What are the top 3 USB cables being used today in reference systems?


I am looking for a highly rated USB cable that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Is there such a cable?
glory
There are some uber expensive USB cables, but I've seen the following USB in some high-end systems: Audioquest diamond, Wireworld Platinum,  and Curious USB cables.

The list provided by ricred1 is pretty accurate although there are some others, such as the Totaldac USB cable/filter that have their followers. I own both the Curious Cable and the Totaldac USB cable/filter and I prefer the Totaldac.
BTW, regarding "heads and shoulders above the rest," the sound of these cables is system and user dependent. Also, there are many methods of getting your digital music to your DAC and there isn’t even universal agreement on the best way to accomplish that. Throw in add-ons such as the various in-line reclockers and linear power supplies and you are left with a basic crapshoot. You really need to listen for yourself.
LightSpeed 10G  usb is my favorite $999
Audioquest carbon and Supra usb cables are inexpensive yet very good
Alan
Review of Nordost Valhalla USB here, which is a rave ($3499)

Synergistc Research Galileo UEF USB also worth considering ($2995)
http://www.synergisticresearch.com/cables/galileo/galileodigital/digital/

I dont current use this cable in my system but have found improvements from changing out this cable in my old setup
There is no such cable.  What you really want is to ensure galvanic isolation (well known), and possibly regenerate the bit stream (not proven).

Or switch to optical ethernet.
Personally I feel if you have your spend over a $1000on a digital cable 
something is seriously wrong  in the design of your dac. 
The P.S audio direct stream dac minimizes the added benefit  of  spending to 
much on a USB cable. I have a AQ a Diamond  USB cable very good 
yes you can get a little better  but at what cost 2-3% for another $1500 ?
put a synergistic black fuse in there ,treat all connections with Stabilant -22 
and these improvements are much more cost effective .
WyWires recently came out with a Diamond series USB cable - their reference line. For years, their Platinum was considered reference level, so I'd imagine the diamond series to be a significant step up.  I've heard the Platinum in my system and was very dynamic and transparent.  An excellent performer.
Had the SR $2K USB and my now Inex USB easily was a better USB cable that both my friend and I sold the SR and bought the Inex.

Nordost knows how to raise the $$$ line 3 fold 😧
IMO, one of the most important  parameters of a good USB cable is to have the data lines separated from the 5v power line. The ones I’ve had with separation always sounded better than those that did not.

That being said, I’ve had a $1k+ SR Active SE, a Curious, and a Supra, but my fave has been an Audience AU24SE, and a Verastarr Nemesis, with a slight nod going to the Nemesis.
+1 mitch2 - "the sound of these cables is system and user dependent". 

I have had some low budget and uber expensive USB cables in my system. I end up keeping the Wireworld Platinum.  


Nordost Valhalla, Transparent Cables and a few others who are charging 1000s of dollars for a USB Cable have their marketing strategy working on most audiophiles. Like the previous poster just said if you need to spend this sort of money on a USB Cable something is seriously wrong with your DAC, Setup and your brain.


Where does a Shunyata Venom fall in with these higher end cables? I'm thinking of going with one with my LS50 Wireless and MacBook Air.
I'm a fan of Black Cat Silverstar digital cables. I have two of their 75 Ohm SPDIF cables and recently purchased the Silverstar USB.  Neither are outrageously priced, under $300 but you'll be hard pressed to find any at a discount.  I suppose many people like me find them a very high performer and hang onto them. 
asahitoro,

I own the Venom USB cable and am very happy with the sound quality when used to stream Tidal from my laptop to my Hegel HD-12 DAC. One of the attributes of the Venom USB cable that I found noteworthy was the extra isolation of the power wire from the signal wire.

I haven’t compared it with ultra-high $$ USB cables, but suspect it to be a high price-to-performance value, along with the Hegel HD-12 DAC.

Dave
Thanks dlcockrum,

I just picked one up for a great deal so I'm hoping it will help get the most out of my modest setup.  I'm considereing an AQ Jitterbug too but am not sold on that idea yet.
Good decision asahitoro. I think/hope you will be happy with the Venom USB.

The jitter-reduction interfaces (the ones with galvanic isolation) do provide some improvement with some DACS - I would wait to see how your system sounds with the new USB cable and go from there.

