ATC SCM40 Active or Not

Good morning gentleman,

Quick question: Is my 250DR enough to drive the SCM40 or should I be better to just keep my 272 and buy the SCM40A instead? Would the naim sound be preserved, should I choose the latter?

Thank you kindly, I'll check this page relentlessly for the next few days 

the older I get, the faster I was

Original Post

I think a demo is important Dan if you can. Having recently heard the SCM50ASL towers fronted by a 272/XSPDR I left feeling underwhelmed after hearing great things about ATC's on here. I thought they were a bit sterile/cold. My feeling was that this may have been due to lack of Naim poweramp or maybe I just didn't like the sound of the ATC's but I couldn't be 100% sure. So yeah, I think a demo is key! 

My next move (which will involve a house move) will be to go NAC252 or 282,  or whatever the new platform will bring,  partnered with a 19A or 40A;  final choice will be down to the room size (whatever that might turn out to be)  I've demo'd the 19A & the non-active 40 & was (unlike Mayor West)  overwhelmed.   I heard a highly detailed & analytical sound rather than cold/sterile,  cold is not a word I would associate with the texture & power in the mid/low bass.     But yes demo is a must.  

My guess is that 250 will drive the 40 fine. The Naim sound is predominantly from the preamp so if you decide the actives then Naim sound will be preserved by the 272. Imho the actives will provide better control and sound quality from the speakers. Saying that the passives are also excellent too so you can't go wrong either way.

When comparing speakers make sure you demo in same room with same positioning as room acoustics, amp, and cables can make a big difference. You want to make sure everything is right. Underwhelming, sterile, and cold would not be words I would use to describe the ATC speakers I have listened to. They are very honest to the rest of the system and music and will reveal any shortcomings. If the music is warm and cosy then that is what you hear.

Read Jason Kennedy of hifi+ mag review of Scm40a with 272 online, summarised as the best two\three box system he has heard. 

Dan.S posted:

Good morning gentleman,

Quick question: Is my 250DR enough to drive the SCM40 or should I be better to just keep my 272 and buy the SCM40A instead? Would the naim sound be preserved, should I choose the latter?

Thank you kindly, I'll check this page relentlessly for the next few days 

Hi Dan

I have shop-auditioned the SCM40 in passive form driven by a 250DR and SCM19 in both passive and active forms, all fronted by a 272.  I intend to audition SCM40 active soon, but currently domestic circumstances impose a delay.

I felt the 250DR was fully up to the task of driving the SCM40s, though no doubt a 300 would do even better.  However, perhaps of more relevance were the extensive comparisons I made between the 19s in active and passive forms.  For me, the actives were a significant step up from the passives.  There was a physicality and immediacy with the active speakers that meant a greater engagement with the music, making the passive versions sound a tad woolly.  In the end I preferred my current PMC Fact 3 speakers to both the passive ATCs, but the 19As were a different matter.  If I do switch to ATC it will be to an active version even though that will mean selling on my fairly new 250DR.  But there is a caveat: there was another customer in the shop who listened along with me and expressed an equally strong preference for the 250-driven passives, taking the view that the actives were so revealing that he would end up not listening to half his record collection.  So as others have said, a shop audition at least is pretty much mandatory and with a careful selection of tracks.  If you can try them at home, even better as that will give you a chance to see if they will suit in the long term.

I presume you have seen the review by Jason Kennedy of 272 with SCM40A.  Interestingly, he states that the idea for the system came from Salisbury, which I think indicates a degree of synergy between Naim and active ATCs, so I am not surprised they work so well together.

And finally ... there was a chap from ATC at the demo who stated that the 40As were his favourite ATC domestic speaker and that this was a view shared by several of his colleagues.

Please keep us informed of how you get on.

