Mad Scientist Audio – Black Magic USB Cable

Who is Mad Scientist Audio?

Mad Scientist Audio is based in New Zealand. It’s run by Bob & Kay Prangnell with a posse of Mad Scientists. Mad Scientist Audio designs and manufactures unique audio products.

Bob the Chief Mad Scientist. Bob also runs a software company, and is a decent photographer. He’s been tinkering with audio gear for the past 40 years in his spare time. Electronic and Software engineer by trade.  

All of our products are hand made in New Zealand, using materials and techniques we developed in-house.

Black Magic USB Cable – The Story

Black Magic normally brings to mind images of pentagrams, incense burning and Aleister Crowley.  To Kiwis, Black Magic means something else eentirely: the name of the boat that brought the Americas Cup here more than 20 years ago. (And to prove it wasn’t a fluke, we’ve done it 3 times now..). It’s when we proved we can take on the world and win.

Black Magic is our flagship product from now on.. During development and testing it became clear that Black Magic had few if any peers (this coming from professionals who have access to any USB cable they like, and choose ours). How does it sound? Clarity and Musical are the two words that spring to mind. One thing that really impressed me was the ability to hear (new) lyrics on tracks that I thought I knew inside-out. It brings the kind of improvements that you normally expect from a component, and makes you want to listen all night.

Sound Comparisons

QED Reference USB

For ~$80 USD, the QED Reference USB is one of the best values in the market. However, once you’ve swapped for the Black Magic, you’ll be pulling out your wallet. Much better timbre accuracy, body, dimension, and clarity. The QED has a softer, cooler tone and a much flatter image. The Black Magic just shapes out everything in a more palpable way.

If you don’t believe USB cables could make that big of a difference – this comparison will change your mind.

Danacable TruStream

The Danacable TruStream is more laid back and translucent. The Black Magic is more forward, midrange dense, and tonally warmer. I must say the vocals on the Black Magic are much fuller – which is very nice. It does trade off quite a bit of treble shine, clarity, and air, however.

The TruStream is quieter, more resolving/transparent, and layers out the music more spaciously. I enjoy the resolution, openness, and clarity of the TruStream while appreciating the lush and rich sound of the Black Magic.

Sablon Audio Panatela Reserva

Two very different sounds. Please check out my review of the Panatela Reserva here. I find the tonal color to be more accurate with the Black Magic while the Panatela Reserva excels in imaging, soundstage, clarity, and articulation.

If you’re looking for a cleaner more transparent sound, go for the Sablon Audio. If you’re chasing a more romantic and intimate sound, the Black Magic is it.

Final Thoughts

As far as musicality is concerned, the Mad Scientist Audio Black Magic USB cable is the embodiment of exactly that. It’s a very rich, solid-sounding, and euphonic cable. The expected trade-off is some resolution, spatial articulation, and imaging. But if acoustic seduction is what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.

For its performance and price point ($399), The Mad Scientist Audio Black Magic USB cable is an easy recommendation. Especially if you’re upgrading from the budget cables.

Product Page

Jay Luong

Mr. Audio Bacon himself. An open-minded electrical engineer and software developer by trade. I have an obsession with the enjoyment of all things media - specifically in the realm of music and film. So much heart and soul (and money) go into the creation of this artistry. My aim is to find out which products get me closer to what the musicians and directors intended.

View Comments

  • Thanks for the review, I looked for it.......
    Please can you say something how it compares to the Phasure Lush.
    Thanks again


    • I could only speak from memory. They're both similar in tone but if I recall correctly, the Phasure Lush had a denser, richer sound. Perhaps someone with both cables could chime in.

      • Yes, I can imagine that both cables are very similar and that is it impossible to compare them from memory.

  • Wait, you're an electrical engineer and you try to say that a USB cable can improve sound quality? What kind of BULLSHIT are you feeding people?

    A Bit arrives or it does not. It does not arrive BETTER or WORSE on a 2 dollar cable or a $100 cable. What kind of scam are you running here? I'm guessing all these cable companies are paying you in either gear or money as you should be ashamed of yourself for telling people they need an $80+ cable.

    Audio Bacon is the right word for your site, as you are greasing your palm by pushing over priced gear on uneducated Audiophiles.

    You want to prove me wrong? Post up actual electrical diagrams, tests, ANYTHING that measures the cables from an actual engineering point of view to back up your reviews a anything more than horse shit.

    • Well, there's a lot more to it than zeros and ones:

      Also, you do realize that these manufacturers offer trials and if the buyer doesn't hear a difference, they don't have to pull out their wallet right? And yet, thousands of them do. Are you going to tell that grown adult not to buy that $80 cable? lol. You have to stop being cynical and stop pretending to be omniscient. No one needs saving so please do something more productive with your life.

  • Had a 800 euro usb cable, heard the difference, but sold it because the difference was too small to justify the price.
    Now use a printer USB. I labelled it as audio, because it does sound better than other printer cables I have.
    So as far as im concerned, yes USB data cables make audible differences. But at what price...

  • There are three reasons why a difference in sound quality can be heard on different cables when transferring digitized music

    1) Cable companies are lying to get your money
    2) Cable reviewers are lying to you to get money from the cable companies who are getting the money from you (ever seen a bad review?)
    3) The listener believed 1) or 2) and has just spent next month rent on his cables. You bet he will hear a difference

    In all cases it is impossible for a cable to make a difference to the sound quality of digitized music being passed across it

    It is a dumb piece of wire, for heaven's sake. It doesn't even know that it is audio and not print or Excel files being sent over it. Perhaps with an expensive cable my spreadsheets will exhibit 'a broader sound stage' and 'clearer woodwinds'

    Think about what the cable would have to do to change the sound quality

    1) The cable would have to realize that the digits being passed form digitized sound
    2) The cable would have to turn the digits back into the original sound
    3) The cable would have to apply it's 'enhancements' ( 'deeper mid-tones' or other such garbage )
    4) The cable would then have to re-digitize the sound

    A few strands of wire can not do this (It would need D-to-A and A-to-D converters and all known codecs built in).
    Sound is analogue. USB communication is digital

      • You really don't have a clue, do you? Snarky come-backs aren't going to change the physical world. Any differences you heard are due to your delusions. Your continued refusal to to ABX testing shows that you know this to be true.

  • Just wonderng what other analogue cables and power cords you using when reviewing this USB cable

  • Hi Jay
    Balancing HIFI systems with different makes of cable is never easy. Would you say that the Black Magic USB has a better synergy with the Synergistic Research sound than perhaps the Danacable TruStream USB?

    I rate SR very highly especially their Galileo SX line but suspect the lower-mid frequencies on some setups would benefit from a USB cable with greater density in that area.

    • Just based on what I've heard from SR, I would recommend the SR with the Black Magic. It should complement that cable with more resolution and depth.

    • Because USB is a digital transport mechanism. Either the data arrives or it doesn't. Audio data, like any data, can't be improved by the cable. It too either arrives or it doesn't. People making their living by scamming the gullible are beneath contempt. Hence the anger they provoke.

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