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Does USB cable quality matter?

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Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Stuart79 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:47 pm

I see a lot of high-end cable manufacturers are selling audiophile (expensive) USB cable on the premise that it makes a difference to hi-fi sound quality. Is there any truth to this or is it just snake oil? Consequently, is it worth considering a higher quality USB cable for an audio interface?

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby zenguitar » Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:43 pm

USB is a digital interface, not an analogue one. In other words, no audio whatsoever travels along the wire, just a sequence of ones and zeros.

Better quality cable can offer a range of benefits, but improved audio quality is not one of them. More rugged cable and connectors can be useful if you are regularly plugging and unplugging. And a high quality cable can help if you need a cable that is longer than the official maximum length for USB. But other than that, any old cable you have lying around will be as good as anything exotic and/or expensive.

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Trevor Johnson » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:35 pm

No, the exotic products as pedalled by the familiar names will not affect, i.e. degrade or improve audio quality, but as Andy rightly says, a good quality cable is more reliable than a cheap one. In my experience, all the USB cables supplied by the various manufacturers with equipment that I have bought have been fine. For example, the 2m USB cable supplied with my Lynx Hilo was a normal USB cable, so if Lynx thinks that is all right, it certainly is for me.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby BJG145 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:52 pm

Oh good grief.

:headbang:
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Stuart79 » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:42 pm

I'm aware of the nature of the information being transported via a digital connection. However, the way in which digital information is transported involves an analogue signal.

To quote a fairly reliable source: "Digital data is transmitted as a series of very brief analogue pulses, so so if interference, noise or distortion becomes severe enough to prevent those pulses from being detected correctly at the receiving end, you have a problem." I was just hoping for a little detail on the extent to which the cable quality makes a difference (if any) and, if so, what are the key aspects of a good quality cable to look out for in order to avoid wasting money.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby BJG145 » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:54 pm

When you're dealing with data, you can use a system to check it and ensure accuracy. Eg, USB uses CRC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_redundancy_check
http://www.usb.org/developers/whitepapers/crcdes.pdf

It's really not going to be a problem unless you use an utterly rubbish cable or you're working in a very unusual environment. Anyone charging more than a tenner is simply ripping people off.

http://www.audioquest.com/usb-digital-audio/diamond

£500. Oh dear.

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:00 pm

Stuart79 wrote:I'm aware of the nature of the information being transported via a digital connection. However, the way in which digital information is transported involves an analogue signal.

To quote a fairly reliable source: "Digital data is transmitted as a series of very brief analogue pulses, so so if interference, noise or distortion becomes severe enough to prevent those pulses from being detected correctly at the receiving end, you have a problem." I was just hoping for a little detail on the extent to which the cable quality makes a difference (if any) and, if so, what are the key aspects of a good quality cable to look out for in order to avoid wasting money.

That's an "if" which is only really going to happen if the electrical connection is broken.

The key feature of a USB cable is that it possesses sufficient length. 4 inches of airspace - which can easily happen if you measure hastily - guarantees data loss. Next in importance comes having the right connectors on each end, though this can be bodged in an emergency.

Really, don't worry. USB cables are so cheap and ubiquitous that there's no reason for a manufacturer to make a bad one. The only times I've ever known a failure is when someone trod on the plug. Avoid anything with over-sized connectors though, or over-sized cables. They just add weight that can stress the sockets on your equipment.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby The Boogiemen » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:43 pm

BJG145 wrote:It's really not going to be a problem unless you use an utterly rubbish cable or you're working in a very unusual environment. Anyone charging more than a tenner is simply ripping people off.

http://www.audioquest.com/usb-digital-audio/diamond

£500. Oh dear.

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Tue Dec 31, 2013 4:21 pm


Have a look at the pseudo-science they wrap around the product. It's quite amusing.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Brian M Rose » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:02 pm

The more mature among us may remember Professor Stanley Unwin, a highly amusing, ex-engineer comedian:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7uykB6wGG4

Listen to the above and you will hear that it makes a lot more sense than some of the claims made by some cable manufactures. I recently met some old friends from BBC R&D. They related the story of an invitation they made to a certain speaker cable manufacturer to run some tests against his cables and ordinary mains cable. He was quite happy until they laid out the methodology; full double blind with peer reviewed results. Evidently, he declined the invitation.
It really does annoy me, but then if people are stupid enough (and they can afford it) then why not sell them a $73K speaker cable?
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby The Boogiemen » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:03 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:


Have a look at the pseudo-science they wrap around the product. It's quite amusing.


Yeah, been here done that with Monster et all. While analog cabling differences can be measured, the stuff they posted regarding those usb cables is flat out lies/figment of their imagination. "Sound appears from a surprisingly black background with unexpected detail and dynamic contrast." OMFG

They get away with this BS because anyone foolish enough to buy into it has likely already sank tens of thousands (foolishly) into vaporous amps, $1000/foot solid gold speaker wire, and platinum plated diamond infused speaker systems. So what's another $500 to ensure all the gremlins stay cute and cuddly?
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby ef37a » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:15 pm

Yup, it is all hogwashh.

I had a "problem" with two usb cables but mainly of my own making.

I wanted a run of 5mtrs twixt two computers and an NI KA6. I bought two cables, one about £3.00 and one about £7.00. I found the interface would refuse to lock in (usb light dropping out) on one cable into a 3G P4 running XP but either cable was fine into a 2core 2.7G W7/64 PC. The AI was fine on both machines with the supplied 3mtr lead or indeed even the crappiest one I could find 3mtrs or shorter.

So it would seem, based on a very tiny sample, that if you pay more than about £1.00/mtr you are fireproof even up the maximum allowed length?