Roger

Just to add further comment, we tried the SCM40 driven by a 272+250DR twice and on both occasions preferred the SCM19. However, I should qualify that by saying that we generally don't listen at higher sound levels. While the SCM40 sounded initially very engaging, it seemed to adopt a very different sonic signature at lower sound levels. YMMV and it will spend on various factors of course but in our case bigger was not better. Maybe with a bigger space, things may have turned out differently. 

The very accomodating dealer suggested that part of the issue may have been due to the 250DR not being adequate to fully drive the SCM40. I don't have any evidence to support this as it wasn't auditioned due an extra box not being suitable for us but it sounds plausible. 

Similar findings for me with passive driven 19s and 40s driven by the 250DR ,I preferred the 19s here . Since then I've heard both Active and Passive versions of 40s and 50s , preferring the Actives on both occasions . I will be going active once I move back home after renovations and have been exploring all options , the most interesting being the Dutch and Dutch 8c  which I'll be comparing directly to Active ATC50s hopefully this week . The Dutch and Dutch attempt to mimic flush mounted speakers using cardioid principles and DSP . They sounded wonderful on a brief listen recently and are also designed to placed up to 10cm from the rear wall . Interesting times in the Audio world as it seems technology is really starting to impose itself across the board . 

I've also had conversations with ATC employees and a few dealers who all feel that their Active 40s are the sweet spot in their whole range . Maybe thats where I'll end up . 

My dealer believes the passive 40's when powered by a suitable amp surpass the 40A's. I certainly have no issues with my Vitus amp driving them.

However to get the best from the 40's I believe they require a small modification to the rear terminals.

Good luck with your auditions.

Foxman50 posted:

My dealer believes the passive 40's when powered by a suitable amp surpass the 40A's. I certainly have no issues with my Vitus amp driving them.

 

This would depend on the external power amp being of high enough quality and a good enough match to the speaker-crossover-driver circuit to outperform the internal ATC designed & matched amps without the crossover in the way. This is a tall order, given the inherent advantages of removing the crossover and directly coupling amps to the drivers.

I don't doubt that your Vitus with passives can provide a preferable result to the actives as it's all about one's own preferred presentation. As someone mentioned above, having heard 40A's I also think they may provide too much honesty for some sources/systems/ears and therefore need careful audition.

Did you try a direct comparison between your combo and the 40A's? I would be really interested to hear any feedback from anyone who has tried A/B test between SCM40 passive and active versions.

Hi John

Notice you have TQ black speaker cables also, which is what I was using at the time I made the mod. I don't know if you are using the TQ black jumper leads, not that its relevant but annoying you need two sets for the three way terminals on the speakers.

Anyway what I noticed was that the sound changed depending on which terminals I plugged the speaker cables into on the speakers ie if I plugged them into the bass terminals then the bass became better defined, if I plugged into the mid terminals then the mids were better, when I plugged.........you see where i'm going with this.

If you haven't tried it give it a go and see what you think, it sounds completely different depending on the where the speaker cables are plugged into. Surely this should not be the case.

Anyway this got me thinking why should this be and came to the conclusion it can only be either the jumper leads or the binding posts on the speakers. So I opened up the rear panel to have a look and noticed that the internal wiring is terminated on what looks like gold plated push on shoes that connect to nickel plated spades that are connected via a nut on the speaker binding posts. I just thought that's a lot of connections even before the speakers cables are connected.

So firstly I undid all the nuts and removed the spades from the binding posts, then placed them all on one terminal, obviously keeping the positives on one terminal and negatives on the another terminal. So now I could do away with the jumpers and just use the speaker cables, this made a very worth while improvement. However after looking at the speaker terminals I thought they looked cheap and nasty, so looked at alternatives.

I Purchased a set of four WBT-0730.01 Topline Pole Terminal, Gold Plated and WBT flat push-on cable shoes, about £150 in total. The push on shoes were purchased so that I could revert them to stock should this not go well . Opened up the back of the speakers again, cut off the existing shoes from the internal wiring at the binding post end, opened up the holes in the plastic plate slightly, stripped the internal cables back slightly and fitted into the WBT binding posts. What a difference this made I tell you, like new speakers.

