Ethernet Cable Shoot Out – Shunyata, AudioQuest, Supra, Viablue, Ugreen

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[SIZE=11pt]After concentrating a great deal of time on my digital setup recently – being that I found Roon and Tidal so I wanted to fix some of the ‘harshness’ I found in my digital setup to have it more alike to my vinyl tone.[/SIZE]
 
What started it all off was buying an IFI Noise USB reducer for my NAS (which acts as the Roon Core). 
 
https://ifi-audio.com/products/isilencer3-0/
 
It was £50, and easily to be returned to Amazon if it didn’t do anything, but boy, it was a wonderful £50 spend. It removed a portion of that ‘tschh tchsh’ crashy harshness and generally made everything less ‘immediate’ and more ‘fluid’. This was a complete no brainer. I then added an IFI 5V PSU to my network switch, and this again brought great gains in cleaning up the sound, bringing articulation and a stronger sense of ‘silence’ in the music, presumably, by removing ‘noise’ as I doubt it has any direct effect on sound quality.
 
So, while looking into further noise reduction options such as Linear Power Supplies’ (which I have on order – review to come) I thought I would experiment with ethernet cables. Although a cable purist, and being blessed with ears made from unicorn tears, I am able to hear what many can’t because I am a true Hifi Super Hero, I was a little sceptical over ethernet cables. Logic has it that there wouldn’t be a difference, but logic and science and engineering are delicate ideals that can and have go wrong (thalidomide, bridges that collapse etc), so I trust what I hear and wanted to listen, to hear for myself, and not have any predisposed theories.
 
Each cable was ordered and ran through my modem to router for two days prior.
 
Normally I don’t opt for the whole ‘blind testing’ thing as I don’t need to, but I thought for a bit of a fun I would ask my friend for help in performing such a kinky exercise, making it a social event as well as an experiment.
 
My friend Noemi obliged me in my and I quote her, ‘insane’ request for assistance. Noemi is a Professional Dominatrix to the rich and famous in London with a client list that would surprise and shock. She also has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and although she feels ‘blind testing’ is not appropriate for dealing with any audio-based observations as ‘having senses removed distorts perception’ (she went on and on for a while but this was the basis of her scientific opinion), she obliged to be my ‘scientist’ and change the cables for me during multiple listening sessions. She enjoys good music and a good sound as well so it was a fun time.
 
She arrived with her pvc catsuit, a blindfold and a gimp mask after a cuckolding session with a husband and wife hifi dealership in North London (ok I made the first part of that up) anyhow, she marked the cables for herself to know, and removed the cables after a set time/track etc. I left the room on swap overs.
 
I set out five tracks I knew well, and would listen back to back as I normally do.
 
John Smith – Great Lakes
 
Lucinda Williams – Dust
 
Cowboy Junkies – Walking After Midnight (Trinity Revisted)
 
Jason Isbell – Travelling Alone
 
Metallica - The Unforgiven
 
Amongst two of my own recordings, which are extremely valuable as I know exactly how they sounded in the studio.
 
My thoughts where all written on each cable and I ‘guessed’ each cable correctly on average 4/5 times, only getting it wrong very late into the session which we put down to fatigue, my head was rattling by this time!
 
This review is entirely my own opinion on the sonic attributes of each cable or rather, what they do to the sonic attributes of the system. I have very little desire to understand any ‘science’ around any of this. I don’t need to - audio is audio, if I can’t hear it, I have literally no interest.
 
One thing to say immediately, Ethernet cables do not have the often ‘big’ differences that can be found in speaker/interconnect cables. It’s a niche. It’s fine tuning, it’s about ironing out any annoyances that you may have on the digital side, indifferences, and developing your own personal sound quality and preference. I wouldn’t recommend spending money here unless you are at the pinnacle of what your system will probably ever be, but there are distinct differences to be had between certain cables, and it is definitely worth exploring if you are of the inquisitive manner with an open mind.
 
So, the hit list.
 
Supra Cat 8, 2.0m, £39.99
 
Viablue Cat 6A, 2.0m, £99.99
 
Audioquest Vodka 1.5m, £339.99
 
Shunyata Venom, 1.5m, £300
 
[SIZE=11pt]Ugreen Cat7, 2.0m, £5.99[/SIZE]
 

 
AudioQuest Vodka
 
[SIZE=11pt]If there is ever a cable you want to swap in to proof existence of the sound differences in network cables this is the one. This is a high-resolution cable! You will hear MUCH more of what’s there, so much more detail and precision, but still musical and a great sense of instrument separation and air in the playback. However, the downside for me, is that it was [/SIZE]too much for me. I am not searching that infinite resolution, in fact, I don’t actually want that, but some do, and those that do, this is a remarkable cable. I imagine the increased silver content in the plating helps towards this definition. Although I have not heard it, the Audioquest Diamond, with its solid silver construction and ridiculous price tag apparently has even more of ‘this’. Even Noemi remarked that it had so much more ‘va va voom’ than the others. (this was her favourite cable), it's like it is alive.
 
