USB cable shootout: 8 cables tested

Anyoldears

Active Member
May 31, 2023
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The System:
Innuos nextgen Statement with upgraded umbilicals
Lampizator Pacific DAC
Avondale Audio NCC300 amps
Fyne Audio F702 speakers
Gaia III speaker isolation feet
Puritan PSM156 power filter
Puritan Groundmaster grounding
SR purple fuses
Puritan Ultimate power cables (some with changed connectors)
Townshend Fractal F1 interconnects
Skogrand Rachmaninov speaker cables

The music:
Video killed the radio star - Buggles
Equinoxe V - Jean Michael Jarre
Time - Pink Floyd
I feel love - Donna Summer
Devil Inside - INXS
Wild wood - Paul Weller
Latest trick - Dire Straits
Chain/Go your own way/Dont stop - Fleetwood Mac

The contenders (in alphabetical order):
Albedo USB
David Laboga Emerald Mk2
FTA Sinope
Infigo USB
Network Acoustics Muon2
Sablon Audio Evo USB
Skogrand Beethoven
Tara Labs Master

Financial disclosure and disclaimer:
I am an individual hifi enthusiast with no advertising income or any kind of sponsorship. I have received no payment for doing this test, in fact if anything, this test has actually cost me money as I will be returning some overseas cables at my cost.
However it has been fun and worth it, so I don’t really mind! I learnt a lot and hopefully you, the reader, will too.
These are my personal opinions only and reflect my system sound, my personal biases, my hearing, how I was feeling at the time of listening and probably the phase of the moon too! I've tried my best to be objective as much as I possibly can.

Overall assessment:
First off, all of these cables are good. For the majority, I had a hard time distinguishing them and finding differences, only maybe 3 stood out to me, the rest were very close.
Any comments I make are relative unless otherwise stated. So when I say a cable is slow/fast, bassy/boomy, sharp/soft etc, these descriptions are all relative terms to the other cables in order to give an idea of that cable's character, they're not absolute.
So if you have one of these cables already, and see I prefer another cable, don’t fret, the difference unless otherwise stated is small. I reckon I would have a hard/impossible time trying to distinguish one from another in a blind test for most of these cables.
For the number inclined, I would say maybe a 5% variation (of what? who knows!) between these cables.
Finally, some of the cables were brand new, so each cable has had at least 100 hours of burn time before any critical listening started.

See next post for results (character limit!)
 
Results:

Albedo USB
Length: 153cm
UK price: Oops, I forgot to ask!
albedo.JPG

Brown cloth (?) wrapped floppy cable. It’s bass is OK, not tight though, but slightly boomy. Its not as clear or pure as say the Sinope. Also its not quite as alive as some of the others, it had a very slight dull and slow feeling to it. Unfortunately it doesn’t really excite you listening to it. Upper end detail was OK but again nothing exceptional.

David Laboga Emerald Mk2
Length: 107cm
UK price: around £500
NB no 5v power cable with this demo cable
emerald.JPG
This is one of the first cables I tested, and the cheapest in this group test. So that means the worst performer right? Absolutely not, this cable is incredibly impressive!
It has a naturalness that some others here would die for. And the BASS! Punchy and tight without boominess. Fantastic! And it goes REALLY deep, I would say in fact, the best in this group. Impressive stuff.
Listening to "Time" from Pink Floyd was the first time I had heard the underlying heartbeat sounds at around 1.50-2.20 really punch out and add a dramatic tension, basically engaging another sense into the experience. It felt like I was being kicked in the musical maracas each time, and I loved it!
It passes my "toe tapping test" easily, you just enjoy listening to music via this cable.
However its not as pacy as the Muon say, and the upper registers aren't as emphasised. The attack on strummed guitar strings is fine and has good air/ 3D imaging
This cable definitely gets my HIDDEN GEM AWARD, it competes with all the others here, but if you are on a budget in any way, just get this one! You’ll love it.


FTA Sinope
Length: 136cm
UK price: £1395
sinope.JPG
In some ways, this is the one to beat. This cable is held in high regard and rightly so, because it sounds great! It has a slightly more unusual profile, being quite wide and flat, but plug this baby in and it just works to produce great sound. Slightly fuzzier than the Sablon, maybe a fraction flat, and not as impressive 3d picture overall. It does have a good naturalness and good rhythm to it, it sounds balanced across the whole frequency range. Having a think about it afterwards, I think the top end is quite smooth which makes the cable very listenable to. It also means attack on say strummed guitar strings is less than others. The overall airiness is also not quite as good as some others. I did find it clearer, more musical and better stereo picture/projection than the Infigo.
The only real downside to this cable is the bass is very slightly lacking in punch in comparison to others

Infigo USB
Length: 110cm
UK price: approx £1000 (depends on offers and import duties)
infigo2.JPG
A bit more bass than the Sinope but it wasn’t tight, having a slight boominess to it in comparison. The top end has a bit of well… “bite”, “harsh” or “edge” are too strong of words to use, but maybe bright is closer. Also the mid range is slightly less pronounced, the cable give me a clear picture of what its doing in bass and upper treble but less in the middle. If you have a soft sounding system this is probably what you need to balance it. Slightly more reserved in presentation than the Beethoven. Overall close to the Sinope, but the Sinope would have the victory.

