– BERND WEBER, hifi-ifas.de
Translated from German.
Anyone who, like me, streams some of their music digitally and also has data on hand on a music server needs a network for this. Almost everyone has this at home today, if only because it is required for using the Internet. The focus is on the router, which establishes the connection to the outside world and at the same time organizes the home network. A switch is then required to further distribute the digital ones and zeros by cable.
Conveniently, these are already integrated in routers such as a Fritzbox. Mostly with four LAN ports, which is sufficient in most cases. So connect the streamer and the music server or a network storage device (NAS) there and start listening to music. Technically, this works perfectly. So why get a separate switch? It only costs money… Or should the topic of hi-fi switches be approached like a power strip? After all, you can also hear, voodoo or not, differences in sound.
So far I have not really dealt with the subject of switches in terms of influencing the sound. But a coincidence played into my hands: At the North German HiFi Days 2020, the HiFi IFAs came across the audiophile NuPrime Omnia SW-8 switch. Frank Urban from Audium Sales raved about this little magic box. Is the Omnia SW-8 Switch really audiophile? That’s what I wanted to know, so I took it with me to the test right away.
So what should the switch, specially designed for hi-fi, do now? After all, digital zeros and ones are very precise numbers, without any truncation or rounding. They’re being rocked around and that’s a good thing. At the same time, checksums are transmitted to detect errors in data transmission. If something doesn’t fit, the data is requested again, and then it should be correct. It’s also possible in IT. If there are still discrepancies, the gaps are interpolated, and that’s it.
And that’s exactly where the rub is: This leads to inaccuracies in the signal flow. In addition, there are unloved things such as signal noise, electromagnetic interference and a lot more. And that’s exactly where the NuPrime Omnia SW-8 comes in. Among other things, the switch has a TCXO clock and thus stabilizes the signals in the network. This in turn reduces the noise of the circuits and thus makes the work of the downstream processors in the streamer easier. The basis of the SW-8 is the Bonn N8, developed by Thunder Data Co. Ltd. In contrast to the Bonn N8, the Omnia SW-8 has a completely closed aluminum housing without ventilation for better shielding against interference. In addition, there is a power supply unit that has been revised by NuPrime.
Technical characteristics of the NuPrime Omnia SW-8
- Completely closed aluminum housing for shielding
- Eight AUDIO GRADE 100/1000 Base-T Gigabit Ethernet ports
- High clock accuracy
- Custom Silent Angel Noise Absorber (SANA)
- Two silencers for main circuit
- Two noise isolators for the clock generator circuit
- power pack for medical use
- TCXO (Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator)
For the listening test, I then have the network player Cambridge 851N and the music server Innuos ZEN MK. III connected to the home Fritzbox with LAN cables from Supra. And that sounds really good.
But when I connected the two devices to the NuPrime SW-8 switch, I was really amazed. It doesn’t make the voice of my favorite hisser, Katie Melua, velvety smooth, which is simply down to the recording. But she no longer tongues quite as aggressively and sharply in my ears. And I hear more subtle ramifications and more breaths in her voice. The strings also play silkier and better resolved. Overall, the music seems calmer to me, you can also describe it as “more analog”, if you will.
I see a similar effect with Livingston Taylor’s classic “Isn’t She Lovely”. His whistling also has a certain sharpness. Ok, that’s also part of it, but it shouldn’t offend the ear with unnatural distortions. And these distortions, or maybe I should say impurities in the digital paths, are reduced by the high-quality switch. At least that’s my impression. This whistling sounds more natural than with the Fritzbox in the signal path. The rise and fall in the volume of his voice is also more comprehensible, and it also becomes fuller and gets more timbre from the SW-8. This is then also good for the guitar with a more noticeable wooden body.
Of course I also wanted to know how it sounds when the NuPrime Omnia SW-8 is installed directly in the signal path between the Cambridge 851N and the Innuos ZEN MK.III. Well, now the differences in sound compared to the direct connection from the network player to the music server weren’t really that big. Which is also logical, since many devices such as the Innuos ZEN MK.III or the Melco N100 have separate, galvanically isolated LAN outputs to the network player. But what to do if the music server doesn’t have a separate galvanically isolated LAN output? Or the music is running from a NAS or the PC? You can’t do without a switch, and purchasing a higher quality device is definitely worth considering.
After the little digression, it’s back to the listening comparison between Fritzbox and NuPrime Switch. The various sizes and timbres of the Gütersloh bells can be clearly heard when they are rung. This piece from the Manger CD “As from another planet” is well suited to assess the spatial assignment and the depth gradation. If they are slightly blurred in their positions via the Fritzbox, their arrangement can be assigned much better via the Omnia SW-8. As if the autumn morning fog were being pulled away. I also had the feeling that I could hear the different alloys of the bells.
The O Zone Percussion Group and their “Jazz Variants”, rapid and fast playing characterize this recording. I love this piece. It just has to hiss and rip in the booth, there’s pure energy in it. Wired to the NuPrime SW-8, it’s a dream and my whole body rocks with it. I dare to try rewiring to the Fritzbox and immediately regret it. Oh dear, how this great piece of music now drags itself through the area.
Listen to music all the time? After this experience, probably not anymore. But in the context of the test, I can’t avoid self-torture and continue. But I can’t stand it much longer, at some point it will be over. NuPrime’s switch needs to be back on. Yes, that’s the way it has to be, the timing is spot on and the music regains its structure. The skin of the timpani is worked to a real splendor and delight. The bass impulses drive through the hut wonderfully clean and dry. And yes, even a delicate instrument like the triangle is not underfed.
Oh yes: To relax, I treated myself to a glass of red wine after the test and streamed a Wilsberg from the ZDF media library. I also connected the LCD TV to the SW-8. And what can I say now, the switch is also good for the picture. And so I come back to the introduction of the report: Yes Frank, I can understand your enthusiasm for the NuPrime SW-8 very well.
Test conclusion NuPrime Omnia SW-8
The hi-fi switch pulls the curtain wide open in front of the music. This makes it noticeably purer and more plastic, as if a veil had been removed. There is also increased dynamics and more naturalness in voices and music. The NuPrime Omnia SW-8 brings the existing digital components a class forward. And is therefore a worthwhile investment for streaming lovers.
Link to the review --> https://hifi-ifas.de/test-hifi-switch-nuprime-omnia-sw-8-ist-kein-voodoo