Shunyata Research Venom USB Cable

Device Type: USB Cable
Price: $125 for .75 Meter
Length: Standard length is .75 meter
Availability: Shunyata Research Dealers
Website: www.shunyata.com

The Shunyata Research Venom USB cable is the only USB cable offered by this high end manufacturer of cables, AC cords, power distribution centers, and audio accessories. Most other cable manufacturers offer a range of USB cables with enhanced features at increasing prices. Shunyata research has decided to offer only one model with everything that they feel is important in a USB cable design. Given the very reasonable price of $125 for a .75 meter length, I was curious to see just how the Venom USB cable would compare to the other high priced cables I have reviewed in the past for AudioStream. Knowing Shunyata Research’s well recognized product quality and dedication to superior audio performance, I truly wanted to see how this cable would perform in my system.

Whenever I write a USB cable review, the question always comes up of why the need for a special USB cable for audio? After all, isn’t the cable just passing 0’s and 1’s? Why wouldn’t a standard USB cable used with our printers work just as well? In actuality, the “digital” signal is composed of high-speed analog square waves that are affected by analog cable design.

I asked Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio, a well-known USB audio expert, to describe what he thought were the important factors for an audio USB cable:

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 cable 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 affect 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 then asked an engineer friend if he agreed with Gordon’s 4 points:
Gordon really captures all of it. The three things that matter for cables are:
  • Loss over the entire frequency range, which is pretty high frequency given that ideal USB transmission consists of square waves, even though it's never ideal. This can be measured in dB per foot as a function of frequency.
  • Impedance match, again over the frequency. This can be measured in dB as a function of frequency. Whenever a cable is a significant portion of a wavelength long - which is almost always the case with high speed USB 2 transmission - the cable is considered a transmission line in technical terms. The source impedance should be matched to the transmission line impedance, which in turn should be matched to the load impedance. If the match isn't perfect, energy will be reflected back to the source, where it will be reflected back to the load, on and on. The return loss, as expressed in dB, is a measure of how low in amplitude the reflections are. The higher the return loss, the better the match. Some types of instruments just measure the amplitude and phase of the reflections, while others offer a display that shows just where in the cabling the reflections are coming from and how severe each one is.
  • The crosstalk and radiation levels. This can be measured in dB, again as a function of frequency - generally described as transfer impedance.
(see www.interferencetechnology.com/differential-transfer-impedance-of-shielded-twisted-pairs)

All these describe in technical terms what Gordon is accurately saying and what you are hearing in your system, or at least how imperfections manifest themselves as part of an audio system.

I mention all of this to show that this isn't all "audio voodoo" or "snake oil" - professionals at a high level outside the audio business worry about this stuff. I think Gordon takes a good deal of criticism for considering all of this, "because it's only audio" to so many "experts". Yet, it's bona fide engineering, which these same "experts" often say is lacking in the audio biz.

The Design of the Venom USB Cable
I was very impressed with the overall look and feel of quality of this USB cable. Shunyata Research has not skimped on the design or materials used in this cable. The Venom USB cable uses Shunyata’s most expensive VTX (Virtual Tube Geometry) pure copper conductors. The Venon USB cable’s signal conductors are completely separated from the power conductors reducing cross-talk and noise in the cable.

The Venom USB cable features include:

  • USB Audio 2.0
  • A-Male to B-Male Connectors
  • Massive 20AWG Gauge Conductors
  • Silver Plated Copper Conductors
  • Triple Shielded for EMI/RFI Immunity
  • Gold Plated Connectors
Components Used in Evaluating the Venom USB Cable
An early 2011 MacBook Pro 2.3 GHz, 16 GB RAM with Samsung SSD was used with 2 GRAID Thunderbolt drives for the music libraries; one for PCM and the other for DSD files. OSX Yosemite and Boot Camp Windows 8.1 64 Pro were the operating systems. Pure Music 2.04 was listened to with OSX Yosemite. Foobar2000 with Fidelia Pro 6.6 were used in the Windows evaluations. I also listened to JPLAY’s new version 6 using its new Streamer and Foobar2000.

