Friday, March 22, 2013

USB Cable Comparison 1:

USB cable comparisons, and a tweek

Wireworld Platinum Starlight
Recently, I had my annual Tweek Geek open house. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate very well, dumping a large amount of snow the day of the event. Only the hardcore audiophiles with 4 wheel drive managed to show, but the smaller gathering afforded us the opportunity to do some USB cable comparisons, as well as test a a tweak that I had resurrected.

I have used the Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB cable as my reference standard for some time now, and was using it in the system we had set up. We were streaming some DSD master files (the original digital files used to make SACD’s) through the new Luxman DA-06 DAC. This was an extremely resolving and musical system, running through a Luxman M-600A Class A amplifier and the Vivid Audio G3 loudspeakers. One could hear small changes made to the system without having to strain. Luxman is manufacturing a USB cable to ship along with the new DAC, and Philip O’ Hanlon, the distributor for Luxman and Vivid, was curious as to how it might stack up against some other USB cables. Using the Platinum Starlight as the baseline, we inserted the Luxman USB Cable into the system for a listen. One thing is for sure, there is a significant difference between some USB cables. This was obvious. The Platinum starlight had far more resolution and was more neutral in it’s presentation. It went lower, and higher than the Luxman. The presentation was more forward than the Luxman as well. I thought the Luxman was a bit too recessed in it's presentation. I then reached in to my bag o’ tweeks and pulled out an old Belkin USB cable that I had wrapped in Stillpoints ERS Tape. Surprisingly this was a very good performer over the stock Belkin. It had a quietness to it that made it more resolving. It still however didn’t stack up to the Wireworld Platinum Eclipse, but was nonetheless a very nice cable for cheap. Our last comparison for the day was the Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB. It proved better than the Luxman and the ERS’ed Belkin by a small but significant margin. At the end of the day the Platinum Starlight proved the clear winner. It was simply more revealing, created a wider soundstage, better dynamics, and more extension at both ends of the sonic spectrum. This is no surprise, considering the price of the cable. The Starlight was a great second place finisher. Not quite as resolving, not quite as much low end, but for the money it was an excellent value.
Stillpoints ERS Tape

TWEEK: Adding Stillpoints ERS Tape to your USB Cable
Depending on the shape of your cable, you can wrap your cable in ERS, or in the case of a flat cable, run a strip of tape lengthwise down either side of the cable. Either way, you will still want to "dress" the cable after applying the ERS. I did this by wrapping Teflon tape over the ERS. That will keep the fabric that is the ERS tape from fraying or snagging, and unraveling. You could even go further and add tech flex sleeving over the Teflon tape for a really snazzy look.

Next Blog: The Platinum Eclipse USB with and without ERS
With the benefits of the ERS tape on a USB cable revealed, my curiosity had been awakened. I had 2 Platinum Starlight USB Cables, and decided to cover one in ERS Tape, then compare it to a stock Platinum Starlight Cable. The results? That will be my next blog post...

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