The Audiophile USB Cable Surprise: Wireworld Starlight Red vs Chord USB Silver Plus
This post is about USB cables and the surprise they gave me in the last few days.
Remember when I told you I had the Wireworld Starlight Red and it didn’ t seem to make that much of a difference? Well…I must come back to what I have said and contradict myself, as I really found some interesting stuff last week.
Before getting to my findings, I must say that this hobby really got me some good friends throughout the time. 2 of them I met on headfi (“Romanian you say? Me too! … ” and this is how it started) and another one through a friend who said to me when I wanted to sell somethin “Hey I know another crazy audiophile guy at work, maybe you should talk to him! Here is his id…”, and we actually became good friends.
I really think this is a nice hobby and you can find really interesting and cool people with it.
One of the 2 from headfi I “met” recently. His name is Razvan, he is also a Romanian and after reading my thread and my blog he gave me a private message and we started talking. I was like, hey dude we should have a beerfi / beerauphile meeting. He responded ”Ah, I forgot to mention, I live in London.” so I had to schedule a beerauphile session with some other friends as I already started thinking of beer and could not stop the inevitable :
However we started talking a lot about audio stuff.
In the few weeks I had a lot of work on my hands and really had my hands full. I observed that I listened to music seldom than before. I started thinking something is wrong, as this happened to me when I had the HD650 with Asus Essence ST + Meier Corda Cantate 2 and it was far to bright for my ears. I then realized that the sound was tiring me very fast. Ok, something was wrong…but what? Started thinking it was the conductor. After a while it struck me to test the stock usb cable. I was surprised to find the sound a lot more mellow and warm, much more enjoyable than with my WireWorld Starlight Red. Ok… this was really weird, as I really thought the USB cable did not make a big difference. Maybe I haven’t tested it enough in the first place.
Started talking with my new friend from London, Razvan and told him this story. He recently bought a Audeze LCD2 + Violectric V200. When I told him this he said … “Hmm… I should test my new USB cable too along the stock one as I do not like bright sound.”. After a while he comes back and says that it did not make the sound more bright or annoying in any way, and actually it improved the bass, dynamics and details.
Hmmmm…. What cable did he have? I then heard for the first time in my life of the Chord USB Silver Plus cable.
I plugged my Wireworld back into the system. I have then realized what noticeable improvement this cable really brings. The stock cable was flat compared to it. The stock cable had more slam to the bass but in an incomplete way, it lacked details and it was lifeless. On the Wireworld the bass was much tighter, the treble seemed to be more detailed, the soundstage wider, but overall the sound was brighter and not of my taste.
So…I started thinking of the Chord USB Silver Plus . Ok but he bought it from the U.K. Will i find it in Romania? And after a few google searches I found it on a website from an audio store I have never heard of before : jack-fi . It was friday, and I thought I won’t get the change to get it in the w/e because few stores are opened on Saturday. Well I was happy when I say they have program till 4 pm .
I talked with Razvan more and he convinced me to buy this new cable.
The next day I called jack-fi and they had it on stock. :
Well… I went to the store and this is where It got really interesting as I have never had a similar experience in any store ever in my life. I think this is the most client oriented store I have ever seen.
When I enter the store, I tell the seller I am there for the cable. We start talking about audio stuff and found out that we both are very passionate about this. After a few moments 2 other guys from the staff appear and we all started talking. They were more into speaker systems not into headphones.
I said that in general i prefer headphones and even if I didn’t I wouldn’t have where to listen to them as you cannot go loud in an apartment.
When they saw I wasn’t convinced by speakers they invited me to the audition room and presented me a nice pair of entry level Focal Chorus 716V speakers with a wonderful all in one unit , Naime UnitiQute. I was really impressed, as the sound was very natural, spacious, quite detailed and well textured. I think they may have infected me with another branch of this hobby :-s . Afterwards I listened the HD700 and the Focal Spirit One from the Naime UnitiQute. I didn’t have the time to get a grip on the sound of each one but for the moment and on that music I liked them both.
I was really impressed by the UnitiQute as it has very nice looks and build quality and the sound was impressive.
In the meantime the head of pr and, I think the owner came in and we all started talking about headphones, amplifiers, dacs, speakers and I must say everyone from there was really passionate about what they were doing and knew their stuff really well.
When I wanted to leave, they insisted to show me the other rooms for audition. I was surprised to see they had a total of 4 rooms for that:
- the entry level room that I just auditioned
- the midfi room
- the high end room (really nice looking setup there)
- and a room mimicking a normal flat room to help you get an idea on how your system would sound at home
They also had wood on the walls for sound dispersion, to get a similar sound with a room that contains furniture. Their level of organisation was extraordinary.
In the midfi room I have listened to a nice pair of Focal Electra 1008 BE pair of speakers from a Jadis Orchestra and I was really stunned as the sound was much better then the entry level speakers I heard in the first room (the bass was tighter and more detailed, the overall sound was more detailed, the sound more natural and well textured, etc).
