USB cables

In the March 2012 issue of Absolute Sound, Robert Harley raves about a $550/m USB cable that replaced his "excellent" $80 cable, but doesn't tell us what the $80 cable is. For those of us who are less absolute, that would have been an interesting disclosure.

As a new owner of a MacMini loaded with Pure Music, I'd like to know what USB cables are recommended. The MacMini will output USB to a Musical Fidelity V-Link that will in turn output SP/DIF to a Cary 11a.

IMO you will gain considerably more by going with a better USB/SPDIF converter first.

Halide Bridge, Audiophileo 2 or JKSPDIF 3 are all in $400-$600 range and are superior to V-Link (even to AQ Diamond USB cable equipped V-Link).
First, I would recommend a 1.5m cable, no shorter. There are technical reasons for this.

Second, I have found that not all manufacturers understand how to make a good USB cable. Some of the good ones are the $150 Kimber silver, the $250 Locus-Design Polestar and the more expensive Revelation Audio Labs, probably the best available. Mr. Harley has not heard many of the better cables out there IMO.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I think R.H. was using the Audioquest Cinnamon USB cable. They advertise heavily in the Absolute Sound. I would recommend that you try the Carbon, or the Ridge Street Audio Poiema R-v3 USB Digital Master.
OMG. Multi-hundred dollar USB cables? Feed a US city instead.
I am using Audioquest Cinnamon, I have only compared it to cheap cables, so I might not be the one to chime in, but it certainly has no glaring problems. I have read that both the Audioquest Carbon and the Kimber Silvers are great values...
Like most digItal cables, the high-end is where the significant improvement comes. $400 is a good starting point IME.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I use the Locus Design Polestar, which Steve recommends (though the length is sorter than 1.5m). IME, it is made a worthwhile improvement over stock.

Steve, you are recommending the revelations audio labs. They have a cable with separate power and data conduit. Do converters like the offramp or hiface EVO use USB power (I guess not)? If not, can USB power be disengaged when using a SotM USB card.

Is there still any benefit in a dual conduit USB cable when using an converter which supplies its own power.
I appreciate Elberoth2's comment... I have the Vlink feeding a PS Audio DLink III and don't find it provides the same high frequency " air" and deep bass from music server as I can get with digital from a Linn Genki CD player. Looks like time to find a better SPDIF converter.
I've also found that pure silver is king with digital cables... both coax and USB benefit. Even at the cheap end, immediate difference in stepping up from POCC copper to pure silver stranded cable.
Timlub, does bass punch improves when using your cinnamon? i know its not a fair comparison against cheap ones but..curious to know.
How does Audioquest Cinnamon or Kimber USB cables compare to Wireworld Startlight or Ultraviolet USB cables which are told to be ones with the greatest value?

How important for the sound quality is the USB cable when using a USB/SPDIF converter like Audiophileo or JK HiFace?
"Do converters like the offramp or hiface EVO use USB power (I guess not)? If not, can USB power be disengaged when using a SotM USB card."

No, the Off-Ramp and EVO do not use the 5V power. It can be disconnected. You still need the ground wire.

The dual shielded is still interesting because the signal lines are separated from the ground.

