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USB Cables: The High End


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There's a bunch of USB cables out there, and a whole lot of opinions about those cables -- whether they're "worth it", whether you can actually discriminate between any two cables, and so on and so forth. In fact, there's enough fire in this debate to stop all but the most foolhardy and require a second, hard look. What do I mean? Well, for an illuminating set of discussions that showcase how much passion surrounds the issue of USB cables in high-end audio, just do a search on this very site! Be prepared, there's a lot to read. ;-)

 

So, let's avoid all that for now and discuss what it is that is actually different between USB cables.

 

As far as I can tell, there are several things to avoid. One is ferrites as they can actually introduce transfer errors (a failure to receive all your bits). Two is really long runs (6m+) for the same reason. Other than that, the design differences tend to be small and typical of most cable manufacturers -- nicer connectors, better conductors, silver vs copper, oxygen-free this that and the other, &c. While not trying to trivialize these things (because, yes, everything matters), it occurs to me that given that the differences aren't large might also imply that their sonic differences aren't either.

 

Paying big $$$ for small improvements is a sucker's game, IMO. The research alone takes forever. So, loading for big game, I started looking for game changers. Interestingly, there was one (but only one).

 

The one major difference I've been able to pick up on is this: some very few specialty USB cables do not run their power along the same cable. The obvious benefits to this approach would be less/no interference b/w the power/ground and the signal wires. Seems almost intuitive. While no power at all is probably best, it seems that most USB chipsets require it to function, so eliminating the power/ground line isn't really an option.

 

Anyway, this power separation is in contrast with commonly discussed USB cables like Belkin, Kimber, Wireworld, which while very nicely made, all pretty much rely on spec.

 

This first class of cables, with the separate power run, is comprised of a small class of manufacturers: Locus Design (Axis, Nucleus, Cynosure -- but not their Polestar), the RSAD Alethias and Enopias -- but not their Poiema), and the Synergistic Research (Tesla Tricon). Each of these cables is expensive but oddly similar in price (at lease until RSADs current 30% off promo pricing runs out) at exactly $550 (plus or minus $1) for 1m.

 

Every review of any of these cables (or their more expensive stable mates) quickly waxes into typical audiophile language hyperbole. Each blows away the second class of cables. They're revelatory. They're amazing. They're the single greatest improvement yet to their system's sound. Blah blah blah.

 

Interpretation: there *is* an improvement and you don't need golden ears to hear it.

 

Good enough.

 

So, for those of you looking for a "great" USB cable (again, putting aside the question of whether or not this quest is utterly wrongheaded to begin with), this might be a your place to start.

 

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

 

As always, YMMV.

 

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Written like someone with the username Socrates can write :~)

 

That's a really good post. You raise some interesting points and give readers an avenue to explorer. One contributing factor to the higher price of some cables is the fact they are made by hand in the U.S.

 

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Good post, Scot.

 

I agree that the power leg could potentially be a significant difference maker. BJ Buchalter (designer of Metric Halo gear) also suggested that the power leg of the firewire connection is the only thing he can think of that could be responsible for the differences I heard between my computers and the ULN-2 connected via Firewire.

 

"Each of these cables is expensive but oddly similar in price (at lease until RSADs current 30% off promo pricing runs out) at exactly $550 (plus or minus $1) for 1m."

 

Call me cynical, but three HIGH MARGIN cables costing the same sounds like they are charging what they think the market will bear. :) I'd be damned if I would personally contribute to that sort of nonsense by paying those rates. Oh, and don't expect the "30% off retail" to disappear anytime soon - that's yet another "long in the tooth" marketing gimmick.

 

Cynically yours,

Clay

 

PS, And, it looks like I've found yet another advantage of Firewire over USB. To wit, it's relatively easy to disable the power leg of Firewire cables, which means there's no opportunity for a cable manufacturer to sell a cable for $500 more if/when the primary difference is the separate leg. The fact that this might require hand crafting speaks to my point (firewire over USB) above, especially if it is the justification for the price. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cynical,

 

Well, not quite true about Firewire cables:

 

http://www.needledoctor.com/Brand-Stores/Audioquest-IEEE-1394-Firewire-or-i-Link-Cables

 

Aside from the power connection, there is also the so-called "ground" connection - not much difference in terms of noise problems. In fact, maybe worse. That's regardless of the connection protocol. Think about just what happens when the power connection is "bypassed" to "ground" with a large capacitor. Or a small one for that matter. What we cavalierly call ground is hardly a magical sink for noise or signals we don't like or find inconvenient.