The GRAID Thunderbolt drives were powered by HDPlex linear power supplies. An iFi Audio micro iUSBPower was also driven with an HDPlex linear power supply. The Venom USB cable was listened to with the USB cable directly plugged into the MacBook Pro and also connected to the iFi Audio micro iUSBPower.

One component that continues to make a big difference in the performance of my system is the Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 power center. The MacBook Pro and the hard drives were plugged into the DPC-6. The iFi Audio micro iUSBPower was also plugged into the Hydra DPC-6.

The computer and the DAC were each placed on Synergistic Research Tranquility Bases powered by the Transporter Ultra SE. Synergistic Research Thunderbolt Active SE cables were used for the hard drives. Other USB cables used in this review were the Synergistic Research Galileo LE, JCAT Reference USB cable, and the Audioquest Diamond USB cable.

USB DACs used in this evaluation were the MSB Technology Analog DAC with Analog Power Base and the Wavelength Audio Crimson / Quotient Q1 with Silver transformers. These DACs were plugged into a Shunyata Research Triton Power Center.

Initial Sound Impressions of the Venom USB Cable
I did most of my listening with the Venom USB connected directly to my computer; the manner in which I feel most users will utilize this cable. As I listened to music, I was immediately impressed by how open and neutral sounding the Venom USB sounded. Many of the lower priced USB cables I have auditioned are dark sounding and somewhat veiled; not the Venom USB. This cable projects a wide and deep soundstage with the ability to reproduce a layered soundstage. The bass is a little prominent, but with good definition. Highs have very nice transient detail and extension. The all-important midrange is relaxed sounding and resolving of low level information. Obviously, these findings were heard with the Wavelength Crimson DAC and the MSB Technology Analog DAC; two very high quality products. I have found that some DACs, especially those that have a bit more personality than the two I used for this evaluation, might slightly alter the results. But I feel that most users will hear what I am experiencing even with lower priced DACs.

I should also mention that I encountered no issues with the Venom USB playing 16/44.1 files to 24/352.8 files. DSD 64 and 128 also played flawlessly with no dropouts or noises.

Using the Venom USB with the iFi Audio micro iUSBPower driven with an HDPlex linear power supply resulted in a larger soundstage, a deeper more quiet background, and a more relaxed natural midrange.

Some of the Music I Listened to With the Venom USB
Ian Anderson’s new release Homo Erraticus 24/48 sounded terrific with the Venom USB cable. If you liked Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick released in 1972 that was based on a poem by Gerald Bostock, you will probably enjoy this recording as the lyrics were also written by Bostock (really Ian Anderson). Ian Anderson’s voice was well focused as was his flute. The resolution of transient detail was quite excellent listening to this recording with the Venom USB.

Paul Simon’s You’re the One 24/96 has a prominent tuneful bass line that was reproduced with good definition and slam using the Venom USB. I heard no image smearing of Simon’s voice with the prominent bass line in this hi-res recording.

Listening to Elizabeth Joy Row with the London Symphony Orchestra performing Piano Concertos by Britten and Barber 24/96 was a real treat with the Venom USB. The recording venue’s ambience was easily heard with a wide and deep soundstage. The piano had great body and solidity with a tube-like bloom and dimensionality. The rich tonal colors of the orchestra were well reproduced in this recording.

Sareena Overwater’s Blue Coast Special Event 28 DSD64 presented a deep jet black background with wonderful resolution of voices and guitar. I particularly enjoyed the cut with Keith Greeninger singing Ruby Tuesday with Sareena. The Venom USB reproduced this recording with a harmonic richness to the voices that sounded very natural and real.

