From the horse’s mouth
8Switch (Product Page)
I have covered on HomeNetworking01.info the fact that the home network is being considered part of the home audio and video scene, even in the context of high-end applications where excellence is considered paramount. This is due to the rise of audio-video content-streaming services including Spotify and Internet radio; along with the use of DLNA/UPnP-AV to facilitate the use of network-attached storage devices to share multimedia with dedicated home AV equipment. Have a look at these articles, and this one highlighting the Naim NDX audiophile network media player in order to see what I am about with this trend.
In the UK, where there is a significant small industry around esoteric hi-fi, a company has come forward with an unmanaged Gigabit Ethernet switch optimised for streaming multimedia, especially high-end music content. It is one of the first network-infrastructure devices targeted to the home or other small networks that is optimised for this purpose.
English Electric, a historic electrical-engineering brand resurrected by the Chord audiophile hi-fi connections brand, has answered the reality of the home network being part of a hi-fi setup. This is due to streaming content services like Internet radio, Spotify and Tidal along with the use of NAS units and DLNA-compliant network media players to play master-quality audio files through hi-fi setups.
This switch, known as the 8Switch, has been engineered for high data-packet reliability and resistance to electrical noise and mechanical vibration.
It uses a power supply of a similar standard to what would be used to power medical equipment in a hospital which is about providing clean reliable smooth power to the device while keeping AC-borne electrical interference out of the circuitry and network. The aluminium housing is designed to isolate the circuitry from surrounding mechanical vibration to assure reliable operation. Even the Ethernet sockets are optimised for high reliability and low noise in order to satisfy demanding audiophile/multimedia applications.
The clock circuitry that sequences the flow of data through the switch is specially optimised for real-time media streaming. This is thanks to a highly-optimised custom-designed crystal oscillator that assures high accuracy and reduced electrical noise, which yields reduced jitter and packet loss.
At the moment, the English Electric 8Switch is available in the UK for GBP£450 and is being sold through some UK-based hi-fi boutiques who sell Chord high-end audio cables. They will even throw in one of Chord’s audiophile/multimedia-grade Ethernet patch cords so you can connect it to your home network or a network AV component with the right cable.
Chord initially pitches the English Electric 8Switch being pitched to be used as a regional switch to interlink a cluster of network-enabled AV components include a NAS like a ripping NAS used primarily for storing multimedia content. It would be uplinked to your existing home-network router for Internet access when it comes to using streaming services or the rest of your home network.
I also see it of benefit for small-business and community-organisation audio/video setups that are heading towards using IP networks as an interconnection method. This would include those churches heading towards online livestreaming of services or small production teams using the latest network-based audio-video technology. It can even appeal to broadcast-LAN subsystems like Sat>IP where you are using multiple devices and want assured reliability for your devices’ network connection.
The English Electric 8Switch is another example of a home-network Ethernet switch that has been designed for a specific niche and devices like this could pave the way for companies to design network-infrastructure hardware that answer these specific needs.