Burson Audio Cable+

Posted

Pros: Gives extra power and increased sound quality to low voltage sources

Cons: Non that I can think of

This is a review of the Burson Audio Cable+ RCA to RCA active cable.

 

 

 

The Burson Audio Cable+ was sent to me by Burson Audio for me as a loaner unit to test it out, thanks to Burson Audio for letting me check out the Cable+.

 

The price at the time for this review is $99 for one 1.2 m cable and $180 for two cables. The Cable+ is available for pre-order on Indiegogo right now: 

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cable-plus-the-next-generation-hi-fi-audio-cable-laptop-tablet#/

 

For more information about the Cable+ you can also check out the Burson Audio website:

 

https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/cable-plus-a2r/

 

I’m not in any way affiliated with Burson Audio.

 

Short introduction to Burson Audio:

Burson Audio is an Australia based company founded in 1996.  They’ve specialized in making headphone amplifier and amp/DAC combos, stereo amplifiers and op amps using discrete circuits.

 

This is what says themselves about their philosophy:

“Our philosophy is simple; the less our components interfere with the audio signal the more complete your musical experience. This is our core design philosophy since we began in 1996. If our equipment is designed well and transparent enough — and it is — then the pace, rhythm, timing dynamics and tonality becomes a natural expression of the music. We feel this can never be achieved with standard circuit building blocks like IC chip op-amps, IC regulators, or even standard transformers. Instead we research and develop customized discrete circuits specifically to suit their applications. Only then does each and every component in the signal path perform at its peak. And only then will the end result match our expectations.”

 

About me:

Click to show! (Click to show)

I’m a 44 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.

 

My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).

 

My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.

 

I do not use EQ, ever.

 

I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.

 

Demo list:

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Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia

Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me

Ane Brun – These Days

Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana

Metallica – Die Die My Darling

The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant

Eva Cassidy – Songbird

Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory

Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why

Celldweller – Unshakeable

Jack Johnson – Better Together

Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)

Dire Straits- So Far Away

Bjørk - Moon

Lupe Fiasco - Deliver

Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet

 

The concept:

First of all the retail version of the cable plus will be 1.2 meters long and the box with the active components will be situated about 20 cm from one of the ends.  It will be available in the following configurations (with courtesy to the Burson Audio site):

 

3.5mm input / stereo RCA output (perfect for connection between smartphone, tablet, laptop and the stereo amplifier)

 

 

Stereo RCA input / stereo RCA output (perfect for connection between sound-card, CD player, DAC and the stereo amplifier)

 

 

3.5mm input / 3.5mm output (perfect for car audio. connect between smartphone, tablet and the car amplifier)

 

 

When I was first contacted by Burson Audio and they asked me if I could be interested in testing out and posting my thoughts on the Cable+ here on Head-Fi my answer to them was a lot of questions, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the concept but they were patient (as always) and explained to me what the intention with the product was and how it works.  

 

The cable itself is smooth and flexible while not feeling too thin. The connectors are nothing spectacular but does still feels sturdy enough that I wouldn’t expect any long term problems to occur with them.

 

I’ll try my best to give a brief description of what the Cable+ is and how it works. According to Burson Audio there are two bottle necks stopping many of today’s audio sources to sound good. The first is the low voltage output from sources such as phones, tablets and lap tops. The second is the audio cables used that where designed in a time when most audio sources had a high voltage output and therefore the cables where made to work optimal with such sources.

 

In short the Cable+ is an active audio cable. In addition to the regular pair of RCA cables that we’re used to it also has a small box attached. In this box lies the magic. It contains a 24v low noise, high voltage power supply and one of Burson Audio’s praised SS V5i op amps. This set up needs power to work and that’s supplied through a micro USB port located on the box. The idea is that the “magic” in the box shall give the receiving unit (headphone amp, stereo receiver, HT receiver etc.) a more powerful signal making the overall not only louder but also better.

 

I’ve got to admit I was skeptical (and slightly confused) myself so let’s find out how the Cable+ works in real life usage.

 

Real life usage:

I’ve test the Cable plus with several units, all connected to my Conductor V2+ and I’ve been listening with the Hifiman HE400i which are the most revealing headphones that I own.

 

Since this is the RCA version it's not really useful with most portable gear so to start with I dug out my old Asus BDS 700 blu-ray player from storage and hooked it up with some pretty nice analog Monster cables into one of the analog inputs on my Conductor V2+.

 

The BDS 700 features the CS4398 dac chips which is pretty well liked but even in the days when I was using this player in my main surround system I wasn't very impressed with its performance with CD playback.

 

First half hour I was going through some of the tracks on my usual demo list and to cut to the chase this was not a very pleasant experience. The V2+ of course has more than enough power to drive the HE400i but I had to crank the volume up to 46 on it to get enough volume to rock. Even when doing so the sound was flat, metallic sounding and pretty unengaging. In this configuration it was also an audible background noise that I've never heard before when pairing the HE400i with the V2+.

 

After that I added some y-splits to the analog output of the Asus player and hooked up the same Monster cable to one of the analog inputs on the V2+ and the Cable+ to the other. This way I could use the remote to switch instantly between the two inputs.

 

 

The first thing I noticed was that the volume was higher when using the Cable+ connection. I had to lower the volume to 39 on the V2+ to get the same listening level (I used a sound meter app to check that the volume was similar on both, although not perfect scientifically it should still be fairly accurate) and listened to the input fed by the V2+ for about half an hour using the same tracks as before.The second thing that was very easily detected was that the background was now completely black and quiet. Furthermore the sound was fuller, richer and with better dynamics. In all this was a sound quality I could enjoy. When going back to the input fed by the Monster cables after this it sounded even worse to my ears than before and there's no doubt in my mind that the Cable+ makes a significant difference to the sound in this kind of setting.

 

The second unit I tried with the Cable+ was my Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-ray player. The BDP-51FD is a pretty good CD player in my opinion and I use it connected to my Conductor V2+ with analog cables to get a different signature when I feel for it. It uses four discrete Wolfson wm8740 chips for digital to analog conversion and also has a built-in jitter reduction circuit. The presentation of the BDP-51FD is quite neutral, maybe even slightly on the cool side, and I'd describe its overall signature as "lean and clean".

