ATC SCM 40 v2 report

Hi all.

I received a lot of help when I was looking to replace vintage KEF references (thanks again -- you know who-- for aiming me at the ATCs). So I thought I owed the forum a report on my experience with them. Plus, I'm bored.

I'm driving them with a 150 watt Musical Fidelity A308 integrated, which seems like a good match, but my expertise in such things is very limited. I'm using an okay DAC, streaming from a Mac. Cables and such are ordinary. Most of this was determined by budget more than preference.

Mostly, I agree with what others say about my passive ATCs. Their sound is too compelling and detailed to use as background music (I write) unless I send them crappy low-res stuff, which kind of defeats the purpose of the deal. This is clearly a gold-plated problem, if the word "problem" applies at all. Strangely, they turned out to be pickier about placement, at least in terms of centerstage and soundstage than the rear-ported KEFs (the new ones are  sealed. Perhaps that affects bass and wall placement more than what I'm talking about. I need the volume up higher to get the same effect, but never past eleven on the dial, with no hot amp.

They look fine -- nothing special in either direction, to my eyes. I would've much preferred the cherry finish but got a great deal on this site for a piano black pair. They''re not as big and imposing as I expected, so I didn't have to become big and imposing myself to handle my wife's opinion about their looks. :)

Anyway, THEY SOUND GREAT. That's the bottom line. Punchy, deep, detailed, airy, complex, powerful, beautiful. I stole some of these adjectives from other posts, but they all fit. I haven't discovered any genre they can't handle with elegant aplomb (I told you I write). I don't think they do badly with poor recordings, either. Crap is crap as far as I'm concerned. I don't expect any equipment to transform crap into gold (okay, I didn't say I was a GOOD writer).

I would agree that the ATCs don't do anything to boost low volume listening, and that's fine with me. On the other end of the spectrum, the complete lack of distortion at high volume is amazing. Like others, I've been able to listen much louder than before with no discomfort, allowing me to notice all sorts of stuff in the music.

Even when I don't care for a performer or a track, if it's well-recorded, the literal sound is often beautiful enough to capture my interest. I've never had that experience with other speakers. I listen to great variety of genres. I think the speakers like string and wind quartets and quintets the best, with women's voices and live bar bands next.

They're in a very complex, impossible to describe room and I've not employed any room treatment or testing. There is no spot in our house beside exactly where they are, and the opposing wall is all windows to capture a beautiful view. There's thick carpeting and complexly slanted high ceilings. All in all, the ATCs seem to do a good job of overcoming these obstacles. I'm sure they'd sound even better in another room, driven by more high-end equipment, but...

I can certainly grow into them, starting with my DAC. Someday...

So there you go.

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Been following your travels on this. Happy that it's worked out. If you haven't done so already,  you might consider reworking the connections on the connection block to use wire rather than the bars.
I think the speakers like string and wind quartets and quintets the best, with women's voices and live bar bands next.
I always liked ATCs with good, well-recorded rock n roll.  Crank up Tin Pan Alley from Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Couldn’t Stand the Weather (if you haven’t already) and see what you think.  And congrats on a great pair of speakers!
Hello Marc,

Those speakers look great and I've been intrigued by ATC for a while but never been lucky enough to hear them.
Do you have any specific comparisons with your old KEFs or other speakers? 
Mofojo, the kefs were less clear, boomier, and mine in particular didn’t do well with piano. I mean all of this relative to the atcs. I think the 103.2 kefs were 20 y.o., which makes for an unfair comparison.  Also, less punch- more veiled or muted. If I hadn’t heard The atcs, i would’ve described the kefs much more positively. I bought the new ones without ever hearing them. No regrets.

I just listened to that stevie ray album two hours ago!
Back in the late 70’s, i used to hear him for four bucks in a little club in Austin.
I asked about ATC on here before and was surprised to find people saying it is either brutally detailed and sterile or dull and rolled in the treble (like what streaky said).

Your report is more in line with a lot of veteran guys on the sonic visions discord who report ATC as being among the best in the world. I look forward to hearing the SCM150 one day.
It sounds like you made a great choice. Of all of the speakers that I have owned in the past 40 years I have always preferred speakers with sealed enclosures. BTW, many moons ago I owned the KEF 103 and is not a ported speaker !
You are right, of course. I misremembered the number of my KEFs. I’ll look back on my posts and give you the right model number right after this post.

I think there are several reasons why people talk about the ATC‘s being too harsh or too bright or too revealing. First of all, the first version of my speakers had a different tweeter Which was which was apparently kind of harsh and bright. Also, the reputation as a company that makes monitors in order to reveal what’s wrong with music instead of what’s right tends to bias the way people listen, I think. And then, of course, because of what they are accustomed to from American speakers, which often color or process the sound just a bit to make it softer, some listeners simply don’t care for the ATC sound or find it fatiguing. To each his own. There’s plenty of room in the audio universe for all of us and our tastes.
They are reference three-twos. 
Thanks for the update!  Its always nice to hear about someone enjoying there setup and also having something that sounds the best they’ve had.

