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  • ATC SCM150ASL - Review

    I waited several months for these bests to arrive after placing an order last year. I took delivery about four months ago. They replace a pair of SCM100asl Classics. I ordered the SCM150s in Pippy Oak. The fit and finish is superb.

    I wasn't prepared for the massive crates they came in. But at 75Kg each, I should have expected this. Unpacking was surprisingly easy. I just tipped the crates on their ends, and the speakers just slid out. Lifting them onto the stands was another matter. Fortunately, my son is fit and strong. We managed it quite easily.

    Setting the speakers up for my first listen was painless. I simply pulled them a metre or so out from the wall about the same distance apart as they were from me. I connected them to my RME dac/preamp and the speakers sounded great. After a few weeks tweaking the positioning, I got it just right. The sound stage is huge. The bass is stupendous. Sub woofers are not required and nor are they welcome in my room. The dynamics are to die for.

    Are they worth the upgrade from the SCM100asl speakers? Very definitely. For some reason, the SCM150asl speakers seem to offer a much greater wrap around sound stage than their smaller brethren. I wonder if it's something to do with the wider front baffle?

    Two weeks ago, I bit the proverbial bullet, and I purchased the CDA2 MK2 CD/DAC/preamplifier. Good as the RME ADI2 was - the CDA2 MK2 is better. I feel as though the SCM150asl speakers sound far more dynamic with significantly improved resolution. The CD player is pretty good as well.

    The 150s are expensive. There's no way around it. But just consider that you're getting active speakers with all the benefits that go with that. There's no power amp to buy. Just add a preamplifier and you're ready to go. Just for a moment consider the Magnepan MG20.7 speakers. Many audiophiles lust after them. But they are, minus amplification, about 2/3rds of the cost of a pair of SCM150asl speakers. After adding a suitable power amplifier into the mix, the 20.7s end up being considerably more expensive. And the elephant in the room is - the 20.7s are not nearly as good as the 150s. I did own a pair of 3.7i speakers a while back, so I have some experience with Magnepan speakers. After I got them, I realised my older 50asl speakers blew them away. That's why I moved up to my previous 100asl speakers. There's other contenders as well. But every option works out way more expensive than 150s and none of them sound as good.

    Here's a couple of pics. These things are beasts...



    Last edited by Bulldog; 10-02-2022, 09:13 AM.

  • #2
    Congratulations Bulldog,

    these are true dream loudspeakers. 😍
    Even if Pippy Oak sounds a bit strange for a not native english speaker 😆

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks, SolarMusic. They were a real stretch for me to buy. But I am happy to say that they've exceeded my expectations.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Bulldog View Post
        ... The dynamics are to die for. ...
        Bravo! ATC does dynamics well. Lack of dynamics was one of the top defects I recognized in my then audio kit when I embarked on the search for a complete system renewal, and found ATC amongst a select few who knew how to get it right.

        I suspect many in the audiophile community have gradually forgotten about the dynamics of live music. That's through listening too often to the level compression applied to many popular recordings, in the "loudness war" chase for attention in the name of advertising, combined with increasing domestic pressure for smaller, narrower loudspeaker enclosures and hence smaller and less capable drive units. IMHO ATC's resistance to that movement makes it a jewel.

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        • #5
          jophill, I agree. Dynamics are what makes listening to music so pleasurable - if your system gets it right. It's what makes music sound real, not just merely reproduced. I was quite surprised how great CDs and vinyl sounds through the new system. I wasn't going to use the term 'night and day' when I wrote the above review, but when I connected the 150s, it was like 'night and day" - especially when compared to streaming. I was absolutely nailed to the floor when I played some Mahler CDs through the 150s. And even more so when I connected the CDA2 MK2.

          There are some drawbacks though. The 150/CDA2 combination highlights poorly recorded or overly compressed music. When I play streamed music now, even so-called HD streams. it doesn't sound 'bad' per se, but a little constrained and lacking in air when compared with the CD or vinyl equivalent. Thank God I didn't throw out my CD and vinyl collection when streaming became popular.
          .
          Last edited by Bulldog; 10-03-2022, 10:51 AM.