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Folderol » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:52 am

I've often wondered what results you'd get if you bunged USB down a cat5 cable.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:58 am

Folderol wrote:I've often wondered what results you'd get if you bunged USB down a cat5 cable.


http://cpc.farnell.com/_/usb-busboost/usb-extender/dp/CS1423...

Might give a pair a do one day. I have had good results with sound and video over their CAT5 adaptors.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!

Hmm, just noticed, mention is made of extending keyboards, webcams and other low thruput devices. I doubt they would work well for AIs? At least not at the full suggested 60mtrs. Still, even a third of that could be very useful?

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby The Boogiemen » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:15 pm

ef37a wrote:Yup, it is all hogwashh.

I had a "problem" with two usb cables but mainly of my own making.

I wanted a run of 5mtrs twixt two computers and an NI KA6. I bought two cables, one about £3.00 and one about £7.00. I found the interface would refuse to lock in (usb light dropping out) on one cable into a 3G P4 running XP but either cable was fine into a 2core 2.7G W7/64 PC. The AI was fine on both machines with the supplied 3mtr lead or indeed even the crappiest one I could find 3mtrs or shorter.

So it would seem, based on a very tiny sample, that if you pay more than about £1.00/mtr you are fireproof even up the maximum allowed length?

Dave.


The only variable I can think of is if the USB device was receiving power over the USB cable, in which case it's likely the older P4 computer was sending less power (or was USB 1.1) (?). Are you 100% sure only one of the cables failed on the P4? That would indeed be strange.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:59 pm

The Boogiemen wrote:
ef37a wrote:Yup, it is all hogwashh.

I had a "problem" with two usb cables but mainly of my own making.

I wanted a run of 5mtrs twixt two computers and an NI KA6. I bought two cables, one about £3.00 and one about £7.00. I found the interface would refuse to lock in (usb light dropping out) on one cable into a 3G P4 running XP but either cable was fine into a 2core 2.7G W7/64 PC. The AI was fine on both machines with the supplied 3mtr lead or indeed even the crappiest one I could find 3mtrs or shorter.

So it would seem, based on a very tiny sample, that if you pay more than about £1.00/mtr you are fireproof even up the maximum allowed length?

Dave.

The only variable I can think of is if the USB device was receiving power over the USB cable, in which case it's likely the older P4 computer was sending less power (or was USB 1.1) (?). Are you 100% sure only one of the cables failed on the P4? That would indeed be strange.

Pretty sure about this. I could repeat the exercise when the household is back to "normal". Can't be a power issue or a 1.1 port since the AI works fine on the P4 with shorter cables or indeed one of the longer ones.
I have to say this was a rather rushed setup and I WAS more interested in getting things working than in diagnosing a weirdness! But if I have the time I shall give it another do.

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Kounoupi » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:04 am

This covers the all USB cable details with diagrams and photos:
http://ww3.microtek.com.tw/tw/uploads/f ... cable3.pdf
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:08 pm

I certainly agree that there's no difference in audio quality after a signal has traveled from one end of a USB cable to the other ;)

However, USB 2 cables handle a much wider-bandwidth signal than their USB 1.1 counterparts (480Mbps, mega-bits per second, instead of 12Mbps), and are therefore generally of higher quality than many cheap USB 1.1 cables.

Sadly, some sub-standard cables were churned out by certain companies at low prices in the early days of USB, and this is why a new breed of 'USB 2 certified' cables appeared. Some helpfully have USB 2 printed somewhere on the cable insulation or on a tag, but others don't. So if you're buying a USB 2 audio peripheral and a high-quality cable is bundled with it, do make sure you keep the two together, particularly if the cable is not clearly marked.


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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby The_BPP » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:47 am

The Boogiemen wrote:
BJG145 wrote:It's really not going to be a problem unless you use an utterly rubbish cable or you're working in a very unusual environment. Anyone charging more than a tenner is simply ripping people off.

http://www.audioquest.com/usb-digital-audio/diamond

£500. Oh dear.

A fool and his money are soon parted...

Lots of fools with money. It's almost becoming synonymous! [You could argue chasing the dollar/wealth is a foolish reason for existence]

I like the reviews at the bottom of the page... "significantly improved clarity" says one. Brilliant!

I have an expensive USB memory stick. The quality of the stored Word documents is far greater than when I held them on a cheap memory stick. Bigger words, nicer font. After all, you get what you pay for. ;)
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:41 am

I have just remembered that in the network industry they fight a losing battle against very cheap imported patch cables for the very good reason that for 99% of users the cheap stuff works fine.

I know from when I was "in the game" that to keep cables up to absolute top specc' took constant testing. The fact was that a CAT5e patch lead was almost never called upon to deliver its ultimate performance because very few people had systems that could run the transfer rates.

Audio via USB is different as I understand things? Even a quite low end AI might call upon almost all the bandwidth of the system, however briefly and if said system cannot deliver..Crash.

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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby The_BPP » Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:58 am

ef37a wrote:Audio via USB is different as I understand things? Even a quite low end AI might call upon almost all the bandwidth of the system, however briefly and if said system cannot deliver..Crash.

That's the thrust of this thread. The cable will either deliver or not, there will not be the slight loss of quality one associates with cheap analogue cables.
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Re: Does USB cable quality matter?

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Jun 27, 2014 4:04 pm

The_Big_Piano_Player wrote:
I have an expensive USB memory stick. The quality of the stored Word documents is far greater than when I held them on a cheap memory stick. Bigger words, nicer font. After all, you get what you pay for. ;)

I'm using this one on the shop floor. :D
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