TheFlash

Pre-amp for newly acquired ATC SCM40A's

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Super Wammer

Note: I'm on a steep learning curve here as I'd always thought of a pre- simply as the thing you connect various sources to and control the volume from (like the C-90 in my Pioneer rig). Apparently, selection of the right pre-amp plays an important role in the ultimate SQ coming out of the speakers. I learned that yesterday!

I've just bought an absolutely mint pair of ATC SCM40 passives courtesy of Keith @PuritéAudio which sound fantastic. They will be installed in Kendal next week. A39 integrated will drive them initially; it's a good amp but I know a better one would get the most out of the highly regarded SCM40's. But before I dive in, it's worth spending a few minutes pondering the medium-to-long term game here: the active SCM40A's.

These are even more highly regarded and at the RRP of £6,750 (vs £3,750 for the passives) represent ridiculous value for money. Having poked around, I realise that if I were to try to get SCM40A sound quality out of the SCM40's then I'd need to spend a lot more on external amplification than the £3,000 difference in RRP between the SCM40 and SCM40A. Hence the SCM40A's quickly becoming my end-game speaker for Kendal.

I can't get there yet of course. So what do I do in the meantime? Replace the A39 with a better integrated like the markedly superior A49? Or ATC"s on SIA-150 (I have yet to see a used one for sale so unlikely)? Or do I look to separate out the pre- and power aspects of the amp, with one eye on the pre- which will ultimately feed the SCM40A's? The latter is where my head is right now, so some questions for you black belt wammers:

  • If you own the SCM40A's or are familar with them, what experiences do you have of various pre-amps letting them sing or holding them back?
  • Steping back from specific models, what are the factors you would consider first and foremost in selecting a pre-amp to feed a high quality power amp like those in the SCM40A's? (I understand that peak current may be one consideration and, for example amongst vintage options, one which might make the Rotel RHB-10 a better option than the Pioneer M-90, though both are superficially the same 200W output)
  • Very specifically to ATC, has anyone heard the CDA2 vs the CA2 (the SCA2 is well beyone my reach)? They are the same dimensions and weight but one is a lot more than a pre-amp: has the pre-amp part of the CDA2 been compromised vs the CA2?

Thanks for humouring me. Oh, and I have a strong leaning towards solid-state rather than valves: you could try to turn me but it might be more helpful if you could just mutter "Bless!" under your breath and humour me...

All the best,

Nigel

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I see that you virtually discount valves but I have to say that some of the very best sounds I have heard is when a valve preamp is used with a good SS power amp.

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Looking at your systems.....there is usually a "Musical" (for want of a better word) element to them, as in Arcam Source/Class G Amp...mixed with revealing speakers. If you move too far away from this, it is possible that your system could become impressively detailed, in a very "Hi-Fi" sense, but lose a bit of engagement/involvement.

Going active "might" take the sound in this direction, especially over longer listening sessions. If this proves to be the case, a Tube Pre could sprinkle just enough magic over the sound....Sorry.

What are the chances of keeping the Passive ATCs and getting a really good Amp for them? How much better than the A49 would that Amp have to be?

What sort of money are you looking at spending now?

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Hi Flash

I heard the active scm40a at a hifi show and they were the best speakers I heard at the show. Really good and not dry and analytical like I thought they might be.. It was an ATC room so it must of been their pre amp. You taking about them reminds me think that l should listen to them again and like you say for a high end system you could spend much more money to get that sort of sound.

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47 minutes ago, TheFlash said:

Or ATC"s on SIA-150 (I have yet to see a used one for sale so unlikely)?

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.co.uk%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F253825230442

You're welcome :)

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Super Wammer
47 minutes ago, TheFlash said:

Note: I'm on a steep learning curve here as I'd always thought of a pre- simply as the thing you connect various sources to and control the volume from (like the C-90 in my Pioneer rig). Apparently, selection of the right pre-amp plays an important role in the ultimate SQ coming out of the speakers. I learned that yesterday!

I've just bought an absolutely mint pair of ATC SCM40 passives courtesy of Keith @PuritéAudio which sound fantastic. They will be installed in Kendal next week. A39 integrated will drive them initially; it's a good amp but I know a better one would get the most out of the highly regarded SCM40's. But before I dive in, it's worth spending a few minutes pondering the medium-to-long term game here: the active SCM40A's.

