USB Cable Shootout

The Contenders
Audioquest Diamond USB Cable
Price: $695 for 1.5 meter
Website: www.audioquest.com

Synergistic Research USB Active SE Cable with Enigma Tuning Circuits
Price: $595 1 meter; Upgrade Active Shield Power Supply-Galileo MPC $400
Website: www.synergisticresearch.com

Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB Cable
Price: 599.95 for 1 meter
Website: www.wireworldcable.com

The topic of audiophile USB cables seems to elicit endless debate from computer audio enthusiasts. Many heated arguments have taken place at internet audio forums arguing the merits of these cables. There are those that feel that the improvements heard by using an upgraded USB cable versus a standard Belkin printer cable are purely imaginary.

I feel that significant differences in sound do exist with these three audiophile cables when compared to my Belkin Gold USB cable. I have yet to hear a single USB DAC that is immune to the effects of USB interconnect cables. Apparently I’m not alone in this belief. Most of the manufacturers of high end audiophile cables now offer USB cables that they feel offer significant improvements in sound quality over the standard USB printer cable.

I have chosen three well known cable manufacturers for their top-of-the-line USB products. All of these cables support the USB Audio Class 2 High Speed specification standard necessary for satisfactory reproduction up to 384kHz/24 files. The three cables auditioned have unique designs that result in different sonic characteristics.

As I began listening to these cables, I discovered that there was no clear super-star among them. While they all were good sounding, different DACs sounded best with certain cables. I know that many of you, including the manufacturers aren’t going to like this. After all, it’s my job to proclaim a winner and make a recommendation for what you should purchase. The problem is that the real world doesn’t work like this.

I listened to 5 different DACs with each of these cables in the hopes of discovering and identifying the particular sonic characteristics of the cables. I also wanted to see if there were synergistic relationships between the different DACs and a particular cable. The DACs used were the Wavelength Crimson Denominator/Silver, the AcousticPlan DigiMaster with PowerMaster supply, the Playback Designs MPS-3, The Light Harmonic Da Vinci, and the MSB Technology The Analog DAC.

General Cable Descriptions

Audioquest Diamond USB Cable
The Diamond is Audioquest’s best USB cable offering in their family of 5 USB cables. 100% solid silver wires with Audioquest’s Perfect Surface technology are utilized in this design. The patented Dielectric Bias System with a battery providing 72 volts that is applied to the Solid High Density Polyethylene insulation resulting in minimization of energy storage in the insulation and multiple nonlinear time-delays that degrade cable performance. Audioquest states that the battery will last for years since the negative terminal of the battery is connected to a center cable and the positive to the bias shield with no closed circuit. Audiquest provides a test button-LED to perform periodic battery checks. The connectors have direct silver plating. Audioquest states that their cable has been tested to support the USB 2.0 High Speed specification.

Synergistic Research USB Active SE Cable with Enigma Tuning Circuits
The Active SE cable is Synergistic Research’s 2nd generation USB cable and the first to offer their Active Shielding. The Active Shielding is a closed circuit that applies DC current with a buffer circuit between the shield and ground and separate conductors carrying the ground signal. Synergistic feels that the Active Shield reduces noise and improves frequency extension with enhanced detail. The power for the Active Shield is provided by a supplied MPC (Mini Power Coupler). Fine tuning of this cable is possible with the supplied 2 Enigma Tuning Bullets. These small devices attach to the cable enabling one to “fine tune” the sound of the cable. The Grey Bullet is the standard to start with and is considered to be neutral while the Silver Bullet adds high end extension. A Black bullet is available for those that desire a warmer sound. Synergistic Research offers an upgraded MPC for an additional $400 that is called the Galileo. The Galileo is totally rebuilt with upgraded components that are designed to improve all aspects of the Active Shielding. I was provided both the MPC and Galileo MPC for comparisons in this review.