Improvements in soundstage, coherence and definition of the speakers was vast, they never sounded disjointed before but now they sound like a single driver. Can honestly say its the best money ive spent on this hobby. £150 and an hour or so to do, selling the two sets of TQ black jumpers will pay for the WBT outlay so its basically a free upgrade.

If nothing else try moving the speaker cables about on the rear and see what you think. Even putting all the internal cabling onto a pair of binding posts made a decent improvement which costs nothing but time, so give it a go if you can.

Apologies Dan, didn't mean to high jack your thread.

 

 

DC71 posted:
Foxman50 posted:

My dealer believes the passive 40's when powered by a suitable amp surpass the 40A's. I certainly have no issues with my Vitus amp driving them.

 

This would depend on the external power amp being of high enough quality and a good enough match to the speaker-crossover-driver circuit to outperform the internal ATC designed & matched amps without the crossover in the way. This is a tall order, given the inherent advantages of removing the crossover and directly coupling amps to the drivers.

I don't doubt that your Vitus with passives can provide a preferable result to the actives as it's all about one's own preferred presentation. As someone mentioned above, having heard 40A's I also think they may provide too much honesty for some sources/systems/ears and therefore need careful audition.

Did you try a direct comparison between your combo and the 40A's? I would be really interested to hear any feedback from anyone who has tried A/B test between SCM40 passive and active versions.

No unfortunately never compared myself.

This thread has spurred me to look up the cost of these SCM40A, which is £6,800. I recently bought a NAP300, which costs £7,699. Then there were SL XLR leads and longer speaker cables, which cost the best part of £6,000. 

Is it the case that the ATCs use big standard XLR leads? If so they’d be a fantastic value solution. They’d be a bit too big for me, which is very likely why I’d forgotten about them before getting the 300, but for those without the memory of a goldfish they look like a great option to consider. Could the built in amps really be as good as a 250 or 300? Maybe the crossover issue makes that an impossible question. 

Hungryhalibut posted:

This thread has spurred me to look up the cost of these SCM40A, which is £6,800. I recently bought a NAP300, which costs £7,699. Then there were SL XLR leads and longer speaker cables, which cost the best part of £6,000. 

Is it the case that the ATCs use big standard XLR leads? If so they’d be a fantastic value solution. They’d be a bit too big for me, which is very likely why I’d forgotten about them before getting the 300, but for those without the memory of a goldfish they look like a great option to consider. Could the built in amps really be as good as a 250 or 300? Maybe the crossover issue makes that an impossible question. 

The dealer I visited recommended standard good quality XLRs , Mogwai I think . I believe ATC offer similar advice. 

HH - similar thoughts here on the value of going active with ATC/perhaps others (ADAM?).

In tech terms, the ATC's don't look up to the minute vis drivers* and the detailing which seems to go in to say a Kudos product, plus the amps appear to be 'on board' (which is far from ideal) and how are they supported/service arrangements/can they be upgraded, et al. I'm sure many of us find the speakers market in general very challenging, not helped by some dealers who will happily sell Naim's 500 range but often have a very limited offering of speakers to go alongside - and then there's our unique listening rooms. Compromise abounds.

Above said, I found RJS's review very informing -- so much so, ATC's will be further researched and likely auditioned in due course, I'm just not sure when. I'm really interested to know how the ATC's perform at low sound levels.

* to clarify, the best tweeter I've heard in my room is Focal's Beryllium (scarily revealing) but at the same time a tad bright. I've only heard the B&W Diamond tweeter at a dealer and the whole speaker didn't work to my ears - but I understand things have  changed and the bigger B&W's are easier to drive with Naim kit. 

Hungryhalibut posted:

This thread has spurred me to look up the cost of these SCM40A, which is £6,800. I recently bought a NAP300, which costs £7,699. Then there were SL XLR leads and longer speaker cables, which cost the best part of £6,000. 

