This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

The cable arrives in a nice little box with a brief instruction page recommending to tie its earth drain to "water pipes or the wall socket ground". The former is mostly impractical (even though Euro heating pipes do tend to be exposed) but the latter isn't. It just may require tacking on some length to the drain wire before it reaches that destination.

That's easily done since the drain wire clips to the USB cable via mini banana and that banana itself attaches with a simple set screw. Loosen screw, insert cheap generic copper wire of the necessary length, retighten screw, reseat banana, tie the loose end to your chosen earth connection. Presto, your USB interface is grounded. "Stay in the corner and be quiet!" Grade school all over again. On more than one count. Here's my desk top review environment.

First up was the tiny Korean Calyx Kong which Christine Han from April Music had hipped me to. It's a self-powered USB headphone amplifier where the USB interface itself provides all necessary power. A Zu Audio Pivot mini-to-2xRCA cable linked the headphone socket to the overachieving Dayens Ampino integrated from Serbia. I opened up the Kong's and PC's volume settings all the way to have the Ampino be the control. The Entreq cable's new drain connected to the ground post of my Furutech power strip, ripped WAV files were streaming from my PC's hard drive.

The first thing I noticed had nothing to do with sound. The little bluish/white power LED of the Calyx Kong seemed brighter with the Entreq than generic USB cable. Self hypnosis? The sound followed suit without any doubts whatsoever but let's get the obvious handled first. A guy could go ape describing a $1,000 USB cable if he comes off a crap freebo. You'd expect a king kong difference. Unless you do a comprehensive survey however, you'll never know. Could a €170 cable have gotten you there just as well? Or better? Or so little worse as to not just justify the
difference? Temperance feeds off experience. One first needs to get that. Experience. Assessing the virtue of the Entreq Discover by way of a generic computer cable was then both somewhat foregone conclusion and the old litany that any journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. This was mine.

Stepping in and up
As in, demonstrably more refinement in the upper ranges; more extended harmonics; better separation and superior articulation across the range. The generic cable sounded warmer, fuzzier, less distinct - actually blurry. The biggest differentiator was arguably the additional information above the upper midrange. A side effect of increased resolution and what sounded like better timing precision (all attacks got crisper) was how the generic cable sounded not so much slower -- the Entreq certainly didn't accelerate the tunes -- but tired and worn. The Swede exhibited clearly higher vitality or pep. All this was plain as day over the lime-green $150 USB DAC from South Korea. Another way of putting the differences is that the generic cable very much diminished the difference between so-so and superlative recordings.

Step N°2 replaced the Calyx Kong with Christine Han's April Music Stello DA100 Signature converter. Now the soundstage broadened very noticeably, depth layering improved and tonal gradations increased. Without losing timing, the musical gestalt softened and relaxed; what audiospeak might call higher elegance or suavity. This was vis-à-vis the Calyx Kong using the Entreq. Would switching to the generic be a lesser or greater setback than before? Seemingly less. Transients and harmonics were blanketed over again but the general definition didn't suffer as badly as before. The treble was coarser with the generic cable and decays shorter but not to the same extent. This was unexpected. Did a reclocker in the Stello already repair certain things the Calyx did not to make the latter more appreciative of the better cable?

It's early days still in Casa Chardonne. No answers to such questions yet. What's beyond doubt after sticking just one toe into these querulous waters is that yes, USB cables make an appreciable, easy-to-hear difference. At least when one's baseline is a generic wire. Alas, is spending $1149 on a Locus Design Nucleus sensible over and above this demonstrably working Entreq? How soon until Serguei Timachev will come out with an amorphous metal, Helium-encased Sakra class USB link for Stealth Audio Cables?

Will this sector turn into a Wild West of claim jumpers and robber barons? Time will tell. For now, mainstream high-end companies like Esoteric with their new 32-bit SA-50 SACD machine with USB input confirm that streaming audio deserves full support from on (the) high (end). Dennis Had clearly feels the same. His $1,500 Cary Audio Xciter DAC also sports USB. And the same AsahiKasei AK4399 chip that's in the Esoteric. Then there's Ayre's QB-9 DAC and Gordon Rankin's Wavelength machines with triodes. But it's not only such high-pedigree machines that deserve proper USB cables. The tiny Calyx Kong converter selling for less than Entreq's whole cable latched onto it even more starved than the Stello DAC.

Today's review was more generic than specific simply due to lack of familiarity with competing
products. But if I apply the usual investment vs. return ratio, the magnitude of improvement from Entreq's Discover cable quite exceeds what its still modest expense would suggest. And lest you think it'd be wasted on something as stylish but surely mid-fi as Bang & Olufsen's clip-on earspeakers (that was the audiophile police speaking), you're much mistaken. Simplifying the overall component and wire count and taking the room out of the equation rather focuses things and hones your attention. The above mobile setup very much benefits from Per-Olof's cable.

In closing, once this market shakes out to establish how much money must be spent to get the lion's share from the USB cable interface, we'll know better where Entreq has positioned itself. For today, by what it so clearly did, their cable has already opened my ears as to how much room there is in this hifi juncture to optimize and improve over just any ol' computer wire with measured continuity and the right kinds of plugs. Those are not the ne plus ultra!
Entreq website