Dave
We have tested slightly under 400 different cable models, not manufactures but models and we did A/B approximately 20 USB cables. The list included many of the cables being discussed. We tested the Total dac cable, Curious, Audience, Wireworld, Supra, SR Active SE, and the Inex to mention a few of them.

I agree with Mitch 2 that it will be system dependent. The top 2 USB cables from our testing were the Curious USB 1st and then Total dac cable 2nd, in that order. These 2 cables were another level for us. We will be testing the Inakustik USB cable next month.

Currently I use the Curious cable in my reference system. We did find that the shorter the Curious cable was, the better it sounded.

WWW

How  do you get/find the Inex???
I am using  a Transparent Premium USB cable in my office system. It replaced a Transparent High Performance model which it comfortably bettered. Good design, good materials and a well known specialist audio company are good indicators in my experience. I was using a Wireworld USB before I compared it to the Transparent HP, which was better. I have also compared several cheaper brands of USB cables and found them to be no better than the generic ones supplied with PC gear.
I hate to say but schiit audio makes a $20 one.    You can be happy.  But if you need some thing
Nicer go wireworld around  $700
Cant remember. Audio is like a nice babe.  Do you want a $20
Or a $1800  One 
I bet folk here who are recommending these ridiculously priced cables wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from a $5 one in a double blind test. It’s a sham IMO, but if it makes people happy to believe...

One advantage would be the expensive cables are probably better constructed and will last longer, but that’s not a given either.
I don't have a top 3 as I haven't tried many. But I can say with conviction that the Sablon Audio Reserva Elite beat my erstwhile Nordost Blue Heaven in every parameter. 

Anyone who believes canles make make a difference and does not want to spend an inordinate amount of money ( and I realise this is relative), should try the Sablon reserva elite. They have a time-bound money back program if one doesn't like it.

sujay
Among inexpensive ones I would recommend Chord USB SilverPlus. I am using it in my desktop setup.
In my main system my favorite is  Audience AU24 SE USB Dual End. Really nice cable, tonal balance is very neutral, rich and deep bass, excellent mids and highs. 
Very close to Audience AU24 is Chord Signature USB cable. 
A USB cable either transfers all the data or it doesn't. Don't waste yoyr money.

Dan,

Please list to ones that you have tried to back up yoyr assertion.

Dave
Dave 
Eeyore

There is at least one Eeyore in every cable thread. 😧
Hi Glory,

Sorry for the delay but we were testing the Reference Inakustik USB against the Curious.

The Inex was just OK. We tested a few of their cables and they were super quiet but lacked body, weight and that last ounce of resolution. We are a huge fan of the Inakustik Reference cables and we have decided to distribute the Inakustik line. After direct A/B testing the Inakustik Reference USB was a complete different level than the Curious.

To PTS,

You will need a properly set up system that is highly resolving to test different cables but trust me there are huge differences from cable to cable. Do the cables need to cost a million dollars, no but some manufactures have serious technology that works and you can hear the difference when you do direct A/B testing. There are not many cable companies with real game changing technology but when you do your research and find that company, it is a game changer.

Cheers,
I agree Sujay about your comments regarding the Sablon Reserva Elite USB, great performance and at a reasonable price. It is available in two options, separate power and signal (most dacs would need this version) and signal only for use with compatible dacs like Lampizator, T&A etc. Real artisan product made here in the U.K. PM if you would like to try.
im really torn between the Cerious and the Phasure lush

thinking about it, im also very torn about the sablon elite usb, but its moer then double the price then the phasure
For under $450 if you shop around the New NordostHeimdall-2 USB
cable is very good and on par with the Audioquest Diamond land Wireworld platinum just a bit different .Every cable will sound different
in each system.
Nordost Valhalla, Transparent Reference, Wireworld Platinum, AQ Diamond.

Wireworld Platinum is what I recommend, but use it with one of these:

https://sotm-usa.com/collections/sotm-ultra/products/copy-of-tx-usbultra-regenerator-1

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Hi Steve, I am using the tX-USBultra with the sMS-200ultra endpoint and the sPS-500 power supply that powers them both.  So far I am switching between the two USB cables I have here, either the Curious or the Totaldac USB cable.  Both sound good.

I also have here Metrum's Ambre endpoint, which allows me to use an I2S connection with my Metrum Pavane L3 DAC.  

I haven't yet decided which endpoint I like best as each sounds a little different but the SOtM stuff sounds very good.
Hi

I was just curious as to the process by which the cable physically rearranges the bit-stream to make the music sound different. I had assumed that USB cables are pretty dumb wires that just carry a signal.

