ATC SCM 40A User Review

The recent Signals Blog ‘ATC SCM100A SE’ referred to the ATC SCM40A as being “remarkably capable”.  As an enthusiastic owner I agree and hence have written this user review of them.

The first thing you learn owning ATC speakers is patience!  Out of the box they are definitely not fully fledged; SCM 40 bass drivers need an ‘energetic’ week (best spent at Signals unless you have tolerant neighbours) to break them in and the tweeters several months of frequent use for hardness to fully disappear.  The midrange seems to change least but over these months, expression, subtlety and balance improve and bass response deepens to result in a rather special speaker.

ATC speakers wear their monitor heritage proudly.  Some say they are too revealing, detailed or dry. I would say they reflect your source and the recording with unerring accuracy.  Yes this means partnering carefully but fortunately (as Alastair explained to me) they play nicely with Naim.  I arrived at NDX 2, ATC CA2 pre-amplifier and Melco N1ZH/2 before achieving the ‘right’ balance.  Let’s give NDX 2 credit here; it’s a player that majors on musicality, engagement and entertainment rather than clinical accuracy and detail.  It’s also a player that generates an involving sound stage drawing you in through timing and painting atmosphere especially well.  The SCM40A’s fully convey its passion for music and also benefit from its ability to render poor recordings more listenable.

It this setup SCM40A’s provide a superb experience.  Sound stage is beautifully laid out reflecting, I am sure, good driver integration and the dispersion of the dome midrange.  Bass is some of the best I have ever heard.  Naim’s legendary timing is there but they also convey bass timbre, pace, slam and decay like few other speakers in their price range.  The mid-range offers great clarity and expression for voice, piano and textured instruments such as strings and woodwind whilst remaining natural and consistent. Treble is open and airy without harshness conveying the life, energy and atmosphere especially in live recordings.

The passive version offers a good measure of all of these abilities but by comparison the active version enables greater clarity, more controlled bass and delivers particularly powerful dynamics, immediacy and speed with ease.  Having owned 3 pairs of ATC speakers, for me SCM 40A’s seem like a sweet spot between value for money and performance albeit with competent partners.  It is true that they sound less engaging at low volumes but given a reasonable level they sing, engage and convey nuance and emotion like few others.