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Old 21st January 2013, 05:06 PM   #1
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Default USB cable quality

Context: PC or other digital source connected via USB to an external DAC.

I see many offers for expensive USB cables, but I am not convinced they can make a difference in the sound. The information running in the cable is digital and only zeros and ones.
On the basis that a cable has to have the right gauge of wire for the distance,and that shielding is probably required in very noisy environments, what are the benefits of paying $150 for 1 meter USB cable.

If we want to pick examples:

Bluejeans USB 3.0 cables 1m for $4
Data Cables at Blue Jeans Cable

or a Cardas Cardas Clear USB 1m for about $150
Cardas Clear Serial Buss

I am not convinced there will be a gain in sound quality.

Please share your opinion
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Old 21st January 2013, 11:58 PM   #2
kp93300 is offline kp93300  Malaysia
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Hi
There is no correct answer to this topic.
You should try out the different usb cable and report here.
Your experience is the most important and relevant.
My experience is subtle changes with different cable.
happy trying

kp93300
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Old 22nd January 2013, 12:27 AM   #3
i2k92 is offline i2k92  Indonesia
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I've tested some generic USB2 cables (bundled with printer, cameras, etc) I have lying around in my house. For some reason, some are better sounding than others.

I also found that USB3 port sounds more musical / smoother than USB2 port (I use Renesas PCI-e USB3 card). Replace the USB2 cable I used before with USB3 cable (generic, no fancy stuff here) with an adapter to connect to USB2 input on the DAC (based on TE7022)brings more improvement although not as big as installing PCI-e USB3.

I'd rather pay 150$ for a good USB interface rather than any cables.

Last edited by i2k92; 22nd January 2013 at 12:36 AM.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 01:28 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowtherdream View Post
The information running in the cable is digital and only zeros and ones.
That is not true. The signal in the cable is analog and intended to represent zeros & ones.

I can't direct;y commenton USB cables, i have a FireWire DAC. Over & over again i was told cables wouldn't make a difference, but i went ahead and dropped just over a $100 on a midmarket FireWire cable (AudioQuest Carbon). It made the same kind of differences as adding PureMusic to iTunes -- an icrease in DDR -- but with a bit less magnitude. Well worth the expense IMHO.

dave
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Old 22nd January 2013, 02:27 AM   #5
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If you understand evidence in the sense that there is evidence that a certain treatment is effective against cancer, then there's no evidence that different cables sound different.

Is the absence of evidence proof that different cables sound the same? No.

Would it be difficult to assemble proof that different cables sound different? No. It might cost money. It might take time. Is there anything inherently difficult about doing it? No. No more so than testing a cancer treatment, which is done all the time.

If I had cancer, I wouldn't spend any of my inheritors money on (or put any of my hope into) a treatment unless there was evidence that it was effective.

I don't have a very high opinion of people who sell treatments for cancer without solid proof that they work.

There is a great deal of evidence that audio evaluation is unreliable unless undertaken under strictly controlled conditions. No-one with any experience of audio evaluation can reasonably be unaware of this.

I don't have a very high opinion of people who insist (without solid proof) on the basis of their own listening in uncontrolled conditions that different USB cables sound different. I see this as very little different from (as dishonest as) encouraging a cancer sufferer to put their hope in a treatment which is not proven to be effective, although obviously without the emotive connotations and serious life threatening consequences of the latter.

Good luck with your search for reliable information (proof).
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Old 22nd January 2013, 02:36 AM   #6
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Pure bs if you are strictly in the digital domain, ones and zeros won't change in the least. 1meter is nothing in this sense, it is bad enough talking about this in the analog stage, but not in the digital domain. If that is the case why not spend a bunch more money on the power cable going to the computer also. bunch of bs I say.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 03:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by planet10 View Post
That is not true. The signal in the cable is analog and intended to represent zeros & ones.

