Wireworld Starlight Cat8 Ethernet Cable

Device Type: Ethernet Cable
Availability: Wireworld Cable Technology Dealers
Versions: STE (Standard Termination), SCE (Crossover Termination). STE versions were used in this review. SCE Crossover cables are used to connect 2 computers together or 2 or more switches together
Price: $210.00 / 1 meter , $270 / 2 meter length
Website: www.wireworldcable.com

Wireworld has recently released a new Ethernet Cable called the Starlight Cat8 Ethernet Cable. David Salz, chief designer at Wireworld, contacted me back in October and asked if I would be interested in evaluating his new Ethernet cable. I could tell that this cable just might be something very special given the excitement I detected in his writing.

The Starlight Cat8 Ethernet Cable supports Category 8 transmission speeds in a flat design that also provides great flexibility and ease of use. The Starlight Cat8 has a patent pending Tite-Shield™ design that uses triple-shielded 23 gauge conductors in a cable that is just a tenth of an inch thick. This new cable design has also simplified assembly with Wireworld’s shielded RJ-45 plugs.

The Design
David Salz provided us this information concerning the design of his new Cat8 Ethernet Cable:

The Category 7 cabling standard was created to satisfy the demands of 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Even though media networks tend to run below that speed, cables that support higher speeds have been found to improve the quality of audio and video streaming. Those improvements are possible because streamed signals suffer from data errors that cannot be repaired by the error correction systems that preserve normal file transfers. The proposed standard for future networks is Category 8, which will support speeds of 40 Gigabits per second.

Category 8 performance is difficult to achieve with conventional shielded twisted pair designs. The primary challenge is minimizing crosstalk (mixing) between the four signal channels. To control crosstalk, conventional cables twist the four pairs of conductors and use one foil shield on each pair. An overall two-layer shield reduces outside interference. Twisting the conductors reduces crosstalk, but it also tends to make the conductor lengths uneven, which causes timing errors called skew.

Furthermore, conventional twisted pair high speed Ethernet cables are also quite stiff. The conductors in Wireworld’s Tite-Shield design are not twisted at all. Instead, they are arranged as four parallel channels with a dense three-layer shield on each conductor pair. These shields isolate the four channels so effectively that twisting is not required and conductor length differences are eliminated. This patent pending flat design minimizes both crosstalk and skew, providing leading edge performance, simplified assembly and excellent installation flexibility. The cable also utilizes Wireworld’s proprietary Composilex 2 insulation to minimize triboelectric noise, which is especially helpful when used in vibration prone home theater environments.

Conventional round high-speed Ethernet cables are stiff and require special tools to assemble. They also can’t bend around sharp turns without losing performance and any excess length creates large coils. In contrast, Starlight CAT8 Ethernet is a flat flexible cable that fits under carpets, bends around corners, coils effortlessly and can be assembled with a simple wire cutter or knife. Starlight Ethernet also has a fresh new look in a bold red color that complements high tech décor. As network speeds have increased, the cables that can keep up have become stiffer and more difficult to install. Wireworld developed the Starlight Category 8 Ethernet cable to overcome those issues with a flat flexible design that goes where you want and is also easy to assemble. With next generation performance and versatility, Starlight Ethernet provides consumers and IT professionals with new installation options and lasting value.

Specifications:

  • Design: Tite-Shield Technology: 100 Ohms
  • Signal Conductors: 23AWG | 0.26 sq. mm
  • Conductor material: Silver-clad OFC
  • Insulation: Composilex 2
  • Plug Contacts: 24K Gold-plated
  • Two Versions: STE (Standard Termination) and SCE (Crossover Termination}
Associated Computer Components
I employed a new Asus G701VI laptop running Windows 10 Pro 64 / AudiophileOptimizer to run Roon Server and act as my Roon Core to stream to a Sonore microRendu. The Asus G701VI possesses an overclockable Intel Core i7 6820HK processor with 32 GB DDR4 2400Mhz SDRAM and a very fast PCIe Gen3 X4 NVMe SSD. This laptop has 3 USB 3.0 ports as well as a Thunderbolt port (USB type- C). An NVIDIA GeoForce GTX1080 with 8 GB VRAM processes video. This powerful video processor allows significant CUDA offload processing for the HQPlayer. The Asus laptop was plugged into a Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center to firewall the noise generated by this computer from contaminating my AC line.

The Asus Core was remotely controlled by an iPad Air 2 that replicated all of the functions of the standard Roon program. I also used the Roon Server to stream to the on-board Signalyst HQPlayer with all files converted to DSD256, which in turn, were streamed to the microRendu powered by the Sonore Signature Series Power Supply.

The Asus was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF grounded with the Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block as was the computer. A G-Technology 16 TB G|RAID Thunderbolt 2 / USB 3 drive was connected to the Asus with an AudioQuest Coffee Thunderbolt cable. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive was powered by an HDPlex 100w linear power supply plugged into a Shunyata Denali power conditioner. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive and its HDPlex power supply were placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base. The Sonore microRendu and its Signature Series Power Supply were also placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base. The Signature Power Supply was connected to a Shunyata Triton v2 / Typhon by a Shunyata Alpha Analog AC cord.

The MSB Technology Analog DAC with Analog Power Base was engaged for DAC duties with it plugged into a Shunyata Triton v2 / Typhon with a Shunyata Sigma Digital AC cord. The DAC and its power supply were placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF.

