The Synergistic Research Galileo LE USB Cable

all photo credits: Synergistic Research unless otherwise noted

Device Type: USB Cable
Price: $2000 for 1 Meter Length
Availability: through Authorized Dealers

When I first heard that Synergistic Research was bringing out a new USB cable, a thought occurred to me. Just how much better could this cable be made considering that the Synergistic Research Active USB SE cable was recently upgraded with the new UEF Tuning Circuits? The Uniform Energy Field Technology Tuning Circuits consist of the gray and silver cylindrical devices that attach to the active shield of the Active USB SE cable and fine tune the sound of the cable. I have found that the UEF Tuning Circuits provide a smoother, more revealing sound with enhanced bloom. But after reading about the Galileo series of cables, I discovered that this series applies Synergistic Research technologies not found in the Active USB SE cable.

The Galileo LE USB cable is the first Synergistic Research cable to utilize the Uniform Energy Field Technology applied directly to the cable. Attached to the input end of the Galileo USB cable is a 4 inch carbon fiber cell that is cylindrical in shape. This enclosure houses a UEF Technology filter for the Galileo LE USB cable. Synergistic Research claims that this device lowers the noise floor and reduces perceived compression of the sound.

The active shielding used on the Galileo LE USB cable features the upgraded Galileo Mini Power Coupler power supply. This power supply is a $400 upgrade from the standard Mini Power Coupler used on the USB Active SE cable. Synergistic Research’s description of the Galileo MPC:

How does a standard MPC become a Galileo MPC?

“We start with a standard MPC, and gut its interior, discarding the capacitor, circuit board, and diodes. Next, we Quantum Tunnel the transformer’s primary wind in the direction of signal (electron) flow, followed by the secondary wind, again in the direction of signal flow. Finally, we replace the MPC’s standard capacitor with a custom, Quantum Tunneled Zap Cap™, and four Quantum Tunneled high-speed diodes. The entire assembly is then point-to-point wired, replacing the standard circuit board. The entire circuit, lead wires, and all contacts are then Quantum Tunneled in the direction of signal flow.” The Galileo USB cable comes with 2 UEF Active Tuning Circuits that allow one to fine tune the sound of the cable. The standard UEF is gray in color while the silver UEF provides a more airy sound with increased extension at the high end.

The Galileo USB cable also comes with a new product being offered by Synergistic Research called the ECT Electronic Circuit Transducer. This ECT included is specially made for the Galileo USB cable and is engineered to balance close proximity electromagnetic fields in electronic circuits. The ECT essentially improves the performance of transformers, tubes, DAC chips, fuses, digital cables and analog cables. The ECT is placed on the top of the input connector of the Galileo USB cable. I will be reviewing the Synergistic Research ECTs in the near future.

Contributing Components Used in Evaluation
Finding the consistent sonic characteristics of a USB cable is not an easy task. A given USB cable can interact differently with changes in computers or DACs. For me, evaluation of a USB cable requires the use of several different DACs to uncover the sonic character of the cable. In this evaluation, I had the benefit of having 4 different DACs at my disposal for sorting out the sonic signature of the Synergistic Research Galileo LE USB cable. Used in this evaluation were the Totaldac d-1 monobloc, the MSB Analog DAC with Analog Power Base, the Wavelength Audio Crimson / Denominator Silver, and the Esoteric Audio D-02 DAC. An early 2011 MacBook Pro was used running OSX Mavericks and Windows 8.1 Pro 64. I also brought home a new HP computer from work that runs Windows 8.1 to see if my findings were consistent with the MacBook Pro.

Initial Sonic Impressions
While initially listening to the Galileo LE USB cable, I was very impressed with the extremely low noise floor. Not only was the background deep black, but details emerged with a subtly that was somewhat startling. The soundstage from this cable was the largest I have yet heard from any USB cable. Not only was the width enhanced, but the front-to back depth was extremely deep and delineated. Even more impressive, was the focus and air around instruments heard when listening to very good acoustic recordings. The Galileo LE proved to be an extremely revealing cable that allowed micro dynamic changes to be easily recognized.

The Galileo LE does not have the obvious sonic signature of the Synergistic Research Active USB SE cable. The Active USB SE is warmer sounding with a fuller bass. The Galileo is as neutral a cable as I have yet auditioned. From top to bottom, this cable is as even handed as it gets when reproducing all styles of music and voice.

I asked Ted Denney III, Lead Designer at Synergistic Research to describe the new features of the Galileo LE USB cable:

"The Galileo LE USB is made up of silver alloy conductors in proprietary Active Shielded geometry. This alone makes the Galileo LE USB cable unique in the world, but not in the world of Synergistic Research cables. After all we've been making Active cables since 1998 and Active USB cables since the original Tricon Active USB in 2008. What makes the Galileo LE USB cable unique in all the world is its use of UEF Technology first developed for our HFT and FEQ products and later XOT speaker filters. The Galileo LE USB is the first Synergistic Research cable with a UEF filter built directly into the cable. As such it's one of the most advanced cables we've ever produced"
The UEF Technology
I have had considerable experience with Synergistic Research products that have employed the UEF Technology; the HFT-FEQ devices for room application, the XOT Crossover Transducers for speaker cables, and the previously mentioned UEF Tuning Circuits. All of these products were quite dramatic in their effects in lowering the noise floor, increasing clarity, definition, and overall bloom that enhanced the soundstage of reproduced music.

