KingRex U-Craft Y USB Cable Review
I’m a horrible skeptic of cabling and its impact on sound quality in general; yet Taiwanese audio equipment manufacturer KingRex has never disappointed me, so I was interested to see how their new take on the USB cable performed when a review sample was offered.
The uCraft is a beautiful looking Y-cable that separates power and signal with two A-type plugs (one for the source and another for power) and a single B-type plug for the DAC side. According to KingRex, each cable is hand assembled in Taiwan, with each technician being able to build only one Y or 3 straight cables per day. In addition, the cable is cryogenically treated to -320 F as are many other high end audio cables.
The uCraft can also be battery powered by another KingRex product: the UPower battery power supply (which I already own). This allows the power source to be 100% isolated from the source (PC in my case).
|Conductor Material||Silver-plated OFC|
|Cable design||4 Signal Conductor Symmetricon TM|
|Structure||Flat (Inverted concentric structure)|
|USB plug type||A-B (A*1, B*1)|
|Special Treatment||Cryogenic treatment in -196 centigrade|
|USB plug||24K gold plated 1μ (micron inch)|
|USB plug case||Aluminum CNC in red anodize, with special damping to absorb vibration|
Source: Custom PC (Asus Sabertooth X58)
DAC: KingRex UD384 DAC
Headphone Amplifier: JDS Labs 02
Headphones: Beyerdynamic T80
DAC/AMP: KingRex T20U, Behringer UCA202/NuForce Dio
Speakers: XTZ 99.26, Onix Reference 1
Audio playback was sourced from Foobar2000 running in WASAPI mode (event).
While I expected to hear no difference, I was quite surprised to find that the uCraft made an audible improvement in bass clarity – tightening up the bottom end on both my headphones and the speakers. This wasn't a drastic change, but there was a distinctly tighter, punchier aspect to the lower frequencies that my wife and I both noticed immediately.
There was a slight but noticeable improvement in clarity, imaging and separation between instruments, though not so significant as the low end improvement. Listening to my usual selection of test tracks in FLAC, I noticed some very subtle change in the character of the midrange, becoming slightly cooler and more analytical . At first I did not want to believe this and A/B’ed the two cables on both speakers and headphones for about 2 hours before finally admitting I was hearing a difference. Being the skeptic that I am, I tried several different genres of music and even took the setup into my media room. Wherever I went, I can report that the difference was similar and noticeable, though the only change i'd trust anyone to hear is in the bass and mid-bass department.
As noted above, the character of the sound in comparison to the regular USB cable was clearer and cooler, however I believe that the inherent distortion/digital noise in the Belkin may have led me to find the sound comparatively warmer in the past.
Finally, it is worth noting that even turning the volume up very high the uCraft had reduced my noise floor to such a low level that hiss was essentially negligible.
As skeptical as I am of wires/cables and their performance impact, I have seen first-hand in my career the benefit of conductor arrangement (Ethernet) on signal integrity and intuitively see the reason for separating power from data. In the case of the uCraft, I believe that the separation of power from the signal made the difference that I heard again and again. I may not be quite ready to believe in the snake oil most cable companies peddle, but KingRex has a legitimately interesting and compelling product in the uCraft that works! Whatever your preconceptions, the uCraft certainly deserves a listen. Recommended.