Why Do Different USB Cables Sound Different

May 23, 2017
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Brazil
#61
The problem of the diffusion of knowledge is that everyone thinks himself knowledgeable. Just ask about the differences of USB cables that appear countless "recipes", as if everyone knew how to build a USB cable. Write about USB cables and you'll see things like "bit is bit, everything is 0 and 1", "it isn't possible to lose bits in a cable with less than 1m", "the important thing is the quality of the connectors and the shielding", "to get good quality, it's necessary to separate the power sector from the data sector" and some people still say "using reclockers, everything that's before it is irrelevant" or "after the advent of asynchronous DACs, digital cables make no difference". Do you realize that everything always revolves around the same "recipes"?

What people don't realize is that it's no use taking care of all this, separating the + 5v and GND, making electromagnetic shielding, using excellent gold connectors, if they don't consider the data paths (D + and D-) are also electrical signals and, for this reason, they are still susceptible to distortion, interference, losses, among others. For this reason, it also imports the quality of the conductors, the topology, the dielectric, among many other variables. Building cable doesn't only mean taking care of silence, low noise and harmonics, but also a number of other features that escape our eyes, that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to handle in practice. Why does a cotton dielectric introduce into the cable different sound from Teflon dielectric? We, the final consumers, should stick to the results, draw a more precise trend toward a particular cable, and leave development to whoever actually understands it. I'm not saying that we must be ignorant, but that we should leave unbelief aside and worry more about what we hear.
 
Likes: allhifi
Jun 19, 2016
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#62
Totaldac reclocker.



Yes, I used Berkeley Alpha USB and now I use Totaldac Reclocker.
However, the biggest improvement has been achieved by solving the Power issues.
Cheers,
Paolo
What have you done to address "power" issues ? (Indeed, AC power quality is vital to digital SQ)

pj
(What are your thoughts on the performance of the Berkeley 'Apha USB' ? )
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
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#63
There are two issue mixed up in USB usage.

One is power over USB cable. My opinion is that any audio devices using USB power to drive them are sub-optimal. Quality of USB power & running this in a wire parallel to the USB data wires in the cable could also be sub-optimal.

When this power issue is dealt with there are still considerations about USB data.

I agree that reclocking is not the full answer & remember there are a couple of different types of reclocking. The more common one is to reclock the I2S signal coming out of the USB receiver section. The more effective one is to isolate+reclock the USB signal coming into the USB receiver stage (reclocking is needed after isolation as isolation adds jitter to the USB signal). I have I2S reclocking in my USB audio devices & it did improve the sound. I believed that it was all I needed until I tried USB isolation/reclocking & this noticeably further improved the sound so now I use both reclocking in my devices

At the end of the day this doesn't make a DAC immune to the USB cable but it minimises the influence of USB cables
 
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Jun 19, 2016
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#64
This is interesting as it's the first time I've seen something "measurable" to distinguish a USB cable that is just supposed to transmit "0"s and "1"s. Not that I have any idea as to what I'm looking at, but it's interesting. It would also be very presumptuous of me to try and correlate any of these measurements with sonic performance, but I sure would like to see the data of the cables I've reviewed lately.

I’ve listened to a bunch of USB cables over the past 2 months and for what it’s worth (YMMV) here are some thoughts on individual cables.

Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7- a good cable with lots of detail but a bit forward on the top end. I would not think it would be a great match with electrostats or some solid state amps

Tchernov – supposedly preferred by Vladimir Lamm. A very good cable, well balanced, very musical. The “Lamm” of USB cables as you might expect. Not the last word in bottom end definition but quite good.

Masterbuilt Ultra. This cable came with a lot of fanfare and I tried as hard as I could to cotton up to it but could not. It's got a very good midrange, a super top end, but it's quite bottom weighted, at least in my system. I even tried to adjust my subs by turning them down considerably, however I just couldn’t achieve the overall balance that I was seeking. For those of you that know JL subs, I had to turn down the “ELF” control by 6dB as well as the main gain. Without doing that, I thought an earthquake was occurring in my room. I plan on re-visiting this again after I receive some MB Ultra speaker cables since this could be a “loom” effect issue (i.e, things sound best with the same brand throughout) , though I’m not even sure why this might be the case. My gut tells me otherwise.

Canare. This is the cable John Atkinson supposedly uses on all his recordings. I figured, for $40 bucks, what’s not to try? My hope is that this cable would convince me that we are all nuts and irreparably damaged and that for all intent and purpose, this bargain basement special would perform as well as the high priced spread. Well, apparently, there is a high-end audio God. The cable is a lackluster performer at best. I would suggest that Mr. Atkinson avail himself of an alternative, although more expensive option.