There is a new power supply offered by Synergistic Research called the Transporter. I’ve been told the Transporter is even better sounding than the Galileo MPC. It can power the following:

  • 14 outputs for Active AC Power Cords
  • 20 outputs for Active Interconnects, Speaker Cables, Tranquility Bases, and Galileo Universal Cable Cells

Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB Cable
The Platinum Starlight USB cable uses 6 solid silver wires wound in Wireworld’s DNA Helix (patent pending) conductor geometry that claims to preserve sqarewaves nearly perfectly. The cable is flat with physical separation of the signal conductors from the power conductor allowing Wireworld cables to support longer distances than typical USB cables. Wireworld also claims that all of their USB models exceed the USB 2.0 High Speed specification. Beautiful carbon fiber connection plugs are used with gold plated contacts. Wireworld’s explanation:

“The DNA Helix™ design maximizes transmission speed while minimizing noise, thus reducing digital jitter to provide substantial overall improvements in sound quality. Another special feature of the cable is a power conductor that is fully isolated from the signal conductors to preserve signal purity.”
The Sound

The Audioquest Diamond
The Audioquest Diamond’s greatest sonic attribute is its extreme smoothness in the midrange and high end that at the same time, is detailed and very revealing. The Diamond is not a warm sounding cable nor does it roll off transients. Bass is well defined with a very slight fullness of the real thing. The soundstage is large with excellent width and depth.

The Diamond excelled at separating complex musical passages with multiple instruments and voices. It always delivered a detailed, but relaxed presentation.

The Wavelength Crimson Denominator Silver and the Playback Designs MPS-3 mated beautifully with the Diamond. The Diamond brought out the best from these two DACS and was my personal choice for these DACs.

The Wireworld Platinum Starlight
Wireworld appears to be correct when they state that their cable not only minimizes jitter, but does not round off square waves. The Platinum Starlight is the ‘fastest” sounding of the three cables reviewed, and offers outstanding definition and resolution. Subtle dynamic shadings are beautifully rendered as well as macro and micro dynamic changes. The pace and rhythm of this cable was exemplary and probably, in my opinion, second to none. Bass reproduction was the best controlled and tightest of the three cables reviewed. The soundstage rendition was, like the Audioquest Diamond, wide and deep. The Platinum was excellent at unraveling complex music passages.

The Platinum is not a bright cable nor is it ever hard sounding. It does not add warmth or add excessive smoothness to the sound. This is one revealing cable that will allow one to hear all the detail present on a recording.

The AcousticPlan DigiMaster and the Light Harmonic Da Vinci sounded wonderful with the Platinum Starlight. The relaxed presentation of these two DACs was preserved with richness to the sound. The Da Vinci, probably the most revealing DAC I have yet experienced, loved the transient speed and detail of the Platinum Starlight. The extreme black quiet background of the Da Vinci was complemented by the Platinum Starlight as was the magnificent soundstage reproduction.

The Synergistic Research USB Active SE with Enigma Tuning Circuits
I saved this cable for last as it is the most complex of the three cables to review and a bit of a sonic chameleon. The choice of the standard MPC or Galileo MPC and the 3 Enigma Tuning Circuits offer a variety of available sonic presentations.

The sonic characteristic of this cable that stuck with me the most was the richness of sound and analog character of the cable. The midrange of this cable can sound absolutely beautiful and revealing at the same time. Sound staging was not only wide, but extremely deep in presentation. The deep black background offered by this cable is very impressive. The Synergistic was never hard sounding or excessively rounded at the high end. Transients were well reproduced with excellent dynamics both macro and micro. The bass was well defined and not overly lean.

The standard MPC delivered the above qualities, but the cable really bloomed with the Galileo MPC. The Galileo offered a larger soundstage, deeper black background, and superior resolution and detail compared to the standard MPC.

At first I was put off by the Enigma Tuning Circuits as I felt Synergistic Research should decide how their cable should sound. But as I played with the Silver and Grey Tuning bullets, I came to really enjoy employing this feature. The Silver bullet offered a lighter, quicker sound with the largest soundstage. The Grey bullet offered a richer, slightly warmer sound that did not roll off the high end, but seemed to reduce hardness if present. The Black bullet was definitely darker or warmer sounding at the expense of a slight amount of detail reproduction. Using these 3 tuning devices offered one the ability to get the most out of the cable.

