We have used ATC SCM50 speakers for well over a decade as our reference audio speakers. Over that time, they’ve been connected to just about every piece of electronics we’ve tested, from budget microsystems (just for fun, you understand) to monster pre/powers that cost Porsche money. In all that time, and with those hundreds of components, they have never let us down.
Our reference audio speakers need to be transparent to the sources and amplifiers we test, and these ATCs meet that need perfectly. In addition, they are honest, even-handed speakers who do not twist the signal they are fed.
Their sensitivity is 85dB/W/m, so even budget amplifiers can work with them to decent volume levels, though not ear-splitting levels.
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Based on a comparison of the ATC SCM50s audio speakers with most rivals, there doesn’t seem to be much to shout about. Built in a pretty traditional manner, they are large three-way stand mounters. Neither the speaker’s design nor the materials used in its drive units or cabinet seem particularly high-tech or innovative.
However, that shouldn’t be taken as a negative. A close look at the ATC SCM50s audio speakers shows that the company’s focus is always on solid engineering. All three drive units have been designed and built in-house. Usually, rivals purchase off-the-shelf drivers from a big OEM, such as Scanspeak or SEAS.
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ATC SCM50 AUDIO SPEAKERS TECH SPECS
- Sensitivity of 85dB
- 8-ohm impedance
- Measurements (hwd): 717 x 304 x 425mm
- Weight 41.1kg
These are not your average drive units. Its roots are firmly planted in the Pro world, where reliability and high power handling are vital requirements. However, these are not ATC’s only goals. The company’s engineers value low distortion and dynamic ability and have taken years to develop these units, putting them into production only when all the boxes have been checked. It has carefully evolved the ATC SCM50s audio speakers overtime when improvements are possible.
Additionally, the brand doesn’t like hard cone materials such as aluminum – they ring – so it is no surprise that both the 25mm tweeter and 75mm midrange-range unit use well-damped fabric dome diaphragms. The 23cm woofer with a fiber and resin composite cone produces the low frequencies tuned by a large, front-facing port. There are three sets of terminals in the back, so it is possible to tri-wire, or even better, tri-amp.
ATC SM50 Review:
ATC has long promoted active speakers, and most of its products come with powered variants. The active ATC SCM50 audio speakers cost £13,075 and include three power amplifiers per cabinet that add 350W. That option seems tempting given the technical advantages of active operation and the price of a stand-alone high-end power amplifier with that much grunt.
What about the enclosure of the ATC SCM50 audio speakers? This is a 72cm tall solid rectangular wooden box covered in natural wood veneer. The size of the speaker requires a short stand, and the company makes a specially designed frame just for this purpose. Standard finishes include black ash, cherry, maple, oak, rosewood, and walnut.
To shine at this level, any speaker needs a system to handle it. We use our usual reference Naim NDS/555 PS music streamer and Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood turntable package as sources, followed by a Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R2 phono stage and Gamut D3i/D200i amplifier further down the signal path. However, we use a mix of Chord Company and Audioquest cables.
In a word, we would describe the ATC’s sound as ‘honest.’ There is no treble sparkle or bass thump to spice things up. They strive to reproduce the signal faithfully.
Think about that for a moment. The ATC SCM50s speakers will reveal the character of your system’s electronics or the recording you’re playing. A forward or aggressive character will sound like that. Equally, play a great recording on a capable set-up, and the ATCs will sound fantastic. They only reflect what they’re fed.
Despite this, the ATC SCM50s speakers aren’t fussy about musical genres. They possess the dynamic punch and organizational abilities to make the most of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Despite being pushed hard, they never appear fazed or stressed. There’s no shortage of authority here, as the ATC speakers deliver a solid, meaty presentation when required.
As you would expect from a speaker born from the monitoring world, they have a neutral tone and image well if you position them carefully. It is best to place the ATV SCM50s speakers away from rear and side walls and slightly angled towards the listening seat in our test room. However, to tighten the focus, we prefer the offset tweeters to be on the inside. Soundstage is broad and layered, solidly focused, and pleasingly stable.
Consider Jay-Z’s Blueprint, where the ATCs take the album’s hard-charging rhythms in stride. Furthermore, there is an impressive amount of attack in this and the ability to track a variety of instrumental strands without becoming confused.
Whether it’s a nuance in Jay-Z’s rapid-fire delivery or the texture of a bass sound, these ATCs capture a lot of information unforcedly. Speakers don’t go out of their way to emphasize details. The information is presented in a balanced, natural, and convincing manner.
Verdict: ATC Speakers Summary:
We often find rival speakers – usually more expensive – that are better than these ATC speakers, whether it’s outright resolution, stereo imaging, or rhythmic precision.
We haven’t found something as good as an all-around tool or as practical as a day-to-day review tool despite our efforts. It’s quite incredible to think that ATC SCM50 speakers have survived since the mid-80s. Excellent engineering never goes out of style.