 

The BDP-51FD offer both a stereo analog output as well as analog 7.1 outputs and since the front L/R outputs the same signal as the analog outs so no need for any splitters here. I just hooked up one pair of Monster cables to one of the analog inputs on the V2+ and the Cable+ to the other.

 

 

I listened to CD's from Sting, Paloma Faith and Robyn for just short of two hours

The first thing I noticed was that the volume was significantly louder when using the Cable+. After using a sound meter app to match the volume I ended up with 42 respectively 48 on the volume know when having my preferred listening volume with the two cables.

 

 

The second thing I noticed was that the input with the Monster cable was noticeable flatter sounding while the one with the Cable+ connected had better dynamics. I also noticed that high hats, cymbals and percussions sounded unnatural and a bit fatiguing without the Cable+ while it was sounding very natural with the Cable+ in the chain. The difference with the BDP-51FD is nowhere near as big as what I experienced with my Asus player as source but the sound is definitely more natural, dynamic and less fatiguing with the Cable+. I'd say that it takes the BDP-51FD from sounding good to sounding great.

 

Just for fun I also ripped the Robyn album to my laptop (FLAC, highest quality) and compared the two analog inputs to the USB input on the V2+. First of all the volume on the USB input is actually identical to that on the analog input without the Cable+. When comparing the internal DAC on the V2+ to the input using the Cable+ I noticed the following: the dynamics is better and the bass is deeper and more natural sounding when using the DAC on the V2+. The Cable+ input has a leaner presentation with a noticeable subdued mid bass presentation (much like the Mojo, no further similarities between the two though) making it lacking some dynamics but sounding very clean and clear on the other hand.

 

Like I said initially I sometimes use the BDP-51FD as a CD player (not only transport) connected to the V2+ and the Cable+ does make this even more interesting since it makes the BDP-51FD sounding like a very high quality source and makes it much more enjoyable than it was before. I'll definitely be using this solution more from now on.

 

The last test I did was to hook up my cable TV set-top box to my Conductor V2+ with the Cable+ today. First I used a couple of RCA splitters to connect the set-top box to both the analog inputs on the V2+, one with a short Van Den Hul cable and one with the Cable+.

 

Once again I experienced a significant rise on volume from the input with the Cable+. I had to put the volume on the input with the regular cable to volume 48 to get the same listening level as I reached with the volume 42 on the input with the Cable+ connected. Not surprisingly the RCA output on the set-top box is not very impressive and using the input with the regular cable was not a pleasant experience with thin sound and vocals sounding as if they were recorded in a metal box, very hollow. When using the input with the Cable+ the sound was fuller and the overall presentation was quite natural and easily usable.

 

I then disconnected the regular RCA cable and hooked the set-top box up with the V2+ with an optical cable as well using the internal DAC on the V2+. Listening to the internal DAC the volume was actually about the same as connected with the regular RCA cable and significantly lower than with the Cable+. Apart from that the sound from the internal DAC is quite a bit better sounding, it is more natural, has better dynamics and is less fatiguing but despite this the difference between the Cable+ and the regular RCA cable is actually bigger to my ears than the difference between the Cable+ and the internal DAC on the V2+.

 

This last set up with my cable set-top box is probably one of the most useful ways to hook up the RCA version of the Cable+. Many people will not have a DAC/amp combo available in connection to their TV and many set-top boxes may not have any more digital outputs free after being hooked up to a surround sound receiver. By using the Cable+ and connect it to a headphone amp you’ll get a more than acceptable sound quality and you can avoid using (the often poor sounding, high output impedance) headphone output on your receiver.  

 

Summary:

The Burson Audio Cable+ has impressed me more than I thought it would. Being a cable sceptic normally and don’t having any experience with similar products I didn’t really know what to expect. By now I should’ve known and trusted Burson Audio though, the Cable+ may be useful to us hard core Head-Fiers in some settings (mostly to get a higher gain in certain configurations as well as with sources lacking digital outputs or various kinds of amplifiers lacking digital inputs) but I think the really big potential lies with the consumers that doesn’t own a DAC, or maybe don’t even know what it is. The concept of just using a different cable, with the same kind of connectors that you’re already used to, instead of adding more boxes around the house, car, cabin or wherever you are located is truly revolutionary to me and hopefully many others will also come to the same conclusion. 

 

 

Looking at the other termination options with one or two 3.5mm connectors makes the potential for the Cable+ even bigger given the number of tablets, phones and laptops every household has today. To get significant better sound out of these, often poor sounding devices, in a way that’s easily understandable for most people would indeed be a blessing.

 

Posted

Pros: Performs as claimed

Cons: Another "wall wart"

 

Disclaimer:

Bhavneet from Burson Audio offered to send me the Cable+, with no return required, asking me only to post my honest evaluation of its performance when used with the Chromecast Audio. I have no affiliation with Burson other than I purchased, at retail, their Conductor SL DAC/headphone amp with the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC back in May of 2015.

 

Also note:

I am not treating this as a full review of the Cable+ or the Chromecast Audio. Others have done a great job of covering aesthetics, build quality, electronics, and connection options of these devices. The Burson website has an excellent description of the Cable+ and Google can fill you in on the Chromecast Audio and the various streaming capabilities it offers.

 

Initial skepticism:

I first heard of the Burson Cable+ in October 2016 when I received a Burson email announcing the Cable+ and inviting me to visit their IndiGoGo page. The device was intended to better match the audio output of a smartphone or laptop to a “line level” device, like a headphone amp or home stereo amp, claiming to thereby improve the fidelity of the connection. Reading the explanation posted by Burson made me think “What a great idea. Why hasn’t someone done this before?” Every time I have used a phone or laptop as a source to drive a line level device I have been disappointed. Even when adequate volume was possible, the sound quality was always weak, flat sounding, and not at all engaging. I figured that the poor sound I heard was the product of small/cheap/low power components and that any quality in the sound was destroyed before it even got to the 3.5mm output jack. Burson claims that the quality is actually still there but is being ruined by the mismatched connection. This Cable+ could be great - if it really does what Burson says.

 

But, because it adds another device in the signal path, it seemed to me that besides making the signal stronger there was a strong chance that it would also change the overall balance and quality of the sound. That would not be good.