The DAC that sounded the best with the Synergistic Research USB Active SE was the MSB Technology The Analog DAC. Without giving away my upcoming review of The Analog DAC, let’s just say this DAC loved the Synergistic USB cable. The soundstage was absolutely the best with this cable as was the delivery of a dynamic defined bass. The rich revealing midrange of the Synergistic was a perfect mate with The Analog DAC. The Silver Enigma bullet brought out the best high end detail and largest soundstage of the three cables when used with The Analog DAC.

Conclusions
I am certain that any one of these cables would satisfy the vast majority of audiophiles. But I hope I have made it clear that there is a matching process that can elevate and enhance the performance of a given DAC. I was very impressed with the sonic performance I was able to obtain from the five DACs tested when the “best” USB cable match was found. Auditioning these cables with your DAC, while time consuming, will be well rewarded.

In the future, all of my DAC reviews will include my choice of the preferred sounding USB cable. Hopefully, this will offer a starting point for our readers to explore what is possible with their particular DAC.

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COMMENTS
vasu's picture

What's the point of doing a shoot out when the obvious outcome ALWAYS is to "try all of them on your own and pick the best for your system." Since you guys think that your not in the business of picking winners and losers, why not just give a general description of the product and come to the same conclusion of trying them all and picking whichever suits one's system the best.

tbrads's picture

that is, a "best of the bunch" for that DAC.  Steve decided to do this comparison with multiple DACs, and the conclusion was that each DAC mated well with a different cable.  That is not unusual, nor should it be derided.  This hobby is all about synergy, and I, for one, appreciate the helpfulness of having these combos called out.

I personally use, for the last 18 months, the Wireworld Platinum for my Meitner MA-1.  I may even try the SR cable based on this reveiw (although the Platinum has done a great job).

Well done, doc.

Ted

hotsoup's picture

This is why I skip the usb cable and wifi straight to the squeezetouch

meraklya's picture

It's very hard to be subjective when reviewing things like USB cables. Unless the cable is out of spec, there are probably few differences to be heard.

That's where imagination and creativity has to come into play.

I quit reading a certain audio magazine after they reviewed an ethernet cable and said it made a difference in a busy rack. The crooks should have bothered to study TCP/IP a bit first.

tbrads's picture

USB cables definitely sound different, based on their architecture and quality of materials.  You see, in delivering a Microsft Word document across USB there is no penalty for timing errors or noise on the line (from the 5V often used by DACs); for realtime audio that is another thing all together.  If you don't hear USB cable differences your system is not up to task. 

meraklya's picture

There will always be some kinds of buffers employed, software or hardware, especially on the receiving end. Re-assembly and audio clocking will take place from that buffer, using the ones and zeros from the sending end, which if they are to be bit perfect, are going to represent the exact original source audio file.

Rich Davis's picture

What I would like to see is some measurement tests to PROVE the difference in cables before i spend excessive amounts of money on cabling.  I don't have a problem spending a little more on analog cables because I know and can hear those differences, but it still would be nice to see measurement tests so we can look at how much better one cable is over the other.

I'm all about objectivity first, subjectivity second.

What destroys the credibility of the audio industry is not enough objective measurements testing these subtle differences and being able to compare by these measurements.

Most people aren't going to spend money and time trying to get thousands or tens of thousands of dollars worth of cables to test in their own environment and relying on magazine reviews is difficult when there are no measurement tests provided.

junker's picture

USB Audio is not packet based, so timing errors from either external interference , internal reflections, or signal rounding could increase jitter. It also carries 5V power next to the differential data conductors so that could be a consideration.

-----------

Thank you for the review. Digital cables can alays be a bit controverisal, but I beleive there is a much more significant difference than many people realize. Just need to listen to hear it. That being said I was hoping this article would have been a bit more helpful. Seemed to equivocate everything, pitted nothing against each other, and seemed to make no actionable conclusions other than one should test every cable with every DAC. It would take $2k to test these 3 cables in described lengths. :/

It is confusing to me, to consider a cable "smooth" yet "detailed" (even though I have a solid core XLR cable that is this way) and "not warm" yet "slight fullness to bass". Almost wish there was a checklist and score to more easily compare against specific metrics, even if it was say characteristic in the y-axis and DAC used in the x-axis. not easy to describe subtle differences in sound quality that is for sure but maybe something like this could help?

