Wireworld Ultraviolet & AudioQuest Forest USB Cable Reviews 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Friday, 29 June 2012

USB audio has been either all the rage, or a passing fad, depending on your perspective for the past few years in high end audio. Outputting audio from a computer via one of its USB ports to either an S/PDIF converter like the Musical Fidelity V-Link 192, or to a DAC with a buzzword friendly “asynchronous” USB input has become an officially approved audiophile connection. Many argued USB took a long time to come to the forefront as a high quality audio connection since it was designed for computer to peripheral (hard drives, printers, etc.) rather than for audio. But things have changed. Heaven forbid a manufacturer releases a source component, AV receiver, or DAC without USB connectivity. Can you say DOA?

Since USB audio has gained wide acceptance, it was only a matter of time before "audiophile" grade USB cables hit the market. Every major high end audio cable manufacturer has designed their own cable, and all claim significant performance improvements over the stock, $5 cables that come with any hard drive, printer, disc drive, mouse, or keyboard. Some of the purported advantages of aftermarket, high end USB cables are premium connectors, high quality conductors, and superior construction. Of course, the use of more expensive metals like gold and silver come into play as well. The ultimate goal, they say, is to reduce jitter, or timing errors, that can negatively affect the sound.

Audioquest and WireWorld, two very well established cable makers, developed high grade USB cable several years ago; everything from entry level models, to pricey, state of the art offerings. For this review, I have the Audioquest Forest, and the Wireworld Ultraviolet USB cables. Both are each manufacturer's entry level USB cable.

Audioquest Forest USB Cable:

AudioQuest Forest USB Cable

Audioquest is one of the bigger players in specialty audio cables, having produced for a number of years a full suite of products for every conceivable application. They have also been known for excellent digital cables in the past, so their delving into the USB cable market is no surprise.  In the current lineup, which gets revamped rather often, there are five USB cables. The Forest, is the entry level cable, and is priced at $28 for a .75 meter length. It is followed by the Cinnamon, Carbon, Coffee, and the Diamond, the latter being the flagship cable made with solid silver conductors.

The Forest has solid copper conductors, gold-plated connectors, and is insulated with polyethylene. It is well made, and is finished in forest green. Audioquest believes strongly in solid core wire, and says it eliminates distortions and other artifacts. Audioquest says they use ultra high quality solder for terminations as well.  The cable is rather flexible and easy to maneuver.

Using my Mac Mini and my Squeezebox Touch (with the Enhanced Digital Output Applet installed), I compared a generic USB cable to the Forest. USB DAC units included the Musical Fidelity V-DAC II and the Lindemann USB-DAC 192.  While the generic no name USB cable sounded decent, the Audioquest Forest was cleaner sounding, with heavier bass and more midrange information.  The difference was not night and day, but easy to hear.

There seemed to be more space around instruments, and there was a more relaxed and flowing sound. The results were repeatable, and were consistent regardless of what DAC or source was in use. At $28 for the shortest length, it is hardly a wallet breaker. While it is a good $20 more than a generic Staples brand USB cable, the improvement makes it fairly priced.

 


WireWorld Ultraviolet USB Cable:

WireWorld has also been around for a number of years, and makes cables for every type of audio connection as well. They have a unique take on cables in that virtually every cable in their line is flat design. They have also developed a unique geometry called DNA Helix that they claim rejects noise and enhances the electrical properties of a given cable.

The WireWorld Ultraviolet is the first in a line of multiple USB cables, and it features proprietary technology specific to WireWorld. Pricing starts at $44 for a half meter. According to WireWorld: “The Symmetricon design (used in Wireworld Starlight Ultraviolet USB Audio cables) utilizes four signal conductors, effectively doubling the area where electromagnetic energy is channeled efficiently through the cable.  Another special feature of Wireworld USB Audio cables is a shielded power conductor that is isolated from the signal conductors for cleaner power and improved sound quality.”

An important design feature that distinguishes their USB cables, as they note, is the separation of the data conductors and the 5 volt power conductor that is part of every USB cable, which are usually grouped together. The cable is very well made, and is finished in an attractive purple color, with high quality connectors. Because of the flat construction, the Ultraviolet was not quite as easy to maneuver as the Audioquest Forest. But this has been my experience with all flat cables, regardless of application. I used the same setup as described above, and I heard virtually the same set of performance improvements over the stock USB cable.

The lower frequencies had more weight and definition, which cleaned up smearing and overhang into the other frequencies that were occurring with the stock USB. Of course, deficiencies in generic USB cables are often only apparent after installing aftermarket cables. The Ultraviolet was clean, clear, and defined. As with the Audioquest, the difference over the stock cable was subtle, but easy to hear without even having to listen critically. While more expensive that the Forest, the theoretical benefits of a separate power lead and its increased manufacturing costs make this cable fairly priced.

WireWorld Ultraviolet USB

Conclusion:

Having both the Audioquest Forest and WireWorld Ultraviolet USB cables in my system for an extended period of time convinced me they are both cost effective, nice upgrades over stock USB cables for high end computer audio set ups. In my opinion, if you are listening to CD quality lossless files or HD downloads, it would be silly to use a generic USB cable when the cost of a good aftermarket cable is fairly reasonable.

Both the Audioquest Forest and WireWorld Ultraviolet USB cables are fine products from companies with long pedigrees. I have added both cables to my system. I do wonder how the USB cables higher up in the line compare, but my budget would not allow me to go much higher for this application. Both cables are highly recommended.


 

Review System 1


CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT, Unison Research Unico CDe
Server: Squeezebox Touch w/ CIA VDC-SB power supply
via Ethernet to MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate
external drives.
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Denson B-310
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Belkin Gold (USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, Lindemann USB-DAC 192
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3






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