An Interesting Finding
The latest version of JPlay 6 includes a new feature-a Streamer based on the OpenHome Media standard for home audio devices that can be used with OpenHome/UPnP/DLNA control points on multiple platforms. Several of my expensive USB cables had issues with the Streamer/JPlay. At high sample rates of 192 kHz, I was getting intermittent pops and clicks. Perhaps this was the result of the cable experiencing overhang in its bidirectional behavior. Using the Venom USB cable eliminated this issue. The Venom USB was rock solid with absolutely no drop-outs.

USB Cable Comparisons
The Audioquest Diamond USB Cable
The Audioquest Diamond USB cable is a particular favorite of mine due to its excellent audio qualities and solid support of USB Audio Class 2. The Diamond’s cost is $549 for a .75 meter length that uses 100% pure Perfect Surface Silver solid-core conductors. Other features include Audioquest’s 72-Volt DBS System and precision direct-silver plated pin terminations.

The Diamond is highly detailed but with a wonderful relaxed quality that makes it very easy to listen to for extended periods of time. Compared to the Venom USB, the Audioquest has the larger soundstage with more detail at the high end. The bass is also slightly tighter and better defined than the Venom USB.

The JCAT Reference USB Cable
This dual lead USB cable, priced at $523 for 1 meter, separates the data lines from the 5 volt power lines. Again, I heard a slightly larger soundstage with the JCAT with faster transients at the high end. The bass had better definition with more impact than the Venom USB.

The differences I heard with both the Diamond and JCAT Reference compared to the Venom USB were noticeable, but not huge. I suspect that a significant percentage of you reading this review would be perfectly happy with the Shunyata. It appears that one has to spend significantly more money to better the performance of the Venom USB.

I also compared the Venom USB with a standard Belkin Pro Series USB 2.0 cable; 6 feet for $8.25. The Belkin sounded dark and closed down. The bass and high end were significantly rolled-off sounding. The Belkin might be a wonderful cable for your printer, but not for a high end audio DAC.

The Venom USB Cable Is An Excellent Value
I found the Shunyata Research Venom USB cable to be a first-class performer that is also an excellent value given its very reasonable price. The cable was extremely revealing and never left me wanting for my other significantly more expensive USB cables. While I did hear improvements in performance with the Audioquest Diamond and the JCAT Reference, the difference in price to obtain this level of sound quality was significant; a level that might not be appreciated by all listeners. In closing, the Shunyata Research Venom USB cable is a topnotch USB cable that offers performance that rivals some of the most respected high-priced offerings, but at a price that will not be intimidating to the computer audiophile.


Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
AllanMarcus's picture

Ok, you convinced me there might be measurable differences. So where are the measurements? Subjective non-blind, audio-memory affected listening is OK, but it's time to show measurements, then correlate the measurements with what sounds good. Any chance of measurements?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
The main obstacle we're dealing with is due to budgetary constraints.
junker's picture

Perhaps the manufacturers could provide their USB "eye diagram" needed for USB certification.

Venere 2's picture

What kind of measurements do you propose? The most common measurements for cables are capacitance and inductance. What will that tell you?

A cable's capacitance and inductance might give a somewhat vague idea of things, but it will not tell you how a cable sounds, nor how it sounds with different equipment. Your ears are the best judge for that.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
For USB, one thing we'd check for is whether or not a given cable meets spec. You'd think this would be a given but I don't believe that's the case. If you read Gordon Rankin's comments here and also on the "Digital Cables and Noise" post, you'll see him reference various performance parameters which can effect sound quality.
Your ears are the best judge for that.
I agree. Here's favorite quote on this subject from John Atkinson:
"But, I am sure, to those engineers who developed such tests 50 years or more ago, it was still the whole experience that mattered, the measurement being used merely to aid diagnosis than to determine the quality of the experience. Now, however, in the latter years of the 20th century, a whole culture has arisen that insists that the measurements are the experience. If ever I came across a worse case of mistaking the messenger for the message, I have forgotten what it was."
AllanMarcus's picture

Simply meeting a spec is an awesome first start! do you know of any way for the average joe to test a cable to validate if it meets a spec?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...to test if a cable meets spec. The required test equipment is expensive (around $30k).
Venere 2's picture

Actually, this "average Joe" owns a 1.5 meter version of this Shunyata Venom USB cable. I found my trusty 2.00$ flexible measuring tape. My cable is exactly 150 cm, or 1.5 meters plus or minus 2 mm. I can confirm these cables meet their specs!