Also, I would have like to seen more USB cables in the shoot-out - maybe 10. That is what HiFi UK did in the past. Prior to the review I was hoping to have Kimber included in this comparison and requested it in the comments. They make a fine 100% silver cable at a better price point than these cables, and now have introduced a hand-made Kimber Select model that has me very interested.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/kimber-kables-new-usb-cables

Unfortunately, in the current state of hi-fi good luck finding a shop, much less in house trial. And forget a multi-cable, multi-DAC shootout. Too combinatorial! Interested in using one of the on-line stores that will let one "check-out" cables from their library. What a great idea. Then, we can listen, compare to this review, and decide for ourselves with our own equipment and tastes.

Thanks for the review Steven.

Eddee's picture

USB audio is indeed packet based. Each device has a unique address and a structrured protocol that is packet based is used for communication with the devices. 4 differrent mechanisms exist for data transfer depedning on the device and it has a robust error recovery mechanism to prevent bit loss. 

I could believe jitter as an issue as its present in all electronic circuits. if its a problem I would assume that its casued by a physical problem with the usb port or the cable. I honestly can't see how any digital based cable can alter the properties of sound when it  is strictly a bunch of ones and zeros going up and down a pipe and there are mechanisms in place to ensure fidelity at both ends of the pipe. I would like to see a electrical engineer weigh in this - one that isnt part of a company selling audio products.

FYI, I work in the IT industry and I have a pretty broad backgound in dealing with networking and cabling including understanding and decoding packet based protocols. There is nothing new or different here regardless of the application. If you would like more info I can dig out the structure for the various types of packets ( theres 4 I think).

Rich Davis's picture

No, digital is not a bunch of 1's and 0's, they are electronic pulses to REPRESENT a 1 or a 0, but they are still electronic pulses and noise can affect whether the pulse that represents a 1 or 0 is going to continue down that cable and end up the same as it did on the other end.  The other aspect is timing.  I've heard that least significant bit loss might also be a problem in some cables.

There is the quality of the shielding to reject noise, there is the quality of the cable to allow for high speed consisten flow of data.  Every cable company designs their cables differently, the problem is showing the test results to PROVE that one cable performs better than another.  some of us would like measurements that PROVE a difference that will result in a difference in QoS.

I did a little test, for $hits and grins.  I bought several different high end USB 2.0 cables and an El Cheapo cable and then performed USB disk drive tests on an external USB hard drive.   Did they all have relatively the same speed tests using the same drive with different cables?  NOPE.  I know this doesn't test anything for sound quality, but it tests for transfer speed, so as a result, there was a difference in transfer speed between 3 cables that i tested.  Kind of surprised me.  It also doesn't mean that a better performing cable for transferring data faster on an USB drive means it's going to sound better.   Obviously, the cable has to be able to transfer at proper speed rates, but it also has to do it without causing too many changes in the data. 

What we need to see is a comparison test between the original file audio signals and what differences there are at the other end of the cable.  If they can show that, then that might be one test to show file differences.  I think Wireworld has that comparison test on their website if my memory serves me.

I also read an article from one the the high end DAC mfg and they said that a lot of USB cables just didn't even work with their 24/384  DSD DACs and they had to design a split USB cable to separate the power and the data signals away from one another.  There are several mfg of split USB cables and i can see that that might be an excellent way to remove noise from the power cables away from the data cables within a USB cable.  I have an iFi Gemini cable and it seems to do pretty good and it wasn't overly expensive for a high end USB cable.

Eddee's picture

USB audio is indeed packet based. Each device has a unique address and a structured protocol that is packet based for communication with the devices. 4 different mechanisms exist for data transfer depending on the device and it has a robust error recovery mechanism to prevent bit loss. 

