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Thread: Why Do Different USB Cables Sound Different

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by caliaripaolo View Post
    It's not just a people's thought, is the limit of computer based system.
    Huh?

    I may believe on your test, but after I've replaced switching PS of my MacMini (with external PS-2 from Uptone), then selected an USB cable with separate 5V. wires and with an high isolation of D+ and D- wires (Curious USB cable) and finally by connecting an Entreq groundbox via USB cable (Ground wire pin only) connected to a spare USB port of MacMini, I can tell you which the improvement has been great.
    Sure, I'm not doubting that all these changes made an improvement in sound -they are pretty much what I outlined in my post. If your USB audio device is using the 5V USB power for connection sensing or powering then the 5V power is probably the most crucial area but I also said that any USB audio device which uses USB 5V power is, IMO, flawed to start with. What USB audio device is connected to your MacMini?

    BTW, replacing the SMPS of the MacMini (a notoriously bad designed PS for leakage currents) is not just providing a 'cleaner' 5V it's also reducing the leakage currents on the ground wire & signal wires of the USB cables. Ask John Swenson about this aspect of the effects of replacing the MacMini's PS.

    What I said above is that if we avoid the flawed design of USB audio devices that use the USB 5V then the main source of noise travels along the USB signal wires.

    Now that you have minimised the effect of 5V & ground noise with your approach, have you tried a USB isolator?
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  2. #12
    [Industry Expert] ddk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkeny View Post
    The issue isn't the ones & zeroes - they are delivered as expected. What seems to be different between cables is the signal waveform of the digital signal arriving at the receiver.
    Is this true of all digital links John, spdif, res/ebu, toslink, glass, etc. because I hear very clear differences between the wires and connectors?

    Quote Originally Posted by jkeny View Post
    USB cables can only change the sound (not always improve it) to a certain extent by changing the noise profile on the ground & shield which ultimately intrudes the signal wires.
    IME digital links are extremely important and can really destroy the sound of even the best digital combinations, they also define the character of one's digital front end more than analog wires and sadly DACs are just as susceptible to audiophile power cord distortions as any other component.

    david
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  3. #13
    Addicted to Best! caliaripaolo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkeny View Post

    What USB audio device is connected to your MacMini?
    Totaldac reclocker.

    Quote Originally Posted by jkeny View Post
    Now that you have minimised the effect of 5V & ground noise with your approach, have you tried a USB isolator?
    Yes, I used Berkeley Alpha USB and now I use Totaldac Reclocker.
    However, the biggest improvement has been achieved by solving the Power issues.
    Cheers,
    Paolo

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddk View Post
    Is this true of all digital links John, spdif, res/ebu, toslink, glass, etc. because I hear very clear differences between the wires and connectors?
    Well, yes & no - USB is particularly prone as it has a PC at the transmission end of the cable & this comes with all sorts of noise issues. The other factor is that USB cables are a particular bad design with their signal wires alongside power & ground wires all wrapped in a shield. There are many areas of noise interaction in such a configuration - noise from power wire, ground wire, shield, - interactions of signal wire currents & other wires in the cable.

    The other digital links suffer from their own issues & need specific analysis as to their weaknesses. SPDIF, for instance has different weaknesses - the main one being that is relies on extracting the clock from the signal timing, Toslink, the same but with the added distortion of optical to digital conversion, etc.

    Lest anyone think that I'm down on USB - it can be the best sounding of all the digital links once it's weaknesses are recognised & address - it has the major advantage of having a local clock timing which means lowest jitter

    IME digital links are extremely important and can really destroy the sound of even the best digital combinations, they also define the character of one's digital front end more than analog wires and sadly DACs are just as susceptible to audiophile power cord distortions as any other component.

    david
    Sure, people cite DACs for not being immune to all the upstream issues & also for not being immune to PS quality & we often hear the over-used phrase from those who have never designed an audio device (not to mention digital audio device), "properly designed DACs". The exposure of this posturing is revealed by asking such people to nominate such DACs & they go silent.

    The reality is that this immunity is a very difficult thing to achieve as it is multi-dimensional & when noise/distortion is intertwined with signal waveforms, it's very difficult to remove it & leave the signal waveform untouched. However, each individual aspect that can audibly affect digital audio is being addressed & gradually worked through.
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  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by caliaripaolo View Post
    Totaldac reclocker.