Stealth Select “T”. I was essentially unaware of Stealth cables until I visited Philip O'Hanlon’s home a couple of years ago. When Philip played a tape source, I was knocked out and wandered by his equipment rack to see what he was using. That’s when I noticed these fat white interconnects on his front end gear and learned about Stealth for the first time. I don’t even think he was using the latest and greatest of their current line at the time. But it didn’t matter. It was clear that whatever the hell he was using, it sounded damn good and they have intrigued me ever since. I subsequently tried a pair of their Sakra 10 interconnects from my Meitner DA2 DAC to VTL 7.5 III preamp and confirmed they were superb. Somwhat surprisingly, they were essentially the equivalent of my MIT SHDs sonically, although I gave the slight nod to the MITs. Therefore I didn’t replace the MIT SHD’s but I have paid attention to Stealth ever since. When the opportunity came to try their USB, I gave it a whirl and am thankful I did. It replaced the Wireworld USB in short order. The more I listen, the more impressed I have become. This is by a considerable measure, the most impressive, best sounding USB cable of the bunch. It is balanced, detailed, musical and has spatial detail that is unlike any other USB cable I’ve heard, and is in fact, a very analog sounding USB cable in that regard. As mentioned previously, the placement of the sliding tunable thing-a-magig on the cable is critical, but it's fairly easy to set. Stealth cables have been widely reviewed but mostly outside the US. I really loved this review of their Select “T” USB cable in particular because it’s in Chinese and I can’t read a word of it!

http://www.stealthaudiocables.com/reviews/USB _review.pdf

However, if you look at the graphic ratings of the cables reviewed, it sure seems easy to conclude they loved the Stealth Select “T”. Actually, I did run this article in Google Translate and even though the English translation was at times comical, I got the gist- their one liner said it all: "True water without fragrance". I can’t say much more than that (even if I have no idea what the heck they meant by some of the things they said- you really need to read the translation for yourself.). It’s just been a wonderful performer in my system. And it's reasonably priced (1m=$1250 retail).

For now, my USB explorations have taken a much needed break. I’m happy to live with the Stealth Select “T” for quite some time.
Marty
(RE: " ...Canare. This is the cable John Atkinson supposedly uses on all his recordings. ")

Lol. The days of one-man shows (who I'm told wield/ed? considerable influence) is thankfully over.

For sure, Stealth has made/continues to offer up some impressive designs.

pj
 
Likes: Felipe Rolim
Jun 19, 2016
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#65
Tell him, Nonsense. He needs to look at jitter and/or noise. Only under extremely poor conditions will there be data loss.
Not only that, but wouldn't:

" ... The common (incompetent) logic AGAINST ANY premium USB cables "

... simply translate to 'illogical' ?

Somewhere, something was lost in translation ?

pj
 
Jun 19, 2016
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#66
There are two issue mixed up in USB usage.

One is power over USB cable. My opinion is that any audio devices using USB power to drive them are sub-optimal. Quality of USB power & running this in a wire parallel to the USB data wires in the cable could also be sub-optimal.

When this power issue is dealt with there are still considerations about USB data.

I agree that reclocking is not the full answer & remember there are a couple of different types of reclocking. The more common one is to reclock the I2S signal coming out of the USB receiver section. The more effective one is to isolate+reclock the USB signal coming into the USB receiver stage (reclocking is needed after isolation as isolation adds jitter to the USB signal). I have I2S reclocking in my USB audio devices & it did improve the sound. I believed that it was all I needed until I tried USB isolation/reclocking & this noticeably further improved the sound so now I use both reclocking in my devices

At the end of the day this doesn't make a DAC immune to the USB cable but it minimises the influence of USB cables
Interesting points. But, all conjecture/guesses, as to 'What/Where the issues concerning SQ distinctions/ perceptions lay.

Naturally, it's sensible to consider the 'mathematical' components, yet their remains, as of yet, barely touched upon phenomenon that WILL shed further light/insight -in a far more consistent manner.

pj
 
Jun 19, 2016
74
7
8
#67
The problem of the diffusion of knowledge is that everyone thinks himself knowledgeable. Just ask about the differences of USB cables that appear countless "recipes", as if everyone knew how to build a USB cable. Write about USB cables and you'll see things like "bit is bit, everything is 0 and 1", "it isn't possible to lose bits in a cable with less than 1m", "the important thing is the quality of the connectors and the shielding", "to get good quality, it's necessary to separate the power sector from the data sector" and some people still say "using reclockers, everything that's before it is irrelevant" or "after the advent of asynchronous DACs, digital cables make no difference". Do you realize that everything always revolves around the same "recipes"?

What people don't realize is that it's no use taking care of all this, separating the + 5v and GND, making electromagnetic shielding, using excellent gold connectors, if they don't consider the data paths (D + and D-) are also electrical signals and, for this reason, they are still susceptible to distortion, interference, losses, among others. For this reason, it also imports the quality of the conductors, the topology, the dielectric, among many other variables. Building cable doesn't only mean taking care of silence, low noise and harmonics, but also a number of other features that escape our eyes, that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to handle in practice. Why does a cotton dielectric introduce into the cable different sound from Teflon dielectric? We, the final consumers, should stick to the results, draw a more precise trend toward a particular cable, and leave development to whoever actually understands it. I'm not saying that we must be ignorant, but that we should leave unbelief aside and worry more about what we hear.
Words of wisdom:

" ... but also a number of other features that escape our eyes, that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to handle in practice."