Michael and Steve, don't hesitate to ship to me any cables you want tested. I will only charge a nominal fee to provide the measurements and I promise to send the cables back within 6 months. You're welcome! ;-)

Venere 2's picture

Interesting quote from JA. Here is a great article by John Atkinson on how measurements can sometimes lead to wrong conclusions:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/tale-two-speakers

AllanMarcus's picture

Assuming the comments from the article's contributors are correct, differences in digital cables can be measured. If the can be measured, then it might be possible to correlate various measurement attributes to sound preferences. For example, some headphones are dark, bright, fun, flat. While one can't solely determine if one likes a headphone based on measurements, one can infer certain sound characteristics from measurement charts to help one narrow the field when listening to headphones. There is no possible way most people can audition, let alone blind test most audio equipment, so many people reply on measurements to _help_ understand differences between equipment. If I like cable A and I dislike cable B, and I can see measurements that might explain the differences, I might like cable C if is shows similar measurements. I may not be able to audition cable C due to various factors, but cable C might be more in my price point.

Right now cable reviews are incredibly subjective, and there is no way to compare all the various cables. Measurements give a relatively objective way to start to understand variances between the cables. If the end result of cable switching is indeed measurable, then, well, measure it! That said, while its best to measure the actual cables, there should be established measurements of actual sound output that can be used as a surrogate until affordable measurement technology is developed. The mainstream press, and probably most audio enthusiasts like me, would likely be better convinced to purchase high quality cables if there was some objective proof they were better. That said, the subtlej differences between a high end monoprice USB cable and a $125 USB cable feed through $1000 or less desktop system is probably so negetable that most people would not hear the difference, or it is so subtle that it doesn't really matter (to most people).

It's called science.

ncmusicguy's picture

but it sounds like a great opportunity for you to pick up and run with since you feel so strongly about it. You could sell the results to all the audio mags & websites.

I always chuckle when I read comments from people asking for something that costs a lot of time and money to provide, on a website that charges nothing for its product.

I appreciate what Michael does here at AudioStream and especially appreciate that it is free to me. I subscribe to TAS and Stereophile as I value the content they provide and want access to it (yes I realize most of it is available online for free). If AudioStream started charging for access I would likely subscribe for the same reason, as well as appreciating that Michael tries to moderate discussion to keep things civil.

To expect a free website to commit the time and monetary resources to provide a full suite of test results for the equipment that is reviewed is unrealistic in my opinion. I realize that AudioStream gets money from advertisers, but I also suspect that nobody is getting rich here.

As always, the best way to find out about something, like how a cable sounds in your system, is to try it. If it sounds good, or better than your current cable, does it matter how it measures?

I agree that measurements can be informative, but ultimately its about how it sounds.

AllanMarcus's picture

Your attempt not to be snarky failed. This group of web sites and magazines (TEN) cater to a group of people that both want to know what sounds good, but also want to know why. Also, the blog post above is all about how there are measurable differences in audio cables! Asking for actual measurements is perfectly within the realm of reason. I'm not published a blog or selling a magazine with the goal of providing information about "computer audio for everyone". I'm an IT guy at a National Lab. I guess working in a scientific environment all day I'm more inclined to want to have statements proven out using the scientific method.

That said, Stereophile published tons of measurements. As does Inner Fidelity.

Also, while I don't directly pay for content on this site, I do see all the Ads, and occasionally I click on them.

