Most of our systems are plugged into the home network these days. Our streamers and servers are attached to the network to be controlled from our Ipads and if we are not playing files directly from a network attached hard drive, we are using streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz, pulling music from the deep recesses of the web.

The problem is the home network is a large and very complex source of noise. There are many noise factors with USB and ethernet cables, phase noise from consumer grade network clocks, noise from cheap router/dataswitch power supplies and even clock phase noise maybe as far back as the distant servers run by the music streaming companies. A few years ago it was assumed that these pathways would have no effect on sound quality but truth is that the contribution is really quite profound. If there is only one thing that you take away from this guide, let it bet that.

As we know, the goal of any good hifi system is to reduce noise at all junctures, whether that be in the boxes, the mains, the cables, the support or isolation. The same then is true of the home network but perhaps noise reduction and optimisation in this area is even more crucial given that you are starting from an infrastructure that is highly complex and completely non sympathetic to the ambitions of the audiophile. Home network and computer equipment was never designed with highend audio in mind but rather, to be as cheap as possible to manufacture and optimised for speed and throughput rather than actual data integrity. As soon as you stream music or play server based music, you are introducing into the system an architecture that is the absolute cheapest and worst possible kind from a sound quality perspective.

No wonder then, that some of the sound quality upgrades you can garner from some fairly simple network optimisation can turn out to be quite large and impactful especially given some of the small costs involved. Improvements made to the network often completely transcend the normal £/performance ratios that we are used to in Hifi and my experience in this area is littered with customer’s disbelief in what a simple ethernet cable or an inexpensive LPS did to their system.

It’s worth pointing out that the science behind all of this is not fully understood at present. It’s a complex topic and really an area that is being discovered right now and the knowledge base is moving along and developing quite quickly. What we do have though is very firm evidence of the large sonic gains that can be won at certain junctures, often quite cheaply.

Be also aware that deeper fathoms of this subject can start to become really quite experimental and hobbyist. Also no two home networks are the same so the rule is always try these things out for yourself. Quite a lot of research has been performed by owners of the Taiko SGM Extreme music server over on the Whatsbest internet forum. The Taiko really is the undisputed best performing streamer out there right now so it’s a veritable microscope to assess and investigate network upgrades and credit must be given to many of the owners and Taiko themselves who have helped in this regard. As an interesting aside, Tidal Audio release their long awaited Arkas streamer at the turn of the year. We anticipate that the SGM Extreme will finally have a competitor which can only be good news and more choice for you the consumer in  the small world of ultra highend streamers.

“The home network has such a profound effect on sound quality that it should be viewed as another discrete component of the Hifi system, no different from say a preamplifier, a set of speaker cables or a phono stage. It should be considered and thought about, optimised and upgraded in step with the rest of the system. Most people generally like to buy amplifiers more than any other component but your network will likely give a bigger sonic upgrade for a fraction of the expenditure”, Lotus Hifi

My goal at Lotus is to offer some robust proven solutions for network optimisation that are easy and simple to implement that also keep step with current know how and technology. We have been doing just so for quite some time now and I should have written this article way back at the begining of 2020 so apologies for that, but if you are so inclined, feel free to do some more reading around this and take even more measures, some of which might be beyond the scope of a dealer. For some people, it is a whole other hobby !

Let’s look at the primary ways in which you can improve your network, ways in which we can readily assist you as your dealer.

  1. Locate the home router away from the hifi
  2. Employ a separate switch to feed the hifi system
  3. Upgrade the etherent cable from switch to Streamer or NAS
  4. Power the router and switches with high quality LPS power supplies
  5. Fit better mains cables on the LPS power supplies
  6. Upgrade the home router to something better, possibly separate off the wifi
  7. Ground the router using an Entreq grounding box


In addition to these main attack point, there are other areas which people are exploring with good results:

  1. Daisy chain multiple switches
  2. Convert the electrical signal to optical and then back again before the Hifi
  3. Change the FMC modules inside the copper to fibre converters

Let’s go through these pieces of advice in turn. The very first thing you can do is get the BT or Sky hub the hell away from the Hifi system. It is a huge source of EMF and its close proximity to your equipment is far from ideal.

After that, you can run the network to a separate switch near the Hifi and connect your streamer to that switch instead of directly to the home router. The switch has the advantage of reclocking the signal and cleaning up upstream clock phase noise. Even buying something for a few hundred pounds from PC World should be an improvement although greater gains will be had by investing in a more audiophile orientated product. The EtherREGEN manufactured by Uptone Audio has won many fans and is relatively inexpensive at around £650. Moving up higher from that the key market leaders at around the £2000 mark seem to be the Telegartner M12 Gold, the SOtM sNH-10G and then the Melco S100 which we sell.

Please note that they all have slightly different sonic strengths and their ability is greatly influenced by the power supply they use, the mains cable on that power supply and in some cases, the feet or method of support. Entreq, our favourite brand from Sweden, also have just launched an audiophile dataswitch called the Empire. This is a very exciting product because it includes their Oasis battery power supply and this power supply can also be used to power something else. It might just be the king of the hill when we get our hands on it beacuse not only are Entreq longstanding experts on noise reduction but the Empire does away with the need to buy two additonal LPI’s for your setup.