" ....Why does a cotton dielectric introduce into the cable different sound from Teflon dielectric ? "


" ...We, the final consumers, should stick to the results, draw a more precise trend toward a particular cable, and leave development to whoever actually understands it. "

Perfect !

Although my friend, I'd edit your words by saying:

" ...and leave development to whoever actually TRIES TO understand it. "

That we remain in a (albeit late) 20th century mindset, deeply insightful discoveries shall unfold in quick succession over the next ten years, providing both much needed clarity but also the mathematical formula's that make it (or suggest it) so.

pj
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
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#68
Interesting points. But, all conjecture/guesses, as to 'What/Where the issues concerning SQ distinctions/ perceptions lay.

Naturally, it's sensible to consider the 'mathematical' components, yet their remains, as of yet, barely touched upon phenomenon that WILL shed further light/insight -in a far more consistent manner.

pj
Are you saying that my report of my experiments, findings & resultant USB audio products are just guesswork?

I'm not sure what you are referring to as the "'mathematical' components" - in fact your wholes second paragraph, I can't disassemble? What further insights are you suggesting - bandwidth of data transmission wires, dielectric of data transmission wires or some other insights do you mean?

I'm not being confrontational, just don't understand your post
 
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Jun 19, 2016
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#69
Are you saying that my experiments& results & final USB products are just guesswork?

I'm not sure what you are referring to as the "'mathematical' components" - in fact your wholes second paragraph, I can't disassemble? What further insights are you suggesting - bandwidth of data transmission wires, dielectric of data transmission wires or some other insights do you mean?
jkeny: Don't even know you. Nor your products. Nor does it matter -as far as this dialogue is concerned.

1) Q: Are you saying that my experiments& results & final USB products are just guesswork?

1) A: Not at all. Whatever 'they' are (your experiments), it's essential. You do realize we are talking about simple communication cable/transmission line stuff ? Yet, the "language" we use (mathematical computations, you know LRC stuff, magnetic fields/interactions and so forth) has been investigated by the better cable company's/products -and continues to this day.

2) Q " ...I'm not sure what you are referring to as the "'mathematical' components"

2 A: LCR, Characteristic Impedance, Electro-Mechanical factors/associations, Inductive/Capacitive coupling; you know, electrical 'field' relationship stuff.

3) Q: " ..What further insights are you suggesting - bandwidth of data transmission wires, dielectric of data transmission wires or some other insights do you mean?"

3 A: Ummm, " ...bandwidth of data transmission wires, dielectric of data transmission wires .." are last century language/ investigations -although granted, it must continue.

In the end, there's no need to get your willy in a knot -I'm speaking of 'Quantum-Physics-style' insights.

pj
(P.S> You sell products/cabling ?)
 
Jun 19, 2016
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#70
Are you saying that my report of my experiments, findings & resultant USB audio products are just guesswork?

I'm not sure what you are referring to as the "'mathematical' components" - in fact your wholes second paragraph, I can't disassemble? What further insights are you suggesting - bandwidth of data transmission wires, dielectric of data transmission wires or some other insights do you mean?

I'm not being confrontational, just don't understand your post
Jkeny: As I reread my reply (that got you to chime in), the intent was not to suggest that some of the excellent product/cables available -through considerable effort- is lacking, but rather that final 'missing' element/insight (mathematically) that brings it all together to serve up a more concrete understanding -may not be fully understood.

For example, growing consensus suggests that ultra-premium USB cable SQ distinctions to be a result of (source / load) disparities of "In/Out circuits" within connected (audio) equipment, when in fact it may be something COMPLETELY different.

One thing I do believe, is that any man offering up such a fine quote:

" The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge." - Daniel J. Boorstin.

.... is on the right track !

pj
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
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#71
Yes, you picked up on my signature quote & its intent - good - I presume we share similar thinking?

What I was outlining in my post was my experience of one element of the USB solution which was about my experiments from which I draw the conclusions I outlined - the noise on the USB data wires is part of the problem, not the noise on the ground or USB 5V VSUB wire - using USB data isolators will prove this to you. This is the common mode noise in differential signalling & can arise from many areas - the USB transmitter can cause it as can the structure of the cable - an often overlooked issue is shield induced current noise(SCIN).

I already had USB audio devices which use LiFePO4 battery power & reclocked the I2S signal coming from the USB receiver chip, just before it entered the DAC or SPDIF chip. I thought this was as good as I could make it & the sound competed with some of the best. Still I could hear differences with USB cables. But USB cables are an art rather than engineering so I approached it from another direction - trying to deal with CM noise at the USB receiver end.I tried CM chokes but no audible improvement. I experienced some audible improvement with a USB cable that had a ferrite compound layer on the outside of the shield. When I heard an Intona & Uptone Audio USB isolators, I could hear an improvement. Even more improvement when I powered it with my battery power.

