USB Cables… my last Rambling's column centered on the Purist Audio Luminist Revision Neptune cables and how, well either differences in cables are there for you or not. For whatever reason applies here—you hear it, you don't hear it, you can't hear it, or won't hear it… really doesn't matter as everyone finds their happy place. You find what works for you, what makes sense for you, what fits into your reality. All is cool. All is good.
And so here we have USB cables from ANTICABLES, USB Digital Interconnect from here in the US and the Curious USB from Curious Cable down under in Australia (read more in Positive Feedback about the Curious USB Cable HERE by Wojciech Pacuła). Both of these cables are quite different in looks and pricing from the other audiophile cables one can latch onto. That is, they both have a common feature—they both move the 5-volt wire outside of the signal/data wires. The 5-volt allows the computer/sender to see the DAC and vice-versa—a handshake... so with these two, the 5-volt wire runs as a separate wire from end to end with the intent being to eliminate any interference that this wire could impact on the signal or sound. Yeah, I said sound, USB cables impart a sound for lack of a better word on the music.
Now there are others manufacturers that do much the same—Sablon Audio, Light Harmonic, and Audience quickly come to mind—but their implementation is perhaps more elegant in that it is held in the other half, or second cable… two cable runs. Here in either of the ANTICABLES or those from Curious, the wire is just that… another wire naked for whole world see. Well, not completely naked as it is insulated in a clear dielectric, but there it is—a copper wire.
And, both USB cables are on the affordable end of the spectrum with the Curious USB coming in at $380 for a 1-meter run, and the ANTICABLES at $240 for .96-meter run. Not cheap, but clearly more affordable than those at a grand or so.
Other differences in construction? Sure. From the ANTICABLES' site "The cord is free of thick plastic jacketing to eliminate as much Dielectric Effect Distortion as possible. The data pair is ANTICABLES' excellent sounding ACElectrum™ Silver/Gold alloy wire which is configured to hold the ideal 90 Ohm Characteristic Impedance for USB data."
For the Curious USB, well Rob Woodland has rethought the role of USB cables from the ground up, and after many years of developing his cable, he is not going to give all of his findings away. Let's just say there appears to be more going on than just running the data wires from A to B. You can feel in the cable little 'somethings' every inch or so… perhaps spacers or nodules? Interesting. Plus, the use of silver wire in a 'balanced' configuration.
So… what does this mean in terms of what one hears?
Well either cable is a winner in musical terms. There are differences or characteristics for sure, and this is not to be taken as a shootout or comparison with one being better than the other. When it comes to cables, for me at least, it comes down to tastes, preference, and synergy (not just the system, but your music as well). Cable A is more like this while Cable B is more like that. With that in mind, any cable will find its place somewhere with someone. There are no absolutes.
The ANTICABLES is open and dynamic, clean and articulate. The music comes through with a wonderful sense of flow. It does tend to be a bit more robust and perhaps darker through the midrange than others here in house, though I feel that might be related more to the bass presentation, being big and ballsy (or perhaps the use of gold). You get all the little things—air and ambiance—and lots of the bigger things, like atmosphere and space. Lots of separation and there thereness. The high end is all there though perhaps the overall presentation is a wee bit more forward in relation to the speakers when compared to other USB cables here in house… though I guess one could argue that perhaps they are a wee bit laid-back? Even so, the ANTICABLES USB was never fatiguing or over the top. Stellar soundstage too. The ANTICABLES USB is highly recommended. Sweet indeed… I found myself listening more to the music than what the cable was doing to the music. Which is what it is all about anyways.
Little to pitch fuss with other than the separate 5-volt wire which, as a reviewer, is sort of a PITA. Too easy to get tangled and sorted out when changing in other cables. Obviously for the end user, this is a moot point. Plug it in, leave it alone, and enjoy the music. After being here for a few months, the 5-volt wire is looking rather ragged. But for sure having the wire running where it is, is what produces the sound one gets with this cable. So, I get it.
The Curious cable has many of the same qualities as the ANTICABLES—no surprise since they both share a major design feature with the separate 5-volt wire—but it does differ in being perhaps more even toned. That is, it tends to come across as being more balanced or tonally even. For sure it goes deep and offers extension at either end, but the midrange is to die for—open and transparent. Quite stellar and in many ways, it resembles that what I hear from the Audience USB Cable. Nice indeed. You get a big soundstage that is very well resolved. Lots of details and air too. The bass is solid and tactile with slam and dynamics.
The Curious is open and wonderfully resolving while being musically engaging and perhaps a wee bit laid-back in terms of where the music stands in relation to the speakers… especially so when tossed in the mix of other cables here… though perhaps one could argue that they are a bit forward. Even so, that tonal evenness comes through in spades and is without a doubt the cables' strength. There is little to complain about as once it is in the system you will find yourself listening to the music as opposed to at the music—that is, I found myself not wanting to listen to what the cable was doing to or with the music… I just wanted to listen to the music. This cable is also highly recommended though I do have the same caveat as with the ANTICABLES; that damn 5-volt wire is a PITA though since is it a bit thicker, perhaps less so than that of the ANTICABLES. Even so, trouble is possible if one is not careful.
Either of these very similar cables are winners in my book, with both falling in quite well with other cables here in house. I could live with either or and have for way too long. These cables came in quite some time ago and not sure what happened, other than life and everything that has happened since they have been here… but this is long overdue. Having spent some considerable time with either cable in the context of the other cables here… yeah, solid products all around. But, my apologies to each manufacturer for being slow in getting this done.