AudioQuest Pearl and Vodka Ethernet cable review


Barry: G’day Darko!
John: Hey Barry, how are you? Long time, no see. You still rocking that Wyred4Sound Remedy with your Squeezebox Touch?
Barry: Sure am. It’s terrific. I’ve brought that very same Squeezebox along today, just as you asked. What do you need it for?
John: Well – I’ve got something I want you to hear…
Barry: Uhuh.
John: …but it’s a bit, shall we say, controversial.
Barry: How do you mean?
John: AudioQuest have loaned me some of their Ethernet cables to play with but a good number of readers refuse to believe that they could possibly make a difference to sound quality in a hi-fi system even before I plug the darn things in.
Barry: Ohhhhhh?
John: My previous two articles on the subject caused quite the stir, predominantly with readers who’d never heard said cables but instead demanded scientific justification before they’d even countenance the possibility of audible differences.
Barry: Seems fair enough to me. I can sympathise with their position on that one.
John: Yes, but a good number of people are more eager to shout accusations of snake oil from the rooftops than they are to sit down and listen. 37% of 350 people surveyed via DAR said as much.


Barry: Oh yes, I remember reading that article. You also heard differences from these cables at shows Munich and Denver, did you not?
John: I did indeed…but let us be clear form the outset today: these AudioQuest Ethernet cables are of zero benefit to anyone moving data between computers and/or network storage devices. Ones and zeroes being moved where arrival timing and electrical noise aren’t critical factors won’t gain anything from more deluxe wire, not even a US$7K cable…as UK tech publication The Register was keen to point out recently. I suspect author Richard Chirgwin is applying data centre logic to the audiophile world. The two are NOT the same.
B: OK. Well, I gotta admit it: I’m a little skeptical. Don’t tell me we’re going to listen to a multi-thousand dollar Ethernet cable today?
J: Haha – no. This entry-level Pearl Ethernet cable will run you US$25 for 0.75m. Hardly outrageous. The cable comprises solid copper conductors with a polyethylene insulator – more info can be found on the AudioQuest website . Even a cursory inspection shows the Pearl to be better made than a generic patch cord. Have a look for yourself.
B: I see what you mean. It looks and feels more substantially made than the other cable you’ve got here. Is that another AudioQuest number?


J: Nope – that’s a Cat6a cable from Blue Jean. They don’t do a Cat 7 equivalent but each of their Ethernet cables ships with a full measurement report confirming its conformity to the category standard.
B: Oh yeah, I think I remember that Blue Jean chap’s article on Ethernet cables. He sourced and measured a whole bunch of them and found them to be of wildly different quality, with many not meeting the specifications.
J: That’s the fella! Anyway, his Cat 6a (US$18 for 6 feet) will be our control cable today.
B: So we’ll listen to the BJC first and then the AudioQuest?
J: Yessir. I’ve done this experiment many times already with the AURALiC Aries streamer so I’m going to switch them and leave you to comment on what you do or don’t hear.
B: Just let me grab my tin foil hat from upstairs.
J: Hahaaaah. Very funny. Oh, one more thing before we start: this particular Pearl cable has been sourced from of an AudioQuest bulk spool and terminated with Telegärtner connectors (US$20 each).
B: So it’s a bit more expensive than the US$25 floated earlier?
J: Yes, this bulk spool version sells for US$1.60/ft and can be terminated with either standard connectors (US$2.50 each) or the Telegartners (US$20 each). However, today is as much about audible differences existing and less about what separates each cable from a technical point of view.
B: Gotcha!


J: I’ve hooked up your Squeezebox Touch to the Peachtree Audio 220SE DAC/amplifier with a Zu Audio digital coaxial cable. Loudpeakers are the Soul MKII, also from Zu Audio.
B: Right…
J: The Squeezebox Touch will be fed data from the Antipodes DXe server over Ethernet via this cheap-as-chips Netgear router. Standard patch cord connects server to router but we’ll be swapping out the Ethernet wire that joins the router to your Squeezebox Touch. I’ll play some snatches of Johnny Cash, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Leftfield and Beck with one cable, swap it for the other before playing those same song snippets again. You ready?
B: Ready as I’ll ever be.

