Paul McGowan makes a short story long

For those who can take it a rambling, nonsensical anecdote about USB cables -

The cable in question was a Curious USB cable from Australia…in case anyone wondered.

I was actually in PSAudio’s office on Paul’s 70 Bday…I bought a DS Jnr and a NuWave Phono Convertor. The DS is now sold, as I couldn’t hear any differences in my system (nor did several others in an ABX test), and it didn’t get better than DSD128 externally or DSD64 via LAN. I still have the NPC for ripping my vinyl one of the days.

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$340 for a 2 ft. cable and McGowan thinks that’s reasonable. Absurd.

What DAC were you measuring it against?

I could sit anyone down in front of my system and they would hear the differences between USB cables. The Curious Cable from Australia is a great cable for the money.

Regardless, why the hostility toward someone who contributes so much to the hobby? If you’ve freed his daily posts for the last few years you would realize that he is the opposite of a “snake oil salesman”.


If he is not a “snake oil salesman”, why did he try to sell us snake oil?

These equipment manufacturers all worship at the same church. The money church.

Mods have edited the title of the thread. It is possible to have a discussion about a reviewer, even a robust discussion, without using pejorative names. Such names often draw an emotional response attacking the poster, obscuring the discussion and resulting in moderation of the cause and effect.

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Hey Slim! Thought I’d chime in with a message from the dark side :grin:

For fun, as always…

I think it’s been explained by people much smarter than I, that differences we hear with different digital cables MAY be due to how they affect / treat / filter RF interference, going into and through the DAC and the rest of the analogue components.

The construction of the Curious cable is quite different from most, which may be why it CAN sound different in some systems… note I said different. But a lot of people do like the difference it makes.

I tried it and indeed it sounds very different to my stock cable but I sold it because I prefer to solve the RF issues a different way, further upstream.

Construction info:

"Once I settled on the conductors—high purity silver—it was on to the insulation materials. And so on. I then moved to the 5V power leg and onto the ground leg. Testing a huge range of conductors and materials, two interesting factors arose. 1/ shielding. A lot of manufacturers go to extraordinary lengths to shield their data lines. In the main, this is done to prevent radiated noise from the 5V power leg and the ground leg from interfering with the data lines. Plus, we have EMI and RFI from the environment that may cause upset. However, all the shielding I tested produced an inferior sound. The cure was worse than the malady. How to solve this problem? Instead of shielding the data lines, I decided to shield the 5V power leg (and remove it from the vicinity) and shield the ground. I then let the USB receiver chip do the rest. As you know, data via USB is carried as a differential signal. A mirror image of the signal travels down each data leg and is summed at the receiver chip, effectively removing noise. In this respect, the USB cable design is very similar to an analog balanced cable. 2/ the ground leg. The physical and electrical relationship between data lines and ground is extremely important. A lot of time went into this part of the design."

Note, I’m not saying this is the best way to make a USB cable. It’s a different way and may be why it sounds different (I repeat - different, not better). There’s no mention of the 90-ohm USB 2.0 impedance spec, so in fact the result MAY be technically worse than a compliant USB 2.0 cable (I don’t know - maybe it does meet spec but just isn’t mentioned), but result in a different sound which some like? Nothing wrong with that either.

Hope you’ve been well mate !

PS: despite mentioning RF a few times, I know someone will still jump in and say the bits stay intact - at which point I’ll really regret ever jumping into this :grin:


Greetings, brother.

IMHO, the only reason to buy a cable (any cable) over any other cable is that some manufactures are more conscientious at making cables up to spec. I buy the lowest level AudioQuest because I know they will be up to spec. I don’t buy the AudioQuest Vodka cable (for example) because that would be foolish.

OK, Curious cables sound different, but do they sound $400 different? That’s my ax to grind.

The only bigger rip offs than in audio equipment (particularly cables) is the American pharmaceutical industry.

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And tariffs on import :wink:

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Paul is a nice guy, as are his team. And yes they have to make money to support the products and develop new ones…thats the way it works.

As for my reason to sell the DS it come down to having too much (IMHO) tied up in a DAC when I and several others honestly didn’t find it so different to either my OPPO HA-1 or Emotiva DC-1 that I could justify the cost difference (plus its spec limitations on DSD256 and up) so I spent that money on better server for Roon, media and media storage.

And therein lies my argument. No matter how avuncular McGowan is, there is no justification for him or any others to sell overpriced products. They only do it because they can get away with it. If the market wouldn’t buy $7000 DACs you’d find how quick the prices would come down and they would still be in business.

Look at PS Audio. They take tradeins up to $800. That should tell you something and that something isn’t how nice they are.

In spite of the way it sounds, I don’t care how people spend their money, just playing devil’s advocate. Really sorry I started it.

Thanks for the reply.


Just to provide another datapoint, for friendly discussion.

When I re-purposed my DirectStream DAC from HiFi use to a headphones setup, I asked the DirectStream DAC’s designer (Ted Smith) if he uses headphones and what gear. At the time he used the Oppo HA-1 for headphone amp duties (gobs of Class A power, very low distortion), fed by his DirectStream DAC.

So I copied him and bought the HA-1 to drive my cans, fed by the DirectStream. I thoroughly enjoyed that setup for quite a while. I wasn’t going to copy his headphones - I already had my preferred cans at that time.

For sh!t$ and giggles, I did try the Oppo HA-1’s built-in DAC with it’s amp driving my cans… and didn’t enjoy it at all in _comparison, like_wise for some friends of mine :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Sensational headphones amp though.

Just adding another cheeky datapoint :grin:

I’m not sure any conclusions can be made from any of these anecdotes - apart from we all have highly subjective personal preferences and that’s more than ok.

@dabassgoesboomboom - What do you think of the iFi Pro iDSD? Looks tasty to me, and only $2500.

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Looks very very promising Slim. There MAY be a current potential issue , so I’d wait a while before committing with a purchase:

There’s no question it will be sorted out. Their customer service is first class. But sometimes these things happen with new rollouts.

My local shop has one coming in a few weeks, so I’ll head in for a listen.

On my desk at the moment is their new little xDSD - amazing performance for the dollar. I expect the Pro iDSD to be a solid performer. It’s been talked about for years!

I’m a huge iFi fan, especially their << $1k stuff, since their iDSD and then iDSD Black Label.

Thanks for the link; guess I’ll wait awhile. Let us know what your listening impressions are. Device seems to have all the bells and whistles.

BTW -agree with you about iFi support.


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What McGowan has at home. Spoiler - it’s Emotiva components. Couldn’t stand to listen to the whole thing, but no word on what cables he uses.

So do I. Quite a lot of it too I’m afraid to say, mostly speakers actually but quite a few channels of amplification and 4 AV processors, 2 of which are in my main setups x - the XMC-1’s.

I’m selling all the amps off slowly as none are in use now. But they served me well before I went to active speakers.

I don’t buy into the expensive cables but I do make most of my own cables with good brand components like Belden and Canare, Neutrik and Amphenol connectors, and try to use a decent usb cable when I need one.

To make long things short…

  • This is advertising and should have been removed from this forum.
  • Investing so much money without understanding is truely absurd.
  • If an (audio) bitstream through different USB cables is identical then the information sent to a device such as a DAC is identical.
  • If this bitstream is NOT identical then at least one of the cables is too long or simply broken

There’s nothing more to say.

Not advertising. Advertising would be when a companie’s principals make a recommendation on behalf of their particular brand.

For example, Small Green Computer advertises on this forum quite frequently.