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USB cables - Should I buy a better one or stick with the cheapo? - Page 2

post #16 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lappy27 View Post
 

I tried about seven different USB cables in the last 9 months and they all sounds different. Some really hugely different (ex. Wireworld Starlight 7 and Transparent Performance).

 

Now I know i am gonna receive rocks from the 0 and 1 crowd who for the most part never really experimented or are willing to with different USB cables.

 

Believe me, I REALLY WISHED USB cables make no difference.

 

If you can stretch your budget, a Silnote Poseidon can be found for about $149 to $199 on a popular auction site. Much, much more better sounding cable than anything I compare it in the range of $100.

 

If someone can give me a plausible technical explanation outside any of the cognitive bias's how this even might be possible I'd be more than happy to experiment.  :popcorn: 


Edited by Ari33 - 1/6/14 at 4:12pm
post #17 of 34

The signal is digital so that part is not changed at all by the cable.  Unfortunately you are susceptible to interference like most other metal cables, so-called "higher quality" does not mean better, it just means they wasted gold on insignificant places.  What you really just need is a decent connection, the pins inside not the shiny outside, and good shielding so your computer, external powered devices or magnets (including ones in speakers) won't mess with the signal.

post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ari33 View Post
 

 

If someone can give me a plausible technical explanation outside any of the cognitive bias's how this even might be possible I'd be more than happy to experiment.  :popcorn: 

 

Some higher priced cables have decent shielding, a cheap cable could just as easily have the same shielding so it is more bias than anything.  Can you really blame people though? it is marketed that way on purpose.

post #19 of 34
I am the worlds biggest cable skeptic but decided to spring for the Audioquest Cinnamon USB to connect to my Wadia121 from my MacBook Pro. My headphones are Audeze LCD 2's. I was using a generic USB (three cables for $10 --really cheap cables) and they seemed fine. There was a very noticeable improvement and I was able to consistently differentiate between the cheapo cable and the Audioquest. I then purchased an Audioquest Forrest USB (about half the cost of the Cinnamon) and was unable to notice any difference at all between the two. I was subsequently able to borrow a Nordost Blue Heaven USB (four times the price of the Cinnamon) and did not notice a significant difference between that and the Audioquest cables. I could not reliably tell the difference in A-B comparisons with the much less expensive Audioquest cinnamon and Forrest USB cables. That's my non scientific opinion and your mileage may vary...
post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by NakkiNyan View Post
 

 

Some higher priced cables have decent shielding, a cheap cable could just as easily have the same shielding so it is more bias than anything.  Can you really blame people though? it is marketed that way on purpose.

 

Yes, that's my also my exact opinion. I fully accept that noise on the power supply for the USB device could make a difference if the USB device lacked the ability to reject that noise but well designed USB gear takes this into account.

 

For example, check out this schematic of a typical USB device:



The portion the schematic of interest is in the lower right hand corner and is composed of 3 large filter capacitors labelled C9, C10, C11 across the 5 volt power line that might be obtained from the USB cable. One of their purposes is to make any noise on the power supply line a moot point, any USB device that lacks this sort of simple but effective refinement has a fundamental design deficiency.


I would sincerely hope that any USB cable would shield the signal wires equal or better than the power connection... even commodity USB cables shield all 4 conductors. In short someone appears to be trying to sell a overpriced product by misrepresenting the requirements, the working environment and the competitive products.
 

In the cable section of the forum there are many threads describing how certain 'audiophile' USB cables have their own sound signature, this is what I find preposterous.... The key to making sense out of the claims and counter claims is fair, reliable listening tests. Sighted evaluations are very likely to give you the answers that you hope for, as opposed to scientific tests that may surprise and even educate you... but if by some chance I missed some lectures at Uni or there is some new unexplored by the masses realm of science that could possibly explain it someone please tell us all about it and ABX this phenomenon... 

post #21 of 34

I have had some debranded "high quality" (I am being generous) USB cables that turned out to be complete crap; they came with external HDD I didn't buy them intentionally.  Ironically they gold-plate the least important part because it is what we see, the rectangle tube that could, and sometimes are, plastic because it is easier to form and breaks less easily (less RMA returns.) Sadly they had crappy copper on the horrid, mangled pins, the 4 pins that make it work, because "regular" people don't take small things seriously.

