ATC were respectfully awarded our Outstanding Product Award earlier this year when their PR Agent Keith Haddock asked us to review the new SCM11 stand mounts from the all new SCM range. Both Dominic and I fell in love with them for their sheer speed, enthusiasm and timing abilities.

Not unnaturally therefore we relished the opportunity to review the SCM11’s bigger brother – the SCM19. Utilising a larger cabinet of 19 litres internal volume (hence the “19” designation) otherwise the construction and form is the same as the smaller 11’s, in sporting the new curved shaped and structural design. The 11’s and the 19’s both share the new SH25-76 tweeter but whereas the 11’s have the linear mid/bass driver the 19’s are adorned with the ‘Super Linear’ mid/bass driver.ATC-19-speaker_no-grill-651x1024

THE SOUND

When listening to a speaker or a piece of equipment in fact for the first time, there is always a particular attribute that stands out over the initial interpretations of the sonic characteristics. Frequent readers will know that I tend to mention one or two of these qualities before I delve deeper into the review. In the case of the ATC SCM19 I found myself particularly impressed with the acoustic reverb and environmental interaction of the venue based within the recording. The 19s have an ability to transparently seek out deep shaded harmonics and micro details.

One of the first tracks I played after connecting the 19s to my Jeff Rowland Concentra II was ‘I Put A Spell On You’ Annie Lennox, room acoustics were noted in a spatial nature which one would associate with an airy undamped smallish venue. Note decay was long and returned a small echo from the parameters of the performance’s space, whilst vocals were strong and very well defined in their response, conveying a clear and clean open nature which for me allowed me to imagine Annie Lennox singing very concentrated within a fixed point in space, giving a rather personal performance.

Rhythms were equally attractive with the 19s producing great detail in the lower registers and a well defined and airy top end.

An old quirky song I remember from my youth came to mind – The Proclaimers ‘King Of The Road’ – Don’t worry, your winces are noted! I bring this track up as an example – it’s always easy to throw HD recording after recording and well mastered music and test tracks at every piece of equipment to analyse a speaker’s infrastructure but it’s when we play the more mundane non-Hifi type of music that we like that we are really testing a speaker because it’s only then that we can appreciate any pitfalls and triumphs that we are not concentrated in looking for…

At the time I was cooking dinner and Spotifying. Usually I will do this on the Squeezebox Boom in the kitchen but as the system was on, so I just let the music play from there as the kitchen and living room are side by side. The twangy full bodied and bouncy nature of the bass guitar that is more singled out at the beginning of the track drew me back into the other room, I was impressed how it remained in an un- bloated position. It’s often the case that speakers can give an over large bloated rendition of instruments which in term wows the listener but at the same time is unrealistic. The 9’s poise and accuracy delivers a truer interpretation of instrument width and spread giving the listener the opportunity to place an instrument yet fully appreciate its decay and timbre.

When the brothers’ vocals came in the bass guitar was still clearly positioned without smear just a few feet behind them and just slightly to the left. I like the confidence of the 19s, the way they image and their accuracy, which never becomes hard and remains fantastically controlled. As well as having the nice bouncy beat that seems to make ATCs so involving that soundstage was now prodding at me saying ‘come on give me something interesting so I can show you what I can do.’

Typically it’s a known concept that a stand mount speaker will image strongly but not all in my experience. Speaker placement, side walls and other room interactions can really harm many of them with their reflex design which allows for deeper bass notes yet at the same time makes positioning slightly more awkward.

With the SCM19s infinite baffle design, placement is far simpler and more forgiving. Situating them closely to a front wall is no problem and as long as you are able to keep them a little away from the side walls they remain as open and as engaging as the designer intended them to be, allowing for the image to reach outside of the speakers footprint and convey inside pin point accuracy equally as astute.

To move on now to explore some better recordings most would look towards some intensive classical music, big concertos and orchestras to appreciate the sound staging accuracy of the ATCs. I’m not adverse to some classical music but I don’t play it all that often here so I need to remain with some music which I listen to on a regular basis and as I am already satisfied with the soundstage of the moderately sized 19’s and have expressed my feelings concerning their accuracy I feel it’s important to hear whether they have an emotional connection.