I have been data network designer for some years and even I didn’t realise that some USB cables could ‘read and rearrange’ the data that they are carrying and make the sound, for instance, ‘warmer’. I guess that is why they are so ridiculously expensive.
I've tried a few from TotalDac1, Curious, Lightspeed,etc, but my favorite so far  is the Phasure Lush2 USB. My 2 cents.
I bought a new computer recently.  Hp all in one. I-7 processor. Multiple usb ports. I run a Nordost Heimdal usb, a to b -3 meter cable ($650), from  my computer's usb output to my marantz sa10
sacd player/dac's usb input, and then through my audio system with great results. I run JR River software on my PC and download hi rez files from HD Tracks. I just got the marantz sa10s1 as well. This setup gives me great sounding audio and great flexibility in terms of organizing new music files and the ability to RIP hi rex cd's. 
Sorry fyud, you just wasted $650  on the cable that you could have used on components that will make a difference to the fidelity of your sound
https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-USB-2-0-Cable-Male/dp/B00BCWALHM/ref=asc_df_B00BCWALHM/?tag=hypr...

$5.99 cable feeding my Chord Hugo TT2 from Auralic Aries

Amazing USB Cable. I spent the remaining $1000 on wine. My system always sounds better about 3 glasses in. Much, much better than any cable.
Considering almost all decent DACs these days feed everything into memory from galvanically isolated input before running the data via up sampling filter, USB cables making a difference is pure voodoo. 
@astelmaszek Get 2 identical dacs, get a $5 USB cable and just a mid tier USB cable and feed them both with a Roon feeding both the same music. switch between them on your pre and I promise they will sound different. I’m not saying which will be better I’m just saying they will sound different. Talk to great digital designers, for instance Lukasz of Lampizator fame, and he will tell you he doesn’t know why nor can he explain but he can hear dramatic differences. While the most expensive cables don’t always sound better, the free USB cables rarely will.
@ghasley Last person I'd get advice from about digital anything is Lukas from Lampizator. On Chord Dave, being listened to via Focal Utopia headphones, about as transparent system as it gets, there is zero difference between digital cables. There cannot be any difference as there is zero connection between USB going in and what's going out. There is a noticable delay between feeding the DAC and when the music starts playing. All that data sits in memory. All tests prove this DAC is immune to jitter and USB introduced noise. 

Now Lampizator might not be but I would not be surprised at all about it. Pretty case and glowing tubes do not a DAC make.
@astelmaszek Best wishes and I'm glad we can agree to disagree, which is cool. The Dave and the Focals are a great match, they play to each other's strengths.By the way, how come Chord doesn't demonstrate their dacs with the free usb cables they provide? Just sayin...
Post removed 
I would listen to astelmaszek if I were you. spend the money on wine (I recommend a good vintage port)

On a standard USB cable you may, given the known incidence of bit errors, hear a tiny, millisecond 'click' about once every 70 or 80 hours of use but there is no way that a cable (some wire) could possibly affect the fidelity of a piece of digitally encoded music travelling across it.

Please stop thinking analogue audio connections.

You want me to believe that this cable can extract the digital bit-stream from the analogue, then decode the music from the digital stream, then apply it's 'enhancements' to the music, then re-encode it to digital, then convert back to analogue, then pass it to the DAC.

These companies rely on

1) The thousands of audio lovers who spent years of thinking analogue, where the cable can make a difference.

2) customers believing the 'reviewers' (Those guys who have never given an expensive piece of equipment a bad review, and just happen to have an identifiable link to make your purchase).

3) people will never admit to having been fleeced

4) A cable that just cost a months salary will definitely sound better

And all of this after one of the major cable companies was caught red handed cheating in a demo to make their cable sound better, because they knew it wa impossible

Some say that if somebody is rich enough and/or gullible enough and/or misinformed then who cares. Well I care. I would still try to stop a billionaire from buying a 'special' USB cable or a 'USB Purifier' or a 'special' HDMI cable. None of them make any difference whatsoever


I replaced an Audioquest Diamond USB with a Revelation Audio Labs Dual Conduit cable after extensive A/B testing (not blind). Both cables sounded great but they did sound different and I slightly preferred the RAL in my system as it had a richer sound than the AQ. To each his own on cable purchases but as a buyer I would try a few out and keep the one that sounds best in your system.