Well, this was a review experience with a shock at the end.
Epiphany Acoustics sent me a pair to review on behalf of Hifi Pig. I did some extensive listening, lots of musical genres. Good points, bad points – yup, in extremis, as it were. Only then did I look at the price on their website – and I laughed out loud in amazement, I really did. No, not because Epiphany are asking multi-£k for these cables, but because these just might be the bargain of the decade at a very real world price, if (and only if!) they suit your musical tastes and preferences.
Epiphany Acoustics is quite new to the scene, a small company based in Southern England, their first products were two headphone amplifiers. They have now ventured into the world of cables where the competition is stiff, to say the least! The Atratus is their first cable product.
The cables do look nice with the subtly striped outer sheath, and the RCA plugs are contoured to allow a firm grip – which is just as well as these are quite a tight fit to my pre-amps sockets!
Let’s cut to the chase – sonic performance.
I don’t think I have come across a cable that is so dependent on the musical genre being played thru them.
I started with some of my fave classical music CDs. Uh uh – bad move. That’s not what these cables are about – I’ll come back to that later and tell you why.
Changing genres in a thoroughly major way, I played James Blake’s ‘Limit to your love’ . The track is characterised by a very clearly recorded solo male vocal and simply awesome synthesised bass. The ultimate bass track? – could well be. Excellent clarity and focus to the vocals with the Atratus. I’d rate it the best I’ve heard, and I’ve heard this track thru many a system and many variants of my own. The keyboard (piano?) was perhaps a little more boxy sounding than usual, but to be honest I think the sound here has been manipulated a bit, so I’m not sure what it should sound like! And the bass, oh my Gawd, the bass. Just stunningly deep, taut, controlled. It shuddered. Easily the best I have ever heard. Amazing.
Moving on to Melvin Taylor and the Slack Band. Oh dear, I’m getting repetitive now. Can I just say that it was amazing, too? No? OK. Vocals were clearly projected and focused, with a slight emphasis on sibilance. The voice is recorded with a touch of warmth anyway, so it was fine. Awesome bass line once again; it was just so taut and tuneful. Cymbals were a little splashy, but OK. Taylor’s electric guitar was caught to perfection. My notes say that the overall impression was fabulous on this CD. So I’d better say it in the review as well. Fabulous.
Moving on to my fave 80s pop band, the Buggles ‘Age of Plastic’. What a wonderful recording of wonderful music this is – everyone should buy it! Once again vocals were byword in clarity, focus and projection. But here the sibilance was more pronounced – esses and tees kind of stuck out from the mix in an unnatural way. A liitle bit of treble/upper mid grain was in evidence, too. The bass had a somewhat thuddy quality that I’d not heard before, although given the Atratus’ exceptional bass performance elsewhere I am harboring a suspicion that this might be a more realistic rendition of what is on the recording! Hmmm, but no, overall I’ve heard this done better. The recording is very clear and a bit forwardly projected, so maybe we’ve come to the limit of the Atratus’ comfort zone.
On now to classical music. Whoops! – we are out of the comfort zone and accelerating rapidly for the horizon!
First on was Mahler’s 3rd symphony – Tennstedt on EMI, a glorious recording – with it’s massive opening brass fanfare and bass drum roll. Ooo, no, the brass had a whiny grainy edge to it. The bass drum was great, though!
Solo violin, got to try solo violin. Out came my favourite recording of Paganini’s 24 Caprices for solo violin with Nicolas Chumachenco, on the Edelweiss label. This is a stunning recording of a somewhat distantly recorded violin in a fairly reverberant acoustic space. It sounds totally yummy on a sympathetic system, which mine usually is. But sympathy is absent when the Atratus is hooked up – once again there’s an irritating whiny edge. Urk, no, I can’t listen to this.
Other classical tunes were tried with similar results. Nope, my advice is to avoid using this cable on classical – its particular strengths and weaknesses are not a good match.
So – a bit of a mixed bag here.
Given the sonic strengths I’d expected a price well into the £hundreds. But no, you can get a 1m pair for a bit over £40. That is just amazing value … provided that the cable is used in its quite wide musical comfort zone. At that price I’m gonna buy a pair so I can use them on the appropriate tracks – it’s worth it for James Blake and Melvin Taylor alone!
Author – Jerry
An alternative review from Jake will be published in a week or so.