Audiophile ethernet cables. Most would laugh or vomit when they hear those three words. I firmly believe it’s one of the biggest bottleneck for many networked rigs out there. Naysayers would be believers if they just take two cheap ethernet cables from different brands and just give it a listen. If you aren’t a complete neophyte to high-end audio, you’ll know that quantitative measurements could only go so far. I honestly wouldn’t even know how I would go about measuring the width of soundstage or the clarity of a piece of equipment. Nothing could replace experience. Trust your ears fool. Quoting myself here:
Trust me, I was dumbfounded and skeptical when I heard ethernet cables made a difference in audio quality. It’s over a reliable TCP/IP connection where the bits are error-checked. Presumably the bits should be exactly the same on both ends. Well, apparently there’s EMI/RFI that could envelope the path of the cable and generate a sonic variance in the equipment connected on both ends.
Unlike transferring a file via FTP or downloading an app, which could take a variable amount of time, music needs to be clocked at a certain pace at all times. Most streaming occurs with the UDP/IP protocol where bits aren’t error-checked or resent. Audio streams aren’t just about the bits but the timing of the departure and arrival of those bits. Due to the physical connection of the sender/receiver and the cable design itself, jitter/RFI/EMI could emanate in the chain from the cable. The buffer that puts the stream of bits back together on the ethernet endpoints also plays a more important role. So the clocks, shielding, material, source/DAC hardware, and overall the engineering of the cable could unequivocally affect the sound quality of a cable. It does this by improving waveform fidelity, reducing impedance variations at the cable/connector, and thus lowering the overall noise.
I told myself I wouldn’t spend more than $10 on an ethernet cable. I used to just build them myself and 1,000 ft was only $40. For the love of audio, that all changed. I tried the SOtM dCBL-CAT6 and was blown away once I heard how much more musical my recordings were. For that, I paid $200 for 1.5 meters. Well…worth…it.
So if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m a mad scientist when it comes to some of this stuff. Since we’re streaming from our NAS and from the internet these days, I wanted to test how much of an impact ethernet cables make in the entire chain. There were my findings:
I didn’t really want to listen to the SOtM dCBL-CAT7 (standard). I didn’t think it could improve on what the dCBL-CAT6 did sonically. I was already “content.” Oh the sound of my fleeting heart. Secondly, $500 for an ethernet cable is a bit insane. SOtM sent me their cable anyway and I frankly was reluctantly to try it. I wanted to dismiss it as “It’s better but not $300 better.” Well, I’m wrong yet again. This cable improved the sound from my listening rig at least fivefold. It was a big deal.
If you’re wondering what that cute little block is:
The Filter Block newly added eliminating the wide band digital noise inflowing from the router or NAS interfering with audio signals is designed to remarkably improve the tonal balance, the one of most important elements in conveying the musical sentiment, and superbly express the dynamic sound characteristics as well as the highly sophisticated and delicate music player’s own nuance.
Here are my raw impressions vs dCBL-CAT6. This was done with a Chord DAVE and Focal Utopia headphones.
Being so impressed with these cables, I brought them over to my friend’s place with a $60,000 speaker system. He was using generic CAT7 this entire time (He wasn’t embarrassed until after this demo). When I combined the dCBL-CAT6 from modem to router and dCBL-CAT7 to the Lumin S1 (not vice-versa due to length constraints)…his system was instantly elevated into another league. We heard significantly more textural cues, a broader soundstage (and for the first time not at the expense of losing warmth), and an amazingly lush and balanced tonality. The music opens up and we started to get much better sound depth in all the recordings. It really maximized the quality of all our tracks. Low-end slam and definition was abundant and detailed, it was just goosebumps galore.
I’ve heard this system over the course of months as new components were added and removed. Most of our listening was done via Tidal and a few files streamed from the NAS. I’m just going to say…if your collection is streamed either from your NAS or from the internet…you would be doing a huge disservice to your ears if you don’t get a higher quality ethernet cable. I’m absolutely floored.
The SOtM dCBL-CAT7 gives you a much more vibrant and textured presentation. It’s expansive, vivid, visceral, and gives each component of the song its own body which is its greatest strength. It unravels the complexity of all recordings while still maintaining surreal musicality and balance. Compared to the dCBL-CAT6, vocals are a bit thinner and lean but still natural sounding. Really splitting hairs at this point as I honestly think the cable is flawless for audio fidelity. Spatial cues are also more apparent with the CAT7. You could actually hear which venue the recording was done in. You would think the improvements gained from an ethernet cable are incremental, and perhaps they were with the dCBL-CAT6, but I assure you the CAT7 is a whole another beast.
If you couldn’t tell, I love this cable and it has enhanced the sound quality of all my files and online streams, even more than some of my more pricer gear (which includes network streamers, interconnects, and even some power components). Retrospectively, it’s a bit disheartening as I’m just starting to realize how much I was missing from my recordings this entire time.
Admittedly I’m a bit curious about the special edition which includes another filter and your choice of three different “flavors” of ethernet.
The iSO-CAT6 Special Edition that newly combined with dCBL-CAT7 cable is configured with 3 kinds of network cables offering respectively different sound characteristics with high quality, which allows the user organize own unique customized audio system selecting bright & splendid tone, moderate, mild & comfortable tone.
Should you desire to definitely improve the sound quality or experience fresh sound change of your network audio systems or acquire the genuinely advanced sound from ultra-high end audio systems, the dCBL-CAT7 cable will provide certainly clear improvement more than what you may have expected.
Supposedly the best configuration is to have 2 x dCBL-CAT7 bridged with the iSO-CAT6 filter block. For my wallet’s sake…I don’t want to hear this combination. Eh, who am I kidding, SOtM please send in the cables. In a future review I’ll try the various combinations of having the cables at various locations in the chain. Other vendors claim that having the cable as the last link is more critical but that doesn’t seem to be the case from my experimentation, especially for streaming services.
UPDATE: For a limited time, Crux Audio is offering a 10% discount on these cables! Just enter BACON10 at checkout.
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