Is it the case that the ATCs use big standard XLR leads? If so they’d be a fantastic value solution. They’d be a bit too big for me, which is very likely why I’d forgotten about them before getting the 300, but for those without the memory of a goldfish they look like a great option to consider. Could the built in amps really be as good as a 250 or 300? Maybe the crossover issue makes that an impossible question. 

Hi HH, they really are terrific value. Each pair have six amps in total, one driving each driver. They are class ab amps, with high class a bias, passively cooled, very low distortion and noise, originally designed by Tim Isaacs back in the 1980s. I'd be surprised if any amp with passive 40 surpassed the 40 actives on sound quality.

They accept standard XLR as input. I use mogami gold 2549 and can vouch for their superb sound quality and ability to protect from noise, unlike many expensive hifi cables. The 40A foorprint is actually no bigger than 19 actives so not too bad at all. Not much bigger than PMC 20.23

I went along recently to a Linn demo of their Adudorik exact speakers with katalyst Dac. So that’s the speakers with the amps and the Dac in the speaker stand. I was interested because Naim and others go out of their way to isolate components, so putting them in the speaker stand is a hostile environment. The system was about £20k. It was very disappointing, having no Prat, and only seemingly able to come alive with high res material. Not sure if it’s compromised by the siting of Dac and amp in the speaker, or just not my cup of tea. Though 3 other people were of the same view.

Halloween Man posted:
Hungryhalibut posted:

This thread has spurred me to look up the cost of these SCM40A, which is £6,800. I recently bought a NAP300, which costs £7,699. Then there were SL XLR leads and longer speaker cables, which cost the best part of £6,000. 

Is it the case that the ATCs use big standard XLR leads? If so they’d be a fantastic value solution. They’d be a bit too big for me, which is very likely why I’d forgotten about them before getting the 300, but for those without the memory of a goldfish they look like a great option to consider. Could the built in amps really be as good as a 250 or 300? Maybe the crossover issue makes that an impossible question. 

Hi HH, they really are terrific value. Each pair have six amps in total, one driving each driver. They are class ab amps, with high class a bias, passively cooled, very low distortion and noise, originally designed by Tim Isaacs back in the 1980s. I'd be surprised if any amp with passive 40 surpassed the 40 actives on sound quality.

They accept standard XLR as input. I use mogami gold 2549 and can vouch for their superb sound quality and ability to protect from noise, unlike many expensive hifi cables. The 40A foorprint is actually no bigger than 19 actives so not too bad at all. Not much bigger than PMC 20.23

I think I meant Mogami cables too .. 

For myself, if i was moving forward from my sixpack DBL solution, the items on dem would be:

1) kudos 808 driven actively by my existing amp stack

2) magico driven by 300DR -- why not 500DR? Cos the money difference helps buy bigger/better magicos

3) some form of active ATC, given my love of my little (passive) ATC11's

Not sure I would bother with anything else, to be honest.

jon

Hungryhalibut posted:

This thread has spurred me to look up the cost of these SCM40A, which is £6,800. I recently bought a NAP300, which costs £7,699. Then there were SL XLR leads and longer speaker cables, which cost the best part of £6,000. 

Is it the case that the ATCs use big standard XLR leads? If so they’d be a fantastic value solution. They’d be a bit too big for me, which is very likely why I’d forgotten about them before getting the 300, but for those without the memory of a goldfish they look like a great option to consider.

{Could the built in amps really be as good as a 250 or 300? Maybe the crossover issue makes that an impossible question.}?????

I tend to Agree with the Big Fish.

Could the built-in Amps be that good?

"We should examine the work of a bunch of pioneering guys – Peter Walker, Ivor Tiefenbrun, Julian Vereker, Bob Stuart, Mark Levinson, Dan D’Agostino, Ed Meitner, Dave Wilson, Alon Wolf and Yoav Geva. Who are these guys? What did they do to awaken the interest of Joe Reynolds (Nordost), George Cardas (Cardas Audio), Dr. Ray Kimber (Kimber Kable) and Edwin van der Kley (Siltech), leading lights in the cable industry?"

