HiFi funnies of the day

[Via Transterrestrial Musings]

I have huge respect for the brand Denon. Its range encompasses decent, reasonably priced stuff (nothing really mass market) through to some seriously high end gear. But I do have to wonder how it can bring itself to market a 1.5 metre Ethernet cable for over $US500.

You know, I was originally just going to pile on as well and join in the fun, and I will in a moment (after all, I’ve been dumping on silly cable theories for a long time).

But first, on reflection, I’d like to offer a rather weak defence of Denon. This cable’s purpose is not for actual Ethernet connectivity (even though recent Denon home theatre receivers do in fact have Ethernet ports). Its actual purpose is for the ‘Denon Link’ feature available on some of the better Denon gear. Denon Link allowed the digital delivery of high resolution multichannel audio signals (up to 5.1 channels at 96kHz, 24 bits) from DVD Audio and SACD discs, using Denon’s players. This was a proprietary solution to a problem created by the original designers of DVD Audio and SACD. As first released, both of these were limited to multichannel analogue outputs, forcing the signal in many cases to go through an unnecessary D/A, A/D cycle. So Denon Link was a very useful feature. These days you achieve the same effect using a HDMI connection, if your player supports SACD and DVD Audio (I use Oppo Digital DVD players, which do). I suppose Denon used RJ45 connections and Ethernet cable for this proprietary link because it was available. Had they chosen proprietary plugs of some kind instead, then this issue would never have arisen.

Ethernet is, of course, a packet-based communications system. The transmitted information is broken up into packets which are sent down the wire, through the network or whatever. The delivery order doesn’t matter. The odd lost packet only slightly impacts performance because the receiver notices that a packet is missing and requests a resend. I don’t really know the intricate workings of Denon Link, but I’m fairly certain that it is a serial system. That is, the data has to be sent down (presumably with some error correction redundancy built in, but since it’s proprietary, who knows — perhaps the system was so poorly designed it has very little error correction built in, requiring a more robust link than usual). Okay, the volume of data (up to six channels at 24 bits and 96,000 hertz sampling means less than 14Mbps) should be no stress at all to a regular Ethernet cable over such a short run.

So if this is regarded as a dedicated high-end audiophile digital cable, then it is merely commonly, rather than uniquely, stupid. It is commonly stupid in that high end ‘audiophile’ HDMI and DVI and optical digital audio and coaxial digital audio cables also exist. Even if you grant that ridiculously expensive audiophile cables do make a difference for analogue connections, it is exceedingly difficult to see the mechanism by which digital cables could improve things, at least over the short distances for which they are normally employed.

Golly, what was going to be a short, light-hearted post turned into a respectable defence of Denon.

Anyway, the reason I started in the first place was to draw attention to the Amazon.com customer reviews. These are hilarious! Not unintentionally, either, so I’m not poking fun at the clueless. Both the ‘positive’ and the ‘negative’ reviews are brilliant. For example, from a four star review:

Thank you Denon. I suffer from a rare R/F allergy which makes it nearly impossible for me to leave my lead lined sarcophagus (unless there is a power outage). Generally i can only listen to music on an accoustic gramaphone and hence my library consists entirely of John Phillips Suza. That all changed when i got the Denon AKDL1 dream maker. No random photons here! I’ve integrated the cable into a bucket i’ve lined with tinfoil and now my library has already expanded to include Count Basie and Sir-Mix-Alot. Life is once again worth living.

and from a one star review:

I installed one of these cables between my gigabit ethernet switch and my Canon Pixma 6700 color printer. I know it’s not a sanctioned use, but I was looking for the ultimate in speed and fidelity. I’m freaky that way.The first time I downloaded a picture to the printer over this cable, the bits moved so fast the printer collapsed into a naked singularity, right there in my office.

Since then, I can’t find the cat, and my entire set of VAX/VMS 4.7 documentation (DEC Will Rise Again!) (Mmmmm, orangey!) has gone missing.

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