I experimented with Sillanna USB 2.0 isolators & found that its the reduction of noise on the data lines (CM noise) that is the main area where audible improvements can be achieved. Many people believe that ground noise or VBUS noise is the important area but you can test this - first off VBUS should never be used as the power source for audio devices so self-power is crucial & Battery or supercap power essential for optimal results - if you lift (disconnect) the ground on a USB cable after it has handshaked between devices you can play audio without ground connection. So if self-powered & ground disconnected, the only connection between USB transmitter (usually PC) & USB receiver audio device is the shield & two data lines - you can also disconnect the shield & it will still work

Once these data lines are isolated you will hear a great improvement in audio but that's not the end - reclock the USB signal coming out of the USB isolator & there is further audible improvement.

That is my current formula for optimal USB audio but it still doesn't make the USB cable totally irrelevant, just greatly reduces its influence.

So, there is still more to be uncovered (I don't believe it will reside in the area of quantum physics, however) but the above is even controversial to many who don't allow themselves to delve into these matters because "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge."

PS. yes, my website is also in my sig
 
Jun 19, 2016
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#72
Oh my, a real thinker/engineering type. I'm impressed; by both your deeper, solid knowledge, investigative work, and your willingness to discuss/address and enhance understanding. And of course, that we/some get to 'hear' your work. Nice.

I have not heard of your product, nor would I have bothered -prior to this reply.

Count me impressed. I shall look you (company/products) up.

Thanks for sharing,

peter jasz
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
3,337
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38
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#73
Thanks Peter J - just adding my 2C to the debate
 
#74
Yes, you picked up on my signature quote & its intent - good - I presume we share similar thinking?

What I was outlining in my post was my experience of one element of the USB solution which was about my experiments from which I draw the conclusions I outlined - the noise on the USB data wires is part of the problem, not the noise on the ground or USB 5V VSUB wire - using USB data isolators will prove this to you. This is the common mode noise in differential signalling & can arise from many areas - the USB transmitter can cause it as can the structure of the cable - an often overlooked issue is shield induced current noise(SCIN).

I already had USB audio devices which use LiFePO4 battery power & reclocked the I2S signal coming from the USB receiver chip, just before it entered the DAC or SPDIF chip. I thought this was as good as I could make it & the sound competed with some of the best. Still I could hear differences with USB cables. But USB cables are an art rather than engineering so I approached it from another direction - trying to deal with CM noise at the USB receiver end.I tried CM chokes but no audible improvement. I experienced some audible improvement with a USB cable that had a ferrite compound layer on the outside of the shield. When I heard an Intona & Uptone Audio USB isolators, I could hear an improvement. Even more improvement when I powered it with my battery power.

I experimented with Sillanna USB 2.0 isolators & found that its the reduction of noise on the data lines (CM noise) that is the main area where audible improvements can be achieved. Many people believe that ground noise or VBUS noise is the important area but you can test this - first off VBUS should never be used as the power source for audio devices so self-power is crucial & Battery or supercap power essential for optimal results - if you lift (disconnect) the ground on a USB cable after it has handshaked between devices you can play audio without ground connection. So if self-powered & ground disconnected, the only connection between USB transmitter (usually PC) & USB receiver audio device is the shield & two data lines - you can also disconnect the shield & it will still work

Once these data lines are isolated you will hear a great improvement in audio but that's not the end - reclock the USB signal coming out of the USB isolator & there is further audible improvement.

That is my current formula for optimal USB audio but it still doesn't make the USB cable totally irrelevant, just greatly reduces its influence.

So, there is still more to be uncovered (I don't believe it will reside in the area of quantum physics, however) but the above is even controversial to many who don't allow themselves to delve into these matters because "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge."

PS. yes, my website is also in my sig
Good research here. I was wondering about the handshake. But doesn't it re-handshake after very track or different resolution track? Or is it more DAC switched on, handshake, job done?

I think uptone audio make a switch for there 5v feet, just a simple end plug. May try that.

What are your thoughts on silver USB cables? And how much shielding do we need? I fancy making a DIY end game cable if I can work out the best structure to adhere to....
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
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#75
Good research here. I was wondering about the handshake. But doesn't it re-handshake after very track or different resolution track? Or is it more DAC switched on, handshake, job done?

I think uptone audio make a switch for there 5v feet, just a simple end plug. May try that.
Basically, ground is only required when the USB signalling requires single ended as opposed to differential signalling. I used the term "handshaking" as a shorthand way of saying this. AFAIK, this SE comms is only required at USB enumeration (at the start of first connection) - I haven't studied the whole of the USB protocol for SE conditions, I just did a quick test of this to see if disconnecting ground made any difference to the sound in my setup & it didn't. I could play any track & change to tracs with different samplerates, etc

What are your thoughts on silver USB cables? And how much shielding do we need? I fancy making a DIY end game cable if I can work out the best structure to adhere to....
As I said, I believe USB cables are an art form rather than a rule based engineering so metallurgy, dielectric effects are as much unknowns as they are in analogue interconnects & speaker cables.

