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Use USB cables or use USB Adapters/connectors.


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I have seen many people swear by using small USB adapters or connectors instead of USB cables.

 

Have you tried comparing, say, the better USB cables (e.g. Supra, LightHarmonic, iFi Gemini, other) vs USB connectors between your computer and your DAC and what were the results?

 

Conceptually, is it correct to consider a Connector/Adapter a 'very short cable'.

 

With a cable, I know I can separate the power lines and the lead lines and even shield them separately. On the other hand, in an adapter or connector, aren't the lines really, really close to each other?

 

Coming back to cables and adapters, if we use adapters or very, very short cables, do we expect diminishing returns at one point from having the DAC physically very close to the computer since we would prefer external DACs not to be affected by the noisy computer?

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  • 3 weeks later...
Hey, i got supra usb cables 5 and 3 meter long. From my amplifier to desktop pc is 5 meter distance. Now i play files with short 1 meter usb cable and long rca cable. Nore natural sound like this i think

 

Heard some great feedback about the Supra cables. Have you tried a short USB connector instead of a cable?

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I use an adapter > regen > another adapter to my dac.. I do like it better than using usb cables. ( i tried black cat, nordost, IFI, DH labs and LH)

 

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I use an adapter > regen > another adapter to my dac.. I do like it better than using usb cables. ( i tried black cat, nordost, IFI, DH labs and LH)

 

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Very cool you're able to do that.

 

I was planning a new iteration of my DIY USB cable, and thought I had it all sorted out, but then realised that the iMac's USB port is higher up than the DAC (iDSD Nano for me).

 

Perhaps trying a similar direct connection with an adapter can be envisioned. The iFi would then be hidden at the back of the iMac, and the volume would be even further back, so there would be a practical aspect to it.

 

Furthermore, with the latest Micro firmware, there is an often occurring issue with the Nano whereby it will sometimes get stuck in oblivion, and the only way to get it going again it to turn it off, unplug the cable, plug the cable, then turn it on. That could have a practical incidence too.

 

This latter occurrence has become so annoying I was thinking of adding some button to my USB cable to prevent having to unplug and plug as I'm weary of mechanical wear at the Nano's USB cable.

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  • 2 weeks later...

From another thread:

 

1st: If very short cable are better, couldn't a hard connector be considered the shortest cable possible?

 

Second thing: With a short cable, I'd still be able to use my DIYUSB cable geometry, which isn't possible in a hard connector (assuming a hard connector is really hard material but someone did respond saying their connector uses wires inside).

 

Third thing: If you had to choose between [A: Shorter USB cable + longer interconnects] and [b: Longer USB cable + shorter interconnects], which would you choose and why?

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  • 3 weeks later...

We went on a few days of vacation, but before that, I had started experimenting with a shorter USB cable, using a normal USB 2.0 cable as donor.

 

The experiments for now have to go unshielded, which isn't ideal for a final build, but which at least provides me with a lot of flexibility for listening sessions and writing notes as well as taking a few simple measurements.

 

The goal is to correlate a lot of the build modules in filtering and powering to the actual SQ.

 

The very first test with the shorter cable provided these:

 

The short cable was used on the free Hi-Speed Bus at the back of the iMac, and the immediately heard SQ effect was that of greater rapidity of transients - you could tell the rhythmic abilities were much better.

 

We noted some thinning of the overall sound, mostly by a certain lack in the bass regions.

 

For the next iteration, I changed the build, but I also stopped using the Hi-Speed Bus at the back because it wasn't very practical to connect the cable and its filters in this position, so I am using the Mac keyboard's right-hand side USB port.

 

With rather heavy filtering on the VBus and Ground, we get a very large soundstage and the thickness is back, with the bass clearly audible in some songs in three distinct regions, which I like. There is a slight reduction in the fastness of the attack transients, which is to be expected as the filters do mean more wire.

 

Just by doing an initial filtering, the sound is amazing, so I am looking forward now to do at least three things:

 

1. Now also do a filter build for the signal lines, which now have a better reference to GND since the latter is filtered.

 

2. Tweak the original VBus and GND filtering in a more gentle way to balance cleanliness of overall sound (3 bass regions) and the rapid attack transients.

 

3. Attempt a VBus disconnection from the computer and a powering from an external +ve power line. I may test that with simply an iPhone charger which I have seen to measure very clean according to one article (better than iPad chargers).

 

This is great because things are already sounding fantastic even without me completing the shielding.

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Shorter USB cables : for me it was an "ear-opener" several years ago, when John Kenny started this discussion on the Jplay-forum.

 

I replaced my cheap, standard 75 cm USB cable with only an A-B adapter. It was a huge improvement : more dynamics, better bass, better clarity. This was an awkward setup, so I added a flexible adapter as well (see pic). The SQ remained the same.

 

Because my DAC does not need the 5V and because I wanted more flexibility, I ordered a custom made 8 cm short USB cable with only the 2 data and 1 ground lines, made with special silver/copper wire from Elijah cables : the "Isolate Cu" (see pic)

This cable did sound even better than the adapters : especially in the treble.

