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How long a USB cord is too long?

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Hey all,


Been thinking quite a bit about how to move to a computer audiophile solution the past few monthes and this is what I would like to do. My listening room also doubles as my office. I want to use my iMac + a firewire raid device to a USB DAC. I believe the maximum USB cable length is 16'. I measure it and without completely rearranging everything I need about 18' from my computer to my audio rack. I believe there is some repeater tech I can buy, but I'm not sure if that is a good idea or not? Also not sure how important the quality of a USB cable (and whether or not it is practical to buy 'audiophile' cable of this length).


Any advice/suggestions?


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Hi djtek


I had exactly the same issue: I don't want a computer, even one as quiet as a mac mini, next to my speakers. The maximum allowable length of a USB cable is 5m - this is set by the the maximum time allowed for a device to respond to the first stage of bus enumeration. I was also just over the maximum length: in addition, I was using a built-in CAT5 cable between the computer & the DAC. I chopped a USB cable in half & fitted RJ-45 connectors (in a spirit of experiment). It did work, but not reliably. Sometimes the link would drop out, and need to be disconnected & reconnected to recover.


In the end I bought a Chinese no-name 'USB extender/4 port hub' for about £45 which works perfectly. This is only USB 1.1, but that is all that is needed for a DAC (though I think that one USB 2.0 DAC is about to come to market). It also allows me to connect the remote control receiver as well.




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  • 3 years later...
Thanks for the response.


Anyone know if using a USB extender can adversely affect the sound quality? I could also go the Toslink route. It seems that the maximum length for toslink is much longer then 5m.


I does degrades quality. I get hiss and noise. Too noticeable that I don't want to keep the current arrangement (computer -> 16 feet USB repeater cable -> 15 feet USB cable -> DAC)

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I had a similar problem (21 feet from PC to amp). On advice from my local audio shop, I kept the DAC with the PC and ran a 21 foot Audioquest interconnect cable from the DAC to the amp. Sounds fine, to my imperfect ears.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

- Einstein

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