The SCM40 replaced the reference loudspeakers that I use on a regular basis (ATC SCM50 PSL) and was driven by a Parasound HCA3500. The rest of the system was as usual with a Teac Esoteric P70/D70 (at 4x upsampling and dual AES-3 connection between the transport and the DAC, using a pair of Nirvana DC-110 cables) and the Melos Plus Series Line tube preamplifier.
Placement of the loudspeaker proved to be rather easy. I chose a place with a distance of about half a meter from the back walls and 2.6m from the listening position. Leveling of the loudspeaker was made with relative ease using the adjustable spikes.
The fact that the reference loudspeaker belongs to the same company is certainly a review parameter that should not go unremarked. The truth is that the ATC sound character is well known and likeable to me despite the fact that often the 50s can be frustrating if the recording and/or production quality are below average. So the first question to be answered here is this: are there any strong similarities between the two loudspeakers and if the answer is “yes”what are they? The short answer to this question is, indeed, “yes”, enough to be considered as closely related sound-wise, but certainly not enough to be considered as similar.
First, it takes just a few minutes of serious listening to understand that the basic sound characteristics ATC is known of are present in SCM40. The loudspeaker is able to create an excellent stereo image with highly accurate description of the position of individual sound objects, the air between them and the feeling of movement in the sound stage. The listener has a sense of proximity and receives a full description of the sound mix with a lot of detail and depth information, qualities that make the whole listening experience enjoyable especially in high quality recordings. These attributes make the listening to small groups and orchestras quite interesting. On the other hand, the ability of the loudspeaker to reproduce fine details and the ability to follow -without any problems- the dynamics of the composition, even at high levels (given a potent amplifier), offers a sense of comfort in the case of large symphonic works with multiple sound stage levels and numerous organic groups. The SCM40 fills the space with an imposing manner and does not seem to have the slightest problem with the orchestra size, or the kind of the instruments used or the listening level. Obviously this is an all around highly capable loudspeaker we are talking about here.


SCM40 proved to be quite good in the low frequency region, with good extension and control, capable to offer a detailed description of both acoustic and electronic instruments rich in low frequency components. Rhythm section was quite fast and clear, even in some high SPL listening sessions, without showing any sign of compression or any tendency towards a tiresome character. Compared with the SCM50 used as the reference (a loudspeaker in a different price range, with a larger woofer and reflex loading, therefore quite different) the SCM40 sounded tighter and perhaps a little bit over-controlled (to my taste that is) leaving a desire for something more in the lowest end of the spectrum. Probably, this is a price one must pay for an accurate and not boomy and somewhat exaggerated result in this price. Additionally, the long travel suspension of the woofer offered not only the possibility of high level and undistorted sound but also the ability to work seamlessly in a digitally equalized system, where long woofer excursions are sometimes required. Indeed, it took some effort to reach the limit of the loudspeaker and when this was done it happened at a very high level, at least for this particular set up.
Quality of the mid band reproduction is probably among the strongest sides in SCM40s sound identity, and this should be probably attributed to the midrange driver being used. The loudspeaker proved extremely clear and detailed though at the same time it appears that there is a character somewhat tolerant to mediocre recordings. The differences at this point between the SCM40 and the reference loudspeaker is -to my opinion- small but crucial. The general impression here is that we are dealing with a design decision to offer a loudspeaker that is just a little more pleasant to the ear and acceptable to a wider group of listeners than just to present another studio monitor. Musical instruments were characterized by very good presence while voices, both solo and chorus, were detailed, perfectly focused and with very good description of both the feeling of motion and the transition between different groups in the sound stage.
The high-frequency part of the spectrum had its own significance, because of the new tweeter. Given that we are facing a driver designed by ATC (persistently and thoroughly I would say, based on time spent…), we are justified to assume this is a real world incarnation of their views about how a tweeter (and a whole loudspeaker, in fact) should sound in this category. Well, I tend to agree with their point of view and I think that we are dealing with one of the best products reviewed in this class within the last few years. SCM40 offers a live, transparent high frequency region, with a good sense of scale, correct time related sound attributes and creates the impression that you are listening to a loudspeaker that is neither stingy nor excessive in its description of harmonic content, just neutral. Compared with the reference loudspeaker the SCM40 lied on the slightly thinner side, and was somewhat hasty in the decay/release parts of impulsive sounds but given the price difference this is something easily accepted and not annoying. Everything considered, the overall feel of the SCM40 appears to be founded in the synergy between the two drivers (the midrange and the tweeter) and at this point ATC seems to have done a very god job, indeed.


It is clear that the SCM40 includes some of the key elements that have made ATC especially likeable to a specific audience: It is an accurate, neutral loudspeaker with some considerable potential for high SPL listening. However, this is not just a “carrying out” design and the SCM40 does not represent just a monitor in a lower price range. Instead, it seems that we are dealing with a product designed with the discerning listener in mind. A listener with a music collection both significant in size and variable in quality, who needs to take advantage of this collection by using an all around and user-friendly loudspeaker. For anyone who belongs to this profile, the SCM40 sets -in my opinion- a reference level.

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