Since then I have compared this short cable to several 75 cm long audio-usb-cables, like Furutech, Audioquest carbon and Chord Silverplus, and I still prefer my short 3-line cable.

 

Recently I started using a NUC I3 (in a fanless case) as my audio-PC. I managed to attach a JCAT USB card to it (see thread on Jplay forum).

The mini-PCIe to PCIe riser cable allows me to separate my DAC from the NUC to a distance of ca. 30 cm. At the PCIe end the riser cable has an extra USB output without 5V.

Before I got the JCAT card I compared the SQ of the riser-cable-USB with the NUC-USB connected to my DAC with my short USB cable. I noticed then that the SQ was slightly better with the riser-USB (NUC at 30 cm from DAC) than with NUC-USB (NUC at ca. 8cm from my DAC). This might be an effect of interference of the PC with the DAC?

Anyway the addition of the JCAT USB card gave the best improvement in SQ so far.

 

I will follow your experiments with shorter USB cables with interest!

 

Peter

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Because my DAC does not need the 5V and because I wanted more flexibility, I ordered a custom made 8 cm short USB cable with only the 2 data and 1 ground lines, made with special silver/copper wire from Elijah cables : the "Isolate Cu" (see pic)

 

Looks good. I have yet to try a new Vbus into my DAC, hoping it will work.

 

This cable did sound even better than the adapters : especially in the treble.

Since then I have compared this short cable to several 75 cm long audio-usb-cables, like Furutech, Audioquest carbon and Chord Silverplus, and I still prefer my short 3-line cable.

 

I think AQVox mention that above 3 (or is it 5) cm, we lose a lot of the advantages of short USB cables. Mine is longer than that, so maybe that could be a good additional test too.

 

Recently I started using a NUC I3 (in a fanless case) as my audio-PC. I managed to attach a JCAT USB card to it (see thread on Jplay forum).

 

The mini-PCIe to PCIe riser cable allows me to separate my DAC from the NUC to a distance of ca. 30 cm. At the PCIe end the riser cable has an extra USB output without 5V.

Before I got the JCAT card I compared the SQ of the riser-cable-USB with the NUC-USB connected to my DAC with my short USB cable. I noticed then that the SQ was slightly better with the riser-USB (NUC at 30 cm from DAC) than with NUC-USB (NUC at ca. 8cm from my DAC). This might be an effect of interference of the PC with the DAC?

 

Yes, it could be PC noise in the NUC USB. Interesting to see the use of riser cables.

 

Anyway the addition of the JCAT USB card gave the best improvement in SQ so far.

 

Good to know.

 

I will follow your experiments with shorter USB cables with interest!

 

Thanks a lot, Peter and thanks for sharing your own experience.

 

The thing you can do easily with wires rather than a solid connector device is that you can vary the geometry more easily.

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Tonight I did a quick test of pulling one side of the VBus line while the DAC was playing: instant turning off. This was already the case when I tried this a good while ago when I was building my first iteration of the long USB cable.

 

Unexpectedly, if I remove just the GND, the DAC still works. Looks like it sounds great like this as well although more tests are needed as it's too late to listen in the normal setup (currently listening through headphones only, which I don't really like usually).

 

I think the DAC needs the VBus for handshakes, but I'm not sure. Still not certain about what's going to happen if I feed it from another external +5V.

 

At least blocking the computer GND can be a good thing to prevent the ground plane noise from the computer from polluting the DAC operation.

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Tonight I did a quick test of pulling one side of the VBus line while the DAC was playing: instant turning off. This was already the case when I tried this a good while ago when I was building my first iteration of the long USB cable.

 

Unexpectedly, if I remove just the GND, the DAC still works. Looks like it sounds great like this as well although more tests are needed as it's too late to listen in the normal setup (currently listening through headphones only, which I don't really like usually).

 

I think the DAC needs the VBus for handshakes, but I'm not sure. Still not certain about what's going to happen if I feed it from another external +5V.

 

At least blocking the computer GND can be a good thing to prevent the ground plane noise from the computer from polluting the DAC operation.

 

Some DACs need the 5V to be recognized by the OS or driver. My Minimax DAC uses the M2tech driver and it installs fine without the 5V. But it did need the ground to install. After installation it would work without the ground (and 5V) as you noticed also.

 

 

John Swenson doesn't agree : he said in a recent post that a DAC should not work with datalines only. If it does there must be another ground-loop between computer and DAC e.g. the isolation mantle of the USB cable.

I am very sure that in my test USB cable the only connections are the 2 data-lines, because I cut away the mantle and the ground and the 5V wire.

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Some DACs need the 5V to be recognized by the OS or driver. My Minimax DAC uses the M2tech driver and it installs fine without the 5V. But it did need the ground to install. After installation it would work without the ground (and 5V) as you noticed also.

