I don't know anything about the Carbon, but I like the Furutech Formula 2, which is in the price category you seek. WhatHifi gave it cudos too.
24 responses Add your response
The whole thought that USB cables can sound different just sticks in my craw.From a technical standpoint, and speaking as an experienced digital and analog designer (not for audio), I would not find it at all surprising if there were sonic differences between USB cables. USB cable differences could affect RFI that might be radiated from the cable and couple into arbitrary circuit points elsewhere within the system, with unpredictable effects; ground loop issues; noise pickup; waveform integrity; jitter, etc.
However, assuming that the cables are reasonably well made I see absolutely no reason to expect much if any consistency or predictability of their sonic effects from system to system, or from one physical arrangement of the components to another, or even between different lengths of the same cable type.
In other words, although I would expect there to be sonic differences, I would not attribute specific sonic characteristics to specific cables. And I would expect that the only way to determine which cable will work best in your system, among a group of candidates that are of reasonably good quality, would be to try them in your system.
First, I'm with you in that it's a bit of a "not again!" feeling to now have to deal with finding the USB cable that sounds best in my system. But....my experience has demonstrated to my ears that it does in fact matter and despite Al's comments above the USB cables I have heard do have a specific and consistent character (a point we have disagreed on before...ie power cables as well as digital cables... civilly disagreed!).
So...my recommendation would be the Nordost Blue Heaven, used pretty close to your budget, or the Acoustic Revive. The Blue Heaven has that Nordost house sound, uber detailed, extremely taught and articulate bass, with outstanding extension high and low. The Acoustic Revive is much fuller, more musical sound that has a very organic, natural presence. I use the more expensive Acoustic Revive that has a separate power run and it is an amazing cable...but expensive.
I got to be guinea pig for a dealers usb cable experiment and while I could tell the difference between the super cheap and the mid/expensive, I could not tell the difference between the mid and expensive. End of that day I was surprised I could hear a difference and also how small it was. I really had to pay attention and be very careful. If I was just listening I would not notice a thing. Personally I'd go inexpensive and as short as possible, then over time try other cables if you can demo them.
Mrvco: No the dealer knew what cables he was putting in. I controlled the music (looping the same section) and kept my eyes closed lest I catch a glimpse. lacking in scientific method but I was OK with that as I was not even shopping for stuff. He felt he could hear a bigger difference and perhaps so. I have found that careful listening takes a bit of practice and I know that I am lacking in midrange resolution so I only comment on the high freq detail.
I have two aftermarket usb cables Furutech and Wireworld. After months with the Furutech Formula 2, I casually re-inserted the Wireworld Starlight I had laying in a drawer just because I was not satisfied with what I have heard lately. The Wireworld, after a couple days of constant music is delivering much more clarity, resolution and sense of the venue than the Furutech!. I am surprised!
Here is another prop for the Belkin Pro Series USB 2.0 (A Plug to 5-Pin Mini B Plug). Just sounds clearly better when used for my Dell laptop/AQ Dragonfly based system than either the thin cable that came with my external hard drive or the shielded Gigaware brand cable I purchased at RadioShack. The Belkin cable cost $6.99 at Frys, 13 bucks less than the one from RS. Someday I will get around to trying fancier USB cables since my ears tell me there is a difference.
After a few changes in my setup I went back to the Furutech Fromula 2 and it has been in place the last 4 months doing very well. So you never know about a cables performance. It can change depending on other variables in the system that change. Maybe I'll change back to the Wireworld at some point.