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          • #6
            Congrats! Now, some really good power cables will do wonders. I suggest to try al least Chord Cable Signature Power, for both speakers, and CDA2

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            • #7
              Originally posted by saureign View Post
              Congrats! Now, some really good power cables will do wonders. I suggest to try al least Chord Cable Signature Power, for both speakers, and CDA2
              LOL! I've run out of money! I reckon it will take me a few months to get my finances back on track. But a good suggestion. I will certainly start researching some options. Chord makes some great stuff.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bulldog View Post
                ...There are some drawbacks though. The 150/CDA2 combination highlights poorly recorded or overly compressed music. ...
                To quote Robert Polley (an ATC Director and at the time co-owner): "... the majority of major audio engineers use ATC. On the other hand, I don't hesitate to admit it, an ATC at home can make half one's collection sound bad. ... Because the majority of records are not that good in terms of sound engineering, and an accurate speaker will convey this ugly side of a production to the listener."

                That's from a fascinating, very informative, but not always diplomatic, interview given to avmentor.gr (it's in Greek only but I ran it through a translator and tidied up the English in my copy). From it you see that ATC's focus is very firmly on professional customers' audio needs without audiophile compromise to "please the ears".
                Last edited by jophill; 10-05-2022, 07:14 AM.

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                • #9
                  Interesting interview. Polley pulls no punches. I feel somewhat vindicated about expressing my views about the suspect quality of music being streamed by some platforms. The 150/CDA2 MK2 is capable of highlighting the 'ugly side of production" as well as the ugly side of streaming.

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                  • #10
                    It's an old audio developer saying that their speakers are so good that bad things can sound really bad.

                    But I think that the ATC are still quite merciful and that even worse recordings still sound reasonable.

                    Of course, if the music sounds like shit, there's nothing to save.​ 😆

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SolarMusic View Post
                      It's an old audio developer saying that their speakers are so good that bad things can sound really bad.

                      But I think that the ATC are still quite merciful and that even worse recordings still sound reasonable.

                      Of course, if the music sounds like shit, there's nothing to save.​ 😆
                      Yes. IMHO Polley does exaggerate in a way that, naturally, promotes his product. I am sure bad recordings exist, but I have personally heard nothing "unlistenable" through any ATC classic series loudspeaker due to the recording (my fare is mostly classical, occasionally other genres too, but YMMV as always).

                      Modern classical recordings mostly sound sonically excellent and completely free of recording defects. Occasionally I hear things such as what I think may be a little too much reverberation added to studio opera to make it seem, implausibly, like it was recorded in a large, empty performance space.

                      My vintage recordings do sometimes show the limitations and practices of the time. The recording volume being slowly reduced before a loud passage to keep the tape from saturating. Getting that wrong and hearing tape compression. It's late 1960s and 1970s recordings where I hear this sort of issue more than in those from the 1950s. But none of that matters to these ears in the face of a superb performance.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I agree about ATC's ability to reveal the warts and all aspect of music reproduction. I now find it fascinating that I can hear much deeper into recordings than I ever could before. I can actually hear the splices and the gain riding - particularly on some older recordings. Glenn Gould's Bach Goldberg Variations (earlier version) is a real treat. I can clearly hear poor old Glenn muttering to himself and twisting and turning on his stool while he's playing. His piano playing is pretty good too.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bulldog View Post
                          I agree about ATC's ability to reveal the warts and all aspect of music reproduction. I now find it fascinating that I can hear much deeper into recordings than I ever could before. I can actually hear the splices and the gain riding - particularly on some older recordings. Glenn Gould's Bach Goldberg Variations (earlier version) is a real treat. I can clearly hear poor old Glenn muttering to himself and twisting and turning on his stool while he's playing. His piano playing is pretty good too.
                          Yes. However, I do think there are occasionally things captured in recordings that for the home user might better be left at "noticeable" level rather than revealed as "annoying".

