Recommended Posts

Moderator

AN EXCLUSIVE REALREVIEW OF THE ACTIVE ATC SCM 19AT by Richard Bowles (Rabski)

SCM19A-3_4-w-grill-1.jpg atc-scm-19a-cherry-600x945.png

First impressions

A development of the company’s well-regarded SCM19 stand-mount passives, the SCM19ATs are the result of ATC applying their experience with professional monitors to produce a pair of compact, domestic, fully-active towers. In the world of hi-fi, heavy is good. In which case at over 30 kg each, these should indeed be good.

Out of the packing, first impressions are positive. The cherry laminate of ‘my’ pair has an attractive matt finish, which gives them a modern, ‘designer’ feel. The second pleasant surprise is the grilles. Rather than cloth, these are a metal mesh, with a contemporary, almost industrial look. A matter of taste, of course. Kevin McLoud would love them, Enid Blyton would chunder, but they are pleasantly different. The only small negative (OCD hat on) is that the drivers have cut-outs where the allen mounting bolts go. In one or two places, this leaves a very small piece of the underlying wood visible, which is notably lighter in colour. Most would not notice this, and a few seconds with a bit of wood dye during manufacture would sort it. There are also things I can only describe as thin, red metal mushrooms sprouting from each corner of the rear-mounted electronics. Possibly they are there to stop you from placing the heatsinks right against a wall but they look a little odd. Lastly, the ATC logo frankly makes the badges look a bit nasty, though they are mercifully small.

At almost exactly a metre in height with spikes, the 19ATs are relatively compact. The width is 370mm and the sides are attractively curved. The cabinets are multi-layered and internally braced, so the weight is certainly not just the electronics. They are also sealed, so with no porting should not be fussy about closeness to rear walls: a major plus for most people. Tech specs are near the end and there is loads of info on the ATC website, so I will not waste space with details. However, as an overview, they have a soft-dome tweeter and a 150mm soft-dome mid/bass driver. Each is separately driven by its own on-board amplifier, fed by an active second-order crossover. The mid/bass amplifier outputs 150W and the treble, 32W. There are various forms of overload and fault protection. The drivers and crossovers are designed to provide seamless integration, excellent on-paper performance and long-term reliability; backed up by ATC’s six-year warranty. Of particular note, in the company’s words: “The advantage of active crossovers is that their response remains unaffected by variable voice coil impedance, while the use of phase compensation enables phase coherency at the crossover points, improving the SCM19AT’s tonal balance and enhancing imaging for a pin-point stereo field”. I cannot say I disagree. As is normal for actives, signal connection is fully balanced.   

Initially, I placed them roughly, without spikes. Although less than perfect sonically, this is ideal for messing about without wrecking carpets. Ye Gods, they’re silent! All connected, no source, pre-amp flat out. Nothing. Zero. No hum, hiss or anything. A fair bit of shifting around with various tracks and they seem to work best here close to a perfect triangle, but slightly wider spaced and very slightly toed-out. ATC suggest an equilateral triangle and directly facing, but this is always room dependent. Time to get the spikes out and get down to it.

A proper listen

Although I ended up playing countless albums and CDs, for the review I’ve picked three genres that are likely to cover a reasonable range of tastes. I’ve also avoided excessively ‘kind’ tracks, so no perfectly-recorded female vocals here…

A little jazz to start with. Keith Jarrett on vinyl: Personal Mountains. Now that the ATCs are better positioned and spiked, the first obvious thing is that the soundstage has become massively wider and the bass far-better defined. They are excellent at instrument placement and dynamics. Jan Garbarek’s sax is clean with a perfect ‘edge’ and is right there in space. The piano harmonics are also very good (I played Koln Concert a lot, and again the piano was lovely). Going back a while in time, to possibly the ultimate LP, Miles Davies, Kind of Blue, and the ATCs excel in a surprising way. The presentation is quite forward, but really captures the atmosphere and mood. ‘Presence’ is an overused word, but it suits here.

Let’s rock. Led Zeppelin, and Kashmir from the remastered CD. The ‘wall of sound’ production comes across, but the band is nevertheless located spatially. This one is possibly a little short of the deepest bass, but what there is, is tight and fast. Possibly also a little ‘small’ in the image. However, it ‘feels’ right. Drums in particular are visceral in their attack. OK. A little more up to date, and while I did say ‘no female vocals’, I added this, because it can be difficult to get right: Imogen Heap, Ellipse, again on CD. Of all the tracks, Little Bird has Imogen’s voice verging on the hard-edged at times. Some of the lowest bass notes are again lighter than I’m used to, but they’re as tight as a duck’s fundamental. There is a perfect attack to the vocals and Imogen is forward spatially. Very, very enjoyable.