I could believe jitter as an issue as its present in all electronic circuits. if its a problem I would assume that its casued by a physical problem with the usb port or the cable. I honestly can't see how any digital based cable can alter the properties of sound when it  is strictly a bunch of ones and zeros going up and down a pipe and there are mechanisms in place to ensure fidelity at both ends of the pipe. I would like to see a electrical engineer weigh in this - one that isnt part of a company selling audio products.

FYI, I work in the IT industry and I have a pretty broad backgound in dealing with networking and cabling including understanding and decoding packet based protocols. There is nothing new or different here regardless of the application. If you would like more info I can dig out the structure for the various types of packets ( theres 4 I think).

junker's picture

You are technically correct in that there are packets. My point is that with isochronous transfers there is no retry or guaranty of delivery in the way that you would find with other transfer types, or something like TCP/IP.

Unfortunately, there is NO "robust error recovery mechanism to prevent bit loss" with this transfer method.

http://www.beyondlogic.org/usbnutshell/usb4.shtml

"Isochronous transfers occur continuously and periodically. They typically contain time sensitive information, such as an audio or video stream. If there were a delay or retry of data in an audio stream, then you would expect some erratic audio containing glitches. The beat may no longer be in sync. However if a packet or frame was dropped every now and again, it is less likely to be noticed by the listener.

    • Isochronous Transfers provide
      • Guaranteed access to USB bandwidth.
      • Bounded latency.
      • Stream Pipe - Unidirectional
      • Error detection via CRC, but no retry or guarantee of delivery.
      • Full & high speed modes only.
      • No data toggling"

Also keep in mind that a digital signal transmission is effectively the same as an analog transmission. The electrons in the conductor do not see any difference. And the 0 is flagged as a 1 when it approximately crosses the 0V on a pseudo-square wave with a specific rise-time on the nS time scale.

There is definitely cable-induced jitter and a good overview of the mechanisms can be found here:

http://www.audiophilleo.com/docs/Dunn-AP-tn23.pdf

http://www.tnt-audio.com/clinica/jitter1_e.html

 

I usually like to use as short of a cable as I can get away with. Currently, I am using a 0.5m cable and would consider going even shorter if my equipment permitted.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I appreciate your comments. When I first started out with this review, I used one DAC and had the kind of results that you are asking for. The only problem was was when I listened to another DAC, my conclusions were no longer the same. 

And yes, the Audioquest is smooth-relaxed sounding but detailed. Other reviewers have felt the same way:

"AudioQuest's Diamond USB is the ne plus ultra of USB cables. When Robert Harley dropped it into his iMac/Berkeley Alpha USB/Berkeley Alpha DAC system, he heard a startling increase in resolution accompanied, paradoxically, by greater ease and warmth." - The Absolute Sound, January 2012 

I could go on, but I think you get where I'm coming from.

I will no doubt review other cables in the future. But how I go about it is yet to be decided.

Truth be told, it is much easier to review a DAC than USB cables!

Thanks for reading my review,

Steve

Rich Davis's picture

the cables you compare measured so we can see how they perform from an objective measurement standpoint, since subjectivity will change drastically from person to person and from system to system.  What works for one person doesn't for another.  

I always like Stereophile mag because they did a lot of measurement tests in addition to the subjective tests and I think that tradition should be consistent for AudioStream and the other magazines that is part of the Stereophile group.  Having objective measurements to PROVE these differences adds credibility to these VERY expensive products.

christopher3393's picture

Thanks for this review. You point out the complexity without getting neurotic about it. You use reference or near reference components, which allows you to characterize results when things are near their best. Artificially reducing the final plurality of results doesn't really provide much of a service in my opinion. I have no problems with any review that shows care in selecting and listening, and then tells it like it is the best it can at the time it's written. That's what I see here.

I am wondering if there was a combination or 2 that you liked best overall and some description of the experience of listening to that combination? 

I'm also wondering about the rest of your components for this test?

And I just want to add that I can't afford the equiptment in this review, so I always like to kindly request consideration of a best value shootout with more mid-level priced but "near" reference performance components! But maybe that's a task for someone else.

Thanks again,

Christopher

Steven Plaskin's picture

Here is my setup Christopher:

http://www.audiostream.com/content/steve-plaskin

I am wondering if there was a combination or 2 that you liked best overall and some description of the experience of listening to that combination? 