 

The email also contained a link to the Head-Fi discussion forum on the Cable+ started by Voxata. I began following that forum and even contributed a couple of posts. I have to admit I was skeptical of the observations some were making about the improvements the Cable+ was capable of, especially those not involving smartphone or laptop sources. Even though intrigued, I was not all that interested in getting a Cable+ as I never really need to use a smartphone or laptop as a source.

 

Chromecast Audio:

My main headphone system consists of a Squeezebox Touch streamer (with the Enhanced Digital Output mod installed) streaming mostly 44/16 and 96/24 files to a Burson Conductor SL 9018 DAC/amp, using the optical connection. To me, this setup sounds wonderful driving my Sennheiser HD 650 headphones. Being that the Squeezebox itself has been discontinued and it’s software is only partially supported, I am always wondering what I would do if it failed (maybe a Raspberry Pi?) So, when the Chromecast Audio with built-in digital optical output was offered for only $35 (and requiring no Linux tweaking) I purchased one right away. I found that streaming from the Chromecast Audio (I’ll refer to it as “CCA” from now on) to my Conductor using the digital optical connection, resulted in sound quality equal to that of the Squeezebox Touch using the same optical connection.  The CCA proved to be a possible replacement.

 

I had little interest in the CCA analog output but I did give it a try, connecting it to the line level RCA inputs on the Conductor headphone amp. It produced nowhere near as good sound as the CCA optical output, but was somewhat better than any smartphone or laptop I had tried - more volume and more fullness to the sound. Still, it was not up to what I consider hi-fi listening.

 

But, one day I tried plugging headphones directly into the CCA and found that the sound was really good. Plenty of volume and a full-bodied sound very similar to what I’m used to hearing from my main rig. Plenty listenable. Even though Google advertises the CCA for use in line level setups like home stereos, it seemed to be better matched for direct connection to headphones. This direct-to-headphone experience made me realize that the analog output of the CCA actually had the capability to produce very good sound.

 

I had also been following and contributing to the Head-Fi forum on Chromecast Audio. If you read my posts there you will see I am very enthusiastic about the CCA’s abilities as a simple inexpensive high quality streamer/headphone amp. I continue to use it often in that capacity, mostly when I’m too lazy to fire up my main system.

 

Burson Audio Cable+

I assume it is because of my posts to the Head-Fi CCA forum that Burson asked me if I would like to try the Cable+ (“C+” from now on), stating that it “pairs perfectly with the Chromecast Audio turning the CCA to a truly hi-end audio source” and that “the resulting improvement is across the entire audio spectrum and you will immediately hear the difference.” How could I pass up an offer like that?

 

I reconfigured my system, connecting the analog 3.5mm output of the CCA to the RCA inputs of the Burson Conductor SL using the Chromecast’s supplied short yellow 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male cable and a short 3.5mm female to 2-RCA male adapter1. Then the C+ could easily be inserted in place of the stock yellow cable.

 

 

Initial listening:

Going into this, I was afraid that the analytical auditioning/comparing experience would be tedious, with a lot of back and forth switching between the stock cable and the C+, while trying to identify minor sonic differences. But with the CCA/C+ combo this was not the case at all. What I was hearing right from the start with the C+ in the circuit was impressive - dynamic full spectrum balanced sound - very much like what I am used to with my Touch. A huge improvement over the stock cable, and not at all hard or tedious to identify the differences. As promised, the volume was greater with the C+, requiring a setting of about 9:30 on the Conductor’s volume knob vs 12:00 or more with the stock cable. But the most important improvements were in overall sound quality. Pretty quickly, I gave up switching cables and just immersed myself in the good sounds coming out of the C+2.

 

I could at this point in the review lapse into repeating all the usual audiophile improvement cliches - soundstage depth and width, instrument placement, dynamics, clarity, bass control, blackness of background, etc, etc, etc. But there is really no need. You name it, every one of them was drastically improved with the addition of the C+.

 

Listening to well-recorded pop music the improvement was substantial. Besides the expected increase in volume, everything just sounded better, more musical, smoother and at the same time more dynamic. I was starting to believe Burson’s claim about turning the analog CCA into “a truly hi-end source”.

 

Next I cued up some classical. The improvement in sound quality was now nothing short of astonishing. With the stock cable, high-dynamic-range material sounded pinched, small, narrow, tinny. With the C+, the orchestral sounds opened up, strings were sweet,  the bass came back in full force, the sound of the recording space returned. Solo pianos gained an exciting fullness and had none of the jangly harshness on loud passages that always seems to be the case with lower-end sources.

 

No aspect of sound reproduction got worse. I could find nothing to complain about.

 

As you might expect, my auditions of other types of music - blues, female vocals, jazz combo, big band, folk etc - were equally impressive. I am not into heavy metal, electronic, or dance but I heard nothing that would cause me to think those genres would sound any less great.

 

So, as Burson’s email had promised, I did “immediately hear the difference” and “the resulting improvement is across the entire audio spectrum”.

But, the BIG question still needed an answer…

Does the Cable+ turn the Chromecast into “a truly hi-end audio source”?

 

Critical listening:

Fortunately the Conductor SL has multiple inputs which are easily switched by a front panel control. So I fired up the Squeezebox Touch, connected through optical, and cued up the same track on it and the CCA. Switching between the CCA/C+ (RCA input) and Squeezebox (optical input) the difference in sound quality was…

   wait for it…

   wait for it…

there was NO difference. Everything sounded exactly the same as the excellent bit-perfect Squeezebox optical connection to the Conductor's Sabre 9018 internal DAC. Could this be true?

 

I should point out that at this time I was surprised to find that the CCA/C+ combo actually played LOUDER than the optical connection on the Conductor - plenty of gain - requiring a lesser setting on the volume knob (maybe 9:30 on the dial vs 10:30). When doing A/B comparisons, level matching is very important. Rather than fiddling with the analog volume knob every time I switched sources, I decided to try using the CCA’s digital volume control to set matching levels3, knowing full well that this would stray from “bit-perfectness”, and might put the CCA/C+ at a disadvantage4.