    Yes, I used Berkeley Alpha USB and now I use Totaldac Reclocker.
    However, the biggest improvement has been achieved by solving the Power issues.
    Cheers,
    Paolo
    Neither of these devices truly isolate the USB signals. The Berkeley uses the same flawed approach as many claiming "galvanic isolation" - they isolate after the USB signal has been received by the USB receiver chip - too late - the isolation needs to happen on the D+ & D- signal not on the I2S signal out of the USB receiver which is what the Berkeley does. i have tried this approach & it is less effective than true isolation on the D+ & D- signals

    The Totaldac recklocker doesn't seem to isolate the USB signals, either - it converts everything to DSD

    So no, I don't think you have tried a true USB isolator from what I can see.
    Last edited by jkeny; 04-28-2017 at 07:24 AM.
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  6. #16
    [Industry Expert] ddk's Avatar
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    Thanks John!

    What about Firewire, same issues as USB?

    david

    Quote Originally Posted by jkeny View Post
    Well, yes & no - USB is particularly prone as it has a PC at the transmission end of the cable & this comes with all sorts of noise issues. The other factor is that USB cables are a particular bad design with their signal wires alongside power & ground wires all wrapped in a shield. There are many areas of noise interaction in such a configuration - noise from power wire, ground wire, shield, - interactions of signal wire currents & other wires in the cable.

    The other digital links suffer from their own issues & need specific analysis as to their weaknesses. SPDIF, for instance has different weaknesses - the main one being that is relies on extracting the clock from the signal timing, Toslink, the same but with the added distortion of optical to digital conversion, etc.

    Lest anyone think that I'm down on USB - it can be the best sounding of all the digital links once it's weaknesses are recognised & address - it has the major advantage of having a local clock timing which means lowest jitter

    Sure, people cite DACs for not being immune to all the upstream issues & also for not being immune to PS quality & we often hear the over-used phrase from those who have never designed an audio device (not to mention digital audio device), "properly designed DACs". The exposure of this posturing is revealed by asking such people to nominate such DACs & they go silent.

    The reality is that this immunity is a very difficult thing to achieve as it is multi-dimensional & when noise/distortion is intertwined with signal waveforms, it's very difficult to remove it & leave the signal waveform untouched. However, each individual aspect that can audibly affect digital audio is being addressed & gradually worked through.
    Audio Industry Affiliate:Lamm, Ortofon, ZYX, Keith Monks, Audio Desk, Jensen Transformers, Pheonix Engineering.
    Specialty & Unique Offerings: Vintage horn speakers, Vintage and Modern Turntables, Analog Accessories.

    System 1: Horns+Tubes+Vinyl and digital too- Listening Room 1
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  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddk View Post
    Thanks John!

    What about Firewire, same issues as USB?

    david
    I've no experience with FW & haven't looked into it so can't comment.
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  8. #18
    Addicted to Best! caliaripaolo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkeny View Post

    The Totaldac recklocker doesn't seem to isolate the USB signals, either - it converts everything to DSD
    Yes correct the Reclocker doesn't act as an USB isolator. It is a USB to SPDI converter which use to store data into a buffer.
    Beside, the Reclocker doesn't convert everything to DSD!!!
    I tested an Intona usb isolator (Which had been lent to me), but I didn't liked the result achieved. Too veiled.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by caliaripaolo View Post
    It's not just a people's thought, is the limit of computer based system.
    I may believe on your test, but after I've replaced switching PS of my MacMini (with external PS-2 from Uptone), then selected an USB cable with separate 5V. wires and with an high isolation of D+ and D- wires (Curious USB cable) and finally by connecting an Entreq groundbox via USB cable (Ground wire pin only) connected to a spare USB port of MacMini, I can tell you which the improvement has been great.
    I use a Berkeley Alpha USB as well and have tried about 6 USB cables. I agree the ones with the separate 5v wires were CLEARLY superior to the others.

  10. #20
    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
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    I finally received the MasterBuilt USB Ultra cable for evaluation. First look is they are built like a tank

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