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  • Writer's pictureWeng Fai

Audiophile-Magazine: LHY SW-10 is one hell of a deal, and fully deserves a Grand Frisson 2023

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

We're excited to announce that the LHY SW-10 has been featured in Audiophile-Magazine and received the Grand Frisson 2023.




Check out the review to learn more about this innovative audiophile ethernet switch.



Google Translate version:


One more switch to test: this time, it comes from China and combines the functions of network dispatcher and OCXO master clock in the same device.


After being able to try LHY Audio's OCK-2 clock, I was curious to discover the potential of the homemade switch. And then the idea of ​​being able to use a single device for the functions of external clock and network distribution was rather attractive. The OCXO clock from LHY Audio had already particularly impressed me with its exceptional value for money. What about the SW-10, which made its integration qualities pay by doubling the price?


The LHY brand is an acronym or abbreviation derived from Chinese, and means "Tiger Fish". It is difficult to establish a direct relationship between this carnivorous monster plying the African rivers and the world of digital audio, but the Asian analogies are sometimes curious and particularly hermetic… We will therefore not focus on the symbolism of the company name. Besides, LHY probably does not have a Raison d'Etre or a CSR roadmap.


LHY is a subsidiary of Jay's Audio, the maker of digital transports, CD players and D/A converters. Few literature is available about this group and its rise remains quite recent in Europe (even though its founder Jay Ho has been active in the hifi world for many years). LHY is the entity specializing in accessories: its catalog now includes the OCK-1 and OCK-2 external clocks, the SW-8 and SW-10 switches, the UBT-1 USB / Bluetooth and I2S interface, the LPS160VA linear power supply for computers and audio servers, and finally the BATT-1 battery power supply for accessories running on smartphone chargers.


But let's focus on the SW-10 switch, the subject of this test bench. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful object of this category that I could have in my hands, on a par perhaps with the Waversa SmartHub. It is true that this anodized aluminum case machined in the mass of water green color is quite unusual in the market of high fidelity devices, and gives the object a certain elegance, at the antipodes of the computer switches tweaked by certain sellers of audio accessories. It is clear that the livery alone cannot nevertheless justify the displayed price of $1,549 including tax.


But don't worry, what's under the hood of the device amply justifies the price charged. Indeed, the layout of the circuits inside the chassis is as neat as the external presentation. The case is divided into three zones: one for the alternating current power supply, one for the direct current part and the last for the signal processing circuits. For the upstream part, the power supply has EMI filtering and two 15VA Talema encapsulated transformers. The downstream part (DC) benefits from a rather qualitative regulation and recovery for this type of product.



The circuit of the Gigabit switch comes from the professional range of Cisco (CBS220-8T-E-2). It offers 8 Ethernet ports as well as two SFP ports for fiber optic connection. The SW-10 has a master clock input and a clock output, both 50 Ohms. The output allows you to synchronize an external source with the internal clock of the SW-10 switch or to resynchronize the input signal to the input of another device. The BNC input is adjustable in both sine and square mode via an internal selector, while the output returns a 50 Ohm square signal as standard. The 10 MHz OCXO clock used in the SW-10 is that of the OCK-2 associated with a very low noise PLL loop.


It's hard to do more than this switch offered by LHY Audio for audiophile use. The management of the multi-stage power supply, moreover separated for the clock part and the switch part, is a model of its kind. The two SFP ports are probably of limited interest for those who are not equipped with an optical router or who do not have a reader with an optical input. There remains of course the solution to go through an FMC (Fiber Media Converter) which allows to create an isolation between the switch and the router for example. But another, more drastic solution consists of connecting two SW-10s via their SFP port and creating total isolation between computer devices known to be noisy (connected to the first switch) and audio players (connected to the second switch). I have not tested this solution,


However, isolation by SFP port can be implemented by using a second, more basic computer switch dedicated to “noisy” devices, by connecting it via an FMC.


LHY does not have individual measurements or certificates for its devices. According to the manufacturer, the resources required, including the cost of a phase noise analyzer and the involvement of highly skilled engineers, would have a significant impact on the competitive selling price of the SW-10. The manufacturer nevertheless states that during its development phase, the SW-10 was meticulously tested and compared several times against competing master clocks whose phase noise is announced between -105 dBc/Hz and -118 dBc/Hz. In the opinion of LHY Audio engineers, the SW-10 stands out from these competitors in listening tests.


The Singaporean distributor of LHY products (Beatechnik Pte Ltd) also relativizes the importance of the specifications, which, while they provide an objective indication of the performance of the equipment, do not always come to guarantee the best listening results. I personally tend to believe that it is above all the diversity of technical parameters that means that a single phase noise measurement can prove to be clearly insufficient to characterize the performance of an external clock. Silent Angel's Genesis GX clock, reviewed in our previous issue, is a perfect illustration of this. Thus, LHY Audio's design work was done the old-fashioned way, ensuring that the choice of components corresponded to a real advance compared to other competing products. Of which act.


Listening impressions:


It is not easy to put a simple switch in competition with my set of three switches (Aqvox SE + double Silent Angel Bonn N16). The cascades of switches, if they seem to be pure audiophile DIY, have made a number of emulators and I get a lot of satisfaction from this reference system.