The Active Shield with the UEF Tuning Circuits
Anyone who owns Synergistic Research cable knows that if they turn off or disconnect the Active Shield, the sound quality suffers. Soundstage, overall definition, and transparency are improved with the Active Shield. According to Synergistic Research, active Shielding reduces the negative influence of reactive capacitance (signal and cable interaction) and reduces the effects of the RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). One will also hear a drop in the noise floor with the Active Shield energized.

The Galileo MPC power source sounds superior to the standard MPC supplied with the Active USB SE cable. One can take this to yet a higher plane of performance if the Transporter Ultra SE is used in place of the Galileo MPC to power the Active Shields. There is an increase in soundstage size, detail, bass control, and dynamic contrasts when the Transporter is substituted for the Galileo MPC.

As I previously mentioned, the Galileo incorporates the new UEF Active Tuning Circuits. Having reviewed these removable devices last March (see review), I found their contribution to the overall sound of the cable to be quite remarkable. I preferred the sound of the silver UEF in my system over the gray UEF. Using the silver UEF resulted in an enhancement of the sound at the high end with slightly more detail that complimented my system.

ECT Electronic Circuit Transducer
This tiny cylindrical device, with an inverted cone in its center, is placed on the top of the A connector inserted into the computer. Removing the ECT resulted in a reduction in the perceived soundstage of the Galileo.

Extended Listening
In some ways, the Galileo LE USB cable reminded me of the Totaldac d-1 monobloc DAC that I recently reviewed (see review) due to its relaxed presentation. The cable is extremely detailed and revealing, but with great ease to the sound. There is no accentuation of the midrange or highs with the Galileo. The bass is very fast, impactful, and detailed. Dynamic qualities of both macro and micro changes are easily heard with the Galileo LE.

Reduction of Hardness and Glare
I was interested in seeing if the Galileo USB cable could reduce some of the hardness I was hearing in several of my more “difficult” titles.

The 2L Records Schola Cantorum Hymn to the Virgin (DXD 352.8/24) is a good test for the Galileo. This is a wonderful recording of a chamber choir with excellent acoustic ambience. At times, when the choir opens up in a large crescendo, the sound can get a little rough or hard. I discovered that using the Galileo USB significantly reduced this glare or hardness. The recording sounded as good as I’ve ever heard it with the Galileo LE easily capturing the acoustics of the recording venue.

Another recording I have that could sound hard at times is the ripped SACD of the original RCA Living Stereo of Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony Orchestra title Bolero (.dsf and 176.4/24). The original LP, recorded on 2 and 3 track tape, was somewhat highlighted in the high end like the early stereo Mercury Living Presence recordings. The recording has superb clarity and is very dynamic sounding for its age. The Galileo LE allowed the fiery dynamics to be reproduced without shrillness or signs of distortion. Hearing this recording with the Galileo LE was truly a new listening experience given the Galileo LE’s excellent detail and focus.

The Cable Has Soul
While the Galileo is not a “warm sounding” cable, it is harmonically rich and relaxed to allow the listener to feel that the music is real and has “soul”. The Reference Recordings 176.4/24 of Doug MacLeod’s There’s A Time provides an example of what I’m referring to. This live recording with no overdubs includes Doug MacLeod on guitar and vocals, Denny Croy on bass, and Jimi Bott on drums. This is a wonderful blues recording that is very detailed, but also has great body and solidity. The Galileo provided tuneful bass with an immediacy and tonal naturalness to the guitar and vocals.

Outstanding Soundstage Reproduction
I played the well-known Byron Janis, London Symphony Orchestra recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto (HDtracks 176.4/24). The Mercury Living Presence recording of tracks 4-8 were recorded at Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis in 1960 on 3 track ½ inch magnetic tape using 3 Telefunken 201 microphones. The 3 condenser microphones employed were set to an omni-directional pattern that captured the spacious acoustics of Northrop Auditorium. The Galileo USB reproduced a soundstage that was richly layered with a wonderful purity and liquidity found in the original RFR1/RFR3 White Promo early LP pressing.

Comparisons with Other Excellent USB Cables
If I had to select a USB cable that sounded somewhat similar to the Galileo LE, it would be the Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB Cable; a cable that costs considerably less than the Galileo LE. I have previously described the large soundstage and wonderful detail retrieval of this excellent cable for AudioStream. The Galileo LE has a larger soundstage than the LightSpeed and is better able to resolve low level information. The Galileo LE has more body and weight than the LightSpeed with a slightly more relaxed presentation. The Galileo LE is also the champ in background silence.

In some ways the Galileo LE has the best sonic features of the Audioquest Diamond USB cable-another favorite of mine. The Audioquest Diamond has a very relaxed, but revealing sound that seems to minimize hardness at the mids and highs. The Galileo shares this characteristic of sound with the Diamond, but is simply a more revealing cable than the Diamond.

I recently reviewed the JCAT USB Cable for AudioStream and found it to have a wonderful richness to the midrange with good detail at the midrange and frequency extremes. The Galileo LE also has similar midrange qualities but is more neutral sounding and less colored than the JCAT. It easily outperforms the JCAT in all areas of performance. Comparisons with the Synergistic Research Active USB SE cable should be mentioned. As good as the Active USB SE is, especially when listened to with the new UEF Tuning Circuits, it does not come close to the performance of the Galileo LE. The Active USB SE has a smaller soundstage, is less defined and focused, and is a warmer sounding cable. The striking neutrality of the Galileo LE is very obvious in comparison to the Active USB SE cable.

