Cutting the Noise


The findings here were very interesting. Also, you don’t need a trained ear to hear the differences. Once the switches were detached from the server – the sound immediately changes. So noise is always present – let’s find out by how much.

The Innuos server and Roon does get a little weird when you unplug the cable midway. Sometimes I’ll have to wait a few minutes for it to “refresh.” At times, it was very quick – and those were the times I did my listening.

Tidal Streams

When I unplugged the SOtM sNH-10G, the sound had less of an edge, a more solid midrange, better coherence, better focus, and just sound fuller. The tone itself didn’t change much – although slightly warmer. It’s not as “excited” and sounds smoother and more dynamic. When I plugged the SOtM back in, there’s a little bit more grain and the sound was a little thinner. Although it wasn’t night and day, the main giveaway is a more diffused midrange.

The differences were far larger with the ZyXEL. When unplugged, the sound was pretty much identical to what I heard when the SOtM was unplugged. Plugging the ZyXEL back in and you start to get an idea of just how much an attached switch could alter the sound of your music server. The ZyXEL is relatively dark sounding and has a much more veiled sound. It’s not nearly as transparent as the SOtM. Not even close, really.

Local Files

From my experience, a local file almost always sounds better than a streamed file. So far, without exception. It’s always quieter, more detailed, and imparts better cohesiveness.

In short, the performance gap is widened even further when playing local files (with switches detached). It sounds crisper, quieter, more liquid, and more transparent. The soundstage gets deeper and the music just breathes better. Plugging either switch back in – and the sound gets a little fuzzier and diffused. This is not so much the case for the SOtM, but is extremely dramatic with the ZyXEL.

If the sound quality with the switch disconnected is our reference point, it’s clear that the SOtM sNH-10 Ethernet switch does a really good job at isolating noise. The bottom line is – the SOtM gets you WAY closer to what it sounds like without having a switch attached. With the ZyXEL attached, sonic performance takes an enormous hit.

To summarize, less noise meant:

  • Better cohesion and smoothness
  • Blacker background
  • Fuller and warmer sound
  • Better dynamics
  • Much better transparency