I've never believed much in cables, that said... (USB)


So, in 30+ years of being an audio geek of sorts I've never believed much in cables.  I've always felt once it's a decent gauge and quality (think basic Mogami XLR's and Canare 4s11 speaker) that they don't make much of a difference.  I do try occasionally and try to read the science to see if it makes sense.  

Over the years there have been a couple cables I thought MIGHT have been different (not better or worse, but different).

1.  Gregg Straley Reality cables - these are a solid core and I believe he cryo's them.  I felt the speaker cables MIGHT have brightened things up a bit.  60/40 on if they did, but I'm pretty sure they did.

2.  PS Audio AC3 power cables on my amp.  I inherited this cable with a used amp purchase so said what the hell, I'll try it.  Don't think it did a thing on the pre-amp.  But, with two different amps, I THINK it opened up the soundstage a bit.  Reading about it, I think that the whole highs/lows shapes of cables doesn't make a lot of sense.  But I did think it might make a big enough difference.  For what I essentially paid for it - I kept it and use it.  If anything it looks cool and does stay in the outlet with a vice like grip.  


That said.

Just got my first outboard DAC (oppo sonica) and started with a cheap USB cable then tried an audioquest cinnamon, clearly a difference to me.  I was shocked (and bummed in some ways). But it was obvious, so I tried an audioquest carbon - and yes, again I'm pretty darn sure I heard a difference and it was better.  Everything did have more separation and clarity without being brighter (which is what I thought speaker cables might have done).  This was clear.  It still makes little sense to me (0's and 1's).  I've tried to look at tests like at ASR... but man it's the first time I really felt I can hear a difference.  

Might try the PS audio power cord on the dac, but that means changing on the amp... so not sure if it would be fair or not!
dep14
Is anything empirical related to a belief system?
@dep14 - The generic USB cable has some basic issues...

- Signal and power in the same cables causes noise, which may degrade USB chip performance
- USB power from the computer is noisy and inconsistent - again degrade USB chip performance

Best way to solve those issues is to use a dual lead cable...
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Power-supply-and-USB-cable-separate-audio-signal-cable/251589388236?rt=nc&a...
or
https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&u...

This also allows you to connect a more stable power supply i.e. IF the DAC uses USB power. My DAC did and the improvements using a separate power supply were very noticeable

HOWEVER -  If you DAC does not make use of the USB power provided through the cable then  a more standard USB cable could be used. 

Having said that, using a Twin lead cable will ensure no noise enters the digital stream to degrade sound quality. 

So I looked up your DAC and found this detail about the USB chip used...
- "optional (not required) external power supply."

So you might want to contact the DAC manufacturer to find out if they make use USB power from the computer. Do NOT assume that the DAC does not use USB power because there are some very good (pricey)  DAC's that use USB for expediency.

Many DAC's these days have stopped using USB power from the computer because of this issue
 
Perhaps other members can confirm either way.

I can confirm that a good power cable for your will improve sound quality - also good interconnects.

When I had a separate DAC my cables cost more than the DAC, but the improvements proved just how good todays components can be.

Just an FYI: ALL cables suffer from complex issues - see...

https://www.psaudio.com/article/cables-time-is-of-the-essence-part-1/
https://www.psaudio.com/article/cables-time-is-of-the-essence-part-2/
https://www.psaudio.com/article/cables-time-is-of-the-essence-part-3/

Hope that helps

Regards - Steve



I wonder if this is just better shielding? This can help reduce how much noise your other components pick up.
Not only do cables make a difference, dep14, but with the right ones the difference is enough that cables are EQUALLY as important as any other component.

Two great stumbling blocks stand in the way of realizing this.

The first is thinking measurement has anything to do with it. Forget audio for a minute. Look at it this way. Mercedes spends many millions every year on their Formula One team. F1 cars today are festooned with sensors collecting real-time data like you would never believe. Seriously. I mean it is freaking amazing. Millions of dollars just on that one little bit of it alone. They know where that car is and what forces are acting on it, millisecond by millisecond. Yet when they want to know how to make it faster, what do they do? They ask Lewis. They talk to Valtteri. Because they know when it comes to processing complex data nothing beats a human being.