 

Tedious:

Next, I played my favorite test tracks, all different genres, over and over, again and again, listening to various parts of the sound spectrum, the quiet parts, the loud parts, the instrument and vocal timbres, all the while syncing tracks and switching between the CCA/C+ and Squeezebox Touch sources. To my surprise, there were still no differences that I could identify. Both sources sounded equally excellent. The results were so convincing that I did not feel it necessary to repeat listening tests using the analog volume control for level-matching.

 

As a final test I spent many hours just listening to my favorite music using the CCA/C+ as the only source. In the past, when trying different component setups I have always been very intolerant of long-term listening with anything exhibiting less quality than what I am used to with the Touch/Conductor SL 9018 setup. Not this time. The music from the CCA/C+/Conductor SL was and is totally satisfying.

 

Answer:

Well, “hi-end” is different things to different people, but to this skeptical audiophile the answer is...

YES, the Cable+ does turn the Chromecast Audio into a hi-end source when inserted in my system5. The combination of the DAC/amp in the Chromecast Audio and the Cable+ offers the same level of performance as the bit-perfect optical stream fed to the well respected Sabre 9018 DAC. And it does so without damaging the "audiophile" qualities of the sound in any way.

 

The C+ has earned a permanent place in this skeptic’s main system.

 

 

Cons?

The only two downsides I can think of are equipment related

   - first, I now have one more “wall wart”

   - second, I have another cable getting tangled behind my rig.

I can live with these.

 

Conclusion:

I came into this review expecting a change in sound quality similar to that experienced when swapping cables, small differences, some good, some bad. I was wrong. The Cable+ is capable of making a substantial difference - all good.

If you own (or are contemplating purchase of) a Chromecast Audio, and use the analog output connected to a line level device, I definitely recommend that you consider adding the Cable+. I can’t think of anything else that offers this level of streaming performance and audio quality at anywhere near the asking price.

And for someone wanting to put together a streaming headphone system with fine sound this Chromecast Audio/Cable+ combo would be an excellent place to start. Just add a decent headphone amp with RCA inputs and you are ready to go.

 

Footnotes:

1 I realize it is entirely possible that the native Cable+ 3.5mm to RCA would perform better than my setup with the RCA adapter.

2 Unless otherwise noted

 -All listening was done at what I consider “realistic” levels, that is, if I were at a club or concert hall, this is the SPL I would be hearing from the stage or PA system.

 -Only well recorded material was used. No over-produced over-compressed stuff. Why punish myself?

 -The Burson Conductor SL was set to High Gain - appropriate for the Sennheiser HD 650

 -The digital volume control in the Chromecast Audio was set to maximum - the analog volume knob on the Conductor was used to control listening level.

 -An Android phone running the BubbleUPnP app was used as the control point to “cast” the music stream directly from a local DLNA server to the CCA.

3 BubbleUPnP enables the use of a 50 step volume control on the CCA, making for smaller steps and allowing for more precise level matching than the typical digital volume control (some have only 20 steps). No decibels-per-step amount is specified but the setting used to match the optical connection turned out to be 43 out of 50.

4 My experience using the CCA as a headphone amp convinced me that it’s digital volume control was excellent. Used as a headphone amp, recordings generally required a setting of only ⅓ to ⅔ of the scale and the sound quality did not suffer at all. There was no disadvantage. Digital volume controls have really improved as of late.

5 Realistically, my headphone setup is rather modest as hi-end systems go. But it does produce a very good listening experience. How the Chromecast Audio/Cable+ would compare to a $$$$$ streaming system I don’t know. But also realistically, these are not SOTA devices and are not meant to compete with systems like that.

Posted

Pros: Amps up weak outputs, no audible distortion, excellent build quality

Cons: MicroUSB cable broke after a single use, a tad expensive

Burson Cable + Review: Not Just Snake-Oil, and That’s Coming From a Skeptic

Burson is a company that, on the surface, seems to be peddling snake oil. As a skeptic in general, I am weary of many of the claims made by hardware makers in the audio industry. I firmly believe that many of the things that companies like Schiit brag about, while existent in reality, make no real perceivable changes in the audio you hear. This product is different.

You can find the Cable+ for sale here for $150.

Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. I am not affiliated with Burson beyond this review. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product.

Functionality

So, what is the Cable+? According to Burson, it’s a powered device that essentially converts an input signal to the appropriate type of output depending on the devices you are using.

“In a world of audio mismatch”, says Burson of their website. To me, this raises flags. It sounds like a classic example of a company finding a problem where one didn’t necessarily exist in the first place. To establish a baseline for my testing (which is not scientifically sound, mind you), I grabbed all my sources and IEMs and sat down at my desk, trying to match them in the most convoluted ways.

I plugged my HiFiMAN MegaMini into a 3.5mm to RCA adapter and plugged that into my ancient Sherwood AD230B. The Sherwood has a very high output impedance and doesn’t play well with under-powered sources. This showed, even with the MegaMini’s completely respectable output levels. The Sherwood demanded more. So I swapped the MegaMini out for the SuperMini. The results were similar. Poor general performance. I could barely get anything below 500Hz out of my speakers. For the hell of it, I swapped the SuperMini out for my Hidizs AP100, then subsequently for my Nexus 6P. The results were worse, with lower overall clarity and a rapidly collapsing dynamic range.

That’s about when I removed the standard 3.5mm to RCA adapter and plugged in the Cable+. I was definitely skeptical at first, and had some real doubts about any changes. After all, I’ve been around the block with upgrade cables. However, once I plugged it in and began testing I was shocked: there was an immediately audible difference. No longer did I miss out on the entire lower-end of my music. To be honest, it was the first time I’d actually heard the full potential of my speakers, as until now, I’d been using one of the configurations listed above.

Every source sounded properly amped: whether it was my Nexus 6P (who’s DAC is abysmal) or my AP100, I couldn’t find a single source that didn’t sound better when being played through the Cable+.

I also noticed that the actual volume knob on my Sherwood AD230B was much more sensitive, indicating that the Cable+ is actually acting as a type of pre-amp. The impressive part of this is not that Burson has integrated a pre-amp-type device into a cable. The impressive part is that it adapts itself to (almost) perfectly match your source with your other hardware. Color me surprised.

Packaging

The Cable+ comes in a reasonable package. It’s not too much, but also not too little. No real complains here.