Twenty minutes later…

J: What do you think? Comments? Which one sounded better to you?
B: It’s not night and day – far from it – but I reckon the second one sounded slightly less revealing than the first.
J: Right – go on…
B: The first one had more micro-dynamic jump. I wanna use the word pizzazz.
J: That’s a good word!
B: Come on Darko, don’t keep me in suspense – which was which?
J: The first cable, the one you preferred, was the AudioQuest Pearl.
B: Holy smokes.
J: Right?
B: I mean, Ethernet cables should all sound the same but from what I’ve just heard, they don’t.
J: What’s interesting is that the Pearl is audibly superior to the Blue Jeans cable, one that we already know is well within spec.


B: Let’s not get carried away though. We’re talking about differences of only one or two percent.
J: I’d go with that.
B: I have to ask though: WTF?
J: OK, so now we need to think about why these two cables result in slightly different sonic outcomes. Whilst I think this is mostly for engineers to explain, I believe the pivotal factor is electrical noise.
B: How so?
J: Audio hardware is extremely sensitive to electrical noise. Take the Antipodes DXe. Its designer Mark Jenkins is obsessed with minimising electrical noise when designing his servers so that less of it messes with the digital signal inside the box and less of it travels down the USB cable and into the DAC – an extremely noise-sensitive system. Now let’s apply that same logic to what we’ve heard today: what if my Netgear router spills electrical noise to all Ethernet-connected devices? That noise is reaching your Squeezebox and messing with its ability to sound optimal. Even if we discount noise affecting data timing – the Squeezebox will verify that all data packets have arrived safely before re-clocking them out to the Peachtree DAC – the electrical noise is still getting a free ride from router to Squeezebox, polluting its circuits. That noise could even journey further to the DAC.
B: I see what you mean. So all this makes not a jot of difference to the data centre operators you mentioned earlier? That computers not used for audio or video don’t care about the levels of electrical noise.
J: Precisely. I suspect that AudioQuest’s Pearl Ethernet cable is constructed in such a way that it reduces the amount of electrical noise reaching the Squeezebox from the noisy router. The data arrives safe and sound as per the protocol – that’s not the issue here – it’s the amount of noise getting a free ride along the way.
B: Riiiiiiight.
J: Are you being sarcastic?
B: Haha. No, not at all. Clearly something is going on. And it’s not bad for a US$25 upgrade. Well, in the case of the Pearl cable you have, a US$65 upgrade.
J: OK – wanna hear a fancier AudioQuest Ethernet cable? I have their Vodka model. It adds silver plating to the conductor material as well as something AudioQuest refer to as their Noise Dissipation System (NDS) about which you can read more here. The Vodka starts at a heftier US$249 for 0.75m.
B: Sure – what have I got to lose?
J: I’ll conduct the same A/B process as earlier but this time with Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” and David Bowie’s “Bring Me The Disco King”. In the ring: Pearl vs. Vodka.


Another fifteen minutes later…

B: I reckon I can pick the differences more easily there: the second cable was the Vodka.
J: Correct.
B: I hate to sound like you Darko but the Vodka seemed to remove a layer of film for superior textural reveal. There was also a shade more tonal depth and recording space ‘air’. Most noticeable of all was a further uptick in micro-dynamic jump. More pizzazz yo!
J: I concur. I’ll finish today’s listening session with something that’ll mess with your head a little more. I’ll leave the Vodka cable between router and Squeezebox but now I’ll swap out the standard patch cord that sits between DXe server and router for the Pearl. And then I’ll swap the Officeworks-sourced patch cord back in again.

Five minutes later…

B: Oh my word! This is really gonna get the snake-oilers going but the Pearl in its new position brings yet another minor improvement to proceedings. Mental.
J: Some readers will no doubt think we are. Oh well, can’t do much about that. I’ve found all of the above results repeatable with the AURALiC Aries Streamer so I know it’s not just the Squeezebox Touch than can benefit from audiophile-grade Ethernet wire. You could even try it with an Apple TV as digital audio source. Until next time, Barry…

Further information: AudioQuest

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


Leave a Reply
  1. Hey John,
    I was really hoping the upper crust ethernet cables would turn out to be snake oil but anyway…
    I have 30ft of the Blue Jeans Cable running from PC to Touch. Is there any way I could improve on that without selling one of my balls?

  2. To quote a patriarch of modern day audiophiles:

    “Do you see any signs of future vitality in high-end audio?

    Vitality? Don’t make me laugh. Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavour since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me, because I am associated by so many people with the mess my disciples made of spreading my gospel.”