Shields are another story with some engineering behind it but the name "shield" can lead to too simplistic thinking - it doesn't just shield noise from intruding/extruding from the cable, it also can have unintended secondary effects - I mentioned shield current induced noise (SCIN) which is the phenomena of the shield causing noise on the data wires due to configuration of the cable & connections at the devices at both ends of the cable.

I sent a special USB cable on tour in the UK (I have also sent my DACs on tour separately) - the one with a ferrite compound layer outside the shield (not a ferrite ring - a layer covering the whole cable length & diameter). I made this offer in a USB cable thread much like this one - simply because the discussion was going around in the usual rut. This cable is measured & shows the reduction in RF noise as a consequence of the ferrite layer. Some said it was the best cable they had heard & others said not. What this signifies to me is that there are many, many variables which determine whether USB cables will make an audible difference. USB cable spec & measurements here

One thing I suggest people should try who are interested in experimenting is the Lush^2 USB cable sold here. (I have no connection to this company but tell Peter I sent you)

It has multiple shields which can be connected in various ways at either end of the cable. What this is doing, IMO, although he doesn't seem to realise this or state it, is the cable is playing around with variations in EMI & grounding

Many years ago, I decided the best way to investigate whether USB cables made a difference (after buying & trying a number of recommended ones with no audible difference) was to cut out the cable altogether & directly connect between USB output port & my USB DAC with a solid USB connector. It made a small difference but wasn't universally practical (my DAC was small enough to do this)

In the end, I prefer to investigate approaches which try to cut through the many variables at play upstream of the USB audio device - that's why I have built into my DACs & USB-SPDIF converters, USB isolation, USB reforming/reclocking & I2S reforming/reclocking all powered by LiFePo4 battery & now supercapacitors
 
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Jun 19, 2016
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#76
Basically, ground is only required when the USB signalling requires single ended as opposed to differential signalling. I used the term "handshaking" as a shorthand way of saying this. AFAIK, this SE comms is only required at USB enumeration (at the start of first connection) - I haven't studied the whole of the USB protocol for SE conditions, I just did a quick test of this to see if disconnecting ground made any difference to the sound in my setup & it didn't. I could play any track & change to tracs with different samplerates, etc


As I said, I believe USB cables are an art form rather than a rule based engineering so metallurgy, dielectric effects are as much unknowns as they are in analogue interconnects & speaker cables.

Shields are another story with some engineering behind it but the name "shield" can lead to too simplistic thinking - it doesn't just shield noise from intruding/extruding from the cable, it also can have unintended secondary effects - I mentioned shield current induced noise (SCIN) which is the phenomena of the shield causing noise on the data wires due to configuration of the cable & connections at the devices at both ends of the cable.

I sent a special USB cable on tour in the UK (I have also sent my DACs on tour separately) - the one with a ferrite compound layer outside the shield (not a ferrite ring - a layer covering the whole cable length & diameter). I made this offer in a USB cable thread much like this one - simply because the discussion was going around in the usual rut. This cable is measured & shows the reduction in RF noise as a consequence of the ferrite layer. Some said it was the best cable they had heard & others said not. What this signifies to me is that there are many, many variables which determine whether USB cables will make an audible difference. USB cable spec & measurements here

One thing I suggest people should try who are interested in experimenting is the Lush^2 USB cable sold here. (I have no connection to this company but tell Peter I sent you)

It has multiple shields which can be connected in various ways at either end of the cable. What this is doing, IMO, although he doesn't seem to realise this or state it, is the cable is playing around with variations in EMI & grounding

Many years ago, I decided the best way to investigate whether USB cables made a difference (after buying & trying a number of recommended ones with no audible difference) was to cut out the cable altogether & directly connect between USB output port & my USB DAC with a solid USB connector. It made a small difference but wasn't universally practical (my DAC was small enough to do this)

In the end, I prefer to investigate approaches which try to cut through the many variables at play upstream of the USB audio device - that's why I have built into my DACs & USB-SPDIF converters, USB isolation, USB reforming/reclocking & I2S reforming/reclocking all powered by LiFePo4 battery & now supercapacitors
-jkeny: What is your name ?

Anyway, you bring up some essential, investigative insights into cable design/signal transmission. All of which leads to (hopefully) better (sounding) products/cable.

Yet, when you state that: " ... Many years ago, I decided the best way to investigate whether USB cables made a difference (after buying & trying a number of recommended ones with no audible difference) ...."

This surprises me. As I began messing around with computer audio/streaming, SBC's (single board computers) were put to work. Using a Desktop PC, I had to run Ethernet cable (20-25 feet) to the stereo and 'Streamer/SBC'. And from there, various USB cables to the/a USB-equipped DAC.

