This cable took about 100 hours to break-in. Although silver provides an enormous soundstage, air, and resolution, copper just sounds more musically shaped (especially for voices) and tonally accurate to my ears. I find silver to be initially impressive but not as involving over time. Of course, this depends on the purity of the silver and Neotech silver and gold/silver stuff is probably the best I’ve heard.
Kimber KS-2436-AG ($1,195 @ 1.0m)
When I first A/B’ed the Kimber with the Curious, I thought they sounded very similar as far as tone and resolution. Over time the Kimber AG is the better sounding cable by providing a smoother and more coherent listening experience. The Curious is slightly leaner with more “exciting” overtones. Whether Kimber AG is worth over three times the price will be something you’ll have to decide for yourself. To my ears, I’m not even sure the Kimber AG is double the sonic performance of the Curious.
Danacable TruStream USB ($895 @ 2.0m)
This is my reference USB cable. It’s not the most detailed cable but, in my opinion, probably the most musically accurate. In comparison, the Curious USB provides a more spacious soundstage with incredible depth and resolution. It’s more transparent and quiet. The Danacable is smoother, has more accurate timbre, and provides more body and weight to the music. Although I would prefer the more holographic sound of the Curious, I felt more at home with the Danacable.
Phasure Lush USB ($269 @ 1.5m)
This cable is aptly named. It’s a very tonally rich cable. Probably the polar opposite of the Curious USB as far as tone. If you’re a resolution chaser, you won’t like this cable as much as the Curious USB. In ways similar to the Danacable, it has a denser and sweeter sound. Romantic if you will. Swapping between the Curious and the Lush and I get a presentation for different moods. The great thing about the Lush cable is that it has the ability to layer the sound like cables at least twice its price. It’s a bit like the warmer counterpart of the Curious USB. The price/performance ratio of both of these cables cannot be understated.
Clarity Cable Natural USB ($1,250 @ 1.0m)
Tonally similar to the Curious USB (It’s the silver silly). The Clarity Cable has a slightly better spatial reproduction and is even more detailed. Timbre is also more accurate and overall smoother. That said, the Curious USB gets 85% of the way there. For what it’s worth, I prefer this cable over the aforementioned Kimber AG for its natural sound. As you could probably infer by now, the Curious Cables USB is looking like more than just an incredible value in comparison to the giants.
Kimber KS-2416-CU ($495 @ 1.0m)
Although I have a proclivity towards copper, I preferred the Curious USB over the Kimber Cu in this comparison. You get so much more sonic benefits at a cheaper price. The Kimber Cu has more accurate timbre but sounds quite flat in comparison. It completely lacks any delineation across performers and really doesn’t have enough air and resolution to sound convincing.
Chord Silver Plus USB ($100 @ 1.0m)
The Curious USB immediately replaced my Chord Silver Plus. It wasn’t even close. Every cable in this lineup sounded better than the Silver Plus. The Chord sounds overly smooth and dulls out all the texture in the music.
Purist Audio 30th Anniversary USB ($1,500 @ 1.0m)
The priciest cable of the bunch, I believe it beats the Curious USB on all accounts aside from the Purist having a more tamed top and low end. Some may prefer the more present and weighty low and top ends of the Curious. Both have dimension and detail but I feel the Purist does it in a more coherent and realistic way. The Curious USB is the more energetic and sparkly cable.
Audience AU 24 SE USB ($595 @ 1.0m)
This cable is a very neutral sounding cable. In comparison to the Curious Cables USB, it’s a bit bass light and relaxed. I found the Curious to be more engaging and fun to listen to. Acoustic decay, maco/micro-dynamics, and resolution were better on the Curious USB cable. The Audience has a calmer, more mellow, and easygoing presentation. In a way, it’s smoother and doesn’t “try too hard.” The Curious USB is definitely more vivid with a healthier dose of clarity.
Vovox textura IC USB ($390)
Like the Lush cable, this cable may complement the Curious USB cable. It doesn’t have close to the amount of layering or dimensionality (probably its largest shortcoming), but it’s superbly musical and provides more meat on the bones. It has better timbre and tonal balance but isn’t as resolving or airy as the Curious USB cable. I find myself going between these cables depending on genre and mood.
Comparisons with other USB cables:
A few commenters were curious about comparisons to other USB cables. I’m planning a full comparison chart soon but some of these cables are difficult to source. A few guys from the CA and Head-fi communities were kind enough to send their cables in. Please contact me if you’d like to do the same and I’ll add update my impressions.
After swimming with USB cables for the past few months, I’ve concluded these cables should be treated as components (no wonder why some are priced as components). They are an integral part of your digital playback system and should be selected with care. Unlike most interconnects I’ve heard, USB cables have more potential of sounding unacceptable in most systems.
If it isn’t obvious from the comparisons, I found the Curious Cables USB to be more than just a great value. At its price point, it might be the only USB cable you really need. Most would be hard-pressed to spend three times the amount for an appreciable difference in sound quality. Those who are using the Curious USB for their USB streamers and conditioners (ultraRendu, SOtM trifecta, UpTone ISO REGEN, etc) are getting a hefty bang for their buck. What’s even better is their 280mm Hugo Link for $160. This is currently the cable I’m using on the go with my Mojo and Hugo. There is no better portable audiophile-grade USB cable out there. Period.
- Performance gets really close to those of other top-shelf silver USB cables costing many times more. Of course, a small group of us are willing to pay the premium for just a bit more coherence, smoothness, and tonal/timbre accuracy. Just know that diminishing returns applies heavily.
- Very clean, pitch black background. Copper USB cables can’t touch this.
- Incredible soundstage and depth. Typically for this level of musical dimensionality, you would have to pay at least double. This is what makes the Curious USB so compelling, especially for their Hugo Link cables.
- Slight grainier upper-mids with a slight emphasis in the upper octaves. Other than this, musical integrity is intact.
- A great balanced sound that’s never irritating or fatiguing.
- I personally prefer a richer and denser mids and lows but this might require using copper for the signal.
I really enjoy this cable and believe it to be one of the gems in audiophile land. After listening, I’d suspect many will look no further than the Curious Cables USB. As always, I speak with my wallet and have purchased a few Curious USB cables for our systems.
Curious Cables offers free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee. They’ll even pay for the shipping back to Austrailia. If you’re one of the 1% who hasn’t satiated their curiosity yet, the Curious Cables USB is worth interviewing.