 

Maybe it's the handshake. My 5V cannot be disconnected for now: every time I have tried it, playback stops. Found another thread here with Sandyk Alex showing a few alternate constructions where you provide a dummy load to the computer so that the handshake can still be done and the device recognised, so that's worth a try.

 

John Swenson doesn't agree : he said in a recent post that a DAC should not work with datalines only. If it does there must be another ground-loop between computer and DAC e.g. the isolation mantle of the USB cable.

 

I am very sure that in my test USB cable the only connections are the 2 data-lines, because I cut away the mantle and the ground and the 5V wire.

 

I believe he is right in most if not all cases: I certainly think the iFi iDSD Nano can be subject to GND loops at least in my system since I usually can hear some high-pitched metallic hiss with no playback but just turning up the volume on the amp (not to max but about -19dB or so). I had planned to build directional RCA cables to solve that, i.e. disconnect shield at DAC end, and use a pseudo-balanced configuration (shield over + and - lines).

 

Unlike most DACs, the Nano doesn't use AC mains directly, but it is sometimes getting power from the USB port to charge the battery, and sometimes it is self-powered from the battery, so I guess it is a special case.

 

It sure is working with no shield, no ground and only the signal twisted pair and the 5V!

 

I am listening to DSD128 through it right now.

 

This morning, the sound is super clear and powerful (great dynamics and soundstage) and, best thing of all: when I tested for the high-pitched metallic hiss, it sounds like it's gone!

 

Another thing: I have seen reports of someone saying the Nano's circuit is floating inside the chassis. In other words, there is no internal star-grounding at the chassis, and one guy does a mod (among other mods) to the Nano to change the grounding scheme and get fantastic results.

 

I wonder if I could do the same.

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One thing I am noticing this morning while testing: that GND disconnection sure sounds very good, but, if you've updated to the last firmware on the Nano, which solves a lot of the remaining clicks/pops on changing tracks, the GND disconnection seems to have disabled it to some extent.

 

It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it's on track change: hiss and click/pop, listening to DSD currently.

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Not sure I understand what you mean when you write about filtering - are you adding capacitors across the Vbus and ground?

Thanks

 

 

We went on a few days of vacation, but before that, I had started experimenting with a shorter USB cable, using a normal USB 2.0 cable as donor.

 

The experiments for now have to go unshielded, which isn't ideal for a final build, but which at least provides me with a lot of flexibility for listening sessions and writing notes as well as taking a few simple measurements.

 

The goal is to correlate a lot of the build modules in filtering and powering to the actual SQ.

 

The very first test with the shorter cable provided these:

 

The short cable was used on the free Hi-Speed Bus at the back of the iMac, and the immediately heard SQ effect was that of greater rapidity of transients - you could tell the rhythmic abilities were much better.

 

We noted some thinning of the overall sound, mostly by a certain lack in the bass regions.

 

For the next iteration, I changed the build, but I also stopped using the Hi-Speed Bus at the back because it wasn't very practical to connect the cable and its filters in this position, so I am using the Mac keyboard's right-hand side USB port.

 

With rather heavy filtering on the VBus and Ground, we get a very large soundstage and the thickness is back, with the bass clearly audible in some songs in three distinct regions, which I like. There is a slight reduction in the fastness of the attack transients, which is to be expected as the filters do mean more wire.

 

Just by doing an initial filtering, the sound is amazing, so I am looking forward now to do at least three things:

 

1. Now also do a filter build for the signal lines, which now have a better reference to GND since the latter is filtered.

 

2. Tweak the original VBus and GND filtering in a more gentle way to balance cleanliness of overall sound (3 bass regions) and the rapid attack transients.

 

3. Attempt a VBus disconnection from the computer and a powering from an external +ve power line. I may test that with simply an iPhone charger which I have seen to measure very clean according to one article (better than iPad chargers).

 

This is great because things are already sounding fantastic even without me completing the shielding.

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Not sure I understand what you mean when you write about filtering - are you adding capacitors across the Vbus and ground?

 

Not a capacitor, more something that resembles an inductor (at least initially, but then I disconnected the GND completely last night)...

 

Now, I know I had planned to test several other additional filtering/features to my short USB cables, but that GND disconnection sounded so good throughout today that I am putting off the further enhancements.

 

It's as if I'm afraid of losing that sweet-spot!

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So the DAC was used almost the whole day yesterday without GND, left overnight with GND still detached, and then played again today for about half a day and it's still playing.

 

Going to test it some more, and perhaps I'll muster the courage to add the signal lines filtering. It's not a complicated thing to do.

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I want to understand better. You are connecting with the ground pin "pulled" but not Vcc? Or are they both "pulled"?

Does you DAC and source require a handshake?

 

Yes, the current config is like that: VBus is connected but the GND pin isn't.

 

I think the DAC does require a handshake but I'm not 100% sure. The reason I think it does is I believe the battery was fully charged when I tried disconnecting the Vbus on playback, which stopped playback immediately.

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Tried to go from iUSB to iDSD via an adapter, doesn't work.

 

Anyone else tried & managed to get it to work?

If guns kill people, do pencils misspell words?

 

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