 

Build Quality

There is nothing about the Cable+ that feels cheap. The cable itself is a thick rubber-coated wire with polished-metal terminations. My Cable+ is of the 3.5mm to RCA type, though there is a 3.5mm to 3.5mm Cable+ available.

The electronics of the Cable+ are housed within a very solid-feeling brushed metal oval with the Burson logo set of the the front. There is status LED that turns blue when the Cable+ is powered and working correctly.

Speaking of power, the Cable+ accepts power via microUSB. It works off of the included AC adapter or off your standard USB port.

Accessories

Inside the box you will find:

  • 1x AC adapter
  • 1x microUSB cable

Should a cable really have accessories? Not under normal circumstances, but given that this particular one needs power it seems obvious that these things be included. My only qualm is that the cable that came with mine stopped working shortly after I had begun using it. I was able to use a different cable with it, so it’s not a huge deal to me. When I contacted Burson they told me that this is not something that is common, as that microUSB cable is normally quite reliable. Oh well, luck of the draw.

Summary

So in the end, what is the Cable+? Well, it is an integrated and adaptable pre-amp type device that correctly matches the output signal of your source to your other hardware. Is it worth buying? Well, in my case I would say it absolutely is. However, there aren’t many people who have hardware from such different eras (the mid 80’s v.s modern day). So if you are one of the audiophiles out there wondering why your music sounds fishy coming out of your old amp, check out the Cable+. It might be exactly what you are looking for.

Posted

Pros: no matter the technicalities of the source, it gets the optimum sound quality to the amp, it works

Cons: needs external power, price

Review of the Cable+ from Burson

 

Disclaimer:

I own a Burson Conductor with an upgraded USB section. Burson has provided me with this cable free of charge for me to review it. They have not requested a positive review and I don't feel obliged to give one for things I don't deem worth it.

 

Cables:

Am I a cable believer? Yes and no. I believe in the technical ability of a cable to alter the sound slightly thanks to different resistance etc. I have quite a few nice after market cables. I did not purchase them as "equalizers" for my headphones but rather for comfort, looks, going "balanced" or to replace really bad stock cables. In general, I am  rather skeptical about the effect of cables, at best their effects are audible but hardly night and day.

 

Appearance & Packaging:

 

 

Lovely packaging - I like how the "brain" of the show is being displayed in the cutout. The box contains the cable itself, a USB cable and a power supply.

Note the generous 5 year warranty being displayed prominently on the box!!

 

The cable itself is very well made. Very soft to the touch and not stiff. It feels high quality to the touch. The connectors are very sturdy and look like they would have no problem lasting the 5 year warranty period. The "box" with the electronics inside is made from machined aluminum and feels equally solid. Connecting the box to the USB power lights up a small blue LED.

 

Using the cable:

It's important to note that the cable is directional and no, not snake oil directional. In my case I opted for the R2R cable, RCA input and RCA output. Simply connect the input side to the DAC and the output side to the Amp. Then you "switch it on" with connecting it to power. Done. 

 

There are 3 versions of the cable available:

 

A2A - Aux to Aux (both sides 3.5mm)

A2R - Aux to RCA (input 3.5mm to line out from DAP, etc., output to RCA)

R2R - RCA to RCA (input RCA, output RCA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

How it works:

While others have provided more technical and scientific explanations, I am want to try something else:

The cable provides the best possible signal to the receiving end (amplifier etc.). It creates the ideal conditions to make your music sound as good as possible. It does not meddle with the music as such. It just boosts the signal to the optimal level for the amp to work right in the sweet spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burson doesn't glue it's "box" and claims silly things. A simple screwdriver and you can take a look inside. And that's exactly what I did. Well made inside as well.

 

How does it sound?

Well the cable itself doesn't color the sound as far as I could hear. However, what I found it to do when I tested it with a EL DAC, Sony 1140 and Stax headphones was that the noise level was reduced, the dynamic sensation increased and I was able to hear some details better. My DAC has a nice 2.00 VRMS output and I usually connect it to the amp with a short 1 foot RCA cable from KabelDirekt. My output from the DAC is already quite good. So if you are going for this cable and you connect less good signals with a weaker signal, like a DAP line out, you might be in for even bigger improvements.

 

Is it worth it? Conclusion:

Yes. I think so. A "cable that improves the sound" - yeah sure - we have all been there and heard this. This active cable does improve the sound. It does not indulge in any snake oily stuff. It does so with honest work. It "boosts" the output to the correct values - and with that let all components "after" the cable do their work as good as they can. It let's your music shine. And for me - that is what counts. It does it with technology - not with oil. I recommend this cable. I think connecting it to "weak" connections from DAPs and other 3.5mm connections would yield even better results.

 

5 stars!

 

Posted

Pros: Low cost, portable

Cons: Decreased fidelity in high end systems

I'm going to be transparent, and say Burson gave me this for free. The product being Burson Cable+ ($150).

 

 

I'm going to give it 4/5 for it's intended purpose. This is strictly for low power devices (cell phone, tablet, PC 3.5mm out, etc..).

In that specific sense, it is a good product.  Be aware, if you don't want it to sound like crap, you have to use a battery pack to power it (this conditions the power).

Using the provided wall wart makes things muddy.

 

Even with battery pack, it does overall decrease fidelity, in high end systems.

For that specific category, I'll give this product 2/5, as it could maybe serve as a cheap active preamp to some...

 

 

4/5 for the intended purpose is high rating in my book.

 

 

Also works as an inline headphone amp if you use some converters :D

 

 

It actually sounded pretty good powering the HD800. This surprised me.

Posted

Pros: good bang for the buck

Cons: needs power source

I received the Burson Cable+ for my DAW (Digital Work Station) which also is my HTPC. All my video and audio equipment is connected to a single isolation transformer for power. This helps to minimize AC noise, common mode noise and ground loops noise from affecting the equipment.  Using  Audio-GD NFB-29H DAC/AMP 2016 version which is connected to the ASUS Z97-C motherboard in a custom soundproofed case.  I am using a USB3 optical network made by Adnaco for the connection among the computer, amp and monitor.  The monitors or speakers that I using are the PreSonus Sceptre S6 near fields designed to bring out details in a DAW mix and in music. The PreSonus Sceptre S6 is a CoActual design with an elaborate crossover design that uses the  Fulcrum Acoustics Temporal Equalization algorithms. More information can be found here;  http://www.fulcrum-acoustic.com/technologies/temporal-eq.html

The Burson Cable+ is connected from the Audio-GD NFB-29H DAC/AMP which is set to utility gain to the PreSonus Sceptre S6. The PreSonus Sceptre S6 is set for minimum trim.  That way I avoid double amping.