Damien Rice’s’ ‘Older Chests’ although a somewhat lean performance on the scale of assortment of instruments and band members etc is a very intimate listen that exposes a lifelike rendition or an interpretation of a sound that leaves the listener wanting more by exposing all aspects of Rice’s’ vocal and instrument timbre.

I hate to use the word ‘sultry’ when talking about a male vocal but in order to really connect with the music in question the seductive and emotional vocal given by Rice really will draw a listener in, especially late in the evening with low light in a relaxed state. The realism that the 19s convey starts at low volumes and keeps its grip all the way up to louder levels with the ability to convince the listener of realism with subtle and strong dynamics. Half way through this track there is a window or set of doors seemingly opened to the left of the soundstage which exposes daytime child’s play in say a park or garden to flood the area of the soundstage and atmospheric noise grows. What matters here is that the vocal is never overshadowed and all of Rice’s emotion is cleverly heightened rather than toned down, it’s a very clever layout to this otherwise bare acoustic track when enhanced by the ATC’s accuracy, soundstage placement and musical appeal is done justice.

The SCM19s produce a fuller bodied sound and dig deeper into the bass regions than the previously reviewed SCM11s, which is no surprise due to their larger by 8 litre cabinets and larger ‘Super Linear’ mid/bass driver. Characteristically the ATC family sound progresses further with a fuller midrange and a deeper bass line that has a very appreciable slope allowing for rolling off of lower notes to be gradual and very natural.

What I like about the SCM19 over the SCM11 is the stronger underpinning of all other frequencies culminating in a step up in refinement. Midrange is more fleshed out, texturally and slightly warmer than the characteristic of the cleaner, punchier, less weighty SCM11. Being able to achieve this without deviating from the ATC house sound of vibrancy, accuracy, openness and timing is a real triumph.

The SCM19 is still a speaker that will excite with big punchy fast bass notes, yet I find to achieve this requires an extra 10-12% from my Rowland Integrated to give them the kick they need to really get going, unlike the smaller 11’s that are slightly easier to drive. The lower mids also come thicker, fleshing out vocals with a very natural appeal that holds great body and at the same time remains completely open and tactile.

With the larger driver and cabinet treble artifacts have greater fluidity. Extension and decay is underpinned more maturely and the transient response is also embodied with greater drama and presence, denoting its area within the soundstage to lay out flow and rhythmic upper registers giving the listener enthusiastic and playful notes from eccentric guitarists, speed violinists, Funky Jazz musicians and Electronica alike.

Execution of the soundstage is one the ATCs most endearing attributes, rarely can a stand mount of this price hold such sophisticated focus, width dispersal and convey such a harmonic of upper frequencies whilst energising the room in such a natural manner without becoming leaky or hard, which as I stated in the 11 review is a testament to the wonderful new tweeter employed throughout the entire new SCM range .

Often my room will throw back in the face of a speaker which is too clean, upper bass heavy or forward in nature but the SCM19s have the airy clarity, full bodied mids and such a linear bass response which is controlled with a firm hand in their infinite baffle cabinets that it seems as if my room has been treated as they seem to suit the space just so well.

I had also got in at the time of the review the ATC P1 power amplifier. I thought I’d see how it fared connected to my Jeff Rowland preamplifier. I put on some UB40 and immediately leading edges became more taut and focused than the Rowland amp, reproducing the clash of a note the way a greyhound will to the gates of the stall being opened. I perceived a greater power and control at the highest and lowest audible frequencies, a crispness and a little bit more attitude to the sound.

The P1 will dish out the same power levels as the Rowland and now partnered with the JR preamp, the smooth nature of the JR amp had a better tonal balance I feel with the SCM19s, cleaning up the bass very well and giving more insight into upper bass detail. On the flip side dynamically the P1 was great but fell a little short at the bottom end weight and mid to top refinement, although the was plenty of control to the power it wasn’t as explosive. Now this for me is down to the characterisation of the two amps in question the Rowland is thicker and fuller and the ATC cleaner sounding.

