A review of the SCM 19 loudspeakers from ATC has been on the (to do) list for some time. A year ago we put the Electrocompaniet ECI 80D to the test. We were very fond of that amplifier, but also the speakers used for that review left a lasting impression (indeed; the ATC SCM19). A judgment that we also saw confirmed in Ruud Jonker’s review of the ATC SCM 40A active speakers from the same manufacturer. Anyway, a ‘loose’ review of the ATC SCM19 has taken far too long. Time to change that.
ATC is a brand that has been around for several years. Founded in 1974 for professional audio, the groundbreaking SM75-150s soft dome midrange drivers were produced shortly after. ATC or Acoustic Transducer Company immediately issued a business card with it, because many manufacturers have tried to follow the technique used. Still, it took a long time before they managed to tickle the audiophile. In 1996 ATC introduced the SCA2 pre amp and the SPA2 amplifier, developed with the idea of no compromise. Thanks to the technology behind the Super Linear Driver, ATC has managed to significantly reduce the harmonic distortion. Pure sound! In his own words a lot of counterfeit, never equaled.
If you see these photos and think there is a bookshelf speaker here, you will be ‘disappointed’. The size of the speaker is substantial. The SMC19, a model with the designation ‘Entry’ (or ‘entry-level’), is more like half a floor stand than a monitor; almost 44 cm high, 26.5 cm wide and 30 cm deep; not a little boy. And then also the weight: almost 18 kilos! A speaker that you do not just move.
As soon as you lift the speaker, you know that you are indeed dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing. On the outside a good and neat speaker, but nothing could be further from the truth. The drivers incorporated in the ATC SMC19 are remarkable. We see two units. A 25 mm Soft dome HF unit and a 150 mm Super linear Mid / LF unit with a 75 mm coil (coil). You soon arrive at the wolf’s terrain. A wolf with 9 kilos optimized short-coil / long gap. The horizontal dispersion is 80 degrees and is coherent across the range. Vertically that is 10 degrees. The frequency range extends from 55 Hz to 22 KHz, but the golden rain of specifications doesn’t stop there. The match between the drivers is around 0.5dB. Available in satin black, black ash, satin white or cherry. And if you choose ATC, you get a 6-year warranty from the manufacturer.
Super Linear driver
It would be very strange not to zoom in deeply on ATC’s aforementioned Super Linear Driver. That sounds very interesting, but believe us: it is. We have fully delved into the supplied whitepaper and, with some support from importer Helios, are happy to provide a small translation to put it in understandable words.
The 150 mm driver, the SB75-150 bass-mid drive unit, has two points that we would like to discuss. First of all, the dome is glued directly to the coil. With this ATC has removed an “intermediate chamber” from the process. That should eliminate much of the resonance. It also provides speed and a very rich area on the mid frequencies.
Then the technology of the Super Linear Driver itself. For that we have to go back to the last century, to ATC’s mission in search of innovation and perfection in their sound. A search that led to NASA’s doorstep, where they were currently researching magnetic fields and electrical conductivity. Something you would rather not be bothered by in space … When the noble gentlemen of ATC were having a nice cup of tea there, they inquired about that “Top Secret” research. We don’t know how the British did it, perhaps with a personal greeting from the Pope or a long-lost sextape from a prominent American, but ATC got to work on material that no one else in the audio industry had access to.
ATC made a ring from that material and placed it between the magnet and the coil. When the driver produces sound, the coil moves forwards and backwards. By placing the ring, ATC gained more control over the magnetic field. The effect of this can be heard and seen in measurements. The harmonic distortion has been reduced in the frequency range from 100Hz to 3KHz by 10 to 15 decibels. Translated, that is an improvement of about 20 percent, just straightforward. So a serious development. More information can be found on the website of importer Helios , or from the manufacturer itself .
The perfect dance partner
We have had the pleasure of listening to the ATC SMC19 on various amplifiers. The aforementioned Electrocompaniet ECI 80D among others, but also the Benchmark Media AHB2.
We actually want to start with a tango or a waltz. But an important factor in such a dance is the position. Now the ATC SMC19, with almost 18 kilograms, may not be easy to move. But to get that good sweet spot, we’ll have to dance a bit with the ATC. Then a slowfox.
An advantage of the ATC SMC19 is that the soundstage is neither too wide nor too narrow. You soon have a good listening position. We use stands for the installation. These ensure that the speaker has a sloppy 50 cm of ground clearance. Our preference is also for a slightly broader setup. It gives the ATC SMC19 just a little more room to build a large soundstage and let its magic be heard.
For the speaker cables, we have chosen Supra Quadrax Bi-wire. That fits in well with the character of ATC. They strive for a realistic representation. Choose or match consciously, because the vision and mission of ATC preferably remains in honor. A bad match could simply kill the sound character. During the listening sessions, we also noticed that the SMC19 thrives on strong control. The Electrocompaniet ECI 80D is a nice combination. However, with the Benchmark Media AHB2 more control and placement of elements can be heard. The reproducers are pushed more by the Benchmark to be better, to have a finger on the pulse and to be more in control of the music. That also caused the turning point for us. We get goosebumps with the Electrocompaniet ECI 80D. But with the stronger control of the Benchmark Media AHB2 we can no longer hold back a few tears. Emotion wins!
ATC SCM19: Music or Emotion?
Do you go for music or do you go for feeling? We have certainly experienced the emotion that the ATC SCM19 knows how to convey (although we let the tears dry properly before we have written out that experience). It is more like an ode, or hymn, to the music itself. For example, Michael Kiwanuka is an artist who has a lot of emotion in his music. With the album Love & Hate it is enjoying the soundstage that is created. The details, especially in the middle area, are put down so tight and refined, that is really something you must experience. The structure ensures that the sound image starts to grow bigger and bigger. When the moment arrives there and the whole comes together, then we hear no music. We feel emotion. It does something to us. This experience is something we (re) know from speakers that play in a much higher class.
We try something a little less emotionally charged. AC / DC seems like a good choice. “Thunderstruck” with the wonderful guitar intro. Again, we hear the refined reproduction and control that the ATC SMC19 has. Certainly with rock music there is a lot to perceive in the middle area. Guitar, vocals and drums can be overwhelming. But not for this ATC. Due to the large soundstage and an excellent reproduction of the frequencies in the middle segment, this is a true performance by the Australian hard rockers.
We conclude that the ATC SMC19 should be further put to the test. Lavinia Meijer with the album “Passaggio”, to be precise. The song “Oltremare” can be very difficult to reproduce properly. Harp playing has a gear that is quite complex. But also here: not for this one. As if the speaker knows what is playing, it makes for an elegant and emotional rollercoaster. Halfway through the song we are again inundated by the emotion, no longer by the music. It picks us up, takes us and leaves us moved. We feel tears running down our cheeks. We surrender.
The ATC SMC19 is a dangerous speaker. Playing at an unprecedented high level, as a set that should perhaps cost twice as much. And yet it is an affordable speaker. We wonder with such performances what is actually ‘Entry’ about this speaker. The technology behind the Super Linear Driver provides a rich mid-range. The speaker took us on an unprecedented emotional rollercoaster and moved us. However, there is a very big disadvantage to this speaker; once listened you are sold for life.
You don’t listen to the ATC SMC 19, you experience it. It is a speaker of unprecedented level. A pearl that was not talked about enough. This ATC is almost a bargain with its price. There is only one drawback; once listened to the ATC SMC19, there is nothing else.
ATC SCM19: PLUS POINTS
- Super Linear Driver
- Audio playback and price
- Wide sweet spot
ATC SCM19: MINUSES
- Once you experience ATC, you don’t want anything else