Many amps uses opamps to drive the line outs while the headphone outputs are usually directly coupled in the amps that I have. On my Little Dot 1+ I did experiment on different audio opamps and they do sound a bit different even though the specifications for the opamps say that it should not make much of a difference in the audio band.

With the Burson Cable+ I noticed a gain increase but with a larger voltage swing that made the difference between soft and loud sounds greater.  There is a small bass boost at the lower mid-bass. There is more body to voices and female voices tend to sound fuller with less tendency toward stridency. There is more sense of forward to rear sound depth.  There is no increase in noise level that I can detect coming from the Burson Cable+.  By far the Burson Cable+ gives a more balanced sound with the Sabre ES9018 on the Audio-GD NFB-29H DAC/AMP . More of a difference than using any fancy USB power supplies or cables that I have tried. I am planning on getting a second Burson Cable+  for my secondary audio setup. 

Posted

Pros: Small enough, and great addition to portable devices

Cons: Price

I was given this Cable+ by Charles @ Burson for my opinion and review.  

 

First thing I did when I received the Cable plus, was opening it up and see what's up.  I'm pretty impressed with the enclosure.  Real metal and decent cables were used.  So I can see where the money went into.  But $150 is a bit steep for this gadget and that is just my personal opinion.  I don't know what Burson put into R&D to get this on the market and still making a profit over time.

 

 

Burson recommended burn in time, so I let it burn in for a few days straight.  It never got warm and an improvement was heard after only a few hours.

 

So the Burson V5i is the secret to this little "upgrade".  I was iffy on whether or not it actually worked.  I felt it was low budget preamp of sort when I first heard about it.  So why not just get yourself an preamp I thought.  The Cable+ is mostly to connect between the low power devices like your phone, tablets, laptops and whatever you use for amplification.  In this scenario it performs very well.  I used a little 7" HP table, HP laptops and PC's and in return I got  bigger headroom. It was hard for me to point on what the Cable+ sounds like with these portable devices.  I can hear an improvement in detail retrieval, but not much.  I then used it between an Iphone 4s and Nokia 1520.  Huge improvement on the Nokia using Foobar.  The Iphone 4s sounds good by itself using various players, so only a small improvement in micro details to my ears.

 

Next up was hooking up the Cable+ in my desktop rig at work.  I connected the Cable+ between the Ibasso D7 Dac and Aphex 124A.  The Aphex is a Balanced to RCA and Visa versa converter that is used for the DBX Gorack.  

In this setup the Cable+ works out best.  The D7 is pretty good for an at work DAC.  With the Cable+ inline the my work soundstation sounds like my at home Headphone station, which consist of a Parasound ZDac.  My mind just blew.  I didn't have to "suffer" anymore.  To think I was going to solder in a new opamp inside the D7 to get better results.  The Cable+ avoided me doing all that work. I got all the sweetness to my headphone heaven in two setups now.  The Cable+ added a Reference tone to the Ibasso D7, completing my mission.  I can now use the same EQ settings at home and at work with my headphones. 

 

Cable+ in between the D7 and PB2 Ibasso's. 

 

Cable+ Permanent home on top of the Zamp V3, which has the Burson V4 in there.  The Zpre preamp also has the Burson V4 installed.  I might sound like a fan boy, but the Burson V4 is great for subbass reproduction on top of detail retrieval.  It's a step above the Muses02 in my rigs.

 

 

Messed around with the Cable+ some more. 

The Aphex 124A boost up the gain just like the Cable+.  The Aphex is cheaper on the used market and adjustable on the fly.  What goes in, is what comes out.  With the Cable+, what goes in, isn't what comes out.  It's "cleaner/leaner" depending on your portable source. Ofcourse there are limitations.  If your source is crap, well crap gets amplified and you will be really disappointed in what you hear.  The Cable+ I haven't really seen on the used market, so I don't what the market value of it will be over time.  It not being on the used market yet, means people really like the Cable+ once they have it and tend to keep it in place.  

 

So far the best overall improvement comes from the Ibasso D7.  I used a Fiio E7 and E17 line-out, with so so results.   

I wonder if I could upgrade the opamps to V5i in the Aphex to get the same results in a simpler audio setup....... 

Posted

Pros: design, build quality, sonic improvements

Cons: none I can think of

Burson Audio's developers definitely hate to be idle, so they always come out with some unexpected ideas. The most interesting thing about those ideas it's their relative simplicity and high usefulness. As a beautiful example, I can mention their hybrid OpAmp V5i I've recently reviewed. Now, their new idea — interconnect cable with an active amplifier.


First of all, I'd like to thank Burson Audio for providing me with a sample for review in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

Generally speaking, the idea behind that cable is pretty obvious. We're living in the smartphone era, so a vast majority of people have their music library stored on the phone. And some of them from time to time wants to attach the smartphone to the amplifier in their "big" setup. But many good amplifiers require more power at the input then typical smartphone can provide. And that's what Cable+ does — it amplifies weak signal from "regular" sources.

So, it's a simple device: long input cable with 3.5 mm connector, aluminum block with amplification and shorter part of cable with output connectors, it can be 2xRCA or 3.5 mm too, depending on your amplifier's input.

However, there is one more modification of Cable+, with 2xRCA on both ends. According to developers, this version is designed to use as an active adapter, allowing to avoid impedance mismatch between your DAC (or another source) and amplifier. I didn't have an opportunity to test this version (though would like), but other reviews told that this version also does its job well, improving sound too.

If you'd like to get more details about Cable+, you can visit its official site, [containing helpful explanation with pictures].

Each version of Cable+ costs 150 dollars. It includes worldwide shipping and two years of warranty,

Package and design
Cable arrived in the plastic box, reminding container of V5i, but a much bigger. In the box you'll get cable itself, simple micro USB cable to attach power to the amplifier and simple USB charger to use as PSU. Cable connectors are covered with silicon caps.

