The Fast and The Curious
The internet is a good place to be in. It often shows me new products that I never would have heard of before the www-era. One late evening I stumbled across a new (to me that was) cable brand called Curious Cables from Queensland in Australia, which probably is as far away as possible from me staying in the cold north of Scandinavia.
And curious was also what I was after reading some of Curious´ testimonials on their website. So a quick e mail conversation, and a week later I had a small package from down under, containing two USB cables, one 0.8m and a small REGEN Link arrived. The latter has to be used with the REGEN USB device developed by UpTone Audio, reviewed some month ago here at link http://www.monoandstereo.com/2015/10/uptone-audio-USB-regen-review.html
Take a listen to “Snowflakes Are Dancing” here in the winter time, performed by Tomita. You will easily hear the difference when comparing your old and the Curious Cable. It´s very easy to hear the change, listen to some piano works, some vocals and close your eyes, relax and just enjoy. It should be very easy for your ears/mind to judge if it's good or bad. If you are in doubt, just let your feelings do the judgement. Does the music relax you? Does it stress you? Do you like what you hear, or do you think of anything else then music?
Sun is shining even more when we play music with the Curious/REGEN combination. This is good, this is VERY good. The REGEN enlightened my musical experiences even more, the weak link with the UpTone device is the hardwire plug and the supplied short USB cable, the Curious is just miles ahead of both of them and should be a must have when using the REGEN!
Leonard Cohen's "Almost Like The Blues" plays the artists deeeep vocal. And his voice sounds good, very good, deep and powerful. If we add a Curious USB cable in the chain, the soundstage rises to a new dimension, it's now easy to hear even the tiniest piece of information in the music. The lows gets a boost, it's like adding a third dimension in the bass frequencies while at the same time adding more precision to the soundstage. The left/right imaging becomes wider, like a widescreen movie compared to your old 32" TV set.
"The Boxer" with Simon and Garfunkel´s newly remastered album in 192/24 is giving me the chills, probably because it was the first album that I bought as a boy, doing a paper route to get some cash to invest in music ;).
With the Curious cable in the system I can ´now clearly hear the strings and the big reverb on the snare drum (probably a AKG BX20 spring reverb if my audio-memory serves me well). When I remove the Curious cable, and replace it with a Crystal Cable Dreamline USB (at five times the price!) the soundstage shrinks a little, and gets more harsh! Actually the instruments are not positioned in the soundstage as well as with the Curious USB cable.
Vocals are much more intimate, much more! Try to listen to "Stars" performed by Janis Ian with and without the Curious cable. I bet that you as well as I will be intrigued with the song, the music and the feelings while playing your beloved hifi system ;) Note: this track is not perfectly recorded. This live version is suffering from a badly aligned tape machine, nonetheless it´s still touching and must awake some feelings with the listener, otherwise there is really something wrong with your setup.
From the same artist we also listen to a tight fast bass on the song “Jolene”, a very nice and vivid track and reminds me of Suzanne Vega´s “Luka” and the voices of Rickie Lee Jones and Joni Mitchell, which really is not a bad combination.
From The Blessing by Gonzalo Rubalcaba we listen to “Besame Mucho”, and again we are impressed with the extreme dynamics that the Curious cables reveals. Together with the big and wide sound stage, this cable is d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y for the HiFi connoisseurs amongst us.
Mari Kodama plays the beautiful Beethoven Sonatas No. 21 (Waldstein), 23 (Appassionata) and 26 (Les Adieux). All in 24 bit and 96 kHz. Try to check out these beauties with and without the Curious Cable. It should be quite obvious what they do, these cables. The piano, which is not an easy instrument to reproduce, just flows awe-inspiring from the speakers.
And for some dynamics, try to listen to the vivid drums on Danish bass-player Chris Minh Doky´s “The Dapper King” from his A Jazz Life. With the Curious cable the snare drum just hits the sky!
But please don't just take my word for it. If you are in for a good treat at your local or global HiFi restaurant, please order the CC menu and take a tour with the Curious USB Cable, and I am sure you won´t regret it. Neither did I, and have no reason whatsoever to send it back to Queensland, Australia. No way, Mate ;=)
And how does the short LINK Curious perform compared to the “long” 0.8m cable, which is similar, just the length is different? The short one is a little more easy to listen to, and more enjoyable. It´s not worlds part, but if you can do with the short (the LINK) cable, you can save some of your money, and get better sound too.
Just before my deadline, I just got some words from Rob Woodland, the designer of the Curious USB Cable:
“Thoughts - on the design of Curious USB cable
The first problem we encounter with USB cables for audiophile applications is that many are designed by the text book - for high speed data transmission. The question is; do we need high speed for audio? I don't believe we do. What we do need is to maintain the “integrity” of the data. Digital can provide a high purity signal - we just need to preserve it.
So, the mantra becomes - do as little damage as possible – and allow information to come through.
This involves lowering the noise floor of the cable, so information isn't buried. Some manufacturers use shielding of the data lines to achieve this. Yet the shielding itself can attract and convey noise between grounds. From a subjective point of view, shielding can also squash dynamics and flatten a sound stage.
The Curious USB incorporates a different, yet very effective method of shielding – to allow for correct dynamics and dimension – against a super quiet background.
The data lines are of course extremely important and my testing led me immediately to high purity silver.But not all silver is the same, so additional work was required to select the best metallurgy for the job.
An interesting challenge is selecting the diameter of the silver conductor. Different diameters change the sound completely. The objective is to choose a diameter that provides natural “weight”, realism and a full extended frequency response.
During development of the Curious, I built up a set of parameters for a USB cable that worked for the delivery of music, rather than the text book design for delivery of high speed data.
The takeaway line: Digital doesn’t have to be hard, edgy and flat. The USB cable is often the culprit.”
You can listen to some of the tracks on this Tidal playlist made just for you:
Tidal: link tidal.com/playlist/13b01a8d-c061-40d5-84e5-bbcdf7409f16
USB Cable 0.8 m US$ 340
REGEN Link US$ 120
Curious USB 0.8m + REGEN Link US$ 460
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©Text and photos: Kurt Lassen 2015