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Network Acoustics ENO Ethernet Filter and Streaming Cable

Network Acoustics ENO Ethernet Filter and Streaming Cable

So, you have your spiffy new network streamer plugged into a standard-issue Netgear or Linksys network switch. Or maybe straight into one of the RJ45 sockets on the cable modem itself. Is that the best you can do from an audio perspective? Until a couple of years ago, the answer was ‘yes.’  However, an increasing number of audiophile Ethernet cables and now even audiophile network switches make bold claims about performance. And they make just as forceful impacts on your wallet. But what if you want the former without the latter? That sounds like a job for Network Acoustics ENO Ethernet Filter!

As the name suggests, Network Acoustics’ ENO Ethernet Filter is a passive filter network. It sits between streamer and router instead of swapping out the switch for something more highfalutin. British-made and nonsense-free in appearance, Network Acoustics sells the ENO in two flavours – Cu and Ag. The differences are restricted to the material in the connectors alone, but they do slightly different things to the performance. The company also makes two matching ‘streaming cables’; woven construction, high-grade Ethernet cables terminating in Telegartner CAT 8.1 connectors. However, unlike most companies in audio, there is no hierarchy here; Cu and Ag are designed for different systems with their own priorities. The ENO runs at 100mb/s, so Gigabit Ethernet users might find the boot-up is longer. Such is the cost of good audio performance.

 

Why an ENO?

The ENO is a small black box with an input RJ45 socket to connect your switch or router. Network Acoustics recommends its own Streaming Cable. ENO also has a flying lead that you plug directly into the network socket of the streamer. That’s it!

The plan is to isolate the wireless router from the music replay by introducing an off-the-shelf network switch (such as D-Link) and then inserting the ENO and cable in between that and the media server or renderer. The ENO filters out electrical noise, and given the switch can be a very electrically noisy place, removing that hash before it hits the audio chain is notionally at least an excellent idea. The different variants take slightly different lengths of time to come on song; Cu takes about 48 hours to run-in, Ag takes 100 hours, I have Ag on test, and I left it streaming networked audio for a week before listening.

I used the ENO and cable in several settings, notably between a Melco N10 and the wireless router and then between a Netgear switch and the Melco. The Network Acoustics box also nestled its way between a Naim UnitiCore and a Primare I35 Prisma.  It was even pitted against a top Ansuz network switch.

 

Down the Ethernet rabbit hole

I’ve tended not to go far down the aftermarket Ethernet cable route but, I have some good ones from a few good names, and the Streaming Cable Ag was more than up for the challenge. Testing involves powering down, inserting or removing and rebooting the system, so it’s not the most plug-and-play of AB tests.

Put bluntly; the little ENO is one of the best things you can do to your audio system if you are streaming. Yes, it does all the ‘lower the noise floor’ stuff you might expect from a filter, but it also seems to give the music more ‘rightness’. While I’m no longer quite the CD spinner I used to be, I have to admit that there are times when a network audio rig ‘goes off song’ for a few days. Even the best of them have their listless days when the music sounds flat and uninspiring, and you pick at your music instead of playing it. Quite often, in fact,

I find myself enjoying the more entry-level end of the spectrum in streaming possibly because it has less far to fall; you can forgive a USB converter for having the musical equivalent of a duvet day. However, it’s harder to be so forgiving when you are faced with multiple boxes of high-performance electronics that cost as much as a car… or the car showroom. ENO makes those musically flat days stretch further apart.

 

The Shimmer

There doesn’t seem to be an exception to this overall root-and-branch improvement to sound quality. Images get bigger, the tonal balance at once evens out and gets that high-end ‘shimmer’ many crave, and the sounds just seem more like something closer to the real deal. It does this whether local streaming or wading through Qobuz’ online browser. And it does it regardless of the music played and whatever equipment you are using up and downstream; even Tidal’s obsession with rap from about a day and a half ago benefitted from ENO; I will probably never listen to ‘Crud’ by Ghetts [Conflict of Interest, Warner, Tidal masters], but I’m glad I did, and it sounded more enjoyable with the ENO than without.

As I didn’t have both to compare and contrast, Network claims the Cu box and cable are more punchy and less ethereal sounding, while Ag is the soundstage and tonality king. I got the big and accurate sounding one, and you buy Cu if you want your music pacy and bouncy. The Ag is extremely good at creating a large soundstage and had excellent tonality, so I have little reason not to trust their findings on the two options.

Network Acoustics ENO products are a stepping stone to ‘audiophiling’ your network infrastructure. They take the rank-and-file network infrastructure and remove all the inherent nasties to give it musical brownie points. But if you already have an audiophile switch (or are considering one, in which case go with the ENO first) the ENO still offers an improvement, without you feeling like you changed the properties of that high-end switch. Best of all, Network Acoustics offer a 30 day trial period, although I suspect if you try, you’ll buy.

 

 

Price and Contact Details

  • ENO Ethernet Filter £695
  • ENO Streaming Cable £595
  • ENO Streaming System £995

Manufacturer: Network Acoustics

Tel: +44 (0) 2380 615627

URL: networkacoustics.com

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Tags: DIGITAL ETHERNET STREAMING

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