The Starlight CAT8 Ethernet cables were placed between the computer and a switch and between the switch and Sonore microRendu. I also used AudioQuest Diamond and Vodka Ethernet cables. Both the Wireworld and AudioQuest Ethernet cables are directional for optimum performance.

The Sound of the Starlight CAT8 Ethernet Cable
The Starlight CAT8 is very different sounding Ethernet cable when compared to my AudioQuest Diamond or Vodka Ethernet cables. The Starlight CAT8 is more extended sounding at the high and low end. This cable has a bit of midrange presence that I liked and didn’t find to be annoying in terms of brightness. The retrieval of high-end detail is outstanding. The midbass of the Starlight CAT8 is very controlled as is the low end. Dynamic contrasts, both micro and macro, are beautifully rendered and very easy to hear.

The Audioquest Diamond and Vodka have smoothness at the high end that some, no doubt, will prefer. But I find the Starlight CAT8 to be the more revealing cable. The soundstage rendered by the Starlight CAT8 is the largest I have heard extending far beyond the lateral borders of my speakers. There is also very good depth reproduction if captured on the recording.

The Starlight CAT8 reminded me sonically of what I heard when I reviewed the Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 Cable. If you like this USB cable, I suspect that you will love the Starlight CAT8.

Incidentally, for those of you that feel that there are no differences between Ethernet cables, I did some comparisons with a CAT6 Belden Ethernet cable and the Starlight CAT8. The Starlight CAT8 trounced the Belden in terms of sound quality.

The Music
While listening to Fourplay Energy (24/96), I was impressed with the resolution of transient detail and lifelike sense of instrumental body and weight of the music. Even though this was a studio recording, I perceived a tube-like bloom and three dimensionality to the soundstage. There was a micro-dynamic liveliness that I had not previously heard with my other Ethernet cables.

Norah Jones’ new release Day Breaks (24/96) was equally impressive to listen to through the Starlight CAT8. The Starlight CAT8 reproduced a purity and liquidity to Norah’s voice that resulted in a relaxed presentation that was easy to listen to for extended periods of time. The Starlight CAT8 was a champ at resolving very fine details without spotlighting.

Conclusions
In many ways I find the Starlight CAT8 Ethernet Cable to be an extraordinary performer with the ability to reproduce fine transient detail and dynamics that are lost with other Ethernet cables. The soundstaging capabilities of this cable are impressive and have the ability to be richly layered when called upon. David Salz has come up with an Ethernet cable for the high end computer audiophile that is not only an assault on the state of the art, but affordable as well.


Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
bubblewrap's picture

Can't say I'm impressed with the transition from chunky cable to delicate plastic RJ45 via the universal audiophile cable panacea of 'some heatshrink'. A logo doesn't help.

One of the justifications for expensive cables is that they are supposed to be better engineered mechanically than the same thing from ebay for £1. But the ones from ebay are, at least, moulded on. This cable is only a few flexes or pulls away from failure.

Steven Plaskin's picture
I found this cable to be very well made and the connectors to be sturdy. Unless you are using the cable to tow your car out of a ditch, I sincerely doubt you will have a connector to wire failure.
solarophile's picture

"Those improvements are possible because streamed signals suffer from data errors that cannot be repaired by the error correction systems that preserve normal file transfers."

Anyone able to verify this in the context of audio transfers? Should be rather straight forward. Aren't the vast majority of audio streaming using the TCP protocol with excellent error correction?

bobflood's picture

Ethernet cables in use there is an urgent need to pay more attention to the Modems, Routers and Switches in the signal path. Using these cables in conjunction with some generic ISP provided Modem/Router combo and some cheap 10/100 switch all powered by noisy SMPs is likely a waste of money. Your setup as described eliminates most of these problems and allows you to hear what these cables can do. For most others probably not so much.

I upgraded my Modem, Router and Switches and power them with linear or low noise power supplies. It wasn't until I did so that I could hear what my new expensive Ethernet cables really could sound like.

This may be a new area for you and Michael to investigate as we move into a world where most music will come to us from the net.

Great review.

Thanks,

Bob

Steven Plaskin's picture
Thanks Bob
stevebythebay's picture

the initial release of these cables have a known problem with Apple products. I know because I was bit trying to plug one into my MacMini. Does not go all the way in and lock. WireWorld became aware of the issue and has begun shipping updated cables that should fit. Tried the older cable with the aforementioned MacMini, as well as iMac, AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule. All had the same issue. Hope to receive an updated cable by end of week to verify fit.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hi Steve,

I just tried connecting my review samples into a MacBook Pro. The connector will not insert fully. Thanks for alearting us to this issue.

stevebythebay's picture

Compared to other Ethernet cables I have used, these are heavier and stiffer. So, I'd recommend getting lengths that are say a half meter longer than typical. Sonically, just swapping out an Audioquest Vodka (used between a microRendu and switch) showed all the noted improvements you describe. I would expect a reinforcement of these elements once the new cable comes and is put into service.

By the way, recently swapped out a Synergistic Research PowerCell10 with a Shunyata DPC-6 and PS8. That lowered the noise floor, delivered a bit more dynamics, and if I'd spend more time doing very critical listening would undoubtedly identify further attributes. Just better.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Thanks sharing your experiences with the Wireworld cable.

Congrats on your acquisition of the new Shunyata gear.

Steve

bjeff1's picture

Agree with the comments of the Steve's (Plaskin and "by the bay"). A very marked improvement(as in huge) over the stock cable I received with my SonicTransporter and MicroRendu, and over a CAT7 cable I had. The characteristics Steve Plaskin reported were immediately heard and clear in my system. They are winners.