These are even more highly regarded and at the RRP of £6,750 (vs £3,750 for the passives) represent ridiculous value for money. Having poked around, I realise that if I were to try to get SCM40A sound quality out of the SCM40's then I'd need to spend a lot more on external amplification than the £3,000 difference in RRP between the SCM40 and SCM40A. Hence the SCM40A's quickly becoming my end-game speaker for Kendal.

I can't get there yet of course. So what do I do in the meantime? Replace the A39 with a better integrated like the markedly superior A49? Or ATC"s on SIA-150 (I have yet to see a used one for sale so unlikely)? Or do I look to separate out the pre- and power aspects of the amp, with one eye on the pre- which will ultimately feed the SCM40A's? The latter is where my head is right now, so some questions for you black belt wammers:

  • If you own the SCM40A's or are familar with them, what experiences do you have of various pre-amps letting them sing or holding them back?
  • Steping back from specific models, what are the factors you would consider first and foremost in selecting a pre-amp to feed a high quality power amp like those in the SCM40A's? (I understand that peak current may be one consideration and, for example amongst vintage options, one which might make the Rotel RHB-10 a better option than the Pioneer M-90, though both are superficially the same 200W output)
  • Very specifically to ATC, has anyone heard the CDA2 vs the CA2 (the SCA2 is well beyone my reach)? They are the same dimensions and weight but one is a lot more than a pre-amp: has the pre-amp part of the CDA2 been compromised vs the CA2?

Thanks for humouring me. Oh, and I have a strong leaning towards solid-state rather than valves: you could try to turn me but it might be more helpful if you could just mutter "Bless!" under your breath and humour me...

All the best,

Nigel

Think laterally. Get a DAC that can also control volume such as the Chord Dave or the new Hugo TT2 coming out soon. By the time this project comes to fruition you will be able to buy a mint second hand Dave or a second hand Hugo TT2.

Or use a Music First passive as they are really good at driving longer cable lengths.

Also can I just throw in that many preamps just colour the sound and possibly at the expense of clarity. Beware that if the preamp appears to add detail then it is probably just adding in HF noise.

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Super Wammer
39 minutes ago, mr.me said:

I see that you virtually discount valves but I have to say that some of the very best sounds I have heard is when a valve preamp is used with a good SS power amp.

Virtually discount rather than rule out... if you have specific recommendations for valve pre's which you know work well with the active SCM40A's then I'm all ears!

My resistance arises in part from the fact that in the same way a stylus, arm and phono stage can affect the sound of a turntable, various valves can affect the sound of a valve amplifier and that is therefor yet another variable to deal with. I don't want to be spending mt precious time in Kendal rolling valves, I jut want to listen to music.

Also: I let friends I trust (and people they trust) use my Kendal apartment and I want them to be able to use the hifi and say "crikey, we need to replace our Sonos", not "what does this do? Ouch, that's hot".

So don't let me stop you, I just wanted to put my caveats out there.

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Super Wammer
30 minutes ago, CnoEvil said:

Looking at your systems.....there is usually a "Musical" (for want of a better word) element to them, as in Arcam Source/Class G Amp...mixed with revealing speakers. If you move too far away from this, it is possible that your system could become impressively detailed, in a very "Hi-Fi" sense, but lose a bit of engagement/involvement.

Going active "might" take the sound in this direction, especially over longer listening sessions. If this proves to be the case, a Tube Pre could sprinkle just enough magic over the sound....Sorry.

What are the chances of keeping the Passive ATCs and getting a really good Amp for them? How much better than the A49 would that Amp have to be?

What sort of money are you looking at spending now?

No need to be, that's a good point well-made!

As I said, my understanding right now is that passive SCM40's plus realy good (integrated/power) amp would cost me much more than active SCM40A's as the amp would have to be even better than the A49...

Money? I don't have any so I don't have a budget... and we are talking longer term options here. If I sell my vintage Pioneer stack that would give me a good wad but that would only contribute to the cost of the actives over the passives I've just bought. So forget money. I'll take any recommendations based on personal experiences and can filter out the pricey ones in my quiet time.

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Super Wammer
7 minutes ago, Fourlegs said:

Think laterally. Get a DAC that can also control volume such as the Chord Dave or the new Hugo TT2 coming out soon. By the time this project comes to fruition you will be able to buy a mint second hand Dave or a second hand Hugo TT2.