    • Shame you missed out the next sentences:

      “For the record: I never, ever claimed that measurements don’t matter. What I said (and very often, at that) was, they don’t always tell the whole story. Not quite the same thing. “

    • ED, Audio as a hobby is dying, really? I think not.
      For one you are posting your opinions on a web site after reading about differing network cables streaming digital music files making a difference. Hot topics such as Pono & Hi resolution files are being covered on the BBC programme Click and more people are buying Valve gear, DAC’s, headphone amps & portable DAC headphone amps than ever before. You stick your head in a bucket if you like but I’ve just listened to a new software release on my Network streamer and the difference is night and day, same goes for network cable changes. Oh and Ed I can tell you this because I have listened for myself using A B comparisons as did JD above. The hobby is alive and well.

      Rant over
      These are exciting times for HiFi .

  3. Colour me a non auditioning sceptic. I think for those who claim to hear an audible difference and also claim said difference is an improvement it would be very simple to becalm and silence the critics. And yes, I am referring to the good old blind testing.

    For all the subjectives rolling their eyes and typing “that old chestnut” the solution is simple: conduct such testing under controlled conditions. If the “improvements” are both audible and significantly so then any tests should be a proverbial walk in the park. Constant refusal and/or inability to do this fans the flames.

  4. John,
    Wow! Very interesting. I sent you an email about USB-a to USB-b cables the other day, but I think you may have just answered my questions. I know this was about ethernet cables but I assume the same would apply to USB cables as well? I am using an Audioquest Forest right now but I might upgrade to the Diamond.

    • Yes, I *think* a USB or Ethernet cable’s ability to mitigate noise is reflected in its audible ‘performance’.

  5. With so many variables in each person’s system and playback chain, this is a difficult topic to pin down. I personally did not notice a difference when swapping numerous ethernet cables in my system, but maybe that is just my system or the type of cables I tried? Who knows?

    What was always constant was that the final connection to my DAC was a TotalDAC D1 filtered USB cable. I have found that this cable always made a difference, whether I had a noisy or electrically quiet source connected to my DAC. Maybe the use of this USB filter as the last line of defence minimised any electrical noise differences between ethernet cables?

    At one time, you tested the TotalDAC USB cable in your systems. Do you still have that cable available to try again with the ethernet cables?

    • Hey Brad S. I’m sorry, I don’t understand: how will I try the TotalDAC USB again with AQ’s Ethernet? My problem in addressing these side issues is one of time. As I’m sure you can appreciate, I gave over much time to auditioning the AQ Ethernet wire in various configurations and now I must move on to the next item for review.

  6. How did the Aries compare to the SB touch + Remedy using the same network cables and dac?
    I am very curious about SB touch with Vodka compared to Aries with Pearl, to determine where the budget is put best: A new network cable or a more expensive streamer.

  7. So if the cable sounds better because it transmits less electrical noise, why not entirely eliminate the noise by connecting the Squeezebox via Wi-Fi? Link the Peachtree with optical cable and you’ve got a mostly noise-free signal chain. Wouldn’t that be better than even the quietest ethernet cable?

    Not a rhetorical question.

    • Enabling WiFi causes more internal noise inside the Squeezebox Touch. I think most SBT owners agree that Ethernet sounds superior to WiFi. Your point about going from Toslink from SNB to DAC is a good idea; some believe toslink to sound inferior to coaxial or USB (due to slow rise times). Even so, the noise that still reaches the SBT will likely still affects its performance as a digital transport.

  8. I hate to say this but if the equipment is sensitive to noise on the ethernet cable then the equipment has a problem. Swapping cables is trying to reduce the effect which I can believe is real. I wonder what if using WiFi would help as then the equipment is isolated from the noise. I have used the Touch in the past and found it very sensitive to things like kernel parameters and whether the screen is on or not. Fantastic value for money but there is comprise in designing a device at this price.
    It might be better pay the extra money to buy properly engineered equipment rather than spend megabucks on fancy cables.

    • I agree, much like if you have a DAC say that sounds ‘better’ on an isolation platform. I wouldn’t be investing in more iso platforms, I’d be returning the DAC.

      • Glib but unrealistic.
        My system sounded just fine, with a 3 year old DAC, 4 year old streaming computer and 10 year old file server. Then I put in a new cable, and it sounded better.
        Yes, I think I’ll return my… 3 year old DAC?