My First Reference USB Cable
Throughout this review, I had no issues playing PCM files up to 352.8/24, DSD 64 or DSD 128, The Galileo LE, at least in my listening tests with the 4 DACs on hand, handled High Speed USB without any issues or dropouts. I would also encourage some time for break-in of the cable during auditioning. I’m not quite sure how much time it needs as my cable was partially burned in at the factory. But it did open up with extended play time.

The Synergistic Research Galileo USB cable is the first USB cable I have declared as my personal Reference. Each of the four DACs I have listened to benefited from the Galileo LE USB cable. Before hearing the Galileo LE, I found that one had to select a cable that sounded best with his particular DAC and system. There was no one single cable that sounded best on every DAC. The Galileo LE has changed this premise for me delivering a sound that is consistently superior to today’s USB cable competition. For those that are willing to spend the necessary funds to climb the mountain of sonic excellence, the Galileo LE USB cable resides at the pinnacle of USB cables.

tubefan9's picture

Greatest Bits!

robpriore's picture

Seriously, this is nutty. I want to see some serious tests on USB cables - like does data get from point A to point B. I'm all for spending money on cables but I need real data. Anything else is just subjective. And this kind of thing is so bad for our hobby. Everyone makes fun of us because of things like this.

Show me some objective data, like a $1 USB cable doesn't get data there on time, or is incomplete. If you can't show that then why bother with this at all? Seriously, my friends think I'm crazy and this is why!

Steven Plaskin's picture
I’m all for measurements as well. The only problem is that it will still come down to subjective evaluation. Stereophile performs excellent testing of DACs. But can you determine how a particular DAC will sound from just reading the test measurements? All of these components work as a system; from the computer to the DAC, etc. No one says that you have to spend serious money on cables, or a DAC, or an Amp. After all, this is a hobby.
CG's picture

I seriously doubt that most good cables upset the 0's and 1's.

But, computers are really noisy, as are all digital widgets. Good thing the computations are pretty much immune to this noise, at least for the most part.

The rest of your audio system is not immune to this noise. That stinks, but is the truth. That's not just for home audio, either. Henry Ott used to work for Bell Labs trying to reduce noise in their systems, and has a published a couple books on the subject - highly recommended if you are technically oriented.

As Henry Ott has written in those books, the cabling used between pieces of equipment can have a big effect on the overall system noise immunity. If you want hard science to show your friends, you might start there.

It's quite possible to measure this noise, too. Just pony up the bread for a wideband high sensitivity oscilloscope with suitable software and the right current probes, or a spectrum analyzer with the right current probes. Generally, when somebody has offered up measurements like that, the crowds just boo and scream about whether that applies to perceptible sound. And so on. So, that might not help you with your friends.

Or, maybe you need to hang out with a different crowd. Ask them for objective measurements over their choices in sexual partners or beer - tell them they are crazy if they can't or won't.

Wavelength's picture


Actually most cables streaming will upset bits here and there. Now that I have the TEK USB HS compliance testing, I have been doing some testing on some cables. I made up a USB-A male to USB-A female board with testing points.

Actually a number of cables tested have CRC errors, especially when running a ton of data. These don't occur on every packet, but randomly and more so on some cables than other.

NOW don't freak out... First each endpoint (DAC, drive, whatever) seems to act differently, second most computers act differently (as well as USB ports on those computers) and for some reason the OS seems to have an effect on this as well.

With Asynchronous USB Class 2 protocol the cables that seem to effect the sound the most are those that have problems with the DAC sending the FEEDBACK frame to the host computer. When this has allot of errors then the dac will suffer more so than if not as the data will underrun or overrun cause pops and clicks.

This stuff takes time which I don't really have and yes at some point I will test Belkin against XYZ and see what happens.

All of this we kind of knew about before as we all have experienced some setup issues with CA from the start.


CG's picture

So... You mean I not only have to worry about this sort of thing during the day at work, but also when I go home at night and want to listen to music? Woe is me.

Alex Halberstadt's picture

"Enhanced Bloom" should be a lipstick color.

CG's picture

Quick! File for a trademark!

Steven Plaskin's picture
After reading audiophile publications for more years then I would like to admit, I must have lifted that expression from someone :-)
dpudvay's picture

Isn't a digital cable just a pipe for data? Then isn't it's figure of merit for measurement the bit error rate of transmission? All the conversion of the digital information to analog is done inside the DAC chip, as long as the USB cable is delivering bit perfect information, the analog out will be a function of just the DAC circuitry.

CG's picture

You think so, eh?

While the conversion of the desired bits is performed inside the DAC chip, just what stops any noise riding on the various USB conductors (or even SPDIF) from migrating to other parts of the system, like the DAC output stage? Or the conversion clock? Or the output modulator within most DACs? Or your preamp?

It's very possible to have essentially error free data transmission, but have the analog output be crap. While not in the audio world, I was looking at that very situation just yesterday in my day job.

Like the old saying goes - Garbage in, Garbage out. Garbage is not entirely intelligent or selective. (I know I just opened myself up for lots of slick responses with that statement... Have your fun!)

CG's picture

Too quick on the Save button...

One more thing. Personally, I have no idea at all if this particular cable is good, bad, way over-priced, or a bargain. All I know is what Steve wrote above.

However, this "as long as the bits get through accurately, things are perfect" idea is really a gross oversimplification. It assumes perfect data converters, perfect clocks, noise free systems, and all sorts of things that only exist in block diagrams and software. Not real life, at all.

