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  • ATC loudspeakers only come to life at high volume - is this so?

    That ATC loudspeakers only come to life and become enjoyable at high volume seems to be a "conventional wisdom" which I see repeated online and in print.

    I have my own view (which I will post later). But what do others think?

  • #2
    To use a broad brush, I find ATCs more remarkable at higher volumes, but enjoyable at any volume. Remarkable and enjoyable are distinct ideas to my mind.

    But this is the point of a well-designed, neutral loudspeaker, it should just be causing minimum disturbance of its own. If the listening space, set up, rest of system is done well too, the ultimate result of all these, is to get a better sense of the recording.

    It's been said that each recording has its "correct" volume level (think equal loudness curves) - in a good overall set up this factor might start to dominate.

    So the thing I mention in the first sentence may be just the way recordings are, rather than being about speakers.
    Last edited by darrenyeats; 12-22-2020, 11:55 AM.

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    • #3

      Hi there
      Most of the time I hear music with a level of 60-90DB at the listening position. ATC speakers may on average be heard louder than other speakers simply because they distort less. What has made me hear quieter and still be satisfied is the use of a Schumann generator. This means that even quieter music sounds full and rich in substance. I use this one.
      https://www.audiopur.ch/screen/produ...il/language/de
      Best regards Rüdiger

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      • #4
        Originally posted by fr.jazbec View Post
        Most of the time I hear music with a level of 60-90DB at the listening position. ATC speakers may on average be heard louder than other speakers simply because they distort less. ...
        I suspect this is correct.

        My experience of moving from circa 20 litre two-way floor-standers with 6.5-inch mid-woofers to SCM50ASLs was that over the first few weeks I gradually turned the volume knob down from where I started.

        I don't know for sure if I started at an absolutely higher volume level than with my previous loudspeakers but I suspect I did. I now listen (foreground listening mode) usually somewhere between 63 and 77 dB SPL ("LAeq" on REW) with peaks ("LZpeak") from 89 to 103 dB SPL. I suspect that lower mid-range distortion at high audio levels from better drivers "let me off the leash" and I was playing louder at the start because it now sounded good to do so. I gradually got accustomed to the new sound and backed off the volume control.

        The question posed is very "broad-brush" in its scope and I think it has a number of "fine-brush" answers. From experience I think that initial listener impression of a low-distortion loudspeaker is one reason why people do perceive ATC loudspeakers as "coming to life" at high volumes. I think there are other reasons too (I will comment some more later).

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        • #5
          My experience is that I feel like I am listening to music loudly even at low volumes. This is particularly noticeable when I have visitors and listen to music. Despite very good music enjoyment, you can talk at normal volume. With my loudspeaker before (Mission Argonaut), I always had the feeling that I had to speak louder at the same volume. Of course, the ATC loudspeakers become more and more impressive at higher volumes, and one has the feeling of the "stage" moving closer and closer, but at some point the room also limits the volume. The nice thing about ATC is that the enjoyment is perfect even at lower volumes, because even then dynamic jumps are very clearly perceptible.
          But this are only my 2cent !😉

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          • #6
            Originally posted by darrenyeats View Post
            To use a broad-brush, I find ATCs more remarkable at higher volumes, but enjoyable at any volume. Remarkable and enjoyable are distinct ideas to my mind.

            But this is the point of a well-designed, neutral loudspeaker, it should just be causing minimum disturbance of its own. If the listening space, set up, rest of system is done well too, the ultimate result of all these, is to get a better sense of the recording.

            It's been said that each recording has its "correct" volume level (think equal loudness curves) - in a good overall set up this factor might start to dominate.

            So the thing I mention in the first sentence may be just the way recordings are, rather than being about speakers.
            I agree with this. It's inevitable that loudspeakers will be perceived as tonally different at different volumes. This is a fundamental conclusion from the human equal-loudness contours. So the only way you will bear what the recording studio heard is to listen at exactly the same loudness they used and with loudspeakers having the same frequency response in an audibly similar room.

            AIUI, the studios mix and master at quite loud levels (circa 82 dB SPL) and ATC loudspeakers tend to be well liked and used in studios. So I do think there is at a degree of reality in the "only comes to life at high volumes" meme. But the "only" word in the meme also doesn't correspond to my experience, so I agree that this reality does not at all preclude enjoyment at the lower levels I now use (and the enjoyment still being better than with many other loudspeakers, too).

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            • #7
              There is a similar thread on Pink Fish media which has generated some comments, some feeling that it’s a myth that the ATC speakers only come alive at higher volumes.

              From 20 years of playing around with different models, I’d say I have historically found the speakers a little underwhelming at low volumes and this is especially the case when doing a demo, I’ve often set the volume too high when it’s really not needed. They are super detailed at lower volumes. I find this the case when listening late at night with the TV broadcasts the clarity is striking.

              Even now I find that because they are so ‘clean’ that I still at times, set the volume a bit too high then back it off.

              Generally I would listen around the 65-75 dB range. If everyone is out of the house and I am playing a 5.1 film like Blade Runner or Dunkirk, I’d be hitting just over 100dB peaks and that is getting close to uncomfortable for me, it’s not something I do that regularly. But I want a physical room shaking feel with films otherwise I would not have bought a C6 subwoofer lol 😝


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              • #8
                I used to think that my Active 40's sounded better at higher volumes , I started out with a Benchmark DAC3 HGC and it definitely had a sweet spot starting around 75-80db I'd say . This was described to me by Benchmark as hitting the best signal to noise ratio on the Digital Pre . I now have an Auralic Vega G2.1 which has a superb Pre section , it was immediately clear on demo that it matched the Active's much better and the sound signature is much more consistent across the volume range . I seem to be listening at lower volumes these days which is bonus really . I remember asking this question to a dealer who thought Active's were better at lower volumes . I think much depends on what's driving them .

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mariner View Post
                  My experience is that I feel like I am listening to music loudly even at low volumes. This is particularly noticeable when I have visitors and listen to music. Despite very good music enjoyment, you can talk at normal volume. With my loudspeaker before (Mission Argonaut), I always had the feeling that I had to speak louder at the same volume. Of course, the ATC loudspeakers become more and more impressive at higher volumes, and one has the feeling of the "stage" moving closer and closer, but at some point the room also limits the volume. The nice thing about ATC is that the enjoyment is perfect even at lower volumes, because even then dynamic jumps are very clearly perceptible.
                  But this are only my 2cent !😉
                  Using the volume control to "move the stage" to a pleasing distance is what I do.

                  I am used to concert halls (well, not since late February now). How I perceive the stage depends on how close I sit. Experience tells me a performance can be enjoyable whether I am at the back of the hall or close to the front. So I don't have any built-in strong expectation of what sounds right (but no criticism intended if anyone else does).

                  I used to agree with Peter Walker's statement that there was a right volume level for each recording. That seemed to work with my previous loudspeakers. But now I think that the volume control is more like the zoom control on a camera than the focus control. That means I can choose from a range of realistic stage distances according to mood, circumstance, etc. Although I do agree that there is an element of "comes to life at high volume" that seems perfectly right to me. Having the possibility now to play loud with clean sound is definitely a plus. But the point is that I now have a choice and I exercise that as it pleases me.

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