Needless to say that I spent over 2 hours there, and the time really flew. It was a pleasure meeting their staff and talking with them. I must congratulate them about their level of professionalism and for their passion for audio. I was starting to feel guilty that I was just buying a usb cable.
Well, that really brighten up my day . I left the store with a smile on my face and I think I also made some friends there.
After this I got the cable and went home eager to test it with my setup.
I first compared it with the stock cable and I the difference was felt immediately. It was clearly better. I realized that both cable are better than the stock cable and got it out of the equation.
Here are some comparisons on a few songs:
We Belong – Atb
WireWorld Starlight Red
Very detailed, controlled bass, well defined treble, too much treble, you do not see it at first, as you tend to be astonished by
the level of details, but they get quite tiring after a few minutes.
The first thing that struck me was the bass, as it had more slam. The voice was very natural and the overall sound smoother.
Tommy Smith – Johny Come Late
The bass substantially less than with Chord. The highs were more detailed, but it kind of took away the pace of the song without the bass impact
The bass really steered up the song and the tonality made me like the song more. The highs were not as detailed but it was enough and not in your face.
Infected Mushrooms – Never Ever Land
The bass was well defined and hit fast. The level of details is impressive but the treble was again too in front. It gives a weird feeling as it seem to bring some details and some treble forward in an unnatural sounding way. I was happy when the song ended.
This cable is interesting as it seems to give the treble some sparkle and detail but not in a annoying way. The bass slam was harder on chord. Even though the bass was not as well defined as on the wireworld the impact was better with the chord and made this song more enjoyable. Let me rephrase as “more enjoyable” is not enough. I loved the song with the chord, the slam was amazing, the Audeze slam is back! Actually i feel the Wireworld Red + Conductor makes LCD2 loose the famous bass impact, but with chord well…the slam is back babe!
Howard Shore Twilight and Shadow (Return of the King)
The treble again was better defined but in your face with all the details. Even though I liked the voice sometimes better with this cable the peaks were too much for me.
With Chord the song sounded relaxed and as it should in my opinion, even though the treble was not as detailed.
AC/DC – Gone Shooting
The bass was not very impact-full lacking the slam. The treble was very fatiguing again. Damn it another 2 minutes of the song….no…no…let it end….my ears..my precious ears!
Ok, the slam is back and really changed the prat of the song. Hell yeah! It is rock damn it…it should have good prat. The treble was still a little screechy but in acceptable levels and I could listen the song till the end and really enjoyed it.
I also loved the classical music with Chord. Even though the sound was not as detailed as wireworld ( don’t get me wrong, as the difference was not big ), the bass really improved the cellos presence and feel, and the sound seemed more natural.
After a few days I think the sound improved again. The sound was more smooth, the bass had even more impact. I then realized I began to listen at a smaller volume. Then it struck me: I love the LCD2‘s bass and the wireworld took some of it away. To bring the impact back I started listening at higher volumes and got tired very fast as the wireworld has a bright treble on it. Now I could feel the wonderful bass with its’ full extension on lower volumes, and this really improved my listening experience.
The conclusion is that both cables are an improvement over the stock usb cable and the differences were quite noticeable on both. I for one don’t like the stock cable any longer.
However the Wireworld Starlight Red seems to bring the details and the treble in front in an unatural way. Also it takes away from the bass, even if it makes it tighter.
Overall it makes the sound to tiring and not fit for longer listening periods. With Conductor I think it was not a good fit. Maybe it would be a good fit with a warm source like Asus Essence One.
The Chord USB Silver Plus brought a substantial improvement to my listening experience. The bass is awesome with this cable, it also brings more details than the stock cable. It manages to get more defined treble and adds a little spark to it without damaging the wonderful lush sound from Audeze LCD2. The sound and voices are very natural, the prat is awesome.
From now on, I do not care if anybody tells me that cables don’t make any difference or shows me a graph stating that, because even an USB cable improved my system, and there is no question about it.
Don’t get me wrong, as I think there is a limit to the improvements a cable can bring, and it should be the last thing you buy after you get your audio system right, but the right cable can really improve your system.
P.S. I heard HD800 with Conductor and Chord USB Silver plus and I was truly amazed. The combination is really really awesome. It really improves the bass and warms up the sound. I already listened to a lot of my favorite songs and really enjoyed them with both hd800 and lcd2. Some of the songs that were kind of bright with lcd2 and wireworld starligt red, were even ok with hd800 and chord silver plus!!!
I will give the “Battle of the Titans: HD800 vs LCD2” another try in the next post as I really think HD800 deserves another chance.
DarKu lent me the senns again so stay tuned for my new story on HD800, Ld2, Burson Conductor and the Chord USB Silver Plus.