Unsupported network configurations with dCS products
Trouble-free function of our streaming products relies on a number of underlying networking technologies working properly. We find that most typical home networks work fine with our products, but there are some configurations which are known to cause problems.
Rather than go into a technical discussion of proper network design we want to point out a few configurations which are known to cause issues.
For quick reference dCS does not support any of the following:
- Managed Ethernet switches
- Use of the Loop port on Rossini / Bartok to daisy chain another device
- Optical media converters
- "Bridged" network configurations
For more information please read on…
Some higher-end switches on the market are designed for business applications and include embedded administrative functions. These are known as “Managed Switches.” While these devices can have benefits in a large-scale computing environment their default configurations tend to break the networking protocols that media devices use for discovery and data transfer.
It is possible to configure a managed switch to work correctly with dCS and other media devices, but these configurations can be complex depending on the manufacturer of the switch and the management software. If you are planning to purchase a new switch we recommend choosing an unmanaged device. Your network will be more stable and likely have higher performance.
dCS does not support the use of managed Ethernet switches, nor do we offer any assistance in the configuration of managed switches.
Using the Loop port on Rossini / Bartok to daisy chain another device
Rossini and Bartok both include a second Ethernet port (labeled “Loop”) which will function just like a port on a switch and allow a connected device to operate on your network. This port was included to provide some options for future expansion and there are not any current plans to make use of it.
The port operates at 100Mbit/sec and was never designed to be used as a general-purpose network port. We have encountered some issues with customers using this port to connect a server, NAS, or other general purpose device. Due to the speed differential there can be issues with network flow control which will cause instability.
dCS does not support the use of the Loop port for any general-purpose device.
Optical media converters
Another popular method of network setup is the use of optical transceivers to convert the copper Ethernet connection to fiber optic and then back to copper. This configuration is popular as, on the surface, it appears to provide some electrical isolation from the rest of the network. On the surface this is true, but there are three issues:
Each media converter device requires an outboard power supply and these tend to inject a tremendous amount of noise into the power lines and potentially into the DAC (depending on the type of cable used). While you’re isolated from the network you’re still providing a rather nasty path for noise to enter the system.
These devices are typically poorly engineered and often only support 100Mbit bandwidth. While the network stream doesn’t need more capacity than that, the underlying network devices may have trouble managing data flow.
When an Ethernet interface is implemented properly it includes galvanic isolation which will properly isolate network electrical noise from your dCS device. Our devices were designed using very high-quality isolation components and we’ve seen no benefit in adding additional isolation devices to the network connection to a dCS device.
dCS does not support the use of optical media transceivers (or media converters) on any network connection that impacts the data flow into or out of a dCS device.
For clarification, we agree that there are benefits to using optical media for galvanic isolation, but the implementation must be correct. As of yet we haven’t seen an optical netowrking implementation in the high-end audio space which meets the requirements of an actual engineering benefit, much less good common sense.
“Bridged” network configurations
There are a number of threads on internet forums which discuss a specific network configuration in which the streamer is directly connected to the server without the use of a switch. These are typically referred to as bridged connections and are claimed to be beneficial for “isolation” of “network noise.”
When configured as described these setups have an impact ranging from nothing to complete inability for the streaming device to function. Due to the way that networks actually work this configuration has no possible way of making a positive impact and should be filed under a rather long list of dubious audiophile tweaks.
dCS does not support these “bridged” or “isolated” connection schemes and will not be able or willing to provide assistance in cases where this connection method is used.