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 Chords usual principle of using materials that they know work well and conductor geometries they established during the development of their Sarum and Signature USB cables. So at this point they can produce a prototype and sit down and listen to it. Be it blind testing or development listening. Only when they 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 their Signature USB cables, the Shawline USB also uses a specially developed version of the Tuned ARAY conductor geometry. The cable is hand-built, with silver-plated USB A or USB B connectors.
Chord would have liked to have supplied the cable fitted with micro-USB connectors but the challenge of fitting our heavier gauge conductors means that they would be unable to produce a mechanically reliable connection. High performance miniature components have been a real challenge. For the past couple of years they’ve been using their USB cables fitted with USB B to micro-USB adaptors. Adaptors are their least favourite thing and are generally to be avoided whenever possible. In this particular case, it gets interesting. Chord did some experimentation where they took some of the available micro-USB terminated cables and compared them with their 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. They got better results – certainly with the higher end portable devices they tried – by using their 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. Chord got the best performance this way and it’s something well worth trying.
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