How about we stop focusing on the lame crap and focus on the questions posed in the interesting article above. Namely the statement "Yet, it's bona fide engineering, which these same "experts" often say is lacking in the audio biz." OK, so engineering is "the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures." Science is "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment." Subjective analysis of how something sounds is certainly the "observation" part, but the experiment part use the generally accepted "scientific method," which "a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."

I assume the people that read this web site are not flat earthers, and understand the importance of the scientific method. Even the author notes "I mention all of this to show that this isn't all "audio voodoo" or "snake oil"

Well, it's all voodoo and snake oil until it's proven using the scientific method. Now there are certainly financial considerations, and understanding the engineering concepts and issues is the first step to forming an hypothesis. In this case the hypothesis was stated above in the article "as measurable" (see the section from Gordon).

So yes, I feel very strongly about claims made in the media (of which this web site is) that cannot be proved. I don't mean to step into politics, but there are many political sites that claim "facts" that are non-existant, and only serve to foment dissent and dissatisfaction. Personally I think there is a huge financial motive, but again, that is way off topics.

In that case a Web site (AudioStream) is stating this cable sounds better than that cable, AND stating the results should be measurable. I was just asking for the measurements from the site made the assertion. The burden is NOT on me to proof them incorrect.

Venere 2's picture

In an ideal world, we would be able to conduct research and find out why, scientifically, audio gear sounds the way it does. It involves a complex interrelationship between materials, build, electricity and many other factors.

Many phenomena in audio are not yet backed up by science. For example, cable burn in, as well as the settling in effect of cables that have been unplugged. These things do have an effect on sound quality; yet, there is no scientific explanation (there are only theories).

The problem is someone would have to devote a lot of funds to conduct research into this area. The cable makers use their available research funds to improve their products, not conduct theoretical research. Until someone with deep enough pockets who cares enough about these things (and other audio related phenomena) and offers research money, no serious research will be conducted and we will not have scientific explanations. That does not mean these things are non existen, and we should not talk about them.

AllanMarcus's picture

well said.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...that one cable sounds better than another.
ncmusicguy's picture

We'll agree to disagree, on a number of fronts.

I do not need scientific backup to tell me if a cable sounds better or not; if I'm curious, I'll try it and see. I'm into listening to music, not equipment. If the music sounds better, the cable is better for me, in my system, in my room; if not, its not. I view all things in the context of my system, in my room. In my opinion there are no universal audio truths, and therefore no set of measurements to unveil those universal truths. It either sounds better to me or it doesn't. And of course, better is my definition of better, not yours or anyone elses. Tubes vs solid state, analog vs digital, cardas vs kimber - those are smokescreens to me. If it sounds better in my system in my room, I like it; if not, I don't. Are you a "true to the mastertape", "as you like it", or "true to the original performance in the hall" person? What you seek for sound differs based on that answer. And your cables are likely different based on that answer. There is no universal audio truth. Transparency to you may be painful to me; lush to me is euphonic to you.

You are right, it isn't your burden to prove a reviewer right or wrong. My point is that I don't believe it is a reviewer's responsibility to execute the scientific method along with his review for the review to be valid. I believe that reviewers on these sites have the requisite experience to render a valid opinion based on their experience. I trust the reviewers who write for TAS, Stereophile, this site to give valid opinions. I've read them long enough to have a sense of their likes, dislikes, and biases. If I read a review and am curious, I'll demo the equipment myself and see. I read JAs measurements, but as he said, he's not even sure he's measuring the right things. So, in the end, for me, its about trying for myself, in my system, in my room.