    • Whether the listener addresses this problem of electrical noise ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ of the device is moot. If you believe that not addressing the problem in the device is a reflection of poor standards of design elsewhere in an audio device is another matter. There are a lot of considerations about how electrical noise is handled, what portion of the targeted consumer base will notice, et al, that affect such a decision.

      Either way, it is more money spent. Does it matter that it is managed by better cable design as opposed to some other technology?

  9. You could use a Gigabit Fibre media converter for less than $100 and if going from Streamer to Dac via USB, get a $200 Regen from Uptone Audio and for $300 tops, you do more for blocking electrical crud than buying a Gucci Ethernet cable. Plus these devices can be used in different applications in your system.

    Who uses 0.75m for ethernet cabling anyway? 5m is the average length and that will cost a bundle from Audioquest. In the end, streaming from a NAS(ty) is always a losing proposition, as the motherboards used are always low quality (never audiophile grade).

    • Norman,

      i am intrigued! I am not familiar with Gigabit fibre media converters. I currently have my entire house wired with quality cat6 cables. Running one to a dedicated router (audio only), which has a mounted external SSD drive connected via USB. I run another ethernet cable from router to my media server (macmini). From mac mini, i run a firewire 800 cable to DAC (mytek 192stereo). So… Provided this scenario, can i benefit from a media converter?

      • Yes UDI,

        Apparently you can. The conversion to SC should theoretically block NAS(ty) low end mobo crud, as well as Ethernet packetized crud.

        A Pal in Monaco will test soon at ComputerAudiophile forum, so stay tuned.

  10. I think one also has to put the critics point of view in perspective … not all of them flatly deny any sonic benefits but think that there are maybe more important things to prioritze. For instance if you have say a Toyota Yaris, it is very likely that you improve it’s performance by replacing certain stock parts by some crazy over specced custom parts … however these mods will never transform your car into a Ferrari. I think a lot of people who criticize esoteric cables come from a technical/engineering background (and very often are DIYers) and they contemplate the problem from a whole system design perspective, in their context it is for sure nice to gain 2% in sound quality by swapping cables, but they will gladly prioritize differently and spend the 400$ that that cable would cost on a pair of very high-end tweeters or esoteric power supply that will yield a much more significant delta in Sound Quality.

  11. Hey there John

    I’m running a NAS into my router via ethernet which then feeds from the router to my modded Sonos via ethernet. Apologies if it’s self explanatory above but has your experience shown improvement using AQ ethernet cables between both of the above connections? Or are you saying an upgrade cable between NAS and router is not necessary?

    Many thanks for your article.

    • I’m saying that in my experience changing Ethernet cables between router and streamer makes a difference. Less so between server/NAS and router but still a small improvement.

      • So if I went with a Windows server with NIC Teaming and AQ Vodka in Adapter A and BJC in Adapter B to a Switch and then from the Switch to a NAD, LINN, NAIM, Sonos, etc purpose built player you would be able to tell me ,as the music is playing, when I switched cables?

        Keep in mind the music will never be interrupted in this scenario?

        What is the next show you will be at?

  12. Ed, that is one of the best pieces on Hi-End Audio I have ever read. Thanks for sharing!

    Blind testing is a must. Manufacturers who look for musicality do it (E.G: Magnepan; Rob Watts -Chord Hugo-). And I am sure most manufacturers, if not all of them, use blind tests.

    Long and comfortable blind tests are cheap. Just hire a student on minimum wage. For ethernet cables, they are free of charge -and fun-, as you can switch the cables blindfolded and use a headphone-centric rig.

    John: The first audio reviewer to do blind tests will win the contest. You will get plenty of page views, you will be a legend (I am an audiophile who does online marketing). You could interview manufacturing legends and ask them about what they think about blind tests and super expensive cables. These interviews would snowball into a pile of page views. Everyone wants to read their answers (I have personally contacted a few -Schiit, BAT- and they are non-believers). No one is above the manufacturers, their opinions are king.

      • It is all unclear, as methodology was not shared. The average reader will assume that Barry is a figment of your imagination and your aim was to create entertaining reading, and there is nothing wrong with your style. Was blind listening used? What is the methodology you used? Did you use superb recordings?

        Also, given the short lengths of time of the testing (according to your review), it would seem that the differences are night and day (especially between the Pearl and the Vodka). This would suggest, based on Audioquest’s business model, that Audioquest can provide incremental night and day improvements by the dozens, considering all the cables my system has. Wait, who are we to trash Audioquest’s business model, it is only two cables under review here!

