ATC SCM 11 Vs SCM 19...Need immediate suggestion


Friends,
After a lot of discussion here on Audiogon I finally decided to hear all the speakers on my shortlist by travelling to Singapore. I am now at
Singapore listening to a wide range of speaker every day.
To give a brief history:
I used to own a pair of Dynaudio Contour 1.3SE which were really nice.
I thought to upgrade after using them for about 3 years. My expectations were transparency with realistic tones with a natural flow of music.
I started off with Harbeth, Proac, Focus Audio, Spendors and ATC. But I was suggested strongly by fellow Audiogon members that I try to listen to them before selecting. I finally travelled to Singapore and now listening to not only the ones on my list but also a lot of other speakers.
My priority is Bookshelf speaker as my room size is just about 13.5 X 13.5 ft (square).

So here is my dillema which I need to resolve in the next two days.
Yesterday I heard the ATC SCM 11 and I was really happy with what I heard. They were very uncolored, presented voices absolutely spot on, instruments sounded very real, transparency was good (if not excellent). The bass in particular surprised me...since it is a sealed box design, I expented them to be a bit lean on bass but NO..they weregorgeous on the bass...tight, deep, defined and hefty. They really kicked ass. It was one of the best bass I have heard in a long time. Importantly it did not sound bad on average recordings. Compared to my earlier Dynes, it definitely sounded more raw but not at all harsh or garbage. It was adequately laidback with very good macro and micro details and also letting me know that the quality of the CD is not great but very listenable. I loved it.

But then I had the budget to go for the SCM-19 so I wanted the store guy to arrange me a demo of the 19. Today he had the 19 on demo. Unfortunately the 19 was only 3 weeks old so it had done about 50 hours on it. The SCM-11 was about 10 months old with about 250 hours on it.

As soon as the SCM-19 started playing I realized, this is the best bass I have ever heard in any bookshelf speaker. It was even deeper than the SCM-11 and more importantly it had amazing body. It was full blooded hefty but clean and super tight. It was a different animal. I was so happy. But as I progressed I found that the average/decent recordings which were sounding very acceptable on the SCM-11 suddenly started sounding harsh (especially in the upper mids). They were not pleasantly presented. It was spitting at me. The problem was in the upper mids. Even decent recordings like Eagles-Hell Freezes Over sounded kind of harsh and not relaxed. I was deliberately playing average recordings like Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac because these are my daily staple diet...hi end recordings anyway would sound good but my consumption of hi quality recordings (Jazz and Classical) is just about 15%. I dont use bad recordings as such but nothing exotic as well. So here there is this ATC which was not withstanding my recordings and in the process the sound was not all that musical but more like noise and glare. Going back to the SCM-11 was very pleasant but it did not have the bass of scm-19 nor did it have the tonal accuracy of the 19. The 11 was tonally way more accurate than other speakers I listened to (Harbeth, Spendors, Proacs) but the 19 was even more real.

The store keeper told me that the SCM-19 has the drivers from the ATC higher range, the Super Linear Range and is therefore flatter and more accurate than the SCM-11 which he was selling for almost half the price of SCM-19.

So here is where I am stuck....
Is it that the SCM-19 really doesnt accept average recordings at all...is it more like a tool to tell you how bad the recording is ??
Or is it that, because they have only 50-60 hours on them they are sounding like this ? If the SCM-11 can sound so nice even on average recordings I was hoping the SCM-19 should follow the same but for that it really has to give up all the glare in the upper mids and have a cleaner background, reduce noise and increase instrumental detail which the SCM-11 does. But then I want some first hand opinions on this.
I do not want to buy the SCM-19 and just wait endlessly to listen to Dire Straits....I mean my music should be playable.
If there is some good/significant improvement that can expected after the 19 breaks in then I would consider it and wait to burn it in....and if they still retain this kind of character even after burn in then they are not for me...I would have to take the 11. And I would astonished at the fact that the 11 can do things (musicality) which the 19 cannot do!!!!!

Please give me your opinions asap as I have to decide within a day which one to pick.
pani
I have not heard either the 11 or 19 but own a pair of SCM 12. They use the same super linear mid/bass unit as the 19 (I think).