Home audio is a hobby for me and probably more than 99% of the people who might read this. Your worth as a human hardly depends on your audio system. If a nice Belkin or equivalent USB cable works for you, that's really all that matters. Other people might want something different.

dpudvay's picture

with you that I oversimplified things, noise is couple in on a cable very easily, and the tolerance to noise built into the data converters, clocks etc., have more effect on the system than cable. But that's my point, once a cable reaches a certain quality, that becomes function of the system, not the cable and properly designed system will allow for a certain amount of noise and not affect the digital communication.

Furthermore, the amount of noise a particular cable induces in a system can be measured by the impairment of the bit error rate and by measuring the eye opening. The communication speed for USB is fairly low by digital communication standards and test equipment so this is easily done.

CG's picture

I disagree. OK, partly disagree.

The noise with regard to the bits transmitted in a USB cable can certainly be measured as you describe. Absolutely no question about it.

But, that's only a fraction of the problem.

Imagine that you're using USB 1.1 at 12 Mbits/s. If you look at one "eye" closure pattern, you're looking at less than a microsecond of the signal. Now, what if the noise spectra is largely at around 100 KHz or lower? Will you see that reliably in the eye diagram? I don't think so...

Baseband digital signals are usually really, really happy with a 40 dB SNR. A USB signal is about 3 Volts peak-to-peak. It's not quite a square wave, but let's call the RMS value of the USB signal 1.5 Vrms just to make it easy. A noise level 40 dB below that would be about 15 mVrms.

Now, if that entire noise spectra just happened to be in the audio band and just happened to be present at the output of a DAC converter chip that generated 0.7 Vrms (full scale), you have a whopping 33 dB SNR in your audio band. I bet nobody would ever notice that.

OK, it's really never that bad.

My hand waving example assumes no isolation at all and also assumes certain things about the noise spectrum. Neither of which are likely to be true.

But, 33 dB is a long way from the 90+ dB SNR that people expect. It also assumes that this is just noise superimposed on the audio band, rather than perturbations to the conversion clock or the DAC modulator reference, and is totally random type noise, which it is not.

I'm not saying cables are a magical panacea. Or that they do nothing. What I am trying to convey is that the whole problem is systemic and not as simple as one might first think it to be.

fmak's picture

I tend to agree. $2000 for a usb cable is excessive, especially since the computer output circuit and socketry, as well as the input interfaces are all less than ideal.

Spending $10000 or more on enhancement accessories simply show up the inadequacies of computer playback and the downstream components.

If there are 10 'enhancement' variables in a system, there are potentially 10x9x8x7x.......permutations in arriving at a final verdict on
their effects

Steven Plaskin's picture
Thanks for checking out my review Fred. Is a $2000 USB cable a nutty investment? Maybe for some it’s not as far out as you would think. But most everyone has financial limits. Being a reviewer for AudioStream has allowed me to evaluate and enjoy some very expensive components. Components I would never be able to purchase due to their price. But I do think it’s a wonderful thing that designers are willing to spend the money and time developing these expensive designs as the technology generally finds its way into more affordable products. As I stated before, we all have limits as to what we are willing to spend on this hobby. If my friend Fred feels that this is an unnecessary extravagance, then so be it. But having lived with the Galileo LE USB cable, I do have a great deal of respect for what Ted Denney has accomplished.
CG's picture

Those are very good points.

What's the alternative? Not to this cable, of course, but to the whole playback scheme? Learn to hum the music to yourself?

labjr's picture

I'm all for a good USB cable but come on! I talked to Ted once and it seemed like I was listening to a Reiki master rather than someone with engineering background.

CG's picture

Here's a really good question. I certainly don't know the answer.

Let's say somebody studies physics, applied physics, mathematics, materials science, and electrical engineering for decades. S/he attains certain academic degrees and publishes papers in juried journals. This same person also decides to tackle the cable question.

In parallel, some other person tinkers and experiments for decades on the same problem. S/he can't or won't explain in engineering terms anything about his/her work.

One day, they both shout "Eureka!" and declare that they have the answer to life's persistent questions about audio cables.

Whose work is more worthy?

MrMoons's picture

How did this new SR USB compare to the Totaldac USB Cable/Filter?

Steven Plaskin's picture
I was able to listen to both on the Totaldac d1-monobloc. While the Totaldac USB cable/filter is a beautiful match with the Totaldac, the SR had the bigger soundstage and was more detailed and revealing.
Axiom05's picture

I am not going to question what Steven, or anybody else, hears but the issue for me is the cost. One meter for $2000 is over twice the cost of the Mac mini plus Pure Music that I use for playback (damn it's 2/3 of the cost of my Ayre DAC). Something just doesn't seem right here, it's a cable not a "complex" component. People can buy what they want, but I can't help think that this kind of pricing hurts rather than helps the hobby.

CG's picture

I pretty much agree with you, except...

I'm not sure this hurts the hobby. At least not any more than high priced jewelry hurts the hobby of wearing rings and the like.

