Review ATC SCM 40 A floorstanders.....finally

I thought I knew.  I thought I knew all about imaging, dynamics, resolution, PRaT, all the audiophile buzz words allowing one into the coded audiophile secret society pontifications.  I got schooled.  It’s called ACTIVE.  Everthing I’ve been yearning for has been solved with my new ATCs.  They just do musical reproduction with immediacy.  The attack is instantanious.  Bad recording, bad reproduction.  Great recording, great reproduction.  Period.  Fin.  Ende.

I’ve progressed through some fairly serious talent.  Great equipment I’ve enjoyed over the decades: always the journey, never having arrived at the ultimate destination.  I do not know why it took so long to depart the traditional souce, preamp, monoblocks, cabling and transducers formula.  I hope this encourages others to at least consider leaving the world of so many pieces and cabling.

System:  Naim UnitiServe with unknown serious external PSU, Nordost Valhalla II digital cable, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, Manley Neo Classic preamp with Takatsuki 300B tubes.  Decware ICs, Patrick Cullum Crossover II PCs, Furman IT Reference 15i power conditioner.  All components sit on Quadraspire Reference X stand.  Wireworld Silver Elipse 8 RCA to XLR interconnects from Manley 300B to ATCs.  Isoacoustics Gaia II footers.  I’m really there for now.  Tchau

Did you have a chance to hear them before ordering? How long did you have to wait?

Welcome to a rather exclusive club. There is nothing quite like Active ATCs. Revealing, immediate and yet entirely natural sounding.

You join the likes of Diana Krall to Mark Knopfler. Jack White to Coldplay to Sting to Enya to Pink Floyd. Countless musicians, studios and sound engineers.

This user list is far from exhaustive as I know many musicians using them that aren’t on the list like New Order drummer Stephen Morris.


I did not have the opportunity to listen first.  I researched exhaustively before ordering and the wait was 4 months.  I also allowed the dealer to keep them for another 2 as a courtesy to demo to others, so 6 months before taking them.

The effortless generation of music is uncanny.  I've owned Merlins, SA, Coincident, Manley Mahi Mahi mono blocks, Sugden A21SE and many other quality pieces.  All pale in comparison.  I wish I had made this one time buy a couple of years ago.  Although, I did enjoy owning dozens of pieces throughout the years.  Ciao 

All pale in comparison.

My experience exactly. I have been using ATCs in various forms since 1994. I keep auditioning other speakers - most recently a top of the line Monitor Audio. Other SOTA speakers are indeed extremely good and I could happily live with a couple of the great Wilson models, top of the line Focals, KEF and Harbeth to name a few. Most other designs just don’t work for me and a few seconds of listening can confirm that all too quickly - the majority sound too much like hi-fi with over emphasis here and there and the sense you are listening to individual drivers rather than natural instruments or vocals.
They must be wonderful speakers as I heard the ATC SCM 40's V2 a few weeks ago and was very impressed.  I DIDN'T hear the powered version, however.  These were powered by expensive Mac mono amps in an all Mac setup otherwise.  They wouldn't let me use my little Nuforce Ref 9 V3 SE monos w/TDSS Level 3 upgrades.  They would have sounded much more live, transparent, with great, instead of just OK bass.  I could tell after listening, these are very special speakers for all music--fun to listen to and you hear everything with great dynamics.  All in a speaker with a 1 ft. footprint.  I can only imagine what the powered version sounds like.

If I ever downsize from my current and forever Vapor Joule Blacks--as long as they don't crap out, these will be the first speakers I compare to.
Yeah, active ATCs are just a special breed.  Nothing like'em IME.  Congrats!!!  In a perfect world I'd have a pair of JA Pearls and active 40s or 50s I could switch out at will.  Both so awesome yet so special in different ways.  Sigh. 
How do they sound at low volume?  I'm curious if the new tweeter and/or different voicing have made the active domestic speakers sound better without needing to be turned up.  I have a pair of 2012ish 110s that have the old tweeter.  They're spectacular when cranked but less so at lower volume.  Part of it is definitely the old tweeter as it is not as resolving as the other drivers.  A perfect speaker would be able to emphasize the lows and highs a little at low volume but be perfectly flat at realistic volume.  
how wonderful !!!!!!!! enjoy the music. I get some time listening to them (ATC ) in studio, certainly revealing to source AND musical !!!

your front end is waaaay better than many give it credit for, IMo and I own two of the userves w Pardo Linear PSU.