        • Barry is fictional but the account is based on real events. I invited a mate over and didn’t reveal which cable was which until after listening. The songs used are detailed in the review leaving the reader to decide if they are superb recordings (or not). The difference are NOT night and day but they are most definitely there, reflecting the findings I heard elsewhere last year. Michael Lavorgna was present at the Denver Ethernet demo – he wrote ahout it on AudioStream – as were about 20 other audiophiles. We can’t ALL be imagining things, can we?

          • I am not saying you are imagining things. I trust your honesty and your findings. Longer blind listening sessions would have been preferable, but it is your column.

            Your implicit claim that there is a consensus on ethernet cable differences is questionable. Audioquest probably hates blind listening tests and they were not used in Denver, were they? Does Audioquest do any blind tests anyway? Furthermore, I have not read the 20 or so audiophiles present at Denver and, as far as I know, there is no collection of the data of their opinions. The human mind is inherently biased and most highly regarded manufacturers are non-believers (are we to keep systematically disregarding their opinions and findings?). Great manufacturers have the least biased listening skills and their opinions matter the most. I mention the former facts because not using blind tests is basically rigging the game (manufacturers use blind tests, to my knowledge).

            It is easy to claim honesty when the game is rigged so the reviewer does not have to lie about his findings by purposely allowing the biased -unconscious- mind to do the dirty work of finding (possibly) non-existing differences. Looks like I am pointing fingers, but I am not. If anything, I am in the middle of a rant. Just some food for thought.

          • Sure thing Bernard. I’m not suggesting there is consensus of opinion either, just that many others were present in Denver including another journalist who also reported his findings. Blind tests aren’t part of this site’s MO – never will be. What I find interesting is that people only tend to bring up their importance with reviews likes this. Few commenters insist on blind testing when I compare DACs or amps. I suspect that’s because readers are generally well versed in the differences between amps and DACs through their own direct experiences but less so with cables, particularly digital cables.

          • This whole issue raises serious doubts not because listeners are not acquainted with expensive cables, but because we know no one is above manufacturers. If the guy who sells me a 10k preamp (BAT) or a 5k power amp (Sanders), not to mention Rob Watts -chord hugo- tell me cables make no difference, who am i to believe? Listening is so inherently biased and the trade of skepticisim takes so long to learn that one might as well trust the awesome manufacturer instead of my own ears.

          • Hi John,

            Mr. Lavorgna made a claim about the sound of the AQ Ethernet cable and how he was able to hear the differences in all manner of setup and environment.

            So I invited him to put up $2,000 to my $2,000 to see him instantiate claims in a truly well designed test:

            That is a Server (I would even setup a Windows 2012 R2 core server with minimal footprint as the file server if desired) to a switch (Cisco SG-8). On the side connected to the client computer would be two Intel NIC’s in a LAG team and dynamically assigned and configured for fail-over.

            The media player would be JRiver and the Host OS could be Win7 or 8 with minimal footprint. Not even so much as a firewall or AV installed.

            Jriver would be set to it’s default buffer.

            The rest is the persons setup. Whether it be USB, Firewire, PCIe DAC. Add to that we could roll with ASIO or WASAPI Exclusive Mode (whatever the DAC manufacturer supports.

            In this setup the cables can be swapped with ZERO interruption in play back.

            Here is the proof of concept rig I posted on YouTube and details of the bet:

            Computers and streamers are based on non-realtime OS’s. Data the is sent over the wire or wireless is buffered data. That is you are not streaming over Ethernet. Ethernet is a burst of data and then idle. You will even see in the YouTube video that all NIC’s get disconnected and music still plays.

            Even 100Mbit connections (8 Megabytes a second with protocol overhead) can transfer an entire 640MB 16/44.1 of data in less than 90 seconds. That’s ~ 50 minutes worth of music. Bump that same album to 24/96 and 2.5Gb is still only ~4 minutes.

            Gigabit? That same CD can be transferred in 8 seconds.

            For the record I did order a $350 AQ Vodka cable to run in the rig I shot the video with. The other cable is certified CAT 6 BJC.

            John or Anyone else that wants to take my $2K is welcome to post in the YouTube channel. I welcome AQ, Chord, etc also. Just send the cable to to Blue Jeans Cable for validation on a Fluke CAT6/7 Measurement rig.

