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Craig, John and/or Phil, do USB cable really make a difference in audio conversion?

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  • Craig, John and/or Phil, do USB cable really make a difference in audio conversion?

    Hi Everyone and the HC guys,

    Can you help me understand the truth, if any, to the following review at http://www.audiostream.com/content/usb-cable-shootout

    ??

    Afterall, isn't it just digital info passing through the cable?  It all depends on the converters, right?  Do I understand that correctly or do I have to rethink that audio production is just a jump into the sea of rediculousness?

    Thanks in advance.

     

    Living Room Rocker

     

    P.S.  Someone through me a life preserver.


  • #2

    I'm wary of subjective opinions that don't involve any kind of A-B or blind testing. If the guy got up and swapped out cables physically, then every time he sat back down he was hearing something different unless he was in a acoustically perfect room. Don't believe me? Play some sine waves through a speaker, and walk around. You'll hear plenty of peaks and cancellations.


    I'd bet that paying $700 for a set of headphones is going to give MUCH better sound on everything compared to spending $700 for a 1.5 meter cable.


    That said...there is a difference between cables designed for USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 in terms of the ability to handle higher data rates. I've used a USB 2.0 interface that came supplied with a 2.0 cable because they didn't want people to screw up firmware updates using some cheap cable. But really, any good cable should work for transferring digital data to a D/A converter.


    Bear in mind I DO think cables make a difference. If a guitar with passive pickups is going into a high-gain tube amp stage, then you'll definitely hear a difference. A low impedance synth output going into a mixer...not so much.

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    Comment


    • Living Room Rocker
      Living Room Rocker commented
      Editing a comment

      Thanks for the reality check, Craig.  I agree particularly with the difference between USB 2 and 1.x as well as audio cables purse, but I wouldn't think that investing an outrageous amount for a "digital" cable at a minimal size would be so wise.  Granted, quality made products should give better results but how much better do "better" USB cables make? (rhetorically asking)

      Kind regards,

       

      Living Room Rocker


    • blue2blue
      blue2blue commented
      Editing a comment

      There is no question that the impedance relationships between passive p/ups and early amp stages borders on voodoo -- it's why playing guitar with a bunch of active junk/FX in between takes so much of the fun and soulfulness out of playing guitar --  but, even there, cables of similar mass, composition, format, length and circumference with proper connectors properly attached do not perform signficantly differently.  


      There are a lot of places where performance between systems can vary greatly in the generally incredibly complex systems we use -- but out of all that complexity, the job of wire is very simple and the performance characteristics tend to vary directly and in predictable ways based on a few basic parameters of their construction and use.


      There are no magic wires.


       


      Now, there's no question that -- at the frequencies of digital signals like those in a USB cable -- we are asking our cables to perform at the outer edges of their capability. That's why the construction of USB cables is so carefully bracketed by conservative specifications. Are bad USB cables made? Probably. People make phony Rolex's that don't even keep time.


      But honest, reliable manufacturers make such cables in honest, reliable manners. If they are used in the expected ways -- and they are not damaged (a far more common cause of defective cables in the studio/work environment)  they can be expected to perform in an adequate and reliable manner -- because such digital gear is designed to accommodate a certain range of performance variation.


      Now, going a bit farther -- poor quality USB cables are highly unlikely to result in 'bad sound' like a poorly chosen analog audio cable might (as in the case of guitar cables or using a balanced cable made for mic use to run between a PA amp and speakers instead of a proper balanced speaker cable -- or  running too narrow a gauge wire to a speaker over a long distance).


      That's not just because of the performance headroom built into the digital system, but because errors in the digital realm generally manifest as glitches and incoherent noisenot some change in timbre or a rolling off of this or a 'collapse of the stereo image' or any of the other fabulist nonsense one reads in audiophile marketing tracts. That stuff is written for people who have more money than sense and really, really want to believe.



      And there are a lot of people more than willing to sell those poor 'phools everything from 'magical' digital clocks (I mean the sit-on-the-mantle-in-the-living-room kind, not the master sync source kind) to bags of magical rocks. And, uh, everything in between.  grin 

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  • #3

    Living Room Rocker wrote:.....http://www.audiostream.com/content/usb-cable-shootout.........

     

    Living Room Rocker

     

    P.S.  Someone through throw me a life preserver.


    The Platinum Starlight is the

    <div class="signaturecontainer">Still Kickin' cancer's ass....<br><br><a target="_blank" href="http://www.bwsvw.org">Blue Water Sailors of the Vietnam War</a><br><br>HCGB Trooper #246<br><br>Psalm 19 Society<br><br><div class="bbcode_quote"><br><div class="quote_container"><br><div class="bbcode_quote_container"></div><br><br>I can't really imagine experiencing the desire for multiple women; one has proven to be taxing enough as it is.<br><br></div><br></div><br></div>Thanks Offy

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    • #4

      Living Room Rocker wrote:

      Hi Everyone and the HC guys,

      Can you help me understand the truth, if any, to the following review at http://www.audiostream.com/content/usb-cable-shootout

      ??

      Afterall, isn't it just digital info passing through the cable?  It all depends on the converters, right?  Do I understand that correctly or do I have to rethink that audio production is just a jump into the sea of rediculousness?

      Thanks in advance.

       

      Living Room Rocker

       

      P.S.  Someone through me a life preserver.


      The link is too funny!  There are real problems with USB connected audio devices, but trying to fix it with a pricey "Audiophile" cable ain't gonna work!  You can get bad cables, but great cables are standard and can be had for a song... and some change.

      I'm pretty sure the people that spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on audio and data cables are going to the same place when they die that people go who buy diamond-studded collars for their pets are going... to Hell.

      "Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground."
      ~John Lennon

      Comment


      • #5

        Well I guess we could all agree that nothing is perfect.

        But it would seem to me that in general, since the USB cables are transporting data and not audio, there would not be any sonic difference until you reach the point at which the receiving end can no longer read the data without errors.  I suspect that this may vary depending on the hardware and it's design.  There may also be some error correction artifacts that could be produced that could be audible once you exceed this.

         

        But if you don't exceed distances or data rates I wouldnt expect any issues.  That said I suppose if you can hear the difference and afford these cables then you should buy some.

         

        Don Boomer

        Comment


        • Anderton
          Anderton commented
          Editing a comment

          dboomer wrote:

          Well I guess we could all agree that nothing is perfect.


          But it would seem to me that in general, since the USB cables are transporting data and not audio, there would not be any sonic difference until you reach the point at which the receiving end can no longer read the data without errors.  I suspect that this may vary depending on the hardware and it's design.  There may also be some error correction artifacts that could be produced that could be audible once you exceed this.




          Don, as someone who has done so much good work to eliminate cables entirely, I don't think you're qualified to answer this question

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