 

There's solutions for this sort of isolation available outside the existing audio marketplace.

 

 

 

 

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"There's solutions for this sort of isolation available outside the existing audio marketplace."

 

Can you be more explicit here?

 

It's been suggested that 'floating' the power leg is optimal - you seem to be suggesting something else? I've also heard 'power isolation' firewire cable suggested.

 

clay

 

PS, re Audioquest - they also sell a $500 Toslink cable - which is probably as much $$$ as a huge percentage of the devices that Toslink cable is connected to for actual use. Fortunately in my audiophile 'career', I've never bought anything from Audioquest, or I would have a bad taste in my mouth right now. Many thanks for pointing this out.

 

UPDATE: a quick visit to Audioquest site - in response to my 'say it aint so' feeling - and I notice that the A-Q Firewire cables are ONLY listed under Video Cables product category - and not as Digital Interconnects or Communications Cables. A bit of salvation, perhaps.

 

 

 

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I use the Ridge Street Audio Enopias USB cable and believe, it really makes a big difference!

 

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 just read the following words in a very flattering review of a USB cable: "Starting at $2849 for 3FT."

 

I am incredulous.

 

Mind you, this cable was reviewed as the input connector for a USB to S/PDIF interface.

 

Amazing! and I don't mean in a 'good' way.

 

YMMV,

clay

 

PS, NOTE: I am not providing the brand as this would be an opportunity for the dealer/manufacturer to come on and defend this product.

 

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A certain amount of this is just based on simple economics. The market for a high performance USB cable is rather small. The same is true for almost all "high end" audio equipment. I've seen educated estimates that the world wide audiophile population is somewhere around 1 million customers.

 

While the development cost of a USB cable may not be quite the same as that for an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, it still is far from zero. This cost has to be spread amongst the combined sales volume of the cables sold. To a large degree, this is what you are paying for. That and overhead, marketing, and feeding the family.

 

Often, in order to attract people willing to pay the price for these products, a lot of time and effort is placed on the appearance of the product. Most customers just aren't willing to part with $1000 for something that works real well but is standard looking in a modest enclosure, but they might be willing to spend $1500 for the same unit in a Rolex quality enclosure. I'm not sure the manufacturers do a thorough economic analysis of this, but they know from experience as well from hearing from dealers and reading the comments on forums like Computer Audiophile that people expect a certain level of fit and finish in luxury products that they buy. To be sure, audio equipment is a luxury product.

 

Inevitably, there will always be products that are heavier on the fit and finish at any price point over performance. I suspect that the vast majority of luxury item purchases are based more on how someone feels about a product's gut impact rather than the performance it provides for them. And I don't mean performance defined by the result of a double blind test, either. Many vendors appeal to this as a central art of their business plan.

 

The gut impact often is based on the initial visceral response as well as the price. The price counts in both directions. Many luxury purchasers feel that lower priced items can not be good. There's a reason the LaSalle automobile brand died long before GM was a victim of Japanese auto makers.

 

I'd wager that if you spent half a day reading posts on the various web forums devoted to the audio hobby at some level, the vast majority of the discussion centers around whether a product "is worth it." Real understanding of the technological implications and value is at the noise level. It's the rest that drives people. In the Wal-Mart age we live in, it's pretty common for people to shop with their wallet first, demanding extraordinarily low prices for extraordinarily high performance or at least high gut impact.

 

This is a long way of saying that maybe higher price USB cables really do offer some people better system performance and enjoyment. The market population of people who feel that way is miniscule. That's the reason for the pricing. Just because something is priced higher than seemingly similar products does not necessarily make the product a fraud or a rip-off. At the same time, it also does not guaranty that the product is a gift to the audio world.

 

My own approach is to look at these things from an open-minded rational approach first and then look at the price to see if it might work for me. The first part tells me to buy a new Porsche Turbo. The latter tells me no. Even if the latter didn't tell me no, my banker would.

 

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PS, NOTE: I am not providing the brand as this would be an opportunity for the dealer/manufacturer to come on and defend this product.

 

A quick internet search would reveal what brand this is. It would take about 10 seconds...seriously. I have no desire to "defend" my product. I have much better things to do than come to a forum and argue about things that, in the grands scheme of life, don't matter.

