by Yuri Hajtko in June 2018

 

MY USB CABLE SHOOTOUT

 

I set out to do a USB cable shootout this summer to see if I could actually hear a difference between USB cables from various manufacturers. The test was simple: I play the same test track (2 Cellos 'May It Be') using several different USB cables, starting with a $5 printer cable I had laying around. I inserted each cable into my rig and gave my comparisons via a set of notes I kept after listening to each cable. I did not test a 'Split' USB design and went with a standard 4-conductor cable to make the comparison fair.

I have listed the cables in order from best to worst performance with my listening notes laid out below each cable title. Read on for my findings which I thought were very interesting.

 

1) Hemingway Audio USB

This was the best cable out of the bunch. More dynamics noticed in the background. Attack is very good. Air on bow pulls feels more natural than every other cable tested. Individual notes of timpani are noticed as well as their positioning in the performance (panning in channels). The speed of the cable is excellent. Loud passages have great dynamics and the largest sound stage. Great width, depth, and height. Small micro details were noticed that were not heard before using any of the other cables. 

 

2) YFS Ref USB

This was my winner based upon price to performance ratio. If basing my tests purely on performance though, the Hemingway wins. With that being said, The Hemingway Audio, JCAT Reference, and Albedo Silver Monocrystal sounded VERY similar to the YFS cable but were MUCH more expensive. Background strings were more prominent from the very beginning of my tests and much more dynamic. Cellos have clean sounding vibrato. Air on bow pulls sound stronger and deeper. The low end is also smooth and powerful. Timpani notes have great separation just like the Graham Slee Lautus. Loud passages have good dynamics and are controlled without any frequencies overpowering each other. Overall, the music sounded natural and lifelike.

 

3) Albedo Silver Monocrystal USB

From the onset of my comparison the strings have a different 'airier' feel to them vs. the YFS cable. Vibrato is present and very similar to YFS. Air on bow pulls is again very similar to the YFS cable, but slightly less pronounced. Individual notes of timpani are better than YFS by a small margin. Very good controlled dynamics on loud passages - engaging but not overpowering. This cable is the best contender to the YFS Ref USB and is very well suited for the type of music I am comparing with (strings / classical).

 

4) JCAT Reference USB

This cable was almost identical to the YFS Ref USB but at 3 times the price! See YFS notes for how this cable performed.

 

5) Graham Slee Lautus USB

Strings are a bit more laid back than the AQVOX and similar to the printer cable. Background strings are a bit forward. Air on the bow seems to have more of an echo-type quality to it vs. the AQVOX which sounds more natural. The notes on the timpani and their separation is better than the AQVOX. Vibrato is present and similar to the AQVOX. This cable is more laid back compared to the AQVOX.

 

6) AQVOX Excel USB

This cable was stronger sounding than the printer cable I started out my test with. Strings have more air, vibrato is more noticeable than with the printer cable. Background strings are more separated and play subtly but are noticed. Air on the bows of the cellos is more pronounced than with the printer cable. Loud passages are more dynamic with a bigger sound stage.

 

7) Printer Cable

This cable sounds just "ok". Details are all there but do not pronounce themselves. There is very little separation in the music. The music sounds muted and dull. This was my baseline for my test from which I compared every other cable to and if not, compared to another cable that was way ahead of this one. You have to start somewhere but I would not recommend using this cable in an audiophile system unless money is tight and this is all you can afford. Cables matter! 

 

Thank you for reading. I wanted to get out a comparison that shows fellow audiophiles that cables do make a difference and that the most expensive option is not necessarily the best sounding option. I would like to thank Kevin at YFS for allowing me to get my thoughts down on his website for others to see.

Most importantly, I was not paid nor did I receive a discount for a weighted review towards a certain cable. I did not tell any of the manufacturers I was comparing their cables at the time of purchase. The results above represent an unbiased view point as I am not a professional reviewer nor did I have an agenda. My only goal with this test was to figure out the best USB cable I could buy for my system for my money.

 

- Yuri Hajtko in Toronto, Canada

 

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