One more thing about measurements. Let’s say you listen to one cable and it sounds a whole lot better. What are you gonna do? Deny the reality of your own senses until you see your own experience validated on an oscilloscope trace? Really? I would hate to be your wife. Yes honey you felt good last night but I really need to get the doctor in there to confirm it with an ultrasound or something. Exactly how much sense it makes to go looking for numbers to validate one cable sounding better than another.

The other big stumbling block is the tiny amount of really good cables relative to the vast selection of stuff that sounds different but really isn’t comprehensively better. Its easy to do like you did and find something better than the crap they ship in the box. Its a lot harder to find the really good stuff, cables that make your jaw drop at how they manage to make a bigger difference than even your amp or source component.

But they are out there. The most comprehensively excellent across the board one that I know of is Synergistic Research. Their AC Master Coupler is a Gold Standard of entry-level excellence. You can pick one up for $150, or less. https://www.usedcable.com/synergistic-research-ac-master-coupler-non-active-right-angle-iec-5ft-1-5m...

Plug this into ANY of your components and prepare to be amazed at the awesome difference quality cables can make.
It’s always nice to read a report such as this from a self-acknowledged cable skeptic. That’s why I dismiss the arguments by those skeptics who simply refuse to listen or experiment.
It still makes little sense to me (0's and 1's). I've tried to look at tests like at ASR... but man it's the first time I really felt I can hear a difference.  
Yes, it's more than 1's and 0's.  It has to do with jitter which can be a bit complicated to understand for those who are "objective".

https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/the-lounge/324628-talk-usb-cable-makes-difference.html

It’s always nice to read a report such as this from a self-acknowledged cable skeptic. That’s why I dismiss the arguments by those skeptics who simply refuse to listen or experiment.


Indeed. I myself grew up with Julian Hirsch and Stereo Review and was as big a cable skeptic as ever you'll find. Had all the usual electrical and wire gauge arguments memorized and ready to trot out like a good little parrot all day long. Totally bought into that whole wire don't matter its overpriced snake oil for people with more money than brains schtick.

Ha! That changed fast the minute I actually started listening and comparing. Within about a year I had heard a very high end system that sounded awesome in no small part to having MORE money in cables than components. TWICE as much! 

Now many years later I don't know which I find more amazing: that some insanely expensive stuff manages to sound so good it almost seems a bargain, or that some bargain priced stuff manages to sound better than some really expensive stuff- or that some people still don't get that this is all for real.


First I am not in the cable manufacturing business so this is just my guess.

I was wondering the reason audio grade cables are so expensive not because of their own intrinsic quality but simply has to do with economy of scales.  These high end cable companies probably only sell a handful of them per year so it just costs more per unit.

For example, if I were to prototype my PCB board.  If I only order 10 for debugging, then it probably costs a few hundreds dollars per board.  But for the same board, if it were Apples and they need to order a million boards, then the cost will be substantially less.
Many years ago my interconnects consisted of manufacturer-supplied cables and lamp cord for speaker wire. I saw some Audioquest Ruby interconnects on sale and bought them. When I took them home and replaced my old cables I couldn't believe the difference. So yes, I do believe quality connectors make a difference. However, there is a point of diminishing returns, and the cost should be commensurate with the cost and quality of your other equipment.
However, there is a point of diminishing returns, and the cost should be commensurate with the cost and quality of your other equipment.

I think that is true within the context of the overall system cost.  For example, if system A costs 10K and system B costs 50K, then the  diminishing return for system A would be less than system B.  In other words, system B would have more resolution therefore warrants a higher budget for cables.
It’s probably safe to say Audioquest, which is both a high end cable company and a seller of very expensive cables and power cords and HDMI cables, etc., sells many hundreds or even thousands of expensive items each year. I suspect Nordost does pretty well in terms of number of sales. So there goes that theory.
Many hundreds?  Is that big?  Compared to millions?
Huh? Compared to a handful. That was the fellow’s theory, a handful of very expensive cables.
Answer the question.
Follow the discussion.
what are you talking about?
Post removed 
I am responding to your theory that high end companies only sell a handful of cables and that’s why they have to charge so much. I trust you aren’t trying to defend that position. It’s more or less the same argument people make about high end fuses, that the reason they’re so expensive is because they don’t sell very many. Yet we know the top three aftermarket fuse companies have sold at least 50,000 fuses in the past several years alone. So there goes that theory.
That doesn't prove anything.  50 thousands from three manufacturers in a few years?  How many is a few years?  Ten years?