Classical next, and Itzhak Perlman’s Elgar Violin Concerto. Vinyl. I have a few recordings of this, but my favourite is the Barenboim Chicago Symphony. It’s Deutsche Grammophon, which I often find to be more hype than quality. Nevertheless, this one is a good recording, and here it works beautifully. There is again a real feeling of space and placement. It’s almost relentlessly accurate, but suffused with intimacy and emotion. One of the best three renditions of this I have heard, and the others were on systems costing (massively) more. Another treasure, Tintagel, Arnold Bax, and the LPO under Boult. A bit more of a mixed bag. With the really big passages, the ATCs seemed a little constricted. Not quite the wide open feel I normally get from this. On the other hand, once again, excellent placement in space, and with superb dynamics. The ATCs just breeze through the massive transients, which translates into an enjoyable ‘edge of the seat’ listen. To be fair, my listening space produces almost no reinforcement, and in many rooms it’s likely that bass will be deeper.

A pattern is apparent here. There is a temptation to regard actives as some kind of domestic PA system, designed to give massive SPLs without much subtlety. The ATCs are almost the polar opposite. At sensible listening levels, the lack of colouration, massive dynamic range, ability to reproduce transients, and accurate imaging are beguiling, though that’s not to say they can’t go loud. They certainly can, but still retain the ‘being there’ feeling. They produce a real feeling of width and depth, and a lifelike presentation. In particular, lead vocalists seem to be in space front of the speakers.

SCM19AT-rear-1.jpg

Boring (to some) tech stuff

Drivers: HF, ATC 25 mm dual suspension tweeter. Mid/LF, ATC 150 mm SL
Matched response: +/- 0.5 dB
Frequency response (-6dB): 54 Hz–22 kHz
Dispersion: ± 80° coherent horizontal, ± 10° coherent vertical
Max SPL: 108 dB
Crossover frequency: 2.5 kHz
Connectors: male XLR
Input sensitivity: 1 V
Filters: second-order critically damped with phase compensation
Overload protection: active FET momentary gain reduction
Fault protection: DC fault protection and thermal trip. Fault indication on rear panel mounted LED
Amplifier output: 150W LF, 32W HF
Cabinet dimensions (HxWxD): 980x370x344mm (spikes add 25mm to height, grille adds 34mm to depth)
Weight: 31kg

Conclusions

The ATCs work incredibly well in a domestic setting, regardless of how loud you run them. They are accurate, but that does not imply unpleasant. They do not make bad recordings sound worse than they are, nor do they make them sound better. They do not flatter to deceive, which means they pull the best out of good (and average) recordings. They are not clinical, sharp, etched or bright. What is on the CD or LP is what you get, and if it’s well recorded, you get it massively. Mids are spectacularly clean, and vocals are really centre-front. Top end is clear and sparkling, and there is never any apparent step between frequencies. Cymbals have a beautiful metallic ‘sheen’, drums have real ‘bite’ and impact, and bass notes are tight and fast. These are, however, not ‘drum and bass’ or reggae bakeoff speakers. If ill-defined, bloated, window-rattling bass is your thing, then look elsewhere. In that sense, and in other ways, they remind me of the very best electrostatics. There are real ‘hair on the back of the neck’ moments to be had with these, and equally so at late-night, low-volume playing. They do loud, but if anything, they do quiet better, which encompasses most of our listening in real life. They are usable all of the time. Play intimate jazz late at night, and belt out rock at ear-bleeding levels when nobody else is at home.

The SCM19ATs are in a difficult area in terms of retail price. At close to £5000 they are not cheap, and there is a lot of serious competition. However, there is no need for power amps, which means that either you save, or you can devote funds to a better front end. To get the equivalent quality, you would need to spend more (possibly a lot more) overall on a passive system, and that doesn’t take into account the serious benefits of active crossovers, certainly when they are as good as this.

Some may find them a little forward (at first), some may find them a little modern aesthetically, some may find them a little bass light. However, to my ears and eyes, they are ‘right’. It took a day of listening to ‘get it’, but I now do. I find them quite hard to classify, because they don’t really suit any particular sort of music. This, of course, is what good equipment should do. If you are looking around this price range, I would more than thoroughly advise an audition.

