The least distortion I've ever heard in a speaker but they need a lot of juice so SET need not apply.
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Lindisfarne is absolutely correct. Lots of really good power otherwise you are wasting your time and lots of money. I've not listened to this exact model, but have listened to much of the line and it is quite consistent with needing very exacting preamp/power. Very revealing of any flaws in the system to include cabling. Most I listened to loved British class A such as Sugden and LFD.
I have owned SCM-40 and have heard most others. There is nothing that the ATC cannot do. They are seriously among the absolute best speakers out there. They sound like whatever is there in the recording and what is being fed to it via the electronics in the chain. You need really good amplifiers and sky is the limit.
Look at Symphonic line amps if you are looking for the depth and width of soundstage along with a very finely nuanced and liquid sound. You can even consider an active SCM40 which in my opinion is the best thing to do.
I own a pair of the SCM 19's and am in love with the gorgeous sound. My system is posted here in the Virtual Systems, but since then I've hooked them up directly to a Luxman L-550ax integrated that is rated at only 20 watts/channel. Yeah, the Lux has plenty of headroom, but the supposedly power-hungry ATC's still sound magical. And, YES, they sure are accurate! Don't expect any artificial lushness with anything made by ATC; they tell it like it is.
I did hear the 40's at this years AXPONA. Powered by ATC electronics they were great and really held their own compared to some of the outrageous gear featured in many of the rooms!
I worked for an ATC dealer a while back, and we didn't carry the 40s but I got to hear the 20s and 50s quite a bit while I was there. To me, the midrange is about the best I've ever heard in terms of power, resolution, and an utter lack of any distortion or strain. Where I found them to fall a little short was with respect to holographic 3D imaging. It's not that they don't image well, it's just that compared to other what I'll call the more "audiophile" oriented brands they don't portray (or some would say exaggerate) things like depth or width of the soundstage, and I'd agree the venue info is a little less apparent as well. Again, this is just relative to speakers that excel in these particular areas. Perhaps the new 40s improve in these areas if they represent an evolution of the house sound, but I have no idea. Can't say I noticed anything regarding micro dynamics, but we usually demoed them with more dynamic music so that might be why. I really can't fault them in any other areas. Great overall speakers, and I wish they had more exposure here in the U.S.
ATC do not use the latest and greatest of the tweeters. These days we have berrylium/diamond/ribbon tweeters all doing 100khz extension. So speakers which employ those do tend to have more atmosphere but to make the whole package sound as natural is not easy and that is why most of those speakers get into the hi-fish category. ATC uses their own traditional dome tweeter which is well extended but not like 100 khz and all, hence they probably do not do those extra-terrestrial like sound. What ATC presents is a full range sound that is extremely coherent, uncolored and dynamic. When you hear it you know everything else is flawed.
Well Drubin (and knowing you are local) I have all the ATC Hi-Fi Passive series including the SCM19v2 and SCM40v2 available for demo in our showroom in Fairfax, CA (Marin County). We also have some other interesting stuff like the new NAD M22 Ncore amp. Will also be exhibiting at the CA Audio Show with ATC in August.
IMO depth is nearly entirely a psychoacoustic construct that depends on how far away from the front wall the speakers are. Further you put them, more perception of depth you have.
Resolution wise (which covers off microdynamics) I think these are without peer at their price point. I'm not a speaker designer but I think it is because they are using extremely beefy drivers (large magnets with underhung coils). Take a look at the size of the mid-woofer in the SCM19. Beefy!
Interestingly I think the SCM19v2, which is a standmount, is higher resolution than the SCM40v2. Technically this could be because the mid-woofer in the 19 is the SL "Super Linear" version, whereas the woofer in the 40 is their standard version. May also be partially due to the increased complexity of the passive crossover in the 40. They have the same sonic signature but the 40s have a much "weightier" presentation.
ATC speakers have three main strengths: neutrality, resolution and bass quality.
A lot of people don't like neutral speakers (they might prefer Raidho or B&W, with their explicitly designed "not to be flat" response) but personally I do.
Bass is tight and articulate due to either sealed box or a very low Q port tuning in their larger speakers.
Acousticfrontiers, I have had a fair share of exposure to the 40, 19 and also the SCM 20. It is true that the 19 and 20 feels lighter and quicker a bit but they somehow just do not have the midrange palpability of the 40 (due to that amazing dome mid range driver of the 40). Regarding bass, it is both ways, the 40 goes deeper and fills a bigger place more elegantly while sounding very tight and defined, where as the 19 and 20 are somewhat more lean and agile. It is going to be a matter of preference and room size IMO.
>>"IMO depth is nearly entirely a psychoacoustic construct that depends on how far away from the front wall the speakers are. Further you put them, more perception of depth you have.<<"
Thank you! I have long believed this to be true. If your brain (via your eyes) doesn't perceive space for the musicians to occupy behind the speakers, your ears will not perceive soundstage depth through your audio system. At least that's what I believe. Unless you've pulled your speakers out into the middle of the room (even as an experiment), I don't believe you've experienced the depth your speakers are capable of.