The two different flavours of sound was an interesting experiment for me as the P1 brought me back to my fond memories of the SCM11s with their more playful and fun nature, whereas the Rowland integrated was more sophisticated and more refined and when partnered with the 19s added to their already more refined mature. Both variations were great and taste would be a deciding factor between the smoother and cleaner amplifiers but what the experiment showed to me to appreciate was how transparent the 19s are, they really reflected an honest portrayal of what was happening downstream. Yes I know different amps are bound to have a marked impression on the sound but the ATCs reflect a real insight into the musical nature and characteristics incredibly well and better than most, much like my Ayons.

As with the Ayons the ATCs didn’t just convey tonal changes reflecting modifications upstream, they transparently uncover the nature of any changes deep into the playback material whether it be a simple cable change or piece of equipment that has been swapped out.

CONCLUSION

Forming an initial opinion of something new is in every walk of life from meeting somebody, buying a new home or car or appreciating a piece of art or music. Equally so listening to a piece of Hifi installs initial and sometimes rash conclusions.

The trick to evaluating anything in life is to be patient take your time and give things a fair chance. Often rash judgements leave us missing out on something that could have been truly wonderful. Being a reviewer this is something that we have to persevere with all too often, we have an awful lot of kit coming into us here at Hifi Pig and not everything gets a review, but it does receive our due care and attention before any premature decisions are made.

My initial opinions regarding the SCM19s were not as flamboyantly exciting as when I first listened to the SCM11’s and here’s why…
Due to their added weight and richer undertones the 19s were not as impressive a pairing with my Rowland amps as the slightly more sprightly 11s and this had me feeling a little down. I was absolutely engaged by the 19s but the 11s had offered an attack to the leading edges of notes which I didn’t seem to be able to replicate at first. This was until I introduced ATCs P1 Power Amplifier to the system – normal service had been resumed and the 19s with all their added attributes came alive with that extra sprinkle of magic for me that I loved so much about their younger sibling.

It all comes down to taste, system synergy and the room and that’s why these tests are important and why successful musical happiness comes from perseverance and patience. What the SCM9s from ATC offer the listener is an open window to the music and the electronics, allowing for changes, tweaks and modifications to be more easily heard making them a great tool to aid in building a great system.

Build Quality – 8.5/10ATCSM19

Sound Quality – 9.1/10

Value For Money – 9.2/10

Overall – 8.93/10

Recommended for being insightful, transparent, accurate, controlled and addictive.

Dan Worth

Having achieved an overall scoring of 8.93 out of a possible full 10 marks, we now hand over the SCM 19’s to another reviewer for their verdict on these loudspeakers. The natural choice for this task fell to Dominic Marsh, given that he also reviewed and scored the SCM 11 from ATC for Hifi Pig.

If my memory serves me well (which it usually does), I remember the ATC SCM 11s with some fondness. I clearly recall their fun bouncy nature, bursting with vitality and the lack of bass extension into the very lowest registers didn’t cause me any concerns, rather they endeared me even more because they had real verve and excitement, which almost made me wish I had two full systems to listen to, one where tonal accuracy and total fidelity was at the top of the agenda, while having a second system that wouldn’t bother at all with that staid nonsense, it would just let it’s hair down, kick it’s shoes off and give plenty of outright entertaining FUN, dancing all over the rule book in fact.