 

I have had <$10 USB cables with good shielding and ferrites on both ends that I used to replace cables like the ones I described above and worked perfectly.  You just need to know what to look for instead of relying on the buzz words.  Again I don't fault the buyers, it is too complex for many, but for those who do care, like the readers here, decent facts help a lot.

post #22 of 34

USB is a digital format, there is no sense in spending extra money on cables. The data either reaches its destination or it doesn't.

post #23 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by tempest11 View Post
 

USB is a digital format, there is no sense in spending extra money on cables. The data either reaches its destination or it doesn't.

 

Correct.

 

Even if I consider the power supplied through USB, a good cable just supplies the power. All sorts of smoothing and filtering need to be done *on the device*, the cable can do nothing there.

 

So, all in all, a USB cable is nothing but a transfer of power and data. How that power and data is handled is not affected by the cable.

post #24 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by tempest11 View Post
 

USB is a digital format, there is no sense in spending extra money on cables. The data either reaches its destination or it doesn't.


Mostly true.  The issue that could and does come up would be having so much interference that the packet has to be sent over and over again until it is late which can cause issues.  The same issue crops up with external hard drives, the resend is just less of an issue and only slows down write times, with audio you are live-streaming data which can show up in the audio.

post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by NakkiNyan View Post
 


Mostly true.  The issue that could and does come up would be having so much interference that the packet has to be sent over and over again until it is late which can cause issues.  The same issue crops up with external hard drives, the resend is just less of an issue and only slows down write times, with audio you are live-streaming data which can show up in the audio.

 

That depends on the transfer method.

 

Isochronous transfers are generally used for media streaming, and if a packet is lost, no attempt is made to recover it. The timing is of more importance here, its less noticeable if a frame is missed here and there rather than stop the transfer until a frame is recovered (which stops the video/audio).

This is the method generally used by USB Audio.

 

The only possibility of any clicks and pops is when your host's bus is too heavily loaded with data such that it cannot service the packet requests on time, or that the I/O device itself is too busy and the read speed is not fast enough. In these cases the host won't be able to send data on the required rate.

 

Nowadays the CPU and its data bus is not the issue, its the storage media that usually acts as the bottleneck. I suggest to keep the media on a separate HDD, one that is not continuously accessed by the OS for other uses.

 

Things are much better if you use an SSD, but they're too expensive for storing media.


Edited by proton007 - 1/27/14 at 11:22pm
post #26 of 34

Both good posts. I was going to ask how packet loss would manifest itself in your listening experience but it looks like proton007 answered that.

post #27 of 34

I'm not going to throw myself in another lengthy explanation that has all the chances of being misunderstood by all sides. So here's the summary.

 

- Yes, USB cables can make a very small technical impact in some USB audio situations that have nothing to do with bit-perfect transfer nor packet loss.

- No, you probably can't hear it as it is drowned under many other more significant factors.

- And even when the cables make a difference, the cheap common one isn't the worst technically, quite the contrary.

- Thus buy a decent cable (I'd avoid the poorest cables from ebay, but anything that came with an HP printer or that kind of thing is allright). Don't spend more than 10$.

- Keep it under 3m.

- Worry about other things if the setup doesn't sound good to you.

post #28 of 34

It's true that if you do a download of a .mp3 file over the internet that passes through a USB port (on an external wi-fi adapter say), the downloaded file would be bit-perfect, and the quality of the USB cable would have literally zero impact on the resulting sound of the .mp3 file when it is eventually played.

 

But if you are streaming data over a USB cable to a DAC, the results are not necessarily bit-perfect, because there is realtime element introduced to the situation. 

 

The data being streamed to the DAC must be received instantly and consumed instantly; if there are lost packets the data protocol can not simply retry indefinitely until it gets bit-perfect information; time marches on and the music won't wait.

 

If it is time to convert the next batch of bits to analog, and only some of the bits have been received, the DAC must do the conversion using partial information and error correction methods to synthesize the missing data.

 

So a better USB can theoretically help by requiring fewer packet retries and less lost data.

post #29 of 34

I also have the Audioquest forest USB cables. I wanted to get something better than standard cheap cable, but nothing fancy. They seem to sound good in my system, although I haven't felt the need to compare them to anything else.

post #30 of 34

I don't have experience with testing different USB cables, but I did test a cheapy Coax cable versus an expensive one and the difference was very big. This was however an experiment I did on a 30000 euro sound system, because I also did not believe there would be a difference. That said, the USB port inside your computer is connected with a cheap cable, so it is probably not worth spending a lot on this.

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