Notice the first three:

Speakers ~ Peter Walker

Turn Tables ~ Ivor ~ Linn

Amps ~ Julian ~ Naim

Who knows, maybe those built-in amps are really that good!

Allante93!

 

One non-trivial hitch to consider with the active speakers; plugging them into power. I found no information on ATC's site as to the power cords or their length. Depending on the room configuration (dedicated spur, location of outlets) it could become a factor, even if only unsightly, but I suppose that can always be dealt with by a sparky if the actives sound good enough.

FWIW - I listened to the passive 19s last weekend at a dealer (272 into bare SN2). Still waiting months for them to get the passive 40s in stock for a home demo. Before I heard the 19s I listened to Devore Gibbon Super 8s. In comparison the 19s were more analytical and refined, but for my ears lacked bottom-end body. The Devores had a greater bass presence (still tight) and while not being far behind for resolution, presented greater top-to-bottom tonal balance. Took the Devores home hoping they'd be the end of my speaker upgrade quest, but despite their high musicality, just not enough bass heft to fill my semi-open 14x16 ft room. Has me wondering now as to whether the passive 40s, even with their additional bass driver, will provide enough bass in my room. Time will tell and I'm at the mercy of the lone ATC dealer in my region to get the 40s home, now promised to arrive early next year.

One other thought occurs to me here. With a commitment to go with fully-integrated active speakers, at what point do you begin building a system around the speakers? You throw amplification out of the equation. Does the pre-amp become the largest variable in the system sound? Sources? Or the active speakers themselves? Does it make sense to go with a ATC pre-amp to optimize the system balance?

joerand posted:

One other thought occurs to me here. With a commitment to go with fully-integrated active speakers, at what point do you begin building a system around the speakers? You throw amplification out of the equation. Does the pre-amp become the largest variable in the system sound? Sources? Or the active speakers themselves? Does it make sense to go with a ATC pre-amp to optimize the system balance?

Hi Jo, although on paper the 19 and 40 have similar specs, in reality the 40 has quite a bit more bass making them full range speakers. They actually have a little too much bass for my 4m x 4.3m room but careful positioning of speakers and listening chair has helped a lot. The balance of the 40 from top to bottom sounds about perfect to my ears.

i think the 40 actives are quite transparent so your pre and rest of system sound signature should remain intact. I think it makes sense to go with the pre you like, many have commented 272 sounds superb through 40 actives. I do think a dac with built in pre such as 272 makes sense if you only have digital sources. No necessity for atc pre as far a I know.

So, to recap:

It costs about the same to keep the 272+250DR and buy the SCM40 or to sell the 250DR and get the 272+40A. Both alternatives have their pluses and minuses but SQ wise, which one is better?

Starting at which NAP level do the passive 40s sound better than active 40s? 300? 500?

Dan.S posted:

So, to recap:

It costs about the same to keep the 272+250DR and buy the SCM40 or to sell the 250DR and get the 272+40A. Both alternatives have their pluses and minuses but SQ wise, which one is better?

Starting at which NAP level do the passive 40s sound better than active 40s? 300? 500?

Given no price difference I would get the SCM40A actives, I don’t think any level NAP with passive SCM40 will better the SCM40A due to the technically better design characteristics  of the actives. Then again I’ve never listened to any NAP amp with passive SCM40.

Dan.S posted:

So, to recap:

It costs about the same to keep the 272+250DR and buy the SCM40 or to sell the 250DR and get the 272+40A. Both alternatives have their pluses and minuses but SQ wise, which one is better?

Starting at which NAP level do the passive 40s sound better than active 40s? 300? 500?

If ATC offered an active version of a particular model i was interested in then to me, it would be a compromise sticking a passive crossover back into the mix. You really need to find that out for yourself though and see which route you prefer.

