Cheapest way to enhance SQ with digital streaming

I could not stop but post my observations on remarkable SQ improvement with just a small change. I have been using digital streaming predominantly and have tried many things (cables, conditioner, room treatment). Everything does matter and they all did improve the quality without doubt and are definite investment. But after going through some reviews of fiber optic for Ethernet and their noise reducing properties compared to copper cables, I thought of giving a try. I connected Ethernet cable from router/Ethernet switch to media converter and fiber optic from this media converter (need SFP module) to second media converter (with another SFP module). Then regular Ethernet cable went from this second media converter to server/streamer. Basically the idea is to add fiber optic cable between the router and streamer, which will reduce the noise. But, wow, the difference was huge and amazing. Not sure how to explain the improvement, but the SQ was more fluid, melodious, fast, clean and separation of instruments were clear. The total cost for this was less than 150 (on Amazon). Apparently, as the fiber optic cable conductors are made of glass, they carry less noise compared to copper and also cost very cheap. Compared to money spent on other component in my system (have spent quite a lot), this is the most cost efficient and gave more improvement in the SQ. I am still amazed by this and very happy with what I heard. I feel negligent not to share with my fellow audiophiles, who are trying to get the best out and improve their system, sometime spending quite a bit for small difference. I guess, since the cost of trying this is so cheap (please don’t make me feel guilty for telling 150$ is cheap), try yourself and see the difference. On a different note, have been reading that use of Ethernet switch also does some “saucery” (I am no technical guy, but do read quite a bit of articles on audio) to reduce this noise to improve SQ and combination of fiber optic and the Ethernet switch takes SQ to different level. Will try some audiophile Ethernet switch sometime (may be uptone ethergen or Sotm snh-10g) to try out as I am very intrigued. 

@dbphd  You got it. Streamers take ethernet or optical input (in rarer cases), use various outputs to dacs. Streamers can also be built into dacs, like your Ayre in which case they are streamer dac. Your ultrarendu is also streamer. If using usb output on any streamer its also called usb renderer, if using Roon also called Roon endpoint.

As mentioned previously, a server can also be streamer, although simply called server, all servers connecting to dacs are inherently servers with streamer capability.

Just installed this inexpensive solution and frankly, I was not expecting much if any benefit. Well, I was wrong. In my system, the impact was signfiicant in its dynamics, soundstage and detail right out of the gate. Last night I made a point of listening to the system and putting some tracks aside for an inevitable comparison.

As it turns out, wasn’t even necessary. For my tube monoblocks system, the impact is outstanding. I won’t belabor folks with lengthy dissertations on the sound improvements because you can discover it for yourself (or not).

My system is 65-watt monoblock amps, the RME ADI-2, McIntosh LS340 speakers, and a 2011 Mac Mini running Audirvana Studio.

Used the basic recipe as stated here with 2 one-foot ethernet cat 8 cables from a Motorola dual wifi router. It’s a stunning impact here folks in what was (as I thought) an excellent sounding system. I’d have a tough time indicating how much but it’s probably on tier with a major component upgrade. It certainly spared me more internal debate about getting a streamer as this has definitely hit the fiber spot here. Hard.

Thank you @romney80! Thank you very much.

@romanesq that is some serious improvement in your system. I will be honest, I have spent quite a bit on components (a lot), but still, to date the best bang for buck (by big margin) has been fiber optic in digital chain. It might not be for everybody, especially with already very high end Ethernet switches (which also do job of reducing noise) in chain, but I can imagine it will be big improvement in most system. Best thing about them is they are inexpensive to test/ experiment. 

You’re completely on target here. If someone already has an audio grade ethernet switch theoretically addressing noise, can't speak to that. Have been trying to get my head around this simple fiber optic cable change and it’s the biggest audio "upgrade" I’ve experienced. My mono blocks likely played a role here but I’ve been in this hobby for some time. Had the original Sony SACD player (what a tank) and I had that upgraded not once but twice. That was very nice and doubled the cost of the unit but this is simply astounding improvement for under $100.

Understand some folks are looking at linear power supplies and I’m not sure I’ll dive in on that for the moment. Have a Richard Gray and the generic switches are getting powered through that. I do use a battery powered device for the RME ADI-2 DAC and that produced a very nice improvement. So, I’ve had to get up to speed on this whole end of things from the streaming perspective. Eye opening.

Just read a July 2020 Absolute Sound article and there is reference to further improvements using audio switches replacing the generic FMCs with Sonore’s OpticalModule and higher-quality power supplies. That’s a significantly larger investment and can’t touch this bang for the buck. It will for the moment remain an open question. So thanks again for sharing this.

Generic FMC without lps good start, get lps on second fmc next move, lps on first last move. Opticalrendu would be most effective if rest of streaming setup top notch, if dac is weak link replace that prior. Once all this in order Opticalrendu can bring substantial improvements to streaming sound quality, remember to calculate for quality lps as well, there is good reason why Signature rendu SE commands premium price!