[SIZE=11pt] [/SIZE]
 
 
Supra Cat 8
 
This is a great cable at an affordable price, the newer Cat8 version. Most of my system was already wired with this stuff. However, it’s not a ‘finesse’ cable. It's blunt, exact, almost like if a German had made it, MUST DO WORK you can hear it saying. It does what it’s meant to, well. But it lacks any form of fluidity. It can be harsh, and extremely unforgiving of poor recordings. It’s very blunt and actually managed to make the music sound very much ‘left sided’ on my speakers.  I have since been told from other Supra users the Cat 7 version of this cable is nothing like the Cat 8 in all respects from ethernet to interconnects, and is a lot more mellow and fluid, so it could be that the way this one is shielded is providing some of this dampening factor. Don’t know for sure, don’t really care.
 
I feel this cable is perfect for all the various points of your network, my actual internet speeds sped up considerably putting it in the modem to router connection, but for me it’s not one for the end point from NAS to Streamer.
 

 
 
ViaBlue EP7, Silver Plated
 
[SIZE=11pt]This cable is sublime. Truly sublime. It’s almost like adding a valve buffer into your setup. Its delicate, full bodied, floaty, but it is a little bloated on the bass and has a somewhat hashy and over extended top end sparkle, can get a little fatiguing at times especially with poor records on the higher end of the spectrum – typically 90’s recordings where they liked the V shape on the EQ in the studio. However, after a while with this cable I was finding it contained, as I describe, digital ‘hash’, the very thing I was looking at getting rid of. It sounds great at first but becomes to melt your brain a little after prolonged listening – This was decided upon after my listening session when I ran my favourites, the Viablue and the Shunyata for a week at a time getting used to their presentation and seeing which one I wanted to keep.[/SIZE]
 

 
 
Shunyata Venom
 
[SIZE=11pt]At first the Shunyata sounded very ‘solid’ and precise and quiet. It did not have that ‘floaty’ nature of the Viablue, bit it has so much more in terms of structure and has a solid base to the sound. You get a sense it is quite ‘dampened’ but the more you listen you more you realise it’s one of those that does nothing wrong. It picks up things the Audioquest does but without throwing them in your face and rattling your senses. It’s just ‘there’ and extremely solid, but with a slight cushioning, natural one may say. The bass is real natural, kick drum in the room kinda thing. It was as if it took the best elements of all the other cables and mixed them up into a solid performer, it was quite astounding how different it was from the other cables and especially against the Audioquest. In my opinion, If a person cannot hear the differences between these two cables, then they should just buy a Matsui Midi system and be happy.[/SIZE]
 

 
 
Ugreen
 
Not a million miles away from the Supra, but a lot more bass ‘bloat’. Instrument separation was massively reduced in comparison to the other cables, it all just sounded very ‘hashy’ if that’s a word, everything going on in the tracks ‘merged’ together a lot more. This got exceptionally bad with the busier tracks. You know, it still sounded ok, it didn’t take away what all the expensive componentry was doing, but it just wasn’t making the best of them. It would do, if you don’t care or have predisposed theories or you are skint, but it was bettered by each cable tested. How much better and what price you put on that is entirely up to you, but for me, say the difference between this and the Viablue, the cost would be worth it.
 
As with all the cables, you quickly ‘settle’ in to the sound and then realise the differences more when the next one is put in the mix, but with the Ugreen, you just couldn’t go back to it after hearing what the other cables did, or didn’t do. It was just a let-down. Each time, I knew exactly it was that one and sighed.
 

 
So, which one did I keep?
 
I decided to stick with the Shunyata, not the most expensive but it was one of those cables that sounded just ‘right’. It had no annoyances, nothing. It was just ‘solid’ and ‘brilliant’. If you were to go into battle, the Shunyata would be the one you want on your team. Your second in command. Trustworthy, nothing missing, nothing flouncy. Just solid to the core. Dependable and brilliant. That mate you have who is successful, good looking and ultimately humble and just a nice solid bloke. Still, I wouldn’t have any major issues keeping the Viablue, but the Shunyata removed some of the annoyances I had with it and kept the bits I liked (just at a lesser value), and having sold the cables for more than I had paid (apart from the Ugreen, that was given to kitten to play with) I had made enough to cover the excess.
 
