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.
Review of Nordost Valhalla USB here, which is a rave ($3499)
Synergistc Research Galileo UEF USB also worth considering ($2995)
I dont current use this cable in my system but have found improvements from changing out this cable in my old setup
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.