I don't consider myself a flat-earther. I love science and believe in it. I just don't believe in using it to decide what cable to try or not. I just want to listen to music, and try to have my system sound as good as it can. I refuse to get lost in the minutia of measurements that may or may not be relevant. If you want or need that backup, then it is on you to seek it or provide it. I don't think it is Michael's responsibility to provide it on this site, given the cost and time. Hence my suggestion that you do the heavy lifting and make some money at it. I've never understood people who, for example, complain that TAS (and this site) don't do measurements, and so reviews are subjective. If you believe in measurements, and seek objectivity, don't read TAS (and this site) - it really is that simple. Why shovel sand against the tide - its pointless. If you don't trust the reviewers opinions, don't read them.

And, in case you believe I'm a a luddite - I too am an I.T. person, 35+ years. I understand and embrace discipline, testing, repeatable process, validation, proof. Music for me is a completely different animal; it is art, and the final arbiter of if it sounds good/better or not is in my system, in my room, not measurements that may or may not be valid or relevant.

So, we agree to disagree, no harm no foul. You want a chart to look at so you can correlate specific performance parameters to a specific sound profile; I'll just plug it in and see what happens. Its all good.

AllanMarcus's picture

we aren't disagreeing. You just aren't reading what I wrote. I didn't say his review was invalid. I said he referred to measurements, but didn't provide any. I never suggested people (or me) buy items based on measurements; I said they can help to narrow the field. Please slow down and read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote.

ncmusicguy's picture

and they are full of definitions of science, the scientific method, measurements, proof, and the importance of all of that. We disagree on the importance of all of that.

You asked why measurements aren't provided, and Michael answered you. If you need measurements to help you decide on a cable purchase, you likely won't find them here. You said its all voodoo and snake oil until proven with the scientific method. I disagree and stated why. Plug it in and try it, and decide for yourself.

We agree to disagree.

Respond if you like - I'm done. Have a great evening.

AllanMarcus's picture

Ahh, ok. Fair 'nuf.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Alan,

I didn't refer to measurements. What I did in my intro was to provide some science behind the function of USB cables. Gordon Rankin has measured many USB cables. But these measurements may explain why a cable fails to work, but doesn't explain how it will sound. I would love to have the equipment and knowledge to measure these cables. But in the end, you will have to listen until someone can come up with a set of measurements that correlates directly with the sound one might hear.

Another thing to consider is that a USB cable becomes part of a larger system.

If you have a specific recommendation that can be implemented, I would love to hear about it.

Thanks for visiting and reading my review.

Venere 2's picture

Thank you for the informative and interesting review Steven. Do you think you will eventually review the Shunyata Venom digital power cord? It seems like the perfect power cord for DACs and computers that are used as servers.

Shunyata has graphs on their website of how much this cable reduces digital noise.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Thanks for the suggestion. I just happen to have 2 Venom Digital AC cords here.
Doak's picture

Proper Measurements of USB cables can at the vey least ensure that an example is competent for the job.
Integrity of the passed square wave, rise time and other important traits of a cable certainly do positively correlate with how much a cable will degrade the sound.

Just because you cannot/will not perform such measurements does not mean they are not useful and value able when comparing USB cable performance.

drblank's picture

First off, I'm not an engineer, but I'm just relaying some information that other engineers have discussed in various interviews, articles I've read over the years.
I was watching a couple of year old RMAF panel discussion by some cable engineers and it was interesting that certain measurement equipment people use for measurements of other audio/electronic gear simply can't be used for measuring cables. Go to YouTube and look up the following video title.
RMAF10: The Snake Pit: Cables and wires explained
Unfortunately, the topic is too complex to have a discussion that only lasts 1 hour, and due to various mfg not wanting to share every aspect of what they do to keep their trade secrets secret, I don't know if we'll ever know everything about cables design, measurements, etc. I, like many others, would LOVE it if there was a standardized measurement methodology that ALL cable mfg agreed upon and used and that all measurements were shared to us and maybe some guidelines as to what to look for with the various equipment we use. I know that for some connections like pre amp to power amp, that matching the impedance is critical. The problem that's not discussed that often is that we are using equipment and the impedances sometimes are different. Pre amps may have different output impedance, then are speakers have different impedance and the power amp has to accommodate for that change and they do change with the output of the amp.
In digital cables, one of the panelists mentioned that damping is critical in digital cables. Also, there are measurements such as propagation of speed as well as jitter measurements. The problem is just by measuring LRC (inductance, resistance, and capacitance) is that these will give us no information as to what they are going to sound like.
I guess the only measurements I can think of that might give us some indication as to sound quality would be 3D harmonic structure measurement comparisons. We are listening to complex and ever changing wave forms and if we are going to hear a difference, then there should be some sort of harmonic structure difference. Maybe some sort of frequency response curve might help in dictating what something is going to sound like. The Articulation Measurements that MIT Cables does might give us an indication of sound quality. Obviously noise measurements might be at least an indication of noise floor, which is always something we need to lower. Jitter, would be a good one. However, there are different types of jitter measurements, so it's using the right one.
These are just some observations and thoughts.