The Viablue is great. It would be the emotional side to the team, the one who reads poetry and paints sunsets but can still get down and dirty when they need to, but where it finds its limits when doing so and things get busy,. For the price, it’s an exceptional upgrade over the Ugreen and Supra, and it would definitely be worth a trial. If you want a bigger ‘body’ to your sound and you like that atypical 'silver' cable sound signature, it would be the one for you, but it can be become fatiguing if you prefer a more laid back sound.
 
The Audioquest is the kamikaze, the live wire, the adrenaline junkie, the loose cannon. No fear,it's big and bold and dominates but it still grooves. It’s not without soul, it’s just a big soul. As far as traditional Hifi SQ ideals go, this would be the winner. If you crave the ultimate resolution but still with groove and natural voicing, it is a great cable. If you also like a right old stiff one, it will be ideal for you. This is most radical sound from all the cables - it stands out like a 7ft Basketball player in a Chinese market.
 
The Supra is the dependable but It’s dull. No real artistic passion or heart. No inner drive, more monotone, black and white than technicolour. An academic, the type that would write an educational book about their friends getting shot at, while they are being shot at, but that book would teach others about his friends as heroes, in a dull but factual manner.
 
The Ugreen, would be in charge of the toilets, only brought to the front line as cannon fodder. Serves a purpose, but really, shouldn’t be there. It’s cheap, it does its job, which is fine, but if you have the inclination then you can easily find gains in replacing it. It you don't, it works. 
 
[SIZE=11pt]After this, I had a look online to see if there were any comparable reviews of each cable, and although non-identical, these are a couple of interesting links, some of which echoed my own experience which was interesting and also assuring.[/SIZE]
 
 
http://www.audiodrom.net/en/special-edition-reviews/104-ethernet-rj-45-cables-shootout
 
 
https://www.audioaficionado.org/showthread.php?t=46064&page=2
 
 
So, how there is difference in these cables? No idea. Could be many things from conductor materials, insulation to noise reduction techniques. As I said, I literally have no interest, for me it’s about the sound and the tunes, and changing the cables made it better, for me. So, I won. Others that have interest, and spend sometime with network cables and a good ear and system can probably enjoy the same benefits, those can't can't/won't/have expectational bias, will not. Does this matter? No not really, each to their own. No one needs saving from how they spend their money, but it can be enjoyable none the less. and if its enjoyable, why would one mock, just enjoy the tunes.
 
Linear Power Supplies next..
 
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DomT

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Thanks for the write up. A good read. And potential lyrics for a concept album that I am working on. The dominatrix hifi owner really is a great concept. 

 
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chebby

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My thoughts where all written on each cable ...

How did you know which cable to write them on?

Also, I wasn’t sure if you covered this (sorry if I missed it), did you try each cable in both directions to test for ethernet directionality?

 
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tIANcI

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Just curious, if ethernet cables make a difference then what about the router and modem? The PSU for the router and modem? Anyone tried that?

 
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How did you know which cable to write them on?

Also, I wasn’t sure if you covered this (sorry if I missed it), did you try each cable in both directions to test for ethernet directionality?
White electrical tape with a name written on as 1, 2, 3, 4,5 etc.

No, never bothered with directionality, although Audioquest and Shunyata did have directional arrows, so thats the way they where used as per manual.

 
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Just curious, if ethernet cables make a difference then what about the router and modem? The PSU for the router and modem? Anyone tried that?
I noticed a difference in switches definitely...but the bigger result came from adding LPS\s and getting rid of the switching power supplies to those devices. Was a real eye opener and the best investment Ive made in this side of things.

 
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Thanks for the write up. A good read. And potential lyrics for a concept album that I am working on. The dominatrix hifi owner really is a great concept. 
It could bring all sorts of connotations with cables as restraints...

 

tIANcI

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I noticed a difference in switches definitely...but the bigger result came from adding LPS\s and getting rid of the switching power supplies to those devices. Was a real eye opener and the best investment Ive made in this side of things.
I’m gonna get a LPS for my streamer, fortunately, the dealer will allow me a home trial, he assures me there is a difference.

I’m running my streamer on WiFi because of where the modem n router are located.

I did try it out with a standard ethernet cable. There was no difference. Maybe I should try out with a better one but that means using a range extender to get an access point beside the hifi set up. But then extender will have its own built in switching supply. 🤔

 
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I’m gonna get a LPS for my streamer, fortunately, the dealer will allow me a home trial, he assures me there is a difference.

I’m running my streamer on WiFi because of where the modem n router are located.

I did try it out with a standard ethernet cable. There was no difference. Maybe I should try out with a better one but that means using a range extender to get an access point beside the hifi set up. But then extender will have its own built in switching supply. 🤔
I am going to do a little write up about my LPS's soon, I havent got one for the Lumin, but I did add them to the Modem and NAS and then an IFI DC Ipurifier for the router as an LPS was really expensive for it, and they all worked an absolute treat. 

