Why you really should NOT be using Ethernet Over Mains/Powerline Adapters

Following a long discussion with the legend that is Phil Harris at Naim Audio, over a variety of subjects encompassing Uniti Atom, Uniti Core and some inquisitive speculating by myself over future developments, our conversation moved towards the frustration we both shared over the hideous network solutions hifi systems are finding themselves in....

 

Since the advent of multi-room audio becoming a mass-market proposition, the limitations of Wi-Fi have been brought into stark exposure - limited range/potential security risks/crippled speed compared to Ethernet cables (particularly when everyone in the house wants to go online as well).

The marketing departments of major I.T manufacturers (and various magazine/online publications) started pushing the 'miracle cure' of Ethernet Over Mains (EoM) or Powerline Adapters.....all your Wifi issues would be a thing of the past!

With the superb launch of the original Naim Uniti in 2009 (and it's subsequent update to 24bit/96khz spec in 2010) network solutions suddenly became a critical consideration for proper hifi systems, so we were compelled to personally test out a number of solutions for customers who had no desire (or it was impractical) to wire the whole house with Ethernet cabling.

At what was an early stage for E0M adapters, two issues became startling clear to us: the advertised speeds of the adapters were impossible to achieve outside of near-lab conditions AND conventional hifi systems in the shop (with no need for connection to the adapters) instantly sounded worse!

After years of specialist hifi manufacturers (and dealers like ourselves!) warning about the negative impacts of noise on the mains supply for a hifi, suddenly the market was being flooded with devices that stick bucket-loads of it across your house!

With further advances, these EoM adapters have gained some speed (still too slow in real world conditions) and do extend the range (not integrity) of wifi, but their multitude of issues still and always will remain:

  • They will have a negative impact on your hifi's sound
  • They will NEVER achieve the speed or stability of a proper wired network
  • Other household devices (washing machines/vacuums/kettles etc) can interfere with their performance
  • They can inhibit certain network protocols, such as device discovery, UPnP and multi-room broadcast
  • They subject addition workload/bottlenecks to your router (a particular issue if you are using the router supplied by your ISP - BT give away HomeHubs because they are cheap and require minimal support staff training. It may be their "best ever" but that's like boasting about having the best disease

 

Speaking to Phil, he has drafted up a number of papers covering Network Basics, Network Solutions, Limitation of ISP Routers, and the pitfalls of EoM devices.

When they are ready (it's challenging to write with enough detail to provide facts yet not intimidate non-techie users), and with Phil's permission, we hope to publish them on our site in the future!

 

Yet another example of how data transmission is so much more than "just 1s and 0s!"