Wireless

Monster PowerNet 200 and 300 Kits for Audio and Video Streaming Through Your House AC Wiring

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In Use

The main area where my home theater was struggling was with streaming audio. While mp3 is fairly easy to stream since it's a small bitrate, I have my entire library ripped as FLAC files, and to stream those to most of my devices in the home theater, they have to be converted to uncompressed WAV or LPCM first (I use Asset UPnP to accomplish this). At CD quality, that means I am streaming 1.4 Megabits/second (Mbit/sec) and need to be able to maintain that speed as a minimum to avoid pauses and drops. The chart below shows you the bandwidth that is required to be able to stream various types of media across a network. My wireless configuration consists of a Linksys WRT310N router, using WPA2/AES for security and running on Channel 1, and a Linksys WRT54G router in the home theater operating in bridged mode to connect the components that have Ethernet jacks. Measurements were made using a laptop connected via Ethernet to the router and the PowerNet 300 and bandwidth was measured using JPerf 2.0.2 from the laptop to the meda server PC, which is connected directly to the Linksys WRT310N via gigabit Ethernet. All numbers are done in Mbit/sec as this is what all networking products are rated in.

Monster PowerNet Kit

When I measured my wireless bandwidth of my existing setup, I was managing to get around 6.7 Mbit/sec with a single stream, and around 8.0 Mbit/sec when running 5 streams at once Running multiple streams will let you see what your total bandwidth is for the connection, but each device will only be able to use a single stream typically, so if you need 1.4 Mbit/sec for lossless audio, then you will need that for a single stream and not for the 5 stream data. This 6.7 Mbit/sec number was enough to download from my cable modem at full speed, and while it looks to be enough for streaming audio, I still suffered drops on all three receivers and preamps that I had tested. This number looked to be accurate to me based on my performance, and you can see that when you have lots of interference around, an 802.11g network might not get close to the rated 54 Mbit/sec performance that you expect.

Monster PowerNet Kit

Monster PowerNet Kit

Once I moved devices over to the PowerNet 300, I noticed that I was no longer having any drops when streaming audio files from the server, and the testing backed up these results. My single stream numbers jumped up to 16.2 Mbit/sec, which is more than enough bandwidth for uncompressed audio and even for streaming a DVD from a media server. When running multiple streams, I was able to get up to 45.6 Mbit/sec of bandwidth, so even if I was streaming audio, my TiVo was downloading updated program listings, and my PlayStation 3 was downloading a game demo in the background, I should still have more than enough bandwidth to handle that without any audio drops. This was quite impressive, and better than I had actually expected to get with powerline Ethernet.

Monster PowerNet Kit

Monster PowerNet Kit

After having the PowerNet solution setup this way for a month, we needed to move my wife's office to a different room in our condo, and this meant that the server and network would be moving as well, going from a guest bedroom to the master bedroom. The wireless router and PowerNet adapter would still be about the same physical distance from the home theater, but it would travel over a different route to get there, and so I would need to test if this would impact performance.

When I tested the wireless network again, I saw a bit of an improvement in performance. I was able to get 12.1 Mbit/sec for a single stream, and around 14.2 Mbit/sec for multiple streams. Given that this speed was almost double what the previous wireless speed was, I imagine this would be sufficient for streaming wireless audio, but most likely would still have issues with some video stream.

Monster PowerNet Kit

Monster PowerNet Kit

Next, I was on to try to PowerNet setup again. I noticed that on the PowerNet 200 adapter, my Network Speed indicator had gone from Green in the previous location, to Red in the current location. Since the PowerNet 300 had consistantly shown Orange but still managed a good connection, I wasn't too worried about this. However, when I went to test I found that this made a big difference. My single stream speed dropped to 10.7 Mbit/sec, or almost worse than the wireless connection! My multiple stream speed maxed out at around 16.5 Mbit/sec, which was 3x slower than it had been in the previous location, and no longer sufficient for streaming audio or video without the fear of drops, as well as making multitasking unlikely.

Monster PowerNet Kit

Monster PowerNet Kit

What most likely happened is that when I switched rooms, I changed where in the fuse box these circuits were wired, and if you have to jump across the fuse box with your PowerLine solution, then performance can really suffer. This is made worse by the fact that in homes build after 2001, this is required for bedrooms as a safety regulation. If your PowerNet devices are not going to be located in a bedroom, then this might not be an issue, but it is something to keep in mind. Talking to Monster about my issue, they said it could also be caused by some other device on the powerline in the bedroom that is sending back a lot of noise (such as a motor from a vacuum cleaner, or a poorly designed lamp) and polluting the electrical signal. Monster recommends trying to see if you can find what is causing this line interference and either plugging that device directly into the PowerNet adapter so it's filtered away, or Monster will be coming out with individual filters in the future that will prevent this electrical noise from making it back onto the electrical wiring.

Monster PowerNet Kit