Sunday, October 6, 2013

USB Cable Comparison: Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB and Prana Wire Photon USB

Joe Cohen of the Lotus Group called me on Monday. "Mike I am very excited to get a new USB cable in your hands, do you have time to give it a listen?". While not exhibiting at the 2013 RMAF, I was plenty busy recieving packages and loaning equipment to others who were. My system was not it's normal self, but hey, I never turn down an opportunity to listen to something new. "Sure, I will make time." I said, and on Thursday I received a .6 meter Prana Wire Photon USB cable.

I had also been breaking in some cables from Onda Cables of Canada (another post for another day) at the time, and they had been in the system 72 hours and were starting to settle in nicely. I was growing very familiar with their sound in my system.
The Prana Wire Photon in action. Not a small cable...

I put the Photon in the system between my PC and DAC and paid it no attention for 48 hours. I had a few hours on Sunday set aside for listening, so I selected a wide variety of tracks and also a wide variety of bit depths from 16/44 to DSD master files. The Onda Rapture Power cords, speaker cables and interconnects were giving me huge amounts of inner detail already, I had let my ears settle in to the Photon's sonic attributes, and it was time to put in the former reigning champ, the fully tweeked out Platinum Reference USB cable. This wasn't a totally fair comparison price wise, as the Prana Wire is $995 for .5 meter and the Wireworld $499. But the Wireworld was my current reference, and would make for the best comparison.

Tonally the Wireworld was neutral, with the performers and instruments mostly forward of the loudspeakers. There was excellent extension top to bottom and a nice sense of depth, height and width. the most striking thing I noticed between the Photon and the Platinum reference was the sense of compression that was occurring in the Platinum reference during complex musical passages. I had never noticed any such thing before, but after listening to the Prana Wire prior, it was now apparent that there was some compression occurring in the Wireworld cable.  I continued to listen through the list of tracks in my playlist, then went back to the Photon cable. With the Prana Wire Photon in place, the separation of instruments was greater, as were the dynamics, and this was especially evident in complex passages. My observation was confirmed.  But I was in for another surprise...The Photon had quite a bit more inner detail as well. I was hearing subtle instrumentations, ambient cues, and sound effects that were just barely perceptible or inaudible with the Wireworld.  It also appeared that the Photon possessed a little more top end extension. Color me impressed. Most of the time more inner detail and air means an artificially heightened treble response. I wasn't getting that here. I was getting neutrality and musicality.

I was skeptical about a $995 USB cable. I honestly did not think you could get much more information and better sonics than the Wireworld. The Wireworld is an excellent cable, built to very tight tolerances, and represents a very good value to someone who has $2500 + wrapped up in a USB DAC. The Prana Wire does give you more. More inner resolution, more separation of instruments, more dynamics, more bass definition and more air. It does so at a price, but to my ears, it is worth the investment in my enjoyment of music. Well done Prana Wire, I have a new reference.