USB cables - the good, the bad and the ugly

This!

People who go on about higher end USB cables having better bass weight, imaging, clarity (insert hifi nonsense here).

The information either gets to the other end intact or it doesn’t. If it gets to the other end in good enough shape, the audio stream will be played exactly as it left the source.

If it doesn’t, you’ll hear dropouts, clicks, skipping etc… you won’t hear “a mild loss of soundstage width”.

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It’s not that simple and I really wish it were. The data arrives bit perfect to the DAC over USB at least 99.99% of the time so data integrity is not the issue. If what you said were true, nothing before the DAC would matter and that is simply not the case. The electrical noise that comes along with the data affects the sound. Even USB cable changes affect sound because the noise is altered by the characteristics of the cable.

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Do you have any idea how sane the audiophile hobby seems when you glimpse the fishing hobby? :smiley:

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I am quite happy to believe claims like that as long as they are backed up by measurement, ideally of differences in a DACs performance when connected to various sources. RF is measurable. Noise is measurable. Let’s see the measurements,

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Have you just come out from under a rock? Most of them sound different from each other… Don’t ask me why, but they do. I have about 5 different types 2 shop bought and 3 home made. All 5 sound very good but different… :+1:

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Goodness me!

My reaction to someone who posts that they can hear a difference in sound or sound quality between digital cables or digital devices of any sort in their systems is - okay, I don’t doubt that these people hear a difference of some sort, or at least think they do - but does it make me want to test the same items in my system in order to perhaps gain a very subtle improvement. The answer is No!

It must be so much more difficult for those who feel compelled to ridicule posts of this sort irrespective of whether or not they have conducted similar tests. It must be so galling for them to think that they may have missed one post and the chance to score points with their fellow players by making yet another witty but sarcastic remark.

I, for my sins have never once attempted to compare digital cables. However, I may soon make an exception. I need a couple of new ethernet cables. I have decided to purchase cat6a cables from BJC, and I may use them to replace the cheapo (Maplin) cat 6 cables in one of my hi-fi systems. They will probably cost me about £40 to £50 for the pair. I may attempt to listen to see if I can discern any difference, but on the other hand I may not bother.

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I’ll say it again, slightly differently. I have no problem when people say they can hear the difference between cables or servers or whatever. They get an appropriate amount of credibility. But if people make technical claims, about noise, or about RF, or about bending space-time, then I want to see the measurements, because a technical claim is being made about an objective matter. When a manufacturer makes such a claim without evidence he should in particular be held to account. Imo.

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Here you go… measured and debunked.

@Speed_Racer, If you’re hearing a difference in cables, you probably need a non “broken by design” dac, not a better usb cable. (Read the whole review not just the first paragraph)

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I don’t trust anything from Amir or his forum. Amir debunking something means less than nothing to me.

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I agree. He even has another link on his site where he tested and measured a USB cable and said it made a difference (improvement with lower noise).

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When I bend space-time its a night and day difference in sound quality. Much noticeable. You wouldn’t believe it. Better imaging, clarity, unworldly decay, but most significantly a deeper noise floor. It’s so black, yet transparent, words are unable to describe such improvements. All of these improvements, while leaving instruments with a superior airy transparency, you can almost see, but not see, the physical space where the recording was made. It’s both like being there and being in my living room at the same time.

I could send you measurements but you would never get them. Another you would get them and would probably be confused why I was sending them. See, the problem with bending space-time is that the measurements I take happen in a different reality than yours. As soon the bending of space-time occurs my reality fractures into a new one and I’m disconnected from this reality. The sound quality improvement is well worth it though.

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Hi Mario, Did you say in another post you have a Nagra DAC? (Sorry if I got that wrong) If so I assume you have speakers of equivalent or higher the price? Perhaps indeed you can hear the difference. I’m not going to disbelieve you. But imagine if another person on a less resolving system cannot hear the difference between a $100 usb cable and a $1000 usb cable? Would you believe them or not?

It seems to me there are simply too many components in the chain to make generalisations on each component. Ultimately if I spend $20k per component, or total $100k on a digital system I’m unlikely to spend $5 on an usb cable.

On the other hand if my total system price is $5000, I’m unlikely to spend $1000 of that on a usb cable, right? :thinking:

I do like that Nagra DAC, but I’m in love with my Chord. :grin:

I’d argue that if you can hear a difference between USB cables it’s not because your DAC is better. It’s because your DAC is deficient. There’s no connection whatsoever between “highly resolving” and “resistant to interference/noise.” One can easily imagine a cheap, poorly resolving DAC being vulnerable to noise. Likewise, it’s easy to understand a highly resolving DAC being engineered well enough to be immune to it. I’ve got a $20 pair of desktop computer speakers here that I can’t put my phone next to. Is that because they’re highly resolving?

People act like it’s a good thing if their gear is so poorly engineered that a measly downstream USB cable can influence the sound it produces. I think the opposite is true.

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I have struggled with the issues discussed in this thread repeatedly (not the question of the OP). One thing that has become very clear to me is that a digital reproduction system is not a purely digital system, but a mixture of digital and analogue. That’s why digital cables can have an influence (not in the digital domain, but in the analogue). dCS for example recommend U/UTP ethernet cables, as screened cables undo the isolation measures dCS have taken in designing the ethernet input of their DACs.

To put things into perspective. Different parts of an audio system have different levels of influence on SQ. I would personally put them in the following order of decreasing influence:

  • Room acoustics (influenced by room treatment) - by far the biggest influence
  • Speakers
  • analogue equipement (amplifiers)
  • digital equipment (DACs)
  • cabling

As long as one has not optimized the level above, it makes little sense to work on the level below. It is unlikely that one will hear the difference.

I would assume yes. Stray electrical disturbances are likely to influence Mic preamps. But that influence is probably many factors smaller than the effect of room treatment in the studio, choice and placement of mics etc.

OK, but in the digital domain, ANY quality cable will be fine. Not some $24000 special “and if you can’t hear it you’re not worthy” BS. This is why standards exist.

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I would only add Powersupplies into that equation for Better power is always going be desirable on all fronts. Cleaner power and less emitted interference both being attributable to the equation and be it would sit along side cables or perhaps more suitably above it and maybe even side by side with Analogue and Digital equipment. but thats just my $0.02 worth so take it or leave it.

That said - no point to put a $500 power supply on a $100 DAC or amp tho probably.

We have a recording studio in London. All the equipment we have are tools.The Nagra DAC / Nucleus+ and linear power supply,are in the studio and connected to ATC SCM200ASL Pro speakers. For cables we simply use (Pro) Van-Damme audio including home made van-damme cable USB. We also have a Chord Electronics Qutest, Meridian dac for MQA and a superb RME ADI2 Pro FS.
Don’t believe much into USB differences, they all sound slightly different. I cant say better or worse just different slightly. ($100 usb cable and a $1000 usb cable) my genuine answer for your quote the only difference is usually the price. The only reason USB cables sound different is because different techniques are used for insulating the power wires from the signal wires.
We have a Sotm sms 200 as an end point now, that have solved the problem with the 537 update.

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Do you find a session with high CPU usage sounds worse than a session with low CPU usage?

Absolutely agree. I am not saying that USB or ethernet cables impact bit perfect transmission in any way. The issue is that the final signal is analogue, not digital. So the analogue side of the digital / analogue hybrid system comes into play as well.

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Yeah I see your point. You mean like I might have a $100 DAC but I go buy a $1000 usb cable and notice an improvement through my $500 speakers? Haha that would be so funny LMAO