Atlas Element Superior Integra Interconnect Review

Atlas Element Superior Integra Interconnect Review


This is my review of the new Atlas Element Superior Integra interconnect.  The Atlas Element Superior Integra are an upgrade to the multi award winning Atlas Element cables that came out several years ago and have performed consistently in all reviews.

One might consider a review of this kind might be a rather pleasant task, particularly on a Monday.   However, after much thought and process this is not quite as simple as it may seem.  Trying to decipher improvement, or otherwise, between thirty to sixty pound cables is quite a task.  In the end I have decided to interconnect the best streaming DAC I currently have with a top power amplifier in the hope of isolating the performance of the cables explicitly.

Design

Atlas has sought to improve the best features of the Element cables that have been so successful.  Like Rega taking the RP3 and trying to improve it you might think Atlas is taking quite a risk here.  However, Atlas has taken the Element and increased the copper content by 20%.   The Atlas Element Superior Integra has retained the low mass Integra RCA connector that is both solder free and cold welded.  Having spent the last couple of hours pulling and pushing cables the interconnects are firm and are showing no sign of weakness.  The cables are finished with a pearl grey sheath that has the Atlas brand name and model printed on it so that you can use the wording to establish the direction of the cables.  Additionally I’ve put arrows at each end with a Sharpie!

Performance

Review Set-up

I have settled on using an Oppo Sonica streaming DAC (with the very up to date Sabre DAC) as the source interconnected to a T+A AMP 8 power amplifier which has tons of power and performance [I might have considered using the matching T+A DAC 8 for this review however it does not stream and I would have needed something else to source, introducing more connections.  If I could get the new matching T+A MP 8, however  I might consider doing this all again].  Anyway, the AMP 8  is connected to my KEF R700 floor standers with high end QED Supremus cable.

Atlas Element Superior Integra

Atlas Element Superior Integra v Chord C Line

The interconnects I have used to establish the value of these Atlas Element Superior Integra cables are:

  • a pair of Chord C Line cables, that are equivalent for comparison to the Element Superior, I think it is fair to say
  • a pair of Atlas Equators, the model up from the Element in the Atlas ranges
  • a pair of Atlas Mavros cables, the best analogue cable from Atlas, though they too have been recently upgraded as the Mavros Ultra, with their Grun system

Music wise, I realised that I couldn’t just sit there and cruise through Tidal aimlessly, as I usually do, so I decided to pick three diverse tracks and swap cables merrily for and hour or so.  Choosing the Sonica DAC was a wise move in the end.  I chose from Tidal:

  • ‘2049’ from the Bladerunner 2049 soundtrack, for low end grunt and wonderful sternum crushing presentation
  • ‘Desperado’ by Diana Krall, for the detail, vocal clarity and the piano
  • Bach’s first Cello Suite, recorded by Misha Maisky, for the strings (and it is just lovely to listen to)

Comparative outcome

I do prefer the Atlas Element Superior, if I was choosing between the two

Probably better to get the obvious bit out of the way first; the Atlas Mavros cable delivers everything, it should do at 10x the price, with the foam dampers flying out of my KEF R700 ports as ‘2049’ rumbles the tiles on the roof.  There is wonderful dominant, wide, progressive sound from this system so that is the reference.  ‘Desperado’ is so detailed and gorgeous, I play it twice, before realising I’ll be here all week if I do this.  The Cello Suite has the bow strokes and huge detail in there.

The Element Superior is by comparison edgier and clearly brighter but the soundstage remains wide and comfortable and I like it.  There is little loss in soundstage when ‘2049’ rumbles around me and I am pleasantly surprised by the performance.  Turning to ‘Desperado’, the sound is detailed and rounded and overall very good indeed, with a very enjoyable piano accompaniment.  Again, my Cello Suite is beautiful, there is not a great deal missing from this presentation.

The Chord C Line cables have a similar sound, there may have been a little less here at this point, particularly in ‘Desperado’ which seemed to grate a fraction more in the vocal notes.  The low end delivery was delivered with at least as much resonance and the Cellos may have been a fraction lighter but still perfectly acceptable.  Overall, though I think you would be hard pressed to argue decisively between the two cables.   However, I do prefer the Atlas Element Superior, if I was choosing between the two.  I must add I was not rooting for the Atlas cables and I was trying to be as objective as possible.

I happen to have some Atlas Equator interconnects so I ran them through as well.  These are a little more than the Element Superior and the C Lines but the Equator provided a really nice balanced connection between the AMP 8 and the DAC.

Overall

Atlas Element Superior IntegraIf I needed proof of the need for decent cables (I didn’t really), this test was decisive for me.  The Mavros cable are so much better, transparent and full than the others here, I even prefer them to the usual QED balanced XLR connects that I usually use between the DAC and the AMP 8, so that’s changed and swapped out now.

If you are able to spend the time that I have swapping cable inter connectors it is quite fascinating the differences you can hear.  My word of experience from this process is I think you have to be disciplined and just systematically go through the process.  When you do this, you can feel and hear differences between interconnects.  OK, so I have a big power amplifier driving some great speakers with a very transparent speaker cable, that delivers everything on offer, but the process is a useful one.

Overall, I have genuinely concluded I do prefer The Element Superior to the cheaper Chord choice on show, I think it would be fair to say that the incremental cost will add value to your system, if it is able to deliver it of course.

Approximate Prices (on FutureShop, other retailers available) for 1m interconnects 2 RCA to 2 RCA as discussed above:

  • Cord C Line near £35
  • Atlas Element Superior Integra near £60
  • Atlas Equator near £70
  • Atlas Mavros near £700
  • QED 2 XLR to 2 XLR near £150

 

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