Zoologists amongst you will recognise the latinate specific epithet atratus as attaching to dominantly black species of animals whose close relatives are much lighter in colour, hence the Latin name for the black swan is Cygnus atratus Twenty centuries ago it denoted "in mourning", and thus the naming of the sombre gold and black robing of Epiphany Acoustics first offering on the interconnect market is explained, though I must say they have little to be glum about...
Epiphany Acoustics is a small independent audio company whose portfolio currently encompasses some distinctive wood-trimmed solid state headphone amplifiers and DACs, though I am told plans are afoot to grow this range as new products are developed.
This review comes about as the result of their spotting my reviews of Mark Grant cables and rising to the challenge by offering me the chance to try the cables for myself and see if their claim to superior performance is substantiated. This post is my first impression, and I intend to follow it up when I have the chance to spend time listening with the cable between different components of my system.
The Atratus Interconnect enters the fray as a foo-free product. It is based on high purity copper conductors and dual-screening, and it uses beautifully polished and engineered - but otherwise wholly conventional - RCA plugs. These interconnects are extremely flexible, with a gently "damped" feel, and the finely woven sheathing is far classier than usual at their high-value price point of £40. Construction is excellent.
The Atratus' first challenge has been to try to oust Cambridge Audio's formerly top-of-the-range Studio Reference silver-plated interconnects - which happen to be one of the longest-serving pieces of equipment in my system. These currently connect my Denon TU-1800 tuner to my Unison Research C5P valve preamp.
Despite the Cambridge's long residence, I've long had my doubts about silver-plated cabling. Like many I was "stung" both aurally and financially by QED's "Silver Anniversary" speaker cables - some of very few cables I've heard make a significant difference to the sound of a hifi system, and sadly, one that was for the worse. Plating copper with silver involves an intermediate layer of nickel, and bringing dissimilar metals into contact sets up a minute electrode potential; thus, though I have no evidence for it, I've long wondered if this may be why plated conductors seem to sound slightly different to all others in an audio system?
OK, I digress, but the Atratus' avoids this in any case. I placed them in the system as described, and being something of a cable sceptic expected little or no difference. So I was pleasantly surprised by two immediate and lasting impressions: the sound was subjectively warmer and less grainy, and the bass more prominent and articulate. None of this has come at the cost of other areas of musical performance, and unlike another reviewer, I have certainly not found the cable to be "genre dependant"!
These differences are by no means "night and day" - no cable with reasonable LCR values can wreak such magnitude of change - but the sound was different by a subtle degree which on a subjective scale I'd compare to the final coat of polish in woodworking. Furthermore, the changes are ones I find beneficial to my listening: coarseness and brightness are too often mistaken for "fidelity" and "detail" in audio. The Atratus interconnects take you a little closer to true fidelity. For that alone, this set will be staying in my system.
Should anyone wonder I must emphasise I have no connection to Epiphany Acoustics of any kind.