Publisher Profile APPEARANCE - Editor - Theme Header Google Adsense Top Banner

Audio Blast: Ethernet Cables and XLR “Y” Adapters Survey

By: |

Clarity Cable

The assessment of the Clarity Cable in this survey is trickier as the system used was outfitted with Clarity Cable products. As an example of one of the systems I used, note the presence of Clarity Cables in the following:

Wolf Audio Red Wolf Alpha 2 Server/Streamer with Clarity Cable Vortex Power Cord; Clarity Supernatural USB Cable; Eastern Electric Minimax DSD DAC Supreme with Clarity Vortex PC; Teo Audio Liquid Reference Mk 1.5 RCA Interconnect; Teo Audio Liquid Pre (preamp); Teo Liquid Reference MkII RCA Interconnect; Red Dragon S500 Amplifiers in Mono mode, both with Clarity Vortex PC; Clarity Organic Speaker Cable (tri-wired with one set of shotgun and one single set); Legacy Audio Whisper DSW Clarity Edition.

Here was a system featuring a lot of Clarity Cable and a speaker that was internally wired with the same. Should it be a surprise that the Clarity Ethernet cable performed excellently? The bass presence, fullness and cleanness was exemplary, perhaps the best of the lot. As is the nature of Clarity Cables the treble was softer than that of the Supra, Tera Grand or even the Purist cables. Mid-bass to midrange was superb, thick and easily discerned, but not overriding the extremes. At times I thought the treble a bit too soft, however that may be due to its not being emphasized as in the other cables.

I recommend the Clarity Ethernet cable for those who have smaller systems lacking in low-end presence. Also, those who have very highly resolving systems, but smallish tower speakers will appreciate the added bass support without pushing the system over the edge in terms of upper end energy.

 

Wireworld

I was surprised at the performance of the Wireworld products. Years ago I had reviewed David Salz’s designs and, though I enjoyed them much, moved on over time, eventually using the Clarity Cable and Teo Cables regularly, as well as some from Snake River Audio and Silnote Audio. Since then it seems Wireworld products have undergone a revolutionary change.

I know that Clarity Cable has its own proprietary design, but so does Wireworld. Is it a coincidence that the two brands of Ethernet cables that stood out the most used unorthodox methods? Clarity does not discuss the proprietary methods it uses, but Wireworld splashes their technology across their web pages.

Wireworld offers the three versions I noted above, and I was able to try the Chroma and Starlight cables in the 14’ lengths, but the Platinum Starlight only in the 3’ length (see below). I was surprised at the richness of the experience offered by the Chroma in such an affordable cable. Here was the winner of the value Ethernet cable comparison. Most notably, it was the only inexpensive cable to capture a healthy portion of both midrange and bass presence. The Starlight was clearly superior to the Chroma in all respects, so much so that for those with the money I recommend the Starlight. The Wireworld cables had the highest degree of detail and very well balanced tonality. Both microdynamics and spatiality were superb, with bass extended, ripe and clean.

I can envision the Wireworld cables working well in a wide variety of systems, with perhaps caution to be exercised by nostalgia, “laid back” system lovers.

 

3’ “shorties” cables

The above comparisons were conducted with my standard, nondescript Ethernet connection upstairs installed. As my listening room is so well constructed, with so many pieces of two-leg resilient channel built into the walls, that it is all but impervious to Wi-Fi signals – I had to use a hard connection in the room for Wi-Fi. That was well and good until for some reason that link failed. I was not about to tear into the massively overbuilt room to replace the cable. Instead, in desperation I turned to an alternative method, Internet over power lines. Thankfully, inexpensive transmitter/receiver combos are available readily, and I have used one for approximately two years with excellent results. Thus, I have a short Ethernet link upstairs from the cable modem to the router, then another Ethernet link from the power line access point in the listening room to the Salk StreamPlayer Gen III.

Why would I assess 1M Ethernet cables when I needed a run of 14’ in my listening room? Upstairs at the router I have an approximately 1M length of Ethernet cable required to run from the wall to the router. Would the exchange of such a short, seemingly insignificant cable so distant from the listening room be audible? Yes, it was. I wasn’t terribly surprised that the best performance of the short cables was the nosebleed priced Platinum Starlight ($850/1M). It elevated all the qualities I enjoyed in the Starlight cable. It is much more difficult to justify such a cable on value terms, but in performance terms it is highly recommended. Trying many permutations, even some of the longer cables, the more cost effective solution while maintaining top performance was with the 14’ Clarity Supernatural cable. I surmise that a 1M Clarity Ethernet cable would be a superb choice, but I did not have time enough during this review to pursue it.