That's the thing - it's a hobby. Except for people in the business, it's not - or shouldn't be - an investment vehicle. People buying $2,000 or $200,000 USB cables doesn't affect how the music sounds in our living room.

rmjfire's picture

This is just rubbish to suggest that a digital cable is in some way going to change the sound of the music you are listening to. A digital cable passes 0 and 1s. It could at the same time pass a huge amount of noise with it but it doesn't matter because the 2 devices on either end are looking for one thing only, 0s and 1s. The converter does not know what to do with noise because its analog and its not able to decode an analog signal. If the cable is so bad that it is not delivering those 0s and 1s then its broke and throw it out.
I dont have a problem with people spending money on digital cables, if you have a large expensive system then you want a cable that will last and be less likely to fail. But to suggest that in some way that digital cable is going to change the sound is crazy, to do that it would have to change the 0s and 1s as they travel down the cable. The quality or the character of the sound comes from the devices on either end of that cable. Analog cables are a whole different thing and a quality analog cable can sound better then a cheap one.

CG's picture

Rubbish? Really?

Please help me, and probably others, out here with some suggestions - I'd really love to read an opinion from digital and mixed signal system experts on why noise does not matter.

I cite Morrison, Ott, and Johnson as references. (To my knowledge, none of them are audio guys.)

rmjfire's picture

I am not sure why people keep going on about noise, the reason digital sounds so much better is because in digital there is no noise. if you have a string of information say 01011101 01110001 that makes a specific note, and then you send it down a usb cable it will be 01011101 01110001, the exact same thing and if there was noise then that exact string would have to be changed or added to, say 11011011. This is simply an impossibility, the cable would have to have an analog to digital converter in it to change the sound of the noise to 1 and 0s which would be stupid. That is why digital was invented a way to send information from one component to the next with out changing a thing, however digital can sound to clean so thats why we have analog components or people prefer all analog such as a turntable.

Really this is just common sense however I will admit to having never done a blind test myself so I cant speak from experience.

Dr Eric Chowanietz, Principle Lecturer in Media Technology at De Montfort University
"You wouldn't buy a more expensive printer cable and expect to print higher quality documents".

CG's picture

I wish you well in your career.

fmak's picture

''Dr Eric Chowanietz, Principle Lecturer in Media Technology at De Montfort University
"You wouldn't buy a more expensive printer cable and expect to print higher quality documents".''

He may know about printers, but he doesn't have a clue about audio.

Wavelength's picture


In the beginning I believed as you did that cables had nothing to do with the sound. We all thought USB async was the end all of problems with digital transmission.

But after 10 years of doing this I can say there are still issues with setup and cables are one of them.


fmak's picture

No investment is nutty, provided that it has a rational and sound basis. For a $30000 computer replay system with loads of 'enhancements' you cannot say which aspect of SQ 'improvement' is attributable to what. The fact that you hear improvements is just that; and you have never acknowledged my point about the pot pouri combined effects so many add-on enhancements.

For me, it is not monetary value, or gimmicks that play a part in improving any system, but a logical and technically sound basis for implementing changes and rejecting those that don't work.

You use a Mac system which is known to be noisy, a MS OS that has loads of background tasks and services, you then add on loads of performance 'enhancing' hardware and software like 16G ram (high current demand), fast and potentially loud and vibratory hdds with high bandwidth active cabling, J Play on JRiver player, and $10000 worth of cabling and shielding devices, and then post to confirm that you have a reference system that should work for others.

If at least you have evaluated and posted about simplified and low current demand systems with slimmed OS, driven by the best linear supplies on the market, then what you have consistently said would have been far more convincing and not regarded as nutty.

This is a nutty approach.

CG's picture

I hear what you're saying.

Could you give some examples of solutions like this that are commercially available?

Steven Plaskin's picture
In my recent review of the Totaldac d1-monobloc with DSD and server I compared the MacBook Pro with the Totaldac sever that utilizes an 800 MHz ARM based Cubox minicomputer. I try to use computer equipment that is not customized as in your setup. I have no issues with your approach, it's just not used by the majority of our readers.
fmak's picture

Start with XP minimised for audio, with maximum of 12 services and uses <70 G ram playing 384 k files in kernel streaming.

Progress to minimised W7, W8, W8.1 21 and 64 bit

Then Server 2012 R2 with no functions other than as a file server.

The sound is different with each OS (on same hardware). It is difficult to say which is 'best' except that XP and Server 2012R2 do come out on top in my systems (resolution and listenability) which have no fans, pc power supply rails with either noise suppressed and hardware such as SSDs powered separately from the PC rails.

The thing is:

Adjust buffers in the play back software and it is like changing a usb cable. Change the player and get a similar effect

Use ASIO instead of KS and sound changes. Use WASAPI with the same effects.

Add more ram unecessarilly thus pushing up supply current and the SQ suffers.

There are so many variables that adding $2000 cables and $8000 enhancement aids can have the same effect as changing OS, RAM, and types of power supplies. If these enhancements also have the same effects as they have on a more 'idealised' system, then the 'magic' will have asserted itself.

In the end, one has to settle for a particular setup and not mess much further.

Otherwise, for the same sort of money just buy a dCS, Meitner, TotalDAC or high quality solution and be done with. The time saved in playlisting, ripping operating remotes, and upgrading OSs can be better spent listening to music or relaxing

CG's picture

Well, it's always better to remove noise and/or distortion at it's source than trying to filter it out later.

You didn't mention a commercial product that can be purchased. Have you considered authoring an article so that others can duplicate your approach? Not everybody is entirely facile in the subtleties of Windows system optimization.

