Satin Audio Athena Review: Into a new era
Satin Audio is back again with its new premium model, the Athena. We here in About Audio already covered the majority of their cable products and their quality was thoroughly impressive. It was not only because they were uncompromising with their quality over price, but also for their continuously fast improvement while keeping its own ego. As said, Satin has advanced once again with their products and they are worth mentioning. Let us go through what has changed with Satin Audio as well as impressions and comparisons.
The original packaging was pretty and compact, but the new box design surely went to another level in beauty. The packaging got larger but not excessively with a lot more details and art going on. The accessories have also been improved. Along with the usual soft cloth pouch, Satin Audio included genuine leather case and cable tie. The box and accessories remind me of the ones from Effect Audio’s premium packaging, yet Satin Audio got it done even better as well as for a lot more affordably priced products. The leather case is very well made with smooth inner padding that securely protects without causing scratches and large enough to house most IEMs along with the cable.
Aesthetics / Features
Stepping up from the former pure silver products, Satin Audio applied palladium and several new technologies to their new pure silver wires, creating Athena. Before jumping into impressions, let us first go through the structural features as they have been upgraded once again. Athena is made of SP-OCC Palladium-plated silver mixed with SP-OCC Pure silver, comprised as a hybrid cable as well as having Type 4 Litz strands that are multi-sized. SA’s new extraction technology ables them to achieve one of the highest purity ranging from 6N to 7N. Athena is also applied with Satin’s new structural design called Satin Special Structure – featuring two highlights.
The first highlight comes from the core of the wires. They used to have a Kevlar Damping core in the middle of each wire, now upgraded to have a bundle of strands that increases both the durability and signal transmission. Second, the size of the strands. Athena is comprised of different sizes of strands that are individually insulated, maximizing the signal transmission. Oxidation and stiffer wires are further prevented as Satin Audio upgraded their insulation jacket, now sporting an even clearer and shinier looks. It is also worth mentioning that not only Athena is SA’s first premium product, it is also their first cable product to use Palladium.
Talking about cable materials, let us think about the shifts of “trends” that have been happening in the cable market. Copper was always considered as the original, then followed by the trend of using silver. Then the gold. Now, it is palladium. Now some may ask if all those materials are superior to copper and the answer is no. In fact, copper has been considered being the best choice for sound transmission, but only in terms of physics. Thanks to music being heavily determined by personal taste as an art, the sound that each material creates makes them very much worth just as copper. This palladium-powered cable certainly brings major changes to the IEM’s sound, though we will leave that for the sound impression part down below.
Sound impression – For BGVP DM7
So, the most common assumption for silver cables is that they bring weaker bass than copper-based cables – which is, in fact, true for most cases. Though for Athena, it instead enhances the liveliness and intensity of the bass, as well as deepening the bass dives. The bass quantity stays almost the same as default but greatly increased in bringing out the darkness and extension from the lower range. This makes the bass presentation significantly cleaner, clearer, and vivid without overdoing any elements. The bass strikes are tighter and deliver a full-bodied, lightning-fast punch.
If not equal, the improvements on the upper frequencies are even bigger, stepping up the transparency and freshness as if peeling off a thin blur layer from the original sound. Though the overall sound and tone stay surprisingly neutral compared to the other changes Athena brings. For the mids, Athena only applies a slight tone up, uplifting the vocals from the bass and secures more space vertically. Upper mids form an airy, open-field atmosphere with a gentle bump on the sibilance area, not necessarily creating a spike but rather ends up as a popping bite. Overall, the DM7 – Athena matching is a very ideal choice for enforcing the bass quality while maximizing the IEM’s original signature.
Sound impression – For Fearless Audio Roland
The dense, punchy bass is one of Roland’s charms and Athena sure respects that. Its deep bass dives are not degraded at all but rather present it more cleanly and bolder. Athena also blows in more air on the upper mids, supplementing Roland with extra shininess and cool breezes. The rather small emphasis that pre-existed from the default setting has gained a bit more of a silvery tone with a stronger presence, revealing more texture details from the upper frequencies. It delivers a crunchier bite but not falling behind in timbre and keeps a natural state.
What I especially enjoy from this matching is that it opens up the upper frequencies without hollowing the sound, unlike general silver-based cables – note that I am saying this in case of matching with Roland, not the silver-based cables themselves. Roland is quite tricky when it comes to pairing a cable. Copper cables would usually condense the sound too much and loose the crisp, while silver-based cables would easily hollow out the sound as if the sound (especially the bass) loses its “core”. With Athena, Roland keeps its meaty punch and density throughout the range while adding extra yet unexaggerated highlights to the mids and highs.
Extra thoughts / Overall characteristics
Let us compare with other Satin Audio cables. First, the Titan series. This entry line-up provides outstanding sound quality despite the wallet-friendly price tag. These cables provide a neutral sound that gradually enriches the sound and adds freshness to the tonality. The Monster series, on the other hand, still thoroughly respects the IEM’s original sound but behaves more charismatic and actively smear their charm into the sound.
So how does Athena match up against these? I would say it steps up to the next level in terms of enriching the sound but without perverting the tone. Staying loyal to both the IEM’s original nature and its own characteristics, Athena deepens and darkens the background, revealing better contrast against the sound. The layers are also better sorted from each other, resulting in better spatial details without feeling artificial. The grains from the texture are explicitly shown throughout the frequency, but this action is taken just enough to highlight the details and does not get harsh.
Athena visibly opens up in the upper frequencies, uplifting the vocals with much air and transparency. Though what is interesting is that the bass gains an even fuller body. As a prior flagship model, Medusa I also achieved great bass despite being a pure silver cable but the bass performance on the Athena proves its superiority. This results in the IEM to be sounding weightier, clearer, and bolder in multiple aspects. It appears that Athena likes to stretch the extension both ways, eventually gaining a larger and wider headroom. This is done only to an appropriate degree, so the sound will not get overdone or turn out too drastic.
I have previously tried a few other palladium cables from China in the earlier days when palladium started to be a thing. They headed for a similar direction as Athena did if looking at the big picture, yet none of them actually living up to good standards – majorly due to harsh texture and overall, just sounding too unnatural. In contrast, Athena is thoroughly matured in quality that not only brought a strong comeback to my previous disappointments I had with palladium before, but it also holds a substantial position that the performance exceeds their formal cable.
Griffin / Chimera / Kraken / Medusa Review
Thanks to Satin Audio for providing Athena in exchange for an honest impression/feedback.
I am not affiliated with Satin Audio and none of my words were modded or asked to be changed.