Technically better doesn't always translate into musically better.

Halloween Man posted:

Given no price difference I would get the SCM40A actives, I don’t think any level NAP with passive SCM40 will better the SCM40A due to the technically better design characteristics  of the actives. Then again I’ve never listened to any NAP amp with passive SCM40.

Statement level possibly? But seriously, for all practical purposes I would agree with this. Having heard SCM50 passives (£14k) + Vitus Signature power amp (£20k) against SCM100 actives (£18k) I would say the 50 passives weren't really in the same league. Appreciate it's not a like-for-like comparison but as ATC will happily tell you, there's no quality difference between 50's, 100's, 150's etc., just pick one based on the bass extension and max SPL required. My feeling when hearing the above comparison was that the 50's passive were significantly behind to the point that it was unlikely any further improvement in power amps would get them performing better than the 100 actives.

jon honeyball posted:

For myself, if i was moving forward from my sixpack DBL solution, the items on dem would be:

1) kudos 808 driven actively by my existing amp stack

2) magico driven by 300DR -- why not 500DR? Cos the money difference helps buy bigger/better magicos

3) some form of active ATC, given my love of my little (passive) ATC11's

Not sure I would bother with anything else, to be honest.

jon

Yes, Naim no  longer manufacturers speakers.

Active Ovators $$$$$$

If you're lucky, DBLs, SL2s, maybe Briks!

In an ongoing thread, a gentleman got lucky, found a Brand new pair of SBLs, with crossovers.

Of course, he should utilize his 52, and go Active, but that's his call!

And as Jon Clearly States, If he was moving forward, from Naim's Iconic DBLs, those would be his choices.

Don't expect to see his thread anytime in the near future!

But a valid point, that's a lot of cash for Brand new Speaker Technology, to disregard the crossover.

Allante93!

PS. The Pioneers 

Peter Walker~ Speakers

Ivon ~ TT > Briks

Julian ~ Amps > DBLs

Hell of a System you got, Jon!

And Mr. tonym!

 

 

Hi all,

future owner of a pair of SCM40A (I've placed an order last week).

So this topic is like parmesan cheese on macaroni...

The idea is to coupled them with the 272 "naked" (I'll consider the PS upgrade next year...).

Which kind of termination do you suggest?
RCA to XLR or DIN to XLR?

Thanks!

Marco

joerand posted:

One non-trivial hitch to consider with the active speakers; plugging them into power. I found no information on ATC's site as to the power cords or their length. Depending on the room configuration (dedicated spur, location of outlets) it could become a factor, even if only unsightly, but I suppose that can always be dealt with by a sparky if the actives sound good enough.

Joe

I think the ATCs have IEC sockets.  I do not know how long are the leads supplied by ATC, but it is certainly possible to purchase long "kettle leads" at least in the UK.

I now wonder how long it will be before some owner of the SCM40As tries a pair of Naim Powerlines.  I anticipate the "... better than a pair of box upgrades" post soon

Roger

joerand posted:

One non-trivial hitch to consider with the active speakers; plugging them into power. I found no information on ATC's site as to the power cords or their length. Depending on the room configuration (dedicated spur, location of outlets) it could become a factor, even if only unsightly, but I suppose that can always be dealt with by a sparky if the actives sound good enough.

 

Ignoring dedicated mains supplies to the hifi electronics position, most rooms have several mains supplies dotted around, so that it is not far from anywhere to a mains point. (At least, that is my experience, and I have ensured it when I've wired houses.)

Regarding power leads etc . The info I received from the very un-pushy dealer who demoed me Active 50s was that the ones supplied more than suffice , in fact on inspecting the rear I doubt the Powerline IEC would fit . Personally I would add something like a Powerline Lite or similar as icing on the cake . The thought of reduced connections , fewer boxes and lack of speaker cables is as appealing as the superb sound I heard in an untreated room . 

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