Don’t neglect your router!
I have been to a few people’s places where a nice digital-based system is set up, only to then notice a rather tired old router wedged on the bottom of a TV unit, feeding the whole damn lot. Sometimes there is a direct LAN feed from the router to the ‘streamer’, but in many cases, not even that.
But why should any of that matter you may ask. Digits is digits after all eh? No. Here’s my experience with Routers (and internet services).
As your internet provider improves over the years, various things happen. We know that they say download speeds improve, and that is par for the course. But first of all did you know that many internet providers scale that back at peak times. And whilst the speed itself may not matter directly, the fact that their systems are under high load may affect performance. I’m not exactly sure how much this effects sound quality of streaming at peak times but I recently moved over to a business contract with my provider, with a clear statement that for business clients the speed is not controlled by one of these trimming-back algorithms – rather it stays at full speed all the time. All I can say is that since changing over, performance is more consistent.
The next thing is the router itself. Update it to your provider’s latest model if you can, paying particular attention to the stated number of users your router can service at any one time. I went from an old router that was only capable of servicing a very few users and I could notice with that one, when other users were on, or off the network. Strangely this was particularly apparent on my home cinema setup. When the new router was in, there was clearly much more processing power to hand, as degradation was now marginal with other users on the network.
Try a good 'active' noise cancelling power supply for your router. I always use one from the company iFi, and find it offers considerable benefits over a standard switched mode wall wart. If you've got a big digital system, don't think twice about trying this out – you might just add 10% performance for around 100 bucks.
And wiring. Have some pride here and pay the same attention to the physical installation and hookup as you would any other part of your hifi system. And really, if you can, run a LAN from your router to your primary digital sources.
Thank you. You're welcome.