As might be expected the exchange of Ethernet cables upstairs had a similar, albeit less potent effect on the system sound. With so many variables I refrained from note taking and indirect system recommendations, but swapped several for my own pleasure. I do recommend that all Ethernet connections be replaced with aftermarket cabling for a boost in system performance.

 

The XLR adapter/spliter comparisons

Why would anyone wish to split an XLR signal (as in every instance for this article, from a single female to 2 male terminations)? Simply put, for the same reason you might split an RCA signal. The most common reason is to allow a preamp with only one set of outputs (or a similar DAC with built-in volume control) to power two stereo amplifiers or to feed subwoofers plus a main amplifier. The configuration in which two stereo amps are used with one set of speakers, typically with both sets of amplifier outputs driving one speaker’s low and high sets of inputs, is called “passive bi-amping” to distinguish it from active bi-amping in which the crossover resides outside the speaker and distributes only the appropriate frequencies to the respective set of speaker inputs.

Products under consideration:

  • Purist Audio XLR “Y” Adapter $300msrp
  • Kimber XLR Y Cable – uncertain; was left in my possession by Legacy Audio for use with Wavelet processor for Whisper speakers
  • Wireworld .2M/8” Eclipse 7 Balanced Interconnect Y Cable  $300/pr.
  • Wireworld .2M/8” Gold Eclipse 7 Balanced Interconnect Y Cable $760/pr

 

Not having worked with head to head comparisons of signal splitting devices prior I was not sure what to expect sonically from them. I would not have been surprised if the order of preference was different, or even reversed from that of the Ethernet cables. Instead, I found a remarkable consistency in sound character between the Ethernet cables, and the splitters and Y cables. In fact, they were so similar to their manufacturer’s Ethernet cables that I found them following the exact same pattern!

The most laid-back and relaxed, but not overly revealing was the Purist Audio splitter, the only hardware spliter in the group. I had thought that perhaps since it was a shorter, hard connection versus longer cable connections that it would be absolutely more detailed. But instead it was what I would term mildly muted in relation to the Y cables. For that reason I suggest that only if you prefer a very comfortable, not dramatically detailed presentation should you combine the Ethernet cable from PAD with the PAD XLR splitter. Now, if you have had issues with sibilance, brightness or listening fatigue, then you would likely be safe to combine them.

The Kimber Kable Hero XLR Y cable does not seem to be a current item. It appears to be a lower model in the line with smallish gauge. Nevertheless, it performed admirably, and though a bit thinner than the PAD it had a lighter, brighter sound. It was balanced fairly well through the audio spectrum, but lacked the punch and weight of the Wireworld products.

Wireworld sent me two sets of XLR Y cables; the lower model Eclipse 7 cable-based pair with 8” leads at $500/pr., and the Gold Eclipse 7 version at $710/pr. This is a dramatically higher price, I presume, than the Kimber Kable wires. The lower model matches the PAD splitters and on the high end model doubles their price.

However, once again the Wireworld products shone brightly. I was quite pleased with the additional information retrieval provided by the Eclipse 7 and Gold Eclipse 7 Y cables.  There was a sense of less signal transmission loss with the Wireworld products. I felt as though the Wireworld links were allowing me to fully implement the advantages of the extra channels of amplification. A good example was with the First Watt J2, which is a more timid 25 Wpc. Without the splitters I could only use one amp in stereo mode, but with the splitters two of the J2 amps could more ably drive the PureAudioProject Trio15 PAP Horn-1 speakers.

 

A subwoofer save

After the initial assessment of the Trio15 PAP Horn-1 was conducted I wished to supplement their already competent twin 15” woofers per side with my Legacy Audio XTREME XD Subwoofers. Why not? Overkill is great! However, I was using the Benchmark DAC3 DX and AHB 2 amplifiers at the time. I had wished to use the XLR splitters for the speaker. However, the Horn-1 only accepts a single pair of inputs, so splitting the signal and using four amp channels was prohibited.

I was at the time trying to use both the DAC3 DX’s RCA outs as well as the XLR outs; I was sending the XLR to the Horn-1 speakers and the RCA outs to the subs. There is a significant variance in the output level of the RCA vs. XLR, so the subs were anemic sounding. As I discuss in the Benchmark review I could conduct a change of a setting internally in the DAC, but instead chose first to try using all XLR outs to the mains and the subs – a feat made possible by XLR splitters or Y cables. I ran the AHB 2 amps but was able via the splitters/Y cables to send a second set of XLR outs to supply the subwoofers – and it worked beautifully. This is a valuable alternative application for splitting the XLR outputs.

 

Conclusions

Those who suggest all Ethernet cables perform similarly are wrong; you will bypass a valuable improvement to your system if you ignore Ethernet cabling. Likewise, the use of a splitter or Y cable, though an additional link in the system chain, can provide a path to functional improvement that goes far beyond the slight deleterious effect of its presence. Take these notes and listening impressions as guidelines to improve your system in these areas.