                          I would not want to forego ATC's ability to reveal what's in a great recording - across the entire dynamic range from low level to high, just to deal with a few unfortunate cases. I have found I can trust mastering engineers' judgement pretty broadly. That's as it should be. Most do a good job. However, I get it when too much detail is a problem perceived by others. IMHO, the SCM50 review by JonathanG picks out the target non-professional customer well but it certainly isn't everyone.

                          I have no issue with reasonable levels of unintended natural sound. Stage noise in live opera for example. After all that's what I hear in the opera house. I do recognize, though, that others prefer their recordings pristine and there's nothing wrong with that preference.

                          Have you heard the 2021 re-mastering of the 1955 Gould Goldbergs? Online only, I think, from a label I haven't heard of before [1]. Modern re-mastering is often very impressive. This latest version is certainly remarkable at revealing more of what's on the tape. I like the version I have, mastered some time ago. However, I perceive some of the new version's background sounds as difficult to reconcile with natural imperfections. So, the latest mastering gets, for me anyway, to the borders of "annoying". I wonder if modern high-tech re-mastering might at times bypass the good judgement of the original mastering engineers about what users might like.

                          [1] "Alexandre Bak - Classical Music Reference Recording​" I think
                          Last edited by jophill; 10-10-2022, 04:08 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Note: my original text seems to have fallen foul of an automatic spam detector. If the moderators see it, please delete it rather than approving it.
                            Originally posted by Bulldog View Post
                            I agree about ATC's ability to reveal the warts and all aspect of music reproduction. I now find it fascinating that I can hear much deeper into recordings than I ever could before. I can actually hear the splices and the gain riding - particularly on some older recordings. Glenn Gould's Bach Goldberg Variations (earlier version) is a real treat. I can clearly hear poor old Glenn muttering to himself and twisting and turning on his stool while he's playing. His piano playing is pretty good too.
                            Yes. However, I do think there are occasionally things captured in recordings that for the home user might better be left at "noticeable" level rather than revealed as "annoying".

                            I would not want to forego ATC's ability to reveal what's in a great recording - across the entire dynamic range from low level to high, just to deal with a few unfortunate cases. I have found I can trust mastering engineers' judgement pretty broadly. That's as it should be. Most do a good job. However, I get it when too much detail is a problem perceived by others. IMHO, the SCM50 review by JonathanG picks out the target non-professional customer well but it certainly isn't everyone.

                            I have no issue with reasonable levels of unintended natural sound. Stage noise in live opera for example. After all that's what I hear in the opera house. I do recognize, though, that others prefer their recordings pristine and there's nothing wrong with that preference.

                            Have you heard the 2021 re-mastering of the 1955 Gould Goldbergs? Online only, I think, from a label I haven't heard of before [1]. Modern re-mastering is often very impressive. This latest version is certainly remarkable at revealing more of what's on the tape. I like the version I have, mastered some time ago. However, I perceive some of the new version's background sounds as difficult to reconcile with natural imperfections. So, the latest mastering gets, for me anyway, to the borders of "annoying". I wonder if modern high-tech re-mastering might at times bypass the good judgement of the original mastering engineers about what users might like.

                            [1] "Alexandre Bak - Classical Music Reference Recording​" I think​.

                            Regards

                            John

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I haven't got the 2019 version of Gould variations, but I have an earlier remastered version which is included in a box set - Sony's 2002 - 'Glenn Gould - A State of Wonder'. It does tend to highlight off mike noise. I wonder if this is done deliberately by the engineer to enhance the so called credibility of the remastering effort? I shouldn't think like that...

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Re Gould, I thought his recordings were quite notorious for extra sounds, from his squeaky chair that he used. And I recall he sings a long quite a bit too, I’ve not listened to any of his recordings for quite sometime now though.

                                Bulldog - those 150s look stunning in that finish. I’ve heard a pair of pros (mounted in wall) briefly last year when I demoed multiple pro smaller monitors. I had to bypass the 150s,they were an option to listen too whilst cycling through the mid fields but not helpful at all, as I won’t ever be able to get them (or have space!)

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  AlastairH, space is an issue with the 150s. There's no getting around the size of them. They will fit it quite small rooms but the problem is, you've got to fit as well! The pippy oak finish is awesome. Pictures don't do it justice.

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