Three’s A Charm…

The hand-built and heavily shielded Aardvark

With the Aardvark in line, for the first time, streaming music via either system was a musically rewarding and insightful experience. The Aardvark didn’t just clean up the picture, it brought it into musical focus, arranging the notes and phrases with a recognisable and coherent sense of shape and continuity – exactly the order and pattern that so few streaming systems lack. This is all about intelligibility: turning a bunch of unrelated sounds into a single, coherent musical whole. It is no exaggeration to say that the Aardvark has a transformative impact on streamed music, while even locally stored files played off of the Wadax Reference Server (files that don’t even touch the network, due to the proprietary Akasa optical link) benefit from the reduction in aural pollution entering the system via the Ethernet connection. The poise, weight, percussive strike and articulation of Bill Evans’ notes and phrases was far more lucid, his lines and rhythmic figures far more explicit, with a commensurate increase in the sense of presence, musical connection and performance. The Trio’s internal chemistry took on a new, connected intimacy which immediately revealed their musical qualities and just why they represent such a central pillar of the jazz canon.

If a unit like the EE1 represents a minimum standard, then the Aardvark is the benchmark for serious musical performance. If you expect your streaming source and your system to deliver musical insight as well as a connection to the performers and their performance, you need the Aardvark. Anything less will seriously undermine the musical integrity (and sonic performance) of your set up. This unusual and unassuming little gadget has quickly become as indispensable within the Gy8 systems as it has become a universal reference for ethernet network performance.

Best – The CAD Ethernet Control

Computer Audio Design (CAD) were – perhaps unsurprisingly – early into the whole parallel grounding and system noise reduction market. Starting with the excellent, compact Ground Control (being amongst the first to the party means you get the chance to grab all the best product names), they quickly increased first the capacity of their devices and then in short order the range of applications, fixing a beady eye on network replay in particular. First came the USB Filter – an inline device to kill noise afflicting USB data transfer, quickly followed by the USB Control, a simple block, not-dissimilar to a USB dongle, to eradicate the polluting tendencies of unused USB ports – whether audio outputs or firmware access points. It was a logical direction in which to move, given CAD’s preference for USB data-transfer. However, even if your server is going to spit out its digits over USB, it will still need a (noisy) network connection, so the Ethernet Control was not far behind.

The Ethernet Control (top) and the far smaller USB Control: not easily confused!