symphony Pro


Adding the ADD-Powr

The Symphony Pro was a surprise. I had the Sorcer X4 in the listening room, and thought that the Symphony Pro would be undetectable or at best, minimal.

I did several A/B listening tests over several days with the Symphony Pro powered up and unpowered in the network closet. Every single time I powered it off, within a very short period of listening to my system I would lose interest in the music, feeling that the soundstage was flatter, and the music less dynamic and interesting. I would engage the Symphony pro and sure enough, I could sit at length, engaged with the music and surrounded by a wide, deep wrap around soundstage. This A/B testing went on for several days, sometimes I would turn off the Symphony pro, and leave the house. I would Forget about what I had done with it while I was away. I would come back to listen later that day to hear a flat, less dynamic, less 3D, & less interesting sonic presentation. I would get up from my listening chair and go over to the network closet and realize I had turned it off. After a few times of that phenomena occurring, I decided the Symphony Pro was staying in my network closet.

Conclusion


Even though our computer and networking devices may not be audiophile grade, there are things we can do to improve the influence they may have on the sound of the musical data that flows through them. The balanced power supply and ADD-Powr Symphony Pro worked to improve power delivery to the data components, and kept their noisy power supplies of the house grid. The impact they had on my system and to my ears was significant enough to warrant keeping them, and sharing my ideas with you.

As always, you can order the ADD-Powr Symphony or Symphony Pro from Tweek Geek with the protection of our 30-Day Money Back Guarantee. If it doesn't work well enough to justify the price tag, send it back for a refund. Official details here.