50000/10/3 = about 1500 per year?  That's like peanuts compared to one million.  I am sure DigiKey sells over a million fuses in just a year.
Uh, are you pulling my leg? Didn’t you use the word handful? 
Geoff doing a copped out.
I took a similar journey with USB cables. Generic printer cable, AQ cinnamon, AQ Carbon, AQ Coffee, currently the Pangea XL referenced above.

Each cable sounded different and the AQ cables were obvious steps up the ladder each time. The AQ Coffee had the most detail but the Pangea sounds better to me in my system.

I admit I don't understand cable science and really don't care too. I know what sounds better to me.

Btw, the Mogami XLR sounds pretty damn good to me for the price. I use them on my subs and fed my amp with them before moving to Cardas Clear.
Andy, did you forget to take your smart pill today? A few years is three years. Did you flunk English and math? In any case it’s not a handful.
"Uh, are you pulling my leg? Didn’t you use the word handful?"
He has big hands and he is right this time.
Andy, did you forget to take your smart pill today? A few years is three years. Did you flunk English and math? In any case it’s nit a handful.

Geoff is throwing a tantrum.

Is he selling smart pills on his website?
Hearing is believing . One only has to be open minded.

Like a true believer.
@millercabon and @cleeds,

So, I always try to have an open mind.  I do like dealers willing to demo, and typically buy used.  Honestly, I did try my PS3 powercord on my pre-amp and just didn't notice a different (pass xp12).  One my 250.8 - noticed a difference as I did a BAT amp that it came with.

Speaker cables, I've tried a few, and other than the Reality Cables mentioned where I might have heard something... I can't say I've heard a ton.  I don't see myself going uber expensive.  I always try to look at the science, and trust my ears.  

The USB cable though, was obvious.  I did demo a nordost blue heaven for a couple days on the oppo as a power cord.  I was back in the "might" category.  A longer demo with more A-B is probably needed.

Power cords also baffle me as to why they would make a difference after miles in the walls... so spending a ton, going to be tough.  Sub 200 bucks... ah, that's not bad.

But I can see myself trying another USB cable at some point.
Darko has a great podcast on how digital signals going into DACs can be affected by cabling: https://soundcloud.com/johnhdarko/why-digital-audio-isnt-just-ones-and-zeroes

I upgraded from a $10 generic coaxial cable to an AQ Carbon and the difference was night and day.  
 
ower cords also baffle me as to why they would make a difference after miles in the walls... 
If one uses "water" analogy, one might think so, but electricity is not water and how electric current flows sometimes can be counter-intuitive.

For example, one would think the bottle neck is the tiny little fuse in the amp, but obviously it's not.  
Congratulations on discovering (Frustrating, isn't it, to learn that the supposed authorities are wrong, and you believed them!) how important cables are in a rig. You've only begun to find out HOW important.  :)

BTW, aftermarket fuses are also efficacious, as I have compared them. :)

Every wire, every location. Take nothing for granted. 
One of the differences (among many) between water and electricity is that before turning on the faucet in your kitchen, the kitchen does not have any water in the first place.  But with electricity, even before you turn on the switch of the amp, the amp internally already has a bunch of electrons just waiting to get moving.

So intuitively, you think if the tiny fuse is the bottle neck because all the electrons have to be "squeezed" through such a tiny space, so why then adding a big fat power cable would make a difference?

One possible explanation is that electrons are so small so there are so many more of them than needed even through the tiny fuse.  Another thing that helps is that the physical length of the fuse is very short so the electrons would just shoot through it without having any noticeble resistance or phase shift.  Now if you increase the length of the fuse to say a "foot" then may be that could cause some problem.

