Review: ATC SCM50PSL Loudspeakers- What that means is clear: The ATC SCM50PSL will move in with me permanently. Naturally chic in wood veneer.
It must have been at the High End 2016 in Munich: wardrobe-like, maximally non-lifestyle speakers played in one of the larger demo rooms of Atrium 3.1 with such a live effect, powerful, agile and substantial that they left a lasting impression on me. Said wardrobes were loudspeakers from ATC Loudspeaker Technology Ltd., and if I remember correctly, they were the ATC SCM150ASLT – actively powered (the “A” in ASLT), with super-linear technology (“SL “) Equipped floorstanding loudspeakers (“ T ”for“ Tower ”). They are one of the diverse spin-offs of the “Ur-ATC” named SCM50, to their current, passive incarnation ATC SCM50PSL (price: 13,500 euros; sales) it turns in the following. There is also an active version of this speaker, the ATC SCM50ASL (18,000 euros) – the compact version of the ATC SCM50ASLT that we have already tested .
For almost 40 years, the 50s have been built with ingredients that have been refined over and over again in an almost unchanged basic form. And that’s just as well. First of all, you don’t have to change anything that works well just for the sake of fashion, and secondly, I find the shape and proportions of these three-way speakers as harmonious as they are unobtrusive. The almost 72 centimeter high housing of the SCM50PSL stand (unfortunately without screw connection option) on filigree steel bases included in the scope of delivery. Despite its old-school box look and its not so small dimensions, the ensemble appears surprisingly compact and light in the listening room. Okay, it doesn’t have to be the matt black of the test models for me – I think English speakers need real wood.
But enough of the taste buds, now let’s get down to the built-in, because the focus of the developers from Stroud in the beautiful Cotswolds is first of all on the drivers. You are a very professional outfitter: the basis has to be right. Accordingly, all chassis at ATC are purely in-house developments and are also manufactured in-house for perfect quality control, right down to the voice coils wound in-house . Anyone who would like to know more about vertical integration at ATC is cordially invited to read our company report from 2019.
ATC’s 25-millimeter SH25-76 textile dome with a double suspension of the diaphragm is used in the tweeter, which should ensure less distortion and less compression, especially at higher volumes. According to the British, the neodymium magnet was designed to reduce eddy currents.
This eddy current-reducing design also possesses the more than 10 kilograms of debris from the woofer with fiber-resin composite membrane, which creates acoustic facts at the other end of the frequency response. As its name SB75-234SL suggests, it is a woofer with a diameter of 23.4 centimeters. The 9-inch model is equipped with an extremely heavy and powerful “Super Linear” drive with an underhang voice coil (long-stroke drive with a short voice coil in a long air gap). “Super linear” means that the voice coil is kept in the linear range of the magnetic field even with the greatest deflections of the diaphragm – that is a challenge, and the massive magnet of the driver is necessary above all to cope with this task.
The area between the two crossover points at 380 and 3500 Hertz is transmitted by the 75-millimeter midrange dome SM75-150S with its resin-soaked membrane, which fans lovingly and for obvious reasons call the “bear nose”. This driver has a pretty impressive magnet-to-diaphragm area ratio. Such a fat drive – the magnet weighs 9 kilograms – is rarely found behind a pure midrange driver. Together with the large 75 mm underhang voice coil, the high-efficiency SM75-150S should be able to digest a considerable amount of power and avoid dynamic compression as far as possible.
Like the tweeter, the ATC midrange dome has a double diaphragm suspension, which, in conjunction with the eddy current-reducing magnet design, is intended to minimize distortion. The relatively high crossover frequency of 3500 Hertz and the high resilience with at the same time good-natured bundling behavior led to a significant relief of the tweeter without the horizontal radiation suffering, according to ATC.
The mid-high range driver unit is mounted slightly offset to the side on the front of the ATC SCM50. It looks unusual at first, but it definitely makes sense, because the asymmetry prevents sharp edges from bending, according to the British. According to Michael Nothnagel from the German ATC distributor ATR – Audio Trade, the omnidirectional behavior of the SCM50 can be described as extremely even. Especially when the enclosed fabric covers are put on, edge breaks and reflections are negligible because the frames of the covers “fill up” the step between the baffle and the housing. The sound absorption that occurs is negligible with less than 0.5 decibels in the high frequency range and has almost no effect on the sound.
