Atlas Mavros Cables
Atlas cables are the latest in a long line of brands to promote Ohno Continuous Casting long crystal copper conductors. They are of fairly conventional construction, their interest lying in the use of a micro-porous PTFE dielectric, designed to reduce contact with the conductors, rather like the monofilament approach created by Nordost. Interestingly, Atlas also use the transmission speed measure first suggested by Nordost as an arbiter of cable quality, although they cite an “85% improvement” in transmission speed without clarifying what is being compared, as opposed to Nordost’s VL reference standard.
The interconnect cables use a twisted pair construction, the 7-nines OCC conductors insulated with the new mpPTFE compound before being wrapped in a natural cotton layer for mechanical damping, twin shields and a PVC outer jacket. Terminations are self-cleaning, silver-plated OCC copper RCA plugs. The speaker cables are a four-wire design to facilitate bi-wiring or shot-gun termination, two 3mm square and two 1.77mm square OCC/ mpPTFE conductors being wrapped in a single cotton/PVC sheath. Terminations are either OCC spades, crimped directly to the conductors to provide continuous material contact, or lightweight Z-plugs. Finished with a smooth, black fabric outer and understated hardware, the Atlas cables offer, a subtle, attractive appearance, while their flexibility helps them to be both unobtrusive and practical in use. There are no Mavros power cords as such, but Atlas supplied their standard IEC leads, using OCC conductors and conventional PTFE insulation.
With their emphasis on conductor quality and conventional construction, svelte appearance and familiar dimensions, the Mavros cables fly in the face of both the Magnan and Crystal approaches. However, in one other important respect, they surpass either; material continuity and consistency between the conductors and terminations across the entire signal path is second to none, the same OCC copper being employed throughout. This alone justifies their inclusion, whilst the promise of reduced dielectric effects is equally welcome. In practice, the Mavros cables had by far the most distinctive sound in this group, perhaps reflecting their more conventional construction and the close coupling of the conductors with a substantial and mechanically damped cylindrical construction. They present music with a big, bold and slightly forward clarity that majors on presence and impact. Dynamic heft and weight are immediately impressive and the overall effect is one of substance and immediacy. Detail and clarity are also first rate, rounding out exactly the sort of performance that will attract instant attention in the showroom.
But listen longer and a little deeper and you start to unearth the weaknesses hiding behind the bold front. Voices and instrument are big, solid and focused, but whilst you can hear exactly what TvZ is singing, as well as the rising and falling contribution of his sometime harmony singer, the actual relationship between the lead and backing vocal, the position of the two singers in the room, the dimensions of the room itself, are all much more equivocal. It’s odd, because the voice itself is mightily convincing, with a very realistic quality and presence – it is the relationship it bears to its recorded surroundings that’s more problematic.
This concentration on the source of each sound undermines the sense of acoustic space, a lack of dimensional coherence that overlaps into the temporal domain too. So playing the Art Pepper track, you don’t just miss the weighting of the piano phrase and its heavy bias on the final chord, the drums are detached and fail to really hit the off-beat their patterns are there to emphasize. In contrast, the dense mix and pile-driver momentum of ‘Copperhead Road’ are meat and drink to the Mavros cables, as they pile on the presence and energy, digging out the detail and hidden intricacy. At the same time, it doesn’t challenge the cables’ dynamic range in the same way that a solo voice and guitar does. The Atlas wires impose a subtle restraint on the signal’s dynamic range, so that things tend to be a bit “all loud” or “all quiet”, rather than allowing instruments played at different levels to coexist. It’s subtle enough that it will likely pass unnoticed without direct comparison, rather like the Crystal’s smoothing of dynamic jumps, but it does dilute the dynamic contrast and drama in a performance.
Which leaves us with something of a curate’s egg. Like the Magnan cables, an extent, the spatial and temporal coherence of the system in which they’re used. If their view of the world matches yours, or compensates for failings in your system, they might be the perfect fit. If you are after delicacy, intimacy, transparency or the sense of air and space in a recording; if your system needs help in those regards, then you might find the results a little clumsy and awkward. But if you want sheer substance and detail and don’t give a fig for the niceties of acoustic perspective or the subtle inner workings of an arrangement, the Mavros cables will be right up your street. Listen to them – but listen long and listen deep, to make sure that their obvious virtues aren’t bought at too steep a price elsewhere in the performance envelope.
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