The result is a cable that’s visually quite pleasant in its pearlescent finish (although given that it will almost certainly spend its working life hidden behind audio equipment there’s no need). Its plugs feel robust, and it seems ready to withstand way more plugging and unplugging than it’s ever likely to be subjected to, reviewers and their proclivities notwithstanding.
During this test, the Atlas Element fed a Naim Uniti Star streamer/amp with, variously, an Arcam FMJ CD37 CD player, a Cambridge Audio Alva TT turntable, and an EarMen TR-Amp portable DAC connected to a Sony Xperia 5 Android smartphone. And it’s safe to say its sonic characteristics remain consistent.
Actually, ‘characteristics’ may be overstating it a little. There’s a happy lack of deception to how the Atlas goes about shifting information from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ – its disinclination to stick its oar too far in is very welcome. This lack of artifice makes a good change from any number of alternative cables that seem determined to make an overt mark on the sound of a system.
Vinyl copies of Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You [Atlantic] and Aphex Twin’s…I Care Because You Do [Warp] are delivered on a wide, properly defined and well-integrated soundstage, with the midrange unarguably in the spotlight. Aretha’s peerless vocal sits in a delicate little halo of space, which allows the finest details of her technique to show real eloquence. Her gospel-inflected piano-playing, too, is alive with harmonic detail – it’s made evident that her freedom of expression at the keyboard is what resulted in Spooner Oldham being moved sideways from piano to electric piano for these sessions.
It handles the rapidity and attack of Aphex Twin unfussily, too – the Element allows the turntable to showcase its facility with timing and integration, even as some of the album’s tracks try their utmost to sound like a call-centre amid a nervous breakdown. No rhythm, it seems, is too club-footed or lop-sided to shake the Element’s composure.
A compact disc of Caveman’s Positive Reaction [Profile] revels in similarly surefooted timing and rhythmic certainty. There’s not quite the low-frequency substance to which some competing interconnects grant expression. Still, the bass information has great positivity where the attack and decay of individual hits or notes are concerned. And, again, there’s sufficient detail – of texture and timbre, as well as of depth and intensity – to make the Atlas a completely convincing listen.
And no matter if the Sony Xperia 5/EarMen DAC combination is serving up an MQA-powered TIDAL Masters file of Randy Newman’s Little Criminals [Reprise] or a poverty-spec Spotify stream of Camera Obscura’s Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi [Andmoresound], the Atlas is never less than poised and confident. Not even Spotify’s measly 320kbps facsimiles can provoke the treble response – which puts the Element quite firmly at odds with any number of alternatives that will shamelessly ring and splash at the top of the frequency range when dealing with miserable file-sizes like this. It remains consistent in its ability to keep a soundstage tidy, keep the frequency range smoothly integrated and ensure rhythms and tempos stay on the front foot.
Read Next From ReviewSee all
Rosson Audio Design RAD-O planar magnetic headphones
Take a planar magnetic driver, add a range of exceptional - and occasionally wild - finishes, and you have the makings of a great set of headphones, argues Simon Lucas.
- Simon Lucas
- Jan 2022
FinkTeam Kim stand-mount loudspeaker
FinkTeam uses Star Trek names, and this two-way stand-mount is named after Ensign Kim from Star Trek: Voyager. He's the one that always bounced back no matter what. Steve Dickinson might not be a big Trekker, but he thinks there's a lot of good to hear in the Kim.
- Steve Dickinson
- Jan 2022
Keith Monks Audio Works Prodigy Record Cleaning machine
Jimmy Hughes has a record collection that's the envy of many reviewers, music collectors and even some music libraries. That collection needs cleaning, and Keith Monks is the answer!
- Jimmy Hughes
- Jan 2022
SOtM SMS-200 Ultra Neo SE, TX-USB Ultra SE and SPS 500 SE streaming system
South Korea has long been a centre of excellence for electronics. That reputation is now moving on to high-performance audio, thanks to brands like SOtM. Jason Kennedy investigates.
- Jason Kennedy
- Jan 2022