I have a common-mode filter that goes even further, as well as severing the 5V wire. Makes a big difference. I hope to productize this soon.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I use the Acoustic Revive cable that has the separate power line and it sounds pretty damn good. I did not do much of a trial before deciding on it other than the Nordost Blue Heaven and a generic cord which it sounded much better than both. The Nordost is good, very detailed like all their stuff but also very thin. I am using it between a PC server and Berkeley Alpha USB converter. I did not expect much of a benefit from the AR cable but sure enough, there it was.
Turns out the SotM USB card allows you to switch of 5v USB power, which should solve a lot of perceived or real problems.
Sorry, I've been traveling and just checked this thread. I certainly noticed a difference with the Cinnamon across the board. A tad tighter in bass, better image placement and smoother top end. All were minor improvements, but improvements in all area's add up. I would suggest that you ask Steve (Audioengr) about cables with Asyn vs adaptive. I am understanding that the cable makes more difference on one over the other. Not sure which way, but the short answer is yes, the Cinnamon was a clear improvement. I have an Asyc USB.
I recently purchased a new USB DAC (North Star USB DAC32) and initially tried the Audioquest Cinnamon USB cable. It sounded OK but the connection was not good and the cable would come unplugged causing kernel panic in my MacBook Pro. I upgraded to the Wireworld Silver Starlight USB ($250) and it was a world of difference better in sound and connectivity. No kernel panic and much better highs and lows. I was amazed.
I am at a loss as to how could the USB cable make any difference in sync USB. In adaptive I see, the good old jitter, but in asynchronous mode? If the data transfer is accurate, and even the cheaper ones achieve this, what's left to be improved by the cable?
I'm not saying that there's no difference, for I haven't tried. I'm just looking for some technical explanation from the ones who know.
It only makes a difference if you think it will make a difference - even for adaptive USB. 99% (or more) "audiophiles" don't understand how their brain actually works nor do they understand how to really prove if they actually can hear a difference. There may be very minute differences in timing, but hearing any difference that *may* be caused is beyond what our ears and brains can accurately detect. Yes, this is heresy for this type of forum and many people would have less income if people were "more informed". Just because thousands of people believe something, doesn't mean it's true.
no conductor is perfect... unless its a super conductor at close to 0 degrees kelvin. So all of audio science for wires is really about eliminating conductor non linearities at room temperature. The hardest wave to reproduce on a metal conductor is a square wave yet thats exactly what a digital signal is. So yes a USB conductor thats flatter in impedance linearity across a wider frequency range will suffer less digital anomalies. The sad part about audio is that metal conductors for digital is a dead end... they can't handle the frequency extremes as well as optical cables with lasers. Audio needs to adapt the gigahertz technology used by telcom at which point there will no longer be a signal difference if your carrier wave has a jitter error less than 1/1000 %
Hello, I went from a .5 meter Wireworld Starlight usb cable to a 1.8 meter Furutech Formula 2. I just installed the Formula 2 and really really like it a lot! Everything got better sonically right out of the box (highs to lows), high end resolution and clarity, more bass weight and "meat on the bones." This usb cable immediately made the biggest positive improvement of any cable I've purchased. The Formula 2 is causing me to wonder how other Furutech cables measure up against the competition. And I'm a person who never gushes about cables, quite the opposite. I've more often than not been disappointed in the performance of many cable purchases I've made (speaker cables, interconnects and power cables included). This one bucks that trend. I can highly recommend the Furutech Formula 2. (Macbook Pro to Rega Dac)
How important for the sound quality is the USB cable when using a USB/SPDIF converter like Audiophileo or JK HiFace?

I think you should go with the best USB/SPDIF converter you can afford (V-Link -> Audiophileo 2 / JK SPDIF mk 3 -> HiFace Evo + Evo Clock + PSU) and only after that try different USB cables. IMO this brings greater improvement that replacing the USB cable.
I want to share my experience of a USB cable that has not been mentioned in this thread. The LAT International USB cable:

For a couple of months, I used a "regular" USB cable which cost only a few bucks. It was obvious that I was listening to a digital source because music sounded grainy and harsh. It was only after upgrading to the LAT International cable that I realized the extent of the damage of the "regular" USB cable. The LAT USB cable eliminated or greatly reduced the grain/harshness so music is smooth and natural. The LAT was an instant improvement with a very transparent sound. The cable cost $119 for 1.5 meters. I'm very curious to compare the LAT USB to the high end (price-wise) USB cables. Cables do make a difference and I recommend any naysayer to experiment for themselves. You'll be glad you did.
I have used .05 m to 1.5 m cables and There was no difference what so ever in sonics,and I gave them over 300 hrs to run in.
I can see on some brands it might matter,but the Wireworld
Silver Starlight is a very well built cable.
A cable is not just a cable even digital ,the more accurate the timing
And accuracy of the signal is very important.i have had from Beldon
To $50 audioquest tp $250-$ 600wireworld. If you hoping to judge a cable
First give it at least 250 hrs for the metal to settle in and even more so the dialectric.please remember the signal is so small compared to a speaker cable or even a interconnect. Everythjng is a bit better instrument shading
Inner detail and decay. This is most important Only if you have a system
That has very good resolution. A $5k system would be a waste of money for a $600 usb cable, $250 would be better suited.
At least $15 k minimum needed for the ultimate resolution .