I broke them in for over 200 hours before even listening to them (facing each other with one wired out of phase playing non stop for over a week). Once set up they sounded great but kept improving past 500 hours. For some reason they need a long time to sound their best. After the 200 hours the improvements were subtle but there for sure. I think they kept getting better all the way to @ 1000 hours.

Go with the 19 and be patient the super linear driver is the way to go.

Cheers
If there is some good/significant improvement that can expected after the 19 breaks in then I would consider it and wait to burn it in....and if they still retain this kind of character even after burn in then they are not for me...I would have to take the 11.

The 19 is highly revealing - Telarc uses the active studio version of this speaker with similar or the same mid/woofer driver. The source will be quite critical - you do not mention what it was driven with? A bad recording will certainly be more evident than with a more laid back type speaker. Harshness from audio compression particularly on many modern remasters will be more evident - see this movie.

Have you considered the SCM 11 and then saving up for a C1 sub? You could have your tight bass and the more laid back mids - I don't have the C1 but ATC's bass designs are all extremely tight and articulate (critically damped).
BokFudo, what kind of recordings do you normally listen to on ATC ? Have you tried some commpressed recordings....were you able to enjoy them ?

Shadorne, I know ATC are precise speakers and average recordings will sound average but then there is a way to present garbage and music when both are present on the disc. The SCM-11 presented both but in a very listenable way so I was able to listen to music...the 19 did not do that...it was clearly harsh. Is it because it is more revealing than the SCM11 or is it because it was not broken in ?
The amp used was a high powered Audio Space Tube amp (they driving the speakers pretty well). Since it is a tube we would generally expect it to be warmer than SS amps.

My listening distance was 6ft from the speakers...could that be the reason that I was too close to the SCM-19 ?
My listening distance was just 6 ft from the speakers. Could th
Pani, I listen to all kinds of music but mostly classic rock, female vocals and jazz, blues, folk etc...

I am also familiar with Dynaudio. But I have found the ATC to be the most satisfying to listen to and they make all my cd's easy to listen to, even compressed ones. My amp is a very smooth sounding McCormack DNA 0.5 Deluxe Edition, I use a passive pre.

I second Shadorne, if the SCM 11 sound better to you go for it. If however your upstream equipment will still sound good under the most revealing speaker I would choose the 19.

Cheers
Bokfudo, can you please tell me how does the ATC sound when they are not broken in ???
What is the amount of improvement after break in ? What are the areas of improvement in general ?
Many people report that ATC's take a long time to break in - perhaps it takes them time to grow accustomed to the precise sound or perhaps there are indeed some significant suspension compliance changes (I kind of doubt this but who knows). I have not noticed a big difference myself - being a sealed box the acoustic suspension will dominate.

Frankly, I wondered if a tube amp would be enough to drive them - they tend to need oodles of power so are better suited to SS power amps.
Pani,

I did zero listening to them until they had over 200 hours so I don't know what they sounded like before 200 hours :-)

However the changes I picked up on between 200 and 500 hours were a little more micro detail at low to moderate levels and a touch more warmth, but it could all be my imagination who knows...
Like most products, the 19's will sound kinda bright until btoken in. The 11's and the 19's have the same tweeter, btw. The ATC's sound more like each other than any other line of speakers I've heard.
The ATC's sound more like each other than any other line of speakers I've heard.

Very good point. All ATC's sound very much the same - if you like any of 'em then you'll like 'em all (bigger just gets a little better) - conversely if you don't like one of 'em then you probably won't like any of 'em.

This is why I suggested it might be a source or power amp clipping issue with the 19 that did not occur with the gear that Pani heard with the 11.
I suggest getting the SCM19 as they incorporate the 3" dome in their midbass. Even though they would make the speakers more revealing, that is what makes ATC so unique. The more revealing they are, the more it will show your upstream equipment's signature sound. You want a warm tone, you can get a warm sounding tube preamp from cary or mcintosh, if you want the most accurate sound possible, you can opt for a bryston or pass lab preamp, and if you want somewhere in the middle, you can get a parasound halo preamp..and so forth.

The most important is to get an accurate power amplifier with stable current. Class A, or high bias Class A/AB amp works well. Krell, Classe, Pass Lab, Vincent Audio, and Brystons. However, I have use old class A/AB amps like Parasound HCA-2200II with 250watts per channel. Even though it was alot of wattage, it was grainy and harsh at higher volumes with very thin bass (using a sunfire TGI and parasound preamp). So just make sure the amp is "SMOOOTH".