The first "listen" (first hook-up/connection) was a 'musically' very disappointing experience. I laughed at how bad it was. Yeh right. Simply changing/experimenting with various (cheap/& laying around) Ethernet cable revealed profound SQ differences. Hmmm. Yet SQ remained uninspiring.

Then I connected an Audioquest (Carbon) USB cable, and OMG: It went from AM radio "goodness" (lol) to 'Hi-Rez'. It was startling. And it sounded good. Really good. Further messing around with cables, spdif converters/i2s cable continues to enlighten -and inspire. And oh man, it can/does sound excellent -sometimes spectacular.

Back to my point, it surprises me that you found no (clear, very easy-to-identify) audible distinctions when you did the same (tried various USB cables/found no difference) ? No to put a too-fine point on it, but is your (reference) system/set-up 'resolving' enough ?

Remember, I don't know anything about you -so don 't beat me up. (lol)

pj
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
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#77
-jkeny: What is your name ?
John Kenny

Anyway, you bring up some essential, investigative insights into cable design/signal transmission. All of which leads to (hopefully) better (sounding) products/cable.

Yet, when you state that: " ... Many years ago, I decided the best way to investigate whether USB cables made a difference (after buying & trying a number of recommended ones with no audible difference) ...."

This surprises me. As I began messing around with computer audio/streaming, SBC's (single board computers) were put to work. Using a Desktop PC, I had to run Ethernet cable (20-25 feet) to the stereo and 'Streamer/SBC'. And from there, various USB cables to the/a USB-equipped DAC.

The first "listen" (first hook-up/connection) was a 'musically' very disappointing experience. I laughed at how bad it was. Yeh right. Simply changing/experimenting with various (cheap/& laying around) Ethernet cable revealed profound SQ differences. Hmmm. Yet SQ remained uninspiring.

Then I connected an Audioquest (Carbon) USB cable, and OMG: It went from AM radio "goodness" (lol) to 'Hi-Rez'. It was startling. And it sounded good. Really good. Further messing around with cables, spdif converters/i2s cable continues to enlighten -and inspire. And oh man, it can/does sound excellent -sometimes spectacular.

Back to my point, it surprises me that you found no (clear, very easy-to-identify) audible distinctions when you did the same (tried various USB cables/found no difference) ? No to put a too-fine point on it, but is your (reference) system/set-up 'resolving' enough ?
This is the point I was making before about the number of variables at play in any setup. I used at that time my battery powered DAC with I2S reclocking, connected directly to battery powered laptop & directly driving headphones from the DAC - no amplifier or speakers or ethernet or SBC - no ground loop issues & nowhere for RFI to flow, no shield connected at DAC, no VBUS power. I didn't try too many or very expensive cables as I felt it was too much like pot luck & I wasn't willing to waste the money

I don't know the variables at play in your setup so it's difficult to compare apples with apples?

Remember, I don't know anything about you -so don 't beat me up. (lol)
pj
Don't worry, I agree that audible differences are dependent on the reproduction quality of the system (& its perfectly reasonable to wonder if this is the case) - I have heard small changes in the past that I felt were not worth the implementation effort only to find that when I improved my system they became more worthwhile.

I don't subscribe to the 'audio perfection' stage as defined by measurements only types - seldom do we see a measurement of the full playback chain - measurements are usually shown for components/devices in isolation & it's the unknowns (because they are not measured, not because they are immeasurable) in the interactions that are often of more importance to our perception of audio playback
 
Jun 19, 2016
74
7
8
#78
-jkeny: What is your name ?
John Kenny

Anyway, you bring up some essential, investigative insights into cable design/signal transmission. All of which leads to (hopefully) better (sounding) products/cable.

Yet, when you state that: " ... Many years ago, I decided the best way to investigate whether USB cables made a difference (after buying & trying a number of recommended ones with no audible difference) ...."

This surprises me. As I began messing around with computer audio/streaming, SBC's (single board computers) were put to work. Using a Desktop PC, I had to run Ethernet cable (20-25 feet) to the stereo and 'Streamer/SBC'. And from there, various USB cables to the/a USB-equipped DAC.

The first "listen" (first hook-up/connection) was a 'musically' very disappointing experience. I laughed at how bad it was. Yeh right. Simply changing/experimenting with various (cheap/& laying around) Ethernet cable revealed profound SQ differences. Hmmm. Yet SQ remained uninspiring.

Then I connected an Audioquest (Carbon) USB cable, and OMG: It went from AM radio "goodness" (lol) to 'Hi-Rez'. It was startling. And it sounded good. Really good. Further messing around with cables, spdif converters/i2s cable continues to enlighten -and inspire. And oh man, it can/does sound excellent -sometimes spectacular.