Steven Plaskin's picture
I am willing to bet the farm that after you have performed all of these steps on your computer, different USB cables would still sound different from each other. Also, there are fewer variables with stock systems in terms of what most folks are running. If I wasn't writing for AudioStream, I would probably assemble a "custom" computer. But many of our readers are OSX users and I need a Mac for them. At the end of the day, the MacBook Pros can sound quite excellent. I have also compared the MacBook Pro to high end disc drives. You can refer to my review of the MSB Analog DAC and CD Player.
tubefan9's picture

Researching and trying a $2000 USB cable is about as simple as assembling a custom computer. Computer audiophile has tons of readers talking about their custom computers / software setups.
A laptop is for portability, why would you use that in a permanent setup with so many other (cheaper/better) options available.

Steven Plaskin's picture
The MacBook Pro has less RFI than the Mac Mini or iMac. The MacBook Pro does not throttle the CPU when on battery use. I prefer the MacBook Pro over the Mini for sound quality. Listening to the MSB CD Player that also plays wave files and the Totaldac server and comparing to the Mac, indicate this MacBook Pro is on the mark. I am not against custom computers / software setups. I love this stuff. I could have a Windows Server setup tomorrow with OS modifications. I might just do that soon for fun. But reviewing is a different game. Think about how you would present your reviews to the readers here.
fmak's picture

''The MacBook Pro has less RFI than the Mac Mini or iMac. The MacBook Pro does not throttle the CPU when on battery use. I prefer the MacBook Pro over the Mini for sound quality''

1. How do you know that the the Pro's RFI spectrum is less coincident with the capacity for pickup in your system and is the lower RFI a result of the use of spread spectrum techniques that can be very bad for audio?

2. Any decent BIOS can be set for no CPU throttling and with none of the gimmicks (for audio) enabled.

If this cannot be done in a MAC, then it should be ditched.

fmak's picture

The discussion for me is not whether usb cables sound different; they do. But the reality is that we are now back in the realm of the so called 'broken spdif' and its cabling as coined by the 'Gang'.

The discussion is whether your claims are about the usb cable or about the rest of the 'aids' that you have installed in your setup.

Steven Plaskin's picture
If you consider 16GB of RAM an "aid" in my MacBook Pro, I don't think there is much more I can say.
CG's picture

This is really all about the cost, isn't it?

If this cable was the prize inside a Cracker Jack box, would everybody be so up in arms?

Why does a discussion that starts something like, "Wow! Is it really that good? That's more than I can or want to pay for a cable" morph into "Can't work! Noise doesn't matter! Yadayadayada!"?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
The same conversation, if you can call it that, is taking place on the Stereophile website regarding Ethernet cables. Here's an interesting quote from John Atkinson from the comments:
"No-one is arguing that the bits are changed or not transmitted perfectly. However, when audio data is presented to a D/A converter, even if the bits are all correct, the timing of exactly when each data word is converted to analog matters. The right bit at the wrong time results in analog distortion. This is called "jitter" and has been examined at length in the audio engineering literature. This is why I keep explaining to you that looking at the transmissions of bits from an IT perspective is only relevant when those bits are never used to recreate an original analog signal."
It appears as if that last bit, ..."used to recreate an original analog signal", is typically ignored by those people who are convinced digital cables do not matter.
CG's picture

I'd go a bit (har, har) beyond that even. Ever look at the Ethernet spec? Lots of noise reduction measures built into that. Audio wasn't a consideration, I don't believe.

We seem to have moved into a world approaching complete abstraction. Nobody cares about physics.

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

for well engineered, one box, do-all, integrateds. Maybe not so far as a vinyl and disc playing, internet connected, HDD, ADC, DAC, step up, pre, amp and speakers all next to a power plant, but, put enough HQ devices together to minimize cable necessity.

Oh, wait!

bobflood's picture

because so few understand it. Physics does not sell a product; marketing hyperbole does! That is why he can use a phrase like "quantum tunneling" in his marketing piece with a straight face. Physicists have a tough time with quantum mechanics let alone the general public.

What he does with all of his cables does have an effect on sound because those ones and zero are represented by electrical square waves and are thus still subject to the other laws of physics.

The high price is just a consequence of the small number that will ever be sold. No mass production; no economies of scale.

CG's picture

Great reply! No argument from me.

derneck's picture

So you pretty much have to be a medical doctor, making what they make, to afford it?

CG's picture

Same is true for Ferraris, large diamonds, and so on.

And, like those, these cables will eventually be available in the used market for much less.

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

coin an updated law of economics: Things are only truly worth what someone will pay for them on the second hand market. (Wherein the words "truly" and "on the second hand market" constitute the updates.)

It would be fun to administer a truth serum to high end cable survey subjects:


"I bought this expensive cable because,

a. to me it sounds better than other cables.
b. I believe what experts tell me.
c. I believe what my friends tell me.
d. I'm wealthy and the cost is irrelevant.
e. I'm an early adopter.
f. I'm a post doc physics researcher and I know empirically this cable is better.
g. it's cool and my friends will be impressed.
h. I trust the manufacturer/retailer claims.
i. I've got a bad case of upgradeitis.
j. it was on sale.
k. the colour goes with my carpet.

CG's picture

Ha! Good idea!

You have to stand back and really think about this...

What's the market for a $2000 USB cable?

I don't imagine that folks with $2000 and under DACs are likely to even consider USB cables that cost as much or more than their DAC. At least not in significant numbers.

From what I can estimate, roughly 10,000 $2500+ DACs are sold worldwide each year.

So, let's assume that the upper limit to the market is those 10,000 DAC owners.

But, how many of those would really consider a $1000 or more cable? 1000? Of those, how many might buy this particular cable? 100? 200?