BTW, here is an response, i wrote a few months ago, that may also help you:

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One of the major difference b/t the 19 and the 20 is the tweeter. The older 20s uses a vifa tweeter and the newer 20s uses a seas tweeter. Both EXTREMELY revealing and very smooth, with the seas having a bit more detail (very hard to hear a difference, but better specs are better specs)...same goes for the non-SL vs the SL spec-ed 20s. I can't hear a difference really...but that is probably because I never hear it in the same room, and I always ask to demo them on tube-preamps.

The 19 uses ATC inhouse tweeter and are more meant towards home usage. ATC tame down the speaker so that the average recording sound a bit easier on the ear...although they are still very unforgiving.

The SCM20 and SCM20SL to the SCM50, SCM100 were meant for pro use. The ATC SCM40, SCM35, SCM19, SCM11, and SCM7 are meant for home use. Although they both carry the signature sound, they are quite different. If you are used to the "pro" sound you may think that the Entry Series may lack something. I tried going to the Entry series, but the sound is not as detailed nor is the speaker as transparent to source change. This does not mean the Entry series is not as good. Both series are like intensive X-Ray machines, its just that the Pro will do the full X-ray and has a zoom-in feature if you know what I mean.

But those are still very minor critiques. Both Pro and Entry level are great speakers. The entry level will trump most speaker if you are looking for the most uncolor speaker you can find.

Just remember to power them correctly if not, the ATC will be the most ugly sounding speaker ever. You will hate them. Also take into account that most of your recordings are will be unbearable to listen to, even with great electronics. They will spit out what is fed. If you look at my system, I used 2 huge monoblock class A amps to power them. However, I opted for a tube preamp because 75% of my music collection are not perfect recordings.

If you want the most extreme of the extreme, you can always opt for an all byston setup with the ATC. Then you have a system that is so precise it can surgically remove the music bit by bit.

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Hi Kinn, you wrote;

'Also take into account that most of your recordings are will be unbearable to listen to, even with great electronics'.

Surely, the better the speaker the better ALL cd's will sound
and not the opposite no?

Surely, the better the speaker the better ALL cd's will sound
and not the opposite no?

How about an analogy. I think Kinn is just trying to convey that a sharp lens will show every pimple and wrinkle whereas a soft lens may complement better some portraits. "Better" depends what role you expect from the lens. Perhaps a portrait of a face will look better with a soft lens but a close shot of a bird might look better with a tack sharp lens.

FWIW: ATC will not hurt a recording but they are certainly not kind to a bad recording - you will hear errors in the mix, splices, odd changes in reverb, volume level adjustments on certain tracks, certain instruments and between tracks, microphone issues and audio compression on many modern pop CD's will tend to sound harsh. There is no denying that ATC are not for the mainstream type listener but they have their niche in pro environments and with some audiophiles.
A excellent/good speaker for me, well one that is worth its salt is one that accentuates the positives and can abrogate the negatives of the humble cd and be able to make the musical experience highly enjoyable.I was many years ago of the opinion that not so well engineered cd's were the cause of my expensive at the time for me Linn Isobarik DMS speakers to sound crap on a huge amount of material, that was until I heard the Impulse (which I have stored away) H1 horns, whilst no speaker is perfect and never can be at least the H1 made lovely sounds of even the lesser engineered cd's that they played.A friend came around to hear and made the comment that he'd been listening to his music in black and white, and those speakers were producing sounds in vivid color. Then again perhaps I am just over sealed unit speakers.
Sorry my response is off topic.
Gawdbless,

Your viewpoint is equally valid - people like different things - we are not the Borg - and that is what makes life interesting. It just seems from his comments that Pani likes the Dark Side!
thanks shardorne, that was what i meant, which is why I suggest people with ATC to get a tube preamp to round out the edges of so-so recordings, and still be able to hear enough details. A really well design tube preamp will give extra warmth to the music and still be able to give out all the micro and macro details.