 

I'd rather hug my wife, talk to my kids, play with the dog, listen to some music, design a new cable, or drink a glass of Parker's 27. Life is far too short, and too precious, to get all riled up over something as inconsequential as a post on a forum about a "toy". The only reason I am even visiting here is that Chris invited me over to answer a few questions about another project I am involved in.

 

The cable is what it is. Buy it, or don't. Either way is fine with me.

 

Lee

 

Locus Design Group[br]www.locus-design.com[br]www.cryo-parts.com[br]www.cryo-freeze.com

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"This is a long way of saying that maybe higher price USB cables really do offer some people better system performance and enjoyment. The market population of people who feel that way is miniscule. That's the reason for the pricing. Just because something is priced higher than seemingly similar products does not necessarily make the product a fraud or a rip-off. At the same time, it also does not guaranty that the product is a gift to the audio world."

 

Nicely said.

 

PS-Buy the Porsche Turbo--you only live once, ha!

 

Lee

 

Locus Design Group[br]www.locus-design.com[br]www.cryo-parts.com[br]www.cryo-freeze.com

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I am of the firm opinion that cables don't matter whatsoever. That's why I buy silver @ $500 per interconnect. ;-)

 

The guys over at Audioholics are of the opinion, and in full disclosure I find some degree of sympathy with it, that the most obvious contribution that cable have on sound is when they suck. That said, if they're well-made, they all tend to sound pretty much the same. Do they sound different? Maybe -- but the differences are so subtle they generally escape notice. Again, if they're well-made -- and well matched to your system -- you're pretty much good to go with $30 interconnects. Want to spend $300? Go for it, sucker! I think these guys are haters. That is, they're avidly, even rabidly, anti-snake-oil bounty hunters, and as such, they're definitely worth reading. As for your own system, standard caveats apply (ie, YMMV).

 

IMO, the "fact of the matter" is that all things matter. Power, room, cabling, isolation. The question that is begged by this, of course, is exactly how much does *each* matter when weighed against the whole? I think this is a very interesting question, mostly ignored in audiophile circles, but worth addressing here. In short, "revelatory" changes tend to be, in fact, pretty minor.

 

I was chatting with Sanjay over at Ciamara (great guy, great company, BTW), and I asked him -- as a rep for a company that builds uber-high-end speakers -- to rate components as to total impact. This is a largely academic exercise, but it's useful to try and extract meaning out of they typical linguistic morass of audiophile enthusiasm. He was very forthcoming, and continuing our game, I then asked him to rate the impact of reproduced music vs "live". His extremely illuminating answer? 80% of the real thing is the best that you're going to be able to do. So, before you start loading your flamethrowers, take a breath and realize the following -- this was a qualitative discussion, yes, but it was and is an attempt to frame the conversation in terms of overall quantitative impact a given component might have on total system sound quality. Borrowing that framework, I submit the following musings for your entertainment.

 

As for me, I feel that the most important determiner when evaluating a system is the speaker itself. I know many would say "the room", but I'm simply going to bypass that discussion entirely for now and focus on the system itself. IMHO, the speaker counts for about 70% of the sound of the system. Yes, that's high. And the reason I say this is the following -- no upstream device, no matter how crappy, is ever going to make Magnepans sound like Avantgardes, or Martin Logans sound like, well, something not a Martin Logan. Want to clearly and obviously change the way your system sounds? Buy new speakers.

 

The amp and the preamp, in my mind at least (YMMV!), are ways to tune or tame your speakers. As such, they can calibrate the sound of the speaker to a large degree. But taken together, they're no more than 15% of the overall sound. This is a huge impact, IMO, but no, this number isn't any more scientific than the last -- remember, this is my post not yours. But I've heard, in an acoustically treated showroom, a pair of Focal Utopias Be's driven by NAD Master Series gear and immediately A/B'd it with gear from conrad-johnson. And yes, the C-J gear was better. How much? The difference was not subtle! A ton! Okay, so hyperbole aside, the change was audibly better, but about 3-5% improvement -- and no more. The Focals, in both instances, sounded like honkin' big French box speakers of impeccable build and sound quality. They just sounded *more* that way when driven by the C-J gear.

