The conductor and dielectric are just part of a complete cable . The connector plug itself is an equally important component.
These days most cables are fitted with connectors which look impressive but how they actually perform with real signals is more important than their cosmetic appearance. The connector must make a good connection, both to the matching socket and to the attached wire; it must match the wire in terms of impedance and structure and it must be durable. Very few connectors meet all three criteria.
To make a good contact the plug must mate to the socket firmly, creating a metal to metal contact. Ideally the connection must be tight enough so that during the connection process a very thin layer of molecules will be scrapped off both contact surfaces to remove any surface pollution leaving pure metal bonded to pure metal. At the same time the connection must not be so tight that the connectors are damaged or deformed during the connection process. And a tight connection must be ensured for both parts of the connector, not just the centre pin, because the electrical circuit needs both the signal path and the ground or return path.
The connection to the wires must also be as homogenous as possible. Traditionally these connections have been made with a tin-based solder, but when that is used there is invariably a layer of solder between the copper wire and the connector and this is a source of signal degradation. Given we have taken great care to minimise the number of crystal boundaries within the wire it would make no sense whatsoever to have the major break in the signal path that the solder join represents. Even silver solder, normally used on cables with silver conductors, suffers from the same problem. So how can this compromise be avoided?
Atlas avoid this problem completely, wherever possible, by using connectors which are joined to the wires by a ‘cold-weld’ connection, made using tools developed by Atlas (and also supplied to our dealers, who are trained in their correct usage). In a cold-weld connection, the metal of the connector plug and the wire are squeezed together under a calibrated pressure to form a robust, consistent, air-tight metal to metal contact with no damage to the cable dielectric. The result is a smooth, uninterrupted signal path which behaves as one continuous entity, with minimal degradation of the signal compared to soldered connections.
We’ve also developed our own low mass/high bandwidth connectors to take this approach to its logical conclusion.
With any cable, part of its function is to keep the outside world – primarily in the form of Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) at bay. The connector plug itself, and the connection, is part of that mechanism.
In our cables, the conductor to plug interfaces are solder free, and the gold-plated conjugate brackets act as the return signal path, helping to reject RFI. Both conjugate brackets (these grip the cable without the adverse effects of compressing it, which can alter impedance) have two asymmetrical leaves which spring open on insertion and wipe clean the signal path. To maintain a clean signal path, simply remove and re-insert them periodically.
Our Integra and Ultra RCA connectors utilise low-mass non-magnetic connectors to minimise the negative effect of excessive metal in the plug itself. (Those chunky ‘bling’ connectors found on some other cables may look impressive but aren’t optimum for performance).