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USB cable supposedly improving DAC sound quality? How can I take other posts seriously after that?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by mus1cjunk1e, Mar 26, 2011.
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  1. kwkarth

    I'm surprised he hasn't noticed the dramatically improved print quality coming from the the now supremely connected printer... :wink:
    Magick Man and Intensecure like this.
  2. Mark Bajkowski
    Also, let's do not treat as a side note the fact that associated gear can play a fundamental role. There is a substantially documented evidence that certain passive components such as i.e. USB cables or bi-wiring may improve certain setups and yet make others sound worse or make no difference. I petty those who, on so many (too many) various forums, spend all their energy on arguing points which are logically flawed from the start. In short, no parametric or technological model exists or will ever exist to absolutely replace our personal judgment using our own ears in our own setups. Some, by default, will bring up a placebo effect right about now. Please don't. Maybe even more interestingly, there are documented by some reviewers occurrences of cats (including my own cat recently) occasionally reacting actively to a "noise" coming from a speaker suspecting it might be a "real thing" in the room. That alone may as well prove that certain real differences might be not even audible with the majority of the audio material we may use to test it.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  3. bigshot
    Can you please provide links to the substantial documentary evidence that passive components such as cables and wires can improve certain setups? I'm aware that using an improper wire for the use can cause problems, but I've never heard of a wire improving sound.
    Magick Man likes this.
  4. Mark Bajkowski
    I am not aware of any evidence that the interconnecting wire can improve the sound on some sort of absolute scale nor, I think, anybody sensible can ever imply that. Wires, however, have the ability to improve, or make it worse or make no difference in certain setups ONLY when compared to other wires in the same setups while using the same material. I am not sure what is your case, but If you have never experienced such a difference, I seriously doubt that providing you with my "evidence" can make any difference. I have experienced such differences quite many times, unexpectedly and uninfluenced by opinions of others. What might be my best answer to your question is that I tend not to consider experiences of others as the absolute evidence unless I can sit next to them and confirm it myself. Even a preponderance of evidence presented by others should be, rightfully, the subject of our individual judgments.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  5. bigshot
    I don't bother obfuscating with fancy words to try to impress. I like to cut to the chase. Rather than saying wires can improve or make worse, wouldn't it be simpler and more direct to say that wires either work properly or they don't. And It isn't hard at all to find wires that work. It's not an issue people really need to think about much.
    Magick Man likes this.
  6. Whazzzup
    Ahh more cables and USB, well can’t touch this.

  7. Mediahound

    For some background, check out this article and comments. Gordan Rankin (inventor of asynchronous USB audio) chimes in and states that USB cables can make a difference, and why: http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/05/gordon-rankin-on-why-usb-audio-quality-varies/
  8. amirm
    Unfortunately, his reasoning is incorrect. USB errors cause clear, audible errors. They will manifest themselves in glitches, clear noise and distortion. They never result in what people state as "more detail" "better sound stage," "lower noise," etc.

    That is beside the fact that USB errors do not happen in 3-6 foot cables people use for DACs. To cause errors for one of my tests, I had to string two super thin, crappy 10-foot USB extensions and connect that to another cable to make it happen. Once there, the effect was readily audible and measurable:

    Two USB Extension cables compared to USB Hub.png

    Here one device -- the ISO Regen -- started to lose data. Once there its noise floor shot way up as you see in red. The cheap USB hub though, continued to sing along with no errors as seen in yellow.

    Here is the sound coming out of the ISO regen connection: https://www.dropbox.com/s/h36zguooded28l4/Behringer Extension cable with Iso Regen.wav?dl=0

    If I shorten the above cable ever so slightly, all the errors go away and no difference is audible.

    So no, there is no error case here to worry about. Gordon needs to come up with another explanation if he wants it to hold water.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
    Magick Man likes this.
  9. Mediahound

    I would tend to believe the INVENTOR of the protocol over some random post(s) on the internets.
  10. amirm
    The inventor of the protocol gave you no data to believe. Where is the measurement of a real DAC with two different cables showing errors?

    Do you even know what he built to show that one single error? He put in a board in the middle of two cables to tap into the USB signal. With it, he disturbed the fidelity of USB transmission line so no surprise that he spotted an error.

    This is my background https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/a-bit-about-your-host.1906/

    Happy to debate Gordon anytime, any place on this topic. I assure you he will back off immediately in such a discussion.

    You may also want to read this article I wrote on actual, measured differences between USB cables: https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/do-usb-audio-cables-make-a-difference.1887/


    These are actual, measured analog output changes in DAC. Of course there is a huge caveat here which I explain in the article.

