The Importance of the Digital Cable

Good Sunday evening dear friends,

This point of discussion has been on my mind of late, as I have listened carefully to the results. This is a bold statement and discussed ad nauseam here I am sure, though I feel others may be encouraged to explore this more deeply as we share our experiences here.

I’ve had several digital cables, ranging from several coax, to toslink. I have not yet tried a dedicated AES/EBU XLR.

Listening to the Denafrips Pontus, a ladder DAC, fed from an Oppo UDP-205 as transport, I was compelled to try a few different cables, because the results were not as good as expected. I played a few albums; XTC ‘Nonesuch’ - a rather hot recording from the 90’s but very interesting and politically out front. Then an Everett Harp CD that highlights his wonderful sax playing. Then Robben Ford and The Blue Line, the album being ‘handful of Blues’.After that some Arjit Singh, and Tarkan (Turkish music).
The cables running from the DAC to the Pre/amp are Transparent Ultra XL (original). I like these cables because they have a very natural organic sound. They do lack some of the detail up top of some of the best in class and perhaps are a less exciting that some, but over all I love the naturalness, slight warmth in mid-bass, scale and soundstage of their sound.
But things didn’t sound quite right. I can always tell when something isn’t quite right, because it’s harder for me to get involved in the music. Some of the quieter words were too vague, and there was just a general fuzziness and vagueness overall. The soundstage was flatter and resolution of detail was lacking. The Pontus as you know, is a very good DAC, so I knew something was off.

I had the Canare digital cable in place, and decided to switch it out for my Black Cat Veloce. Wow! The sound transformed. Now the DAC truly shined. All the detail returned. The sound was certain and clear. The soundstage was very wide and the vagueness replaced with clarity. The music was now exciting and involving.

This begs the question, how can a digital cable make such a difference? After all, it is transporting a digital binary signal?
Please share your experiences.

"  Make sure that you’re not using “analog” xlr cables for a “digital” signal. They look the same and have same XLR type connectors (although digital cable usually called AES) but different design internally.

same goes for unbalanced… spdif and analog interconnects both have RCA connectors but very different design internally."

This is not true. As mentioned by several here; the "digital" signal is actually electric and any ic might do a ok job, just try. Don`t let the salesman fool you
Black Cat makes a hell of a digital cable…

Yes, that Black Cat digital cable is out of this world. 

Made my previous one sound broken.
This is not true. As mentioned by several here; the "digital" signal is actually electric and any ic might do a ok job, just try. Don`t let the salesman fool you
This is not true.  As mentioned many times here digital signal is affected by time jitter (doesn't come in even intervals) producing added noise after D/A conversion.  One of the causes of the jitter are reflections of the signal inside of the cable on characteristic impedance boundaries.   Expensive digital cable might be (other than better shielding) not better than the cheap one.  It is all system dependent and better cable will be the one that has characteristic impedance matching better (especially to DACs input impedance).  Analog cables are likely to cause jitter since they are not designed for any specific characteristic impedance (not important for analog signals in audio band).  Some DACs might have strong jitter suppression but other DACs will be affected.  Jitter is the main cause why digital often sounds bright and harsh in comparison to analog.

I think that it's worth doing to the conversation that DACs are effected differently by jitter. My old school Monarchy DAC handles it poorly, to the point that I got a jitter box (that's old guy speak for a component that just reclocks the data stream). My Benchmark, on the other hand, doesn't care about what source I use, or what cable.
Hello all,

An update and a bit of a review…

Fellow audiophile CFarrow, has very kindly sent me the Black Cat SilverStar 75 and which I received on Wednesday evening.

I couldn’t wait to try it and at my son’s behest, headed over to his house that very evening so we could both listen. To think that only 6 months or so ago i never considered that the digital cable could impact the sound to such a degree. In highly resolving systems, even small changes can have a profound impact in the sound overall.

The Veloce has proven to me how a carefully designed and engineered digital cable will bring out the music to much better effect. Better organization of the soundstage with more space between instruments (less homogenized). Clearer lines defining images. Better dynamic shading leading to improved dynamics and musical presence. Better definition throughout the frequency range.

The latest upgrade thanks to CFarrow, re-affirms to me that digital cables are not created equal and can sound different. The SilverStar sounds even better than the Veloce. How can that be? The adage goes that one can’t imagine it sounding much better until one hears it for oneself. The same kind of improvements noted above going from the Canare to the Veloce describe what I observe, only those improvements are greater; i.e greater clarity and musical energy overall.

I played several CDs that evening, all demonstrating to my son and I how great the Black Cat SilverStar is.
The Corrs, an excellent album by the Irish family band honouring their mother by playing a collection of the Irish music she best loved.  Not an audiophile grade album of highest quality in terms of sonic quality but superb nonetheless. Andrea Corr’s voice was dominant. It was palpable and human, even moreso than the Veloce. The energy of the band was fully realized. Drums had real force and energy. Cymbals vibrated and sizzled. The soundstage widened and deepened even more. Instrument tones and textures were rich.
But when i put on The Fixx, an album I have had since the early 90’s, I approached that audio nirvana. I know this album well and have listened many times over the decades. It is well recorded. In fact now i know it is very well recorded. The energy and clarity was breathtaking. Sounds were jumping way outside from the speakers I hadn’t ever experienced in listening to this album. Perhaps it was a culmination of the system as a whole. This is the first time playing this album on my son’s system; a Devialet Expert Pro 220 connected using the Black Cat Silverstar and fed by a Parasound Halo D3 as transport driving Magico S3s, so it was likely a combination of everything together that contributed to such a stellar result.

We ended the session listening to the inimitable Jagjit Singh, and Mehdi Hassan. The SilverStar conveyed all the nuances even more effectively than the Veloce. At that point we wound up the session as we both had to turn in and get up for work early in the morning.

in concluding I will say that the SilverStar may not be for every system. It is an amazing cable that delivers so much detail and information. If a system is inherently bright, this might be a bit too much of a good thing. Such systems require tuning down upper frequency detail a wee bit. For me though, the SilverStar is superb. It works perfectly with neutral sounding systems and adds much. My audio journey continues.

Thanks so much CFarrow.