The other explanation is the potential of the electrons in the fuse is at 120V they have a bit more juice before down converted through the transformer.



I used to build Curious Cables on the Gold Coast in sunny Queensland Australia (as an employee). If you use annealed silver off the reel the correct direction as the data signal wire and use (hope nobody gets offended) wire that was unused for USAF for fighter aircraft wiring (how it made it's way to Australia is mind boggling). And a guy designing it, with well over three decades hi-fi experience.. you can make a pretty decent USB cable.
That you can request to have the power with a disconnect plug inline on the external power supply lead if you so choose.

Yes USB cables as do other cables can make a substantial difference.
I use Lenehan Audio Ribbonflex interconnects and speaker cables, and they make a difference!
Soon I will try Wegrzyn cables from Arizona, I've been reading good things about them.

I just put $400 WyWires Silver Series USB cable between computer and Burson dac and think no more of this.
Even USB need proper breakin I use roughly 300 hours and I. Have used several 
cables well over $500.  The top  cables use better materials ,better shielding, 
and power legg is totally isolated. That being said there are many other factors 
like myself I have a completely isolated usb board and all SS drives , filtering to the power supplies , which make a Huge improvement 
Jplay sell thevery good  usb boards, as well as Ethernet dedicated boards , that are 1000 times more quiet and isolated then stock computer boards , your music sounds much more pure and natural sounding , it is equal to or better then a more expensive dac upgrade.
then with a standard board from your graphics card . I also added Noktua 
best heat pipe for the computer processor . I have just one big very quiet 
Noktua side fan. All these things add up to a very good sounding digital setup.
and yes power cords and a dedicated line, copper outlets , and line conditioning 
all count .make your own server and saves a Lot of $$.
If you have a well designed DAC, it should be less sensitive to cable.  I have a Ayre QB9 DSD which has its own power supply, and the data inputs are optically isolated so it will not be as susceptible to noise coming from the USB cable.
In the under $300 category I've tried a few USB cables in the various iterations of my system:

AudioQuest Carbon
Belkin Gold
Black Cat Silverstar
Blue Jeans
dB Audio Labs Essential
iFi Gemini (dual-headed)
UpTone USPCB A>B Adapter

The newest addition is the UpTone Adapter. I purchased it because the form-factor is a perfect compliment for the microRendu and user reviews were quite positive. Best $35 I've spent on audio gear.

andy2
One of the differences (among many) between water and electricity is that before turning on the faucet in your kitchen, the kitchen does not have any water in the first place. But with electricity, even before you turn on the switch of the amp, the amp internally already has a bunch of electrons just waiting to get moving.

So intuitively, you think if the tiny fuse is the bottle neck because all the electrons have to be "squeezed" through such a tiny space, so why then adding a big fat power cable would make a difference?

One possible explanation is that electrons are so small so there are so many more of them than needed even through the tiny fuse. Another thing that helps is that the physical length of the fuse is very short so the electrons would just shoot through it without having any noticeble resistance or phase shift. Now if you increase the length of the fuse to say a "foot" then may be that could cause some problem.

The other explanation is the potential of the electrons in the fuse is at 120V they have a bit more juice before down converted through the transformer.

>>>>That’s an excellent theory except for one minor problem. Electrons aren’t really traveling through the wire or fuse. They are only the “charge carriers” and for all practical purposes they’re stationary. It’s the current that’s traveling. And the current is made up of photons.

“The shielding is not comprised of mu-metal as it would not contribute to better Sound Quality plus it would make the cable unmanageable and also way more pricey.”

>>>>Two things. Mu Metal is shielding for magnetic fields not rf. Two, mu metal is not expensive even it were used to shield magnetic fields. If cables are in proximity to transformers or other generators of big magnetic fields most likely mu metal around the cables would be good for sound quality.





@andy>
I was wondering the reason audio grade cables are so expensive


simple.

you have likely noticed performance often equates to its cost to purchase.

not always is the what ever item littered or filled with unobtaininum or can'taffordiumn.

ala, AQ Carbon USB. PSA PC. as others stated, Synergistic entry PC.

