Review: Ridge Street Audio Alethias USB Digital Master DA converter
As many of you know or may have heard, about six months ago Ultra Fi conducted an in-house USB cable shoot-out. The USB cables in the shoot-out need not be specifically named; but, suffice it to say, they included everything commercially available on the market from the hi-end boutique manufacturers as well as the typical garden variety cables, e.g., the ever popular Belkin, as well a few el-cheapo computer cables - just to keep everybody honest. The listening panel included 6 members, of which I was one. The consensus as to the winner was by unanimity and, not by a small margin, the Ridge Street Audio Poiema!!! R-v3 USB Digital Master.
Frankly, it just did EVERYTHING better in our reference system.
Basically, we were done! The choice in USB cabling makes a staggering difference and the choice was now clear. All was well - or so we thought;
Fast forward up until about a month ago. I conducted an impromptu listening evaluation of my most recent prototype USB DAC at my brother's house along with Ridge Street cable designer Robert Schult. Since his last slam dunk win, Robert and I have had literally dozens of deep discussions regarding the technical needs that I never seem to see from other USB cable companies. He then hands me a USB cable UNLIKE I or anyone else has seen before and says, "here, try this";
“Fair enough, you know Robert, this technically isn't a USB cable as it doesn't meet nor subscribe to 'the' USB cable standard," I replied. I had to give him something of a hard time ;-) "Ah yeah..but, it sounds damn good!" he says with a coy smile on his face.
We put his new prototype USB cable in the system and I was sitting off-axis to the right, my brother was in the central listening seat. We could immediately tell this particular USB cable was even BETTER than the Poiema and that Robert was onto another special sonic breakthrough!
Fast forward up until about two weeks ago. I received a package in the mail with a Ridge Street Audio return address. Sure enough, contained there-in was the new USB cable - now dubbed the “Alethias! USB Digital Master”.
I installed it in our reference system. The difference was even greater than I had remembered. Something in the reproduction that I value and that I simply have to have! I called Robert, "you're not getting this USB cable back" I told him. But, "I don't have the pricing set yet and I don't know what to charge, so don't go telling everybody it is available for purchase just yet," he replied. "Fair enough," I promised.
The pricing is now complete, so I can't keep it a secret any longer. How much better is it than his other top winning USB Poiema cable in absolute terms? 20-25%, in my estimation. Though they are both cut from the same “winning” cloth. The USB Alethias just gives you more. More space, more liquidity and a more palpable sound stage too! It's an absolute for me in the context of our reference system.
So, technically what is so special about the Alethias? Well without revealing all of Ridge Street's proprietary secrets, I can tell you it is comprised of two physically separated pairs of very unique conductors - one pair for the D+/D- and another for the Vbus / ground. Robert says this allows him to better and more specifically control the characteristic impedance of the transmission paths. I call it “STP”. No, not the stuff King Richard Petty is famous for promoting on his stock car - “Separate Transmission Paths”. And, while this doesn't necessarily subscribe to the USB cable standard, it sure makes for slick, fluid, analog-like reproduction like no other!
So, if you need to flush the gunk outta your digital engine, go git yourself an Alethias! USB Digital Master - The New King of USB cables.