Bookshelf / standmount speaker impressions

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by rlow, Feb 10, 2020.

  1. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Hey, we can’t all be part of the Big Woofer Club. Sometimes you just need a smaller speaker.

    8CE4A67F-C2FD-4AC7-AEE3-29EDD65219FB.jpeg

    Rather than posting a thread for each speaker I’ve tried (which will probably have a limited number of impressions amongst members here) I thought I would create a general thread for posting impressions on a number of different speakers, similar to the IEMs thread.

    This would be for impressions of small speakers used in living/listening room type settings, not nearfield listening.

    For nearfield speaker impressions go here:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/nearfields-for-audiophile-listening.1466/

    Speakers of this type and size have their uses and they peculiarities, and are preferred by some people (and/or their spouses).

    To cover the bottom octaves, or to get sufficient bass slam/impact, you may need a subwoofer or two (but not always, depending on your needs and preferences).

    Some reasons why some people (myself included) prefer smaller speakers of this type include:
    • They fit better in smaller listening spaces
    • Better driver integration in some cases (especially for shorter listening distances)
    • Can be much cheaper relative to their floor standing counterparts
    • Potentially easier acoustic integration into a variety of environments due to limited low end (lots of exceptions to this obviously)
    • Potential for exceptional soundstage and imaging (although lots of large speakers can do this as well, but they may need a lot more room to do it in)
    • Similar to headphones (although not quite to the same degree) they can be easier to try out, swap, or to have multiple sets for various purposes/moods. Buying/swapping used pairs of smaller speakers and shipping them around is generally cheaper, easier, and less risky than big floorstanders
    • Less bass boom for the other dwellers in your home
    • Higher WAF in many cases
    Another reason they work well for me is that I live in a pretty small city with basically 2 audio dealers that are pretty limited in what they offer. And the used market for great speakers here is pretty much nil. So finding great floorstanders nearby for a great price that I can actually try at home is almost impossible. Not to mention I’m likely to find problems with them at some point, or get bored with them and want to move on.

    Buying bookshelf speakers on the used market lets me try out and listen to many different models with minimal cost and headaches associated with shipping them around. Plus I’m cheap and I prefer to buy used anyhow :)

    I’ll try to keep this first post updated with links to impressions of mine and others so people can quickly get to the speaker they’re looking for.


    Index of impressions:
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2020
  2. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    ATC SCM19 v2 impressions

    These are venerable and well reviewed speakers which obviously have their roots in the pro audio world. I owned these speakers for around 2 years and they shared time in my system with a number of other bookshelf speakers over that period.

    EE2DAD76-17C1-4F8A-B8FA-898E79FA2DAC.jpeg

    Most of the time they were used with a single Schiit Vidar, Saga and Freya preamps and Gungnir Multibit DAC. Later on, a pair of Vidar monoblocks and YggdrasiI DAC. I also used them with a number of other amps and DACs as well over that timeframe.

    Build:
    They’re a pretty large speaker for a bookshelf/standmount, and they’re bloody heavy (around 40lbs each) and very solid feeling, with nice “book-matched” cherry wood veneering and overall excellent build quality. The curved cabinet is a nice change from the typical rectangular box. The grills are magnetic and kind of a cool industrial cagey looking thing out of Mad Max Thunderdome or something. Not to everyone’s taste I’m sure.

    64B960A0-99A6-4966-B466-ABB610BC096F.jpeg

    The only thing I would complain about is the binding posts - they’re solid, but a little hard to access and tighten (if you use spades), and the jumpers they provide seems like cheap pieces of tin, which is kind of poor for such an expensive speaker - I actually snapped one by mistake and had to replace them with wired jumpers.

    These speakers are a sealed design which makes them pretty flexible placement-wise, but this also limits their low-end extension/output. The tweeter is a soft dome (my preference).

    Overall sound:
    • Clean, clear, controlled, neutral and well balanced.
    • Pretty even tonally with a touch of warmth/body, a small dip in the upper mids (aka the BBC dip) and a slight tilt in the highs.
    • Very transparent of downstream components and somewhat forward sounding in the way they project sound (not laid back).
    • Very tight and controlled low end (well damped)
    • Super low distortion even at pretty high SPLs (high power handling)
    • They definitely fall on the detailed/analytical side of things rather than the smooth euphonic side (as you would expect)
    • A bit dry in the treble with some peakiness, somewhat depending what they’re paired with.
    • They don’t sound “lean” but they certainly don’t extend very low and also don’t have the typical bump around 80-100Hz than many small speakers do to try to hide their lack of low extension. Needs a subwoofer if you’re looking for full range sound.

    Treble:
    As mentioned above, a bit on the brighter and analytical side, but not nearly as severe as most metal dome tweeters I’ve heard. Can be a touch rough and grainy (depending largely on the recording and the amp/DAC pairing), but very articulate. Good air but not exceptional. Fairly dry and not wet/sweet/smooth sounding. For a soft dome, they can actually bring out the metallic sounds of cymbals, tamborines, etc, as good as any I’ve soft dome I’ve heard, however I did find they were just a bit etched up top no matter what I paired them with (tried a half-dozen amps and a number of DACs).

    Mids:
    Vocals very, very clear and really cut through the mix, but in a pretty natural way. Female voices are super clear but have a touch of grain and sibilance on the upper end. Male vocals sound tonally correct without being overly chesty or lacking in body, just well balanced.

