Quality USB cable has positive impact on Sprout sound quality

I know this topic has a dedicated thread on the Direcstream forum, but I wanted to share my impressions having just upgraded my Sprout’s USB cable today. After having really positive results upgrading my DirecStream’s USB cable with a Pangea solid silver USB cable for $99, I bought a second cable to connect my Sprout to my PC. The improvement in sound quality through the Sprout was just as impressive. Bass, detail, and soundstage have all been markedly improved. In addition the tone is much more natural and not as harsh sounding in the higher frequencies.

I found the improvement in sound quality to be well worth the cost. Highly recommended if you haven’t done this upgrade with your Sprout already!

If I had started my high-end audio journey with a Sprout, I wonder if my journey might not have happily stopped there for quite some time. It produces a remarkably satisfying sound out such a small footprint.

Thanks for this informative post with specifics about which cable you are using. I’d love to know the rest of your set-up. It seems to me it is hard to judge the “bang for buck” of a single improvement to one’s system. I’m using a cheap USB cable with an aging (2007) mac mini (streaming over wifi from a NAS) with (currently) KEF LS50 speakers. (I say currently because I may try the Wharfedale Jade 3s before deciding for sure on my speaker upgrade.)

I have my doubts that cable quality matters, but I am open to the idea and appreciate your real world testimony with Sprout.

edit: I am also interested in what type of music you find this making a difference.

PC with Windows 7, 4-core Xeon… Play CD and high-res PCM from locally attached storage using JRiver 20.

Speakers are Polk Rsi-4’s which I’ve run from my computer for a decade, so I’m intimate with their sound (which is quite good considering their price point… lots of very favorable reviews from back in the day). Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval bi-wire speaker cables. My main system is much more expensive/expansive with Premier level Conrad Johnson electronics, MIT cabling, and Vandersteen speakers…

In any case, this is not a squint-your-eyes-I-think-I-hear-a-difference improvement in sound. It’s more a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-why-haven’t-I-done-this-years-ago difference. Both my Sprout and my $6000 DirectStream experienced marked improvements in sound quality.

Given the cost of your Sprout and the level of speakers you are hooking up to it, I would personally consider USB cabling a must-have upgrade based on my own experience with both my Sprout and my DirectStream. The Pangea solid silver USB cables are probably the best bang-for-the-buck on the market. There are better USB cables, but I don’t think there are better USB cables for $99. They are competitive with USB cables at much higher price points. With any USB cable upgrade, you’ll find that if you run music through it continuously for 50-100 hours and you will hear continued improvement in wamrth/tone/imaging beyond when you first plug it in. You can buy at Audio Advisor and I think on Amazon too. And of course there are many other fine, and probably even better USB cables from other manufacturers at several price points.

You can wonder about “why” it sounds better, but I can tell you… the ears don’t lie!


Thanks again. Very helpful.

Hmmm. Those are some quality speaker cables in that system. I haven’t made a jump in that direction either. Sigh. More research for something that will be reasonable.

“You can wonder about “why” it sounds better, but I can tell you… the ears don’t lie!” - jtrimm

Funny, when I read other forums I get the distinct impression that there are those “audiophiles” that clearly believe that many of us spend too much time in this hobby actually listening to our equipment. What else really matters but the sound?wink

wglenn said "You can wonder about "why" it sounds better, but I can tell you… the ears don't lie!" - jtrimm

Funny, when I read other forums I get the distinct impression that there are those “audiophiles” that clearly believe that many of us spend too much time in this hobby actually listening to our equipment. What else really matters but the sound?wink

I think the point is whether you are using the equipment to listen to your music, or you are playing your music to listen to the system.

I’m thinking along the lines of the “I won’t accept even listening to a device that does not spec to my tolerances and you should not trust your ears.” club.

a/k/a “I listen with my eyes, not my ears.”

Hmmmm, this took an interesting turn yesterday. I don’t really get the opposing audiophile views of subjectivists and objectivists.

I’m just trying to find a system that gets out of the way and presents the music, and in the case of digital–the bits, the way it was intended.

I want to avoid hardware and software that “colors” the sound. So, as a newbie, I am suspicious of products that claim to “improve the sound” without showing me how they get out of the way instead of manipulating the bits to their preference. Kinda reminds me of folks using an equalizer to make cassette tapes back in the day to “improve the sound”.

Always interesting on this forum, we often wander a little bit but it usually comes down to getting the sound that we want out of our systems. S-o-u-n-d. For each of us, that is something different. I share your view of what a good setup should do, fritzig, and your goal is well stated. Coloring the sound is “OK” too, as long as one realizes that one is intending to do just that and doesn’t try enforce that idea as an ultimate for the rest. Listen and let listen, just be open to the idea that others may like something different. Kinda’ the way we roll…

I have been talking with a very talented engineer at Belden about digital transmission for audio. He was able to put together issues of network and serial data transmission in a way that I have not heard it presented before and I would like to share this. I am discussing what he will allow me to share right now and if he will let me I will start a new thread on it.

EDIT: I’m going to post his reply in the “USB cables that work, or don’t, with the DS” thread

I’m currently testing a Pangea and a Mapleshade USB cable. I’ll report back in more detail after some extended listening, but so far after a brief burn-in I prefer the Pangea.

Hopefully I am not seen as hijacking this thread but I have a question about using the USB jack from my Vizio television and running it through the Sprout in this manner as opposed to using the analog outputs from the television. Can it be done and will the sound quality be better through the USB running through the Sprout’s DAC. My television has an Optical output. Can it be converted to use Sprout’s coaxial input. Which way would be better, (if that is a good question)?

Thank you,


The USB connectors are likely for inputs to the TV and would not be designed to output digital audio the Sprout can understand. You can get optical to coaxial converters that should work (Amazon sells them, among others).