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Do USB Audio Cables Make A Difference?

Krunok

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The thing discussed here is the USB packet error caused by bad components, either bad cable or bad USB interface design.
Yes, that's what we are discussing here. I can't say I have tried to connect many different DACs with USB but I still believe USB packet errors happen in rare cases as most of the interfaces and cables are working fine. Maybe @amirm can share his experience as he has definitely tried many of them.. :)
 

amirm

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Yes, that's what we are discussing here. I can't say I have tried to connect many different DACs with USB but I still believe USB packet errors happen in rare cases as most of the interfaces and cables are working fine. Maybe @amirm can share his experience as he has definitely tried many of them.. :)
Packet or data error of any kind is exceptionally rare across wide range of cables and DACs I have tested. It is a total non-issue and when it is, as I showed, the audible effects are very clear. It is *never* a fidelity issue.

BTW, if you want wonderful USB cables at bargain price, I highly recommend the AmazonBasic one: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NH11KIK/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

1543036740691.png

It costs only $5 in US with shipping. It has a great quality feel with rather flexible cable. It is my favorite and well above the free one you get included in DAC and equipment boxes.

Sadly, the USB-C version is completely different and disappointing in feel. So don't get that one.
 

bennetng

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8khz noise is irrelevant to this topic. 8khz is the frequency for each packet transferred. The thing discussed here is the USB packet error caused by bad components, either bad cable or bad USB interface design.
That means data error is not the only factor to affect analog output. The first few pages of this thread are not also talking about data integrity as well.
 

Krunok

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That means data error is not the only factor to affect analog output. The first few pages of this thread are not also talking about data integrity as well.
I don't really remember seeing 8kHz or its harmonics in the analog output of any of @amirm measurements.
 

DonH56

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I've been busy so maybe haven't been addressing/following what @Krunok is talking about...

A bad cable (or whatever) can cause dropouts or bit errors leading to "staticy" sound. That can be caused by improper termination or other impedance mismatches. In these days of mass-produced cables and bazillions of USB devices that is a rare occurrence. How rare? I don't know, I've seen a few over the years, but usually it just works. OS drivers are IME much more an issue than a bad cable.

In the past I have used, and dealt with others who have used, the wrong cable (not rated for the bandwidth/data rate) or cables too long, and seen (measured, heard) the effect of lost bits. I do not own a standalone DAC outside a small recording rig so cannot say how prevalent that problem is these days. We run into it at work with some customers and some of our own test systems but USB is not "my" interface so I am not really involved except for troubleshooting now and then when they need an analog guy. So my experience may be skewed negatively.

Probably the biggest problem I've seen with USB cables really has nothing to do with the cable, it is the poor isolation from power/ground noise some DACs (and other devices) have. A cable might influence that depending upon how it is built and what sort of shielding and filtering it has.

If the bits received match the bits sent then the cable does not matter. Other than the issues above I cannot imagine how a USB cable would affect the sound. Reviews describing cables having certain sound like "warm" or "harsh" are specious in my opinion.

My objection was to the blanket statement that for audio over USB (or any high-speed digital link) impedance discontinuities do not matter. Maybe that was not the point? The audio information is contained in packets that stream across the link at high rates, well above audio, and severe discontinuities can cause all sorts of problems in data transmission.

Peace - Don
 
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graz_lag

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Read what this Mr. Scott Berry says abt. his latest development : the CAD USB II : (this cable is sold @ 600 EUR on 1 meter o_O)
http://www.computeraudiodesign.com/cad-usb-cables/

Particularly : "One rectangular section for reducing high frequency vibration within the cable ... You may ask why would vibration matter? The USB interface inside your DAC has two high frequency oscillators running in the MHz range. These are made from a crystal material that is tuned to vibrate at an extremely accurate frequency when a voltage is applied. So, if you connect a USB cable that is vibrating (even very small amounts) this will have an effect on the oscillators on the USB interface inside your DAC. One of the ideas of the USB II cable is to try to minimize that." :facepalm:

Read now this abt. the Chord Sarum USB, which is sold @ 1,000 EUR on 1 meter o_Oo_O :
"The Sarum USB is a very thick and somewhat inflexible cable whose price will undoubtedly (and understandably) polarise some peoples opinions before they’ve even auditioned it.
As befits its price it is a very refined performer, at first it appears a little darker sounding that some of the other cables here, and appears to lack the immediacy heard with cables like the Nordost Blue Heaven (or the Chord Silverplus), but the longer you listen the more you realise it is resolving a lot of extra information as well as demonstrating a wonderfully textured midband. There’s a pleasing reduction in hash and grain too, and these aspects add up to bode very well for extended listening when other cables could become tiring in comparison. The scale of soundstage is also very impressive, with instruments easier to place in all three dimensions." :facepalm::facepalm:


Read now here : https://hifipig.com/chord-sarum-tuned-array-usb/
how the above said Chord Sarum USB has finally solved the main issue this gentleman (Dan Worth) have had with other high-end USB cables :
"I have used virtually every major high-end USB cable on the market and although I have been incredibly impressed with many, I still had one major issue and that was the centre focus ..." :facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:

However, all these magic qualities are still not enough, if you want to get the very best from your $1,000 USB cable what you need now is the Proburn, the cable burn-in device, for another miserable budget of $1,000 o_Oo_Oo_O : http://www.bluehorizonideas.com/products/system-enhancing-accessories/proburn/ :facepalm::facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:
 

DonH56

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Microphonics and the effects of vibration on cables are real. But generally very tiny. They are a problem with 120+ dB dynamic range radar systems operating in the 40 to 100+ GHz range and attached to things like jets, missiles/rockets, and space shuttles. It does not seem to be a problem transmitting 12 Gb/s SAS signals over 6 m or more of cable plus various other interfaces in an enterprise-level computer server with screaming fans vibrating enough to make it hard to hold your hand on it for long. Seems like another case of something that is "real" but totally inapplicable to this application. But I've already said USB is not something I know a lot about... :rolleyes:

Ethics and morals are terrible things to have; I could get rich off the lack of knowledge and gullibility of most audiophiles.
 
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trl

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Have to disagree, nothing to do with audiophile company or not. Any serious cable company should publish technical info/specs and preferably certify their products.
And such certifications cost some money, hence the higher price for certified products, no matter it's USB cables or stereo amplifiers...etc. :(
 

Wombat

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PierreV

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I've solved my USB cable questions long ago. One obviously needs a cable suited to the music you are listening to.

A neutral cable with a flat response is used as reference.
For chamber music, where deeper darker silences alternate with violins, one needs a dark and classy cable.
When I am in the mood for ultimate transparency, I've got the cable for that as well.
And the last one is, you guessed it, ideal for Blues and passable for jazz.


IMG_20181223_201612.jpg
 
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Wow glad I got myself a 15cm USB A-B cable made with proper data wire to spare. Just wanted to minimize the length of overall distance since my stupid Pro notebook features 4 USB-C ports so I have to use an extra dongle, adding length to the whole USB line, but I have always been too lazy to disconnect my current Topping cable haha.
Image 2.jpeg


PS. I could not use non-Apple USB-C male connector since that will jam my 2.4GHz connection. Non-Apple dongles also creates interference with my Wi-Fi on both 2016 and 2018 machines.. Hope my D10 USB DAC is not badly affected since I don't have a tool to measure and know for sure. It now seems not only some audiophile manufacturers make products with ****** engineering and are guilt-free.. Even a trillion dollar company does this lol.
https://apple.stackexchange.com/que...ing-wifi-on-2016-2017-macbooks-who-s-to-blame
 

Attachments

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Happy Christmas!

There's a running argument on compaudio about USB cables which has many people all upset and cross for Christmas LOL. I have and will leave them to it but it's sad on so many levels. It sums up exactly why the HiFi industry is in the mess it is: Instead of striving for better amplifiers, DACs, speakers or - err - music they are spending hundreds of $ chasing some pseudoscience and starting internet fights.
They also seem to be spending all their time listening to their USB cables, which is beyond sad.

It was bad enough with analog cables, but digital? The stupid goes soooooo deep.
I guess most have also have spent hundreds of $ on that final yard of mains flex to connect some shonky class B thing too, instead of the obvious move to Class A. There was even a small sub-topic fight about expensive audio fuses.... Jeez. However daft I think it can get it goes deeper.

