Why do USB cables make such a difference?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Cartma, Jul 17, 2017.
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  1. gregorio
    1. So, they've designed their DACs with faulty receiver chip sets then. Or are you saying that all USB receiver chip sets are overwhelmed by noise and therefore the USB protocol never works?
    2. Analog, seriously? Do you know what analog means or do you actually buy recordings of nothing but square waves in the megahertz range?

    Hilarious indeed!

  2. GrussGott
    It depends on what you mean by "noise". For me, I tested cables and such with my wife who doesn't know nor care nor have any idea what any of this stuff is. I basically switched cables around over and over, swapped in boxes like the Eitr, and swapped out dacs like mimby vs mojo. she was a good sport and her observations were very similar to mine. macbook pro > tidal hifi exclusive mode > [cables] > [magic box or not] > dacs > schitt jot > HD600 of TH-x00

    USB Cables:
    anker powerline+ vs Pangea Premier vs some cable that came with our printer: not much difference if any, granted none of these are spendy cables
    TOSLINK vs USB: USB wins or no difference, i.e., on songs with a win, USB won
    Eitr vs no Eitr: unambiguous win no matter the song or cable

    So by "noise" does that mean you can audibly hear clipping or simply lower resolution that's only discernible when you listen to same source same song which sounds more "crisp", others may call it "resolving"?

    BTW, in a surprise, there seemed to be something to plugging the Jot into a wall outlet with a 14awg high quality power cable versus the 18awg cheapie it came with into a surge protector and then into the wall
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  3. amirm
    Well, my son did with the Schiit BiFrost. He an internal card before that and when playing games, he could hear the activities of the computer through his headphone. He bought the Schiit BiFrost for $400 only to find the same issue. I put it on the bench and indeed, depending on what the computer was doing, its output would change! You can read the story here: https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...puter-activity-can-impact-dac-performance.22/

    So objective measurements confirmed his subjective experience. But only in the case of poorly designed DACs of which there are very few. Even China Inc is making DACs for peanuts that have inaudible PC/USB related noise.

    To the extent we can continue to measure products that come to market, we can weed out hopefully the bad apples.
    Strangelove424 and GrussGott like this.
  4. GrussGott
    That sounds pretty cool.

    Hey, 'member when we did this game backwards??

    AUDIO was the digital!

  5. Strangelove424
    Thanks Amirm. I was wondering if perhaps these noise issues come from noisy grounds (completely unrelated to cable quality) and that perhaps by blocking off the GND connector with electrical tape might be a cheap fix. Does the Bitfrost need the USB's 5v power? If not, perhaps you could block off the 5v connector too, if that might be a source of noise as well. I am trying to isolate the cause of what may be giving certain people EMI headaches but it could be as simple as USB ground loops, which is not the fault of any particular cable or device but a conflict of ground between multiple devices. Even motherboard i/o for USB are often serialized, so direct connection is no guarantee of unshared power. You can use the most expensive cables in the world, it will still happen. Would be great to be able to suggest to people a solution as cheap and effective as black tape. I'd appreciate if you could experiment with the idea.

    Edit: NM, just read your conclusion of sending the DAC back. I guess it's not available to test anymore. For $400 I wouldn't keep it either.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  6. D2Girls
    coax input on my dac sounds better than usb input thats all i can say about that
    i would like to try the aes input but i dont have a digital source with one
  7. Strangelove424
    Not looking for "sounds better", need audible or better yet as Amirm showed measured interference or ground loop noise. This is a specific problem.
  8. GrussGott
    Curious is you ever contacted jason or mike given they're on this forum with this data and got a response?
  9. amirm
    They have seen the latest measurements I made of Schiit Modi 2. Start reading from this post on: https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...eview-schiit-modi-2-99.1649/page-8#post-57393
    They have made no attempt to contact me at all.

    It is not like the DAC is actually broken so I am not sure why you are asking me to contact them. It works as a DAC and that is what I paid to buy. That it doesn't perform is shame on me and the rest of the population that buys it blind without such measurements from the manufacturer.

    As for my Son's Schiit DAC, he wrote to them why he was returning it and all they did was give him the RMA number to do so. Which he did.
    GrussGott likes this.
  10. GrussGott
    So what did he replace it with?
  11. amirm
    First he went with a $1000 Peachtree. Alas, that was clipping on some of his music due to overflow in their resampler. So he bought an Oppo HA-1 which was similar price (this is 2 to 3 years ago). Alas, the optical encoder has gone bad on that and I have been trying to fix it for him. And even when it was working, it would not track well at low levels. It performed well for him otherwise.
    GrussGott likes this.
  12. GrussGott
    So attempting to stay on topic and being a fan ...

    (a.) clearly there's disagreement on why a 'good' USB cable "sounds better" and some might say it doesn't or can't
    (b.) some might also say that if the DAC is well designed, then the cable is mostly irrelevant (and if not, the "better sound" might be due to lack of DAC performance consistency)
    (c.) Thus some may conclude that best way to have a good USB cable is to have a good DAC (i.e., well designed)

    So if we picked 4 price points of DACs which will give you good USB cable performance, how would you fill in the blanks?

    $50-$300 - ?
    $300- $500 - ?
    $500-$750 - ?
    $750-$1000 - ?

    And finally, if we were going to be sciency about it (assuming my a,b,c is agreed to), then we'd test various USB cables going into those DACs versus a "poorly designed" one and show that the output of the well designed DACs equalizes the USB cable performance.

    Or else I'm not understand anything you're saying. Which is the more probable answer. But I'm taking a shot.
  13. bigshot
    SKOLL! The Sound Science drinking game says every time we get an "even my wife can hear it" story we have to drink a beer!

    I have an HA-1 and Oppo PM-1s. I compared the output of an AIFF file playing on my iMac through normal headphone out to the output of the same file through the HA-1 and couldn't hear any difference. I was going to use the HA-1 with my iMac, but there isn't much point. I'm trying to think of a use for the HA-1, but it just sits on my bedstand unused right now.
  14. amirm
    I have tested 10 to 15 DACs so far. I will need to test a lot more to fill that table properly. So ask me again in about a year :)

    Lots of my focus has been in lowest cost category. There ($50 to $300) my clear pick is the Topping D30. At $130 it does a lot of things right. The company also is one of the few that measures its gear just like I do so no surprise that they release it when it performs.
  15. amirm
    I have done one pass of such tests (see https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/do-usb-audio-cables-make-a-difference.1887/), and the conclusion there was that the type of cable did not matter. What mattered (slightly) was the length of USB cable. If you want to do better there, just use as short of the cable as you can. For my testing now I try to use a 1 foot cable when I can for that reason. Mind you, it is not an audible consideration but it is one of those "might as well" things. :)

    I am happy to re-run this test at a future date but need more audiophile USB cable samples. I have had two on loan (one that is returned now) and so the sample size is too small.

    Alternatively if the cables don't cost an arm and a leg, I can buy more of them to test. But I really rather put the funds towards more real products like DACs and such than more cable testing.
    GrussGott likes this.
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