FAQs Section 1 : The Basics

  • Is it really worth investing in better cables?

    All cables ‘lose’ some of the signal they’re carrying. Even over short distances, cable losses accumulate. Partly this is because of the method of construction – every join and connection is discarding signal and partly because of the materials used – not only the signal conductor but the insulation conspire to degrade the performance. Additionally, our homes are subject to previously unknown levels of interference and electrical noise in numerous forms.

    All of which means cables should be an achromaticl part of your system-building, not an afterthought. In recent years it’s become apparent that cables are typically the weakest link in a system. Which is why it makes sense to use cables & accessories designed to minimise signal loss and susceptibility to interference.

  • What makes the difference between cables?

    Basically, everything counts, the conductor material, the insulating dielectric, the connectors & plugs and the assembly methods.

    Keeping these elements in balance. Our understanding of the role each has to play, as well as recognising the inherent strengths (and weaknesses) of different materials and methods, is based on our research & development programme and extensive testing, via both measurement and listening.

    Please refer to our Technical Section if you’d like to know more.

  • Will I really hear the difference?

    We think so. And the specialist press agrees. Your Atlas dealer will advise and offer demonstrations on many of our products.

  • How much should I spend?

    The good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune. We expend just as much effort on our entry-level cables as our more expensive products. There’s frequently a ‘trickle-down’ effect, where design ideas and production methods introduced for our ‘high-end’ cables bring benefits across the entire range.

    Our multi-award winning Element series are widely considered as offering exceptional value, while our ‘flagship’ Asimi products are considered among the finest at any price, competing with and out-performing far more expensive alternatives.

    We don’t believe in a fixed formula for allocating your budget, preferring to rely on your common sense and our dealers’ demonstrations and advice.

FAQs Section 2 : Getting The Best From Your Equipment

  • Are Atlas cables ‘directional?’

    This topic often confuses customers as it’s not defined by true science but primarily by experience.

    At Atlas we concern ourselves by attempting to produce the best performing cables that transfer the most amount of information (by losing less) between source and destination without colouration. So when it comes to directionality we define the terms as follows;

    Non-directional by manufacture; These cables can be connected between any analogue inputs and outputs straight out of the box, no problems.

    Directional by manufacture; These cables need additional thought and as explained above should primarily be connected with the source end always at the analogue preamplifier.

    Now some producers go to great pains to explain that the directionality of the cables is down to the direction that the copper is pulled during the manufacturing process, well that maybe the case however we pragmatically look at it differently from the following viewpoint;

    • Our preferred material is OCC copper and OCC solid silver which has a single crystal grain structure in excess of 100m.
    • It is nigh on impossible to guarantee the directionality of the conductor material throughout the production process.
    • We understand that many other processes affect the delivered sound more.
  • Do cables need a ‘burn-in’ period for maximum performance?

    All analogue cables benefit from a period of “burn in” this is a process we believe where the cable dielectric charges and starts to deliver a more open natural and accurate sound.

    Cables are electrically characterised and modelled as something called “lumped impedance,” a combination of series resistance and inductance along with parallel capacitance. So once positively charged they are effectively polarised and hence adopt a preferred direction.

    To help shorten this process, a collection of test signals are available for free download on completion of your product registration. Digital as well as analogue cables benefit from this process. Read more.

  • Where would I use a coaxial cable and where would I use a ‘pseudo-balanced’ cable?

    There is a huge difference in performance between these two different cable topologies and within each category there are varying quality levels so it’s as always a balance between choosing the cabling commensurate with your system performance and of course your budget.

    We would always recommend you place you widest bandwidth most accurate cable between a pre amplifier and a power amplifier as any reduction in bandwidth here will affect the complete system.

    So pre/power first, then sources, then speaker cables.

    Atlas interconnect cables are normally available in lengths from 0.5m, with custom lengths and/or terminations available.

  • When connecting my “directional” interconnect cables which end do I connect to what?

    Generally speaking you should connect the cable at the preamplifier end with arrows or cable writing reading left to right from the preamplifier to your power amplifier or source.

    The reason being is that the preamplifier is more often or not the place where the system Ov and the ground is connected together and therefore the lowest noise star point in your system.

  • Is there an optimum length for interconnects?

    For normal usage, keep interconnects to a practical minimum length. Excess cable, particularly in proximity to power cables, may be susceptible to noise and interference. We recommend interconnects normally be a maximum of 3 metres in length (balanced cables are suitable for use over greater distances). Please contact us for advice if you require longer cables .

    Atlas interconnect cables are normally available in lengths from 0.5m, with custom lengths and/or terminations available.

  • Is there a maximum length for digital and computer audio cables?

    There is, but the figure depends on the type of connection/cable used. For USB audio, for example, we recommend a 5m maximum legth, whereas TosLink optical cables may be used up to a maximum of 10m. For S/PDIF cables, we recommend a maximum of 3m in normal use.

    Atlas digital interconnects are normally available in lengths from 0.5m, with custom lengths and/or terminations available.

  • How is it possible for digital cables to affect the sound of systems?

