ATC SCM11s: any alternatives?

Guys and gals:

I have finally decided to upgrade (but keep) my beloved old Heybrook HB1s (bought at the end of 1984 from the old Sound Org shop at London Bridge).

With £1,500 to spend (including stands)  a visit to my dealer earlier yielded the suggestion of ATC SCM11s. Nice and compact, decent WAF scores and rave reviews. I've heard them in another context and was pretty wowed by them.

I've got a listening room demo booked for next week, with the option of taking them home for a week or two before buying. I don't really want to spend weeks faffing about comparing speakers and I don't have a penny more than £1,500 to spend. Once I hear something that has the qualities of the HB1s - fun, speed, leanness etc - but better, that's what I'll buy. (And if the ATCs don't offer a massive improvement on what I've already got, I might replace my Lingo 2 with a Lingo 4 instead...)

However if anyone has any suggestions (my dealer also stocks B&W - I have to say I'm not a huge fan of the B&Ws I've heard, I think they're boring - Rega, PMC, Neat, Dynaudio, Focal - not a fan - and Linn speakers) that I might audition within my budget, they'll be gratefully received.

Cheers!

 

Original Post
Kevin-W posted:

Guys and gals:

I have finally decided to upgrade (but keep) my beloved old Heybrook HB1s (bought at the end of 1984 from the old Sound Org shop at London Bridge).

With £1,500 to spend (including stands)  a visit to my dealer earlier yielded the suggestion of ATC SCM11s. Nice and compact, decent WAF scores and rave reviews. I've heard them in another context and was pretty wowed by them.

I've got a listening room demo booked for next week, with the option of taking them home for a week or two before buying. I don't really want to spend weeks faffing about comparing speakers and I don't have a penny more than £1,500 to spend. Once I hear something that has the qualities of the HB1s - fun, speed, leanness etc - but better, that's what I'll buy. (And if the ATCs don't offer a massive improvement on what I've already got, I might replace my Lingo 2 with a Lingo 4 instead...)

However if anyone has any suggestions (my dealer also stocks B&W - I have to say I'm not a huge fan of the B&Ws I've heard, I think they're boring - Rega, PMC, Neat, Dynaudio, Focal - not a fan - and Linn speakers) that I might audition within my budget, they'll be gratefully received.

Cheers!

 

Yes - ProAc Tablette 10 Signatures, very similar price but different character entirely. I demo'd both back-to-back last week. I found the ATC's to be very balanced and neutral but ultimately short on detail. Loved the ProAc's - great soundstage, very revealing, good PRAT but not enough bass for my tastes, probably because of their diminutive stature but they did punch above their weight. 

If it were me I'd be looking to sample Dynaudio and PMC as well, both a great match for Naim (but so is ATC and ProAc for that matter).

In the end it really is down to personal taste, I hope you can do a home demo -it's the only way to be sure and not make a very expensive mistake!

Christopher_M posted:

I wonder if your NAP will struggle with the relative lack of sensitivity of the ATCs compared with the Heybrooks. A home dem will tell, if you can.

That was my initial thought too, Chris.  Then I reflected that years ago I had a pair of Heybrook HB2s (still in my loft somewhere), similar to Kevin's HB1s, and as I recall they were of low sensitivity too. However an A&R A60 drove them very well so maybe Kev's Nap 180 will be man enough.  

Just back from a demo at my dealer. There was an awful lot to like about the ATCs - lovely build, finish and looks; superb detail; great bass for their size; excellent imaging.

However - and this is really important to me, especially having lived with the Hetbrooks for 34 years - and that is that they were slightly lacking in excitement.

Then my dealer swapped them for a pair of PMC 25.21s. Wow! It was love at first listen. All the qualities of the ATCs, but bags of punch and a really high boogie factor (playing the Dan's "Royal Scam" on vinyl was a revelation).

Trouble is they are £800 more expensive, so that means I'll have to wait a few months before I commit, but I will definitely demo these at home once funds allow, because they produce the kind of sound I am looking for.