The obvious test of any piece of equipment is its ability to make you keep listening. As I start the first draft of this review, we have most of the family arriving for Easter on what was tomorrow but is now today. It is three in the morning and I am being moaned at, not unreasonably, for carrying on pulling things off the shelves to listen to. That, in a nutshell, is the ATCs. They make you want to keep finding things to play. A number of tracks are probably the best I have ever heard them sound. 

A few days on, and I am now at the final version of this. The ATCs have not tired me at all. The listening room is a pile of CDs and LPs out of their boxes and sleeves, and I can’t stop. What surprises is not the ability to belt it out, but also to do subtle; lovely imagery and big dynamics at low volume. That’s a very hard trick to pull off, but the 19ATs succeed. I will be unhappy to see them go, and to be honest, I never expected to be writing that.

Plus

Excellent dynamic range and ‘speed’.
Very good soundstage, with palpable depth, width and placement.
Superb integration between bass/mid and treble.
Incredibly lifelike at ‘normal’ listening volumes.
Sensible size and relatively unfussy about position.

Minus

Very accurate, so unforgiving of really bad recordings.
A little forward with vocals.
Light on very deep bass.
A little constricted on really big works.
Looks might not suit everyone.

  • Upvote 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Wammer

Good review Richard :^

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, George 47 said:

The first review by RealReviews reviewer Rabski of the active version of the ATC SCM19 speakers.

Yes ok, so now we know what to expect, but what we really want to know is have they got lucid treble, and the voice coils of God! :D

Only Joking, good review Rabski. And I enjoyed the interview there on WamTV George, as I did the others :) very entertaining, informative and interesting.

I actually remember the voice coils of God that was on B&W's if I recall rightly, but when I listened to (/owned) them, unfortunately I didn't hear (or see) God :nup:. And I remember subterranean bass as well it was amusing, are we sure it wasn't Jeremy Clarkson under an alias writing those reviews, sounds like something he would say :D 

Edited by eddie-baby

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator

I suppose if you heard subterranean bass then they were not the voice coils of God but the 'other place'...more a deal with devil....:D

And yes the new boy done good.:roll:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
42 minutes ago, George 47 said:

I suppose if you heard subterranean bass then they were not the voice coils of God but the 'other place'...more a deal with devil....:D

And yes the new boy done good.:roll:

 
 
 

:D:^

They make interesting speakers all OEM actives actually, they take a lot of the guess work out of finding a well-matched amplifier (if they've done it right!). It really is a good all in one solution, makes things easier from a reviewers perspective as well I suppose. The abundance of kit out there (old & new) really makes getting things that work well together quite a difficult task and it can even go painfully wrong. At least actives take away the faff of that. At nearly 5 grand though, you can do a lot with that in second-hand hi-fi faff!

Edited by eddie-baby

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
42 minutes ago, eddie-baby said:

:D:^

They make interesting speakers all OEM actives actually, they take a lot of the guess work out of finding a well-matched amplifier (if they've done it right!). It really is a good all in one solution, makes things easier from a reviewers perspective as well I suppose. The abundance of kit out there (old & new) really makes getting things that work well together quite a difficult task and it can even go painfully wrong. At least actives take away the faff of that. At nearly 5 grand though, you can do a lot with that in second-hand hi-fi faff!

I don't disagree. However, if you're looking at 'new', then the power amp factor is a big thing. When active crossovers are done well (and they are here), that's a massive factor. It means you're looking at £5k for speakers and power amps, which at this quality is another ball game.

I've listened to a lot. This is particularly relevant personally, because a few years back I was auditioning speakers in this range. Had these been available when I was in the market, they'd have been in the top few. They aren't perfect, but no speaker is. Overall, however, the active crossover and power amps really tip the balance. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Admin

Great review Richard, enjoyable reading.

I had a demo of the SCM 50's last summer. I was curious, having had very mixed feelings about their speakers in the past. The 50's were seriously impressive, and in a dem room not dissimilar in size to yours, there was plenty of low frequency extension. Perhaps the 19s would suit a slightly smaller room better if this aspect is important. Also, I think what makes them far easier to listen to than older models is the new ( 2 or 3 years i think since it came out ) tweeter. It is far smoother, and makes the sound far less clinical and studio-monitor like. I heard far a far bigger soundstage, subject to the recording, than i was expecting.

http://atcloudspeakers.co.uk/hi-fi/loudspeakers/tower-series/scm50aslt/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The 19ATs are not big and yes, my room is. The tweeters are indeed very good. I would love to try the 50s, but have you seen the weight? Getting them upstairs here would see me in cardio surgery. The 19s were bad enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Wammer

Very good review. For quite a while now I have been intrigued by the passive version of this loudspeaker, the  ATC SCM19 V2 (rated Stereophile Class A). There is a great deal of positive user feedback on this model and the professional reviews are universally glowing in their praise. I am a big advocate of appropriately driven, large stand-mounted, accurate sounding studio monitoring speakers which utilise high quality soft dome tweeters and paper (natural sounding) drivers.

