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Everything you need to know about streaming audio

Grimm Audio MU1

The network

For many people who start streaming, the network is a complex matter. Let’s say you can also just start with the basics: the network that’s already there. You can easily connect the streamer to the existing router. Or on the wifi if you prefer. You can tweak things later. Play first. And don’t be fooled: yes… a network can make an audible difference, but the differences are often not earth-shattering.

Getting Stable

Step one in a network is getting a network stable. That’s easy as long as you use good stuff (A-brand) and only use wifi for devices that really need it: mobile phones, tablets and laptops.

If a streamer ‘hicks’ while playing, the cause may be numerous nodes: your network (a broken cable, unstable wifi), or of course the internet connection. The service may also have problems.

Trouble shooting is difficult for those who don’t have a lot of experience with networking. We always recommend step one: make a direct cable connection between the streamer and the router (if this is not already the case). Does it work? Then the problem is in your network (probably wifi, or a faulty cable or switch). It’s not working yet? Do a bandwidth measurement of your internet.

It’s going too far to go into this deeply. But as a final tip, keep it simple. That often works best.

Switches

Lately we see more and more special network switches for audio. These switches do not so much ensure better data transmission, but rather less noise (common mode) that can penetrate the streamer via the network. In principle, a streamer should be immune to that, but they simply are not. Exceptions aside.

What is – often – a cheaper option for an ‘audio grade’ switch, is the optical decoupling. This is placed between the streamer and the switch or router.

Here we also come to an important point: it is wise to make a switch between the router and the streamer. A router is a busy device with often a lot of internal HF noise. It’s not a “clean” device. Placing a switch between the router and your streamer will bring an audible improvement. Especially if you feed them with a decent power supply.

Cables

It is and remains a controversial subject: cables. Especially when networking. Let’s just say it’s always wise to use decent cables. Also with a network. Does an ordinary cable transmit data less well? No. Definitely not. But a better cable keeps crap out. And that’s something that can be heard in a very nice system. Be sure to try a few models before you draw premature conclusions.

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