The Analog DAC review scheduled for release this week should answer this question.

Steve

 

 

 

jim tavegia's picture

Very informative and made it clear that the dac in question can mate better with certain cables. This is not that much unlike those who prefer 110 ohm digital cables vs the old 75 ohm standard.  

 

This may be that try before you buy is important.  DSD may also be more revealing in timber. 

earwaxxer's picture

I totally expect a review like this one when it comes to wire. Its not a slam dunk affair. There is a 'synergy' that occurs with various pieces of kit. Nothing wrong with that. People need to be patient and open minded. I have the Audioquest Carbon. I like it, and I wont replace it anytime soon, if ever. I guess there are bigger fish out there...

Priaptor's picture

Steve,

You have peaked my interest in the Synergistic Cable as I am using an MSB Diamond DAC and if I read between the lines you like it most with the Analog.

I may just give it shot as I am now using an Audioquest Diamond

Thanks.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Priaptor,

 

Be sure to try the Galileo MPC with the Synergistic USB cable. It makes a big difference-at least for me.

Wavelength's picture

Gang,

It's not any reviewers goal for you to make a decision based on what he heard. Go spend some time and make a logical decision for your system because what you listen to and your system you have.

~~~~~

Jitter, remember this is not audio related jitter error, this is jitter induced data errors.

~~~~~

Originally I thought USB cables were immune to the problems that SPDIF cables had. Then with more thought I realized they weren't. There are basically 4 factors for which cables ... I think (remember here the word "I") make a difference in my testing and observation:

1) Data integrity. The damn thing has to pass data in both directions without fail.

2) Noise reduction. The cable has to have the ability to push back the computer noise instead of passing or enhancing it towards the dac.

3) Be able to supply the 5V power and not effect the data pair when doing so.

4) Turnaround time... Cable designers in audio have for so long designed uni-directional data cables (i.e. one direction). USB is bidirectional cable and therefore overhang as we call it will cause data errors when going from receive to transmit mode. This can cause pops and clicks in asynchronous dacs because the host computer is not seeing the feedback pipe.

I have seen a lot of cables so far... I think there is still more to learn here.

Thanks,

Gordon

judmarc's picture

I honestly can't see how any digital based cable can alter the properties of sound when it  is strictly a bunch of ones and zeros going up and down a pipe.

FYI, I work in the IT industry and I have a pretty broad backgound in dealing with networking and cabling

 

Strange, I thought they were electrons rather than ones and zeros.

Little thought experiment: USB cable, no music playing.  *Very* electrically noisy power out of the computer.  Electrical connection through USB to DAC, from there to the rest of the system.  Can the noise make it through the electrical cable to the DAC circuitry through power and possibly ground, and from there to the analog side of the system?  Sure.  Now play some music.  There will be a digital bitstream running through the USB cable.  Does this magically make the USB cable no longer an electrical connection and thus no longer subject to electrical noise?  Nope.  A USB cable is an electrical connection carrying network data (as well as power), and is subject to the same laws of physics, and thus the same potential for noise problems coming through it into the analog side of the rest of the system, as any other electrical cable.

Yes, if there's so much noise it disrupts the data transmission protocol, you'll get dropouts or loss of lock, which are plainly audible.  ("Plainly audible" is an understatement re loss of lock - it sounds like a waterfall of harsh static which will cause you to shoot up out of your seat and dive for the stereo to turn it off.)  But short of those eventualities, noise can still come through the cable into the rest of the system.

Even with an async USB DAC, this noise might conceivably affect the DAC's clocking circuitry (which times the data out of the DAC's buffer), thus potentially making jitter worse.  I don't know for a fact that this can happen (though I've read as much from folks who are usually reliable), just raising it as a possibility.  I'd guess Gordon would know a lot more.

robpriore's picture

USB cables don't matter in my rig.  So long as the cable is not damaged and can transfer data my stuff is bit perfect.  

My computer to DAC interface ensures that what gets to my DAC is as good as it can be.

There may be something to cables that work to reduce computer line noise, thus improving sound quality, if you're relying on a low end computer to DAC interface.

