We’ve posted about this before, but over the past few days I have spoken to 3 or 4 people over the past few days on the phone and the conversation with all of them has hinged around one thing – grounding your network to improve the performance of either streamed music coming from the Internet (Tidal/Qobuz) or music being streamed internally on a network (music stored on a NAS drive for example) or from a Melco connected to a USB DAC.
Routers are noisy, they are typically manufactured by the lowest bidder and use poor quality power supplies. That said, most modern day routers are pretty good and do what they say on the tin, but they don’t do your music any favours when it is being passed through router on its journey to your hi-fi.
It’s probably more important to say what it doesn’t do first, it is adding absolutely nothing to what is already there, the job of the ground box is to simply remove the noise and pollutants that present in the router and to allow the signal to pass through unhindered.
Entreq produce ground cables with a variety of termination types (RCA, USB, XLR, Ethernet, 5 Pin Din) and over the past few months the Ethernet connection has become the most popular we are now selling, by a significant number as well. For every 10 ground cables we sell, 6 or 7 of them are now Ethernet, so this is becoming a rather popular niche!
There is a variety of different ground cables as well, Copper, Discover, Konstantin, Challenger, Apollo, Atlantis and Olympus – all made from different material using different combinations of conductors, the entry level Copper and Challenger are the most popular RJ45 cables as they offer great performance at their respective price points. Apollo is excellent as well.
The most popular small ground box for connecting to a router is the Silver Minimus, priced at £480 it’s a neat little compact box that can easily be hidden from view but can offer significant improvements to the delivery of networked audio within a system. Once you have connected the ground cable to both the Silver Minimus and your router it usually takes around 24 hours for the full benefit to be fully appreciated, but on most systems after about 20 minutes of being connected you can tell that a change has occurred. The noise level drops and with some routers this can be quite significant. The sound becomes more dynamic and you typically find that detail and subtleties that have always been there but have been subdued or hidden in the background are now front and centre.
Which is the right ground cable to choose?
It all depends on your system and how you find it sonically. Copper can be very effective on systems that are quite lean in nature, Challenger has a mixture of silver and copper in its construction and as a result it works really well if you simply want to keep the overall presentation neutral. The Challenger has consistently been the most popular ethernet ground cable. The Copper Infinity RJ45 Ground Cables are £90 each, the Challenger Infinity are £400 each.
I have done this demonstration more times than I care to remember using a Silver Minimus and Copper cable and the improvement has pretty much always been heard, but on some systems if you change to a Challenger the benefit can become really obvious.
There is no magical ingredient list, it really depends on your system.
If you have an Ethernet switch in your system and the audio signal is routed through it there is also benefit to connecting a spare port on your switch to the Silver Minimus as well. If you have a NAS drive you could connect that to the ground box using either an RJ45 or USB ground cable depending on what connections it offers. That said, I would not recommend connecting more than 2 items to a Silver Minimus though as it does become less beneficial.
The most effective way to find out what this does to the presentation of a system is to simply leave the Entreq connected to your router for a few days or a week and then disconnect it. More often than not when I have done this for local customers the streaming aspect of their system sounds veiled and mid-range can sound heavy and congested. Listen and you’ll see to coin a phrase. For a lot of people simply grounding their network offers enough of an improvement to their system, but those wanting to explore futher……
Ethernet Interconnect Cables
You can take your network audio further than just connecting your router to a ground box as well – Entreq also produce actual ethernet cables that carry the audio signal. Their Primer Ethernet Cable is £260 for a 1.1m length and comes with a 55cm ground cable and Primer Ground Box included in the price. Connect the Ethernet Cable to your router and the other end to your Network Streamer/Player away you go.
Ethernet cables don’t work though, it is impossible for them to effect the sound of streamed music as they are just 0’s and 1’s. Take a listen and find out for yourself!
The Primer Ethernet Cable has been really popular around these parts and if you have a decent system the benefit can be pretty substantial. The cable itself is not shielded in any way, any noise/pollutants are drained to the ground box. This allows the cable to truly breath and makes it really transparent. The benefit is very much as described above, it makes the presentation more dynamic, yet calmer and most importantly more musical and engaging, go back to your previous cable and it typically doesn’t take long to realise what you have been missing.
I’ve put one of these in a system that replaced a well known cable brands ethernet cable which was nearly £1000. I simply left the Primer with the customer to play with for a week, the other cable was relegated elsewhere onto another device and the difference between the 2 cables was far from subtle as well. Many cables sound very impressive and exciting when you listen to them, but they can be very “hi-fi” and don’t actually sound like real music.
The Primer cables comes as standard terminated RJ45 to RJ45, so you can use them in a variety of places in your network, but Entreq will also produce (via special order for the same price of £260) a cable with RJ11 connections so you can go from your master phone socket to your router. For streamed Internet services like Tidal this is a great improvement as well.
Using a Silver Minimus elsewhere in your system
Due to large of connection options Entreq offer you can use a Silver Minimus on pretty much any device you want, they aren’t exclusively for connecting to network devices. You could use one to connect to your integrated amplifier, phono stage, DAC, Melco, computer, AV amp or Sky Box for example. The reasoning behind this is exactly the same as outlined above, to remove noise from the signal path to uncover hidden/obscured detail, increase dynamics. We have a substantial number of Entreq users who are using these to great effect. Entreq produce larger boxes such as the Tellus II, Silver Tellus for those people with larger systems and there is also the Olympus Ten, which is the same physical size as a Silver Tellus but even more effective! Every time the Olympus Ten comes out of the demo case, it always delivers amazing results!
No black magic or smoke and mirrors, all you need is a decent system to begin with, a working pair of ears and a love of music!