They look cool, Kevin. Laid back, even 

Presumably you've budgeted for matching stands?

Always better to wait for something you know feels right than plump for a sub-optimal change because it's available now.  A few months won't feel long given the many years you've had the HB1s.

M

 

Yes absolutely Mike. I was so glad I heard them (PMCs) because I was a tad disappointed by the ATCs, for all their good points. I don't think i could have lived with them long term. I like the PMC stands as well so yes I will have to factor those in.

Hopefully in January I will be all sorted speaker-wise...

Kevin-W posted:

Yes absolutely Mike. I was so glad I heard them (PMCs) because I was a tad disappointed by the ATCs, for all their good points. I don't think i could have lived with them long term. I like the PMC stands as well so yes I will have to factor those in.

Hopefully in January I will be all sorted speaker-wise...

I'll look forward to the update and photos, Kevin

Richard Dane posted:

HB2s - now they were just a great pair of speakers.  One of my early epiphany moments was listening to Grace Jones on a friend's Sondek, Quantum pre/power amp and Heybrook HB2 system.

Hi Richard,

Not wishing to stray off topic, we went to see Grace this  year and she was fantastic. Totally blown away, great entertainer and fabulous singing which and I don’t know why came as a pleasant surprise.

Anyways...speakers!!!

 

Christopher_M posted:
Kevin-W posted:

However - and this is really important to me, especially having lived with the Hetbrooks for 34 years - and that is that [the ATCs] were slightly lacking in excitement.

Maybe they needed a bit more up em.

The PMCs sound more than hopeful.

Absolutely, very much about system synergy.. the ATCs are very transparent, but they won’t add any tizz or bass warmth if not there... the 25.21 are an interesting speaker... good extension, and they can liven things up, and look quite hitec... but perhaps not best on high end amplification in my experience as the treble relative coarseness and slightly sat upon dynamics start to show through... but that was  on the end of 552 and Statement system... perhaps not their natural partners

FWIW having recently tested the ATC's, ProAc Tabs and the PMC's I fell down on the side of the PMC's too. They deliver a similar experience to my current Dynaudio's but are less fussy in placement. 

In terms of price - seek out some ex-demo's and don't forget about the trade-in value of your current speakers too. That will lighten the load on your wallet and save you running-in hours to boot!

Definitely audition at home for a good week or so with long listening sessions before committing. Speaker and room are the hardest things in my experience to get right. In your room at home the PMCs might be a little too exciting, and the ATCs just right, or you may find the PMCs perfect as you did at the dealers.

I'm a big fan of both ATC and PMC. When auditioning PMCs I found no toe in or at least a tiny bit of toe in helped balance the top end.

I have the ATC SCM11 and couldn’t be happier. Their neutrality, speed and insight are well suited to my ears. One thing that is critical is the type of stands used. I have mine placed on Custom Design FS104 signature stands which work very well. I’m also led to believe that they are generally more suited to an open stand design.

Ian.

Kevin-W posted:

Just back from a demo at my dealer. There was an awful lot to like about the ATCs - lovely build, finish and looks; superb detail; great bass for their size; excellent imaging.

However - and this is really important to me, especially having lived with the Hetbrooks for 34 years - and that is that they were slightly lacking in excitement.

Then my dealer swapped them for a pair of PMC 25.21s. Wow! It was love at first listen. All the qualities of the ATCs, but bags of punch and a really high boogie factor (playing the Dan's "Royal Scam" on vinyl was a revelation).

Trouble is they are £800 more expensive, so that means I'll have to wait a few months before I commit, but I will definitely demo these at home once funds allow, because they produce the kind of sound I am looking for.

A couple of years ago I auditioned the SCM11s at home against their junior siblings, the SCM7s. I found the SCM11 better in the technical sense: more open, more neutral, more detailed, more even top to bottom tonality, bigger and deeper stereo image, and so on. But after switching back and forth over a period of a week, I concluded that I preferred the SCM7s. Although cut from the same sonic cloth, they sounded more cohesive and did a better job of transmitting the excitement in the music (which might be a roundabout way of saying I found the SCM11s a little boring). To my ears, they just sounded that bit more natural and lifelike, albeit at the expense of a somewhat smaller sound. I ended up buying them, and have no regrets.