AllanMarcus's picture

I wonder if you sister organization, Stereophile has the tools. Seems like something TEN should invest in. I also wonder if a standard suite of measurements could be developed, and then the magazine/Web site require the vendors to submit independent test results with review samples.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...does not have the time. This was discussed before I took this job.
I also wonder if a standard suite of measurements could be developed, and then the magazine/Web site require the vendors to submit independent test results with review samples.
I think the ideal solution would be to use the same independent test facility for everything and further that we would be responsible. Again, the associated costs are prohibitive at present.
VK's picture

...a computer audio site, why don't try out some HDMI gear?

I know that just a few audio-only systems deal with HDMI interface, but all computers have it these days, and every multi-ch receiver have it these days too.

I'm not asking for a review in the "Sound&Vision style", but something more audio-oriented.

When properly implemented, HDMI audio is very good indeed, especially for multi-ch (like DSD...).

Anyway, it's just an idea, a suggestion.

Good review! I find the "intermittent pops and clicks" issue very interesting!

Best regards!

Reed's picture

a good cable debate. Buy one already and do your own blind test. It's only $125 and most places have a return policy if you aren't satisfied. I notice difference in cables, but after trying a lot of them, I settled on studio grade cables (Mogami Gold) for my balanced interconnects. I used the Cardas USB cable (when I had a server), which is close to the same price. I thought it had that very neutral sound. It's a preference thing. My latest endeavor is to keep everything as neutral as possible from source connection to speakers. That includes the cables, preamp and amp. I'm now changing only the source component to get the sound I desire.

stevebythebay's picture

You state "Other USB cables used in this review were the Synergistic Research Galileo LE, JCAT Reference USB cable, and the Audioquest Diamond USB cable".

So, did you actually compare the cable under test with the Galileo, or is the SR cable simply "incomparable"?

Steven Plaskin's picture
The Galileo is still top dog here.
Dick James's picture

...because that's what matters. I think you find that all USB 2.0 cables meet USB 2.0 specifications, which means the signal integrity should be the same for any cable and the BER = 0. What is different is something related to the noise being induced at DAC. You will probably see differences with other PC and DAC combinations when comparing USB cables. I have an HP PC that affected my DAC so badly that I had to get a USB power module to go between the PC and the DAC, and this is a DAC that has its own power and does not run on USB power! Obviously, there was some kind of ground loop being developed. I probably could have tried some expensive USB cables as well, but the power module was cheap and it solved the problem.

fmak's picture

When USB dacs first came out and Gordon et al claimed this to be ''scientifically'' perfect over spdif, I raised the issue of the effects of usb cables on SQ, particularly wrt to signal integrity and usb power. This was denied and Charles Hansen once remarked that he only produced dacs and not cables(?)

This was years ago and yet the subject of science rather than scientific common sense is now being presented as the basis for usb cable effects.

Quite simply, cable effects are signal transmission effects that should be well accepted in audio and measurement systems, whatever the mode of operation, and are audible.