Back to my point, it surprises me that you found no (clear, very easy-to-identify) audible distinctions when you did the same (tried various USB cables/found no difference) ? No to put a too-fine point on it, but is your (reference) system/set-up 'resolving' enough ?
This is the point I was making before about the number of variables at play in any setup. I used at that time my battery powered DAC with I2S reclocking, connected directly to battery powered laptop & directly driving headphones from the DAC - no amplifier or speakers or ethernet or SBC - no ground loop issues & nowhere for RFI to flow, no shield connected at DAC, no VBUS power. I didn't try too many or very expensive cables as I felt it was too much like pot luck & I wasn't willing to waste the money

I don't know the variables at play in your setup so it's difficult to compare apples with apples?

Remember, I don't know anything about you -so don 't beat me up. (lol)
pj
Don't worry, I agree that audible differences are dependent on the reproduction quality of the system (& its perfectly reasonable to wonder if this is the case) - I have heard small changes in the past that I felt were not worth the implementation effort only to find that when I improved my system they became more worthwhile.

I don't subscribe to the 'audio perfection' stage as defined by measurements only types - seldom do we see a measurement of the full playback chain - measurements are usually shown for components/devices in isolation & it's the unknowns (because they are not measured, not because they are immeasurable) in the interactions that are often of more importance to our perception of audio playback
Hi John: Thank you or identifying yourself. Nice to meet you.

I'm not certain the scope/intention of your work (and/or product offerings -target audience/consumer), but if your work revolves around battery-powered 'digital' gear -there is little in the way of offering meaningful results/ discoveries for the 99% of audiophiles who power from the 'grid' -and likely a majority that have/use a full-chassis system/ loudspeakers .

When I asked about your reference system, it included its power source -as you've clarified.
Although you correctly state that (sound) systems vary markedly (component selection) from one to the next, the 'systems' power source, along with the gears resolving capability are vital contributor's. I currently have three Balanced/Symmetrical 120V AC power 'supply's'; one for amplification, the others for sources/digital.

Upon installation of each successive Balanced Power Supply (BPS) -and components connected, enormous gains in resolution resulted; far greater mid-band and LF resolution/definition/articulation was revealed.
I believe AC Regeneration to be even better -for 'digital' specifically -and for the same reasons, with the added benefit of enhanced/ exposed 'liquidity' (to the sound); a smooth, natural, flowing presentation while retaining and further enhancing (signal) resolution.

I note some reticence when someone asked you about 'silver'wire/cable ?

I'm currently in the process of evaluating Audioquest "Coffee" USB cable; also having AQ 'Carbon' USB cable (also have DH Labs USB -very good sound/value, Wireworld 'Starlight 7' and quickly parted with Shunyata USB (Venom).
Awaiting an AQ 'Diamond' USB).
Anyway, regarding the AQ 'Coffee', it took the 150-hour mark to finally (start to) 'expose' itself -and expose it did; a very, very nice (open/transparent, definition/speed, articulation, 'Clarity' revealed. I'm very aware of cable break-in issues (particularly silver, plated and pure), but time can vary markedly.
Surprisingly, disappointingly, AQ feel it not necessary/important to offer up useful information within its (cheap/poor) packaging. I mean c'mon, a simple business-card In the box), stating:

"...Thank you for purchasing .... Break-in/Settling time, DBS system. = ?" Instead, nothing. Too bad.

Also of interest to me (and all others who have AQ's DBs cables), I noticed that the physical positioning of the DBS module (it's moveable by 2"/5-cm or so) has a considerable impact on SQ. Crazy stuff. But that's what can/is revealed after inserting/disconnecting several times (a procedure recommended for early/quicker break-in for cables). Sometimes it sounded really nice, other times WTF -slow, hazy, bland. Incredible. Particularly since it's unclear whether it's AC line conditions, source -or something else causing these observations.

But make no mistake, this cable (AQ 'Coffee' USB), is an excellent USB cable; there's an expansion (holographic-like), height, depth, width upon which instruments fill the space before you -even way up high (triangle taps, etc.), and even the perception of sound from behind (the listener). It's a revealing, engaging, enjoyable, worthy cable. And so far, I believe the best I've had -so far. I'll reserve final judgment until the 300-hour mark.

And, here's the thing: such enhanced resolution (signal tracking) results in far better sound with ANY recording/song, regardless of recording quality. A qualification thus emerges; a song/track/album should have distinctive ( if not wildly varying) sonic signatures including "full-bodied, bright, dull, clear, vivid, hazy, compressed, full-bandwidth etc., etc.).
If your cable/ system follows the song/signal -you are 'hearing' what you should ! And you know something, there is real value, communication -and yes, even complete enjoyment to whatever (SQ) is on offer.

Moving on, system-to-system distinctions are further complicated by equipment positioning; rack type/style. This should not be considered a trivial afterthought; what you position your prized gear upon is highly significant.

For those messing with computer desk-top/mini systems/headphones, try this: place/position your DAC -on a different surface, shelf etc. Then, carefully (do not scratch! lol) place a "weight" on the device/ DAC/ Streamer). And listen. Particularly to low-frequency/vocal articulation/ resolution. If as I, anything (mass/weight) positioned on top of device sucks the life out of it. Try it. Or, position the audio component on a 'stack of CD's -or similar. And listen again.

