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Thread: Why Do Different USB Cables Sound Different

  1. #21
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    Can't get that one past the finance committee!

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    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
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    Steve Williams
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  3. #23
    Addicted to Best! marty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Williams View Post
    I am in full agreement with my friend Steve that I don't quite understand why USB cables should have the sonic consequences they do. They're just transmitting 1's and 0's, right? I guess the old audiophile adage "everything matters" is no exception here. I also agree with Steve that until recently, I thought the Wireworld Platinum Series 7 was the cat's meow. But I've recently explored some alternative US cables that have exposed some liabilities of the Wireworld.

    Actually, I've been evaluating 3 cables recently. The first was a new cable line that Vladimir Lamm is either importing or using at shows called "Tchernov". I evaluated the their reference USB cable- (not sure what its called exactly) Its mids and highs are neutral, natural, and musical. It is unfortunately, not the last word in definition at the bottom but its a damn good delightful cable. It was the cable that showed me for the first time that the Wireworld top end was in fact a bit bright. It isn't the last word in imaging perhaps, but overall, it is musically pleasing where most of the music lives. I can easily see why Vladimir likes it. I mean this as a compliment- one might even call it the "Lamm" of USB cables! I have no idea what the Tchernov price is but it could be quite a bargain if its really affordable. Bottom line, as good as it is, it isn't compelling enough to make me to give up the Wireworld.

    The Wireworld platinum has been widely lauded universally and its easy to see why. It has a powerful, well defined a low end, a very good midrange and a very slightly bright top end that could be a great fit on some systems. It is certainly a very fine cable.

    However it was the Stealth Select "T" that really knocked me out. The Stealth has an extraordinary midrange with spatial imaging that is not just the best of the three but is really in another league. It easy to love it for its midrange and its imaging alone which is drop dead impressive, but it is quite good elsewhere and is nicely balanced. If the purpose of improved performance of home audio hear is, by analogy, an exercise in trying to leave the room by moving half-way towards the door with every step, all the while knowing you can never actually leave the room that way (i.e. no matter what you do it's not going to sound like live music), then in the end, the Stealth USB is the one that provided me a real sense of taking a step half way towards the door. It's resolution and spatial imaging are exceptional, its timbres seem correct, and in the end, it puts a smile on my face as my new reference USB cable. (Oh, by the way, the "T"is a sliding adjustment filter of some sort that is pretty easy to set in the sweet spot, and does in fact make a difference in the sonic result that the cable delivers. For me it was about 2 inches past the 1/2 way mark closest to the DAC). One last point. My Meitner DA2 has a galvanically shielded input for the +5V supply. Meitner therefore says the choice of USB cable doesn't much matter. I can't say I'm in agreement with that sentiment. Of course, YMMV. I'm looking forward to hearing the MB USB shortly, which comes highly praised. Should a fun day on the game board.

    Finally, a shout out to Anthony Perrotta in Bethel, CT who is one of those vanishing breed of high end dealers that lets you listen to stuff first without any obligations, is easy to work with, and offers good pricing.
    Marty
    Last edited by marty; 05-26-2017 at 03:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marty View Post
    ....snip

    . My Meitner DA2 has a galvanically shielded input for the +5V supply. Meitner therefore says the choice of USB cable doesn't much matter. I can't say I'm in agreement with that sentiment. Of course, YMMV. I'm looking forward to hearing the MB USB shortly, which comes highly praised. Should a fun day on the game board.
    ....snip
    Marty
    Anyone who has properly tested USB isolation realises that isolation on the USB 5V VBUS is simply not nearly a solution. I have found that galvanically isolating the USB VBus & ground wires would only address ground loops issues, if they existed. The majority of disturbance comes from the signal wires & these need isolation to mitigate this disturbance. The audible result of such mitigation is greater clarity, sound stage depth & a greater sense of realism.
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  5. #25
    This article is the best and most technically comprehensive article on why USB cables can affect sound quality. Skip half way down to the part where he talks about contacting Gordon Rankin.

    http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/20...uality-varies/
    Caelin Gabriel
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    Quote Originally Posted by CGabriel View Post
    This article is the best and most technically comprehensive article on why USB cables can affect sound quality. Skip half way down to the part where he talks about contacting Gordon Rankin.

    http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/20...uality-varies/
    I've seen this claim by Gordon Rankin before & I don't buy it. It's easy to check if asynchronous USB used in audio playback is dropping bits or not - play an audio file which is a HDCD file. Send this to a DAC with a HDCD indicator which turns on when it senses & plays a HDCD file.

    How does this show the USB asynchronous transmission is bit perfect? HDCD is a one bit flag embedded in the audio file & if this bit isn't constantly sensed by the receiving DAC throughout the playback of the file, then HDCD is turned off. I have tested this & never found a dropped HDCD flag & I have never seen anyone report this.

    Furthermore, there are USB audio devices which include a bitperfect test file for transmission via USB & never have I seen a report that there were bit errors found
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    Addicted to Best! marty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CGabriel View Post
    This article is the best and most technically comprehensive article on why USB cables can affect sound quality. Skip half way down to the part where he talks about contacting Gordon Rankin.

    http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/20...uality-varies/
    Thanks Caelin. I 'm not sure I understand it at the level I'd like to, but its helpful and I think I get it.
    Marty

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    Quote Originally Posted by marty View Post
    I am in full agreement with my friend Steve that I don't quite understand why USB cables should have the sonic consequences they do. They're just transmitting 1's and 0's, right?
    Hi Marty. They are explicitly transmitting ones and zeros. But implicitly, more is sent. See this article I wrote: http://audiosciencereview.com/forum/...s-async-usb.8/

    Briefly, the process of converting a digital sample to audio involves both digital components and analog. Digital systems are quite perfect with respect to sending the digital data. What happens in analog world on the other hand, is subject to many obvious and non-obvious factors. Here is an example measurement from above article:



    Here, both HDMI and S/PDIF transmit identical set of PCM bits. The analog output of the DAC however is drastically different. Why? Audio is slaved to video in HDMI so when using that for audio, you light up a lot of circuits in the receiver in addition to having to extract the audio clock from video. In less than optimal implementations like the above AVR, the measured performance over HDMI degrades substantially.

    The "bits are bits" is an argument from extremist objectivists who shout louder than their level of knowledge . It is not true and it is just an imagined way the system works, not how it really does.

    Note that this doesn't necessarily explain the subjective reports from users. Other than extreme cases, I have not been able to find a measured difference in the analog output of the DAC when I change USB cables. I have not seen it published at such elsewhere either.

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    Basically Rankin is saying that USB audio transmission (asynchronous) has no error correcting capability (which is correct) & he maintains that bit errors occur during transmission of audio (which is incorrect). If this happened we would likely hear this as obvious audible glitches plus it's wrong for all the reasons I already mentioned
    Last edited by jkeny; 05-26-2017 at 04:24 PM.
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  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by marty View Post
    Thanks Caelin. I 'm not sure I understand it at the level I'd like to, but its helpful and I think I get it.
    Marty
    He is saying as speeds/sampling rates go up, you get USB data errors. I don't buy that argument. If audio samples are dropped, you will immediate and highly audible static, pops, glitches, etc. at that moment. You will not hear an overall change in tonality/fidelity of the music across all of the music you play. That would require data errors all the time which is not remotely supported by any data I have seen.

    It is of course possible to cause errors by using poor cabling or instrumentation but I don't think any audiophile is hearing those artifacts per above.

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