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USB AUDIO CABLES (Does it make any difference?)
Old 4 weeks ago
Gear Head
Magic Music Box's Avatar

USB AUDIO CABLES (Does it make any difference?)

Hey guys,

Does USB 2.0 cables make any difference in sound quality when we are talking about MIDI controlers like Launchpad or Keyboards? I'm asking because I have seen some guys selling "AUDIO USB 2.0 Cables" with golden conectors, etc...

But I think it does not make any difference because the cable is not transmiting audio, only digital commands...

What do you think?

Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear
Good connectors (good contact) en shielded cable (no interference) would do the job.
Better than good is useless.
People listening with their wallet will hear differences.
Old 4 weeks ago
Audio grade USB cables are one of the biggest scams on the market.
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear

The data is already digitized before it's fed through the cable. You wont have fidelity losses like you can through a low quality analog cable feeding sine waves. Different technology, different cables, different devices. Most musicians have some clue about analog losses but are clueless when it comes to digital. They cant get past the idea that that computer GUI is nothing but an illusion to make you think you're manipulating something analog instead of changing binary numbers.

There are some other things that can occur with low quality USB cables so don't rule out quality all together. A low quality cable can produce poor connections, or have poor shielding. The symptoms usually cause the device to drop off line or in the case of poor continuity or shielding you can have bits lost or noise infect the data stream. Most audio drivers will have some form of Error correction which may kick in and force the device to either slow down or retransmit data until the proper count of bits are received. Errors have to rise above a certain percentage before error correction decided the connection is so bad it needs to be shut down.

This mainly effects communication speed and to a lesser degree you may have some distorted audio or artifacts increase when data flow is bottlenecked through a poor quality connector. Like I said, most musicians wont recognize what's going on by simply listening. It typically takes an extremely well trained ear to decipher communications issues, especially those caused by a cable.

Midi is even less likely to create a problem with a cable. Midi data has no sound samples of any kind. Its just a matrixed signal that runs a pulse wave and key switch commands are detected on the grid depending on which switch you select. Audio is produced by a program, not by what's passing through the cable. Think of your computer as being a player piano and the data flowing through the cable is the piece of paper with holes in it. Its the holes that trigger the keys on the piano to make sound. If one of the holes in the paper is missing or improperly times, its only going to mess up the musical timing, not the quality of sound the piano strings produce.

Even with this knowledge, I advocate buying quality cables. Reason is, a quality cable doesn't cost that much more over a garbage cable and you'll only need to buy them once. A cable that's flaking out die to poor workmanship can be very frustrating to find too. You don't come across it that often but its one lesson you can do without when you do. I had one going bad in my car where I plug in USB sticks to play music. It acted like I was having USB sticks blow on me constantly or the player simply couldn't recognize them or what was on the drives. New cable and it ran perfectly.

I don't advocate high dollar rip offs either. Anything that has Monster, Custom made, or Boutique on it's label should also have find print stating the cable is specifically designed for suckers and idiots who don't know their rear end from a hole in the ground. Quality isn't that hard to see when you look at it and feel the materials. Soft Vinyl coatings are the worst because they are too soft and stretch too easily. One tug and you'll snap the copper wire inside. Plastic is OK, jut make sure the connector ends are that hard plastic type and the cable itself is a bit stiffer which indicates a thick shield. The rest you'll simply have to throw the dice because they all come from china now.
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