USB cable Quality v Price

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by mikept, Oct 12, 2019 at 8:52 AM.

  1. mikept

    mikept Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston
    Hi everybody

    First off, having being a communications engineer for more than 20 years, I know that it is impossible for a USB cable to 'change' or 'improve' a digitized audio file being sent over it.

    Therefore the only difference in USB cables can be quality. So my question is ..... at what point does cost outstrip quality.

    Obviously the likes of Audioquest and Curious are completely out of the question as a $1000 cable can not possibly be worth $980 more than a $20 cable. Most of the cables I use are indeed around the $20 mark and none of them have failed yet; in fact a 12 year old printer cable is attaching my one of my servers to a sound system (it sounds great)

    Please please please do not reply if you think there is a difference in sound between USB cables; there isn't.

    I am just interested in knowing at what point does quality improvement become so minimal that it is not worth it.
     
    classicrocker likes this.
  2. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    I had a couple of older cables, probably around 3 years old at the time I got my Rega DACr, that I probably paid around 9 or 10 dollars. One actually did suck, sounded crappy with little glitches and sometimes it would take a long time for JRiver running on my Surface Pro 3 to detect my DACr. Replaced it with a 10 foot long cable I had been using with my printer that was in pretty good shape and everything was perfect. Then I had the chance to get a Wireworld Ultraviolet cable for 20 bucks. I didn’t want the 10 feet of USB cable cluttering up my entertainment console so I bought it and replaced the longer cable. Worked perfect and was a nice looking purple color so I definitely enjoyed it more. Did the sound change? Not one bit. I figure around 20 bucks for a decent USB cable isn’t a bad deal and at that price you get a pretty decently constructed cable that’s not gonna drop any packets or add anything that causes anything to be dropped.
     
    Ivand likes this.
  3. wolfyboy3

    wolfyboy3 Active Member

    probably that point is right where you think it is.
     
    Glmoneydawg likes this.
  4. Glmoneydawg

    Glmoneydawg Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ontario Canada
    Thats the beauty of digital.....it's either broke or its perfect....no in between.
     
    classicrocker likes this.
  5. sjsanford

    sjsanford Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I suppose it’s a question of how you define quality, which could be subjective in this case.

    I also have Wireworld Ultraviolet, as another member mentioned, and the build quality seems quite good and it does look nice.

    But if you’ve been using cables that work for you, can’t you just keep using them? Not totally sure what you’re exactly asking for with your question.
     
  6. mikept

    mikept Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston
    Hey thanks for the replies

    I was originally wondering how much extra somebody would pay for a cable that might last a little longer.

    Having looked at the Ultraviolets - they do look very nice. So it may just be a case of aesthetics rather than function. (even though their manufacturers claim that they enhance audio !)

    I may follow your lead (sorry, no pun intended) and get some Ultraviolets if I can get some at a reasonable price. I was almost put off by What Hi-FI review stating "the sound the Wireworld makes is leagues ahead. The gains in low-end body and punch, midrange spaciousness and detail, and high-end smoothness alone are significant" (mental note never to take advice from What Hi-Fi)

    Again,thanks for the replies
     
  7. manxman

    manxman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Isle of Man
    When I installed my Auralic Aries, I asked my IT people about USB cables. They said that expensive "audiophile" USB cables were clearly nonsensical, given the very basic nature of a USB cable, and recommended what they thought was the best USB cable on the market. It came from Currys (UK big-box retailer equivalent to something like Best Buy in the States) and cost, if I remember correctly, £6.99.
     
  8. Big Jack Brass

    Big Jack Brass Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Leeds
    There's a general principle that the not-quite-cheapest version of something offers the best value. It doesn't always hold up, naturally, but it often makes a good starting point.

    Clearly the very cheapest cables are making serious compromises somewhere along the line. Inferior materials, dubious manufacturing practices, underpaid workers etc, they are making their savings at one or more points in the chain. The stupidly expensive cables are such magical outliers that I don't think they can even be considered, but there are quite expensive brand name models charging a premium for no clear benefit; I suppose the glossy advertising has to be paid for somehow.

    Then there are the generally solid cheapish options, which in the case of USB cables seem to fall in at around two to three times the price of the very cheapest. Those are the ones I tend to go for.
     
  9. Neil S. Cohen

    Neil S. Cohen You Enjoy Myself

    Location:
    Valley Stream, NY
    I’ve tried a bunch of cables in the under $200 bracket because I agree with your original premise that, at some point, there’s nothing more to be gained. My two favorites, by a lot, were the super reasonably priced Belkin printer cable (I tried both gold series ($12.99 on eBay) and regular (already connected to my printer) and found them to be virtually identical), and MIT StyleLink plus ($75 NOS on eBay). These discontinued but still available usb cables were the only ones that allowed the bottom end to develop and be delivered with appropriate impact. Others I tried from Straightwire/Schiit, Aucharm, Acoustic BBQ (I really, really wanted these to be the ones, but...) did not deliver the warmth I crave.

    All of that being said, I would be remiss if I did not note that the cables I preferred were all 2.0 meters in length, while the ones I dismissed were all 1 meter or shorter. I know I read somewhere that length matters in usb cables, although I’d be hard-pressed to explain why shorter isn’t necessarily better. In any event, I have to acknowledge the empirical possibility that the length of the cable was a factor in the differences I heard.
     
  10. The USB2 spec is 5m maximum length.
     
    Neil S. Cohen likes this.
  11. Neil S. Cohen

    Neil S. Cohen You Enjoy Myself

    Location:
    Valley Stream, NY
    Yes, but I was speculating about the shorter cables perhaps being an issue. I recall reading that for some reason 1.5 meters was the ideal length for usb. I have no idea what the justification is or even could be for that position, and maybe it’s hogwash - I just remember having read it and noted that the cables I preferred were both 2m, while the others were all 1m or less. Perhaps someone could shed some light (not heat, just light please)?
     
  12. 1.5m is the optimum minimum length for a S/PDIF coaxial cable. Something to with signal reflections at the terminated ends causing jitter.
    I haven't seen anything about it being so for USB 2.0 cables.
     
    wwaldmanfan likes this.
  13. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    I am neither a believer nor am I a denyer when it comes to USB cable impacting audio performance. I am pretty skeptical about the claims of expensive cables, but since I have never auditioned any expensive USB cables inside of my system, my ears have not weighed-in on this matter yet.

    To my mind, if there is any difference between USB cable performance, it would most likely be due to factors such as having a really even and correct characteristic impedance as well as good shielding. Unfortunately I know of no inexpensive USB cables which even bother to specify their impedance, and very, very few expensive ones which pay attention to this critical detail either.
     

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