To Doug Blackburn,
I read your review of the different AudioQuest USB cables, and I think that you made a very good analogy. It is 100 percent in agreement with the difference that I've found in other digital cables.
You may also find this interesting: I had an experience a few years ago with the top-of-the-line digital transport and DACs from Esoteric. I went to an event held by a dealer who operates out of his own home -- he is also a concert pianist. There were a number of audiophiles there, since these were the first units in the US. Later on in the evening, after many people had gone home, we went out to dinner -- the dealer, the representative from Esoteric, the guy from Stealth Cables, myself, and my friend who had just joined us. We got onto talking about different digital cables and also the rubidium master clock in the system. After dinner, we went back to the dealer's house and played around a bit. The differences were not only obvious to the trained audiophiles, but also to my friend. She couldn't care less about audiophile equipment, but she is a violinist. She latched on to the sound of the violin in a concerto we played. She said of the better cables, "I hear more of the bow sound." When it came to the rubidium master clock, the differences were also not subtle. We even did an unexpected blind test, because they were figuring out how to reroute the cables. At first, we didn't hear any real difference. When we went to switch back, we realized that the master clock hadn't been operating. When it was turned on, boom, more focus and more texture to the violin sound.
The difference probably has something to do with timing, even though, as you pointed out, that shouldn't matter when everything is re-clocked. But most audiophiles agree that it does.
S. Andrea Sundaram
Contributor, The SoundStage! Network