    So yes, you should be aware of who is telling you what on the Internet. It is just that your antenna is picking up the wrong signal here. :) If there is truth to this, I am here to find it. But so far, none exists that justifies the subjective fidelity differences people state.
    Magick Man likes this.
  11. Mark Bajkowski
    Thank you for the link, Mediahound. This subject is definitely oversimplified by some and overcomplicated by others: no wonder many avoid it. As my last comment in this thread, I'd like to state that there is no need to apply some sort of they-work-properly-or-they-don't logic to the wires topic because we must agree that: (a) wire never works as perfectly as a zero-distance connection (which requires no wire) and (b) absolutely perfect is only possible when no signal processing at all happens between the real-life sound source and the listener. I will probably never understand why we even need to use absolute statements when discussing the audio recording and reproduction COMBINED. After all, even the "proper room temperature" topic will get people arguing. LOL.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  12. Mediahound
    I always find it amusing when people say things like - you'll hear clicks and pops if the USB signal has any issues and drops out. Uh, no. You may hear (or not hear) increased distortion and think it's part of the track or something. You may also experience minute timing related issues which translate to a lower quality audio, as more error correction bandwidth is being used in the USB chip.

    Just because the signal is not totally cutting out, does not mean it's not degraded.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  13. amirm
    Error correction? I thought you had read Gordon's article:


    As you see, there is no error correction. When data is corrupted, you get sudden changes in PCM audio samples. These sudden jumps mean you have a sharp transient/step function. Basic principle of signal processing states that such a transition has lots of energy and infinite harmonics/energy. What this translates in lay terms is static, ticks and pops. I provided an actual capture of this happening in my other post. Listen to it and you will hear it there.

    No such data errors will result in "minute timing" errors, whatever that may mean.

    To change the soundstaging, resolution, etc., subtle changes need to be made to audio samples and no data error attempts to make such changes for you. Corruption is not a natural thing and in no way just causes fidelity loss in the manner people report for different USB cables.

    There is simply is no engineering explanation that backs what people report. So believe in cable differences if you like, but don't try to explain it this way as it is easy to show it to not be correct.
    Magick Man likes this.
  14. Mediahound

    So let me get this straight- you don't believe the inventor of asynchronous usb audio yet you still quote him as a source to try to prove a point.... But then you take his quote out of context by not also including relevant portions such as:

    The big thing that many people don’t realize is that not all USB ports are created equal. Not all USB cables are created equal and it’s the same for devices and even operating systems. Since getting the Tektronix I have tested probably thirty different USB cables on the fifteen computers in my lab. "
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  15. amirm
    No, I quoted him to show you had not read your own reference. :wink: And that you obviously would believe your own expert witness telling you otherwise.

    Where is the data on those 15 USB cables? Where is the measurements of the actual waveforms of the DAC changing due to those differing USB cables?

    None of that exists in that article yet you believe him anyway as that having something to do with USB cables sounding different?

    Mind you, he is stating a truism. Of course there are different quality implementations of USB as a high-speed serial digital communication device. I showed you one in my previous measurements where one USB hub (Insignia) was able to reliably recover digital signals while another (ironically "audiophile one", the ISO Regen) could not. It is also true that there are bad and good USB cables. I showed you again that difference in my measurements. Those considerations however relate to digital data transmission across USB which as I stated, simply is not a problem for audio and with short USB cables.

    Remember his Tektronix measurement gear is for examination of USB bus, it has nothing to do with measurements of audio waveforms (for that, I use my $25,000 analyzer). In my measurements, I show that all but the worst of worst DACs are immune to what happens in USB domain. And the credit for that level of isolation actually goes to Gordon! By making USB audio asynchronous, the clock is no longer derived from USB so much of the vagaries of what goes on there does not matter.

    I mean what is the point of asynchronous USB if it were otherwise? For those who don't know, Asynch USB allows the DAC to be the master with its own clock and the PC becomes a simple data pump. So no longer do we care about timing of packets on USB. They just need to come faster than we need them to play. Which USB can do in its sleep. So Gordon of all people should not be making this argument, lest he wants to invalid the very reasons we have async USB.

    Yes, it is possible for noise to bleed from USB bus to the DAC. But good luck trying to fix that with cables. The solution to that is to avoid a few poorly designed DACs that are so sensitive.

    Bottom line here is simple: Gordon has not provided you with any explanation of audible effects you think are in play. I know exactly what he is implying but it is not a problem here. Let's not do hero worshipping when it is not merited.
    Magick Man likes this.
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