Accuracy of digital data: USB vs. Toslink vs. Coax

The SQ differences in digital cables surprised me too. In my thread Hi-end USB cables I heard 5 cables from Silnote, Stealth, and Shunyata. I also heard HDMI cables from AQ Vodka, Coffee, Firebird48, and Dragon48. Everyone made a difference, and in a hi-resolution DAC like MK2 they made as much difference as any analog cable, like you said.

1 Like

And let’s not forget the indispensable power cord, as it can add a lot of noise and distortion into the signal. I also hear quite a big difference with a high quality power cord that has a specially designed grounding system that effectively obliterate any noise that is in the electrical power. The less grainy noise, the more music you hear.

1 Like

If you have a look at my earlier replies, you’ll find that you’ve just agreed with me. We don’t generally have a problem with getting the right bits from point A to B. The quality of the sound though is influenced by factors other than the bits themselves.

Many audiophiles hear differences between different digital interconnects but mistakenly attribute those differences as characteristic of the cable itself, like you can do with analog cabling to a large degree. It’s absolutely impossible for a digital cable to change the amount of “air” or “detail” or the “tone” or “attack” or anything like that, in the way that analog cables can. What they do, though, is allow or reject varying levels of non-audio noise into your DAC, noise which degrades your ultimate analog performance. Less noise is always better, but what that sounds like might differ when you use the same source and cable with a different DAC.

There’s also a question of jitter in SPDIF and related cables. Jitter is largely not an issue on USB and especially not these days when the overall transfer rate is controlled by the DAC via Asynchronous USB Audio protocols.

When you swap a Stealth Audio Cable for any single cable you use, a lightbulb goes on.
Write me back when it lights up. Meanwhile here in reality, things are known, not hypothetically.
Just sayin……

I agree completely - but I do think there are some people who still claim that some cables make better 0s and 1s than others - I’m not saying they’re wrong, but this time I think I’m going with the science as far as the digital stuff is concerned. And yes on the other “noise” it can produce. My new Pine Tree Audio USB cable is waiting at the post office - I’m curious to see if I can tell a difference between that and the Pangea I currently use.

When you use Pangea you must go crazy trying to justify staying at that level. It’s so very easy to beat. Each choice is UP!

Ah, but this isn’t true when you look on the Pangea website. According to them and the listeners with Pangea cables,. everyone else sucks. I’m being a little facetious, but whose ears are better?

Hey, don’t start a power cord argument in a USB cable topic! Seriously, when I built my listening room, I completely baffled my electricians with why the hell anyone would ever want to use a special Siemens 20A breaker going to 10AWG wire to one outlet, making sure the cables cross each other at 90-degree angles and are twisted once every foot, using $40/ounce sliver paste at the connections and $50 outlets, and a separate ground to its own grounding rod… Can you really hear a difference? One asked. My response, “I hope so.”


My ears are pretty good. On my webpage they rank first in all categories.


Well damn, I had no idea… I’m guessing you’re the best looking too?

1 Like

On my website I am.

I’m replying to myself for a good reason.

Jon, you idiot. What the hell is wrong with you? I ask this because last night when you hooked up your new Pine Tree Audio Banshee USB cable (be sure to tell them that the Banshee is not pictured there, but they can contact Jesse and he’ll fix them up), you noticed HUGE differences. There were things you’d never even heard in every very familiar “go-to” recording. But what really struck you was HOW this definition expressed itself - it was not only DEfined, but also REfined. There was a kind of roundness, natural-ness that you’d never heard before. This happened in every kind of music sampled, but especially in a couple tracks from The Roches’ album “Can We Go Home Now.” The “ringing” you love in their sisterly voices was still there, but not as abrasive as it could come across before - the song “You Make My Life Come True” was stunning. Maybe (just maybe) this is what others here are saying happens when the digital “timing” is correct? So Jon, you skeptic, maybe you should start listening to these people. Yes, there’s science made of 0s and 1s, but there’s also ART going on here that just can’t be explained by science. Is it all psychological? You bet, but who the hell cares? It sounds better. So Jon, now it’s time to apologize and thank all these good people for their help. Come on - a little gratitude… Oh, sorry folks - he’s back to listening…


I am not sure I should feel happy or sorry for you, but welcome to the rabbit hole! :sweat_smile:

Thanks for the welcome. I’m thinking I might have mis-defined what’s meant around here by a “rabbit hole”? Is it like the regular one where we never stop digging, or does it have more to do with rabbits and their big ears? I’ll take that as a “yes.”

Yes on both accounts. We do have a big rabbit :rabbit: here, or more.

Someone once explained to me that with metal cable the digital signal is sent in analog form, not ones and zeros. Hence the possibility of improvements in sound. Perhaps with fiber optic cable things are different.

1 Like

Been there, done that. It made zero sense to me that a USB cable could make a difference, but when I heard my brother’s headphone rig with a standard USB cable vs an “expensive” (~$600) USB cable, there was an undeniable and, frankly, massive difference. I personally wouldn’t have wanted to listen to them with the standard cable. The sound was that offensive.

Then the same happened with ethernet cables. They can’t make a difference… until you hear them and can’t dispute their effect. It’s sad, but the effect is real.

Like dchange05 says, welcome to the rabbit hole!


Its a wabbit hole…just watch out for Elmer Fudd

Best wishes

1 Like

And other FUD


Ted a 1 n 0’s kinda fuddy duddy dude? :grin:

Best wishes