Hows the center image?  Were you able to make some progress there?  Small adjustments to the speakers may dial that in a bit better for you.  Also, Gik Acoustics new foam panels from there impression series really aren’t bad looking at all!  Might want to see if the better half green lights a couple that she picks out.

Lastly, are you a BMW guy?  Your moniker is M6. I love M cars. Had 2 different M3’s and my brother has had 3 M3’s and now had an M2...
Marc, can you say more about the ATCs at low volume? Seems you may feel they have shortcomings there.
Low volume first: Folks discuss this phenomenon on other threads and forums. Basically, some brands--even Harbeth--boost the mid-bass and treble when the volume goes low. This lets us hear it the way we would if it were louder, given some basic physics/audio science elements in the equation that I don't remember. 
So when a mfg like ATC doesn't do that, and folks are used to it, low volume can seem lacking. I don't experience it as a deficit--just a difference. Basically, do you want the literal recording represented as is with no changes regardless of the volume, or do you appreciate the boosted sound. Certainly, on good speakers, the effect is subtle, but noticeable. Unless someone mostly or solely listens at low volume, I wouldn't think this would be a reason to eschew ATCs.

Next, BLimo: yes, I've made significant progress in my efforts to get the center centered, and yet expand the soundstage equally and widely. Trial and error with toe-in and placement of everything have yielded good results. With no toe-in, one speaker exactly equidistant from the other and the listener, while the other is 6" farther away from the listener seems to compensate for the very uneven wall/glass across from each. I also bought stuff to dissolve the earwax that might be involved, but despite putting using the stuff on daily to-do lists, I haven't yet. Maybe today...

I don't think there are any spots for panels. every bit of wall space is either a picture window (floor length), a doorway, a hall, an open area, or filled in with furniture. Sometimes I think the whole schmeer counterbalances itself and ends up with something reasonable--there are so many angles and objects to break up reflections, if not absorb them. Perhaps my ears can't tell when something's too bright or out of whack. Other times, I just try to accept the limitations. It's a wonderful house if you put aside audio considerations (something I'm sure is difficult for a lot of people on here). It's like a treehouse with a view of the Monterey Bay in Northern Ca.
Oh, I forgot. My handle was a hastily chosen thing I could remember. I didn't realize I'd continue being on here when I went on to ask a question. It's an old employee number I remember easily from when i worked for a big HMO.
I was a car guy back in the day. I had a used 1963 Jaguar 3.8 MK 2 and then a 1971 XJ6 with a Corvette motor and transmission. What a car. I did pick out a BMWX3 for my wife, though. Great car with crappy audio (We got it used for too little to resist).
Sorry for all the personal, off-topic stuff.
When you say you do not think they are not for background music what exactly do you mean? I am seriously interested in active pair (maybe 50s) which, I am aware yorus are not, but I have to start somewhere. Can you elaborate? Most of the time do not sit to listen which, I guess, would be background music for some.
ATC is a very respected brand one of the best in England for sure. I do not blame you for liking them so much. The studios use them a lot to mix and master on as well as other British brands like Spendor, Harbeth, Stirling Broadcast, Chartwell, Rogers, KEF, and B&W. They all have their own sounds but you picked a good one for sure.
If I try to read or write or carry on a conversation while music is playing on the speakers, it’s hard to concentrate because the music keeps pulling my attention to it. I haven’t experienced this with other speakers. There is something compelling that penetrates me if I try to do something simultaneously. I’m describing the phenomenon more dramatically than I need to to make my point. It is perfectly possible to put on certain pieces and still focus on work or whatever. It’s just a bit of a challenge sometimes.The speakers you named would be my dream speakers. I don’t think you can get anything much better than those without selling a few houses or something. They need a pretty big room, though. That’s my understanding.
That is a fine set of speakers that I would be very happy to own. I had a fairly long session wit them, and I found them dynamic and supremely well balanced. They just play music, and they reveal the power of music like many speakers can’t.

Thanks for the description.
they reveal the power of music like many speakers can’t.
Bingo.  That’s also probably a big reason why OP finds it hard to focus on work while them playing — kinda like trying to concentrate with a live band playing near you. 

Yes, it's like live music. Well said.
The same model, same finish won the 2019 Arizona AV Club Speaker Fest by a wide margin. Simple, reasonably priced setup; ATC CDA2mkII > ATC P1 amp > ATC SCM40 v2 speakers.

Congratulations on a great purchase and thank you for your report.