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

9 Responses to Audio Blast: Ethernet Cables and XLR “Y” Adapters Survey


  1. Charles Grubbs says:

    Thanks for such a useful review. I need to upgrade the ethernet cable from my router to DirectStream Dac with Bridge II streaming. It is especially nice that you paid special attention to the tonal balance of the cables. So many times the emphasis is on detail and soundstage. I recently read a review of a phono stage which never even mentioned tonal balance or qualities, just how detailed and spacious it made the music. In my experience that means the component is too bright and harsh for my taste!.

  2. Charles,
    God’s Peace to you,

    Thank you for the complement! I try not to get so excited about precision that I forget about tone. It’s easy to get carried away when a system has extreme detail; we tend not to be so excited when the timbre is rich. But, both are absolutely necessary when seeking the ultimate experience.

    Have you ever heard the saying, “An ounce of tone is worth a pound of definition,”? Likely not; I just made it up. 😉 BTW, I don’t believe it’s true.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  3. Pete says:

    Interesting results and in one case, markedly different from what I have experienced. I run a .5M run of the Supra Cat8 from Fios to router and a 5M run from router to laptop. I found the Supra Cat8 to possess excellent tone/timbre, well balanced although leaning towards warm and romantic compared to other reasonably priced Ethernet cables. It is moderately transparent and detailed cable but overall more of an easy to listen to type cable. If this cable was a tube, it would be a standard, current production, lower tier Chinese 300B. The differences I heard between ethernet cables while easily heard, weren’t make or break changes but rather more subtle. I wonder if running your audio signal through many feet of power line had any effect on exaggerating the differences between cables? I was shocked when I used an AlphaLab EMI meter on my dedicated outlets, they are insanely noisy.

  4. Pete,
    God’s Peace to you,

    Whether a method results in a significant or insignificant change is dependent upon the quality of the rig and the perception of the listener. I suspect some will conclude that ethernet cabling is not significant enough to bother with, but I reported on my experience.

    I had the same results in terms of ethernet cables’ sonic characteristics when I changed them inside the listening room, as well as outside the room back at the router. To me that says if there is an effect from the IOP setup it is not significant enough to discount the findings regarding the ethernet cables.

    I suggest you try the WireWorld cable; you will likely hear a dramatic difference. In my experience it was not on the same plane as the less expensive ethernet cables.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  5. Pete says:

    Hello Constantine,
    The digital side of my system is fairly straightforward: Fios optical converter >.5M Supra Cat8 >Fios G110 Router > 5.0 M Supra Cat8 > MacBook Pro with 1TB SSD (Tidal and JRiver MC23) > Holo Spring NOS R2R DAC > Sonic Euphoria Autoformer Preamp > 300B monoblocks > 2-way horns. Amps have a dedicated 20A line, source components have a dedicated 15A line with a Bryston BIT15 Balanced Power line conditioner. The Holo Spring Dac is a new item in my system, replacing a PS Audio PWD II and although the Holo Spring is extremely musical and closer to what I hear from my vinyl setup, I suspect it inverts absolute phase (need to test this). I value tone/timbre and dynamics above other sonic considerations.

  6. Pete says:

    Hi Douglas,
    I agree with you that the sonic effect of an Ethernet cable is audible but will not make or break a system. This is much the way I look at powercords, ICs, and speaker cables, they do change the sound but generally should be tweaked for subtle tuning rather than for fixing some component level issue within a system. I remember when I first changed out ethernet cables and heard a difference, I was sceptical but (Eureka) I heard it. It sounds like you ruled out the effect of using IOP with your listening methods, perhaps digital cables signature sound will depend more on the environment they find themselves in compared to analogue cables? Thanks for the tip about Wireworld ethernet cable, I might start with the short run between my converter and router. Cheers.

  7. Patrick Rogers says:

    Hi Doug, thank you for such thorough, objective, well presented reviews. Great to feel the passion you possess for music that is so absent these days. Personally I’m not streaming music etc at present but am moving in that direction so your observations are much appreciated! Keep up the good work!
    Cheers, Pat

  8. peter jasz says:

    Nice overview.

    Indeed, the most unassuming, unsuspecting wire (using a computer-audio based signal/source) often has a profound impact upon sound quality. This can be observed by using any Ethernet/CAT cable one may have lying around.
    This is both simple and cost-free for those that wish to experience how “wire” influences/impacts SQ.

    Although I, as you, must agree that the top-range cables (from respected makers) often prove best -by a wide margin. Argghh …. (lol)

    peter jasz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popups Powered By : XYZScripts.com