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Audioquest Pearl USB Cable Review

Rate this audio cable

  • 1. Waste of money (piggy bank panther)

    Votes: 214 81.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 32 12.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 11 4.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 5 1.9%

  • Total voters
    262

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the AudioQuest 1.5 meter micro USB cable. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $41 on Amazon.
Chord Hugo 2 Audioquest Pearl USB Cable Review Low Jitter.jpg


Marking on the cable says that it is "low jitter." The cable is a bit thinner than the generic USB cable I compared it to. The cable feel is a bit nicer though.

Major advertising is about reduction of distortion and improvement in clarity (noise?):
Audioquest Pearl USB Cable Advertising.png


Audioquest Pearl Review
Micro USB is not a common connector these days. Fortunately I still had the Chord Hugo 2 on hand which I had recently reviewed which uses the same connector for data and charge. Let's test it with generic USB cable first:
Chord Hugo 2 Generic USB Cable Measurements.png


Now with AQ Pearl:
Chord Hugo 2 Audioquest Pearl USB Cable Measurements.png


Other than very tiny run to run variations, performance is identical as far as noise, distortion, output voltage and frequency.

I broadened the measurement bandwidth to 1 Mhz (25X audible band) and ran a spectrum analysis with both cables:
Chord Hugo 2 FFT Spectrum Audioquest Pearl USB Cable Measurements.png


The analyzer is able to detect all manner of artifacts, noise spectrum, etc. Yet the two cables show identical results.

Company's claim of lower jitter doesn't translate into the same as far as DAC output is concerned:

Chord Hugo 2 Audioquest Pearl USB Cable jitter Measurements.png


Again the analyzer is sensitive enough to detect tiny jitter components at -145 dB (30 dB lower than threshold of hearing). The result is the same with both cables.

Let's run a 32-tone to test "music like" signals:
Chord Hugo 2 Audioquest Pearl USB Cable Multitone Measurements.png


The two land right on top of each other down to smallest detail.

We could run more tests but it is clear that there is no objective difference in the sound signal coming out of Chord Hugo 2 DAC.

Audioquest Pearl Listening Test
I plugged my Dan Clark Stealth Headphone into the Hugo 2 DAC and started to listen. The Stealth is a sealed back headphone with the lowest distortion I have measured in a headphone. So if there is a difference, this is the most ideal way to hear it.

I queued up a track with lots of ambiance and delicate sounds and started to play with AudioQuest USB Cable. The sound was as wonderful as I remembered it. I then switched to Generic cable and instantly the sound was louder and there was better clarity all around! This effect quickly faded though in a few seconds indicating typical faulty sighted listening test effect. From then on, I could not detect any difference between the two cables.

Conclusions
I know many of us consider these results "as expected" but it is always good to verify how time after time, very accurate measurements show no difference between generic/cheap and premium cables. That premium is not a lot in the case of AudioQuest Pearl USB cable. So if you want to get it, there is no major harm done. Just don't expect any audible improvements from it.

I can't recommend the Audioquest Pearl Cable if you are buying it for audio performance.

P.S., for those of you who have not seen this, here is a recent video I did on USB connection for audio transmission. I explain there why things like "jitter" on USB are immaterial to performance of audio devices:


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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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amirm

amirm

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Why bother
Half of our traffic comes from Google search. Folks are looking for review/information before they buy. They are not regular readers of the forum to know that these products are not effective. Without my review, all they will read is some random opinion.
 

Cars-N-Cans

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Ah, the mythical oxygen free copper. Great for use in things like ultra-high vacuum processing equipment and spot welders for small precision components. Also great for audio because you can add lots of fancy acronyms and letters in front of what would otherwise just be cheap PVC jacketed wire from China. Guaranteed to increase profit margins 1000%. Edit: Looks like they have decided to also up their game with LGC, whatever the hell that is.
 
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Koeitje

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Half of our traffic comes from Google search. Folks are looking for review/information before they buy. They are not regular readers of the forum to know that these products are not effective. Without my review, all they will read is some random opinion.
You also are creating a database of these reviews. If you only test 1 or 2 cables then people will go like "but you haven't tested this one" or "you only tested two cables, others do work". So by doing multiple reviews you paint a much clearer picture of what is really going on. Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern.
 
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delta76

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Why bother
this review is not meant for us (although it can be of entertainment value), as I'd say most of us will refrain from purchasing anything from AudioQuest, Nordost etc. it is meant for people who can be persuaded away from audiophile craps.
Or, in my wildest dream, perhaps one or two die hard cable believers can change their mind as well. and that'd make the world a better place
 

Lukino

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Everything is slowly moving to digital in order to secure income from cabling... USB, HDMI, etc... Some people see better colors on TV
when they change the cable.... They hear sharper 3D....with USB.... For income to flourish, let it be in this spirit....Of course a lie...
Good thing that the pearl turned out no worse than a generic cable.
Thanks for these and similar reviews Amir.:)
 
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Anthony T

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this review is not meant for us (although it can be of entertainment value), as I'd say most of us will refrain from purchasing anything from AudioQuest, Nordost etc. it is meant for people who can be persuaded away from audiophile craps.
Or, in my wildest dream, perhaps one or two die hard cable believers can change their mind as well. and that'd make the world a better place
Nah, let ‘em waste their money. You‘ll be telling kids Santa’s not real next:eek:
 

Mnyb

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Absolutely misleading... some clear false claims there. Thanks for testing.