  13. Your problem is you think audio is a serious scientific endeavor. It’s a hobby, and hedonism while we’re at it.

    Oh, and serious scientists are curious, and open to the possibility that not all is known. You can’t discover new things, if you think everything is already known.

  14. I know you are beating this “but you haven’t tried it” manta. To that point if you are going to conduct any comparison with any kind of credibility particularly with enough credibility to compel me into an AB comparison with specific brands you need to compare apples-to apples by using a generic CAT7 cable vs. AQ’s CAT7 – I run SHIELDED CAT7 patch cords that cause $5. Have you tried them?? Comparing to an unshielded CAT5e doesn’t seem to be valid to me other than the packets (with CRC checksum headers) are still being sent. One is shielded and the other is not!

    • I’m not so much beating that drum as detailing that Ethernet cables can sound different to each other. That much was laid plain in the review.

  15. Hi John,

    Great review and a good explanation why there can be a difference in Ethernet cables, i.e. noise cancellation and not a difference in transporting the ones and zeros.

    JUNKER: Why anyone would buy a standard Cat 7 shielded cable for $5.- over a standard Cat 5 shielded cable for $3.- is a mystery to me. We can all agree that digital music doesn’t contain enough data to warrant anything faster than Cat 5. Snake oil perhaps?

    • I like the build quality of CAT7 and the connectors are more robust. Other than the data transmission itself, I supposed there could be some ground loop issues that having the connected foil shield could help with…?

  16. Funny you did this this week, John, as I have been waiting for an Audioquest Cinnamon usb/micro b cable to arrive and today it has…
    I had the system all warmed up (a valve pre made by Patrick Turner in Canberra and 2 Quicksilver Mini Mite monoblocks fed by a Squeezebox Duet through a Cambridge DacMagic (about 6 years old version) using a mix of cables from Kimber and Osborn Loudspeakers).
    An external Seagate hard drive deeds through a very cheap netbook and then wired to a standard router and then wirelessly to the Duet receiver.
    OK, enough of that.
    The cables from HD> computer and computer> router and absolute out of the box whatever it is they supply things.
    I picked a single track to see if anything had changed (Come Together, Abbey Road 2009 remaster).
    I played the track and then swapped the lead into HD>Computer and…
    The difference is as obvious as a very obvious thing. Right from the intro the cymbals snapped or hung in the air appropriately, the bass drum and bass guitar worked a more obvious motor pump effect, everything was getting a kick in the dynamics.
    There isn’t even an argument about this.
    Or as I might put it, my ones and zeros just became much nicer ones and zeros, and yes, I do know a digital signal isn’t ones and zeros but voltages.
    Am I happy?
    I will be when I replace the other lead.

    • Oh, the difference isn’t night and day, but very clear.
      How the hell do people get the idea that an improvement is “2%”?
      I am happy it is clear.
      A cable for about $100 with a clear improvement; seems like good value.

  17. I love these grey areas that divide opinion. One day in the not so distant future a technician will explain why there are differences in cables because the effect is real.

    I’ve now done a couple of blind, yes blind random tests with friends that are not audiophiles and they all agree there are differences and on each occasion they have chosen unanimously the higher specification ethernet cable as giving more realistic sounding instruments and vocals and wider soundstage with more detail.
    I have my own opinion as to why this is the case as does JD but we’re not experts in electronics but do have fully functioning ears.
    Remember there is no such thing as digital, only analogue circuits and processors that work on digital triggers, there all prone to interference.

  18. This is why I don’t enjoy reading DAR these days…Stuff like this might be really wonderful for page views and page advertisement but when you know how a Ethernet cable works, these kind of articles make the credibility of the reviewer go down the drain.
    Sorry I had to comment, I’m sure you got lots of fans but sometimes people must give their honest opinion.

    • Happy to receive negative criticism JPT. The ‘click bait’ argument tends to get thrown around a lot when things are perceived as controversial. I spent a great deal of time getting my reporting on this up to a standard with which I was happy. I stand by my findings having heard differences with Ethernet cables in numerous systems during the past 12 months. One thing I didn’t mention in the review was that I took the Vodka cable to the biggest audiophile skeptic I knew. He owns an MSB stack and almost laughed at me when I suggest he try the cable. I watched him plug it in and left the house for a few hours. Upon my return he conceded that there was a difference, albeit small.

