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AUTHOR OLIVER DRÁB
PHOTO DREAMAUDIO

Traditional Hi-Fi manufactory ATC coming from the British Isles will probably not be as well known to us as Harbeth, although its foundation in 1974 points to almost 50 years of tradition and experience, during which it has brought fans of faithful sound several technological innovations and, last but not least, several well-reviewed models.

However, the brand specializing in the production of Hi-Fi loudspeakers also has in its portfolio a number of high-quality and affordable audio components, which I believe we will get to in time, but today I would like to introduce you to the model of passive column speakers ATC SCM40, belonging to the basic model series Entry Series. It also consists of a trio of passive rack models, which is complemented by an active rack and an active column system in the same design and execution as the tested SCM40 model. In the autumn, we had an initial review of the ATC SCM150PSLT from the Tower series in our magazine, which I would like to follow up today.

Design

My ATC SCM40 loudspeaker story will definitely not start out as a classic fairy tale love at first sight. On our first contact at the dealership, I took a brief look at them and since they appealed to me as a Fiat Multipla motorist, they didn’t get my further attention. A few months later I had the opportunity to listen to them briefly at a great music event at Melody’s headquarters in Žilina, where they were plugged into the chain, on the Burmester 030 integrated amplifier tested in the last issue, with which they were very nicely matched. Then I looked at them a little more closely and didn’t miss a few interesting details. For example, the three pairs of speaker terminals at the rear bottom, or the massive though relatively compact design itself. It reminded me of a childhood story about an ugly duckling and my curiosity began to grow. I ended up eagerly picking them up in the editorial listening room a few days after the event, curious to see if they would put on an equally engaging musical spectacle on our equipment.

Into the flat front of each of the loudspeakers is mounted a trio of the company’s inverters directly from the ATC workshop. The tweeter has a diameter of 2.5 cm and has a polyester finish. The midrange is handled by a large convex dome called the Soft Dome, which is a company specialty and has been fitted to ATC speakers since 1976, which speaks volumes about its sonic qualities. The bass has a diameter of 16,4 cm and its diaphragm is hand lacquered and made of paper pulp. Like the centre transducer, the bass driver is characterised by a prominently protruding centre dome. The speaker’s baffles taper steadily towards the rear, making their plain shape more interesting at least from the side when viewed from the front. At the bottom, as I mentioned, there are three pairs of terminals, allowing the ultimate feeding of each band with its own power stage. Adding to the SCM40’s heft is the solid metal base on the prongs, with which they reach a hefty 31 kilograms per piece. A transparent metal grille serves to cover and protect the mounted drivers, changing the overall look of the speakers towards a more industrial style. I like that.

Technical solution

Although the speakers measure only one metre in height without two centimetres including the stands, their demands on the amplifier are quite high. Their low sensitivity of 85 dB and impedance at 8 ohms simply beg for a powerful amplifier. The recommended minimum of 75 watts is the bare minimum, but that will only open the door to their sonic potential.

Listening

To thoroughly check the sound qualities, I brought in a pair of integrated amplifiers. Italian, several years in a row highly rated Gold Note IS1000 Deluxe and also absolute Japanese novelty Accuphase E-4000, which with its high power output of up to 180 watts per channel into 8 ohm load should have no problem to properly rock the SCM40-current converters. First I wired the speakers with the aforementioned Italian editorial integrator. With its claimed output of 125 watts into the 8 ohm load, which is also stated by the manufacturer for the speakers, it exceeds the minimum recommended output by 50 watts, which still means a decent surplus for good control for a trio of power-hungry drivers.

The first album I reached for was the Ultimate Collection by Georgian singer-songwriter Katie Melua. A relaxed, laid-back delivery without a pinch of nervousness or pressure accompanies each of the album’s 33 tracks. Already by the third Nine Plane Song my eyelids were relaxed and I let myself be carried away by the pleasant tones. I was woken up from my semi-sleep only by the slightly faster Crawling Up a Hill. Everything is beautifully rendered, detailed and amazingly realistic.

The Cure and their immortal Lovesong was offered to me by Tidal in partnership with the ROON platform, which made me reminisce about this pleasant little ditty that accompanied me during my youth. There is probably no point in evaluating the parameters of a track that never had any ambitions to be in the category of high fidelity sounds, but I don’t recall ever having the opportunity to listen to it in the past more faithfully and in more detail than on these ATCs. Alternative rock just fits them as well as anything you let in.

Amy Winehouse’s perfect rendition of the rock scorcher Rehab therefore didn’t surprise me at all, and this is exactly the kind of big, dynamic and detail-packed spectacle I was expecting with this famously sung song. The beautiful colour of the piano with the perfect vocal delivery in the song Desperado by the Canadian singer Diana Krall also revealed the high potential of exemplary clarity and the ability to naturally reproduce even such a demanding female voice. The multi-dimensional localisation in space is another strong point in favour of the ATC SCM40. Few loudspeakers in a similar price range can offer you such a natural presentation of the right-left and also front-rear space in a recording. That’s why Diana Krall also had her exact and unchanging position in her next song Temptation. I just had to close my eyelids slightly and the perfect scene was in the world, or rather right in front of me.

I know and love the massive kick that accompanies Stranger in Moscow and the following This Time Around from Michael Jackson’s legendary HIStory album. Naturally, my curiosity didn’t give in and I tried to see how the ATC’s would handle this big bite. Yes, I was expecting it, and the speakers did not disappoint me in this respect at all. The bass portions were presented accurately, with sufficient volume but mainly with emphasis, which gives both pieces the necessary drive and dynamics.

Conclusion

It’s interesting how often and how well the rule about the need not to automatically always go for the first impression applies, but to try to go below the surface as far as the situation allows, whether we’re talking about people, or let’s just say about these “speakers”. After spending a month in their company, I realized that even though we didn’t start our journey together in the best way due to my lack of interest, I will probably miss them a little bit in the editorial office. Visually, I don’t like them any more than I did at the beginning, but they got me with their adult musical expression and excellent versatility in presenting a variety of musical genres. Yes, they are a bit more demanding on the amp and it would be ideal to treat it to a proper, let’s say, price-equivalent amp in tandem.

I reached for a pair of integrators, whose parameters were sufficient and so I gave them enough power, thanks to which these English ugly ducklings presented themselves to me in their full power and musical beauty.

If I had to sum up our short coexistence in one sentence, I could easily write that it was just a kind of love of reason on my part. If, like me, you are interested in the speakers, run to the DreamAudio studio in Petržalka, Bratislava, to have a look at them. You will find them there.

Pros

  • mature musical expression
  • crawl space
  • precise and emphatic bass

Cons

  • high demands on the amplifier

ATC SCM40
Inverters:
25 mm HF ATC Neodymium,
centre 75 mm ATC Soft Dome,
bass 146 mm LF ATC SC
Frequency response -6 dB: 48 Hz – 22 kHz
Dispersion: ±80° coherent horizontal, ±10° coherent vertical
Sensitivity (sine wave): 85 dB @ 1 W @ 1 m
Maximum continuous SPL @ 1 m: 112 dB SPL
Splitting frequency: 380 Hz – 3.5 kHz
Recommended amplifier power: 75 to 300 W
Nominal impedance: 8 Ω
Cabinet dimensions (H x W x D): 980 x 370 x 305 mm
Weight: 31 kg/pc
www.dreamaudio.sk

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