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Innuos PhoenixNet network switch

What you do see are gold plated tracks, Mundorf caps in the two linear power supplies, Nichicon caps for the switch chip and an OCXO clock right next to it. OCXO clocks are found on a lot of high end DACs because they are among the most accurate available. Also on show are isolating transformers and heavy shielding around the four ports because these ports are prone to sharing any EMI that gets into them. Apparently the sturdy ethernet sockets were selected to work with the substantial plugs found on CAT7 cables which are a lot less flimsy than the plasticky ones on most ethernet.

As the Ansuz X-TC switch that I reviewed last month was in the system when the PhoenixNet arrived it seemed an idea to contrast the two, a contrast that did not do the Innuos any favours to be honest. So I left it in the system for a week and found the results to be increasingly engaging and revealing, when Nuno explained that it takes several days for OCXO clocks to become thermally stable the penny dropped and I went back to comparing it with the Ansuz. This time things were very different, now these two switches were very hard to separate in terms of the sound quality they allowed the rest of the system to deliver. That system consists of a BT router, Airport Express access point, Innuos Zenith SE server, AURALiC ARIES G2.1 streamer and Metronome Le DAC converter. When you add in the fact that I need to connect my PC to the network via the switch you’ll realise that four ports were never going to be enough. In the end I used a Cisco 2960 switch for the router, PC and access point connections and hooked it up to the input on the PhoenixNet.

Innuos PhoenixNet interior
Unlike many network switches, the PhoenixNet uses a power transformer

When I put the Ansuz next to the Innuos a week later things had changed quite markedly, now it was difficult to say which was the more neutral and transparent of the two. They sound different with the Ansuz giving a slightly more three dimensional account of the music albeit one that can seem a little pumped up next to the calmer presentation of the PhoenixNet. The result seems to be the same regardless of where the signal originates, be it from the local server or Qobuz you get the same small variation. It’s the sort of thing that could be tweaked with different feet under the box and made me wonder whether the Ansuz didn’t like the glass shelves of my rack, it has much harder aluminium feet than the well damped ones on the Innuos.

Either way it’s safe to say that the PhoenixNet is a first class network switch, one that allows oodles of detail through and delivers it with a very light touch. I love the way it reveals the quiet notes on Van Morrison’s beautiful ‘You Don’t Pull No Punches, but You Don’t Push The River’ [Veedon Fleece, Warner Bros]. this delicate detail is what makes a good piece of music reach out and touch you. If there is too much noise in the system it gets blurred and some of the magic goes with it, the result with the Innuos in the system is very close to good vinyl replay and with the prices being asked for this album today about as close as I’ll get to enjoying it. Equally critical is the sense of calm that this switch brings to proceedings, this is another result of noise being significantly reduced and takes away an awful lot of the subtle glare that afflicts digital audio. There are plenty of components that soften this by smoothing it out using EQ and other means but that tends to rob the music of its energy and impetus, this switch does it without compromising timing or the definition of leading and trailing edges.

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Tags: INNUOS PHOENIXNET NETWORK SWITCH

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