 

Moving on, to sources -- they are very important, and yes, the differences that a given source can make are also large -- but as to total impact, I peg it at 10% and no more. Again, going back to this same listening experience with the Focals -- we swapped out the NAD Masters SACD player with an Ayre, and yes, once again, the sound was audibly better, both with the Ayre feeding the NAD gear as well as the C-J gear. "Huge" improvements, very audible. Total impact? ~2%.

 

The rest? 5% (assuming my basic math skills are up to snuff). That includes power conditioners, power cables, interconnects, speaker cables, isolation gear including the rack, &c. And believe me, I spend a lot of time in this category!

 

Add all that up, and if everything is perfect, every element, it will only take you to about 80% of what you'd hear live and in person. The cost of being antisocial, I suppose. ;-)

 

So let me emphasize -- what one isn't to take from this hierarchy is that, therefore, interconnects (like USB cables) are unimportant. The human mind is capable of remarkable feats of subtlety in both pattern recognition and discrimination. So, yes, I believe that cables can have an objective impact on the overall character of one's total system.

 

That said, I am at the very least suspicious whenever I see someone write the words "revelatory" or "breathtaking" whenever it comes to characterizing the improvement *any* component makes on their overall system sound. Hyperbole is too comfortable a refuge and a keen knife far too readily to hand when one needs to split hairs. And given the sheer amount of tweaking I've done (brass footers vs wood, maple vs myrtle, weights, cones, Shakti stones, Argent Room Lenses, &c), I know full well that: one, there is a whole lot of snake oil for sale (did someone say "Shakti"?); and two, its often (but not always) impossible to hear quantitative differences between two items that any given reviewer raves about (pick any two USB cables). Again, YMMV.

 

So, my upgrade strategy has always been simple: don't shoot for subtle. If you're going to upgrade, upgrade BIG. That way, at least even old woolen-eared me can tell that *something* changed and I don't have to fool myself into thinking that my big investment was worth it.

 

And by worth it, I tend to mean "audible improvement" weighed against the relative cost. Is a clear 1% improvement worth $1000? Depends -- both on where you stand financially and fanatically. I tend to weigh costs against components -- a $1500 DAC will not be fed by a $1500 USB cable in my system. I just won't even consider it when shopping. Would it sound better? Dunno (but at that price, it damn well better), but it just doesn't make sense to me.

 

But that said, I can see how reviewers end up with exactly that. You spend an enormous amount of time and effort to have your system tuned and tweaked, and when you're "done", you think you're pretty much king of the hill at that point. Can't even imagine how the system could get better. Then ... you get something from a vendor that does exactly that. Sometimes, that change is non-obvious. Subtle. Sometimes that change is glaring. Perhaps non subtle and even unpleasant as compared to the baseline (wish we saw more of these!). And rarely, that change is "revelatory" -- which translates to me as "obvious and pleasant". Which can generally mean a positive change of only 1-2% overall (or more, but one would hope not if the reviewer actually had a well balanced system to begin with!). In the case of the Focals above, I had the "a-ha!" experience when swapping in those C-J components (CT5 & ET250). If I had been an owner of those Focals (ahem!), I'd have dropped the cash for the C-J gear that day, no questions asked (because if I can afford $45k speakers, another $12k on the front end should have been a snap, no?). That 3-5% improvement was significant, audible, and greatly enjoyable! I might even have used the word "breathtaking" when describing the improvement. Might have. Not sure.

 

Now, a closing word about these "measures". There is no universe where sound quality can objectively be measured quantitatively on a percentage scale -- and have that scale successfully translate to anyone else. I am unique. Just like everyone else. I'm also 40 and I have not spent my life with plugs in my ears and yes, I have a mild-but-typical-for-40 case of tinnitus. My sonic preferences are undoubtedly impacted as a result. I'm not a trained musician, so I don't have a rock-solid appreciation for how any given instrument is "supposed to sound". I'm not a self-taught reviewer spending hours and hours comparing and contrasting minute impacts to the character of the sound coming out of my system. Yes, I tend to listen uncritically and just for fun. I am an enthusiast and an audiophile, aka a fetishist for nice kit. So, no, don't take what I say as truth. Go out, do your own A/B tests and buy the best that you can afford and then have fun with it. What else can you do?

 

Okay, so back to expensive USB cables.

