Thursday, April 18, 2013

USB Cable Comparison Part III

Synergistic Research Active USB vs. Fully Tweaked Wireworld 

This session pitted a stock Synergistic Research USB Active SE against the fully tweaked Wireworld Platinum Reference. This was probably the most economically fair comparison, as both cables push the $600 barrier for a one meter length. The Synergistic USB Active SE incorporates their quantum tunneling process, as well as their active shielding. Synergistic cables are typically very quiet, very holographic, and with a warm, rich tonal quality.

The Wireworld Platinum Starlight employs Wireworld's patent-pending DNA Helix conductor design, which uses six (solid silver) signal conductors – twice as many as other USB cables -- arranged in an innovative symmetrical geometry that provides precisely balanced 90-ohm impedance that far exceeds the official USB specification. They also keep the power separate from the signal.  Wireworld typically is very resolving and neutral to cool in their presentation. The Platinum series is very dynamic and lively, with a large, holographic soundstage. The Absolute Sound gave the Platinum Starlight USB a Golden Ear Award.

Both cables offered excellent, holographic soundstaging, a low noise floor, and good frequency extension on both ends. These are two very good audiophile USB cables. The most noticeable difference between the two was in the handling of the upper frequencies. The Synergistic USB Active SE was oh-so slightly more forgiving. It illuminates the subject with a soft glow. Warm, rich and musical. Think candle light. I found it more forgiving of poor source material as well.

The fully tweaked Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB with added Stillpoints ERS and the WA quantum cable chip was slightly more transparent, with a bit more air and high frequency extension. It digs a little deeper, is better at mining the low level detail. Transient attack is sharper, quicker, giving the music a dynamic liveliness. The downside is it isn't as forgiving. The subject is well lit under the spotlight, warts and all.

The tweaked out Wireworld was the winner here. But be prepared, it will reveal shortcomings in your music and any upstream components.

Up Next: We wrap the Synergistic USB SE with Stilpoints ERS and add the WA Quantum Cable chip to level the playing field against the fully tweaked out Platinum Starlight USB.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

USB Cable Comparison Part II

This is a continuation of USB Cable Comparison Part 1

For this comparison, I used the same model cable, The Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, but added Stillpoints ERS Tape to the cable, as well as a WA Quantum cable chip.
Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB
The Wireworld is a reference class USB Cable. It uses six (solid silver) signal conductors – twice as many as other USB cables -- arranged in an innovative symmetrical geometry that provides precisely balanced 90-ohm impedance that far exceeds the official USB specification.  The DNA Helix design maximizes transmission speed while minimizing noise, thus reducing digital jitter to provide substantial overall improvements in sound quality. Another special feature of the cables is a power conductor that is fully isolated from the signal conductors to preserve Signal integrity.
WA Quantum Cable Chips

1. ERS'd Cable with and without the Cable Chip - I was already very familiar with the sound of the ERS'd Platinum Starlight cable, I started the session listening to it for about an hour before applying the WA Quantum Cable Chip.  I did not have to stop the music in order to wrap the chip (what looks like a piece of audio tape centered inside a foil sticker) around the carbon fiber connector at the end of the cable's signal transmission point. The result did not reveal itself right away. It took a good 30 minutes for me to realize that the track I was listening to had more low level detail than I had heard ever before. Crazy low level, beyond what my beloved Bybee Quantum Purifiers revealed within music. Now I did have the system plugged in to my Bybee Stealth AC conditioner, so perhaps the net effect was a synergy between the two. The music also sounded less "digital" if that makes sense. There was more of an organic flow to the sound.  The super-tweaked out Platinum Starlight, which was by itself one of the best USB cables available, was turned into a formidable cable indeed for about $100 more.

2. Fully tweaked Platinum Starlight USB vs. stock Platinum Starlight - The next session started out with the stock Platinum Starlight. I had this cable in my system for several days , so it was fully acclimated (as were my ears) to the sound of the cable.  I sat and listened to the stock cable for about an hour, stopped playback, and inserted the super tweaked out cable and restarted the song that was just playing. My first impression was the soundstage immediately "decompressed" and expanded. the sound was more 3 dimensional, expanding beyond, in front, and to the rear of the speakers. Inner detail was much easier to hear. The Super tweaked cable also revealed a sort of grainy harshness that was present in the stock version (or it may have simply been passing along that harshness from elsewhere in the system). Music was significantly more "musical" and less fatiguing. There was no going back to the stock version after this. But, for the sake of sanity, I did have to put it back into the system. Sure enough, the soundstage flattened, and the "digititis" returned. Gone was the magical inner detail, air and space. Back was the fatigue that had me reaching for the volume knob.

Conclusion: For about $100 you can take the already excellent Platinum Starlight USB cable and turn it into one of the best audiophile USB cables out there. The other plus is, if you already have a favorite USB cable, you can apply the Stillpoints ERS and WA Quantum cable chip to your existing cable, and get more of your music, while still remaining musical.

Part III: Super Platinum Starlight vs. Synergistic Research USB Active SE Cable