MUCH deeper. people are even paying $thousands for mysterious black boxes and 8Hz resonators now:
https://highend-electronics.com/products/synergistic-research-black-box
https://highend-electronics.com/products/albat-cd-dac-tuning-chips
https://highend-electronics.com/products/acoustic-revive-rr-888

It seems all the money for Hifi which used to go into useful gear in the 1970s has been diverted into the huge 'Audio cables for idiots' market and as a result the remaining manufacturers of anything worthwhile eventually cave in and join the idiot market, following the sucker money.

This forum is a fresh breath of sanity in a mad world.

I suspect for headphone cables the resistance, inductance and capacitance will all affect the sound but not as much as the headphone amp or headphones. Silver is a tiny bit better at conducting than copper so for cables it makes no sense at all (i.e. just use slightly thicker copper), it only wins in transformers because you can make them smaller.

As for USB: Di Gi Tal. Ones and Zeros. Still the same even when transmitted by smoke signals.
If choice of USB cable really changes the sound then there is something wrong with the system (grounding or timing) and playing with the symptoms is about as useful as it sounds :D.

BTW my USB cable is still a 2" long gender changer (thanks to the tips on this thread!) and is working fine, sounding exactly the same as the old £2 cable in fact, but tidier. I have found different artists and songs change the sound quite a bit though....
My next upgrade may be a DAC but TBH I quite like the sound of my system so it's only a future thought.
 

trl

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OK, so you don't think couple of 150 USD stickers will improve soundstage, details and resolution, right? I got a sticker on my USB cable from my USB1.1 ODAC and now I can easily listen to DSD formats and 384KHz bitrates. Also, my Objective2 amplifier got 2 stickers on it and now I can drive speakers out of it. :)

Back to the subject...:) My sturdiest cable I got is the one from my PicoScope; it's really well built and...not so flexible, semi-transparent and double shielded too. Connecting it to any of my DAC's makes no difference in my measurements (ARTA, RMAA); not sure what on AudioPrecision equipment will do.

BTW, I've read somewhere (can't remember what forum) that the ferrite around the USB cables aren't really doing anything good to the Data+ and Data- digital USB data signals. Instead, this ferrite should only be used on the +5V USB power lines, eg.: V+ and V- wires only. However, as this ferrite should only be doing something above 1MHz, I'm not sure it really helps in audio field, at least not inside normal environment from our homes.
 

solderdude

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The ferrites are there so the equipment it comes with complies to EFC rules regarding radiated emission (and or conducted emission).
They should be closest to the device that emits the RF.
Radiated emission is where RF signals are transmitted via the air (cables acting as an antenna, like a walkie-talky, handy or other wireless device)
Conducted emission is where RF signals travel through cables (ground loops) opposite ground.
These (should) be measured when something is to be marketed and needs markings it applies to specific rules (CE or FCC or otherwise).
These devices thus need to have emission below certain threshold levels. Sometimes they do not pass tests just barely and the manufacturer either needs to add components or chooses to use (relatively expensive) ferrites to comply.
Components that filter RF are relatively expensive opposite 'normal' parts so designers/manufacturers like to use as little as possible so they just comply to the needed rules.

Ferrites only help against common mode signals. These signals travel across the data and power supply as well as the common wire and are present opposite PE (protective Earth). So they do something for the data lines as well but nothing for the differential mode signals in the cable itself.

Whether or not it 'helps' completely depends on the immunity of the receiver side. How the internal wiring/PCB layout is done and which circuit is used. When this is done 'properly' the ferrite will still reduce RF emitted by the source but the receiver does not mind and nothing of these common mode signals will enter the digital circuitry behind it and won't 'do' anything detrimental there.

So when looking at data signals nothing shows different. For this you need an actual filter which limits BW which USB receivers really don't like.

Ferrites work best when the cable is run through a ferrite about 3 to 4 times. You get more attenuation and down to lower frequencies.
 
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now i changed the generic usb cable of topping d50 with bendings every circa 0,3ft, with a cheap circa 1ft usb cable without bendings!!!!!!!

cable bendings can cause impedance mismatch and result in reflection.

the new cable sounds better in all aspects
 
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