 

Yes, they're probably "worth it". At least in the following sense -- they're hand-made and that means expensive. I don't know what each of you value's your own time at on an hourly scale, but if I was making my living doing such work, my hourly rate would be a premium and screw you (he said with a big grin on his face). I can't fault a one-man shop for charging $50/hour for his time, and passing on that labor cost to the customer. Doesn't mean I'm going to buy it because of that, and yes, it'll probably price those offerings beyond my reach, but I understand why it costs what it does. If this was spool wire hit with a crimping wrench, I'd be annoyed, but these things in many cases are hand wound. That's crazy -- and I kinda dig that sort of thing. Anyway, the rules of economics still apply -- as volume goes up, averaged costs go down. Given that volume isn't going up, well, we're stuck with high costs.

 

So, aside from my own case of sticker shock wrt those cables, my original point wasn't to point and hoot at their price but rather to point out that these cables are quantitatively different, and have a unique-to-them feature, which puts them in a different category from cables you can get from Transparent, Kimber or Wireworld. The question also isn't whether or not that difference results in a sonic improvement -- all three cables have been reviewed (professionally or anecdotally) as having better sonic character than their competition (but I still question "how much better" -- translating hyperbole is really hard).

 

The question I had was, assuming that there is an improvement, why that improvement was there, and I suggested that these cables were different due to their design, and as such, this design decision might actually be a way to quickly look at a growing market and sort out the sonically impactful from the rest of the herd. But given the discussion above, I feel compelled to point out that, at best, I'd expect none of these cables to have a contribution to the overall sound of any given system greater than +1%, max. Expecting more is, I suggest, a fools errand.

 

So, to sum this absurdly long post, I submit that wrt expensive USB cables, common rules would apply:

 

1. Is there a difference?

1a. If so, what is the magnitude of that difference (ie, is that difference subtle or obvious)?

1b. If so, what is the character of that difference (ie, in my system, is it a good or bad difference)?

2. How much is it?

2a. What is the cost relative to the system/component?

2b. Can I afford it?

2c. Will not having it require counseling?

2b. Will that money be better spent elsewhere in the system?

 

IMHO, I think the 64,000 question is (as always) 2b (or not 2b).

 

As always (and I can't say it enough), YMMV.

 

Cheers!

 

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I have some experience with one of Locus Designs USB cables, and can report that the Axis model of cable performs very well. In comparison with the some other lesser priced cables my experience indicates that the Axis would be worth its price to me, if I settled on a USB interface for computer audio. As always, YMMV, and I have no experience with Locus Designs higher priced models.

Thanks to CG for his thoughts on high end audio and equipment prices, my experience in the business suggests that he is right on. Economies of scale are sometimes hard for the consumer/enthusiast to accept, but they are certainly real. I know that the owners of small audio companies are not buying expensive homes and automobiles and laughing all the way to the bank, in fact, most audio companies I am aware of struggle to keep the business running and financially solvent.

The real unfortunate reality of the high end audio world, is that there are really just not enough enthusiasts (customers) to support a better price/performance ratio for components. I believe the problem is that the industry as a whole has not promoted itself properly: most potential enthusiasts are not aware that high end audio even exists. Most consumers who could afford a high end system have no qualms about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on things like second homes, yachts, automobiles, watches, jewelry, etc, but they listen to music from a Bose system. If high end audio became more well represented as a consumer item for the wealthy to spend some of their disposable income on, our industry as whole could be a lot healthier, and the performance/price ratio for high end products could get better-which would be beneficial for those enthusiasts among us who are not part of the wealthy consumer group.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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This forum, like only a few others, is a great way to let your interested public (and potential customer base) behind the curtain and get a peek at what is so cool about your product.

 

Posts like these would be a perfect time to discuss what you've done and why. While some may not buy, no matter what you say or do, there are many more who will read this post as a reference point in their research and see a wealth of information here -- that, or a surly response.

 

I for one have bought about $12000 worth of gear after reading about it online -- and only gone for auditions after many conversations and long hours of research. And I am now considering another $5000 (hopefully less!) or so on a DAC based on the discussions on this forum alone.

 

As an FYI, I tend not to buy anything from anyone I haven't talked to. Just a quirk, I guess, but I've attempted to call all three vendors I referenced to get insight on their cables (unsuccessfully in 2 out of the 3 cases). In fact, I really like talking to vendors -- and I've learned tremendous amounts in a really short order and become a better consumer because of it.