About a year ago I started reading rave reviews of the ProAc Tablette 10. If I was in the market for speakers again, these would be at the top of my list. In fact, I might just see if I can wangle a home audition from my friendly local Naim dealer. Just for curiosity …

Corry posted:
Kevin-W posted:

Just back from a demo at my dealer. There was an awful lot to like about the ATCs - lovely build, finish and looks; superb detail; great bass for their size; excellent imaging.

However - and this is really important to me, especially having lived with the Hetbrooks for 34 years - and that is that they were slightly lacking in excitement.

Then my dealer swapped them for a pair of PMC 25.21s. Wow! It was love at first listen. All the qualities of the ATCs, but bags of punch and a really high boogie factor (playing the Dan's "Royal Scam" on vinyl was a revelation).

Trouble is they are £800 more expensive, so that means I'll have to wait a few months before I commit, but I will definitely demo these at home once funds allow, because they produce the kind of sound I am looking for.

A couple of years ago I auditioned the SCM11s at home against their junior siblings, the SCM7s. I found the SCM11 better in the technical sense: more open, more neutral, more detailed, more even top to bottom tonality, bigger and deeper stereo image, and so on. But after switching back and forth over a period of a week, I concluded that I preferred the SCM7s. Although cut from the same sonic cloth, they sounded more cohesive and did a better job of transmitting the excitement in the music (which might be a roundabout way of saying I found the SCM11s a little boring). To my ears, they just sounded that bit more natural and lifelike, albeit at the expense of a somewhat smaller sound. I ended up buying them, and have no regrets.

About a year ago I started reading rave reviews of the ProAc Tablette 10. If I was in the market for speakers again, these would be at the top of my list. In fact, I might just see if I can wangle a home audition from my friendly local Naim dealer. Just for curiosity …

I found the Tabs to be faster than the ATCs when testing both speakers back-to-back with a deeper and higher soundstage, more dynamics and greater detail, particularly on vocals. However, they were a tad light on bass for my tastes. Overall, I preferred them to the ATCs but not as much as the PMC Twenty5.21 or the Dynaudio Contours I own today but they are more expensive. 

I agree with Ancient Mariner, the stands are critical, seemingly more so on a neatral speaker like ATC range and very much set the performance envelope. I have found open wooden tripod stands work best (RA) and bring the best balance of agility, timing and clarity with lower mid warmth, good bass extension and a beautiful lack of HF smearing, a fault in my humble opinion of many many setups. I found high mass stands tended to rob the life from the ATCs and add too much warmth, and HF smearing.. and metal open frame stands tended to thin the lower mids too much but timed well..... certainly on my system 

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

I agree with Ancient Mariner, the stands are critical, seemingly more so on a neatral speaker like ATC range and very much set the performance envelope. I have found open wooden tripod stands work best (RA) and bring the best balance of agility, timing and clarity with lower mid warmth, good bass extension and a beautiful lack of HF smearing, a fault in my humble opinion of many many setups. I found high mass stands tended to rob the life from the ATCs and add too much warmth, and HF smearing.. and metal open frame stands tended to thin the lower mids too much but timed well..... certainly on my system 

That is really very insightful  - most hi-fi enthusiasts understand the importance of rigid well dampened stands and speakers and know the choice of material affects how a rack can colour music, but I've never ever considered applying this seriously to speaker stands. I've generally bought the stands the speaker manufacturer recommended which are often relabelled versions of others, so can be quite generic I imagine. Having said that, some speakers have the stands integrated, such as Wilson Benesch so there's no choice in the matter? Interesting subject, got me thinking now.....

