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Thread: Why Do Different USB Cables Sound Different

  1. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by marty View Post
    I recently had an email conversation with Serguei Timachev from Stealth Audio who provided a cogent (at least for me) explanation of why USB cables can and do sound different. Thought I'd share it below. Interesting info.

    "The common (incompetent) logic AGAINST ANY premium USB cables usually is that in digital signal transmission the data errors get corrected (and the incomplete or distorted data packets get re-sent). For some reason folks do not know (or do not realize) that music is being transmitted as a STREAM, without any correction, and thus gets distorted (more or less) in a similar fashion as analog signals.

    On top of that, a lot of people do not know that S/PDIF protocol for digital audio is, in fact, an ANALOG protocol: digital signal, consisting of “ones” and “zeros” gets converted into a corresponding analog signal, then this ANALOG signal gets transmitted via a “digital” transmission line (75 Ohms characteristic impedance at BOTH ends), and then the receiver chip once again converts this analog signal into digital. Any distortion of this analog signal CHANGES “ones” and “zeros” in the received signal, after the second conversion at the receiver. I.E. the received “ones” and “zeros” digital signal after the S/PDIF transmission is NOT exactly the same as the signal that has been sent. And THIS IS why digital cables do make a sonic difference."
    Tell him, Nonsense. He needs to look at jitter and/or noise. Only under extremely poor conditions will there be data loss.
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  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by marty View Post
    I recently had an email conversation with Serguei Timachev from Stealth Audio who provided a cogent (at least for me) explanation of why USB cables can and do sound different. Thought I'd share it below. Interesting info.

    "The common (incompetent) logic AGAINST ANY premium USB cables usually is that in digital signal transmission the data errors get corrected (and the incomplete or distorted data packets get re-sent). For some reason folks do not know (or do not realize) that music is being transmitted as a STREAM, without any correction, and thus gets distorted (more or less) in a similar fashion as analog signals.

    On top of that, a lot of people do not know that S/PDIF protocol for digital audio is, in fact, an ANALOG protocol: digital signal, consisting of “ones” and “zeros” gets converted into a corresponding analog signal, then this ANALOG signal gets transmitted via a “digital” transmission line (75 Ohms characteristic impedance at BOTH ends), and then the receiver chip once again converts this analog signal into digital. Any distortion of this analog signal CHANGES “ones” and “zeros” in the received signal, after the second conversion at the receiver. I.E. the received “ones” and “zeros” digital signal after the S/PDIF transmission is NOT exactly the same as the signal that has been sent. And THIS IS why digital cables do make a sonic difference."
    All signals are analog, but digital is unique and different type of analog signal. Risetimes are never zero and signal integrity is never perfect, so it is analog. This is not a reasonable argument alone to explain USB effects however. Things that affect digital are unique to digital. There is no error correction with USB or with S/PDIF, but errors are rare if you use reasonable cable and lengths, assuming the interfaces meet the specs. Many don't meet the specs as I discovered in 10 years of modding digital sources, both Transports and USB converters, even devices produced by Sony.

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  3. #43
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    USB cables have minimal effect when the USB receiver isolates common mode noise, recreates the USB signal with a very clean power supply so signal quality is optimal (no noise, rise & fall times of square waves are as good as they can be).

    If this noise isolation & USB signal cleansing USB signal is don next to the audio device then it is optimal - there is no cable to distort the signal or introduce noise & what is happening upstream with cables/power, etc. has far far less influence.

    My USB ISO devices do exactly this - ISO-DAC & ISO-SPDIF
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  4. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Williams View Post
    I have seen threads here on different ethernet cables sound different and now we read here that USB cables sound different. How is this possible when all that is being transmitted are 0's and 1's.

    I am far from a skeptic because my listening experiences do suggest there is an audible difference


    I ask this question because now along comes the Master Built Ultra Ultra USB cable which I will be auditioning in the coming weeks. From everything that I have been reading this MB USB cable sonically takes things to a totally different level that is leaving listeners speechlesss. I am looking forward to the audition and sharing my experiences here. My overall experience with my MB Ultra loom has taken my sound system to a totally different level so I am more than curious about their version of a USB cable even though it has an MSRP in the ozone

    I understand that the MB engineers have done something which isolates the data but this apparently is nothing new

    So my question is whether others have been hearing improved sonics with different makes of USB cables and if so what differences are you noting

    Bold mine.

    Cables, of any type, do not transmit 0's and 1's. In the case if USB cables, they transmit pulses of light. In digital audio, there are never 0's and 1's being transmitted.

    These pulses, have to arrive intact, with the same timing, rise time, intensity and the same duration as they start with.

    Playing devil's advocate here, I can imagine different quality cables effecting the above parameters.
    Last edited by Simon Moon; Yesterday at 07:30 AM.

  5. #45

    Angry

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Moon View Post
    Bold mine.

    Cables, of any type, do not transmit 0's and 1's. In the case if USB cables, they transmit pulses of light. In digital audio, there are never 0's and 1's being transmitted.

    These pulses, have to arrive intact, with the same timing, rise time, intensity and the same duration as they start with.

    Playing devil's advocate here, I can imagine different quality cables effecting the above parameters.
    Pulses of current, unless it is an optical connection. So many USB cables do sound different, and IMO this can be used to an advantage, as long as you get off 'base one' Walmart cables. I have two I keep as reference at the moment. The Phasure Lush 80cm USB, and the Curious Silver 80cm. They are polar opposites. So if you want more warmth, calm down the treble a bit go for the Lush, for more detail and transparency the Curious. Oddly the Phasure cable is 200ohms which is higher than the 'standard' USB protocol. Not odd the Curious is more transparent as it has silver wires. But I must say the Lush, it is a very nice sound to my ears.

    TBH I believe everything between each component affect the character or sound signature you will hear. So:
    1. Mains quality, time of day, power regenerator or not etc
    2. Mains cable, main plug, inlet plug, fuses
    3. Ethernet, SPDIF, AES, Optical or USB from the server, power supply to it or not
    4. Interconnects from DAC to the pre-amplier
    5. Interconnects from pre-amplier to the power amplifier
    6. Speaker cables from the power amplifier or headphone cable to the headphones (as I found out this week!)
    7. Acoustics of the room

    Not to forget cable isolation and vibration control.

    Nightmare!!!!!

    But I dig the USB cable thing, a cheap(ish) way to 'tune' your system. Remember - system synergy can be more effective than just spending kore and more dollars IMO. YMMV.
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