OK... Let's now assume that the dealer mark-up is 50%. I don't really know, but over the years I've heard from various sources that dealers do better than that. We'll stick with 50%.

Let's also assume everybody's worst fears - the manufacturing cost is only $100. Again, I have no idea whether that is close, but it does make for easy comparisons.

That leaves $900 to cover marketing, warranty costs, customer service, and all those other business costs. Oh - profit, too.

Now, if they dropped the sell price to $1000, what would happen? Would sales double?

Let's say they do.

Manufacturing costs might drop to $75. That means that the company would now make $500-$75 per cable, or $425.

At the original price, the sorta net for a year is 100 X $900. With double the sales the sorta net is 200 X $425.

Which would you choose to do?

Yeah, these numbers are all made up. They most certainly are off. Are they off by enough of a factor to really change the equation?

Oh - there's an "L" for above. How about "it costs more so it HAS to be better"? For a lot of high priced goods, that actually affects the sales volume. Higher price might mean more sales.

stevebythebay's picture

I'm no scientist but the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. If a system can produce sounds we "hear" and feel and "get" from room cues, etc., these may still be hard to understand/measure. Of all our senses sound is the one we can't "shut off" getting it through our very bones. And as Steven and others have noted, what we have to recreate music is a system. It's affected by our local power company all the way out the speakers and the room effects. I've been a believer in SR's products simply because they "work" for my system. I'm don't always find everything in the line as effective as I would hope but most of the time the active devices and even the ones like HFT's can provide a cleaner and more realistic sense of what I hope for in music reproduction. I'm looking forward to Steven's review of the ECT's. I've been experimenting with one that happened along with one of SR's active copper power cords. Not been impressed sticking it on cables (did try one on the outbound side of the active USB, but it was not to my liking).

As I've said to Peter at SR: if Ted offered up a tonic for my scalp to grow hair, I'd certainly give it a go. His track record, as I've experienced, has proven itself.

fmak's picture

I believe that this is an important part of the equation.
Poor interface connector design and construction changes the eye pattern and if there are many processes running on a computer, usb latency can shoot up which in turn will require bigger buffers in the player software to tame interruptions etc.

In my experience the lowest latency systems are the best, and 10 to 50 uS are achievable with minimised operating systems.

fmak's picture

As a matter of curiosity, I looked up the power consumption of 16G of DDR3 Ram and it is around 16 W give or take.

This current demand is high for any computer within a small space and exceeds that of the total consumption of small footprint computers.

It cannot have a positive influence on power supply performance and spikes caused by it's switching nature or by impulsive demands from the cpu, ram and other hardware.

Talk about 'low' RFI.

Steven Plaskin's picture
I feel that Macs sound better with more RAM. Certainly not the 2GB that you are crowing about. I have compared different models of Macs and prefer the sound of the MacBook Pro. I have spoken many times to Gordon Rankin of Wavelength who has also arrived at similar conclusions as I have with much experience and testing. I have compared the MacBook Pro with low powered computer solutions and have written the results for all to see. While we welcome your opinion, it would be nice if you respected the opinions of others as well. I don't know what you have tested, but I get the impression that you have no experience with Macs. In short, give us all a break and lighten up.
tubefan9's picture

Do MACs have a place in audiophile systems?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
fmak's picture

beyond reasoning and that is the issue that you refuse to acknowledge.

tubefan9's picture

Curious why all of the photos are with a mac mini if you tested with a macbook pro.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...supplied by Synergistic. I should have noted that in the review.
tubefan9's picture

I wonder, of the readers of this site. Who is more likely to buy a $2000 USB cable or setup a custom computer.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Why not do both :-) Again, I'm not against custom computers. I have assembled a good number in my time and will probably build a new one soon. But many of our readers are happy with their Macs. There are many ways to achieve a good sounding system.
fmak's picture

My points do not have anything to do with custom computers but are about things that anyone with some experience in audio and who can search on the net to make computers more suitable for audio can and should do, such as disabling speedstepping and cpu throttling etc. in BIOS as a starting point.

With regard to ram, I don't know why the average user should have a MAC and 12-16G Ram. A simple look under taskmanager in any PC OS
with audio running will tell how much ram is being used and it is not even 4-8G unless a heck of a lot of other processing is going on.

So let's go back to the topic of using a computer for audio and what is needed before applying $10000 enhancements.

I too have thousands in 'aids' but these are to do with mains regenerators, dc power supplies and a wide range of cables etc which are based on many years of listening and on research and reasoning.

Steven Plaskin's picture
For those that don't know the history of fmak and myself, we have been having this discussion since 2011. Being primarily a Windows guy, I truly understand where fmak is coming from. I discovered some time ago that with OSX, particularly the newer versions, more RAM sounds better. I have never heavily modified OSX, so I don't know if the RAM suggestion would hold true under heavy OSX modification. One thing I have discovered since becoming a reviewer, is that one can enjoy music with a computer audio system without putting forth a great deal of effort or money. For those that enjoy exploring the ultimate potential of this hobby, the tweaks are almost endless.
Steven Plaskin's picture
Let me ask you one more question tubefan9: Would you be happier if I didn't report on products like this? I am just the messenger here. Michael and I cover a wide range of products from modest to very expensive. I feel it is my job to keep our readers informed on what is being offered today and how it stacks up against the competition.
tubefan9's picture

This type of review brings interesting discussion. I've also sent this link to numerous co-workers and it brought lots of laughs. (laughs being the price, not your review) IMO I think it's strange to use a cable worth more than your source (worth being price AND performance/sq)

The synergistic reviews tend to read like ads, and almost every review turns into greatest bits.