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

 the 25.21 are an interesting speaker... good extension, and they can liven things up, and look quite hitec... but perhaps not best on high end amplification in my experience as the treble relative coarseness and slightly sat upon dynamics start to show through... but that was  on the end of 552 and Statement system... perhaps not their natural partners

Interesting observation Simon. Sadly, top-end amplification isn't a problem I have to worry about... I only have a 72-Hi-180

Kevin-W posted:
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

 the 25.21 are an interesting speaker... good extension, and they can liven things up, and look quite hitec... but perhaps not best on high end amplification in my experience as the treble relative coarseness and slightly sat upon dynamics start to show through... but that was  on the end of 552 and Statement system... perhaps not their natural partners

Interesting observation Simon. Sadly, top-end amplification isn't a problem I have to worry about... I only have a 72-Hi-180

Is chopping in the NAP180 for a NAP250, and going for the ATCs of interest?

Christopher_M posted:

Is chopping in the NAP180 for a NAP250, and going for the ATCs of interest?

That's an interesting idea Chris... do you think it's one worth pursuing? I'm presuming you're of the opinion that the 250's extra welly would make the ATCs more exciting? Do you have any experience in this?

Kevin-W posted:
Christopher_M posted:

Is chopping in the NAP180 for a NAP250, and going for the ATCs of interest?

That's an interesting idea Chris... do you think it's one worth pursuing? I'm presuming you're of the opinion that the 250's extra welly would make the ATCs more exciting? Do you have any experience in this?

FWIW, I  didn't think much of the ATC SCM11s, musically, either, and that was with 52/250.

Kevin-W posted:
Christopher_M posted:

Is chopping in the NAP180 for a NAP250, and going for the ATCs of interest?

That's an interesting idea Chris... do you think it's one worth pursuing? I'm presuming you're of the opinion that the 250's extra welly would make the ATCs more exciting? Do you have any experience in this?

I thought it worth pursuing because it might give you gratification now rather than waiting for a few months. Depends what you want.

I don't have experience of running ATCs with any amp, large or small. But early in my NaimLife I was infatuated with IBLs. After running them with relatively small amplifiers by Naim standards, and I noticed that most people who liked them on the forum ran them with a NAP250. In the end I preferred to find some speakers to match my existing amp but my IBL experience struck me as an essentially similar 'problem' to what you are facing with the ATCs, basically a relatively insensitive speaker that could probably do with something more spunky.

It sort of becomes a question of do you want the double change? Obviously you'd have to satisfy yourself in advance that a NAP250 makes the ATCs do what you want.

Hope that helps.

C.

Hi Kevin,

 I still remember my encounter with the Heybrook HB 1 back in the eighties. They looked old fashioned compared to the other speakers the dealer had in his shop and I was surprised to hear that they could take on most of them. Now that was long ago and apart from knowing that they were nice, I have no idea how they actually sounded.

One speaker on my own shortlist hasn’t been mentioned, the Wilson Benesch Square One. Are they within your financial comfort zone?

Corry posted:
kuma posted:

No contest.

ATC FTW! 

Did you mean no contest between SCM7 and ProAc Tab 10, or between SCM 11 and PMC 25.21?

Corry,

My pick will be ATC against any Proac or PMC. ( I haven't heard all of their models but don't have much high hopes for them )

I'd take the SCM7 over 11 which I feel they might have been dumbed down somewhat.

SCM7 on a high mass stand with a decent amp is highly satisfying and not many speakers large or small can touch it.

kuma posted:
Corry posted:
kuma posted:

No contest.

ATC FTW! 

Did you mean no contest between SCM7 and ProAc Tab 10, or between SCM 11 and PMC 25.21?

Corry,

My pick will be ATC against any Proac or PMC. ( I haven't heard all of their models but don't have much high hopes for them )

I'd take the SCM7 over 11 which I feel they might have been dumbed down somewhat.

SCM7 on a high mass stand with a decent amp is highly satisfying and not many speakers large or small can touch it.

