My sample came pre-used through the review circuit (we’re not the first to review the RANS-1, and the box it came in free from instructions and was more ad hoc than we’ve come to expect from Russ Andrews), so there was no need for running in and the box was good from the get-go. I used it to connect the Linn Klimax DSM tested in this issue, both to the outside world and to a range of servers (Naim and Melco) during the test. I also compared it with the Melco S100 switch and a baseline Netgear eight-porter. Finally, I compared it to the Network Acoustics ENO filter and used that in and out of the digital chain.
The RANS-1 fared extremely well in all settings, demonstrating a quieter, more controlled sound throughout. Naturally, its biggest differences were heard comparing this to the Netgear baseline switch. This budget device seemed to give the sound a nasality and unsatisfying forward-brightness to the sound that might seem initially ‘clean’ but was ultimately ‘grating’. This applied whether streaming locally or online. Swapping that Netgear box out for the Russ Andrews
RANS-1 switch (with no other changes) was a subtle shift in the right direction, making music more approachable and listenable. It replaced that fake ‘clean’ sound with a sense of balance and musical order.
The results were less clear cut between the Melco and the RANS-1, with the Melco going more for the sheer detail of performance and the Russ Andrews going for a more sonorous and relaxed approach. Both were extremely musical sounding, just musical in different directions. Finally, in the ‘compare and contrast’ part, the ENO filter levelled the playing field somewhat, making all three options less marked in performance boosts. Nevertheless, the combination of ENO+RANS-1 works extremely well… and sounds like a German experimental album title from the 1970s.
Taken on its own, the Russ Andrews RANS-1 really does demonstrate just why the audiophile network switch is a viable product in today’s audio. It’s a subtle performer, gently and quietly improving the lot of streamed audio by making it sound more ‘human’. Backgrounds are distinctly quieter, the treble is more refined and less harsh and forced sounding. There’s a sweetness and ease to the sound, but it’s one with a gently-focused sense of rhythm too. In a medium that is often accused of being loud and shouty at times, the RANS-1 shows it’s possible to be deft and delicate, without being ‘flaky’ sounding.
In truth, I’ve been sort of avoiding the whole audiophile switch due to my own digital preconceptions. Packetised data should be unfazed by its transfer through a network, but the RANS-1 makes a convincing argument that there’s more to the topic than it first appears. This is a true eye-opener.
- Type: Network Switch with external power supply
- Ports: 8 RJ45 gigabit ethernet ports with additional shielding and damping
- Clock: internal re-clocking with custom made Trichord unit
- Internal wiring: Kimber Kable
Russ Andrews 0.3m DC link cable made with Kimber PBJ and locking connectors
4mm grounding socket
- Casing: Custom, matching ABS cases
- Dimensions (W×H×D): 187 × 47 × 130mm per unit
- Price: £956.50
Manufacturer: Russ Andrews
Tel: +44(0)1539 797300