Why are so many high end streamers ethernet only?

Discussion in 'Advice Threads' started by Grendel, Feb 6, 2024.

  1. Grendel

    Grendel New

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    Really looking to be educated here. What are the inherent limitations of wifi streamers relative to wired connections in terms of noise, jitter etc.? I say this because as i have researched upgrading from my current streamer, an if i zen stream, most of the higher end dacs seem to prefer wired only connections.

    As my current setup, due to space and marital peace considerations, is wifi only, does it make sense for me not to even bother to upgrade until I can get a wired connection? My connection is relatively fast & stable so I wonder if there is a wifi solution that’s better than what I have now.
     
  2. JK47

    JK47 Friend

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    This is the way
     
  3. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Don't go autism over it is my advice.
     
  4. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    You can get Wi-Fi extenders with Ethernet out to use with streamer. You have option to disable the Wi-Fi of these extenders so they will only act as Wi-Fi to Ethernet converter for you and not as extender
     
  5. internethandle

    internethandle Almost "Made"

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    There's not a readily available answer re: "noise and jitter" or similar with wired vs. Wifi ethernet. Audiophiles and audiophile companies use wired Ethernet for the same reason that there are "audiophile" Ethernet cables and switches -- they think it sounds better, or their customer base does. Beyond that, there's not a lot of rationale. Sometimes you get someone talking speculatively about WiFi being "EMI" or something, but again, it's not like there's a white paper on this stuff, it's ultimately nervosa. @Ksaurav402's suggestion is as good as any if you just want to not worry about it and still use a streamer or DAC that doesn't include a wireless receiver. You're really better off doing that than going down a rabbit hole in most cases.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 6, 2024
  6. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    I am no expert on this thing in particular, but from some people I know who are, the reasoning is mostly around what is the analog signal fidelity like in the digital stream.
    The data flows in analog domain. While it is supposed to be 1's and 0's (discrete) only, the sum output from where the dac eventually gets to convert the data stream to analog waveform there is a lot of things happening before it.
    I would guess that WiFi simply makes things more complex in the 'fidelity of data' parameter and also introduces electromagnetic radiation that needs to be dealt with.
    USB is also immensely complex, yet lately it appears to be as good as anything else for audio.

    It is going after the last 0.07% of fidelity. Do you care? Most people do not. Some do.
    Some engineers I know with significant experience designing these things are convinced digital cable quality matters.

    White papers tend to induce more nervosa than there was before.
     
  7. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I doubt it very much. What you have works: keep it, enjoy, and save money.

    If you have to cross a space you can't wire, you have to use a wireless connection. If you are already using wireless connections just because that's what you've got, just stick with it.

    I don't know what has become of Bluetooth, these days. Originally, it was (I think) genuinely a degrading protocol. I suspect that this idea has carried over into audiophile prejudice against wireless connectivity.

    Don't get into this snakehole of audio/digital nervosa. Networking/streaming is the new growth area of audiobollocks, and people love to be sold audiobollocks, so it isn't going to go away.

    Its technology belongs firmly to the worlds of computing and networking. About as far as one can get from a turntable and tube amps, etc! And if you want to know about it, ask computing/networking engineers, not audiophiles. This view is not popular among audiophiles, of course, but skills are skills: keep them appropriate.

    It's your money, and if you have the itch to spend it, that's your freedom. Just... why not spend on a component that might give you a tangibly difference in sound that suits your flavours.

    Or buy yourself a new camera, lens, etc...

    :pirate07:

    NB: Welcome to SBAF, a differnt sort of audio site. Please follow the advice you can find at the top of the page somewhere. There's a new members thread: please introduce yourself there
     
  8. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    IMHO, there is no audiophile reason for this. Both Ethernet and WiFi are using packets of data that are sent independently of each other, so there’s no such thing as clocking or data arriving jitter free.

    The technology itself requires that the data goes into a buffer on the receiving end. The data may even arrive in the wrong packet order, it has to be completely reconstructed. Only when it’s taken out of that buffer, jitter may start playing a role.

    However, there are practical reasons. If you go high up the kHz scale, like when using HQPlayer to upsample to very high rates and then streaming to an NAA receiver or streaming high-rate DSD content, WiFi simply often isn’t stable enough.

    It shouldn’t be a problem if you live somewhere rural and the next house is a kilometer away, especially if there aren’t many devices in your WiFi network. But it’s a completely different matter if you live in a flat with lots of people and their WiFi networks around you. Of course, WiFi routers try to use frequencies where the least possible number of other networks is present, but often it isn’t possible to find an actually free spot.

    Even if it’s only you alone in your network, there are collisions when multiple devices try to send data at the same time. The transmission becomes garbled, and the packet in question has to be resent. No problem, there’s a buffer on both ends, after all. But with too many collisions, the transfer rate goes down massively, down to rates where high res audio cannot be transmitted without dropouts anymore.

