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Innuos PhoenixNet network switch

Innuos PhoenixNet network switch

When you have produced some of the best regarded music servers available and followed that up with a USB reclocker that outperforms many streamers what is your next move? For Innuos founder Nuno Vitorino it was to develop a network switch from the ground up. In many ways it’s the next logical step, if you have an Innuos Zenith server and a PhoenixUSB reclocker you will also have a DAC and everyone makes those, but as others including Melco and Ansuz have discovered the network switch is just as critical a part of a streaming system as the core elements mentioned above.

You don’t of course need a dedicated switch in a streaming audio system but they have proven to be a good way of reducing the incoming noise from the rest of the network. Most networks are based on the giveaway router supplied by your ISP and the equally cheap as chips power supply that comes with it, replacing that power supply is the least expensive upgrade you can make by the way. If you can use the router provided solely as a modem and hook it up to a decent router albeit not one that’s festooned with aerials, those things pick up as much noise as they send out, that will also help.

I asked Nuno for his take on the problems with regular network switches and he explained “we saw tremendous potential for improvement as there were many design decisions that were made to satisfy IT requirements rather than audio. In IT, you want the switch to take your data from A to B as fast as you can and preferably consuming the least amount of power. As long as power noise doesn’t prevent the destination from processing the digital data, everything is ok. In audio it’s a different story – we don’t want to simply receive the data, we want the signal to contain as little noise and interference as possible as that will influence components down the chain. This is why we decided to build a switch that makes very little noise in the first place rather than trying to prevent it. For this we required a different approach to designing a switch in order to simplify protocols, keep paths short, power the chips as cleanly as possible and make sure the timing of the signal is spot on. The only way we could do this was designing a switch from scratch.”

Innuos PhoenixNet network switch
Half-sized Innuos case matches the range

The PhoenixNet looks very much like the PhoenixUSB at a glance as the two share the same half width casework and Innuos’ distinctive stealth styling on the front panel, but around the back things are rather different. This unit has four, just four, chunky ethernet ports. This gives you some idea of how dedicated the PhoenixNet is to audio duties, it will work as a general switch but only just. For one thing it has maximum throughput of 100Mb where all commercial switches are good for a gigabit, you don’t need high speeds for audio signals and adding the capability introduces noise, which is very clearly the enemy. Inside the case on a very neatly laid out circuit board you will not find traffic prioritisation circuity nor switching regulators because neither are required for audio signals. Neither is there any optical decoupling which is a popular method for isolating noise, Innuos found that the decoding process required to turn light into an electrical signal introduced more noise than they were able to achieve with purely copper connections.

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Tags: INNUOS PHOENIXNET NETWORK SWITCH

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