Now, of course, the question arises: internally or externally with the drivers? ATC basically gives the customer carte blanche, but recommends placing the tweeters and midrange speakers on the inside for a more precisely defined image. However, if the speakers have to be set up with a very small base width (well below 2 meters), it can be good for the stage width if the drivers are on the outside – that depends heavily on the respective room, the proximity of the side walls and your own taste.
British Housing? No, thank you.
Anyone who has ever been to Great Britain may have been able to take a look at the quality of “British Housing” and consider themselves lucky to be living in the art of continental masonry at home. Fortunately, ATC has not followed the example of incredibly noisy cardboard walls, even if the enclosures are manufactured very close to their own assembly halls in England.
On the other hand, it cannot be said that there is any form of construction innovation here. Neither elaborate internal bracing, creative shapes to avoid standing waves , multi-sandwich constructions nor special materials are used. Instead, there is MDF with a decent but not extraordinary wall thickness of 19 millimeters, a really massive front panel that is almost four centimeters thick placed on the actual housing and a chamber for the crossover that is separated from the loudspeaker volume. All of this is arranged pragmatically at right angles to one another. There is plenty of insulation wool inside, while some dampening bitumen sticks to the side walls in the lower area. The coils wound at ATC and the capacitors, some of which are the size of a Coke can, of the lush crossover board, on the other hand, make an impression and provide electrical slopes of 18 dB in the bass and 12 dB in the mid and high range.
ATC SCM50PSL: Sound Test & Comparisons
In my chain, the passive ATC classics play on the combination of DAC preamplifier Norma Audio SC2 DAC (7,400 euros) and stereo power amplifier Norma Audio PA-150 (5,300 euros). The Ortofon Reference Black SPK in bi-wiring configuration serves as the loudspeaker cable. Since the SCM50PSL, like all passive ATC models from the Classic range, have tri-wiring / amping terminals, Gutwire’s Chime Jumpers establish a high-quality connection between mid-range and tweeter terminals. A note: The connection with fork shoes is not actually intended, the terminals should only accept banana plugs and stripped copper strands.
I am assuming that primarily three aspects of the reproduction should arouse the inclined ATC novice’s curiosity at first listening: the transparent mid-range and presence area, the effortless, easy-going dynamics and the naturalness of the entire sound image. And now one after the other.
The ATC SCM50PSL play astonishingly unspectacular – as long as there is only porridge on the recording, the British only serve bland soft food. Spectacle for the sake of spectacle is not the thing of the SCM50PSL, on the whole they pretend to be too civil, too neutral, too correct. But woe, the canned clay has tonal flavor – then it gets fiery.
With their famous mid-range speakers, the ATC SCM50PSL proves that correct does not have to mean without irritation. These broadband drivers lift several veils in front of the voice of Jarvis Cocker in “Belle Boy” on the mega album Room 29 by Chilly Gonzalez (thanks for the tip goes to Armin Kern from ATR). They reveal even minimal sound details so effortlessly and unobtrusively that I wonder how I could have missed them so far. And that’s what I say as the former owner of Lansche No.3.1(from 18,500 euros), whose weightless plasma tweeter plays clearly down into the presence and upper mid-range, but does not achieve this level of sparkling transparency. Even in tracks that are not necessarily audiophile, such as Moloko’s “Pure Pleasure Seeker” (album: Things to Make and Do), the ATC simply reveal more. More creaking of the saxophone, more creaking of Wurlitzer, more clicks of electronics.
This almost uncanny attention to detail is not all that defines the transmission range of the “bear nose” of the ATC SCM50PSL. They accompany the airy dissolution with an acoustic solidity that may seem contrary to the terms lightness and openness. It is exactly what defines real voices and instruments: They neither emphasize nor neglect one or the other aspect. The extremely dynamically captured piano strokes by Chilly Gonzales on the album mentioned have a sparkling and intentionally hard quality without any discoloration, dynamic limitation or rounding off of the transients in the presence area. And with all openness, the SCM50PSL also serve voices (David Bowie, Patricia Barber, David Sylvian) or snare drums (Porcupine Tree, “The Sound of Muszak”) with exactly the right substance and energetic vehemence. Mind you, tonally everything stays in the lush green area; the ATC SCM50PSL do not sound, so they do not “construct” the sound with accentuation or break-ins, but simply let it through unhindered.
The result is a realism of the midrange and presence reproduction, an effortless naturalness of this musically essential area, which I would neither demand nor expect at all from speakers of this league in such high quality. I wouldn’t have thought it would, but with the ATC SCM50PSL I even listen to audio books with passion and fascination. Not only to follow the story with excitement, but also to experience the fantastic level of detail of the voice reproduction with goose bumps on the upper arms – not to mention the aura of the space that the ATC spans.
