Atlas Asimi Ultra interconnect cables: top-of-the-range
2nd July 2015
Looking to be the Rolls Royce of interconnect cables, Paul Rigby reviews the new, Atlas Asimi Ultra
To give them their proper name, the new Asimi Ultra symmetrical RCA interconnects use pure silver within a Ohno Continuous Cast or OCC. It’s a method of manufacturing that produces pure silver cable. Very pure. In fact, you will only find one grain or signal deleting crystal boundary in about 125m of conductor. The effect on your hi-fi is to give it a cleaner and faster signal path.
Atlas has also developed a new technique, which uses a microporous PTFE (Teflon) tape, which is wound around the OCC solid silver conductors, then covered again and stabilised using a protective FPE (Flexible PolyEthylene) dielectric. Again, the signal ‘speed’, as it where, is enhanced.
Looking at the general construction, it consists of a pair of conductors, each made up from six bundles of 12 multi-conductor wires plus a thicker wire in the centre. This, in turn, is covered by a continuous Copper-Mylar electrostatic screen and a silver plated copper close weave shielding braid. The outer sheath is made from hard wearing PVC covered by a light grey woven cotton.
The modular design of the new Ultra plug has a 57% reduction in mass over its predecessor and employs an internal non-conductive sleeve matched to the dielectric properties of the cable (Teflon).
One of the most important issues in all of hi-fi is distortion. This umbrella term is my label for a range of destructive noises that literally infect your music, degrading quality. Distortion can come from your mains electricity supply, from other applicances present in your house, from airborne sources such as phones and wi-fi and more. It’s often the case that you don’t know it’s there until its gone because the brain ‘tunes them out’. A bit like when you live next to a chiming church clock for a while or live next to a busy road. Eventually, you don’t hear the noises at all.
Atlas has set about tackling one of the major distortive issues in cabling, RFI (Radio Frequency Interference). To combat RFI, traditionally a metallic barrier (or braid) is encased around the insulated conductors and terminated at one or both ends. The predominant industry wide methodology of terminating the braid to the plug involves the braid being partially removed and twisted, therefore reducing the integrity of the screen, introducing mechanical screen distortion and thereby delivering an inconsistent RF performance. For the new Asimi Ultra, Atlas has developed a new system that uses two symmetrical drain wires (each attached to 180 degree segments of the plug) inserted between a 100% copper Mylar foil and SPC screen. This system connects the screen to the cable return plug interface.
So that’s the physical design and theory behind it, what does it sound like in practice? As Atlas is aiming for the top on this design, I dragged out the big guns. I consider the Tellurium Q Ultra Black interconnect (priced at just £360/m) to be one of the three best cables of all time, at any price, so placing it on a head-to-head comparison with the new Atlas cable, was throwing the Asimi Ultra right in at the deep end.
Amazingly, however, the Atlas startled me right from the off as Art Taylor, drumming on the Tina Brooks CD, True Blue, hit a series of light percussive strikes and fine cymbal work. The treble clouding off the cymbals spread over a wider area than the Ultra Blacks. The cloud of cymbal treble was larger and more fulsome in its complexity. There, in effect, seemed to be more going on within the cymbal strikes.
The rest of the percussion was also more immediate and precise with greater impact giving the drums more of a say in the mix, right from the off.
Previously, the Ultra Blacks, despite offering a fine reproduction of both sax and trumpet, also added the tiniest, and I mean small, amount of bloom, just on the very edge of the notes from other instruments, particularly the trumpet at higher volumes. The Atlas cables, however, appeared to calm both instruments, lowering the soundstage just a touch in the process and removing distortive noise elements to produce extra degrees of clarity to the overall presentation.
Moving to April Showers from Bing Crosby on vinyl, I was impressed by the tonal accuracy of the introductory piano on the very early seconds of the track, indicating the falling raindrops. The TQ almost tried too hard in this area, losing a smidgeon of accuracy. That ‘trying too hard’ feature of the TQ was also heard in the Crosby vocal. Particularly the upper midrange which had an almost aggressive edge that threatened to take the cable towards a slightly forward nature. The Atlas drew back from the edge while retaining the excellent detail characteristics and the bass registers of the vocal delivery. Speaking of bass, percussion was now more distinct with an instrumental separation that allowed air to flow between the instruments.
Meanwhile, the backing harmony vocal group on the Atlas didn’t quite have the forensic examinations on the harmonies of the TQ but the Atlas did encourage a musical stream to this section that not only allowed the song to flow easily but retained the clarity. Doing so with more ease. That is, the TQ tended to jump up and down and point frantically at detail as it to ay, “Look at this! And this!” The Atlas allowed you to seek out the detail if you really wanted to. It was there but the Atlas didn’t make a fuss about it.
Turning to rock and The Kinks’ Big Sky on vinyl, the Atlas cables were able to retain the aggressive sound of the Dave Davies lead guitar while retaining the full range of detail that this instrument provides throughout. The fact that the Atlas reduces distortive noise helped the lead guitar to reveal all of its complexities. The Ray Davies lead vocal, meanwhile, was threatened with being swamped by the ferocity, at times, of the backing band. Yet, the Atlas retained the ability to separate his delivery from the music itself to retain a semblance of focus. Bass guitar and drums, meanwhile, were both powerful and direct with immense impact.
The Tellurium Q Ultra Black is a superb cable but, incredibly, the Atlas managed to squeeze yet more musical information out of the both CD and vinyl sources, adding extra balance and maturity that provided greater emphasis to the overall presentation of the music. The Asimi Ultra is, frankly, a stunning cable and a candidate for the best interconnect currently on the market.
Atlas Asimi Ultra interconnects
Price: £2,750 for 1m
Tel: 0800 731 1140
Good: Stunning dynamic qualities, clarity, tonal accuracy, focus
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