And other distinctions exist from one component/system to the next, contributing and confounding issues further (with regards to what's doing what to what).

And so the search, and enjoyment continues ...

pj
 

jkeny

Industry Expert, Member Sponsor
Feb 10, 2012
3,337
7
38
Ireland
#79
Hi John: Thank you or identifying yourself. Nice to meet you.

I'm not certain the scope/intention of your work (and/or product offerings -target audience/consumer), but if your work revolves around battery-powered 'digital' gear -there is little in the way of offering meaningful results/ discoveries for the 99% of audiophiles who power from the 'grid' -and likely a majority that have/use a full-chassis system/ loudspeakers .
Have you looked at my website? The intention of my work & my philosophy is outlined there. I recognised many years ago that highly stable, low noise PS was crucial for for all audio devices but particularly for digital audio devices. LiFePO4 batteries represent a perfect source of 3.3V DC with such characteristics

This ultra stable, low noise PS is also provided by supercapacitors instead of batteries & remains the foundation on which my audio devices are built.

BTW, I wasn't defining that my experiments were limited to battery (or supercap) powered audio devices - I was just explaining how I limited the number of variables in my experiment on the USB audio devices by NOT using an amplifier or speakers - this gives a more direct way of evaluating the audio device alone. Of course the audio devices can to be used in mains powered systems & that is what is used in the reported impressions/auditions/reviews


When I asked about your reference system, it included its power source -as you've clarified.
Although you correctly state that (sound) systems vary markedly (component selection) from one to the next, the 'systems' power source, along with the gears resolving capability are vital contributor's. I currently have three Balanced/Symmetrical 120V AC power 'supply's'; one for amplification, the others for sources/digital.

Upon installation of each successive Balanced Power Supply (BPS) -and components connected, enormous gains in resolution resulted; far greater mid-band and LF resolution/definition/articulation was revealed.
I believe AC Regeneration to be even better -for 'digital' specifically -and for the same reasons, with the added benefit of enhanced/ exposed 'liquidity' (to the sound); a smooth, natural, flowing presentation while retaining and further enhancing (signal) resolution.
Yes, that fluidity & increased resolution, dynamics with bass definition & treble fluidity are hallmarks of well sorted PS (usually the removal of sources of electrical noise). This is no different from the audible benefits experienced with battery or supercapacitor PS

I note some reticence when someone asked you about 'silver'wire/cable ?
I just don't have much personal experience with silver wire so I remain reticent about expressing an opinion on it
 
Last edited:
Jun 19, 2016
74
7
8
#80
I'm not certain the scope/intention of your work (and/or product offerings -target audience/consumer), but if your work revolves around battery-powered 'digital' gear -there is little in the way of offering meaningful results/ discoveries for the 99% of audiophiles who power from the 'grid' -and likely a majority that have/use a full-chassis system/ loudspeakers .
Have you looked at my website? (Not yet) The intention of my work & my philosophy is outlined there. I recognised many years ago that highly stable, low noise PS was crucial for for all audio devices but particularly for digital audio devices. LiFePO4 batteries represent a perfect source of 3.3V DC with such characteristics (Good to know. Thx.)

This ultra stable, low noise PS is also provided by supercapacitors instead of batteries & remains the foundation on which my audio devices are built. (Many ? Which - a couple examples would be fine. Thx.)


When I asked about your reference system, it included its power source -as you've clarified.
Although you correctly state that (sound) systems vary markedly (component selection) from one to the next, the 'systems' power source, along with the gears resolving capability are vital contributor's. I currently have three Balanced/Symmetrical 120V AC power 'supply's'; one for amplification, the others for sources/digital.

Upon installation of each successive Balanced Power Supply (BPS) -and components connected, enormous gains in resolution resulted; far greater mid-band and LF resolution/definition/articulation was revealed.
I believe AC Regeneration to be even better -for 'digital' specifically -and for the same reasons, with the added benefit of enhanced/ exposed 'liquidity' (to the sound); a smooth, natural, flowing presentation while retaining and further enhancing (signal) resolution.
Yes, that fluidity & increased resolution, dynamics with bass definition & treble fluidity are hallmarks of well sorted PS (usually the removal of sources of electrical noise). This is no different from the audible benefits experienced with battery or supercapacitor PS (I'm far from up-to-date on this, but in the past, it was suggested that battery-power was not as good as expected? Nor compared to quality (low-impedance) AC power. Any changes since ?)

I note some reticence when someone asked you about 'silver'wire/cable ?
I just don't have much personal experience with silver wire so I remain reticent about expressing an opinion on it
(Where are you located (Country) ? You can purchase per/ft. from DH Labs (USA); silver plated, and pure silver (solid conductors). It's OCC (Long Grain) of high quality.)

Website: yours = ?

Cheers,

pj
 

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