As already indicated, the ATC SCM50PSL take no prisoners when it comes to the fastest possible implementation of dynamic jumps. Whether it’s fine nuances of guitar strings, drum sheets and percussion, the hard piano hits of Chilly Gonzalez (see above) or the dramatic rearing of the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado in Prokofiev’s “The Montagues and the Capulets” from the highlights of Romeo and Julietacts makes no difference. The ATC SCM50SPL deliver fine and coarse dynamics and bring bassy impulses as well as angular transients across in a flash and subtly graduated – in terms of speed, this is almost (!) On the level of good horn systems such as the HORNS Symphony 2 (14,900 euros). However, the SCM50PSL require more power than the 10 dB / 1m / 1W louder HORNS to fully develop their coarse dynamic capabilities. The way in which the other qualities of the SCM50PSL complement this dynamism and speed is also very pleasing, and does not make it stand out as a solo entertainer.
The bass, for example, contributes to this. The bass driver in the ATC SCM50PSL shovels precisely the right amount of solid bass energy into my listening room in a controlled and precise manner, despite its position not too far from the rear wall. The SCM50PSL achieves a real work of art in that it virtually uncompromisingly implements properties that almost all loudspeakers – even in this price range – combine more or less well, but still without compromise: Printing without recognizable limitations, a precision like that from Lange & Sons, transparency as if polished by Carl Zeiss, color and structure as if applied by the hand of the old masters.
The double bass (recorded a little too bold) by Michael Arnopol in “You and the Night and the Music”, interpreted by Patricia Barber on her album Modern Cool , comes clean and contoured like after a successful wellness weekend with a stay in the gym, without to appear sinewy and emaciated even in the beginning. Compared to the 33 centimeter bass of the much more voluminous ATC SCM100ASL, which is a good friend in his recording studio is used as the main monitor, the 24s of the SCM50PSL may produce a tiny bit more energy in the upper bass and don’t breathe out so easily and freely towards the bottom – but that’s whining at the highest level, because even the nominally with a -6dB point at 40 Hertz The ATC SCM50PSL specified extend significantly further down in the listening room than the paper form suggests. Sure, the Lansche No.3.1 allows a little deeper insight into the frequency cellar – but on the way it did not play so realistically, nor so clearly, nor so precisely and powerfully with bass impulses of the mean kind.
And before I forget: The basic tone of the ATC SCM50PSL sounds linear, exemplary, transparent and tangible. A double bass or a cello have this holistic shape, which only speaker systems that play absolutely homogeneously can achieve and which are commonly known from perfectly balanced two-way models. I have rarely heard loudspeakers that make it so difficult for me to pick out individual frequency ranges or even to guess where the transitions between the drivers are.
This also applies to the transition between bear nose and tweeter. The latter looks like a toy visually and in comparison to the heavyweights for the lower and middle registers. But you shouldn’t be fooled by the exterior of the flat unit. It connects with the same fine, clear and unpretentiously clean characteristics of the midrange driver and merges with its chassis colleagues to form a sound unit. The treble may seem a bit reserved in the first listening moment, almost a touch too silky and tame in the attack. But woe betide, he is let go: Cracking sheet metal work as in the aforementioned “The Montagues and the Capulets” by Prokofievdo not pack the 25 mm dome in cotton wool, but rather reveal similar dynamic sprintering abilities and the honest directness of bear nose and woofer: the SH25-76 has the complete repertoire from silky-velvety to metallic-crystalline and tends only minimally towards the former.
The resolution of fine tweeter details like in Felix Laband’s “Black Shoes” (album: Dark Eyes Exit) with its transient-rich electro web turns out to be unspectacularly informative and completely sufficiently airy and free. Can you do it more airily, more analytically? Yes, for example with the Totem Acoustic Element Metal v2 (16,990 euros), but also with the slightly cheaper Gauder Akustik Vescova MkII (10,098 euros). But all in all, I prefer the characteristics of the ATC, as it makes the interplay of mids and highs appear more homogeneous.