Reviewers should stop presenting the differences on the basis of new science or new technology.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Fred, I didn't attribute the difference in sound of USB cables to "new science or new technology".
fmak's picture

So, why are you presenting 'scientific' explanations so many years after people, such as myself, have 'identified' and raised them, only to be denied by vendors of usb dacs?.

Venere 2's picture

So you identified these problems long ago. Good. What do you want, a credit every time someone talks about these problems? I fail to see what exactly your point is.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Not everyone is as well versed as you Fred. As for the vendors of USB DACs, you'll have to be more specific. I didn't think that the technical explanations provided by Gordon and my friend were out of place or irrelevant.

Thanks for your comments.

fmak's picture

Quote:
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:
Unquote

This demonstrates the lack of scientific sense and/or over marketing enthusiasm that I was talking about. At that time (years ago) I was also attacked for being 'silly' or 'stupid' by vendors when I raised the issues.

AllanMarcus's picture

There are many well accepted measurements that sterophile uses. How about you pick reference system, take the measurements from a the final output, the speakers, then change one thing, the USB cable, then take new measurements. While we all agree that measurements cannot tell us if the system sounds good, they can tell us if there is significant difference in the sound. For example, statements like "The Belkin sounded dark and closed down. The bass and high end were significantly rolled-off sounding." should be easily verifiable with the right measuring equipment. I'm no expert but a good calibrated mic, a laptop, and REW should be able to detect "significantly rolled-off sounding." I image there are much better systems to measure (really outside my area of knowledge), but we are trying to show the difference a cable makes in the final outcome: the sound. Measure the sound.Good measurements will put a quick end to the debate.

To all of you that want me to do my own measurements myself, I reiterate that this is not my area of expertise. For measurements and reviews I turn to the experts I have no doubt that the folks here at AudioStream and TEN are the experts. I'm not trying to demean subjective listening. I am, however, simply trying to answer Steven Plaskin's question on what to measure.

Garth Marenghi's picture

For someone like me, it is actually distressing to think that some of these ideas are treated seriously.

Yes there could be audible effects from noise injection and ground loops - but cable 'quality' would not be the issue here. Genuine data errors could be caused by incorrect cable design - but these are easy to detect with objective tests that do not involve listening to the cable. At the margins, some digital audio systems (e.g. S/PDIF and isochronous USB) involve the receiver deriving its sample clock frequency from the data stream, and here pulse quality could have some tiny effect on jitter, attenuated massively by whatever buffering system is in use - probably not even measurable in most cases (although I realise that measurement is not valid currency in the audiophile world).

Beyond such systems, in the world of packet requests and checksums, your cable is merely a tiny extension to the thousands of miles of cables that have been involved in getting the data to your PC/phone/streamer. If cable quality matters then how can TIDAL sound as good as a CD? (The answers are, it doesn't and it does).

If the story is that sound quality is affected by "how hard the ICs have to work", then the electronics are defective by design, and all kinds of horrors are getting into your audio regardless of the quality of the stream. If the argument is that it is undeniable that analogue issues like this must make *some* difference no matter how tiny (you can't decouple and isolate completely - only by 150 dB or whatever, and the human ear can hear this obviously), then this is like saying that your audio quality is affected by the quality of cables used by your next door neighbour - his straining, overworked digital chips are feeding back into yours via the mains and through the walls by radiated emissions. Really, where does it end?

Audiophiles really do give themselves a hard time by worrying about these thing!

Doak's picture

Leave it to the Englishmen at HiFiNews to do a much more proper USB cable review with blind testing and measurements.

The type of review presented here is, essentially, useless.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Given that we don't do measurements at AudioStream and we aren't strong believers in double blind testing, I guess you are right. We won't be able to satisfy your needs.
foreverzer0's picture

Hello,

How do all these top usb cables compare to the other seemingly top dog cable: light harmonic light speed 10g usb?

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