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Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

Atlas Cables Ailsa with Grun


The job of a cable is to conduct – but if the signal comes in out of kilter, it can throw the whole musical experience off track. With the Grun earthing system, Atlas Cables has added a feature to its Ailsa series that secures the balance before anything can derail.

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

I’m a fan of straightforward approaches. Especially when it comes to cables, where esoteric beliefs and pseudo-scientific quasi-facts are often used. The point is: cables undoubtedly have an effect on the sound of a system, but I have yet to come across a conclusive explanation as to why or how. So rather than listen to flowery drivel, I much prefer to just listen to the cables themselves and then decide whether I’m convinced by the performance.

When I recently had the current Atlas Cables portfolio explained and demonstrated to me by brand ambassador Martin McCue at the TAD headquarters in Aschau, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the down-to-earth approach of the Scottish speaker: No hint of arcane miracle technologies, no exuberant promises – in fact, he practically didn’t even go into what I could or should expect sound-wise, but instead let the connectors speak for themselves.

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

No mumbo jumbo

I enjoyed listening to the presentation because it was all about the manufacturer’s design philosophy and the technical structure of the individual series: the individual lines – seven in number – differ in the type and quantity of materials used and the construction, while the pricing is simply based on cost and effort goes into manufacturing. McCue sees five areas that determine the sound quality of cables: Conductor quality, dielectric, shielding, connectors and finally the construction. In this “modular quality construction kit”, the hierarchy of the series results from the combination of more or less complex and costly solutions in the respective areas. For example, the conductors of the more affordable cable series are made of oxygen-free copper (OFC), while long-crystalline OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper is used for the higher-tier ones; the use of different shielding methods, insulation materials and connector types then yields a more granular subdivision.

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

When comparing the sound, I noticed two aspects that had a particularly large influence on the sound to my ear: Firstly, the jump from OFC to OCC as conductor material, and secondly, a special grounding technique called “Grun” – and both were found in the Atlas Cables Ailsa series, which also uses foamed PTFE as a dielectric, as opposed to polyethylene in the smaller series. These three features make Ailsa the golden mean in the Atlas range: still reasonably attainable and at the same time the most affordable line that features the most important technologies of high-end cabling. With this combination, the series named after a Scottish island quickly earned itself the status of preferred test candidate.

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

Fast forward to today, and I’m sitting in the listening room with a complete Atlas Cables Ailsa set, demoing the rigging to myself. From the interconnects to the speaker and mains cables to the power strip – in our case with three filtered and three unfiltered sockets – I can wire up the entire setup exclusively with Atlas Cables. The star of the show for me are the RCA cables with Grun plugs, because I’m curious to see how much gain in terms of sound quality can be achieved with the special earthing. The basis here are the interconnects with a low-mass aluminum plug that is actually lighter than the much cheaper, plastic-based “Achromatic” version. A Teflon jacket ensures that the aluminum sleeve and conductor never find out about each other, electrically speaking. Immediately behind the RCA plugs are two small gold-plated screw contacts; the scope of delivery includes a matching Y-conductor with a small spade connector at the other end, which is screwed to the earthing spigot of the mains filter strip. Any potential differences are therefore not dissipated via the housing of the electronics, but take the direct route to earth – the connected component never sees the imbalance in the reference value. Even if you don’t need gold-plated screw contacts for this – simple lamp wire will do – this solution is much better suited to such pricy cable from a purely cosmetic point of view, with the added bonus of a permanently secure contact.