Micro Pearl RCA ICs are one of mine. previously $60. to improve upon it took a Cardas pair of Neutral Ref RCA used at $250.

Over achievers are what we seek as they possess immense value to performance ratios.

wire makers are like any other maker. the price tag is based on performance predominately and not necessarily its contents and development, though these are undeniable expenses.

it would make no good business sense for me or a few of us to formulate and construct a component which rivals 'destination' equipment and sell it like its stolen.

competition breeds pricing which is always going to be determined by its performance predominately. making costs and research expenses are inescapable yet are overcome with again, competitively pricing
the item so sales become driven by sheer popular demand mostly, or are priced at levels which have an allure or have acquired extraordinary desirability fuled by lots of positive marketing and glowing accounts from user experiences.

there are any number of ancillary other attributes which justify retail pricing, e.g., maker's rep, upgradability, locale, etc..

A major caveat to all of this will be the pace with which technology is advancing in the components associated genre, analog, digital, tube poewr, digital power, speaker designs, evolution in chemistry and metalurgy, etc.

often whiz bang digital to analog converter shelf life is of late, more truncated than are tube amps, or turntables for example

this hobby revolves around subjective anecdotal or self diagnosed appraisals gained merely from the end user's own experiences.

the horse that pulls along the cart of experience is slowed or halted by the resources and level of dedication and determination the one holding the reigns possesses.

there is an enormous number of items out there, how many, how long, and how regularly does one jump in the pool of curious change to investigate them is your choice alone.

enjoy the adventure to the extent you can

I’m another who thought cables couldn’t possibly make a difference. That was until my first entry-level separates system way back in 1998. To this day, I still metaphorically scratch my head with the question "How is this possible?"

Having briefly headed up the cables chain to a pair of Morrow Audio MA4s (pre 2018 design) @ GDP £320 (1.5m; RCA - RCA; Pure Harmony plugs), I decided to explore cheaper alternatives. Atlas Equators OCC came next @ £130 and, overall, I preferred them to the MA4s, the latter sounding toppy by comparison. However, just a few weeks ago, I learnt of Mark Grant Cables, did a bit of digging, and decided to give a pair of HDX1s a try. Very very impressive and for less than half the price of the Equators.

The HDX1s have stayed in my system. Much as my head continues to say "...there can’t be any difference...", I did an A-B-C with all three and there were definite differences in the tonal and sound stage characteristics of all three. I’m not arguing one is "better" than another, merely "different" with the outcome being a matter of preference.

One day, I hope to be in a position to try one or two cables from the nose-bleed arena just to see / hear "what if?" (e.g.Audience; Transparent).  However, that might just require a lottery win...

Happy listening all, wherever your budget is.
Another variable to consider is what type of cables and xover components being used in the speakers.  If you have some cheap speakers with cheap internal and xover components then well your speaker cables probably won't make much difference.  Don't be surprised if your speakers (even those costing 10K or more) use some cheap electrolytic capacitors for the xovers.  
Audioquest used to demo their speaker cables on a boom box, so they may take umbrage with your statement above. So it is a belief system after all. 
Audioquest used to demo their speaker cables on a boom box, so they may take umbrage with your statement above. So it is a belief system after all.

It's possible that the cable improves the bass and may give a bit more treble/smoother treble but in term of soundstage and so on, I mean can you get a proper soundstage with a boom box?  May be it's a big pair of boom box :-)
You’re asking the wrong guy. I don’t listen for, or value, soundstage, or imaging. 
I don’t listen for, or value, soundstage, or imaging.
Then you're in the wrong thread lols.
No my shirt looks a lot better than yours. You’re in the wrong threads, LOL.
OK, I remember now.  You're the viridian guy.  I called you the brick..  Why did I wasted my time lols.
With all the talk on USB cables I've never read anything like this take on the hows and whys USB cables works:https://6moons.com/audioreview_articles/audiocadabra/

It's a review of a USB cable that has a short, easy to read primer that'd take a minute to read.

These two staff writers, Marja & Henk, of 6moons, always breaks things down in terms that are easy to follow.

All the best,
Nonoise