High-end USB (or I2S) Cables Evaluation on DS MK2

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 Stealth website has only one picture of T-select, and their list prices seem out-of-date too.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.

Shunyata Sigma

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.


Wireworld Platinum Starlight 8 sounded good to me. But now I use an AQ Diamond ethernet cable which I think sounds better.

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Great review, thanks for sharing. Can’t wait your next review on the Omega before jumping in this new rabbit hole!

Other top USB cable (reading around various forums) seems to be Sablon EVO, less expensive than the Omega but in the same league.

FWIW I’m very happy with a Pink Faun USB cable, I can highly recommend at a lower price (less than 1000 euros). I previously used also the Intona Reference, not so impressed. Unfortunately the AQ Diamond USB IMO is going to collect dust in a drawer.

Since I’m using the MK II I confirm Donald assumption: USB cables matter, a lot!


Could you elaborate on how they bettered the WWPS8?

For under $500 the Inakustik Reference is a great USB cable. I sold my WW Platinum Starlight 8 after trying this one. There’s one on USAudioMart now for $250 BTW.

How did the Inakustik Reference improve on the WWPS8?

I no longer use USB or any sort of DDC. I just direct connect to the DAC.


It’s been quite a while so I can’t remember all the details but I would just say more natural or realistic, more focused. It didn’t blow it away by any means and of course it’s all subjective and system/room dependent but when I can replace a cable that I like better and pocket some cash in the process it’s a no brainer. I got the Inakustik used and was able to return the WW for the full purchase price.
Another one I liked better than the WW was the iFi Mercury 3.0. I had one when I used the Matrix X-SPDIF because it has a USB 3.0 C type input. They made one with a B connector also but they are discontinued and impossible to find used.

With what kind of connection/cable?

It just plugs into the RJ45 jack.

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The reason PST sounds so good is not only can you use an excellent cable (Dragon) into an excellent I2S input, it is also an excellent designed transport. Most cheaper streamers cannot match the quality of the PST, therefore will most likely take a back seat in SQ to the PST. But if you can up the ante and get a better streamer with a better power supply, you can even the odds and get competitive with the PST. If you use the USB on the MK2, the cable can and does in my case surpass the SQ of the Dragon HDMI powered PST. The PST in my system simply sounds more veiled.

When you get your Omega and upgrade your streaming transport, you will experience what I’m talking about. I am not missing my turntable too much anymore as with some of these new DSD256 recordings, it just doesn’t get any better!


That helps, more focused and natural an great combination. I am looking for a USB cable for my new Innuos ZEN MkIII. The Inakustik caught my eye when I first saw it, but I’d come up short at 0.75 meter. I’ll keep an eye out for one preferably 1.0 or 1.5 meter.

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Yup, it is obvious I need a streamer to match up the cable now, :ok_man:, and not a cheap one!


Can’t comment on experience with the DS, but can comment based on my experience with my Bryston stack. I’ve settled on the AQ Diamond USB as my final cable until my gear tells me its limiting performance. But a caveat for those considering doing the same, be very patient. The Diamond fresh out of the packaging sounded like a dud compared to the AQ Cinnamon it replaced. I almost pulled it and set it back. Glad I didn’t. Took a couple hundred hours at least for it to break in and sound its best. Overall the best USB cable I’ve used.

Sounds like a DDC is going up for sale.

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I literally just bought a new one of these 1M USB for $500. Lists for $600 so I thought I got a good deal. Going to update my 7 Sphere which will go on sale soon after I am guessing.


dchang05, thanks for the detailed and helpful review. I’ve listened to only one of the three cables you auditioned in your system, and that’s the base model Stealth USB. As you noted, I agree with you that this cable has a tendency to get edgy or bright at times, which detracted from appreciating its openness and energy. I didn’t have the opportunity to hear the Stealth with a tuning ring, but it sounds like it’s a necessity to get the best sound out of the Stealth USB.

From your experience with the Shunyata Sigma USB, this cable appears to have many of the characteristics I’ve come to appreciate in my Shunyata Alpha: neutrality, smoothness, lack of harshness or glare, sweetness even at higher volumes, lack of listening fatigue, and a very quiet background. Given how smooth the Alpha is and its lack of edginess, I was surprised to hear as much detail in the sound as I did - especially in terms of room effects, cymbals, whispers, and breathing patterns of vocalists. This cable also reproduces a wide soundstage and natural timbre on instruments such as piano. It appears that the Sigma provides even more of that great sound quality I’m used to with the Alpha.

I wanted to mention one other USB cable that might be an interesting choice for someone looking for a less expensive (though still not cheap) cable that offers high quality sound. Because I need two good USB cables (one from my Innuos Zen Mk3 to a PhoenixUSB re-clocker, and a second from the Phoenix to my DS DAC), I decided to try a less expensive cable on a 30-day trial from Network Acoustics. I already was very pleased with the noise reduction from my Network Acoustics ENO ethernet filter, so I ordered an ENO USB III cable from NA. The sound of the cable in my system resembled some of the characteristics you are describing for the Stealth-T. It sounded clear, open, energetic, and natural, so I decided to keep it and use it between my Phoenix and DAC. This cable was an Editor’s Choice selection by the-ear if anyone is interested in more information. NA also sells a couple of other USB cables that are more expensive, but I haven’t auditioned them.

I hope these additional thoughts are helpful.


Shunyata USB family all have great positive reviews, and they probably have similar “family” sound. I have not heard of Network Acoustics ENO brand in the past, so this is good to know. Since you have the Alpha USB cable, a recommendation of a more reasonably priced cable would be appreciated by many.

I want to add more comments on the tuning ring of Stealth T and T-select USB. The ring does not just tune the sound, but also improves it over the Base version. In my system the best ring location is about 1/3 away from B input. A different system would have a different location. I really like this adjustability because when adding a new equipment or even a cable, a new adjustment may bring out a better sound. I do not know if there is another USB cable out there that can do that.

Enjoy your golf indoor, until the weather is warmer in your area :smiley:


Really? I had the opposite experience. Both were good but I prefer the WireWorlds sound over the AQ Diamond…


Well considering one is USB and the other is Ethernet…it was a poor attempt at humor.