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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. castleofargh Contributor
    subjectivity isn't an excuse. if we test sound, we should indeed test only sound, and use a listening test which removes, look, price, preconceptions... now if your idea is a better experience no matter the cause, including non audio ones, then go for it and enjoy your special cable(I'm not being sarcastic, even just a good looking thing can brighten the day). but that point of view takes away your right to make claims about the sound. which is what we're discussing in this topic.

    if we're discussing sound, let's say the idea is "measurably better than average cables can improve the sound audibly". are you ok with that definition? it is clearly different from "all USB cables don't sound the same", which is more of a strawman as it includes all defective cables making the sound worst, and all the tests with a defective cable to begin with.
    so if I want to test my idea, I need:
    - a basic USB cable within USB specs(needs to be confirmed with measurements), and at least another cable that will make the output signal objectively "better than average cables"(also needs to be measured and confirmed).
    - and of course I want to test audibility once those improvements are confirmed. to me that means blind test. anything else is testing way more than just sound so perceived differences cannot without any doubt be attributed to sound alone.

    instead, you're already picking possible causes for the sound differences you think you heard, that you think were an improvement, on the cable you think is superior. but you didn't care to actually try and confirm any of it. that's putting the cart before the horse. (or for @GChief, putting the cat before the horse, while eating your desert ^_^).
    even if you want to take demonstrability by the wrong end of logic, and discuss your hypotheses for objective causes leading to signal change, you will still have to come back to a proper testing to demonstrate audibility at a given magnitude and then have to measure your own gears to check if you're reaching audible magnitudes. so in the end you still need measurements and a proper listening test. else it's all conjecture.

    RF noises aren't new, the guys creating the USB standards have to account for typical levels, and when they picked the specs for USB cables, they accounted that the attenuation would be sufficient. if they were wrong, it would suggest that USB is a poor standard. which begs questions far beyond changing the USB cable.
    there is a paper on jitter looking to estimate the magnitudes we can hear, and the conclusion of that paper was that even at the time, consumer gears were expected to have jitter magnitudes below hearing threshold. if they're right and you get sound differences anyway, that puts you under conditions outside of the typical consumer gear in typical environment. so you have a very severe issue with RF noise or EMI or whatever, or we're back to Gregorio's idea that the DAC might not even reach average consumer quality when it comes to jitter. the solution would be to change the DAC. and if they're wrong, we'd like to see evidence of it. which yet again brings us back to proper listening tests.
    GChief likes this.
  2. GChief
    But I do listen and I do take everyone’s opinion and experiences into account because I came here to learn something. I listen to my newest technicians all the time as they come up with great ideas. I am intelligent enough and have enough experience working on electronics for a living to know that I don’t know it all. And I did not learn it from hooking up IC’s and pushing power buttons and reading things on the internet. I read through many different forums music, car, motorcycle, hiking etc. I take opinions and experiences given as just that but I still consider then, if it makes sense great if not and I care enough about it I do the research, sometimes I ask for clarification. I belong to a few “audiophile” type sites, this one seems to have more of the “if you don’t agree then your wrong” mentally than the others. I am assuming it is an age demographic thing. Who cares if person A believes their $400 USB cable sounds better? Why does person B feel the need to tell them their wrong? Digital music is my travel for work and background at home setup. I do vinyl, tubes and big speakers at home, so I would never spend that much on a USB cable. But knowing from trial and error doing new installs at work how material and build quality of cables does affect digital signals I would buy something besides el cheapo cable if for no other reason than knowing it’s probably not going to break being put in a backpack traveling all the time. So when I state that cable is different for digital signals and I see it all the time at work. Its probably because we have installed cable A and things didn’t work, pumps turning on or shutting off, blowers turning on/off by themselves etc and then we tried a better type of cable , cable B and all is good why is it so hard to consider that? That IS ignorance. Cable B happens to have a higher quality conductor and better shielding. Now most people’s listening spaces do not have the interferences that a ships engine room has but there are interferences. There I explained some of it, should not need to. But instead of saying I am wrong because I didn’t back a personal expreince someone new and/or not understanding how that is could ask say “I don’t understand how that could be can you explain how you came to that conclusion”. Instead it comes across as a bunch of condescending a$$holes telling you there is no way you expreinced that. I am game for that, but being a new guy here that’s the impression.

    Merry Xmas if that’s your thing and/or Hapoy Hloidays.

