I got 2 USB cables sent to me ( Thanks Thsmith) and they are a DIY design. They do not have any power leads so there is only 3 conductors. These cables are pretty raw , no jacket or any kind of protection. And from the look of them , no strain relief . So I had to be extremely careful when handling them. They are not mine so that also goes without saying.
I have a Audioquest Forest USB cable that I wanted to vs with these interesting cables. The Audioquest is a full version , I didn't build it , it's 1.5m in length and has the internal wiring for voltage.
I believe the idea behind building your own USB cables is you can delete the voltage conductors so there is no possible internal interference. At first I questioned the reason to remove these conductors but IF your DAC doesn't need power from the USB , why have it there? OK I'm cool with that.
So I decided to use only 1 song that has unbelievable resolution , Jen Chaplin "You haven't done Nothin" cut from HD Tracks in 24/192.
First up I listened all the way through the song using the Forest cable , everything is clear , detailed and warm. Nothing seems out of place , no smearing nothing. Natural as it gets and I'm completely happy with what I'm hearing.
Next was the one with the Blue single conductor and 2 clear conductors. I have to restart Channel D every time I switch cables , nothing like this , actually it sucks as it takes about20 seconds or so to get back to listening. Shooting out USB cables actually sucks to do , no quick A-B so what I decided to do is listen to the entire song over and over with each cable change. This cable honestly sounds exactly like the Audioquest. I don't hear anymore or any less. Everything is where it is supposed to be. All the resolution is there and doesn't have anything I can tell that could possibly be different.
So I removed that cable and hooked up the last cable which is a 3 conductor all clear cable. Again full song later and now I hear something slightly different. In this song , the stand up bass which is what I think it is is over favoring in the right channel strong. It hints in the middle but really doesn't have much at all out of the left channel. Every noter I noticed some smearing in the extension. The bass sounded like dude moved his microphone back just a bit and had some back ground noise being picked up.
I switched back and forth for over an hour listening to each cable to see if I could hear what I heard on the all clear DIY USB cable. It's the only one out of the 3 that sounds slightly different. Now my question at this time is this cable the best one out of the 3 or is it the worse. Over the years I never had this question with any cables . I knew right away which cable sounded more real or believable in my system and I knew when it wasn't. As a musician I listen to a great many things. I'm also a sound man which I carefully mic and level live bands( Well just one my friends band) and I'm super picky about how things sound. I know I do a very good job as every time I run sound for them , I get many complements from there hard core fans saying "They sounded amazing tonight especially the singer , I really could hear everything" and many other comments like that.
So back to this damn cable thing , another thing I have done over the years is try by best to hear differences when using high quality digital cables. This is an area I have failed to do. Honestly even between Digital coax and optical , I never heard anything that lead me to believe that one was better or worse then the other. Optical to optical shootouts I have done , Coax to coax and nothing. I gave up on that long ago and chalked up my findings is this , once you get it right , nothing more can be done. Proof was in the pudding for me 100x over.
So this cable , it smears the bass just a tad and maybe smear is a hard word as it just sounds like the mic was moved back a bit. The other 2 cables this doesn't sound like that. Whats even weirder is nothing else sounds different , nothing. It's exactly the exact same sound everything.
So how do I sum up this experience? I gotta chalk up maybe the all clear DIY cable had a joint not done to perfection , or the ground is not exactly properly grounded or something else I have no idea I didn't build the cable , what is does tell me is the other 2 cables perform exactly the same and I'm starting to believe that once again once you get the signal correct , there is nothing a better quality cable could do to help make anything sound any better. I do believe that USB cables when not properly built or don't meet spec , then yeah something might not go right.
I also don't have any winner here other then a learning experience. Thank you Thsmith for allowing me to experience your cables. I do however have one last comment , I don't think the power conductors are causing any interference as the Audioquest cables have them and the DIY ones do not. The single Blue and 2 clear conductor cable if I didn't tell you which cable I was playing , you would have no idea. I still like the idea of eliminating any factors that in theory could possibly cause harm but in this case in my system , no harm as found. If there was I should of heard some kind of difference between the Audioquest and the Blue DIY USB cable.
I have a Carbon from Audioquest on order and I'm wondering if it will be worth even owning. It's 5% Silver vs copper in the Forest so we shall see. The Clear from Cardas is also on it's way and who knows what that cable will bring to the table. I didn't bother with the Kimber but if we get some in , for the sheer hell of it , I'll give it a test drive.