Three’s A Charm…

Whilst it is safe to assume that an inline ethernet filter will influence the sound of streamed music, what about isolating or reducing the noise associated with network replay from other sources, like the storted files in the Wadax Reference Server, that never actually touch the network, although the Server itself is network connected? Playing the Bill Evans Trio ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ from a 192/24 locally stored file of Portrait In Jazz, inserting the EE1 into the network connection, wrought a significant improvement in the shape of phrases, the spacing of notes and the space between them, the pace and rhythm of the piece and the relationship between Evans and his rhythm section. The EE1 also banished a rather nasty, brittle quality to the piano that made Evans’ playing sound clumsy and two-dimensional. In short, a shift not far short of the improvement in streamed replay.

Putting it into a wider context, this was the difference between pretty worthless and actually worth listening to. Which makes the EE1 a threshold product, if not a benchmark. Which makes it significant. Despite its modest price, the EE1 demonstrates that you ignore network hygiene at your musical peril. If you are using streaming/network replay as a music source, especially if you are using it for anything beyond background music or any kind of critical listening, the English Electric EE1 should be considered both mandatory and a minimum investment in protecting the integrity of your incoming signal.

Better – Aarvark Ethernet Noise Isolation

Enter the Aardvark, the unassuming little noise sniffer that started this ball rolling. This apparently simple device sits a hand-assembled isolation transformer and HF filter network contained in a simple, square-section polymer housing, on the end of a short, flexible whip, terminated in a substantial, metal-bodied RJ45 connector. The inclusion of a hardwired ‘tail’ saves you the cost of an additional cable, as well as eliminating the potential vulnerability represented by the extra cable and the connection/junction it demands. To that end, it also places the filter significantly closer to the input than the EE1. I guess you could use a shorter input lead with the EE1, but you are going to struggle to get it as short as the aardvark’s whip and you’ll still be introducing an extra connection.

I described the Aardvark’s performance in detail in the original review ( but I’ll reiterate here, in order to place the other units in context. In one sense, replacing the EE1 with the Aardvark delivered (considerably) more of the same: more clarity, more focus, a blacker background, more colour and dimensionality and a more articulate sense of musical connection and flow. These sonic improvements are as significant to the system’s presentation as they are obvious. Depending on system context and cost, they easily justify the two-fold price increase over the EE1. But it’s not the sonic cosmetics that make the Aardvark such an impressive addition to a system: it’s the musical impact it makes. The Kobekina tracks didn’t just gain dimensionality and colour, shape and presence, they sprang to life: The playing on ‘Limestone & Felt’ didn’t just gain dynamic range and attack, the clarity and placement of the leading edges brought purpose, pattern and direction to the piece, making it and the performance not only dramatically more accessible, but more musically dramatic too. The instrument gained presence and character, with more developed harmonics and richer hues, more contribution from its body and longer tails to its notes.