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Summing the advice of others for audiophile USB cables


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I just received a Valab NOS DAC from Taiwan and I suddenly realized I needed to look again at the USB cable debate.

 

There is the same this-against-that talk in other audio forums about the comparative value of USB cables in audiophile applications.

 

The original post in this CA thread mentioned the Ridge Street Poiema, Locus Design Axis and Polestar USB cables which are high end products with prices to match. There is a lot of very good talk about these cables and they are undoubtedly proper choices for insuring an audiophile USB link. One person in another forum stated he was part of a panel that compared a number of USB cables over a broad price range and they determined the Ridge Street had a clear advantage over the others, although that group apparently didn't include the nicer Locus cables.

 

Those wanting to spend considerably less on a serious audiophile USB link might want to consider Kimber's USB cable and Locus' less expensive alternative, the Cryoparts USB cable. Both run about the $70 USD range and are made for the audiophile niche market.

 

Quite a bit is said about the nicer Monster and Belkin USB cables as the better of the regular consumer grade lot. One intereresting bump came from Lee at Locus Design. He suggests the Belkin AV52 (Google actual model # "AV52200-06"). $20-25 USD or so. When a seller of high end cables openly suggests a certain common cable is better than the rest, IMHO it's probably worth some attention.

 

I purchased the Cryoparts USB cable.

 

Rand

 

 

 

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Hey Rand,

 

Followed your link to "audiocircle" and found a thread on "music one hates the most". That was fun!

 

Nothing to do with USB cables but great reading. Maybe we should start one here on the music we dislike the most.

 

 

 

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Of all the audiophile cables out there in the world, audiophile USB cables would have to be the category that leave me the most bewildered. If ever there was an argument for "just 0's and 1's" the audiophile USB cable would surely have to be the most likely contender to win the battle...

 

I'm clearly missing something about this "audiophile USB cables matter" debate. I mean, do we all properly understand exactly what is happening when data is sent via USB? Is it honestly possible to understand the way USB actually works, AND STILL think you're hearing something different??!?!!!

 

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Hi Poo - Take a look at Gordon Rankin's explanation of why they MAY sound different. It is interesting that sme of the USB cables measure different. Let me know what you think. I'm honestly interested in everyone's opinion about this topic.

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/USB-Cables-0#comment-10369

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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I use the RSA Poiema and it is IMHO, th best link between my laptop and my Tube based DAC. The only other cable I would consider using in the next cable up the RSA line.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I like the fact you highlighted the word MAY there Chris.

 

My response to all, or my thoughts:

 

Unless I ever see some stats proving that the bits leaving the computer are different to the bits arriving at the DAC, I won't ever believe one cable can be better than another. I don't see how, in this form, there ever can be a difference. Analogue, sure, but not USB or firewire cables.

 

If I copy a file from my hard disk to an external hard drive via USB, it will arrive there, all bit's intact, no different. This can be tested - actually the file will be corrupted if it is any different.

 

I'm aware that there are some issues with one or two motherboards and I have experienced some problems with my ex's external drive - chunks of files were not copying across properly - but we're talking major errors here. On trying to import her music a good few songs would not even play. This was an issue with a few motherboards, not a general USB thing.

 

So, those saying there is a difference, please prove it to me.

 

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Hi BEEMB - Very sensible approach that most people are right in line with. I think IF there is a sonic difference it would have to do with the fact that audio is streaming realtime instead of a file copy that can copy the last bit first and the first bit last and even ask for each bit several times.

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Beemb, when you copy a file through a USB link, of course the bits will arrive intact. They will not all arrive with the same timing however on successive copies, not for the total file and cetainly not for the summed absolute differences between the voltage states being recognized and committed. This does not matter for your file copy, but it may matter for your music. Apart from the potential interference from poorly shielded cables, this thread is really all just another take on "is jitter audible". - John.

 

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Hi Guys - You know what would be the coolest thing? To have some list of the most heated topics in high end audio, USB cables & jitter etc..., and have an air tight answer one way or another. For example, USB cables do make a difference, this is why, and here is how everyone can test it themselves. I know I am dreaming but wouldn't this hobby grow by leaps and bounds and increase the enjoyment greatly? I guess one can always dream.

 

Hmm, I just had an idea. Put on your optimistic hats for a second. Maybe I start an article on all the heated topics that seem to get way to much attention and we compile a list of them. Then gather all the potential answers and all sides of the issue. When someone is interested in these topics we can just point them to this article and they'll find an opinion somewhere that is just like theirs and have no need to occupy anyone else's time rehashing the same statements. It is still early in the morning here in the U.S. so maybe I actually haven't woken up yet and I really am dreaming :~)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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The outcome would be fairly predictable, e.g. high end audiophiles (especially those concerned with making money from it) who often claim all cables make a vast difference due to directionality/quantum/skin/golden section/some other unspecified effect with the result certain cables give more air around notes/make lyrics easier to follow/etc. On the other side would be the engineers and recording professionals who accept the usual electrical parameters, make sure everything is matched carefully and then say you can't hear any difference. The engineers aren't usually the ones selling cable. Draw your own conclusions.

 

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Hi Shenzi - You hit the nail on the head! By creating one spot for all of this, most of us could get on to all the enjoyable stuff this hobby has to offer. I have to say I probably wouldn't even read the article or thread with all the annoying arguments. Most of us could stick to helpful and interesting conversations. What do you think?

