ATC SCM100SE Loudspeaker Page 2

ATC's SE series cabinet has been completely redesigned to incorporate gently curved side panels, while using multilayer laminates throughout for greater stiffness and damping. The metal trim pieces – apparently conceived to add an 'Art Deco' touch – are finished using physical vapour deposition, giving a thin but very hard surface, here tinted to give the stainless steel a nickel/gold-like look. Also new for the SE models is the use of acid etching to create the very fine mesh cutouts for cooling in the rear amp cover, and to 'engrave' the text and logos.

sqnoteNot So Simple
Add in the discrete amp modules for the active operation, and their power supplies, and it's clear the SCM100SE is anything but the big, simple three-way speaker it seems at first glance. There's a lot going on here to make a large, powerful design capable of exceptional performance requiring nothing more than mains power and a connection from a preamp. In this case that meant a direct hook-up from the dCS Vivaldi One DAC/preamp [HFN Feb '18] in PM's listening room, using Chord Chameleon Silver balanced interconnect runs from the back of the room to the speakers, and with music sourced from our usual Melco N1Z server [HFN Jun '17].

Massive Attack
While one could never say these speakers disappear into the room once you start listening (for reasons which I think will already be obvious!), the big, wide-open balance is readily appreciable after just a short audition.


I've already mentioned ATC's studio heritage, and here it's very readily apparent in the way vast amounts of detail are conveyed from any recording played, from the deep, beautifully controlled bass grunt to the way even the finer nuances of the size and acoustic characteristics of the recording venue are revealed. If you're a stickler for every slide of finger on string, or revel in the way the sound of a choir decays into space after the last note sung, these are very much the speakers for you.

Equally, they also prove more than capable of doing the 'domestic PA system' thing when required, and those well-heeled customers with a penchant for partying will find that studio-inspired durability should make them just about unburstable even when run hard and long at significant levels. Opening up with 'Bullet Train' from Kyle Eastwood's Time Pieces set [Jazz Village JV 570034; 44.1kHz/24-bit], the SCM100SE speakers instantly show what they can do with a tight, deep rendition of Eastwood's bass. Simultaneously, the brass duo of Brandon Allen on sax and Quentin Collins on trumpet blasts into the track with real attack, the motive force of Ernesto Simpson's drums also crisp and motoring hard. It's a thrilling sound, aided by the ability of the speakers, with a little toe-in, to create a focused, precise soundstage, with good depth and width.

That ability when it comes to soundstaging also serves well the instrumental timbres of the Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim recording of Elgar's Symphony No 1 [Decca 478 9353; 96kHz/24-bit]. Here the sound has a real concert hall feel, from the ambience to the realistic layout of the orchestra, and is all the more thrilling for that and the absence of dynamic restraint.


It's something these big ATC speakers also do spectacularly well with the San Francisco Symphony/Tilson Thomas recording of Beethoven's Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II [SFS Media SFS0058; 96kHz/24-bit]. The orchestral sound is rich and resonant and the voices are packed with character – one moment dramatic, the next fluid and lyrical.

The same character means the SCM100SEs can rock hard, too. Gov't Mule's 'Have A Cigar', from the live Dark Side Of The Mule set [Provogue/Mascot PRD 7446 5] sees the speakers turning on the big slam, Warren Haynes' guitar aping David Gilmour almost note-perfect, while the drums of Matt Abts add a bit of boogie missing from the original. The live atmosphere is perfectly evoked by the clarity on offer, and enhances the sense of the event.

Through some systems this set can sound like a pale imitation of the Pink Floyd original, leading many to wonder whether they are listening to a tribute band or have simply missed the joke, but here the striking performances are revealed with all their vitality intact.

So far, so very impressive, and I had a hugely enjoyable time playing 'spot the detail' with the SCM100SEs in harness – you know, all that 'tube trains rumbling under the hall' and 'squeaky studio floor' stuff that delights on first hearing and then annoys you every time you play the music again. But after all, that's exactly what those studio monitors on which ATC built its fine reputation are all about – not just playing what's being recorded, mixed or mastered as well as possible, but also allowing the engineer to hear any flaws in the near-finished product, and put the errors right.

Brutal Truth
And therein lies the one and only 'but' with these speakers. Play so-so recordings, for example those with a bright or brash top-end, or those with the splashy production values popular in the mainstream a decade or two back, and the ATC SCM100SEs will reveal the deficiencies with brutal efficiency.


Listen to Sam Cook's 'Bring It On Home To Me', from the 2003 Portrait Of A Legend [ABKO 060249807446], and the sound is bright and hard. Switch to the shrill pomp-rock of 'Psycho' from Muse's Drones [Warner Bros; 96kHz/24-bit download], and while that big bass driver gives the low-end plenty of growl, the revealing midrange and tweeter deliver the abrasive top end in a manner that has you backing down the volume to save your ears.

Which is what they should do, as they offer a high degree of fidelity to the recording played. But this does have the effect of making some tracks or albums – which may include those you've previously enjoyed – all but unlistenable. Just don't shoot the messenger.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
You can hardly blame these speakers for being too revealing – after all, that's what hi-fi is supposed to be about. Yet while many will love the ability to hear deep into a mix, others may find the SCM100SEs harder to enjoy because they expose the shortcomings of many recordings. Those listeners may hanker for something smoother, as the debate continues whether more 'musical' just means 'coloured'.

Loudspeaker Technology Ltd
Gloucestershire, UK
Supplied by: Loudspeaker Technology Ltd
01285 760561