Every so often a new category of component appears which raises two questions:
- Do I need one (or sometimes more) of these?
- How much?
Possibly the first component of this type was a dedicated turntable stand, pioneered for the Linn Sondek LP12 by the Sound Organisation. Many have gone on to be Hi-fi staples such as stands for “bookshelf”speakers now renamed in honour of their essential accessory as “stand-mounted” speakers.
It is now an accepted fact that specialist cables are needed between electronic components and between electronic components and speakers. Increasingly, specialist mains cables are also considered mainstream.
In many cases, the basic hypothesis is credible – “a turntable or speaker needs a solid foundation” “components need a good connection” and the “mains is susceptible to radio frequency interference”.
From a personal perspective, I have heard significant improvements from some speaker cables – I remember a demonstration of van den Hul cables with B&W speakers in the 1990s that convinced me to buy both the speakers and the cables. Since that day, I have always used specialist speaker cables and interconnects, but never spent more than around 10% of the cost of the interconnected components and less where possible.
The difficult question is how much can you justify spending on these additional items both in relative and absolute terms? There must come a point when it makes sense to spend more of your overall budget on the main components. And for most of us, there definitely comes a point where we simply can’t afford the price tag asked however convinced we are of their merits.
A few years ago, when streaming became much more common, I started to read that placing a network switch between your router and your audio components resulted in improvements to the resulting sound.
Next came the stated hypothesis which was that this isolated your delicate audio components from all the nasty noises coming out of your network router.
It was perhaps inevitable that this would lead to a new market opportunity in audiophile network switches. The reviews that then appeared raised my oft-repeated “How much?”
For example, the Russ Andrew RANS-1 costing £956.50 or the A2 Powerswitch costing £3,200.
In both cases, reviews suggest that these components can improve your streaming system. I have never heard a system containing either so I cannot comment on this.
Whenever a new category of accessory appears like this, for me, there is fun in trying to address the potential problem in a cost-effective way. My current equipment support is from IKEA – a rich source of cost-effective solutions. My turntable sits atop a NYBODA metal frame table which happens to have a shelf that accommodates my AURALIC Polaris almost perfectly.
So how to prevent noise pollution in my streaming system?
The aim is to isolate the audio component from the router so I use a mesh Wifi system between the router and the room where the equipment is located to provide a break in the wired connection. I then take an Ethernet cable directly from one of the mesh Wifi nodes to the AURALIC Polaris. The principle is not dissimilar to using an optical cable to transmit digital audio.
Does this work? It produces a rock-solid network connection and in silent passages, there is no audible noise. Which is what I need.
And in case you think I’m just a tightwad – when I purchased the speakers for my esoteric system, I purchased the matching speaker stands at nearly 40% of the purchase price of the speakers themselves.
Why? Well, first, the speakers were to my ears very good value, secondly, the stands were made for me to the perfect height for my listening room, and thirdly, the pillars are solid oak and a thing of beauty!