I voted piggybank panther... but @whovotedgreat who are you? :p

View attachment 223739


JSmith
Not me, I'm asking the same ? some cynical b*stard :) it does work perfect if one just change perspective and assumes this cables primary function is to fleece the unsuspecting of their money . It is a bit cheap for a snake oil cable , but they will sell more of them ? wonder where the optimal price is for this kind of scam ? To expensive and you have 10 customers or to cheap and it's obviously not high end enough ? :D
 

Ken Tajalli

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I had one of these. I did not buy it as such, it came with a used device I got on eBay .
it worked! it even managed to put my Hugo2 into fast charge mode, meaning it was low impedance .
did it have any effects on sound, No. I didn't even look for such things. but it was well made, with gold plated contacts.
Of course I sold it back on eBay for £25, because I make my own DIY cables.
So I don't know why it has been voted as terrible!
it is an overpriced cable, but it is a decent cable.
compared to the Groundaray , this is actually a wonderful , value for money product.
 

delta76

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Nah, let ‘em waste their money. You‘ll be telling kids Santa’s not real next:eek:
If they keep it to themselves, yes they can spend their money however they want. But, they create/fortify the echo chamber that "you need this cable to make your speakers sing", and many beginners to Hifi will just trust them blindly (everyone says it, it must be true).
 

JSmith

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It is a bit cheap for a snake oil cable
True... but they have a strategy of making one feel inadequate at buying their cheapest cable.

So we go from Pearl to more interesting names like Forest (peaceful), Cinnamon (flavour), Carbon (solid), Coffee (hyper performance), Diamond (solid plus expensive, premium) etc.

They want the customer to buy the top of the line cables... or make them feel in future an "upgrade" is required.


JSmith
 

GXAlan

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this review is not meant for us (although it can be of entertainment value), as I'd say most of us will refrain from purchasing anything from AudioQuest, Nordost etc. it is meant for people who can be persuaded away from audiophile craps.
Or, in my wildest dream, perhaps one or two die hard cable believers can change their mind as well. and that'd make the world a better place

Here’s some fun reading… (sigh).

—-
I have personally identified four instances where cables objectively made a difference and the effects can be video’d using an iPhone.

The first was when I tried “flat silver coated” ribbon cable as an interconnect that I got off eBay. Since these were unshielded, they picked up an RF hum that would be absent once I switched to shielded RCA cables (of any brand).

The second is my McIntosh MX113 tuner/preamp which still uses lamp cord for the AC power. Throwing a ferrite choke over the AC cord removed the RF noise. That was just a few bucks on Amazon. Using a ferrite choke also helped with one of the early Sony noise cancelling headphones I got from Costco.

I have visual line of sight to Sutro Tower which broadcasts Ten television stations, three FM radio stations, and 20 wireless and mobile communications users (i.e. law enforcement agencies, taxi cabs, school buses, wireless internet, etc.)

Third, my digital piano has balanced outputs. It doesn’t get moved around much. One day I did move the piano to another room and one of the Monoprice cables developed a discontinuity. It was the same problem as…

…Fourth, the cable on my iPhone charging cable frayed. :)

1) @amirm, what sort of testing can you do with ferrite chokes around cables? Is that only relevant in areas with very high RF exposure?

2) the absolute worst cables might not have the durability of better cables. It depends if you are going to be frequently unplugging and replugging (iPhone charging cable) or not

3) Nelson Pass, who is a mix of objectivist and subjectivist uses Radio Shack cable himself.
 

MarcosCh

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Cables....
However I read in the forum often people discussing about the possibility (or not) of transmission of 192khz/24bit music over toslink, for instance in the wiim mini thread. Some people claim it depends on the quality of the cable. Would it be worth testing a few of those in order to see what is going on there and have a sort of buying guide?
 
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Mnyb

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There would be nice to test some very well made basic and cheap cables and name the "generic" cable to prove that does it well enough .

These could then be recommended . But then we may have to test that the cable fulfils the specifications for that kind of cable (for usb hdmi and coaxial there are specs ).
I suspects many DAC's works fine even with the proverbial coat hanger as a cable . But i want my 10$ cable on spec anyway , basic design hygiene .

There are more ways to be wrong than right ? There will always be the next snake oil cable claiming some absurd improvement .

Some really cheap stuff may not be at spec at all, due to being to cheap ? some expensive stuff are deliberately not on spec ,because some absurd theory ( did not kimber make some spdiff cables deliberately not 75 ohm , because "reasons" )
 

restorer-john

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Nelson Pass, who is a mix of objectivist and subjectivist uses Radio Shack cable himself

I vaguely remember Nelson mentioning on some website he had a bunch of Radio Shack gold plated cables he'd had for years. They are likely the low capacitance ones we used to sell back in the late 80s/90s. They were actually a really high grade cable and demonstrably lower capacitance and resistance than generic cables. I still have a pile of them someplace. IIRC, they were 1 or 1.5m in length.
 
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