Cleaner with diploma
The center of the virtual stage is created by the ATC SCM50PSL almost exactly on the loudspeaker baseline. Some other loudspeakers, for example the Dynaudio Contour 30i (7,000 euros) or the Qln Prestige 3 (7,800 euros), can vary the position of the stage a little more, depending on the material being played, and the wholeMove the recording room with its orchestra a good meter further down behind the loudspeakers. However, this should not be confused with the ability to project individual sound events from and relative to the virtual stage center to the front, back, left and right into the room, because the room itself becomes large and free with the ATC SCM50PSL. Voices that are microphoned up close can manifest themselves on the listener’s nasal bone – and the organ in “Lonnie’s Lament”, recorded in the St. Johann Church in Erding (album: Jazz on Vinyl 2), is far, far behind.
However, there is one limitation when it comes to the representation of the room: there is a certain amount of capping to be perceived in terms of height. However, this is strongly dependent on the position of the listener and thus on the relationship between tweeter and ear height. I sit relatively high on the couch, the ATC SCM50PSL are on quite low stands so that my ears are slightly above the level of the tweeters. As a result, the ATC limit the space at the top at around 20 centimeters above the housings. If I relax a little more lazily on the couch, the effect will decrease – but otherwise it won’t be noticed after 30 minutes at the latest. Especially since the horizontally usable listening zone of the SCM50PSL is very wide. Even if you sit almost exactly in front of one of the two loudspeakers, you get the impression of a real stage. Nothing stands in the way of listening pleasure for two or three people – and that, by the way, neither with the highest nor with the very low levels. Both are possible, both are appreciated by the ATC SCM50PSL.
Conclusion ATC SCM50PSL Loudspeakers
The ATC SCM50PSL do not strive for extremes, either in terms of frequency expansion or other sound criteria – although the midrange could be singled out as the highlight of the British women. If it weren’t so incredibly natural and didn’t blend in so homogeneously and almost inconspicuously into the overall picture. There are certainly loudspeakers in this price range that play even deeper into the bass cellar or sparkle even more at the top. But no other box in this league known to me combines so many virtues so coherently.
A prerequisite for the optimal operation of these loudspeakers is, of course, to serve them a lot of power: The amplifier can deliver three-digit amounts to 8 ohms per channel in order to explore the dynamic capabilities of the ATC SCM50PSL, and more than 200 watts does not hurt to slow down To reach the maximum. The ATC SCM50PSL pass through the tonal character of the playing partner without comment and sometimes mercilessly. Neutral cutlery is certainly a good choice. And as far as the size of the room is concerned: the ATCs should feel most comfortable in 20 to 50 square meters.
Yes, I admit, the ATC SCM50PSL turned me on quite a bit. For me they not only embody something like the archetype of the dynamic loudspeaker, they also combine everything that I would like from such a loudspeaker. At a high level and at a more than fair price. But not only that – it also made me fall in love with my electronics anew and learned to appreciate their capabilities even more. What that means is clear: The ATC SCM50PSL will move in with me permanently. Naturally chic in wood veneer.
The ATC SCM50PSL …
- are almost perfectly neutral tonally tuned speakers.
- play earthy and solid bass with physically noticeable energy without emphasizing. The focus, which is slightly shifted towards the upper bass compared to the larger ATCs, would also not be described as an emphasis.
- reproduce this bass range in an exceptionally well structured and audible manner and sound the deep bass in the listening room further than the manufacturer’s measurement data would suggest.
- have the most transparent, open, detailed and at the same time most solid, energetic mid-range that I have experienced in this price range – and a good bit beyond that.
- resolve very well in the treble. Even if others may have a little more information and air to offer here, ATC has succeeded in interacting with the midrange driver exceptionally well – even critical listeners shouldn’t be missing anything.
- sound very homogeneous and closed, no transitions between the drivers can be made out.
- Starting from the loudspeaker baseline, three-dimensional sound bodies project freely to the front, back, left and right. The stage area appears wide and deep, but somewhat limited in height.
- play finely dynamically subtle and differentiated. The transient playback comes out quickly and accurately without drawing focus. In order to fully explore the coarse dynamic capabilities, one should have steadfast performance in the three-digit range.
- can play very loud, but also sound completely quiet, with intact tonality and a stable, large spatial image.
- show themselves to be more gracious to bad recordings than to electronics that are not in keeping with their class.
ATC SCM50PSL Facts:
- Model: ATC SCM50PSL
- Concept: three-way floorstanding loudspeaker with bass reflex system
- Price: 13,500 euros
- Dimensions & weight: 717 x 304 x 425 mm (HxWxD; feet: +250 mm height); 41.1 kg / piece
- Versions: black ash, oak, cherry, walnut, satin black or white
- Efficiency: 85 dB / 1W / 1m
- Other: tri-wiring terminal, stand included
- Guarantee: 6 years