If I had expected the SCM 19s to merely fill that void in the lower bass yet retain the SCM11s other cherished vitals, then I would have been rather disappointed in this instance. Yes, I could clearly tell that the tweeter unit in the 19’s maintained the same DNA of it’s smaller sibling, but then again that would be no surprise as it is exactly the same drive unit found in both models. The enclosure layout too remains the same basic design, both being infinite baffle types. There the similarities end though, as the SCM 19 has a different bass driver and of course a larger volume cabinet than the SCM 11, so one can only presume the crossover parameters have also been tailored accordingly to suit.ATC-SCM19-speaker_grill-on-e1380796467769

The specifications for the two loudspeakers don’t give away too many clues how the sound of each speaker is achieved:
SCM 11 Specifications
Drivers: HF ATC 25mm Neodymium soft dome, Mid/LF ATC 150mm CLD
Matched Response: ±0.5dB
Frequency Response (-6dB): 56Hz-22kHz
Dispersion: ±80° Coherent Horizontal, ±10° Coherent Vertical
Sensitivity: 85dB @ 1W @ 1metre
Max SPL: 108dB
Recommended Power Amplifier:  75 to 300 Watts
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohm
Crossover Frequency: 2.2kHz
Connectors : Binding Posts/4mm Plugs, bi-wire
Cabinet Dimensions (HxWxD): 381x232x236mm (grille adds 28mm depth)
Weight: 10.9kg

SCM 19 Specifications
Drivers: HF ATC 25mm Neodymium soft dome, Mid/LF ATC 150mm SL
Matched Response: ±0.5dB
Frequency Response (-6dB): 54Hz-22kHz
Dispersion: ±80° Coherent Horizontal, ±10° Coherent Vertical
Sensitivity: 85dB @ 1W @ 1metre
Max SPL: 108dB
Recommended Power Amplifier: 75 to 300 Watts
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohm
Crossover Frequency: 2.5kHz
Connectors: Binding Posts/4mm Plugs, bi-wire
Cabinet Dimensions (HxWxD): 438x265x300mm (grille adds 28mm to depth)
Weight: 17.8kg

According to the specifications, the SCM 11s bass extends down to 56Hz while the SCM 19s bass reaches 54Hz so only 2Hz difference between them, which does not and cannot explain why they sounded so different to me. The SCM 19’s sounded full and powerful, articulate and communicative, so a plucked bass guitar string just seemed to carry on long after it was expected to die away. Kick drum had that real whack in the guts power that made the SCM 11s sound rather tame and a little anaemic by comparison. Perhaps the SCM 19 has more impact in the upper bass that obfuscates the similar bass extension range that the 11’s demonstrate? Don’t know and without a frequency plot to reveal what’s going on I can only surmise what the actuality is, but what I do know for sure is that the 19s gave a more satisfying listen with regards to bass content in the music – via a quoted 2Hz frequency difference or not.

Moving up to the mid band now, there was just a touch more warmth to male and female vocals, but not a huge amount, just enough to let the listener perceive some sophistication and finesse to the sound, because the SCM 11s had a matter-of-fact kind of presentation in the mid band, which manifested itself the most in male vocals which tended to sound a touch dry rather than lean or clinical. When it comes to fast transients though, the SCM 11s were very fast and agile, with a razor sharp leading edge and a sharp guillotine of a trailing edge too so there was no overhang, whereas the SCM 19s were just that millisecond or so behind on the leading edges, not sufficient to be concerned over and only if you have the luxury of hearing both models to make comparisons with.

While the tweeter in the 11s and 19s are of the same parentage, there were differences in sound to be noted. The SCM 19s lower treble registers had just that modicum of warmth that I didn’t hear from the SCM 11s. Once again, the specifications suggest a 300Hz difference in the crossover frequencies, the 11s at 2.2kHz while the 19s crossed over at 2.5kHz, so this noted warmth could be attributable to the bass driver employed in the 19s being driven further up the frequency range. That is as deep as I intend to delve into the mysteries of how the two models have both shared similarities and indeed some differences, so I will now concentrate on putting the SCM 19s through their paces in their own right, as if I had not heard or compared them at all to their smaller siblings.ATC-SH25-76-tweeter-e1377795613684

My first impressions of them were that they had a “big” sound. Not in terms of loudness, more a case of the sound leaving the speaker cabinets and hanging out into the listening room, with real depth and width to the sound stage. Instrument placement was so easy and effortless, rock solid and stable too, so the imaging didn’t vary or drift around in space. Dynamics really are explosive and drums in particular had a visceral power that was felt every bit as much as was heard. On the live album “Wheels Beneath My Feet” by Fink, the track ‘Sort of Revolution’ has the drummer really driving down into the Floor Tom with his sticks and a lot of speakers portray this as a mere whimper, lacking in depth and weight, but the SCM 19s really did flesh out these drum strikes so you could hear the body of the instrument too, rather than just the drum skin contact with the drumstick, and uncannily too they also managed to reveal the venue reverb of those drum strikes too, which to my knowledge only a short list of speakers I have personally heard can actually muster. The audience sounds and various venue acoustics on this album are also very well laid down and each track therefore is different in presentation.