Middle block is made of aluminum. It looks beautiful and sturdy. Amplifier inside uses SupremeSound V5i hybrid opamp. Wires are made of high-quality cable in soft black silicon isolation, and connectors are both stylish looking and reliable.

The design of Cable+ is simple, and usage is evident. You plug longer end of the cable to the smartphone, shorter to the amplifier, connect power to small micro USB socket on the middle of amplifier block, and that's all. Tiny but bright led, hidden in the "plus" sign on top of the amplifier will show you that device is working.

Sound
For device testing, I've used following equipment.
- iPhone 6 Plus and HiFiMan SuperMini as sources
- NuPrime DAC-10H as an amplifier
- Headphones: Meze 99 Classics, Audio Zenith PMx2, Noble Kaiser K10AU, Campfire Audio Jupiter, Kenerton Odin and others

Despite being an Apple fan, I never considered iPhone as a sound source. Its sound isn't "bad," I'd rather called it "normal," but it's also pretty far from "good." Sound problems are rather common for modern smartphones: flat imaginary stage, hollow bass, loose treble. Good headphones amplifier, of course, tries to compensate that, but usually not perfect. For example, NuPrime, I'm using for a long time, sounds much, much better with a better source.

Well, it's expected, but Cable+ did manage to level almost all those problems. Of course, they aren't completely gone, but improvements are here. Lows became deeper and got more weight. Of course, the bass is still a bit slower than I'd like, but at least it's not sound bodyless as before. Treble sounded more refined and got more details. The imaginary stage became noticeably wider and a bit deeper though anyway gap from players of the average and higher level is noticeable. Every single change isn't "night and day" improvement (except bass, which improves drastically). But in sum, they are indeed changing sound noticeably, giving a big step forward.

Lows improvement with iPhone test gave me an idea of another experiment. Recently I've tested HiFiMan SuperMini, which is an excellent player but sounds a bit light to my taste. So, as you can easily guess, Cable+ here also does its job of giving more weight to lows, and in this setup SuperMini sounds pretty closer to HiFiMan's higher and players. I've made some blind tests, comparing my HM-901 (old version) and SuperMini, connected to DAC-10H via Cable+. I've managed to distinguish them correctly in 8 trials of 10, but the difference is not that big.
Summary
Of course, Cable+ usage scenario isn't most common in the audio world. But I can't call it too rare too. In my opinion, in cases, where you need to connect a smartphone or some other "weak" source to the good amplifier, Cable+ is the simplest and most convenient way of doing that with good sound.

P.S. As usual, I've made a video with initial impressions.

Posted

Pros: Adds grunt and quality to mobile devices

Cons: Another thing that needs to be plugged in, doesn't work when commuting, high end detail requires system matching

Dislcaimer: This sample of the Burson Cable+ was sent to me on loan by Burson.  The review is for the A2A version.

 

I'm writing this review as a supplement to the previous reviews, all of which have more than adequately described the basic features, functions, looks, and feel of the Cable+.  

 

As I already have a living room rig and a desktop rig that are designed around non-mobile gear, I decided to review the Cable+ A2A entirely in the context of a mobile setup consisting of the following:

 

Mobile Source:

iPad Air

Tidal Hifi Lossless Streaming

 

Mobile DAC/Amp:

Schiit Fulla 2

 

Headphones:

HiFiMan HE400i

 

Cables:

Burson Audio Cable+ A2A

Belkin generic minijack cable

 

For me this represents a mobile setup that I can take on business trips, vacations, or to-and-from the office.

 

Setup:

 

iPad Air (on battery) -> headphone jack out  -> (tested cable) -> Fulla 2 -> HE400i

 

The Fulla 2 in this scenario is only acting as an amp, not as a DAC

 

No fancy power supplies were used.  Both the Fulla 2 and Cable+ were powered using generic micro USB to AC plugs.

 

 

Sound:

 

First off, there is absolutely no doubt that the Cable+ makes an audible difference compared to the generic Belkin minijack cable.

 

With the Belkin cable, driving the Schiit Fulla 2 with the analog output of the iPad Air, dynamics were limited, bass was mushy and soft, treble and cymbals were rolled off.  Music was inoffensive, but it was also un-involving, lacking dynamics and frequency response  There was no listening fatigue, but it was almost like listening to AM radio.

 

Putting the Cable+ into the mix was like moving to FM radio, or from cassette to CD.  Dynamics were restored, bass was both extended and more impactful, treble was no longer rolled-off, but extended and detailed.

 

About that treble:

 

In my system, when combined with the Fulla 2 and the HE400i, the Cable+ definitely boosted the top octave, adding more sparkle and air.  When heard with music with a lot of low-end, like EDM, pop, or rock, the effect was a "smile curve", with the more impactful and dynamic lows balancing out the extended highs.   Pop tracks like DNCE's "Cake by the Ocean" had enhanced snap and shimmer added to the drum kit.

 

However, on natural acoustic albums that lack of heavy bottom end, such as Brad Mehldau piano jazz, the extended top end became a bit fatiguing and unnatural sounding.  I found myself wishing for an EQ to tame the top a bit, while preserving the superior dynamics, or wanting to try a different set of cans to get a better synergy.

 

Conclusion:

 

The Cable+ definitely makes a difference.  It is not a passive cable with subtle to negligible effects on the sound, but an active component that increases the dynamic impact and subjectively extends the apparent frequency range of the iPad Air's analog output.

 

However, it is also not entirely neutral, either, adding both impact to the bottom octaves and sparkle and detail to the top octaves.  Whether you find this enjoyable or a bit too much will depend upon the rest of your system, EQ settings, and music styles.

 

Worth exploring if your system is a little on the dark side, maybe be a step too far if your system tends towards the lean or bright. 

Posted

Pros: Transforms the sound of your system, micro-details, cheaper than most upgrades

Cons: Price.

Preamble

 

Whilst I have been an audio enthusiast for many years now, I must admit I have never really been all that interested in using any kind of esoteric cables with my systems. I have always felt that as long as the cable has a good solid connection and is undamaged - then that will do. In fact, to be completely honest, in the past when I have tried slightly more expensive than normal cable, I can’t say I really truly noticed any difference. You could say that I’m a kind of ‘high-end cable sceptic’.

