Making a noise about removing noise, CAD Ethernet Control Review

Review
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This is a review written by Chris Baillie July 2024.

A grounded opinion

I am in the fortunate position of having various grounding products from CAD (Computer Audio Design) in my system. Although not inexpensive, I feel each product has added an extra dimension to my system, which would be hard to improve upon by spending similar amounts elsewhere. Although at first glance, the Ethernet Control appears to be yet another in-line filter designed to prevent the noise that is said to accompany our music streams from reaching our streamers and then our DACs, making such an assumption sells this clever product short.

Like other products from the CAD stable, the Ethernet Control is designed to reduce grounding noise from the HiFi component that it is plugged into, in effect meaning you get two products in one here an inline filter and a ground noise drain, this I feel helps justify the price of £1,250. Externally, the Ethernet Control resembles an oversized Wi-Fi dongle. The casing is made of acrylic, which is said to provide isolation from external interference. While many of the Ethernet Filters that I have tested have RJ45 sockets at each end, this device from CAD has a single socket at one, with the other end having am RJ45 plug. Such a design is essential in maximising the device’s ground-draining performance. Whilst such a setup saves purchasing an additional Ethernet cable, it does somewhat limit compatibility; many products that I attempted to test this device with, lacked the necessary space around their Ethernet sockets, the CAD Ethernet was too large to fit in the space.

The Ethernet Control can potentially improve the sound of your system when it is placed anywhere where there is an Ethernet socket. However, it will likely prove more beneficial if you put it on a component that is in the path of the Ethernet feed to your streamer, such as your router, switch, server or streamer. Potentially a system could benefit by use of more than one Ethernet Control, but this is something users must experiment with in their setups.

Want to know what is inside the CAD Ethernet Control? Other than it contains several custom-made pulse transformers and choke-based filtering on differential and signal ground lines, I can tell you very little. What I can do is talk about the effects this clever device had on the various systems in which I tried it. If you are the type of audiophile who believes ones are ones and zeros are zeros, and the whole of society would come to a grinding halt if a bit of noise accompanying our internet feeds made the blindest bit of difference, then scroll on and perhaps click on a link to one of Terry’s entertaining videos.

CAD Ethernet Ground Review website 2

Still Here? Then I’ll Tell You How It Sounds

Firstly, I wanted to see what, if any, effect the Ethernet Control had on the sound of my Melco N1-S38 Server via a spare RJ45 input. I have already experienced great results with CAD’s USB Control plugged into one of the Melco’s spare USB sockets, so it was no surprise to me when I heard an immediate improvement after plugging in the Ethernet Control to an un-used Ethernet input at the back of the N1-S38.

The background became blacker, the edges more defined, yet in a natural, rather than pin-point manner. Vocals were more engaging, and the music became more involving. Although these improvements were subtle, they were immediately apparent and musically beneficial. My main system gets its internet feed via SFP cables, so I had to reconfigure my setup in order to test the Ethernet Control. Firstly, I ran an Ethernet cable directly from my Melco S100 switch to my Melco N1-S38, which resulted in a substantial drop in sound quality compared to the copper SFP connection it replaced.

Next, I placed the Ethernet Control in the LAN input socket of the Melco N1-S38 and listened again. Whilst I still ultimately preferred the copper SFP connection, the differences between the two connections were much more subtle. The best setup proved to be the SFP cable between the S100 and N1-S38, but leaving the Ethernet Control in the LAN socket, acting as a grounding device. Interestingly, as mentioned in my review for PPS in May, I found the sound of the Moon 641 amplifier was more spacious and less fatiguing with the Ethernet Control placed on the RJ45 comms input, so again, this was not in the signal path, and simply acting as a ground noise filter.

Unfortunately, the Ethernet Control would not fit into the socket of my P.C. or the router placed next to it. It did fit into the Ethernet socket of my Chord 2Go, which is paired with the Chord Hugo 2. No network switch was used in this setup. Listening through a pair of Sendy Peacock Headphones, music via the Ethernet Control sounded tighter and more focused, the bass appearing subjectively deeper and more controlled, and there was a better sense of ambience. The natural acoustic of the best classic, folk and classic recordings was better resolved. Electronic music, such as Krafwerk’s 3-D The Catalogue (Qobuz 24/44), sounded cleaner and had more depth and texture via the Ethernet Control; the effect of this was that I became more involved with the music and could listen for longer without fatigue.

I was fortunate enough to visit a friend’s house a few weeks back, where I got to listen to his extremely impressive system, which, of note, consisted of a CAD 1543 DAC, Aesthetix amplification and the astonishing Kerr K100 Mk III speakers. The digital side is fed via a Synology NAS drive and a Netgear network switch controlled by a Mac Mini. I took over a few competitor’s Ethernet Filtering products for comparison. Firstly, we listened to some music without any filter in the circuit. Painstakingly, we went on to try each of the four filters that I had brought, finishing with the CAD Ethernet Control, which we had to plug into the output socket of the network switch as it would not fit into the Mac Mini’s input. Comparative listening can be a chore if the music choices are lacking, but thankfully, my friend chose a great track from Tori Amos’s Scarlet’s Walk, which is the fourth track, called Strange. If you are thinking of checking out this album, search for the original CD version rather than the remaster, which sounds poor by comparison. Unfortunately, you’ll only find the remaster on streaming sites, but I found an original CD on the world’s favourite auction site for around three quid.

Whereas each of the filters we tested had their merits, the CAD Ethernet Control stood out as sounding the fullest, best balanced and relaxed sounding of the four filters. We found two of the four filters emphasised the high-frequencies; whilst this might seem impressive in a quick demo, it can prove ultimately fatiguing. The CAD device gave the string section space to breathe and made Tori’s vocals naturally rich and lush yet full and lifelike. One of the other filters appeared to fill out the bass somewhat more than via the CAD device, yet lacked the low-frequency control and precision we enjoyed when the CAD Ethernet Control was in the circuit.

Should you buy one for your system?

If you have a system capable of resolving deeper level sonic benefits, then certainly its worth considering. If you are running a budget system, then this product may not be the best use of funds. If your system is well developed and your looking to refine and fine tune it to deliver more then the cost of this product is more than justified.

I heard nothing detrimental in any of the setups I tried with this device, and neither did it cause any network hiccups. Given the results obtained with devices such as this can be system-dependent, I recommend talking to an obliging dealer who will supply one of these devices on a sale-or-return, but I very much doubt you will be doing the latter. Along with the other products that I have used from CAD, the Ethernet Control proves our music sounds better without noise.

Pursuit Perfect System Essential Audition Awards

An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.

For the full specification see the CAD website details here