  19. Hi John,
    I really enjoy your blog and the equipment and topics that you cover. I was at CES this year and visited the Audioquest room at the Venetian. I had a chance to sit down there and talk to the marketing rep about ethernet and usb cable differences and he actually conducted for me a very similar test like the one you’ve written about in this article with pretty much the exact same ethernet cables save for the Blue Jeans control cable. The control or generic cable that he used was a no name Cat 5e, I believe, and I listened through a pair of their new NightHawk headphones which were very nice. After swapping first the Pearl for the control cable a couple of times giving me a good couple of minutes each time to listen I told him that I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between cables. He repeated the same test with the Vodka and I told him I still couldn’t reliably tell a difference. If there was one, it was really small. Now I don’t have a bone to pick with Audioquest. I own some of their interconnect cables and they still serve me reliably even after twenty years of use. That being said, because of articles both you and others have written on this subject of hearing differences in digital cable, I knew this was something that I needed to hear and audition for myself in order to satisfy me. If some folks can hear a difference in various usb and ethernet cables, fabulous. If they have the spare scratch lying around to purchase some of the upper tier stuff to enhance their musical enjoyment, more power to them. For myself I have my own answer and I will happily continue on my merry way. In the end, when it comes to cables, I think people should really listen to a controlled setup and judge for themselves if the difference they hear, or don’t, is worth the price of admission. Thanks again for the great site.

    • Carlo, that was a great reply. The most level headed one yet. Too many people on these comments are getting all hot and bothered because some people can hear a difference. If you can then you can and if you can’t then you can’t. I can hear differences between speaker cables and interconnects so I won’t close my mind to the possibility that ethernet or usb cables could also make a difference. I bought an Audioquest Forest usb cable and I will be comparing it to the top of the line Diamond one soon. I’ll make my own mind up then, and afterwards I won’t be pointing figures at anyone either way.

      • Don;t forget to test vs. a $5 CAT7 cable. I heard an improvement over an AudioQuest Diamond. Have you not heard a CAT7. You must try it! Me any my drunk, stoned friends heard a crazy good difference, or we thing we did. For $1000 it’s a “no brainer” and a “game changer”, but at $5 it’s so cheap you can not afford to give it a listen.

        • @Junker, I won’t be using an ethernet cable I’ll be using a USB one. Do they make CAT 7 USB cables? I’ll use a USB-a to USB-b cable. If you have any ideas where I can buy a cheap, well shielded one let me know. I’ll compare it along with the other two.

          Just so you know as well I won’t be doing this test blind. I am mature enough and have an open mind to whichever one sounds the best. They may all even sound the same to me. Biases won’t get in the way and I am not swayed by expensive cables. I tried 3 power cables one time, a $250 Audioquest NRG-2, a $600 Granite Audio 555, and a basic give me cable that came with my, at the time, Almarro 318A. The Audioquest sounded bright and zippy, the Granite sucked the life out of the music, and the cheap give me cable was the best and most balanced of the three. It surprised me but that’s how it went down.

          • CAT7 is an ethernet cable with the wire pairs twisted more tightly and with a foil shield. CAT 6 and 5e don’t have the shielding. They are nice and beefy and have robust connectors. AQ isn’t the only CAT7 game in town that is for sure. Also, TCP/IP has a checksum in the header and can resend packets if the checksum is corrupted.

            USB audio on the other hand doesn’t have the ability to resend the data packets, and has 5V 500mA lines in it as well so USB can make a difference. Personally, I’d baseline with a Belkin Gold. Wireworld Platinum, AudioQuest Diamond, Light Harmonic LightSpeed, and TotalDAC are other cables I’d have on the cashmere-lined shortlist. Testing cables yourself is the best idea! Check out The Cable Co on-line you can basically rent cables to test and they credit your rental fee toward the purchase of a cable. I haven’t checked but I’m assuming they have the Gucci, YSL, Chanel, and Dolce & Gabbana ethernet cables too. =)

        • I may well slip out tomorrow and get a Cat7 cable to try.
          It sounds very feasible.
          I have some shielded AND earthed cables (not ethernet)from Alan Maher and they are effective and I have become convinced of the use of shielding as a simple and effective solution.

      • Hi Tom,

        I don’t think people are hot and bothered that some can or can’t hear a difference. It’s the fog of ethics that and the testing procedure that get people a bit perturbed.