 

One thing I do believe is that my portable MP3 players are capable of very high quality playback - assuming the file being played is of sufficient quality. I have been into high quality audio since the early 80’s and have progressed from a nasty ‘music centre’ to a really nice analogue turntable-based system - Logik DM-101, Linn Basik LVX, Nagioka MP-11 Boron, NAD 3020 and Heybrook HB1’s - those were the days.  The system sounded great because I took care to set it up as best I could with a proper turntable shelf with ceramic discs underneath the shelf resting on  inverted spikes (cost 75 quid if memory serves), decent shelving for the electronics and proper loudspeaker stands with the spikes. My point being that back in the day you really had to work at achieving (and maintaining) that good sound. Not to mention that the turntable was completely manual in operation and you had to get off your lazy arse every 25 minutes or so to flip sides or change the record.

 

Now, all you have to do is press a couple of buttons and you get high quality sound - in fact very high quality sound, with none of the fuss and bother. What’s more, you can easily get access to all of your media and have pretty much unlimited and inexpensive storage for about the same price as my turntable and loudspeaker stands had cost me back in the 80’s - and that’s not adjusting for inflation.

 

I have to admit that these days I tend to do most of my music listening through headphones - specifically the following:

 

Ultimate Ears Triple Fi-10 iem

1More 1001 Triple Driver iem

1More iBFree Bluetooth iem

V-Moda Crossfade Bluetooth Wireless

1More MK-802 Bluetooth Wireless

Audio Technica ATH M50X Full Sized Wired

 

The reason why I have mentioned my old analogue system and my currently used headphones is really to show that I know what good sound sounds like. I completely understand that people have different tastes and that different genres favour different sound shapes. This is perhaps why I use so many different headphones - each have their own character and, with the exception of the bitchingly bass-driven V-Moda’s, all sound fairly flat and reasonably neutral.

 

My current (and probably for the foreseeable future) loudspeaker based system is a Sony Micro system connected to the excellent Google Chromecast Audio and an old pair of Mission loudspeakers. As I do most of my listening now through portable players and headphones I feel that this is sufficient for my needs when I need to ‘rock out’ and annoy the neighbours. To be honest, the speakers are not ideally placed and the system tends to lack power (although more on this later). In its defence however, I feel the overall sound characteristic is reasonably neutral and flat.

 

Please excuse the poor quality pic - not really enough light this time of year. Will take more when I can.

 

 

The Burson Audio Cable is much more than just a good quality length of cable. It’s designed to increase the output from portable players to that normally found on full-sized components. This, they claim, improves resolution, clarity, bass - well pretty much everything audio. Well…...it works. It definitely works.

 

The cable features an active section which ‘amplifies’ the signal up - there’s no controls on the active box - just a Micro USB socket for power. The cable is reasonably unobtrusive and has enough length to effectively be hidden away. Everything about the cake screams high quality from the material used for the outer sleeve to the high quality plugs.

 

The improvements made to the music isn't subtle - it’s like the system has been completely upgraded. Bigger speakers, more powerful amplifier and improved signal source. There isn't just one aspect of the sound that's been changed either. Bass is deeper and more controlled, mids and vocals are clearer and the top end shimmers with detail without becoming too bright. This cable offers my loudspeaker based system the chance to produce the same resolution and detail that I normally get with my high quality headphones. Although the cable is designed to offer more volume to the sound, the truth is that even at low volume levels the improvements are still apparent.

 

Listening to familiar music is a revelation - I know of the phrase ‘hearing things I've never heard before’ is a bit of a cliche but it's totally true with this cable. Additional depth in the sound field, solidity in positions of performers and instruments (this is usually the first thing I look for when evaluating audio equipment) and micro details come through with ease. It's almost like I have found new high quality recordings of my favorite albums.

 

When I was originally asked if I would be interested in reviewing Burson cable I was not overly enthusiastic about it because I've never really been interested in cables and the like because they're kinda boring and not sexy, however I'm so glad they sent it to me. This has to represent one of the most effective single solution upgrades I have ever come across in a the years I have been interested in audio. Very highly recommended indeed.

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Burson Audio Cable+
Description:

Your music is suffering! With today’s multi-core high power CPU in our phones, tablets, and laptops, the devices able to process high-resolution music is already in your hands. However, when connecting these devices to an audio amplifier, the resulting music quality is guaranteed to disappoint, lacking dynamic and soundstage with a blurry vocal and harsh high notes. Burson understands the capability of today’s mobile devices, and we know they can become high-end media players once their performance bottlenecks are removed. The bottlenecks There are two bottlenecks preventing your phones, tablets, and laptops, from sounding hi-end. They are the low voltage output of these devices and the 1940 era audio cable connecting them to the audio amplifier. If we undersupply voltage to a light globe. It will light up, but it will be dim, and far from ideal. The same happens when an audio signal from a low power source component is fed to a high power amplifier, there will still be sound but weak, blurry and distorted. Specifically, 5 Volt USB powers all mobile devices and laptops. On the other hand, audio components such as your headphone or speaker amplifier are powered by 240 Volt or 110 Volt AC. The output from such low power devices is undersupplying to the high power amplifier, significantly degrading audio performance. The conventional audio cable was designed in the 1940s and has not changed since. They were meant to transfer audio signal between high voltage devices. Using such cables to transfer today’s typical low voltage audio signal from mobile devices and laptops results in signal loss and distortion. This resulting mismatch is the reason why you have to turn up the volume of your amplifier and yet music playback sounds strained, lacking clarity and impact. Hear Everything The Burson Cable +, utilises our V5i audio module, the most popular upgrade for audiophiles around the world, it raises the signal level from 5 Volt mobile devices to the standard RCA line level, ensuring a perfect match with any audio amplifiers and active speakers. The Burson Cable + instantly turns any portable device into a high-end media player. Its improvement to sound quality is instant, significant and provides improvement across the entire audio spectrum. Soundstage becomes wider and deeper. Bass notes carry weight, texture, and impact while vocal and high notes are crisp and transparent; the way music should be. With Cable+, your mobile device and laptop become truly hi-end media players.

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