Out of the box, the LHY SW-10 did not revolutionize my digital audio system. It is one of the very good accessories, a bit like the Waversa SmartHub, with a lot of definition and clarity, but without this musicality and this saturation of timbres that characterizes my Aqvox / Silent Angel set. This is not really a surprise since this combination has so far stood up to all the other competitors that I have been able to oppose to it. This first observation is made using the SW-10 in its basic network splitter functionality, without using the clock input or output, and using the internal clock of my Esoteric readers.


My listening impressions varied significantly when I implemented the SW-10's master clock. Connecting my N-05XD network player to the master clock output of the LHY switch, there was a nice step forward in terms of clarity, soundstage breadth, and micro-dynamics. I haven't yet obtained the saturation level of the timbres of my personal cascade of switches, but the gain compared to the internal clock of the N-05XD or the K-03 is so clear that we don't want to return to this darker and less defined balance provided by the internal clock of my players and the Aqvox SE and Bonn N16 switches (in the specific case of the N-05XD).



The contribution of the clock of the SW-10 is clear in terms of relief of the soundstage which seemed almost crushed with the internal clock of the two readers. On the concerto for piano and wind instruments by Stravinsky (Bavouzet / Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra), the quality of timbres also progresses in an obvious way. The size of the stereo image is also larger with the SW-10 clock.


When I subsequently connected the BNC input of the LHY switch to the Cybershaft OP21 AD clock, tested in this same issue, the quality this time took a spectacular leap. I found all the tonal density that appealed to me so much in my combination of Aqvox SE / Bonn N16 switches, while going further in terms of detail, general finesse and dynamics. From memory, even the expensive Silent Angel NX switch could not achieve the level of quality associated with the in-house Genesis GX clock.


By directly connecting the N-05XD reader to the Cybershaft clock, while leaving the BNC input of the same switch connected to the OP21A-D, the difference seemed almost imperceptible to me. There is perhaps a little less level on the output of the OP21A-D compared to the SW-10, as well as greater smoothness. But we are there in very small gaps, disproportionate to previous comparisons. I deduce that the SW-10 can allow via its bypass to take advantage of the synchronization of a more prestigious clock than its internal unit, and to double the output of this external clock without affecting the sound quality! Rather useful when you already have a high-end clock with only one output! Same observation with the singer Norma Winstone on her album "Stories Yet To Tell": the LHY Audio switch delivers a very clean and detailed result. The harmonics of the piano, the fragility of the voice stand out very clearly. Klaus Gesing's bass clarinet is superbly articulated. By connecting the Cybershaft clock to the SW-10, however, we enter another dimension. Everything becomes more carnal, more organic. There is less of a feeling of emptiness between the different artists, but on the contrary there is a kind of natural continuity as if a holographic bubble were being created beyond the frame of the speakers. The timbres are more saturated, everything seems less artificial and the contribution of Cybershaft's high-end clock is, so to speak, increased tenfold.


Synchronizing the switch with the network drive seems to reduce jitter even more significantly than just processing the streamer alone. I wasn't fully convinced of the added value of simply synchronizing the switch with the master clock connected to the network drive. I had clearly perceived the contribution with the Silent Angel Bonn NX / Genesis GX set, but the cost still seemed high to me for the gain obtained.


In this case, the SW-10 switch very seriously moves the value for money slider into an ultra-competitive zone…


I was also able to test the interest that the two SFP ports can represent, by inserting a tp-link MC210CS FMC between the arrival of my router and the SW-10, as well as between my NAS and the SW-10. I specify from the outset that the quality of my electrical installation and the linear power supplies dedicated to my computer devices generally limit the interest in using this type of treatment. This is not necessarily the case for the majority, and I therefore want to emphasize that these findings relate to my personal system. As expected, the results weren't particularly positive, and the impact of the FMC in each case resulted in a slight loss of momentum and focus. So, the drums from Diana Reeves' band (Live album at the New Morning) sounded cleaner to me using the regular Ethernet RJ45 ports than using the fiber optic ports. The singer's voice also seemed to me more present, clearer and less distant by doing without SFP ports.


Conclusion:


The advantage of the SW-10 switch undeniably lies in the complementarity of its master clock module with its traditional network switch functions. At this price level, it is quite unusual to have such a successful and well-finished product in your hands.


I would also add that LHY Audio's top-of-the-range network splitter can be considered from two distinct angles:


– Firstly as a fully autonomous master clock and network switch. It thus gives excellent results by synchronizing your network player with the internal clock of the switch, while also being able to be connected to a CD player for use independent of its master clock function. For me, it's a value for money, for a switch equipped with an OCXO master clock, quite incredible.


– But the SW-10 can also be considered for its world clock input, thus making it possible to synchronize a particularly well-designed switch with a very high-end external clock. In this configuration, the impact of the external master clock on the overall performance of the digital audio system is all the greater. This is what prompted me to acquire my loan model. As it is impossible to test everything, it is difficult for me to say if another switch with world clock input could do as well, or even better. In this case, I did not have the opportunity to test the Cybershaft clock with the Bonn NX switch.


The fact remains that in terms of its overall performance, its versatility, and the asking price, the LHY SW-10 is one hell of a deal, and fully deserves a Grand Frisson 2023.




Credit: Joël CHEVASSUS @ Audiophile-Magazine



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