Budget USB cable?

It pains me to have to try and find a "good sounding USB cable". The whole thought that USB cables can sound different just sticks in my craw. Oh, I know for sure that other cables make a difference (even coax digital and Toslink), but for some reason the whole USB thing makes me crabby.

Onward to the discussion. It seems the Audioquest Carbon is a well reviewed and regarded USB cable. If I try to stick to the $100 max price point, are there any others that can give the Carbon a run for its money? The use would be between my TT3.0'd and EDO'd Touch and my PWD DAC II. Looking for all the usual virtues - no "sound" of its own, neutral, extended and articulate in both directions without being dry or brittle, a natural acoustic sound without being warm or soft. You know, perfect. :-)
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.
i read the belkin gold series has gotten great reviews. 25 bucks.
My Benchmark came with a "Plain Jane" Monoprice cable. Swapped it out for a hi-falootin one from my brother for a weekend. No difference. Good enough for Benchmark, good enough for me.
Good luck,
You can get a Pangea USB cable for about $30, down from $100, and it sounds the same: good enough.

All the best,
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.


-- Al
Al, you are the best that Audiogon forums has to offer!
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.
Emerson (Foster_9), thank you most kindly!

Richard, thanks also. Your inputs always warrant respect, IMO, notwithstanding the fact that on some issues, such as this one, we civilly agree to disagree.

Best regards,
-- Al
07-12-12: Hotmailjbc
i read the belkin gold series has gotten great reviews. 25 bucks.
A little over $3 shipped on Amazon.
I haven't done much in the way of brand comparisons, but I can tell you that my Pangaea pure silver USB cable (their more expensive variety) sounds MUCH better than the crappy USB cable that came with my DAC. $50 for 0.5 meters. $99 for 1 meter.
These all seem like good recommendations - I've seen more than one or two other recs on different sites for the same cables. The Acoutic Revive, even used, is more than I want to spend. Anyone have any info on the DH Labs USB?
thanks for the tip on the belkin essential
I tried in this category the AQ carbon, Wireworld Starlight and Furutech gt2,
Overall I prefered the wireworld in this price category.
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.
Was that experiment double blind?
I also prefer the Wireworld Starlight and use it in my system.
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!
I go with Wireworld Starlight (it is in my music server)and Furutech gt2 (In my headphone amp).
However, i'm using the Orpheus USB on my main system, which is the best i have tried. and go really well with their DAC. The only down size is price ....
But furutech formula 2 has somewhat strange effect on vocals ,it sounds as though singers has a cold or somenthing stuck in their noses,but at the same time delivers extented bass and open highs.I just wondering if somebody selling making and usb plugs ?
Thanks all. I was lucky to get a NIB Wireworld Starlight here on the 'gon for a great price. Just got it today in the mail. Will be listening this weekend.
Let me know your impressions:)
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.