My initial audition of the SCM7 was with my Linn Katan stands – conveniently, the tapered footprint of the SCM7 matched the top plate of the Katan stands almost exactly. Once I’d bought them I ordered a pair of Custom Design FS104s, along with the filling material, following the consensus that ATCs are happiest on heavy stands. But I found these ultimately underwhelming. They brought great solidity and focus to the sound – unbelievable bass from such small boxes! –  but at the expense of flow and PRaT. I then ordered a pair of custom built Something Solid stands, which, despite the name, are light, welded frames, and these seem to work best of all. Maybe less bass and less detail than the FS104s, but a lively, organic, engaging sound. Simon-in-Suffolk, of this forum, has extensive experience with ATC speakers, and favours wooden stands.

I still have the FS104s in my basement, and I might give them a shot again, if the experimentation itch ever strikes. Or maybe I’ll try to track down some wooden stands. My only previous speakers were Katans and Kans, both of which come with stands, so it was quite the learning experience to discover just how crucial a role the stand plays.

 

I used to use Sound Anchor with my SCM10. I sold those stands to my friends but ever since I am regretting. Now 10s are no a light stand ( not filled ) they just don't have the same solidity as they used to. BTW, you don't want to sill the stands all the way. maybe 3/4 way would do. Filling stands were like almost tuning a Mana glass. lol. fill and listen fill more and listen. 

You don't get the highest degree of details with 7s, but what a fun little speakers! Faster than 11s or 19s for that matter, too.

Corry posted:
kuma posted:
Corry posted:
kuma posted:

No contest.

ATC FTW! 

Did you mean no contest between SCM7 and ProAc Tab 10, or between SCM 11 and PMC 25.21?

Corry,

My pick will be ATC against any Proac or PMC. ( I haven't heard all of their models but don't have much high hopes for them )

I'd take the SCM7 over 11 which I feel they might have been dumbed down somewhat.

SCM7 on a high mass stand with a decent amp is highly satisfying and not many speakers large or small can touch it.

My initial audition of the SCM7 was with my Linn Katan stands – conveniently, the tapered footprint of the SCM7 matched the top plate of the Katan stands almost exactly. Once I’d bought them I ordered a pair of Custom Design FS104s, along with the filling material, following the consensus that ATCs are happiest on heavy stands. But I found these ultimately underwhelming. They brought great solidity and focus to the sound – unbelievable bass from such small boxes! –  but at the expense of flow and PRaT. I then ordered a pair of custom built Something Solid stands, which, despite the name, are light, welded frames, and these seem to work best of all. Maybe less bass and less detail than the FS104s, but a lively, organic, engaging sound. Simon-in-Suffolk, of this forum, has extensive experience with ATC speakers, and favours wooden stands.

I still have the FS104s in my basement, and I might give them a shot again, if the experimentation itch ever strikes. Or maybe I’ll try to track down some wooden stands. My only previous speakers were Katans and Kans, both of which come with stands, so it was quite the learning experience to discover just how crucial a role the stand plays.

 

Interesting that you found the FS104 stands underwhelming. I’m just wondering if the filling material and the amount used had impacted on the sound somewhat? Just a guess. I use the SF104 signature with my SCM11 but I decided not to use any filling material.

When I auditioned the SCM11 at my dealer they placed them on what I think were Target stands. Not open frame but a solid central post design and quite close to the back wall. Have to say they sounded a million times better in my living room when placed on the FS104 signature stands and positioned to my liking.

I find in my room and on my system they have boogie factor by the truckload with a reasonably powerful but well controlled bass. The midrange and highs produce excellent clarity and accuracy.

My SCM11 are placed 14 inches away from a solid brick wall and on a solid concrete and carpeted floor with no toe in. 

Ian.

kuma posted:

I used to use Sound Anchor with my SCM10. I sold those stands to my friends but ever since I am regretting. Now 10s are no a light stand ( not filled ) they just don't have the same solidity as they used to. BTW, you don't want to sill the stands all the way. maybe 3/4 way would do. Filling stands were like almost tuning a Mana glass. lol. fill and listen fill more and listen. 

You don't get the highest degree of details with 7s, but what a fun little speakers! Faster than 11s or 19s for that matter, too.