Next we come to ethernet cables. These make the most impact after the switches and their improvement is cumulative so you can use more than one (e.g. one from router to 1st switch, another from hifi room switch to streamer) but bear in mind that the biggest improvement will be had by improving those that are closest to the source or streamer. The same seems to be true of switches as well; changes way upstream can be audibile but the improvements made closest to the Hifi make the biggest impact.

We have been selling the amazing Shunyata Sigma ethernet all of 2020 and it’s floored many customers. One of my customers tried one earlier in the year and reckoned it was a much bigger sonic jump that upgrading his Melco streamer from an old basic mk1 N1a to the current £5295 mk2 N1zh, so that was a £900 upgrade versus a £4250 upgrade. Shunyata recently launched the Omega ethernet and although its expensive at £2500 in a good transparent system it’s effect builds considerably on the Sigma.

Bear in mind that you don’t need to buy a huge 10m+ Shunyata ethernet cable to go from your hifi room switch back to the home router in the kitchen/office. Use a standard cable for that (or convert to optical, see below) and better to run a second switch near the router and then run a standard 1m upgraded ethernet cable from that into the master router. If you have any additional NAS devices on the network containing more music files then these can be connected to a switch first by a Shunyata ethernet cable too. It will help. Using multiple switches as I’ve just described can also be helpful. Some users are clustering two together, essentially reclocking one with another; the EtherREGEN and the Melco S100 daisy chained together is supposed to be particularly impressive for sound quality.

So to summarise up to this point. Remove the router from the Hifi room. Install decent audiophile grade switches, maybe having multiple across the network or a cluster in sequence. Connect these to the router and to the hifi using audiophile grade ethernet cables like the Shunyata Delta, Alpha, Sigma and Omega ethernet. Even a £350 Venom will have a very noticeable and worthwhile effect.

The next stage is to replace the cheap switch and router power supplies with higher quality Linear Power supplies which will leak less noise back into the mains or into the network. We sell the Plixir Elite range of 12V LPS and also the Entreq Oasis and very effective they are too. Some of the switches we spoke of before such as the will come into their own more when used with a decent LPS. JCat, Farad and Paul Haynes  SR4 are other popular choices.

After the power supplies, you guessed it, fit better mains cables to those power supplies. The overall gains here are now lower than ethernet cables and far lower than USB cables but still worth investigating. The £485 Shunyata Venom is a great choice here as it’s NR filter will dramatically reduce noise at frequencies common to power supplies.

The other thing you might look at, if at all possible, is to upgrade the actual router. The SKY and BT offerings are obviously not the best and moving to a TP link or a better all round product can help things. There are also now audiophile grade routers coming to market and the grandmaster of these, the Waversa W Router, is also available through us.

Something we have been doing for many years now is also grounding the router into an Entreq grounding box. Entreq is a very powerful way of dropping system noise floor, much copied now by other manufacturers, we have been successfully retailing it and upgrading system with it for 5 years now. One of the more powerful strategies if you are streaming and playing files on the network is to connect your router up to one of the smaller grounding boxes like the Silver Minimus or Minimus Infinity using an RJ45 Ertha cable. This is another powerful way to remove noise.

Let’s finally look at some of the more tweaky optimisation tricks. If you are the hobbyist kind and like fiddling you might wish to explore some of these in your own time. The first is to use multiple switches, daisy chain them and have one reclock another. This is something I’ve touched on above. It certainly would appear to be good practice to locate one just before each network attached device that has a power supply, e.g. the router, NAS drive,a Roon core, and then definitely one just before the streamer but people have reported a powerful effect when they are used in pairs, perhaps joined by an optical link if they have that facility.

This leads us on to copper to fibre conversion. It seems that doing this somewhere in your network – converting to fibre and then back again – has an additional cleaning effect, lowering the noise floor and giving a purer more precise sound. This can be done with some of the switches natively or with converters. It gets complex still because changing the FMC modules inside these converters also has a definite effect on the sound but you will forgive me if I will refrain from going down that particular wormhole here in this guide. I have a customer who has auditioned modules from Startech, Planet Audio and now Finisar an dthey all sound subtely different.

Just bear in mind that the subjective assessment of the fibre conversion seems to vary a bit from person to person, network to network. Quite a few customers have reported that whilst you get a quieter, more precise sound, something is also lost in the process and a degree of sterility is introduced into the system. Another customer of mine got around this by locating the fibre portion way upstream away from the Hifi and then the effect was lessened giving a well balanced final result that was better than all copper.

That just about wraps things up. There’s a fair but more to talk about here of course, it’s a big complicated topic so feel free to give me a call. Finessing your network to the intricate level that some customers are doing on the forums is probably well passed most people’s desire and inclination but the good news is our fit and forget products will get you most of the way there. Waversa audiophile router, Shunyata ethernet cables and mains cables, Plixir and Entreq LPS power supplies and the Melco S100 and Entreq Empire dataswitch. There are alternative products of course but all of the above are amongst the best offerings currently available. The Shunyata ethernet cables in particular have been blazing a trail all throughout 2020 and seem to be so far ahead of the competition. If you only make one improvement to your network I would say fit a Sigma into your streamer. The effect is really quite dramatic.