So basically, with ATC speakers, you get to choose your signature sound almost immediately. Now if only i have the SCM100!!!!!so i can get rid of my sub!
Kinn,

Gordon Holt's Active 50's are for sale. (estate sale as he sadly passed away)
Well, I am also considering the ATC SCM-40 now.
Are they too big for a room size of 13.5 X 13.5 ft ??

I did listen to them at a considerably small listening area and did not find any problems. I was just about 5ft from the speakers but they still did not pose any problems.
But I would still need your opinion about the room size requirement of SCM-40.
9-11-09: Pani
Well, I am also considering the ATC SCM-40 now.
Are they too big for a room size of 13.5 X 13.5 ft ??
You can fit an elephant in there. Just joking. Yes you can fit the SCM40 in that space. If you have the budget it is definitely worthwhile to get speakers that have the biggest drivers possible that the room can accomodate. The advantage of the SCM40 lies in the ATC "soft dome" midrange which is found in reference systems that ATC builds for the recording industry. It is this design feature among others that contributes to the wide bandwith and exceptional dynamic range ATC is famous for. You would probably need some room treatments to take the speakers to another level. From the small SCM11 to the SCM40. Interesting development.
:)...
Well, SCM-40 came into picture because I am unable to get a demo of burnt-in SCM-19.

But I was just worried because an SCM-40 is a substantial floorstander to look at my room normally works best with big bookshelves rather than floorstanders. Sometimes multiple drivers generating a huge sound field can get very overwhelming in a space like mine..hence my concern.
Anybody know what ATC is using for cabinet materials?
And the damping material internally?

I would suggest buying the better speaker, more resolving, the better the match of the amp quality will have to be however.. This is what the above problem sounds like to me, Go for the better bass, this will not be as correctable later on with room, acoustics, and or crossover upgrades, the rest can fall into place with the right mix.
But I was just worried because an SCM-40 is a substantial floorstander to look at my room normally works best with big bookshelves rather than floorstanders

ATC are criticically damped in the bass. You don't get big bass with ATC - wrong type speaker if you want strong heavy bass (Wilson or B&W for example are much heavier in the bass department). Unlike most floorstanders they will not overpower a room with bass (if anything, even though they are very tight, dynamic and punchy, most people tend to find them too shy or understated in the bass - this can be an issue for soft listening levels where you could need some tone control to boost the sound)
Anybody know what ATC is using for cabinet materials?
And the damping material internally?

The SCM20 uses 18mm MDF damped with bitumen pads and double thick baffle and filled with acoustic wadding. Cabinets are made in Germany, I believe.

The cabinets on the SCM19 look simpler to construct/assemble - they might not be quite as robust - so I can't comment there.
But I was just worried because an SCM-40 is a substantial floorstander to look at my room normally works best with big bookshelves rather than floorstanders

So what I meant is LESS of a problem than other floorstanders, however, you still need to find space for them and for your listening position and you should not sit 3 feet from a three way - my guess is 5 to 6 feet would be a minimum and remember you don't want to be sitting with your head up against a wall - keep 3 feet behind you head of free space (at least).
Nce discussions here, I’m tempted to try ATC SCM11 v2, as it’s best affordable and fit option for me, I need the speakers to play music in a more forgiving way, but articulate at the same time? Does this speakers need tube to sound musical? Currently, I got 3 amps, Marantz PM6005, Class D Audio SDS-400C, Yamaha A-S801, the Marantz is the less power but easy match with bookshelf speakers, most probably not enough to drive the ATC? I’m using Fostex HP-A3 as DAC/preamp, works well with a pair Wharfedale Diamond 9.1. The Class D Audio sound best for bass control and treble would be very much depend on speakers and source, last the Yamaha is most probably the hardest to matched a speakers, the bass sound boxy from Wharfedale Diamond 9.1, I’m not sure how well the Yamaha can drive an ATC?

All I can add to this is...the 11’s are some amazing little boxes...I wouldn’t design your system around your amps necessarily... start with the atc’s and something that can drive and do them justice...they wont disappoint!

The 11’s are worth it

hmm, I'm wondering while people keep emphasize the ATC SCM is great speakers, but they keep selling it? What is the obvious weaknesses they cannot bear? Outlook? Indeed it looks a bit rough and oily near the woofer I guess?
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Rough and oily? The roughness adds to the dynamics, the oil gives that smooth presentation.