Steven Plaskin's picture
"The synergistic reviews tend to read like ads, and almost every review turns into greatest bits." Every time I write a Synergistic review you and I end up at the same place. Hows about trying some of these products and then commenting? I spent a good deal of time evaluating this cable. If it didn't measure up, I would state this in my review. I was patiently waiting for your "expected response". Thanks for not disappointing me. Synergistic is getting great reviews from many reviewers on the other products I have evaluated. Thanks for visiting.
tubefan9's picture

I just double checked, this is the first time I've commented on a Synergistic review. Maybe you're confusing me with someone else?

Steven Plaskin's picture
Sorry tubefan9. I confused you with someone else.
Michael Lavorgna's picture
...that I do not appreciate wise-ass comments that add nothing else to the conversation. Please consider that a warning for the future.
tubefan9's picture

I enjoy reading this site, I'm not sure what came off as "wise-ass" that was not how it was intended.

fmak's picture

''one can enjoy music with a computer audio system without putting forth a great deal of effort or money''

using thousands of dollars of audio aids and a $2000 'reference usb cable.. How does this square with your discovery above? And how does changing a couple of BIOS settings entail heavy modification of a computer OS? This takes less time and hassle than connecting active shields to cabling all over the place.

You need to present reasoned arguments if you want to respond to my comments.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
It's also the case that people are free to explore this hobby however they see fit.
You need to present reasoned arguments if you want to respond to my comments.
You need to lighten up "fmak".
stevebythebay's picture

I've tried both WinPC solutions and Mac. I've nothing but my ears to tell me, but I've settled into MacBook Pro Early 2011 with 8gb mem running Mavericks. Replaced the stock drive with Samsung SSD. Previously I had a Win 8 system built on the Computer Audiophile C.A.P.S. Lagoon specs. In all instances the music files have been uncompressed FLAC on a Western Digital My Book Live NAS that is Ethernet attached directly to the computers. Have been using JRiver as the player under both systems. Did all the tuning tweaks identified. The Lagoon only had 4gb memory. But neither OS or application footprint made a significant dent in memory usage. And prior to all of this I'd used a Mac Mini with somewhat less memory and Amarra player software.

I suspect there's a benefit in the hardware from Apple and their ability to fine tune both the OS and its drivers to all the hardware elements. The introduction of "noise" in the hardware chain is probably the biggest factor in the resulting sound. And within the hardware platform (be it PC or Mac) there's much RFI and other "garbage" that that can be fixed in design (chip isolation, as well as power supply, and signal path). And even what hardware transport technology is used (Ethernet vs bus tech. for serving up the songs to the server) and then moving the bits to the DAC.

This is a fast moving field, especially compared to the more mature elements in the music chain (amps, pre-amps, speakers). So, unless an element in the chain can be substantially improved, and at a cost that's "reasonable" (that's for each person to decide), it may be best to sit things out.

Yet it's always surprising to me that making changes in a system can make big differences in what I hear. In my case, as my system has changed in terms of resolution (speakers and amp/pre-amp most notably) all of the upstream components have played that much bigger a part in the overall effects.

However, it all comes down to enjoying the music, no matter the system.

Lifer's picture

I have CAPS Carbon that I built with all the options, been running it for over a year. I minimized the running footprint of Windows 8 using Fidelizer (recommended); I haven't looked at the Bios but now I will. And I plan to try MS Server 2012 (optimized).

Yesterday, I installed Audioquest Vodka (switch to server) and Audioquest Cinnamon (NAS to switch) Ethernet cables (replacing Cat 6 cables). I was listening with headphones and used the DSD of Reference Recording's Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances as my first trial. No double-blind, no A/B switching. I listened to the first track in full and then changed to the Vodka. I was blown-away by the improvement in musical information being presented to me. We all know the cliché - a curtain was lifted. This change was as big as any I have experienced in the digital domain - as much as a major cartridge improvement on my analog front-end.

I then changed to the Cinnamon and was not really aware of a change. I was still stunned by the Vodka - they should call it Absinthe because the hit is so strong. I will replace both with Cat 7 cables this week to see if that is the reason for the improvement and send the expensive cables back if it is. If the Cat 7 cables don't do it for me I am left contemplating the AQ Diamond Ethernet cable and planning for the cost.

I am using a Pangea solid silver USB cable - so you can understand that I am someone who looks for value and doesn't splash the cash. But, if I can trial the Synergistic USB cable and get the same improvement that I got from the Vodka Ethernet cable I would find the way to pay for it. Cheaper than a Lambo Huracan.

stevebythebay's picture

Finally got my hands on the Galileo USB and within minutes noted all of the same effects described. I was a bit worried that my Spectral amp/pre-amp driven Wilsons would sound a bit too "hard" if that's the right word. But the reverse seems to be true. Especially difficult music passages, loaded with vast and complex instrumentation, suddenly were being delivered with ease, clarity, and fidelity. The clutter is gone as is the tendency for coalescing bits. Seems as though what's coming from the computer and being sent to the Berkeley Alpha USB is no longer being "slammed" in but delivered without any contortions in the stream. That makes it easier, it seems, for the clock to do its thing.

Now all I can wonder is if SR will use this same technology for the AES/EBU active cable or even active Ethernet.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Thanks for your feedback on the Galileo LE USB. The darn thing is revealing and musical.