Rob Woodland has had another go at USB cables - four years after the launch of the original Curious USB Cable, he has released the Curious Evolved USB Cable.
My original review of the Curious USB Cable can be found here. The premium model costs USD 550 for a 0.8 m length, compared to USD 350 for the original model. All prices include worldwide shipping.
According to Rob, "The Curious Evolved is the best we can do, and will benefit audiophiles who want the maximum performance from the computer based Audio system."
Physically, the Curious Evolved has a close resemblance to the original model. The power line runs externally, and a blue heat-shrink with the model name is the clearest distinguishing mark between the two. The cable has decent flexibility and should have no issues being routed in most systems.
My set-up has changed significantly since the review of the original Curious cable. My computer audio setup consists of a Melco N1-ZH/2 audiophile NAS, paired with a Weiss INT-204 USB/SPDIF bridge. For the purposes of this review, I swapped this with a Synology DS-214play NAS and an SoTM SMS-200 Ultra streamer. This allowed me to place the streamer box much closer to my DAC, and to use the Curious Evolved without any strain being placed on the cable. I also compared the Curious Evolved with a number of USB cables I had on hand, most of which are considerably more expensive than the Curious Evolved.
The original Curious Cable is in my view a cable that addresses many common weaknesses in digital playback :- a lack of dynamics and a flat and un-involving sound. The Curious Evolved on the other hand is destined for the very best of setups - it simply lets digital gear perform at it’s very best.
Tonally, the Curious Evolved is very close to neutral, with the slightest hint of sweetness and a subtle softness to the leading edge of notes. Make no mistake though, this is not a weak and insipid sounding cable. Music is presented with high dynamic contrast, with good saturation and impactful low frequencies. It takes less artistic licence compared to the original Curious Cable, and bass lines are as powerful, or as subtle as captured on the recording. This neutrality is applied throughout the rest of the frequencies, with a very coherent and even presentation.
By absolute standards, high frequencies do not extend as far as the very best in class, although treble is clean and clear as a whistle. Soundstaging is accurate, with appropriate width and depth. The Curious Evolved casts a noticeably deeper stage compared to the original Curious Cable that projects the stage forward.
Where the Curious Evolved really leaves it’s predecessor in the dust is resolving power and refinement. It unearths micro-detail and expressiveness in a way that eludes the original Curious Cable and presents it with class-leading power and grace. The real kicker in the equation is price - the Curious Cable is able to bring this all to the table without breaking the bank.
If you liked the original Curious Cable and want to move up to the next level, this is the cable for you. If you are looking for a reference standard USB cable, this is a serious contender to consider, with excellent value too. Well done Rob !