Call me a coward if you like but I’ve been holding out on writing this post. Reviewing cables tends to attract a lot of unless-you-prove-it-with-a-double-blind-test-your-conclusions-are-invalid comments. Having said that, I was encouraged by the reader civility that met my previous cable review, that of Mike Morrow’s MAP-1. But that was for a power cable that sells for US$149.
Today, I wanna big up a USB cable that sells for $999.
Yes, you heard me: USB cable. One thousand dollars.
The LightSpeed USB cable comes from Californian’s Light Harmonic – the same guys that make the $30K Da Vinci endgame DAC and the same guys that Kickstarted a $300 DAC/headphone amp called Geek. I guess they like to work BOTH ends of the money rope.
A standard length is 0.8m. 1.6m will run you US$1399, 3.8m is US$1999.
By physically splitting the 5V power feed and the digital audio stream, the LightSpeed seeks to minimise the former exacting electrical disturbances on the latter, which would cause timing errors – jitter.
Some maths: the LightSpeed promises 20x the bandwidth delivery of USB 2.0’s 480Mbit/sec. cables. 20 x 480 = 9600Mbit/sec = ~10Gbit/sec.
If you’re the kind of person that gets off on deeper technicalia, check out Steve Plaskin’s review of the LightSpeed over at AudioStream. I read Plaskin’s review, agreed with pretty much all of his conclusions and dusted off my hands as if to say, “nothing more for me to add”.
Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself…
I first picked up on the significance of the LightSpeed USB cable’s improvements when playing switcheroo with USB DACs a couple of months ago, initially (and mistakenly) attributing better separated detail to the Resonessence Labs Concero HP. Replicating this game-lifting with a couple of other DACs sealed the takeaway container: this USB cable brought improvements far larger than anyone might reasonably expect…
…and then you look at the US$999 price tag again. Entry-level it ain’t.
Yes, the increase in tonal density is greater than that brought by iFi’s iUSBPower. In this context, the USB cable amelioration is price commensurate.
A thousand dollar USB cable probably won’t be set to work with a thousand dollar DAC. You’d be better off buying a two thousand dollar DAC. However, if you’ve got a $5kish decoder, the LightSpeed is well worth a look. I’ve now got it running direct out of a MacMini and into Resonessence Labs’ flagship INVICTA Mirus. Does it bring improvements? Yessir.
Plus, I really dig red cables.
Last week came a 6Moon-ing group email from Srajan Ebaen: Paul hits us with a SOTA USB cable he sez makes more of a diff than speaker or interconnect cables.
I hit Srajan right back for a one-to-one: I have one of those LH USB cables and I agree with Paul – bigger diff than speaker or interconnect changes.
Srajan: Fuck. You mean I now gotta get me one of those things? Geezus. Thanks a lot -:)
Me: ‘Fraid so.
Srajan: Okay then.
Skeptics, run at me.
Further information: Light Harmonic