    Hope everyone has a great day!! And crank up the tunes, we already are.
  3. GChief
    That is correct, what is your experience? I have 23 yrs doing it and maintaing the gear that we did it with.
  4. GChief
  5. Mediahound

    This is sort of a pointless thread because even if you share results of a real-world blind listening test (which I've done above), people here still won't believe the results and claim things like:

    -the DAC must have been defective
    -they didn't publish the results in a spreadsheet so how can I believe them?
    -the test didn't use enough subjects
    -they should have used a longer or shorter cable
    --etc, etc. etc.

    They claim to adhere to science yet there is no end to the amount of excuses folks here will use to try to discount real world listening test results and real world experience.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2017
    GChief likes this.
  6. bigshot
    Excellent! That is exactly the right attitude to take. If you say, "I am an authority. I don't have to consider any one else's comments because I know what I'm talking about." that is the fastest road to ignorance. Saying "I came here to learn something." is the fastest road to the opposite. Just focus on understanding what the other person is saying before you hit reply. If you understand their point, you can reply to it more intelligently.
  7. GChief
    Yep, I am pretty much over boneheads in my life. I will still read things and hopefully learn. I have a pretty good grasp on reality and know people can have differing opionins and experiences and it all contributes to the discussion.
  8. GChief
    Hopefully others will do the same, but that does not seem to be the case. All good though!!
  9. bigshot
    I've been a producer primarily on TV shows for 30 years and have supervised more recording sessions and sound mixes than I can count. But that doesn't matter. I can be right, or I can be wrong. Don't assume I'm one or the other because of my experience. Listen to what I say and parse it. If I'm wrong, explain to me why in a clear and convincing way. That's the way it's done.

    Sorry, I must have missed that. Which post number is it in? Certainly we're allowed to question how your test was conducted, right? And you took steps to eliminate the possibility of that list of arguments you cited affecting your results, right?

    Ye shall reap just what you sow.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2017
  10. GChief
  11. gregorio
    I state that there's only one rational answer. You then provide that one rational answer (a perception illusion/delusion) and quote it as the reason for disagreeing with my statement?! I must admit to being baffled by some of the logic being employed in this thread!

    It only appears pointless to you because you consistently miss or deliberately avoid the point! What does a "real-world blind listening test" tell us? Unless you discard any notion of basic logic then it can only tell us one of two things; either a difference between an audiophile and a generic cable wasn't heard or it was. If a difference was heard, there is ONLY TWO possible reasons why, either: The test was poor; it failed eliminate perception biases and therefore the difference heard was not actually heard, just imagined. Or, the test was good and there was an actual audible difference. In which case, the performance (jitter/noise/interference rejection) of the DAC used for the test MUST be (very approximately) 100 times poorer than a $79 DAC! Therefore, all a "real-world blind listening test" could logically tell us is which of these 3 outcomes is occurring: 1. No difference between audiophile and generic USB cables. 2. A difference which is only imagined, or 3. A real/audible difference due to a seriously crappy DAC.

  12. Dulalala
    Well from your statement,
    It definitely seemed condescending enough for your rational answer to be "There isn't one".
    I apologize for the misunderstanding.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
  13. sunninho
    I completely agree with OP about USB cables making no difference in sound quality as they only carry 1s and 0s between DAC (digital) and Amp (analog) devices. At the endpoint of a USB connection, you either get sound or no sound. It does not matter if the digital signal runs over copper or silver or if the cable is sheathed in multiple layers.

    The quality of the cable and USB end-connectors only makes a difference in making sure the signals are transmitted without interference (i.e. stopping or starting the flow of 1s and 0s). Any improvements you hear are due to the DSP (digital signal processors) in the DAC, where the conversion of 1s and 0s takes place, or in the ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) depending on what is being accomplished.

    Clock cycles are all handled by the DSP (computer) in the DAC or ADC and has nothing to do with the cables, unless the cables are faulty and the 1s and 0s get stopped.
    bigshot likes this.
  14. GChief
    And then there is that. :ksc75smile:
  15. sunninho
    Whoops, I think I contradicted myself in that USB cables are normally used between digital devices such as PCs (digital) and DACs (digital), not DACs and Amps. With that said, the same argument applies :)

    Also, this applies to digital cables only (i.e. USB and HDMI) and not analog (electrical) connections such as power and RCA cables which can affect sound quality in the amount or quality of electricity being transmitted.
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