    As a chartered electronics engineer who spent their early days designing high speed digital audio and video systems I believe that we have unique experience to comment on this subject.

    In digital systems the data is encoded into a series of ‘ones’ and ‘zeroes.’ This data is then formatted to be transferred around the system in the most efficient way possible.

    Internally at each layer of the protocol numerous checks are made to ensure the accuracy of the raw data is maintained, however at the physical layer of the digital protocol you start to introduce many variables; the quality and consistency of the socket termination, the interface between the plug and socket, the length of the cable, the conductivity, bandwidth and speed.

    This matters because poorly designed physical layer interfaces introduce massive timing distortion into the protocol that need to be remedied before the data can progress to the next stage.

    The ‘work done’ by the receiving circuits is the primary cause of loss of fidelity later in the conversion stage. When the receiver circuits ( whether in USB, HDMI, optical fibre etc) are working harder to decode and extract the raw data back from the physical layer they draw more power for the power supplies, the error correction circuits work harder and the RFI from the devices dramatically increases.

    This increase in electrical and airborne noise contaminates the environment where the high resolution data is converted back into ‘musical information’ and its here that your ears pick up the ‘timing’ inaccuracies.

    So by and large no data gets lost – meaning the old argument about ‘ones’ and ‘zeroes.’ is generally correct –however the timing of the data is dramatically affected and therefore the accuracy and hence musicality of the performance is compromised.

  • Is there a maximum length for speaker cables?

    Generally avoid over-long cable, gather excess length in large loose loops, not tight coils, and avoid close proximity to power cables over cable lengths.

    Atlas speaker cables are normally available in lengths from 2m, with custom lengths and/or terminations available.

  • When should I use a standard Z-plug and when a ‘Transpose’ connector?

    Both the Z-plug and the Tranpose plug share common ancestry in that the basic core crimp in both plug bodies are identical. This means that the critical air tight, metal to metal interface is delivered in both configurations. Whilst the basic Z-plug has the benefit of low-mass, the Transpose connector deals better with a different set of real life issues;

    • The sockets on many loudspeakers are often not 4mm, they start at 4mm and often widen out internally delivering minimal contact area.
    • Larger, heavier cables often work themselves out of the socket due to gravity and vibration.
    • Consumers change their equipment and want to audition new pieces without changing their cables (they can simply connect different Transpose adapter ends).
    • Customers often sell their second hand cables to sellers who would want alternative terminations.
  • Is there any benefit to ‘biwiring’ speakers?

    Many loudspeakers have two sets of terminals on their rear panel suitable for biwiring. The advantage of bi-wiring lies primarily in reduced ‘modulation’ (in effect a kind of signal feedback) between the separate drive units of the speaker and the amplifier, which can offer improved bass control and smoother treble.

    If you do have speakers with terminals suitable for bi-wiring but don’t wish to bi-wire, it’s well worthwhile replacing the manufacturer-supplied links (normally metal plates) with high quality ‘jumper’ leads, ideally of the same type as your speaker cable. Read more.

  • What are the benefits of specialist power cables?

    Clean power is the ‘foundation’ of your system’s performance.

    We live in an extremely polluted environment in electrical terms, with high levels of electrical ‘noise’ and interference which adversely affects performance. A clean power supply is one of the fundamental steps in removing noise and optimising performance.

    Atlas manufactures an integrated solution, combining modular power management mains blocks with specialist cables, each optimised for different types of equipment.

  • Do I choose Eos 4mm² or 2mm²?

    All Atlas Eos power cables are produced with the same high quality OFC conductors, PTFE dielectrics, anti vibration material and screening quality.

    Larger conductors generally have lower resistance and this is important when you are matching power cables to specific product requirements, for instance a large power amplifier, as its dynamic power use needs as low a series resistance as possible and as such should be used with 4mm2 power cables. Low power devices are easily satisfied with 2mm2 cables.

    Similarly, if you have a distribution block in your system, we recommend a 4mm² cable between the block and the wall socket, with 2mm² for sources, smaller integrated amplifiers, etc.

FAQs Section 3 : Support Information

  • What’s the guarantee on Atlas products?

    Normally 5 years. To activate your warranty, register your product.

  • Can my Atlas product be factory repaired or modified?

    Because we’re manufacture rather than merely ‘assemblers’ we have the ability to configure our products to meet virtually any requirement (subject to certain technical limitations). So if you’d like an interconnect supplied with RCA plugs converted to use XLR or BNC connectors, for example, we’re happy to advise and oblige.

    Needless to say our control over the manufacturing process means we can repair virtually every product we’ve ever made.

General Cable Care & Advice

  • Do not stretch, fold or bend cables at an acute angle. If you have excess cable, arrange in large loose loops.
  • Never leave cables connected to any equipment at one end only, it’s a potential source of interference.
  • Generally keep cables as short as possible.
  • But don’t attempt to join/splice cables, buy a longer one!
  • The plugs on most Atlas cables have a self-cleaning effect when inserted or removed, no cleaning agent is required in normal use.
  • In order to maintain signal integrity and quality, we recommend the use of Atlas cables & accessories throughout your system, including power management.
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the performance connection