No Grun …

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

For a baseline, I leave the piggyback clips open for now to refresh my acoustic memory. While Norah Jones’ debut album was the demo material of choice at the TAD screening, this time I change the artist, but remain more or less in the same postal code stylistically with Melody Gardot. On “Your Heart Is As Black As Night” (My One And Only Thrill), which is strongly reminiscent of kitschy film noir flicks, the dramatically ponderous piano and wistfully lamenting saxophone in the background seem to fill the listening room with a hazy, smoky atmosphere right from the very first bars, while Gardot’s dense and full voice naturally takes the spotlight right in the middle of the stage shortly afterwards. “Balanced” and “naturally organic” are two attributes that come to mind after cross-comparisons with some of the other cables in our listening room – an impression that certainly coincides with my memory of the first contact. They bring a clarity and inner order to the sound image that doesn’t make them seem out of place even in a high-end setup: In a combination of Lumin X1, Burmester 216 and Wilson Audio Sasha DAW, you never get the impression that any of the components are driving with the handbrake on. Of course, you can get a little more out of it with even higher quality cables, but the performance is more than impressive even without additional grounding.

… Yes Grun

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

The same experiment, repeated with the earthing wire connected, results above all in greater clarity and transparency. Melody Gardot’s voice gains even more substance without losing contour, vocalist and accompanying instruments are once again a little better separated from each other. The difference becomes even clearer when more complex fare is played: In George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture (Gershwin – Red Classics), the earthed configuration of Ailsa keeps the large orchestral thicket of sound even more in order, while at the same time emphasizing the internal references more clearly and allowing the individual instrumental groups to communicate with each other more bindingly.

We haven’t heard too much about the Atlas Cables brand recently, but we have one or two pairs of the Scottish cables in our listening room, which have served us for years as reliable and sonically very decent standard connectors. The Atlas Cables Ailsa series is much more ambitious in terms of both price and sound, but at least it remains halfway on the carpet and delivers a performance for the price that’s well worth a listen – no unicorn hair or fairy dust required. Welcome back, Atlas Cables!

Atlas Cables Ailsa With Grun

Accompanying Equipment

CD player: Ayon CD-3sx, Audio Note CD 3.1x | Network player/DAC: Lumin X1, Soulnote D-3, Aavik S-580 | Turntable: AVM Rotation R 5. 3 MK2 | Integrated amplifier: Aavik I-580, Line Magnetic LM-88IA | Power amplifier: Burmester 216, Electrocompaniet AW-800, Luxman M-10x | Speakers: Wilson Audio Sasha DAW, Audio Physic Spark, Audio GE Teddy | Rack: Solidsteel, Finite Elemente | Cables: AudioQuest, HMS, in-akustik

LF cable Atlas Cables Ailsa Ultra RCA Grun

Concept: RCA cable with Grun grounding conductor | Construction: 4 cores in woven protective braid, microporous PTFE dielectric, copper-mylar shielding with dual potential discharge | Conductor material: OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper | Assembly: RCA with low-mass “Ultra” aluminum sleeves | Warranty period: 5 years | Price: around € 1750 (1.5 m)

Speaker cable Atlas Cables Ailsa Achromatic Speaker Z

Concept: speaker cable with banana plugs | Material/construction: multiple OCC copper strands, microporous PTFE dielectric | Conductor cross-section: 2 x 3.0 mm2 | Assembly: 4 mm hollow contact banana plug, crimped | Warranty period: 5 years | Price: around € 4600 (2 x 5 m)

Mains cable Atlas Cables Eos 2.5em/4.0em

Concept: Mains cable with dual earth discharge | Material: OFC (Oxygen Free Copper), PVC dielectric | Conductor cross-section: 2.5 or 4.0 mm2 | Plug options: C13, C15, etc. | Warranty period: 5 years | Price: Eos 2.5em around € 550 (2 m), Eos 4.0em around € 900 (2 m)

Power strip Atlas Cables Eos 4.0em Modular

Concept: six-way power strip with Grun earthing connection | Internal cabling: Atlas Eos 4.0em | Configuration: either 6 x unfiltered or 3 x filtered/unfiltered | Warranty period: 5 years | Price: around € 1450 (3U/3F)

TAD Audiovertrieb

Rosenheimer Straße 33
83229 Aschau
Phone +49 8052 9573273


The stated retail price of the reviewed device is valid as of the time of the review and is subject to change.