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 they do. A decent laptop dedicated to your music collection and a good USB DAC can be a very valid and affordable source – especially if you’re prepared to sit down and experiment with dedicated cables to connect the two together, like the Shawline USB.
Like all our cables the Shawline USB cable was developed using the same principles we use for every other cable we produce. That means using materials that we know work well and conductor geometries we established during the development of our Sarum and Signature USB cables. So at this point we can produce a prototype and sit down and listen to it. Be it blind testing or development listening; only when we 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 our Signature USB cables, the Shawline USB also uses a specially developed version of the Tuned ARAY conductor geometry. The cable is hand-built, the standard length is 1m and it can be supplied fitted with USB A or USB B gold-plated plugs.
The Chord Shawline USB is available in 1m lengths as standard. Custom lengths can be built to order. The maximum recommended length is 3m.
We would have liked to have supplied the cable fitted with micro-USB connectors but the challenge of fitting the heavier gauge conductors that we’ve chosen to use means that we would be unable to produce a mechanically reliable connection. The whole problem so many miniature components of such a high performance potential has been a real challenge. For the past couple of years we’ve been using our USB cables fitted with USB B to micro-USB adaptors. Adaptors are our least favourite thing and are generally to be avoided whenever possible. In this particular case though, it gets interesting. We did some experimentation where we took some of the available micro-USB terminated cables and compared them with our 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. We got better results – certainly with the higher end portable devices we tried – by using our 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. We got the best performance this way and it’s something well worth trying.
David Robson continues his Chord Company “Cable Doctor” series of reviews, where specific cable combinations are recommended for his system by Nigel Finn of Chord. Previously he has focused on the entry level C Line and Clearway cables but now moves up to the new Shawline series interconnects and digital cable, along with the Epic Twin speaker...
The Wiltshire-based Chord Company certainly made an impact with the launch of their Tuned ARAY cables interconnect and digital cables. Developed by their renowned designer Nigel Finn they used a unique geometry and superior materials to bring out the spatial elements in music while retaining the timing and essential rhythmic vibrancy. Listening to the first...