I’ll be comparing the SOtM sNH-10G directly with a consumer-grade switch – the ZyXEL GS-108B v2. Both switches will be powered by the Paul Hynes SR7 at 9V. I’m using a combination of SOtM dCBL-CAT7 and The Linear Solution Reference CAT7a ethernet cables with a SOTM iSO-CAT6 adapter.

I didn’t have The Linear Solution OCXO on hand but was able to compare it to the SOtM before sending it back. The SOtM sNH-10G is much better – but is more than double the cost of the OCXO. I did, however, enjoy the warmblooded tone of the OCXO more.

Aside from the last track on this list, they were all streamed via Tidal. The last track was played locally on the Innuos ZENith SE MK.2’s internal hard disk.

Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace

Although not the greatest of recordings, this live recording still gives a fantastic sense of stereo imaging and plenty of textural perspectives. Instruments, voices, and even cheers from the audience have their directionality and independent energies. The youthful talent of the Queen of Soul is realized beautifully in this piece.

In comparison to the SOtM sNH-10G, the ZyXEL GS-108B has a denser and borderline-dark sound. It’s also immediately flatter and softer. Everything (including the audience) is placed on the same focal plane – and the outlines aren’t super clear. The ZyXEL feels like sound bites being pieced together. It simply doesn’t have nearly the coherence and accurate sonic structure of the SOtM sNH-10G.

In addition, leading edges of the piano notes are obliterated on the ZyXEL. With the SOtM, you could clearly hear every single key press – including how long the note is held, associated decay, and tactility. “Controlled timing” is what comes to mind.

Whereas the ZyXEL does have a richer tone – that’s probably the only positive I could think of. Otherwise, it sounds very jumbled and confused. The SOtM trumps on dynamics, separation, and noise floor. It imparts a perspective in depth and clarity. It’s difficult not to be drawn in – especially midway through when the commotion of the crowd escalates. As the recording ends, you’re able to hear the powerful exertion and prowess in her voice.

John Coltrane – Lover (Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings)

The ZyXEL simply falls apart with this fast-paced recording. It just throws its hands up. Instrumentation lacks the tonal variations required for differentiation of timbre. Everything just sounds heavy. Cymbals are also muted in their shine.

Although quite punchy, it’s very broad with its articulation – it lacks precision. Once again, transients are completely nonexistent. It’s also difficult to isolate individual performers in this recording.

With so much going on, the SOtM remains composed. It is not only able to relay all the macro and micro dynamics of the recording, but it’s also able to do so with finesse. You could hear how quickly the cymbals vibrate and gain insight into Coltrane’s impeccable technique on brass. The drummer underpins rhythm whilst the gentle piano plays with presence and palpability. There’s plenty of musicality in the complexitites.

Alice in Chains – No Excuses (Unplugged)

Although the previous track exemplifies what an audiophile-grade switch is capable of, this recording puts the nail in the coffin.

With the SOtM sNH-10G, there’s an immediate purity to the sound. Voices are warm, drums have slam, and cymbals sparkle. The superb tonal balance cannot be understated. The SOtM is able to pace out the rhythm with incredible texture and dynamics. You’re able to feel the acoustic build up, the steely pluck of guitars, and the taut precision of percussive play. Even the audience sounds amazingly present.

The ZyXEL is far less engaging. Everything seems to be glued together in a disoriented way. Voices and instruments sound more singular, synthetic, and diffused. There seems to be a cloudy overcast over the music. PRaT is also unnaturally mellow. Huge difference.

Dr. Dre – The Next Episode

For kicks, I wanted to try a local file on the Innuos ZENith SE Mk.2 server. Which means, the music file doesn’t even touch the switch. Dr. Dre’s 2001 is one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made. And I’ve probably heard this track a few thousand times.

“Crip walk if you down with the set.”

In the past, I wanted to determine which Ethernet cable sounded closest to a music file played locally. This is in hopes of finding a cable that’s most “pure.” Unfortunately, I’ve noticed changes to the sound of my local music files depending on which Ethernet cable was connected to the Innuos ZENith SE Mk.2 server.

How a switch affects your stored music

Keeping the Ethernet cable the same, I wanted to know what the impact was on locally stored music with different Ethernet switches. Keep in mind I’m not talking about stored music from a NAS but a file that doesn’t traverse the network at all. In my case it’s a FLAC file played directly from the Innuos server out through USB.

SOtM sNH-10G

With the SOtM sNH-10G connected, the sound was cleaner, quieter, and better focused. Lyrics were more intelligible and you were able to hear deeper into the mix. Snoops and Dre’s voice had the right amount of aggression and flow.

ZyXEL GS-108B v2

The ZyXEL sounds warmer (which is nice) but heavier and more convoluted. It’s difficult to hear aural contrasts – it’s more like a blob of sound. Not a very subtle difference.

So even though the music isn’t streamed through the Ethernet switch and cables, it affects the sound of your music library stored locally. Your local files will sound different depending on what’s connected to your music server. As mentioned, this doesn’t only apply to the switch, but the Ethernet cable as well. Not much of a surprise I guess, considering how pervasive noise is in a system.

I’ll be posting a video demonstrating the differences. It’ll be in a blind test format. If you haven’t done so already, SUBSCRIBE!.

How much noise is introducted by the switch?

Since the switch is introducing noise into the system, what happens if I unplug the Ethernet cable from the Innuos server once some of the music is buffered in from Roon?

Totally impractical – but I was curious. Luckily playing a local file will still play through in Roon so I could test both. Testing streams was a bit more time-consuming.