Recently I find myself wondering if I might extract even more performance out of my Matrix by changing the AQ Carbon USB and HDMI cables I’m using. The Matrix is powered by a Teddy Pardo LPS and my DAC is a DirectSteam senior with a Roon Nucleus server.
This setup sounds wonderful to me, but as we all know, there’s always room for improvement.
My only requirement is one that’s important to me; value for the money spent.
I use a Siltech Classic Anniversary USB And a Crystal HDMI (sister companies). You can find them used for ok money. Both are Silver/gold alloy and are totally silent. They sound exceptional to my ears.
Short answer is yes it’s worth it. I use both aq diamond now. I recently upgraded from aq mocha hdmi and the improvement was a bit like upgrading to a Farad. Treble is cleaner, more detailed and sings. The lower midrange hump is also gone
I settled on a Shunyata Sigma USB cable and a Revelation Audio Labs HDMI cable. Everything tried before was audibly less pleasing.
I have recently seen a Sigma USB cable for as low as $1350. I’d pay more if I had to.
Oops. I just opened a box and found a Stealth Audio USB cable hiding inside. I have had it over a week now and didn’t know it. Gotta see how the Sigma stands up to it…
I have been listening to the system with the Stealth Audio USB cable in the system for a couple of hours now. First tracks were fine, if a tad rough on the edges. I am hearing some texture I don’t recall hearing before. It’s like the new cable is pulling more vibration from the things that vibrate. Snare drums and percussion in general is noticeably more pronounced. I am going the let Roon Radio burn this cable in.
I feel like I’d like to immediately switch back to the Sigma to try to determine what the difference is. But instead I think I’ll let it break in a bit more. Right now it’s sort of thrilling. I am listen to a playlist I am very, very familiar with so I am aware of a different sound. Hmmmmm.
Vac - The Carbons can definitely be improved upon. Or at least I can speak about the HDMI from firsthand experience, as I have one. The question then is, how do you define “value for the money” in this context? What’s the limit?
The Matrix makes an incremental difference, and the cabling makes a difference in the qualities and quantity of that difference. Is that increment worth say, $2-3k or more? (Matrix, Pardo PS, “really good” USB and HDMI cables)
What proportion of overall system cost vs. return on investment does that represent? Is that money better spent elsewhere?
And if you’ve been following this saga, you’ll know to beware intrepid explorer aangen’s posts, as it seems there is always a new, more amazing cable to be found. Don’t get me wrong - he’s finding good stuff - but just getting back to your italicized “value”. Finding out a year later that you have incremented yourself into a nutty amount of money for what is arguably an elaborate “tweak”…
I once used the same AQ Carbon combo. I was pleased with results and decided to go all out with AQ Diamond USB/HDMI. The upgrade cost around $1100 so I’m not sure if that constitutes value but sonically it is a much better combo than the Carbon! The usb has only been in the system for 3 weeks so I believe I still have some break in time. When I changed the HDMI to Diamond I instantly could hear a difference. I also own AQ Vodka which is better than Carbon and a great value price if still available at Music Direct. AQ Diamond HDMI has been discontinued so your best bet if you want value pricing is being patient and pick up used cables when they come along at good price! Again nothing wrong with Carbon but there is better out there!
I deliberately didn’t limit myself in terms of cost but I would expect (and need) to hear a huge improvement to justify cables that are priced over a grand each.
Yes - I think unless that amount of money is of little to no concern, and your system is otherwise end-game-ish…or you derive a great deal of pleasure from the little things in life…
I find there’s a tendency, once installed, to say, “Can’t live without it now”, but we (myself included) rarely go back and re-evaluate just how much a given tweakish-sorta-thing is doing. And I also am skeptical of only doing an A/B or two, then deciding, “This is better” and not taking the longer view of what it does or does not do in a system. Particularly given that other bits have a tendency to change over time, and synergy or lack thereof can be significant.
As a sort of example of the above, I’ve been noodling with different speaker combinations. I don’t prefer the same HDMI cable from Matrix to DAC with all of them. One could argue that it is because of the limitations of a given speaker, but if I’m enjoying what that topology does, I don’t want a cable in there that’s harshing my mellow.
I was pleased with the $500 price point. I thought I was done. Then someone pointed out that I wasn’t. They were correct. A person could settle for less and be happy. But better is better and worth the price. To me.
All stereo tweaks and stereo equipment in general is like gambling in a way.
Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose and there wont be big disappointment if you don’t make a meaningful gain
There’s a lot to be said for the times when you’re not thinking about the sound of the equipment at all…
Have you guys found that the HDMI and USB cables are of equal importance in this application, or does one or the other make more of an improvement?
That’s a good question. May be a couple here who can answer that better than me. But a lot of us have found the HDMI to be pretty “dramatic”. Personally I’ve stuck with a higher-end WW USB and haven’t ventured further down that tweak-of-a-part-of-the-tweak-chain rabbit-hole. (It’s DARK down there!)
It’s not at all dark. It just costs money.
In my experience its equally audible on each end, USB and HDMI. The difference was noticeable each step of the way for me.
I have purchased things that were highly recommended here that I could not hear a change. So for me there is the possibility that one man’s night and day is not audible to me.
Take removal of the Bridge II card for instance. I hear no change whatsoever and there are more than a dozen people here who claim it totally reinvented the universe when they did it. But when I switched from the Wireworld Silver Starlight 7 USB cable to the Platinum I heard a nice upgrade in sound.
I’m using AQ Mocha HDMI, but a closeout AQ Vodka arrives tomorrow. More silver, but no DBS battery. Whichever one loses out goes on the TV to replace a Cinnamon.
USB is Synergistic Atmosphere out of an ISO REGEN preceded by a Curious Evolved Link. Maybe some day I’ll try switching the order of the latter two cables, but I just got done tearing things apart to insert a BHK preamp behind my DS DAC… An embarrassment of riches and way too many changes all at once…
Those of you who run the Matrix X-PDIF 2 between Nucleus and DS DAC, does Roon software see Direct Stream DAC like it does when using USB direct? Thanks
I’m running a matrix between my Mac mini and DSD Sr with Roon. Roon settings recognizes the matrix Spdif tho it has to be manually selected in devices it was not automatic in my system.
“But better is better and worth the price. To me.”
The proper attitude, indeed…
Keep on trucking’ Mr. Angen. I enjoy following, and vicariously benefit from, your Hi-Fi travels.
This is positive. Thank you.