If memory serves, I filled them about 2/3 of the way up, or whatever the recommendation was. It's possible I would have liked them better with less fill. If I ever dig them out again I will definitely start off with them empty, then add a couple of inches of fill at a time, and fine tune the sound that way.

I think the fun factor was what sold me on the 7. Very expressive speakers, but still quite neutral and insightful. Reminds me ever so slightly of the Kan, but without that untamed, fatiguing, edge-of-the-seat quality.

Re Mana, my phase 4 shelf under my Linn is long overdue for a rebuild, so I'll be revisiting that fun experience this weekend.

Corry posted:
I think the fun factor was what sold me on the 7. Very expressive speakers, but still quite neutral and insightful. Reminds me ever so slightly of the Kan, but without that untamed, fatiguing, edge-of-the-seat quality.

Re Mana, my phase 4 shelf under my Linn is long overdue for a rebuild, so I'll be revisiting that fun experience this weekend.

Interesting that they remind you of Kans. The 7s I have heard reminded me of Sara but more neutral. What I love about ATC is that they are not fussy and can certainly take some beating yet never give up. They continuously kept me engaged. Plus, nothing reproduce better tone of piano than the ATC.

Phase 4 Mana! 

Yikes!@ :0

Certain,y there is no concencus that ATCs are happiest on high mass stands.. quite the contrary... I have been an ATC customer longer than I have been a Naim customer and I have always found every high mass stand I have tried over the years thickens the sound, smears the HF and the sound becomes quite frankly to my ears dull and lifeless... you might as well not bother with ATC drivers. Now my dealer put me onto open frame sounds with ATC many years ago and what a revelation .. at the time I used Something Solid stands... the timing and agility increased and the unnatural bass prominence lessened, and the imaging appeared as well as detail.. what I later learnt was through reduced treble smearing.

As my amps increased in quality I migrated ATC speaker and also migrated to open frame torlyte platform stands and to me they are simply awesome.. and really show what my ATCs and my 552/250 can deliver. My garage was full of various high mass stand cast offs that I had collected over the years .. thankfully the local scrap metal merchant has picked them all up now and I am rid of them..

The other myth is that you need high power amps to wake modern ATCs up.. rubbish... it’s simply not the case with the newer designs, the agility and detail is there with quite modest amps. I agree some of the models of 10 years ago needed a little bit power as they had quite a demanding cross over.. but that has changed with the new curved case designs, but yes low power won’t get you to party levels and I wouldn’t go below say 30 Watts (which these days is hardly high power) of a quality amp. I have enjoyed running my SCMs on a NaitXS.. yes the bass is a little warm and soft, but there is plenty of spark and bounce.

Simon

kuma posted:
Corry posted:
I think the fun factor was what sold me on the 7. Very expressive speakers, but still quite neutral and insightful. Reminds me ever so slightly of the Kan, but without that untamed, fatiguing, edge-of-the-seat quality.

Re Mana, my phase 4 shelf under my Linn is long overdue for a rebuild, so I'll be revisiting that fun experience this weekend.

Interesting that they remind you of Kans. The 7s I have heard reminded me of Sara but more neutral. What I love about ATC is that they are not fussy and can certainly take some beating yet never give up. They continuously kept me engaged. Plus, nothing reproduce better tone of piano than the ATC.

Phase 4 Mana! 

Yikes!@ :0

I only ever heard the Sara once, but on the end of a system that wasn't up to doing them justice. They certainly sounded fun, and I've always been curious to hear them properly.

I listened to some late Liszt the other day via the 7s, and it was the first time I've ever heard a concert grand in my system without feeling like it was on the edge of losing its composure. The 7s are certainly the most bullet-proof speaker I've had in my home. A few months ago I put on the Ludwig hot mix of Led Zeppelin II, and I shut the 250 down, which startled me, as the system wasn't sounding even close to being distressed. Live and learn ;-)

Living with Mana's a bit of a pain, but the phase 4 shelf is the best sounding support I've heard under my Linn. I should be doing the rebuild a couple of times a year, but I can't summon the motivation.

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