 

Given that this community is so small, I'd strongly encourage any vendor to be as open and embracing as possible. We, your buyers, are interested in hearing from you. And that may be all it takes to sway us into your camp -- in many cases, for life.

 

Just my 2 cents.

 

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Ridge Street Audio USB cables are what I call the best without having to take out a 2nd mortgage.

 

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 believe the problem is that the industry as a whole has not promoted itself properly: most potential enthusiasts are not aware that high end audio even exists."

 

I'd frame it a bit differently.

 

I don't think most people really care or could tell the difference. Take a listen to most recordings. Clearly, if fidelity was what sold records (records being a generic term) there would be more emphasis on that aspect of things. To my continuing point, I don't think most people really can hear a difference. That could be lack of training, genetics, or more likely some exotic combination of things.

 

Beyond that, for the most part people just don't sit still long enough to enjoy the illusion of music in their homes. Or movies, or a book, or... That's not how American society is these days.

 

My view is that overall the "high end industry" probably has more vendors than the market will support. The scale of what these vendors need to be to fulfill people's expectations is also probably not supportable. If you look at two similarly positioned "industries", bicycle making and guitar making, you find similarities. There's the big guys who mass produce products that are good for the majority of people. For the rest, there are frame makers and luthiers who will make those special products just for you. Even these days, many of these craftspeople are backed up for months if not years for their products. That's as fast as a shop with one person or a small handful of people can produce in a way that still meets their overall requirements.

 

Audio junkies are often different. They want to hear the products first. They want loads of interaction. They want to debate the subtleties of everything. They'd like stores they can hang out in, preferably ones who make no profit so that the price is low. All this extracts a cost in terms of labor and people's time. Neither is free.

 

The audio business is a really tough one. When things were good back in the day, loads of people thought that they could become wealthy and have loads of fun turning a hobby into their livelihood. Then the reality of a changing market hit. Oops. The customers have been slower to adapt than the vendors!

 

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^Good comments above, all. Enjoyable to read. Thank you.

 

I don't claim to be a guru. I am just a guy with almost 30 years of experience, working hard to build the best products I know how. A lot of people agree that my stuff is great (look at the awards), some don't. C'est la vie. I'm happy with what I do, which is good, because this business does not lend itself to one becoming wealthy.

 

Building a good cable is more tricky than most people think. It is more complicated than just finding some good wire, twisting it, and soldering on some ends. I won't bore you with all the sundry details, but will highlight a few things that I feel are important.

 

I am very fortunate to have a wire manufacturer who "gets" me, (after years of training) and puts up with my crazy requests. They have access to the best raw materials one can source, and then will draw, treat, and insulate them exactly how I want them done. Once I receive the wire, I then treat it in ways I feel enhances the quality.

 

After that, the real work begins. Finding the right geometry, damping and shielding it correctly, finding the right ends, and making it look "pretty" are all part of the gestalt, and all matter.

 

Coming out with a product that I am proud to put my name on takes experience, a great deal of time, and a great deal of money. At least for me, it is a long, drawn out, and expensive process. I sweat the details.

 

As Barrows said above, this is tough business. There is profit made on my cables, yes. Of course there is. However, I also have very expensive equipment, shop overhead costs, 100K+ meters of wire and cable in stock (yes you read that right, to get a true custom wire made, the companies I deal with don't deal in small quantities), taxes, insurance, ...well you get the point. I am running a business here, sometimes at a loss, sometimes at a profit.

 

I do this because I want to, and I love it, not because I am getting rich. If I wanted to get rich, I would go back into corporate America and do what I use to do--believe me that is much more lucrative. However, I am at a point in life where personal happiness and family harmony are more important than making obscene amounts of money.

 

OK, I'll stop rambling here. I think the same sentiments could be said by the owners of any number of small audio companies, I do like to think my products are unique and special, however, I fear my experience of running a small audio business is not.

 

In any event, I am encouraged by the civil discourse above. I will try to visit CA more often and participate.

 

Peace,

 

Lee

 

Locus Design Group[br]www.locus-design.com[br]www.cryo-parts.com[br]www.cryo-freeze.com

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I've been assembling a laptop based system over the last year. Until recently, I was connecting my Red Wine Audio DAC to my MacBook with the run-of-the mill USB cable that came with the DAC. I decided to try the Nucleus USB cable from Locus Designs, based on the good reviews it was getting in some of the online audio magazines. I was skeptical but they let you try it for 30 days and return it if you're not happy (less a restocking fee).