In short - LPS to NAS and Modem (runs off same one) - improved dynamics and enegery

DC Ipurifier to router and IFI PSU for Switch - Clarity, silence (what some may describe as blackness) and generally naturalness all improved dramatically

Digital 'hash' was ruining my enjoyment of my digital setup, now I love it.

What streamer do you use?

 
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MotherSky

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Possibly I'm being dim here: where exactly in your network are you using the cable? You mention your NAS being used as a Room core, you also use some sort of ethernet switch, and seem to have a separate modem and router? That seems to leave a lot of possible connections and potentially a great many cables, some of which would also be fairly long - I'm guessing it's the last run to your streamer/equivalent device? To be honest the dominatrix element of your post is by far the most compelling, but I salute your bold spirit of enquiry.

 
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Possibly I'm being dim here: where exactly in your network are you using the cable? You mention your NAS being used as a Room core, you also use some sort of ethernet switch, and seem to have a separate modem and router? That seems to leave a lot of possible connections and potentially a great many cables, some of which would also be fairly long - I'm guessing it's the last run to your streamer/equivalent device? To be honest the dominatrix element of your post is by far the most compelling, but I salute your bold spirit of enquiry.
Ah i should have mentioned that, the cable was used in the Switch to the Streamer.

Everything else is wired with Supra Cat 8, all at around 1m. 

I didnt want to go down the rabbit hole of trying different cables in different positions, but I did swap them between the NAS to Switch, and Switch to Streamer at a later date, the biggest audible difference was the Switch to Streamer, so I stuck to that. If Audiobarn will borrow me a second Shunyata to try, I may try it in the NAS to Switch at the same time as Switch to Streamer, but I am fair content with it all right now!

 

CnoEvil

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I heard the effect of listening to the hierarchy of Audioquest Ethernet Cables. I put the difference that I heard down to one of the following:

1. I'm Nuts or Gullible or both.

2. I was hypnotised

3. Peer pressure - As a whole group of us heard it, including Lady Cno (who doesn't give a fcuk about audiophile madness).

4. I was drunk

5. I was "Placebo'd" 

6. There was a difference, that was an improvement.

 
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tIANcI

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I am going to do a little write up about my LPS's soon, I havent got one for the Lumin, but I did add them to the Modem and NAS and then an IFI DC Ipurifier for the router as an LPS was really expensive for it, and they all worked an absolute treat. 

In short - LPS to NAS and Modem (runs off same one) - improved dynamics and enegery

DC Ipurifier to router and IFI PSU for Switch - Clarity, silence (what some may describe as blackness) and generally naturalness all improved dramatically

Digital 'hash' was ruining my enjoyment of my digital setup, now I love it.

What streamer do you use?
This hobby is gonna get outta control 😂🤣

 

tIANcI

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I am going to do a little write up about my LPS's soon, I havent got one for the Lumin, but I did add them to the Modem and NAS and then an IFI DC Ipurifier for the router as an LPS was really expensive for it, and they all worked an absolute treat. 

In short - LPS to NAS and Modem (runs off same one) - improved dynamics and enegery

DC Ipurifier to router and IFI PSU for Switch - Clarity, silence (what some may describe as blackness) and generally naturalness all improved dramatically

Digital 'hash' was ruining my enjoyment of my digital setup, now I love it.

What streamer do you use?
This hobby is gonna get outta control 😂🤣

 

newlash09

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My first hand experience with powering a router with a LPSU came from my friends setup. He was pestering me to sell my 12V LPSU I was using for my mini pc for roon core, so I sold it to him. He promptly used it to power his router and has claimed sonic benefits. I do visit his place from time to time, and every time there seems to be a improvement, as he keeps trying a lot of things. But I really can't vouch what improvement I can attribute to the LPSU, as I never did back to back blind testing.

His final setup, which he claims is the best digital sound he has ever has is as under mentioned:

1. A terradak LPSU powering his mac mini

2. My LPSU powering his router

3. A 5V LPSU powering some kind of usb regenerator connecting the mac mini to his dac.

Since I trust his ears, I would endorse this route for digital setups, to remove that digital hash as they call it. As for myself, I have lot more challenges to eliminate in my setup, to even start considering LPSU's, though I just got a uptone LP-1  5V LPSU to power my Ethernet switch where the roon core, NAS and roon end point will be connected. Though everything else...the roon core, router and NAS will be running on stock switch mode supplies. 

I plan on adding a HD plex LPSU in the future, as it is a very flexible LPSU with 5v to 19V adjustable power rails. And with 4 DC outputs, so it can power an entire roon chain,  from core, nas,  router cum switch and a roon end point, all from  a single power supply.