IF you have jot already tried it, give an HRS damper block on top of the Uniti a try...yowsa...the usefve factory case rings like a bell...

happy happy for you

enjoy the music !!!! in good health


Thanks for the HRS damper suggestion.  Will follow up.  I have a Pardo PSU and it made a terrific difference.  Then somebody on A'gon had a different PSU and claimed it smoked the Pardo he also used.  Bought it used  from him and he was dead on.  It was crazy better.  Sometimes I hate this hobby.  There are no markings on the casework.  Ciao


They do lose some sparkle at low volume, but then don't most systems?  I will not say that they got flat, just less impressive.  But at moderate listening levels it all comes together.  I have not experienced my greatest fear, that of an overaggressive midrange.  Everything is so balanced, almost sweet.  That may be the Manley Neo Classic.  Ciao
@celtic66 --

They do lose some sparkle at low volume, but then don't most systems? I will not say that they got flat, just less impressive.  But at moderate listening levels it all comes together. 

First, congratulations on your active ATC's - great speakers :)

The "loss of sparkle" at lower volumes is not a unique observation where ATC speakers goes, so you've got to wonder about a possible tendency here. Personally I hear it differently and am inclined to instead focus on their traits at higher volumes, where you get the feeling they're dynamically less restricted than the vast majority of (direct radiating) hifi speakers. 

If anything ATC speakers are monitors in the best, or at least better sense of the word, meaning there's no added "sparkle" (the operative word, it seems), air or excess energy in the high frequencies, nor any boost, bloat or fatness in the lower frequencies - a sans loudness effect, if you will - and this may apply less favorably at lower volumes. Perhaps ATC speakers this way "clicks into place" better at more realistic volume levels that emulates live music SPL's and dynamics. 

Your observation therefore, from a certain perspective, is not without merit; horn speakers to me inherently "ignite" better at lower volumes compared to most any direct radiating alternative, which is one of the reasons I wound up going this sonic route instead (initially I had planned on buying the ATC SCM150 ASL Pro, one of the best speakers I've ever heard). 
 @celtic66 Crap...... mystery power supply indeed.... I know Paul Haynes in UK does one for the u-serve but that would be marked... my inclination is the new core which has NAIM LPSU
... argh

i also have HRS Nimbus under the serve, but I believe you have excellent rack, doubt that would help

enjoy !!!
The volume issue is simply that they are voiced at realistic music levels. The equal loudness contours effectvmeans that relatively speaking ATCs sweetspot (where treble and bass are balanced) is a little higher than your typical smilie EQ speaker.

Comparatively Harbeth, B&W and many others are voiced so that they have more bass and work better at lower volume. Of course, excessive bass will ruin the balance of sound at louder levels but most speakers aren’t capable of live loudness levels anyway. This is the pro aspect of the ATC design - the drivers play cleanly and without stress at relatively much louder/dynamic levels than other speakers.
What are considered the best ATC floorstanders, both overall and bang for the buck?   I am very much enjoying my passive SCM-11 v2.  

The best overall floor stander or “tower” in the ATC line up is the SCM 150 Active or SCM 50 Active (depending on room size with the 50 suitable for smaller rooms).

The best bang for the buck would be ATC SCM 40 Active. The 50 and upwards use the “super” version of the mid range dome.

I've never listened to either the SCM 150 or 50, but am aware of their physical size.  I can physically move my ATC 40s upstairs and set them up.  Doubtful with the other two.  The price of pursuing perfection.....back problems.
ATC are part of the glorious British family of wonderfull brands such as Proac, PMC and Harbeth. all great speakers that focusing on natural and neutral reproduction of music with great musicality .
Quested Active Speakers are something to look at as well. Hans Zimmer uses these in all his studios and post/Mixing production rooms.
Having heard the ATC 40A, 50 active and 100 active. I love all of them but when you hear the 100, everything sounds so complete.
+1 Quested. Quested used the ATC mid range which the testimonial from Hans Zimmer singles out. Some of the higher end PMC speakers used it too. Not sure if either of these companies still do, as Volt now makes a copy of ATC’s super dome. Both designs tend to have more bass emphasis than ATC.