I am curious as to why ATC chose to offer the active 19's as a floor-standing model rather than as a large stand-mounted model like the passive 19's? I do not believe it is just about the need to attach amps. For example, the ATC SCM20ASL Pro is a similarly proportioned 'active' stand mounted design with amps attached. Is it a marketing decision? It would seem floor-standing designs are generally more appealing in the current marketplace. Personally, I would of been more attracted to the active ATC SCM19's had they retained the large stand-mounted form of the passive version. As it stands, I would be more inclined to go for the passive 19's on high quality stands driven by an ATC P1 power amplifier.

Edited by marlew

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, marlew said:

Very good review. For quite a while now I have been intrigued by the passive version of this loudspeaker, the  ATC SCM19 V2 (rated Stereophile Class A). There is a great deal of positive user feedback on this model and the professional reviews are universally glowing in their praise. I am a big advocate of appropriately driven, large stand-mounted, accurate sounding studio monitoring speakers which utilise high quality soft dome tweeters and paper (natural sounding) drivers.

I am curious as to why ATC chose to offer the active 19's as a floor-standing model rather than as a large stand-mounted model like the passive 19's? I do not believe it is just about the need to attach amps. For example, the ATC SCM20ASL Pro is a similarly proportioned 'active' stand mounted design with amps attached. Is it a marketing decision? It would seem floor-standing designs are generally more appealing in the current marketplace. Personally, I would of been more attracted to the active ATC SCM19's had they retained the large stand-mounted form of the passive version. As it stands, I would be more inclined to go for the passive 19's on high quality stands driven by an ATC P1 power amplifier.

Interesting. I would have said the opposite. The electronics package occupies a fair bit of space, and the passive 19s probably would not easily accommodate. In a domestic setting, a compact floor-stander takes up no more space than a stand-mount, and obviously does not need stands (and all the associated mayhem). Marketing for sure, but that does relate to what most buyers actually want, of course. The actual space used is about the same, and bigger cabinets usually equate to better response in some ways. I have never seen any benefit to stand mounts when floor-standers of an equal footprint can do the job. If it takes up the same floor area, why buy small when bigger does the job better?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Wammer

Great review Richard, makes me want to try some. I owned SCM11's a few years ago which I really enjoyed once I'd found the right amp for them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had not always been enormously impressed before, but well worth an audition. Genuinely surprised me by being almost the opposite of what I'd expected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Wammer

Interesting review Richard, would love to hear these (& also the active 40s)
Many of your comments remind of the Mk1 SCM40s I used to own. The ability to belt it out but also to sound convincing & involving at low volumes.
They could also sound a bit bass light & a touch bright & ragged in the treble - it sounds like  ATC's new tweeter is a big improvement on the old.
They're also considerably better looking than the old models.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/21/2017 at 07:18, George 47 said:

There are also things I can only describe as thin, red metal mushrooms sprouting from each corner of the rear-mounted electronics. Possibly they are there to stop you from placing the heatsinks right against a wall but they look a little odd. Lastly, the ATC logo frankly makes the badges look a bit nasty, though they are mercifully small.

I can explain the "red metal mushrooms" extrapolating from my set of ATC speakers. They're handles to pull the amplifiers out. The higher up versions have vertical bars that connect the two posts on either side -- otherwise it is near impossible to pull the amps out (I've had to do it and the weight of the heat sinks and the sunken plate makes it extremely hard.) When you pull the amps out, there are multiple connectors to detach internally (on my 3-ways, 7 cables) that you have to do in a limited space before you can actually completely remove the amp so the heavy amp has to be held a few inches off the back of the speaker and you have to reach in and disconnect.

A secondary benefit is keeping the heatsink fins from damaging a wall behind it and keeping adequate cooling space and connector space (so the boot of an XLR connector isn't pinched/strained.)

Now why they're are red...  that's more of a mystery. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've used ATC monitors for over 15 years, first the active 100s and latterly the 150s. They just sound right, and I wouldn't swap them for anything, money no object.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.