I then moved on to my favourite “torture tracks” in the shape of Porcupine Tree’s “Deadwing” album. The title track on this particular album either sounds raw and uncouth, or it will sound smoothed out and rolled over, depending upon how revealing a system is, speakers in particular. With the SCM 19s that rawness was full on and made it rather a wince listen, whereas lesser speakers are a lot more forgiving. Having said that, there is a bass guitar riff around 6 minutes 40 seconds into the track where I would expect to hear a long low bass note flowing outwards from the speakers rather than just emerge from the cabinet and the SCM 19s gave a great rendition of that bass note, growling, resonant and almost snaking it’s way across the carpet towards you and in that respect the SCM 19s gave just about the best I have heard it performed from any stand mount speaker.

Female vocals are always a stern test of a speaker’s capabilities and so I listened to Loreena McKennitt on her “An Ancient Muse” album. She sounded as sweet as ever, soaring and melodic, with not a trace of congestion or muddiness at all. It is usually this album that reveals if there are any crossover issues and happy to say I could hear none at all with the ATC speakers.

But of course there is always a cautionary note to these stories and here it is; In a roundabout way Dan mentioned in his review that they were a little bit finicky with what they are partnered with ‘upstream’ of them and I want to emphasize that again. Whatever system you connect the SCM 19s to, it has to be almost impeccable upstream of them otherwise these speakers will root out whatever weaknesses are there and lay them all out before you, so don’t expect a budget system to do these speakers any justice at all. They are not a ruthless or explicit speaker by any means, so I will make that clear, they do have the knack of homing in on fine details and a great tool for fitting into a long term upgrade plan because the speakers won’t be the limiting factor in system performance thereafter. Cable differences too were well manifested and several sets were tried until the right combination was found before the listening sessions were carried out.

CONCLUSION

I thought the SCM 11’s were stonking good value at £1,200 a pair. The SCM 19s retail at around £2,000 a pair still represents good value from where I am, but of course that also rather depends on what your own tastes and preferences in a loudspeaker are for you to consider their true value.
The SCM 11s while being fun and vibrant, lacked that perceived lower register extension, which I didn’t find objectionable, rather endearing in fact and I could happily live with them. The SCM 19s have a more mature and grown up sound with a fuller more “whole” flavour to their presentation which is tonally richer and a more fleshed out than the SCM 11s and as a result offers true long term listening satisfaction. In any event, I can only suggest that you put either one of these loudspeakers on your audition shortlist as they truly deserve a high accolade from me too, the SCM 19s particularly so.
Build Quality 8.7/10ATCSM19

Sound Quality 9.2/10

Value For Money 9.1/10

Overall 9/10

Recommended for: A superb performer, insightful, revealing and communicative in a highly musical natural way.

Dominic Marsh

1 Comment

  1. I found both above reviews on the ATC SCM19 very interesting and contained plenty of ‘specific’ details/descriptions which I like to know. However what was also strangely apparent from both reviews seem to skirt around the main essence/nature of the ATC speakers which is (I only repeat what all other reviewers seem to agree) that they are Monitor Speakers to a certain extent and have the ability to show what the artist intended in the studio.

    Anyway who am I to say the above when I have never auditioned the speakers! Maybe Dan Worth and Dominic Marsh left out on the purpose of the main nature of ATC speakers so as to let us mortals find out in the real world. On another note will HiFi Pig do a review on Hegel H160 amplifier..?

You must be logged in to leave a reply.