Well, the difference was significant and immediately apparent. I would compare it to the improvement going from lamp cord to good speaker cables. The digital "edge" to the music is gone which, by itself, makes the cable worth its (very high) cost. In addition, there is more separation between instruments, more solid bass and a wider soundstage. My wife notice it right away and she wasn't even in the same room.

Please take these comments as you will, I have no interest in promoting Locus or any other high end USB cable and even less interest in an online debate or argument. I just wanted to share the results obtained in my system as I know there are people interested in this topic and in hearing from those who have tried it out.

And keep in mind that I didn't try any other USB cables so perhaps there are lower priced ones that yield results that are as good or better.

Dan.

 

Ottawa, Canada

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About a year ago I built my own USB cable.

 

I have a tendancy to dable with a soldering iron so about a year ago I made my own USB cable.

 

I know DIY is not a core topic here but the results were pleasing and I am still using the cable.

 

I had an old RCA interconnect, a reasonably good one at that.

 

I took the RCAs off, bought the two USB plugs used the shielded cables to connect the two data lines, earthed the shields and then used different cable for the power lines. These are keep seperate fron the data lines.

 

It works, to my surprise and sounds a lot cleaner than my 'standard usb'

 

So I am sure proper expert professionals can design cables that make a real difference. In my years of dabling the devil is often in the detail which takes real expertise and time to get right. I don't like to knock the price of products rather commend passion and endeavour.

 

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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Lee says:

 

"I have no desire to "defend" my product."

 

followed later in the thread by several hundred words of 'defense'...

 

"Building a good cable is more tricky than most people think. It is more complicated than just finding some good wire, twisting it, and soldering on some ends. I won't bore you with all the sundry details, but will highlight a few things that I feel are important.

 

I am very fortunate to have a wire manufacturer who "gets" me, (after years of training) and puts up with my crazy requests. They have access to the best raw materials one can source, and then will draw, treat, and insulate them exactly how I want them done. Once I receive the wire, I then treat it in ways I feel enhances the quality.

 

After that, the real work begins. Finding the right geometry, damping and shielding it correctly, finding the right ends, and making it look "pretty" are all part of the gestalt, and all matter.

 

Coming out with a product that I am proud to put my name on takes experience, a great deal of time, and a great deal of money. At least for me, it is a long, drawn out, and expensive process. I sweat the details.

 

As Barrows said above, this is tough business. There is profit made on my cables, yes. Of course there is. However, I also have very expensive equipment, shop overhead costs, 100K+ meters of wire and cable in stock (yes you read that right, to get a true custom wire made, the companies I deal with don't deal in small quantities), taxes, insurance, ...well you get the point. I am running a business here, sometimes at a loss, sometimes at a profit. "

 

 

I left your brand name off for multiple reasons - one of which was so that you would not be able to promote yourself - given that manufacturers are allowed to post here only in direct response to questions about their products.

 

You've done so anyway, despite my pointing this out in my post.

 

Fortunately, Chris is the only arbiter of manufacturer's violations here.

 

I take a much harder stance than he, but then again, I'm only a frequent poster. My only recourse is to offer rebuttal to your posts, which I have exercised here, by pointing out your mis-statements.

 

EDIT: Reading your posts now on another thread, I can see that you're not a bad guy, far from it. Please take my comments as they were intended - "statement of fact" as seen from my vantage point, IOW, they're just an opinion! :)

 

cheers,

 

clay

 

PS, here's another one:

"A quick internet search would reveal what brand this is. It would take about 10 seconds...seriously."

 

I tested this last night before my post (to see if it even made sense to make it anonymous) and again just now. One would have a difficult time having your website show up in a google search. I gave up after several searches, and this was even after I had visited your site. The point being - you did NOT need to defend yourself, yet you did anyway, despite saying you had no desire to do so, and have much better things to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lee says:

 

"I have no desire to "defend" my product."

 

followed later in the thread by several hundred words of 'defense'...

 

Indeed. My bad. Mouth (or keyboard) runneth away from me sometimes...

 

Peace,

 

Lee

 

Locus Design Group[br]www.locus-design.com[br]www.cryo-parts.com[br]www.cryo-freeze.com

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