Richie - Head of Online Operations explains all...
Network Switches - All the questions answered!
First and foremost, I want to explain how I felt when David (our CEO) came to me and said he wanted to begin stocking network switches. I slouched in my chair and shook my head in a negative way. The reason for that was when I hear the words "network" I starting thinking that you need to be a network expert to set it up, if it fails it's a massive issue to resolve. You need IP addresses, cables ran through your house etc... etc...
I understood the benefits that they could bring sonically so I did some research and was pleasantly surprised!
Don't let the name scare you...
The name "Network Switch" can be slightly confusing and daunting. In reality, the best comparison I can make is to compare it to a mains filter, it's very similar in what it does. In very basic terms, a network switch does two key things:
- It cleans up the signal (similar to how a mains cable cleans the mains supply)
- It also re-clocks the signal before passing it on to your source
For anyone who doesn't know what re-clocking means, essentially a clock takes the signal, and fixes any errors in the data packet, which then leaves you with a "perfect" data packet. This in turn leaves you with a huge sonic benefit, as you are then hearing a perfect version of the reproduction.
Sonic Benefits & Usability
Just to make sure you want to keep reading, Network Switches are a breeze to install.
The image to the right explains where you need to place them, essentially between your router and source. The set up is a 5 minute task. Plug them in to the mains, plug an ethernet cable from the router into the Ethernet port (in) on the network switch and another ethernet cable from the network switch to your source, turn in on and you are done!
The network switch does the rest! You don't need to input any IP Address, link anything up, mess around with router settings etc... just plug it in and off you go!
What can I use it with?
I actually think there is a massive misunderstanding with network switches, as many people I have spoken to thought they were an "accessory" for Music servers / CD Rippers. NO!!!
Network switches are designed for any wired signal. That means that network switches are essential when using Music Servers but also for streamers, and in fact most people who use network switches use them with streamers. Anything that using a wired ethernet cable can benefit form a network switch!
What are the prices?
Network Switches are surprisingly not very expensive at all. Like everything there are of course tiers, and there are entry level and higher end versions. Network Switches start from £399.00 from Silent Angel with the N8 Network Switch, which also has optional upgrade potential from power supplies, and isolation feet. You then have the higher end option from Innuos at £2,595 with the PhoneixNET so there are options for every price point.