Network Acoustics Muon2
Length: 150cm
UK price: £1395 (overseas will be less as no UK VAT)
muon.JPG
When I was arranging the demo cable, I got chatting to Rob the cable’s designer. This is the new Muon2 version of his cable, and I have the privilege of being one of the first to hear it. Apart from the general form factor of being 2 thin and 1 thicker cables, everything is new about this cable, new conductor, new assembly techniques, new connectors, the works. I haven’t heard the original, but what does the new and improved version sound like?
Well out of this group, I would say this is the clarity king. Music is just clear as a bell. It has a bit more bass than the Sinope, although it could do with being a bit tighter. It has more detail, purity and clarity than the Sinope too. It feels pacier than it too, my listening notes say "more alive". Imaging is good, attack is nice, treble is more pronounced than the Sinope. More stereo imaging than the Infigo

Sablon Audio Evo USB
Length: 122cm
UK price: £1000 (overseas will be less as no UK VAT)
sablon.JPG
Good bass that goes deep, and more attack than the others on leading edge notes like guitar strums. Not quite as airy as some others though. As with the Infigo, bass and treble seem pronounced, but the mid range plays a secondary role somewhat. Imaging is OK to good, and quite musical too. Pink Floyds Time guitar piece at 4.00-4.20 can sound a bit edgy with this cable though

Skogrand Beethoven
Length: 210cm
UK price:£6000+
beethoven.JPG
Yes I’m pretty sure that price is right. For this, you get an impressively chunky and substantial feeling, silk wrapped cable. So what does it sound like? It’s a richer, fuller sounding cable with good air to it. The bass is very good with a nice punch to it
Overall, its a good cable and fits in easily with these other cables, without surpassing them. If you factor in the cost though, it represents very poor value for money, and I couldn’t recommend it at this price.

Tara Labs Master
Length:
UK price: £3000
So the final cable is a bit of an outlier as its considerably more expensive than the rest (excluding the overpriced Skogrand). So to be fair to the rest, its a little bit of an apples to oranges comparison. It is also unusual in that it has a special grounding box with it. You connect a small supplied cable from the end of the USB cable to the box, and also attach a ground wire from the chassis of the source to this ground box as well.
It was also the last one I got my hands on, so when you read comparisons above, they dont include this one.
But this is whatsbestforum, so whats best out of all these cables? Answer, this one! Maybe not a step up over the rest, but at least a good half a step. It wasn’t hard to realise this one was the winner, whereas with other cables, they were pretty close. (Again for the number people, I would say around 15%)
This cable projects music out into the room unlike anything else here. The bass is plentiful and oh so tight and punchy. Have "Devil Inside" going at high volume and you really feel those intro bass punches in your chest. But its not boomy. I find the recording of Pearl Jam's Alive can be bass saturated in my system.
But no, it was the USB cable all along! With the Tara its perfectly listenable for the first time. Have the last part of "The Chain" on high volume, and after the bass riff, Buckingham's guitar can sound a bit shrill and biting. But again, not with the Tara. But this isnt due to it being soft at the top, not a bit of it, its just clear and free of harshness.
This cable is beautifully clear and the instruments are clearly separated, the air is very good, a wonderful open sound. I wondered at one point if it was a fraction slow sounding, but after further listening decided it was spot on (maybe just it was warming up in my system in retrospect). The stereo picture was excellent. It gets my OUTRIGHT PERFORMANCE AWARD and convincingly so.
However finally, there is one small problem with the Tara Labs Master. It is only their mid range cable, it has a big brother, the Grand Master cable at £5k.... Eeeek!

Conclusions:
OK its pretty clear which was my favourite, but how would I rank the rest? Well I think the best for you will depend on the sound of your system and what you like. For my preferences and my system, despite their weaknesses in various areas, the ones I personally kept coming back to are the Sinope and the Emerald. I just found them particularly musical and enjoyable, which to my mind is the essence of what listening to music is about.
As to the others, if you like attack on the leading edge of your guitars, or your system is soft sounding and needs more bite, get the Sablon. If you want clarity and purity, get the Muon2. If you fancy the Sinope but its a bit too pricey for you, look at the similar Infigo. Horses for courses.