Or use a Music First passive as they are really good at driving longer cable lengths.

Also can I just throw in that many preamps just colour the sound and possibly at the expense of clarity. Beware that if the preamp appears to add detail then it is probably just adding in HF noise.

Chord? You're joking! Far too bling for me...:)

Music First was one of the pre-amps I thought might get mentioned here, though as a passive it wouldn't provide the current I thought the actives needed.

Take your point re colour: that might be HF noise in a s/s or valve colouration in a tube pre. If it sounds lovely, I'm happy, as you know...

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Super Wammer
21 minutes ago, insider9 said:

:) back at you! Spotted that but it's the MkI which has apparently been substantially improved upon in the MkII and this particular example has technical issues...

appreciate the thought though.

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Super Wammer
1 minute ago, TheFlash said:

Music First was one of the pre-amps I thought might get mentioned here, though as a passive it wouldn't provide the current I thought the actives needed

That, Mr Flash, is where you need a crash course in lecertrickerty. There are passives and passives. Because the music first preamps use transformers they actually suffer less from longer cable lengths than other ore amps.

Also, I tried to explain to you this afternoon that you have been given (IMHO) duff advice that the power amps in the active speakers need ‘current’ to drive them. 

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1 hour ago, TheFlash said:

These are even more highly regarded...

 

Yeah? By whom?

I understand the attraction of tying yourself in hypothetical knots and fag-packet calculations (surely these days an actual calculator is cheaper?) but it seems to me the first order of business would be to actually get yourself well acquainted with the active version of your speakers.

I've not knowingly heard an ATC for a decade or more, so obviously different models, but from my impression of the house sound - at least, the house sound as was – I wonder if your Arcam gear might have a somewhat ameliorating effect on the slightly 'relentless' nature I associate with ATC. If that's the case, I'm not sure I'd give that up too quickly without some careful listening first.

I'll happily admit that old prejudices die hard, but I have to confess my gut instinct is the thought of Chord feeding active ATCs  with no pre-amp to mediate does generate the first hint of a nervous tic in one eye.

Edited by notevenclose
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Super Wammer
Just now, Fourlegs said:

That, Mr Flash, is where you need a crash course in lecertrickerty. There are passives and passives. Because the music first preamps use transformers they actually suffer less from longer cable lengths than other ore amps.

Also, I tried to explain to you this afternoon that you have been given (IMHO) duff advice that the power amps in the active speakers need ‘current’ to drive them. 

That leckertrickery be black magic to me and I bain't know nothing no good ever come of it.

Yes, I heard you this afternoon (you didn't try to explain, you explained!) though I know others have different views. Obviously if they disagree with you they're wrong but I thought I'd hear what they have to say :)

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22 minutes ago, Fourlegs said:

Also can I just throw in that many preamps just colour the sound and possibly at the expense of clarity. Beware that if the preamp appears to add detail then it is probably just adding in HF noise.

2

You think? I confess I've tried driving power amps 'direct' on a number of occasions. If colouration is what I like, then so be it. I've always found an active pre-amp the more engaging option. 

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Super Wammer
1 minute ago, notevenclose said:

Yeah? By whom?

I understand the attraction of tying yourself in hypothetical knots and fag-packet calculations (surely these days an actual calculator is cheaper?) but it seems to me the first order of business would be to actually get yourself well acquainted with the active version of your speakers.

I've not knowingly heard an ATC for a decade or more, so obviously different models, but from my impression of the house sound - at last, the house sound as was – I wonder if your Arcam gear might have a somewhat ameliorating effect on the slightly 'relentless' nature I associate with ATC. If that's the case, I'm not sure I'd give that up too quickly without some careful listening first.

I'll happily admit that old prejudices die hard, but I have to confess my gut instinct is the thought of Chord feeding active ATCs  with no pre-amp to mediate does generate the first hint of a nervous tic in one eye.

By people.

They're really not hypothetical knots, they're just not here-and-now knots. Getting myself well acquainted without ownership will take some work and time but I'm up for it.

You might be generalising about ATC's and Arcams inappropriately here. I'm not sure the A49 ameliorates anything.

Of course I have my own biases and I won't be buying Chord!

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