Audio Ramblings And The SOtM sNH-10G Switch
For those of us who are
pushing things in terms of what can we accomplish with playing our music back
via files within some networked system, well... where does one stop? Or better
yet, what else can one do to improve things?
Obviously, it starts with files whether ripped from a CD or
sourced from some website. So, we do our best to rip files in a reasonable way
and / or source files that seem to be as perfect as we can figure out. Getting
files from the label or artist is always a good bet, and naturally the file
format comes into play as well — wav, flac, aif, etc.
For the ripping, I use an OWC Mercury Pro 16X outboard drive
connected to my PC via a USB cable from Curious Cables. The drive sits on three
Vibrapods with a Shakti Stone on top. Additionally, all discs are blackened
around the outside edges and then placed on a Furutech RD-2 demagnetizer.
Ripping is done with dBPoweramp CD Ripper software. Okay, commence the slings
and arrows... but yeah, this is what I do. Plus, I sleep better at night
thinking that it matters and for me at least, I hear a difference.
Okay, so the files then go on the Integrita C4 NAS from Certon
This NAS was purpose built to address noise generated by the internal drives
(electrical and vibrational) as well as noise and vibration form the outside.
Fast and silent, the Integrita C4 is way cool.
From there the files are out to either the AURALiC Aries G2
with their own Lightening DS software (HERE),
or the Antipodes CX with Roon's software (HERE).
The Aries G2 goes direct USB to the PS Audio Directsream DAC, whereas the
Antipodes CX (HERE)
passes to the Sonore ultraRendu, then to the Sonore ultraDigital and then to the
PS Audio Directsream DAC via HDMI. HDMI cable is from DH Labs. Killer HDMI cable
USB cables are (as the mood so moves me) from Skogrand, Black
Cat, Sablon Audio, Cardas, Purist Audio, Furutech, JPlay, WyWires, Kubala-Sosna,
Audience, Dynamic Designs, and... I think that is it.
Ethernet cables are from JPlay, Audioquest, Cardas, WireWorld, and Sablon
Audio. I tend to stick to a "salad" of Cardas, WireWorld, and Sablon
Audio between various pieces. Some cables tend to work better between this and
that as opposed to another one.
The network switch that acts as a pathway routing everything
is the AQVOX SE switch (HERE).
It was clearly better than the stock Netgear switch I was using, even with the
acting as its power supply. And even with several Acoustic Revive lan isolators
here and there. Yeah, the AQVOX does the music right.
Another SBooster powers the Netgear Wi-Fi extender.
Everything is plugged into a PS Audio P20 Regenerator and
various AC cords ranging from the Purist Audio Digital (Integrita), to the
Sablon Panatela, to the Triode Wire Digital American Series (HERE),
to Pangea's 14SE MKII (various LPS units), and Cardas's Clear (PS Audio P20) do
the job in getting everything clean AC.
If you want the whole system. Then click on my name in the
byline to this review. Doing so will open a window listing what I use here.
Doing so with any of our writers in their articles or reviews does the same for
them as well.
Alright, so at AXPONA, Kamal who handles SOtM in the US, asked
me to audition their sNH-10G switch, but at the time I was like," Uh, no
thanks, I just have way too much to handle at the moment, so will need to
pass." Many months later and I get an email from May at SOtM in Korea
asking the same. We sort things out and Kamal sends me the sNH-10G with the
internal sCLK-EX clock board ($1500 or $800 without the clock) and the sPS-500 power
supply ($500). In the package is the optional "better" copper
DC cable. Nice. Better cables tend to make things... better.
In asking Kamal and May what's going on in the sNH-10G, this
is what I could get...
Not a lot, but at least I found out that it is not an off the
shelf unit from someone that has been modified to do whatever. Now, there is
nothing wrong with that, as that is what most audiophile switches are...
modified units from whomever they feel is the best to modify. The AQVOX SE is a
prime example being a modified switch from D-Link. The AQVOX SE switch is well
thought out with the appropriate mods and what not to improve things, and it
sounds, performs, wonderfully well. Sadly though, in doing what they had to do
to the D-Link switch, it loses one of the eight ports making the unit a
seven-port switch. The AQVOX SE is around $900 or so.
I do love this from the AQVOX site as to why they choose the
We do not use the D-Link Switch as a base because it sounds
better than other switches. The D-Link sounds just as bad as other models. We
use the D-Link because our modifications are especially easy to implement here.
To all who think the unmodified D-Link is a good
choice—it is not. Even a sophisticated power supply just helps a little,
compared to the huge effect of our modifications. And if you have a good NAS
source like a Melco, the unmodified D-Link even degrades the sound quality.
Now, reviewing switches is a real PITA. I have to turn off
both the Aries G2 and Antipodes CX (and the Sonore units too), swap all the
Ethernet cables, turn everything back on, then wait till whatever finds what it
needs to play the files back. Not easy and not fast. Takes a good 10-15 mins to
get this done and at my age, having to get behind the rack and work this to that
is not as much fun as it seemed like when I was 20 years younger. Make that 5
Even so, in playing various tracks, our first reaction to the
sNH-10G being in the chain was simply more grunt to the music. The music simply
came across as being more muscular and dynamic. We both looked
at each other and made the same comment... whoa. "Sounds louder with more...
grunt... more power."
Yeah, easy to discern and not trivial.
And vocals were presented with less sibilance and while simply
coming across as smoother and easier to hear with what was
being sung. Articulation without adding hype or coloration. Less noise and
whatnot? Maybe. Sure. I dunno....
We liked what we were hearing.
Bass was bigger (deeper and with more oomph) and overall the
music came across as being warmer and richer. Really nice. Everything simply had
more presence and that palpable presence. Texture.
Again, we liked what we were hearing.
For sure we have always felt that our system was stellar
bass-wise, and yes, the P20 did improve things quite a bit, but the sNH-10G
really moves things up, or would that be down, the ladder in terms of bass
presence, depth, and control. Lower and better.
With certain tracks or artists, there are times I think I
might want to turn the music down to not cause any harm to the speakers, but
then think... screw that and turn it up a few more steps. It is just that good.
Just that more engaging. This is nice.
But at twice the price of the AQVOX SE do you get twice the
performance? Two times the improvements? Uh... no. Not sure much in the audio
world works that way. But you do get a clear improvement with what one hears
with their music.
Things just sound better. Worth the differences? For us, yes.
For you, no idea. That would be up to you to decide. Give it a try. You might
end up as pleased as we are... or you might just say, no thanks.
So yeah, I get it.... a switch cannot, should not make a
difference in the sound. In the music. Either it works or it does not. Either
the bytes get from A to B or they don't. But that is network thinking, that is
IT thinking... it is digital transmission thinking. Not music thinking. Not
audio thinking. More here than just moving this signal from A to B and so we not
fielding comments that dispute us for hearing what we hear. Nor those who are
out to say that such things are a rip-off. If it does not work for you, if it
falls outside of your experience, your comfort zone, okay, no problem. Move on.
Thanks for reading just the same.
Okay so at this point, we are not sure what else we can do
make our digital audio file system better. At this point we are pretty much
finished. It sounds really damn good and we are happy. Highly recommended.
Buying the one here, but then am also keeping the AQVOX SE. You know, like in
case I want to switch back...
A number of albums that saw a lot of rotation during this