Silent Angel Bonn N8 Data Switch Review
Thunder Data, the primary company responsible for the Silent Angel products was founded by two Chinese research engineers – Dr. Huang Jian and Chorus Chuang – specializing in both hardware and software development and engineering, and they have several patents in this field. Features of the already highly-regarded Bonn N8 eight-port Ethernet switch, which sells for £399, include fully balanced input and output transformers for every port, though it must be said that pretty much all such network connections are done this way even on low-cost Netgear switches.
Further additions include damping pads on many internal components to reduce induced jitter from audio-related vibration, and the use of a low-noise high-stability reference clock to upgrade it to an audio-quality computer network switch. The eight ports are 100/1000Base-T gigabit specification, and the design includes a customized 'Silent Angel Noise Absorber' with two EMC filters for the main internal power supply and a further two for the clock generator circuit. The included switched-mode power supply is specified as medical-grade for lower noise and leakage current.
As an upgrade Silent Angel offers an external power supply, the £429 Forester F1 linear, with two independent and separately regulated 5V/2A USB outputs, with additional connections via a standard 5.5mm coaxial DC plug. There's a vibration-damped metal housing, a low-noise encapsulated toroidal mains transformer and balanced output circuitry using low-noise MOSFET regulators. Adding this takes the package price up to £799.
The switch itself has a box of thin painted metal with quite sharp edges: in contrast the transformer power supply is nicely made and weighty thanks to the generous power transformer and a sturdy case. However, I would have liked a longer DC output cable to allow the supply to be located further from the switch – the N8's standard switch-mode plug-top supply has a usefully extended cable, and thus may be remote from the network switch itself.
The N8 seems a tad costly for the benefit on offer, but substituting the much heavier Forester F1 linear power supply delivered a significant uplift in clarity. I heard more weight and power in the bass and in addition several qualities deriving from lower electronic noise such as better transparency, sharper image focus and some gain in image depth. Despite the shortness of the F1's DC supply lead, which might result in possible interaction with hum fields and transformer vibration, there was nonetheless an improvement, but again I felt it would be worth finding a longer cable.
Comparing the N8/F1 combination with my old stock, refurbished Cisco 2960 Catalyst switch, the gains were similar over an unmodified generic switch. Oddly, I found that the Catalyst itself is significantly improved with the addition of isolating feet and a NAIM Powerline mains cable but at substantial extra cost. With an ordinary mains cable on the Cisco Catalyst the difference between the two switches was somewhat smaller.
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