In my understanding, and having tested a few USB DAC's, most computer to DAC interfaces built into DAC's are of the low end type and ostensibly would benefit by a USB cable designed to reduce noise.

reverendo's picture

Hi there,

I just compared the exact same cables, but without the Galileo. The major differece was that I didn't sense any loss of detail with the black Enigma bullet.

Here's my comparison:

Best regards

André

Keremz's picture

I believe when making a comparison or writing a review all but one of the components should be constant. If we try to jiggle around with all the variables the results will not only be endless but also impossible to make sense. We all know that synergy is very important but theres no way a component can be reviewed with thousands of different units at the same time. 

From your review it seems like SR cable is the best way to go as you can adjust the sound to your system and/or to your liking. Infact same goes for all SR cables.

Steven Plaskin's picture

The actual reviewing was done over a 6 month period. As I reviewed different DACs, I tried the 3 cables. The procedure was to review a DAC, and note the sonics of the 3 cables with it.

IndianEars's picture

CONGRATULATIONS ! Steve.

A superb review for which clearly you spent far more time than what the mere word count would infer.

I Really appreciated the Sonic characteristics that you brought out for each of he cable.

If only other reviews by the Hi Fi press were as informative....

FANTASTIC Job. Cheers !   yes

boulderskies's picture

I enjoyed reading this review. Its obvious Steven spent some time carefully mixing and matching components and listening to the results. His attention to detail shows. A couple of things come to mind:

* This review to me was not a USB cable comparison. It was one man's considered opinion of different USB/DAC combinations. Period. If it were a USB cable review, three cables would have been connected in turn to one DAC so that difference in the CABLES could be determined. As it is now, we honestly dont know specifically which cables have which consistent charateristics because those characteristics could have changed according to the different DACS connected to them.

* The review and none of the comments I've read so far mentions the physical properties of copper, silver and insulation used in the cables. Even those of us with only a basic understanding of cabling know that silver and copper lend very different properties to sound by nature of their efficiency in transmitting electrons. Different insulations provide different degrees of insulation between digital data and power electrons and also apparently store data somehow. In short, there was little if any discussion of the physical properties of each cable and how they contributed to sound.

In closing, I would like to suggest a factual article on USB. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding on this technology.

Steven, I dont want my comments to detract from the obvious care you took in putting together this review. As I said at the outset, it was great reading.

Scott

Steven Plaskin's picture

This review to me was not a USB cable comparison. It was one man's considered opinion of different USB/DAC combinations. Period. If it were a USB cable review, three cables would have been connected in turn to one DAC so that difference in the CABLES could be determined. As it is now, we honestly dont know specifically which cables have which consistent charateristics because those characteristics could have changed according to the different DACS connected to them.

The characteristics of the cables that I described were those sound qualities that remained consistent across the different DACs used. The problem in listening to just one DAC is that you will prefer the complimenatry sounding cable and not necessarily be describing the actual universal sound of the cable. Each one of the DACs I used probably differ in their ability to surpress noise from the computer.

lwin's picture

  I borrowed the same 3 cables form the cable company and I had a Cardas Clear on hand. My dac is the PS Audio MII. My preamp is a Cary SLP-05 with a pair or Cary 211 AE's driving Martin Logan Summit speakers.The reason I listed my gear is it definetly has an impact on the cable tried with it. I know a lot of reviewers liked the Wireworld but to me it was the least enjoyable in my system. The Cardas sounded better then the Wireworld. The Audioquest & the Synergistic Research kicked it up a notch or two.The two of them had a bigger detailed soundstage with better dynamics and realism. I ended up purchasing the Synergistic Research because it was just a little better then the Audioquest.I know the author of the article has taken some hits for not pickiing a clearcut winner but like him I think the cables will sound different depending on your system. You can borrow all these cables from the cable company who will only charge you 5% of the list price & you get your money back if you purchase anything. In my shootout there were 2 winners the Synergistic Research & the Cardas because it is a lot less expensive then the other 3.I sold it to a friend who was using a Belden & he was delighted with the improvement.

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