PMC is another alternative to check out.
Are the ATC SCM50ASL Pro's the same as the "classic" or tower consumer hifi versions except for finish? 
Actually phantom_av, that is not current information.  Hans has Quested in his personal studio but all his work is mixed and produced on ATC and has been for 10 years?   His mix engineer Alan Meyerson (handling I believe all Remote Controls's pro output) is using ATC 100s as his LCR, 25s as his spares (similar driver complement to 40A) , and ATC passive PRO 12s (equal to SCM11's) with P1's on his surround channels.  Our pro division is in his room fairly regularly.  

Sonically yes, they are the same but the finish is a lot more than stain.  We use the same veneer house as Bentley and Maserati.  Consumer dealers service and support is WAY different than pro.  Pro dealers serve studio customers that are 100% self servicing. No long chats on the phone about cables or stands, no loaners, no on site service, no local service, etc.  Might be a rare exception, but its pretty much the way it is.   Also pro dealers have zero experience with consumer gear and consumer applications.  "A streamer?  You mean decorations for a party?"  You won't be asking a pro dealer about what cables sound like, turntables, tone arms, CD players, or music servers.  

I see consumer dealers get parts from us and service people's stuff locally.  Their customers deal with them, not us.  If you believe in the idea that advice is the key (ie. buying the right product is more important than buying what you think is good at the lowest price) then buying from a good consumer dealer you trust will save more money over time by avoiding a purchase error and supporting you when you have issues or problems.  


Reviving this thread. I’ve been living with the 40As for a few weeks now. Straight out the box they sounded fantastic. Coherent, natural, revealing yet sweet. 
Now that I got 100 hours on them, I am starting to hear some excessive brightness and edginess in the tweeter that I don’t think was there to begin with. Now, I don’t usually give much for the concept of burn-in, so I was not expecting any type of change to happen (I am usually more in brain-burn-in camp). If it is indeed a change and not just ear-fatigue, then it is not for the better. But then one could hope that this is just a phase and that the tweeter will settle with further burn-in. 
I am also not scared of using a bit of broad Q EQ, if it means I can return to the original sound I had. 
Comments and experiences would be much appreciated. 
tweeters do not need run in time, so something in the amp/cross section is entering to another phase. They are very nice speakers and real good value for money, i have heard the passive version.
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Nothing on this website is biblical.  That said, I have lived with my ATC 40 actives for three years now and found any acoustical anomalies, nasties or plain deficits identified upstream, rectified and clearly not the fault of ATC design.

I had some muddiness in the bass.  Corrected most of that with a Decware ZLC power conditioner.  Remnants remained so I upgraded to Patrick Cullen Crossover II PCs.  95% remedied.  Contacted Kara Chaffee at de Havilland and she recommended a particular rectifier tube to replace her stock preamp tube.  

All problems solved by addressing other parts of the system.

I run about 7 degrees of tow in.  Speakers on Isoacoustics Gaia II footers and carpet discs.  System in OP is as stands except for the Mercury 3 preamp and Furman power conditioner.

9radua1   I hope this helps, calms and/or validates your purchase.  Once you are able to successfully dial them in, they truly are frightening.  The immediacy of attack, dynamic range and detail should all be astounding.  Best of success in your listening endeavors.
Bass in the 40A not as tight as 19A. 19A and 50A use better Super Linear (SL) driver. A couple of reviewers more recently found the 40A midrange uninspiringly dry, something that could be overcome with other components. I did at first too, but am not so sure now.
I have the passives, Which I love. I tilted them back a bit and took the edge off of the tweeter. Also, for low volume, I’m using a Loki, which is easy to flip on  and off , and has absolutely no hum or noise or anything else. There’s plenty of information about this inexpensive EQ device from Schiit Online.
Also, to get the best sound, surprisingly I need to have no tow in at all in my space.
This is the most recent 40 right? I have no idea how this tweeter could possibly change. This tweeter is ATC’s handmade one, the same design and coil as the more expensive models use. It can dissipate huge amounts of power and keep working. We constantly measure them when pro or consumer speakers come in for service; we’ve never seen one change sound from new. Older ferrofluid models we used? Yes we’ve measured those changing, but not this ATC one.

I don’t know where to start but I’d think about other changes in the system and if they exist, bypass them. Did you change first reflection points somehow? Room? Anything different with source?  ATC's do make other system changes very easy to hear.

There is one thing I have heard of : people changing out speaker cables to a much heavier gauge (say 12) and running a longer run. These heavy cables raise capacitance and can affect top end negatively.

Maybe you could call your dealer and we get a conversation going?