The new DS MK2 is a significant improvement over the DS, I felt. With DS I only used I2S input because it was the best way to achieve the best sound. I even purchased the Euphony Summus2 streamer because it has the same I2S spec. output. But the MK2 has opened the door on input selections. Some even like USB link over I2S. This thread is for people who want to discuss how they like their cable selections using MK2’s inputs.
There seem to be as many choices in USB cables as analog interconnects, and many are in the ultra-expensive category too. The curiously prompt me to try some better USB cables in my modest streaming system. It turns out USB cable matters more than I expected. Here is the review of the three I tried:
Stealth T USB (or T-select?)
This is a great sounding cable! The sound is full, smooth, and energic! Its midrange is additive! This is a cable to show off your system. I believe among the three I tried out; this cable will easily be picked as the best among younger and non-audiophile listeners. And if you often listen to voices and Rocks, you will love it. Only when listen to it next to Sigma, I heard a bit less fine-inner details and a bit less ultra-frequency extension. But the voices are so beautifully presented that it is easily the most pleasant sounding one.
One crucial factor is the tuning ring. When the ring is set at the right location, the mid-range is simply magic. The ring adjustment is very system dependent.
(Upon further inspection, the ring box has “Select” on it. So, is my cable a T-select, or a T as indicated from the tag attached to the cable? Stealth website has only one picture of T-select, and their list prices seem out-of-date too. If I have the T-select, then it makes sense why the sound is so good! If mine is only a T, I cannot imagine how good the T-select would be.)
Stealth Base USB
SDL has reviewed this cable in “Directstream MK2 Observations” thread, and I found his review is spot on. Obvious this cable sounds like Stealth T, but without the tuning ring it sounds harsh in comparison; especially in high. Once I noticed this shortfall, I could not get over it. It showed up in every piece of music I played. Also, it lacks the T’s warmth and midrange-magic. To me it is almost mandatory to get the ring version from Stealth USB line. For $250 more, T is a much better cable. Stealth T is listed at $1,250 and if this is within your budget, I cannot recommend it higher. The top dog of Stealth USB is T-select, and it is listed at $1,950. If the cable I am testing is T-select, it deserves the asking price.
This cable has had many great reviews but comes with a hefty price tag ($2,500). When I first put it in, I had to check the volume setting, I wanted to turn the volume up! Then I realized it is because the background was so silent that the music sounded softer and calmer (low noise effect). My experience is that the topline cables all have the same character to make the music sound smoother and softer. Sigma has nailed it.
I love its treble! Sigma reminds me of AQ Dragon, the treble sounds so pure and smooth. Because the background is so dark, the high has a pronounced presence in fullness and silkiness. AQ Dragon does the exact same thing. Another great strength is in the timbre accuracy. In a recent “Paul’s Post”, Paul talked about sonic quality in music timbre which includes quality like the attack and decay of the sound, and the envelope of the sound. Well, Sigma demonstrated how it sounds like! In addition, the cable does not sound warm nor cold, it sounds as neutral as live music. Another strength is the well-extended frequency. I heard higher highs and lower lows from recordings that I did not know existed. As a result, with Sigma I want to hear more music because it is hard to stop. I had some of the longest listening sessions with Sigma without fatigue. This is especially helpful for my aging old ears. Listening to this cable is like drinking a 20-year-old red, I can never get tired of it.
Head-to-head, Stealth T (or T-select) wins in voices easily, while Sigma has a more neutral and layback presentation. There is a substantial difference in prices too. However, if you have a better streaming system than mine, will one of these two cables show more charm? I have no idea. In my system I can happily live with either cable; even though they sound different.
In testing these high-level USB cables, I find how important the USB link is on a stellar DAC like MK2. During the past two days I have been listening to streaming only, and I did not miss PST a bit. This has not happened in the past because PST has always sounded superior. Now they are equally enjoyable. The improvement from Stealth T (T-select) and Sigma was astounding!
@waymanchen11 in his posts said his streaming setup beats PST, I can totally understand now. In fact, I may be getting remarkably close too.