And finally, many thanks to the reps/manufacturers/distributors for the loan of these cables to make this group test possible!
 
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thank you for this. I see you have a well thought out system with power filter/grounding/good cables. Maybe the ground solution of the Tara wouldn't have as much influence (or maybe even more?) in a less proficient system?
 
Thank you @Anyoldears, can’t imagine the effort required to organize a comparison like this. Good job.

As you know I recently compared the MUON2 with Pink Faun and CAD II-R USB, it means we really have put on the table enough food for thought.

I think we are missing the last possible contender, to have a complete picture, at least in my opinion: the Shunyata Omega. Hope someone soon could help us, I didn’t find a dealer able to give me a demo for home audition and I suppose you, too weren’t able to include this cable in your list. Anyhow I don’t give up!

Really thank you for sharing your test, very interesting to me.

Enjoy! So which one did you decide to keep in your system? Please don’t answer now, keep listening within the end of September, that would be the right time to get a final conclusion.
 
Thank you @Anyoldears, can’t imagine the effort required to organize a comparison like this. Good job.

As you know I recently compared the MUON2 with Pink Faun and CAD II-R USB, it means we really have put on the table enough food for thought.

I think we are missing the last possible contender, to have a complete picture, at least in my opinion: the Shunyata Omega. Hope someone soon could help us, I didn’t find a dealer able to give me a demo for home audition and I suppose you, too weren’t able to include this cable in your list. Anyhow I don’t give up!

Really thank you for sharing your test, very interesting to me.

Enjoy! So which one did you decide to keep in your system? Please don’t answer now, keep listening within the end of September, that would be the right time to get a final conclusion.
The dealer I got the Tara from also does Shunyata. He told me the Tara outperforms the Shunyata Omega.

Well, when I get the money, I'll get the Tara. It was easy to tell it was better (compared to the others being pretty close)
 
The dealer I got the Tara from also does Shunyata. He told me the Tara outperforms the Shunyata Omega.

Well, when I get the money, I'll get the Tara. It was easy to tell it was better (compared to the others being pretty close)
Thank you. Aren’t you curious to find out with your ears if your dealer is right? Having done 99%, why not complete the job?
Sorry, that’s me, not you. I hope to find a Omega soon, both USB and Ethernet (I’m using Sablon2020 in my network path recently). A lot of friends purchased the Omega and are tempting me, not to mention a few members here on WTB or other forums.

You know, curiosity killed the cat!
 
Thank you. Aren’t you curious to find out with your ears if your dealer is right? Having done 99%, why not complete the job?
Sorry, that’s me, not you. I hope to find a Omega soon, both USB and Ethernet (I’m using Sablon2020 in my network path recently). A lot of friends purchased the Omega and are tempting me, not to mention a few members here on WTB or other forums.

You know, curiosity killed the cat!
Well, I take what dealers tell me with a pinch of salt until Ive actually checked for myself. He told me the Tara would outperform the ones I had (we had a chat as he handed it over). He turned out to be right, so I have no reason to not believe him, especially as he sells both.
 
Just a named shout out to the people who made this possible. All are in the UK apart from Nils and Calvin

Richard at Lotus Hifi for the Tara Labs Master https://www.lotushifi.co.uk
Calvin at Infigo calvinjohjson@me.com
Greg at G Point for the David Laboga, Albedo and Skogrand http://gpoint-audio.com/home/
Nils at Studiokoncept for the Sinope www.studiokoncept.se
Rob at Network Acoustics for the Muon2 https://www.networkacoustics.com
Mark at Sablon Audio for the Evo https://www.sablonaudio.com/digital
 
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Great write up and matches some of my own findings using at least one of those exact cables, namely the Skogrand which I found v good but not good value for money. As you say, the FTA lacks a leading edge bite which some find "analogue" but once I'd picked it, I preferred the dynamics of others. Laboga cables are very good value for money.

I'd def be interested in the Shunyata Omega vs Tara Labs, and def would decide for yourself rather than dealer recommendation.
 
I suggest you try the Intona Ultimate 1.5m USB cable.

It is the best that I have heard so far, and the one I use with my Taiko. Taiko also uses it in their system.
Well yes, there are loads more on the market, I couldnt test them all unfortunately
 
Very nice review.
 
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hello I have both the muon and the vertere hb both are the top of usb cable. in fact I am using both to and from my reckloker !!!!!
 

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