I just got a Reference-10.32 with the TCXO upgrade a bit over a week ago (around 200 hours burn-in) and it is truly a beastly piece of audio equipment. Upgrading from my NFB-10ES I am finding it highly detailed with a huge 3D soundstage, perfect tonal balance, and very natural / analog sounding.
One thing that I have not noticed anyone commenting on in this thread, yet many wondering about, is whether the Reference 10 can drive the Hifiman HE-6. The answer is a resounding YES! The NFB-10ES did a great job driving them and the Reference 10 does at least as good of job (hard to compare since they are both combo units with DAC+Amp) despite having less output power. They sound extremely detailed, tonally balanced, and have a huge soundstage from the Ref 10. Bass could probably be better (more quantity and extension) if you got a beastly amp just for the HE-6 but the Ref 10's amp is no slouch.
Now for what I really came here to post about since people have been debating them the last few pages: cables. First of all I emailed Kingwa to get his opinion on whether power and USB cables could make a difference with the Ref 10 and here are his thoughts:
Quote Email from Kingwa:
I am consider the USB cable only need shorter and have good shield is ok.
I think the power cable is more important than the USB cable, but want to choice based on the sound flavor.
Bigger dia on the wires usually have better dynamic and bass.
Different metail and configuration on the cable make the different sound flavors.
Personally I have found (in the past) that both types of cables make a slight difference and I am using the only power cable that I have been able to hear a difference with, the Pangea AC-9, to connect to the Ref 10.
I actually could not tell a difference between the AC9 and a Monoprice 12awg cable at first, but this was due to the piss poor wall outlet in my new apartment. It was a 2 pin forcing me to use crummy cheater plugs to connect, the contacts were loose and had paint on them (wow) and the wires were heavily corroded. So I replaced the outlet with a Hubbell HB5362 which was relatively inexpensive, and cleaned the copper wires so that they are nice and shiny. I also moved my stuff around so the Ref 10 is on its own 20-amp circuit. Now I can definitely tell a slight improvement in soundstage and bass quantity/extension with the AC9.
Now onto USB cables. I purchased 1m Cabledyne Silver Reference, Lacie Flat USB (1.2m), Pangea USB-Ag, and Pangea USB-PC to compare them to eachother and against the stock cable.
Pangea USB-Ag: Similar to USB-PC with slight treble emphasis whereas USB-PC has a more balanced sound. Soundstage seems slightly larger and there is more detail. Slightly fatiguing on long listening sessions with my system (probably due to the HE-6 -- it would be a good match for "darker" headphones like LCD-2).
Pangea USB-PC: Similar to stock cable with slightly more precision, larger soundstage, and better overall detail.
Cabledyne Silver Reference: Balanced sound with at least as much treble detail as the Pangea USB-Ag, but without any fatigue. Sound has slightly more depth and bass extension. More detail in bass and midrange than USB-Ag. Large, encompassing soundstage with better channel separation (not necessarily good).
Stock (translucent blue w/ shielding) cable: Good for a cheap stock cable. Slight emphasis on bass with similar extension as Cabledyne but notes have less precision (harder to distinguish different instruments etc.). Soundstage is slightly shallower / less encompassing than Cabledyne with slightly less detail especially in treble.
Lacie Flat USB Cable: I was very surprised by the performance of this cable. It comes right behind the Cabledyne in performance. Nice open soundstage, tonally balanced, and detailed. Very similar in every way to the Cabledyne except slightly less detail and soundstage depth. The two cables are so similar sounding that I had to do many comparisons to pinpoint the differences. It actually sounded better than either Pangea cable... wow. If you look hard enough you can get these for $10 but I've been seeing them around $20 since I think they were discontinued.
I rank them: Cabledyne > Lacie Flat USB > USB-Ag = USB-PC > Stock.
USB-Ag is better than USB-PC if you like detail and especially treble in your system, perhaps it would be a good match with "darker" headphones like the LCD-2, or speakers that need a little kick in the treble. The Cabledyne was clearly better than both of the Pangea cables although the difference is nothing earth-shattering. I was impressed with the stock cable considering its $0 price tag, and I think cable non-believers can be happy with their choice.
For $30 though, I think the Pangea USB-PC would be good to try and you can return it within 30 days for a refund if you don't like it. If you want to try an entry level cable get a 1.2m Lacie Flat USB for $10-20 -- this cable sounds remarkable for the price and easily beats the stock cable. For bigger spenders the Cabledyne is nice, but you must gauge your expectations as to how much improvement it will bring -- subtle but noticeable. If I had $100 total to spend I would get a Lacie Flat USB and Pangea AC9 power cable -- this will bring more difference than the Cabledyne alone in my opinion.
Whether you believe cables make a difference or not, I recommend taking the +5V pin out of the equation by either removing it or covering it with tape. Even though the USB32 does not use the +5V pin it will still carry noise from your computer and may distort the USB signal.
Edited by somestranger26 - 7/12/13 at 1:51am