Digital infrastructure

Due to some equipment changes at work I now have some nice business level switches for home use. My internet and main "stuff" is in a back room and I've got a small home use switches there and in my stereo rack now. I'm replacing those with business level switches, a fiber connection between the switches and then shielded twisted pair (STP) cat 6a wiring to the devices.

I'm not sure if there will be any change in sound but networking is what I do at work so this makes sense at least to me.

Main switch (MDF) has many electrical connections near it. I pass connection through the wall near more electrical stuff to the back of my stereo cabinet and, although well laid out, that's also full of AC equipment.

Now I can get the MDF switch attached to the IDF (stereo equipment rack) network connected with no interference at all from AC. I'll put the IDF switch right in the stereo rack and attach the pieces that need network there with STP cat6a. Wiring up to this point was whatever I had laying around - mainly UTP Cat5 or 5e.

Switches are in place, fiber is connected and I've ordered various lengths of STP Cat 6a network patch cables. I have my music server (Roon) PC, Oppo and a game thing for the kids buried in there. All will be attached to the IDF with STP Cat 6a.

MDF switch is fairly noisy but is in a different room. IDF switch does have a few small fans in it but upon testing is very quiet. I don't think I'll hear it at all from more than 3 feet away and it will be in the cabinet as well for further sound suppression.

I'll report back in when it's completed. I'm not certain there will be any changes but if nothing else the placebo effect will make me feel like I've accomplished something.


  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,077
    Cool beans, looking forward to your thoughts. My house is also networked and I've long dreamed of installing some patch panels, switches and other things, but may never get there myself.....
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • ALL212ALL212 Posts: 799 why?

    TCP/IP is the current ruler of the network universe. Pretty much everything that's "networked" is running some version of TCP/IP, either V4 or V6, but probably V4 and from a typical humans perspective it makes no difference. It makes no difference to streaming music that I know of.

    Wiring for TCP/IP is Cat5, 5e, 6, 6a and beyond. Each increment is an attempt to push more data faster, further (although with copper wire that's about 100m or 300 ft. regardless of wire type) and with better chance of the packets arriving intact the first time at their destination. Fiber does nothing more than allow further travel with no chance of electrical interference. Fiber does have it's own vulnerabilities but those are primarily due to cost and physical abuse (hmm...the good stuff is glass - don't bend it too far and the cheap stuff is plastic that doesn't transmit quite as well).

    Evil can happen to those packets as they travel over the wire and from what I've read music streaming is a UDP protocol so there is no error checking or retransmission. It needs to arrive alive the first time.

    Most bad things that happen on the copper is inducted interference from running it too close to electrical wiring. It was also found that even the pairs themselves could interfere with each other (4 pairs, 2 typically used). Cat5e is almost the same as Cat5 except the twist ratio between the pairs is different. That helps eliminate the crosstalk between the pairs. You can research the rest of the variants.

    Most of this network wire is unshielded. There are few applications where shielded wire is required but the cost is much higher so it's typically not used (it's also no fun to terminate properly). Even for the short patch cables I purchased the cost was much higher than unshielded but not prohibitive. Instead of under $1 per cable I paid right around $5 - figure 10x the cost. These are not fancy, straight out of the Monoprice website.

    A fairly new twist on this is the reduction of the gauge of the wire. Standard Cat5/5e is 24 gauge. The stuff I bought is 36 gauge. The advantage is that it's much easier to run and takes up much less space. I did it for the ease of use.

    New cat6a STP in 36g is the smaller one with the metal end on it.


    So this exercise is no more than an attempt to keep the packets clean and alive through the entire transmission path. So do I think this will make a huge difference? No. But for the $25 I've got into it I'll just sleep better.

    Impression after 10 minutes of listening. Possibly a slightly blacker background. Maybe a better bass presentation. Maybe...possibly...
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