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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"Draw your own conclusions."

 

Though Shenzi intended these words to reflect his position (i.e. who would you believe - the engineers or the cable salesman), I think this phrase may be useful, Chris, as a title/heading of this new idea you have.

 

The trouble starts when some attempt to invalidate the conclusions that others have made.

 

clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A 'Sin Bin' might work - how small it ended up might be open to conjecture! :)

 

Do you envisage moving threads that are getting a bit heated, or would the idea be to suggest to the protagonists that they leave the current thread and continue elsewhere? Contentious topics are bound to come up during otherwise unrelated conversations - the 'organic' nature of some recent discussions would be testament to that!

 

On the face of it, the idea appeals, but you may end up rather busier than you have time for, in the main forum, unless a short set of forum guidelines were published to lay out the ground rules for normal threads.

 

If you were to say, for instance, that statements such as 'I think my XYZ usb lead is so much better than a stock one' was ok, within a thread, but counter arguments that usb leads cannot possibly have an effect would need to be conducted in the 'Sin Bin', then there would be a danger of opinions becoming unbalanced in the main forum.

 

Can the forum tread the fine line so that it offers balanced differences of opinion and aspirations? Recent history would indicate that it is most certainly not easy - if some of what went on is taken at face value. (But I have my own opinion on that! :)

 

I stand firmly in the belief that what I read is opinion and that we are all entitled to our own. Different viewpoints are valuable, when stated as such, but dogmatic Alpha-male displays intolerance are not helpful to anyone - including the combatants!

 

After all that waffle - yes I think it's a good idea in principle but it may only work if forum members can police it themselves by pointing out breaches of forum policy, as and when they occur. Moderation can then be restricted to stepping in where self-policing is not working.

 

But I'm still thinking.......

 

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Bob - Great thoughts. Especially the Alpha Male displays of intolerance comment :~) I'm mulling over the ideas I have in mind and the comments you provided. I'm sure I'll be able to implement something. All your points about keeping a balanced forum and forum moderation are extremely important.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Please do not forget Wireworld USB, Kimber with ferrites removed (both at $50) and the Aqvox (around $150).

Bits are bits but the information is transported as an electrical signal. If the transmission rate of discrete (digital) information is low, the transmission is less prone to errors. In a perfect world any cable built to specs would support a given data rate without errors and be immune to external RF noise. Probably they aren't and that's why an “audiophile” USB cable improves sound. From a certain price on I really do not know. One thing is to transmit data as supposed to, and reject external noise, other thing is to act as a filter, conditioning the signal in a way that may be more pleasant to the ear.

 

 

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Shenzi - ;)

 

Rand - buy a good quality cable.

 

Having seen a number of 'discussions' on this forum about such things my view, as a committed 'cables matter' man, is that the committee has packed up and gone home! There are some plausible theories about why it might matter and there are some plausible theories about how it makes no sense at all!

 

That said, then, the only safe place to be is firmly on the fence. Buy from someone you trust at a level you can justify and of a quality you are happy with.

 

How's that for diplomacy?

 

Bet this doesn't help......much. ;)

 

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Bet this doesn't help......much. ;)

 

The vast majority of us will not be able to compare pricey niche audiophile equipment or plan to buy the nicer hardware. Many come to places like the CA forum to read and weigh opinions on equipment in which folks have invested, used, and hopefully compared. We hope to discover a better opinion, a more reliable opinion on which we can hope will correctly nudge us to one side of the fence... so we can spend that hard earned and far too short a stack of bills on a truly proper cable, or DAC, or whatever... that will be just a little better choice for what we spent and will provide the better aural sweetness we crave so damn badly... Because that part is what we're going to have to live with, for better or for worse. We know we may never know just how well we chose something... we may never know the difference... so we want to do the best we can in the first place!

 

It must be easy for you guys to sit back with your oh-so-sweet Berkeley Alpha and other pieces to match and just know you have the reference equipment in your sound system. You don't need to see the arguments. Your behind doesn't get chaffed because you aren't riding the fence!

 

I love you guys. (snif)

 

Rand

 

 

 

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I feel your pain! Ok - I'll get off the fence. :)

 

I bought the Kimber USB purely because it looked like a well made cable at a price I could afford. I left the ferrite on! It did the job fine.

 

Since the arrival of my new (£600) dac, I can no longer use the Kimber because I need an USB A(male) to USB A(female) connector. I fitted a generic one that I had lying around that had the correct connections. It does the job fine! There is no discernible noise, no dropped packets that I can hear and no obvious electrical problems. It isn't particularly well made but it works and I shall leave it there purely because I plan to go co-ax spdif via a desktop/soundcard rig, when I've finalised the build.

 

If I was staying with the USB input I would follow my own advice and buy a good quality replacement for the generic one - Kimber don't do one but I'm sure someone will do! The manufacturer of my new dac recommends a good quality power lead for his unit but makes no recommendations about usb leads. Before I spent any more than £50 - my own arbitrary limit, for no good reason - I would need to be convinced of the benefits. I am not.

 

I do not discount the possibility, but I shall need to see a lot more unbiased research before I could be persuaded to spend any more than I can personally justify.

 

Chris reviewed the Kimber here : http://www.computeraudiophile.com/taxonomy_menu/2/17

 

Hope this helps, 'cos I got no more!

 

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