By WL Low
I’ve never given much thought to ATC speakers in the past, and for many they share much in common with PMC speakers, which are my personal reference for the last couple of years, but for some however, the ATCs are probably one of the best hi-fi speakers money can buy, like one guy we know. Kenny of Hi-Way Laser has always wanted me to spread the ATC joy around a bit, but with my previously weedy Pass Aleph amp, the sonic synergy with ATC speakers was just never quite there. I’ve always felt the ATCs required an amp with balls, something that kick ass, I think you well understand that means something like my Plinius SA250 MK IV.
|A close up of the ATC SCM50 SLT 3-way drivers, with front ported box. I did all my listening without the grills.|
|With cloth grill on.|
The ATC SCM50 SLT is a classic three-way design, in a very solid, inert front firing ported box. In my 10 x 12ft (L x W) man cave, the ATCs certainly looks big in every way, that they practically dominate the room! Wife acceptance factor is definitely low here, but the dark walnut vinyl was beautiful to look at and all the corner joints were perfectly squared off smoothly. All the three speaker drivers are mounted to an extremely rigid and thick front baffle. My only reservation with the SCM50 SLTs is the lack of a floor-coupling interface, or spikes. The whole bottom surface just sits flat on the floor, and in my case, the right side on the room floor is a little un-even, which made the right speaker a little wobbly, but still pretty stable nevertheless, and should remain standing even with a gentle nudge. I checked with Kenny again just in case he had forgotten to send the floor spikes, but he said no spikes are supplied. A check of ATC’s web site confirmed that only the 50th Anniversary model has spikes mounted as floor coupling interface.
|That”s how I wired the ATC SCM50 SLT for this review, which offers tri-wire terminals.|
I set up the SCM50 SLT using my previous speaker (PMC Fact 8) position as a starting point, but it soon dawned on me that the bass wasn”t quite right, or was quite lacking actually. I started pushing the ATC’s away from me and towards the staging wall of my room, inch by inch. In the end, I settled with the final position used for the rest of the auditioning session, which is 34 inches away from the stage wall and 24 inches from the side walls, both measurements taken from the outer rear corner of the speaker. When finding the right position for the ATC SCM50 SLT, I noted that pushing the speaker front and back affected the bass volume and quality, while pushing the speakers inwards or apart affected the midrange density and clarity. It”s two parameters that I had to constantly balance and keep in check, as moving to enhance one attribute will invariably affect the other, for better or worse.
Another area I found crucial for setting up these big, bad boys is the tri-wire (Hi/Mid/Lo) speaker terminals. It would seem that whichever terminal pair I plugged my speaker cables into will result in a boost to the corresponding driver. I finally settled for a compromise by plugging my positive to the mids and the negative to the low terminal as shown in the picture above.
|A close-up of the low-key ATC badge on the grill.|
The sound quality coming from the ATC is considered first rate at any price. The tonal quality is effectively heart warming at the same time and lies a little bit on the dark side. The highs felt some what rolled off initially, but with time they opened up and blossomed with fullness and airy refinement, yet never losing its grip, bite and attack when the music called for it. The mids are full bodied, with chest cavity filling density, and full of texture. There”s a smoothness to the hi-mids that I’ve not previously heard with other speakers. Female vocals (a must-have audiophile music fare) in particular sounded extremely sultry and sweet (they always sound like your lover whispering sweet nothings to you rather than your wife nagging at you!). When it comes to bass, this ATC is a beast! It’s propulsively fast, taut and will kick very, very hard when the music calls for. Now I would only be picking on it, if I could wish for the bass to extend just further down a bit?
Due to its studio monitor heritage, this ATC is about as transparent as any of the best speakers I’ve heard, except that it”s more forgiving and doesn”t make you feel like a fool for playing poorly recorded music thru your hi-fi system, which I think is a good thing for music lovers, as there is plenty of poorly recorded good music out there. And its darkish nature makes the ATC seem “quieter” than it is, allowing the most subtle of details, like textures, harmonics and timbres of musical instruments and voices to flesh out easily. It”s like one is hearing so much more from the same song. Each musical note just lingers around a little longer, and then evaporating into thin air of nothingness. Its studio heritage gives the ATC its highly resolving nature, I am sure
Macro and micro dynamics are up there amongst the best I’ve heard too. In girl/guitar music, the intensity of force strumming on guitar, each note is little diferent and with kick drums, each kick just varies in force as in real “live”. In the saxophone, each and every minute finger, tongue, breathing technique and air gushing through the horn throat, is laid out in full detail. This is a very revealing speaker, when it comes to transient intensity and dynamic shading.
|With the ATC SCM50 SLT speakers, I played many bass-heavy tracks, like this Kraftwerk recording titled Tour de France. I managed to clock 106db on my iPhone decibel meter playing a track called Aerodynanik from this album. The ATCs never strained or sounded rough, just effortless! And by the way, at that volume, my balls were already rumbling in the bronx.|
Staging and imaging in hifi terms are artifacts of our vivid imagination perhaps? With the big boy ATC, the staging is life-like in size and leaves little to the imagination. It paints a very realistic musical event on the front staging wall every time, especially with “live” performance recordings. The better the recording, the less imagination you’ll need to fall back on. However, when it came to imaging properties, I found them to be a little vague due to a total lack of outlines, but whatever imaging that’s formed is solidly filled and life sized. Having said that, I think it might just be my very own preferences for more cleanly outlined imaging, while others may find the lack of it, to be actually rather organic. There you have it, the two flip sides of the coin covered.
Despite its two notable short comings, namely imaging properties and bass extension (I only wished for more bass, but it is not exactly a deal breaker if I really wanted to buy this pair of speakers), I still found myself totally lost in music during each and every listening session. The intent of the performing artist, the purpose of emotion, all came through and appealed to my very primal instinct called feelings. I have no hesitation to recommend the ATC speaker to any one who loves music, and have a big bad ass power amp (preferably 200 watts at least) to power it.
In fact I’ll put my money where my music is and will certainly, seriously consider this ATC SCM50 SLT speakers for my next speaker upgrade, pushing out some of my earlier speaker upgrade candidates already. Only one truly difficult barrier stands between the RM$64k/pair of ATCs and my music – its WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is very, very low! By the way, did I tell you that this demo pair is now on special offer too!
Now, let me think of a few reasons that will convince my other half that I should keep this big bad box in my man cave:
1) I shall not look at another specimen of the female species again
2) I”ll be a good boy from now on
3) I shall………………….
Ahh, such is the price to pay for family bliss. He! He!
ATC speakers and electronics are sold by Hi-Way Laser. Contact Kenny at 019-2813399.