        Especially those that know better.

        I’m a network engineer. I implement and architect large build outs of routed networks. A $350 or $10,000 isn’t going to gain you any performance vs a properly built CAT6/7 cable (if we are keeping it apples to apples) is going to net you that cost $13-$15 tops.

  20. Just some hints regarding networks, since I see more and more SoHo routers and switches without proper shielded ports. Question about your router, does it have shielded ports?
    Looks like this:
    I mean the shiny metal frame aroung the ports.
    The SQ Touch has one. So if you connect a shielded Ethernet cable between two devices where only one has a shielded port you’ll get a pretty good antenna. In this case either get an UTP (=unshielded twisted pair) Ethernet cable or as a better option a decent switch (e.g. Cisco), which has shielded ports. Fast Ethernet (=100mbit/s) will do plenty for music streaming

  21. Another thing to wonder about here is the quality of connectors. Bog-standard power cords heavily shielded can still use plastic-shrouded plug casings on either end which, with a basic current finder, show clear leaks, i.e. the cable’s much-touted shielding suddenly is impaired right at its plugs. Could cheap plastic f CAT5 plugs suffer a similar fate compared to ritzier (shielded) CAT7 plugs?

  22. Got a vodka on loan this weekend. Using it (0.75m, directional) between a Lite Audio LT-1 CD transport and the Lite Audio DAC 83 convertor. Early indications are disturbing.

    • Good disturbing or bad disturbing? PS That’s a nice transport/DAC combo you’re using.

      • Good. And not in ways I expected. Hence disturbing. I didn’t think I could afford these sorts of subtle but distinct improvements.

        Despite my pleas for open-mindedness on these pages, I, too, was a sceptic. I expected to hear maybe a little more clarity. But that, alone, wouldn’t have been enough to sway me. Like some, I’ve been around a block or two in audio so am not always convinced to change by additional resolution. Rest assured there is more clarity in my system though, in the treble, more shimmer on cymbals, more decay.

        No, the change that is proving compelling so far, is the sense of ‘bounce’ and ‘flow’. It reminds me of the first time (as I wrote on AA) I heard the Linn CD12 and the AMR CD-77. The added clarity comes at no cost of hardness, pretending to be insight. Tones sound more coherent, timing is improved to the point where more of my music sounds like a real-life performance and not just the usual simulation. This is subtle but incredibly satisfying as seemingly my wife and I are able to relax more into the music without trying to pretend so hard.

        Dynamics are improved up and down the scale (micro- and macro-). Listening to the Chesky editions of Beethoven (Leibowitz/RPO) is telling. In addition to added clarity, you can more clearly detect huge soundwaves billowing out from the players. It’s almost as if the waveforms are more clearly sorted out – waves upon waves of sound are easier to detect, and instruments sound more real. I think, if we pick one of these up, we’ll be listening to more symphonic and massed-player work than we do already.

        Since we seem to be getting more frequent experiences of performances, and more a sense of real music being played than not, I guess we’re nearly sold. But we’ll give it the weekend to make sure before deciding if we can do without it or if we’re hallucinating.

        (Yes, John, the transport and DAC are real honies, especially with I2S).

        • I’m sure I’m not the only one closely following your progress with the Vodka Ethernet cable. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Justin. 🙂

  23. Have a Vodka feeding Naim NDX/NDAC and a Pearl from NAS to switch as per setup in the article – in the context of the rest of my system which I consider to be fairly revealing – after listening for 3 days I would rate this a significant upgrade in SQ. Hires material has been somewhat forward and ‘annoying’ to listen to, now it is well, very very good. Qualitatively the same as the effect of removing SMPS on the mains ring circuit, so consistent with the idea that these ethernet cables are acting as inline filters to block upstream digital hash, and little to do with improving the arrival of the bits.
    (Having just seen Justin’s post above – hearing all of the same)

  24. The Vodka continues to impress. Tones remain full, bite is just as sharp, shimmer shimmies. We will likely order one for our own use. The perception of music and sound being more accurately produced remains.

    If the results are merely from simple filtering of noise and parasitic effects, they are welcome all the same. Seemingly, sound seems more ‘secure’ and ‘steadfast’ with the Vodka in place. The effect is very enjoyable and even while there is more clarity, flow and dynamism all round, somehow it seems a little less ‘hi-fi’ than before and just a bit more real and relaxing on one’s perceptions. Nice.