I can't direct;y commenton USB cables, i have a FireWire DAC. Over & over again i was told cables wouldn't make a difference, but i went ahead and dropped just over a $100 on a midmarket FireWire cable (AudioQuest Carbon). It made the same kind of differences as adding PureMusic to iTunes -- an icrease in DDR -- but with a bit less magnitude. Well worth the expense IMHO.

dave
Hi Dave, you are right about the zeros and ones. It's an analog signal that is interpreted as a one or a zero. There are many factors about the cable that can affect accurate interpretation of the signal into the original bit pattern. A good quality cable with have:
- good quality wire
- the right gauge for the current, voltage and distance
- good quality connectors
- a good mechanical bond between the wires and connector
- good insulation
- possibly an assemby and twist pattern that will try to eliminate induced or external electrical noise.

After reading a bit about the USB standards, USB 3.0 has more than the bandwidth required to transmit hi-res music, it has better shielding than USB 2.0, the standard also suggest that a bigger wire gauge can be used compared to USB 2.0, and it has some sort of error correction.

So going for a USB 3.0 compliant cable should help if the quality of the wires, connectors and assembly are all there. Not sure it's worth $100 to me... maybe $20 if I go wild

Since I do not have $100 to spend for a test, I will buy a cheap USB 3.0 cable from my corner electronic store ($5) and compare it to the bluejeans cable ($4). Maybe I will be lucky and the bluejean cable will respect the standard and will have a better mechanical bond between the wires and the connectors. Not sure if the color of the cable will aslo affect the sound
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Old 22nd January 2013, 04:11 AM   #8
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If I remember correctly the USB 3.0 standard carries a higher current than 2.0 cables in implementation and this should use a larger gauge wire. Twisted pairs are always an advantage in any application for rejection of rf and inductance between wires. You can't go wrong with the 3.0 and they are obviously backward compatible so it is just a smart thing to do.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 06:54 AM   #9
i2k92 is offline i2k92  Indonesia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowtherdream View Post
Hi Dave, you are right about the zeros and ones. It's an analog signal that is interpreted as a one or a zero. There are many factors about the cable that can affect accurate interpretation of the signal into the original bit pattern. A good quality cable with have:
- good quality wire
- the right gauge for the current, voltage and distance
- good quality connectors
- a good mechanical bond between the wires and connector
- good insulation
- possibly an assemby and twist pattern that will try to eliminate induced or external electrical noise.

After reading a bit about the USB standards, USB 3.0 has more than the bandwidth required to transmit hi-res music, it has better shielding than USB 2.0, the standard also suggest that a bigger wire gauge can be used compared to USB 2.0, and it has some sort of error correction.

So going for a USB 3.0 compliant cable should help if the quality of the wires, connectors and assembly are all there. Not sure it's worth $100 to me... maybe $20 if I go wild

Since I do not have $100 to spend for a test, I will buy a cheap USB 3.0 cable from my corner electronic store ($5) and compare it to the bluejeans cable ($4). Maybe I will be lucky and the bluejean cable will respect the standard and will have a better mechanical bond between the wires and the connectors. Not sure if the color of the cable will aslo affect the sound
FYI, I've tested following config :
config 1 : PC USB2 > USB3 cable > DAC USB2 : no audible improvement over USB2 cable
config 2 : PC USB3 PCI-e > USB2 cable > DAC USB2 : smoother/more musical sounding
config 3 : PC USB3 PCI-e > USB3 cable + adapter > DAC USB2 : even better than config no 2

(Pls note that the test is based on my ear & my system, so don't ask for scientific evidence)

Based on my test above, I conclude that the major improvement point is the use of USB3 card. It's just about 10$, so why don't test it as well.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 07:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowtherdream View Post
The information running in the cable is digital and only zeros and ones.
This type of statement is making me scream. Honestly.

There is no simple answer without knowing what is on the receiving end of this cable. IME the difference can range between very substantial and almost imperceptible. In fact all USB implementations where the cable is audible are to some extent defective. And that's at least 99% of them.
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