    There are no collisions on Ethernet, at least if switches are used. Much more reliable.

    Yes, it can work under good circumstances, but I guess the companies that sell high end streamers just don’t want to support people who can’t figure out how to setup a reliable WiFi network, or where it’s simply impossible due to too many networks in the vicinity.
     
  9. Beefy

    Beefy Friend

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    'Streamer' is definitely a misnomer in this context, because a good 'streamer' would have a *huge* buffer. For example, Tidal on the PC downloads several minutes in advance. I've had my internet drop out, and it keeps playing entire songs. Spotify has a cache that can get into the 10s of gigabytes. Any streamer worth its salt should do the same.
     
  10. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I think to summarize, manufacturers sometimes avoid wifi for a couple of reasons:

    1. Connectivity/stability issues and bandwidth limitations (as per @zottel )
    2. Sound quality reasons (whether real or perceived by them or their market)

    #1 is a real problem for some

    #2 of course is debatable, and may of course depend on engineering design/implementation. I’m sure it’s very possible to design a product in a way that the wi-fi can measurably dump lots of EMI/RFI noise into the other parts of the circuit, just as I’m sure there are ways to avoid it. Auralic claim to have focused on this and that their wi-if sounds better/cleaner than their wired connection. Again this is all subjective of course, once you have exhausted/eliminated whatever is objectively measurable.

    Decision to not include wi-fi is likely one or both of the above.
     
  11. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    Yes, and it probably will if it is the one that fetches the data from somewhere else, like with Tidal/Spotify Connect or DLNA or Chromecast, where the device is told what to play and then downloads it. With actual streaming protocols, however, like RAAT, HQPlayer streaming or Airplay, it probably won’t be an entire song.

    Personally, I had problems with HQPlayer streaming over WiFi at 192/24. The streamer wasn’t at a perfect place in terms of reception, but it worked 99% of the time. Sometimes, however, it didn’t. Then, it would repeatedly play the same few seconds with pauses in between. I don’t know exactly what the reason was when this happened, but I think it must have been when my Zen Stream chose 2.4 GHz instead of 5 GHz WiFi and the channel was used very actively by my neighbours, too.

    Since I switched to a cable connection, I never had problems.
     
  12. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I am a known sceptic (and some may say septic) when it comes to such things (as if that was not already clear from my previous post).

    However, let me declare a bias: Leave audio/visual aside: if I'm networking, I prefer cable. People look at the promised rates of wifi and expect to get them. Then they complain because they don't. There is a room not much more than ten feet away from my wifi router, on the floor above. The signal there is dismal. Anything from the house's network is going to be painfully slow. Not much good for browsing SBAF, let alone playing music. I ran a cable. In fact, I ran a cable to another router and set up a mesh (but that is another topic).

    Wifi is pretty good, although often not nearly as fast, in practice, as its advertised rates. Cabled ethernet is, assuming half-decent cable within specified lengths, consistently robust and fast.

    Remember this. Sellers may want buyers to believe in stuff that is not even relevant to the technology. Many buyers lap it up.

    There may be good practical reasons that wifi is not a good choice for some people. For others, maybe the choice should be available.

    Decades ago, they took the tone controls off amplifiers, because... because it's not hifi... because even set to 0 it might affect the sound... blah blah blah. Even I swallowed that one. Until I realised I was loosing HF hearing. And even if I wasn't, not all rooms are born equal.
     
  13. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    Non science old man jumping in. I used wifi with a custom PC streamer, sounded pretty good. Then I ran an ethernet cable from router to streamer, much better, cleaner, more space, less noise. Not sure if my wifi just sucked and thats what I found.
     
  14. artur9

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    One thing I haven't seen mentioned (bias on the table, I'm a wire guy. Wifi is for laptops doing google docs and tablets playing solitaire).

    Some manufacturers, using a metal chassis, cannot support Wifi in the box because the metal chassis blocks the signal (EMI protection at its finest).

    So, to get a signal, they'd have to put antenna on it. I imagine a fair number of them don't want their gear to look like Netgear Nighthawks.
     
  15. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Are you kidding? That would be the perfect chassis so the wife doesn't know you're buying yet another piece of gear. It's just something to improve the internet signal in the house...
     
  16. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    Actually, the iFi Zen Stream does have an external antenna (that can be screwed off if you don’t use WiFi). :)

    In terms of digital noise entering the streamer, WiFi might be beneficial because you don’t have a wired connection to a noisy device like your internet router. It also might be detrimental because you have high frequency signals entering your device via the antenna and extra chips with much more complex stuff to do to decode the signal (from error correction over encryption to general signal instability), which will create EMI, too.

    I’m not sure what, if anything at all, really plays an audible role here, but the possibilities are endless. :)
     

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