The Shunyata Trio
We have tested the three Shunyata usb cables on a Metrum Acoustics Amethyst usb-dac / headphone amplifier. We use this dac mainly in our test setup for headphones. This is because it can easily control all headphones and sounds very clean.
As a source we used our Ultimate Audio PC with Roon Core. This PC now contains both a USB card and an Ethernet card from JPLay. Lovely stuff. The USB card should in fact reduce the effect of cables. Of course we take that into account in our test.
As headphones we use the Focal Elear. We test with headphones to be able to hear differences more easily. As an extra we also test with the Amethyst in our reference system. This in order to be able to perceive imaging differences better.
Shunyata Venom USB
Let’s start with the Venom. A very affordable cable. It’s the only cable we don’t see any boxes on. More on that later. The cable does have silver plated copper wires and double shielding. That alone provides a major upgrade. According to many, this is the biggest upgrade a person can make after replacing a standard usb cable.
And it is. When we replace our standard printer cable for this Shunyata, we immediately hear more calmness and refinement.
Now it’s hard to say that a USB cable brings more warmth, openness, freshness or other sound characteristics. What we suspect is that by lowering the noise floor and preventing timing errors in the clocking, more calmness is created, making it easier to hear details. Also, by reducing timing errors in clocking, more suppleness will arise, and the harshness in ‘s-sounds will decrease. As a result, it may seem a bit warmer.
What also improves is the imaging. The image is sharper and more spacious. This is not surprising, because jitter usually results in a flatter stereo image (due to phase errors). In short: everything indicates that the Amethyst still gets some noise from the PC. Despite the spicy priced Jplay usb card. Maybe some noise still passes the grounding. By the way, the JPlay usb card makes a HUGE difference compared to the normal usb ports of the motherboard. We definitely recommend that you first install a decent USB card and only then invest in a good cable.
The Shunyata Venom USB costs 225 euros. And when we look at it this way, we think it’s an excellent investment. The difference with an ordinary cable is easily audible. It gives our set-up a big boost in refinement. In short: definitely worth a try.
Shunyata Alpha USB
In pricing, the step up from the normal Shunyata Venom to the Alpha USB is a big one. We go from 225 euro to 1225 euro. That’s just spicy. The reason the price goes up so much is first of all a longer length. Then the application of KRIP and Matched Z. Let’s explain, because both have to do with the construction and treatment of the cable.
KRIP stands for Kinetic Phase Inversion Process. It is a treatment process for the internal cables that must overcome burn-in and directionality. This means that the dielectric no longer have any directionality and no longer need burn-in. Sounds good. Then Matched Z. The name says it all: the veins and shielding are matched to characteristic. Voodoo? Shunyata’s not really a company that does voodoo. That’s why they have so many patents on their name.
Let’s go listen to the Alpha. At least the name’s already good. The sound? Audible. More suppleness and air. Though the step from the Venon to the Alpha is not as big as a standard cable to the Venom.
What makes it stand out, for example, is Steven Wilson’s Perfect Life. The voice gets a little more freedom and definition. The S-sounds are fresh, but not as grainy. Also with Sharpness by Jamie Woon we hear more of what’s happening in the background and can distinguish instruments better than with the Venom. It is the small details that come out even better. Still bizarre that this is hidden in the ‘noise’. And yet extraordinary that a better cable can make it easier for us to hear it now.
Shunyata Sigma USB
Then The Ultimate: the Sigma USB from Shunyata. A cable of – swallow – 2250 euros. You can also buy ten Venoms… Or two Alpha’s. Fact is: this is the cable for those who already have everything in order and just need that – at high-end important – dot on the ‘i’. The people that seek perfectness.
The Sigma adds a little extra compared to the Alpha. The large ‘tube’ on the cable is called the TAP – Transverse Axal Polarizer. This system affects the magnetic field that generates the signal in the cable. It blocks waves in the length of the cable but allows ‘transverse’ waves to pass through. A kind of polarizing filter as with spectacle lenses. This should give extra calmness and insight into the music.
When we think of the Alpha: well… …how much better can it be? Then comes the Sigma. Man… The first thing that stands out is the extra suppleness. The music just seems to flow more. That could be due to more accurate timing (lowering jitter). Besides that there seems to be one less ‘veil’. Layering in the reproduction is now even easier to dissect. The instruments in the background with Jamie Woon are now even easier to recognize.
Compared to the Venom we really make quite a step. Something we didn’t immediately expect. Is it worth an extra 2000 euros? We’ll put that question to you. In some cases we can suggest that you do want to invest that extra 2000 euros. Think of a (very) serious set-up that is actually finished. Except for one nice USB cable.