More and more people are discovering that a computer, a USB cable and a USB DAC can be a very good way to listen to music. There’s also no getting away from the fact that USB cables are extremely cheap and in theory have no effect on the quality of the digital signal they carry. Our problem is that every time we sit down to listen, we find they do have an effect.
Shawline USB cable was developed in line with our usual principle of using materials that we know work well and conductor geometries we established during the development of our Sarum and Signature USB cables. So at this point we can produce a prototype and sit down and listen to it. Be it blind testing or development listening. Only when we are completely happy that the cable makes a significant improvement is the cable put into production. The Shawline USB is built using high quality, silver-plated signal and power conductors. The power conductors are separately shielded from the signal conductors and the insulation is a specialised hard skin polyethylene developed for high speed signal transfer. There is also an overall shield, so this combined with the internal shielding, means that the signal cables are protected to very high frequencies.
Like our Signature USB cables, the Shawline USB also uses a specially developed version of the Tuned ARAY conductor geometry. The cable is hand-built, with USB A or USB B gold-plated plugs.
We would have liked to have supplied the cable fitted with micro-USB connectors but the challenge of fitting our heavier gauge conductors means that we would be unable to produce a mechanically reliable connection. High performance miniature components have been a real challenge. For the past couple of years we’ve been using our USB cables fitted with USB B to micro-USB adaptors. Adaptors are our least favourite thing and are generally to be avoided whenever possible. In this particular case, it gets interesting. We did some experimentation where we took some of the available micro-USB terminated cables and compared them with our own USB cables used with an adaptor. The limitations placed on conductor gauge by the micro-USB plug severely limit the length and the performance potential of micro-USB terminated cables. We got better results – certainly with the higher end portable devices we tried – by using our own USB cables, along with an adaptor. What this means is, if you have a decent DAC with a micro USB input, don’t be afraid to experiment with adaptors. We got the best performance this way and it’s something well worth trying.