    Stringed instruments have great attack and timbre/tone. Piano sounds dynamic, solid and percussive (as it should) with good weight (except maybe in the lowest registers).

    Bass:
    Not much for low bass, but the bass that is there is very tight and controlled with no overhang. If you hate bloated blurry bass, you should have no issues with these speakers. Maybe a bit too overdamped/dry for some, but IMO not overly so, and nothing compared to the SCM11 (which, to my ears, was artificially too tight and damped sounding in the bass). Great bass dynamics and midbass punch (assuming you have enough power to get to the woofer moving). There’s no sense of a midbass hump here though, which means you don’t get the typical bloat. They’re not thin and reedy though either, just kind of neutral and well balanced sounding. Pushing them back against the walls or corners will increase their bass extension without getting boomy or bloated (due to the sealed design). Up to a point of course.

    Soundstage:
    The stage with these speakers is not all that wide and mostly between the speakers, depending somewhat on your seating position and toe-in. They actually do an ok job with depth (when there’s depth in the recording and assuming you have them sufficiently away from the wall behind them), but the stage generally starts off fairly forward at the plane of the speakers. Stage height is decent. I would say the overall staging is somewhat narrow, with a bit of depth, but relatively unexceptional.

    Imaging:
    They do have very precise/stable imaging however. But again, mostly between the speakers. Instruments are well focused, precisely placed and realistically sized. Very easy to pick out the instruments and vocalists on the stage. Overall great imaging.

    Dynamics, attack and decay:
    Great macro dynamics. They sound very dynamic and punchy through all parts of the frequency spectrum. Strong transients on plucked strings and percussion instruments. But you do need to get them up to a pretty decent volume level with some quality power to get them to wake up.

    They’re not as strong however at micro-dynamics. Atmosphere and plankton is a bit lost/squashed on these speakers compared to some others. Fundamentals/attack are clean and strong, but decay and harmonics are a bit lacking.

    System matching:
    In my experience, they pair best with electronics that have sweeter top end and maybe even slightly dark. Also nothing that is thin or lacking body through the mids. As I mentioned earlier, weak upstream gear will be taken to task by these speakers. Pairing these with a last generation class D amp or Sabre DAC is not a good idea IMO (I haven’t heard some of the current gen of either of those to know whether they would make an ok pairing).

    There’re also a pretty inefficient (one site measured 83dB sensitivity), sealed box speaker, so you’ll need an amp with good power and drive to get these things moving, especially in a large space. They’re no Maggies, but they like power and high damping factor. I wouldn’t put less than 100w/channel on these if you want to get the most from them in a decent sized room (I had an 80w/channel Hegel integrated on them at one point in my small room and it definitely sounded like it was limited). Luckily they’re a relatively stable 8 ohm impedance, so not hard to drive in that respect.

    Overall thoughts:
    I owned these speakers for as long as I did because I thoroughly enjoyed them. There’s something so balanced about how they sound. And the bass quality, tautness and control, as well as the overall clarity is really addictive to listen to.

    In the end however, for me, the tweeter etch and the lack of soundstage did them in. Combined with their forward nature where you feel like they’re kind of pushing sound at you, and the lack of microdynamics/plankton, simply made them less euphonic and enjoyable to listen to on many less than ideal recordings (especially compared to some other speakers I’ve heard since). That said, I still consider them to be excellent and had a really hard time giving them up (they mostly sat around for 6 months only being used rarely because every time I put them on, they pulled me back in).

    Pros:
    • Well balanced with slight warmth but no excess midbass hump/bloat
    • Dynamic and well controlled with great attack/transients
    • Incredible clarity even at high volumes
    • Great imaging
    • Easy to place
    Cons:
    • A bit etched/dry/sharp and analytical up top
    • Soundstage is narrow
    • Low bass is lacking
    • Squashed microdynamics/plankton
    Either/Or (depending on your system, music and preferences):
    • Very transparent (not forgiving of poor recordings or upstream equipment)
    • Forward presentation/sound projection
    • Well damped, tight, controlled solid bass
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  3. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    @rlow
    I have the SCM20's which are just a tiny smidge up. While the low bass is lacking, I find the extension is actually better because it doesn't drop off as fast. In terms of treble, I found that the listening axis was more inline with the woofer than the tweeter. I didn't get a sense of etch though. Warm and a bit dry for sure, maybe not analytical enough actually.
     
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  4. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Get them out into the room and the bass disappears pretty quickly, but closer to walls does help them a lot, probably because of the more gradual bass rolloff (due to the sealed cab). I did listen a bit below the tweeter axis as well, that seemed to be the sweet spot. The SCM20 has an improved tweeter over the 19 doesn’t it?

    I think I’m a bit sensitive to dryness and etch - seems to bother me more than some others. Same with the “analytical” side of things. I couldn’t stand the KEF LS50 tweeters for instance, but others love em. YMMV and all that. I’ve certainly heard WAY more analytical speakers than these, and the ATC I found only mildly so, and not necessarily in a bad way depending on what you like. I liked them for quite a while and if someone said I had to live with them long term, I’d be ok with that. Just happened to hear some different speakers that do a few things I find different/better and that were a bit more even/forgiving on the top end.

    One way I may have been able to address it would have been to use proper absorption on the sidewalls, but when I tried some makeshift absorption using blankets etc this seems to kill the airiness and top end extension too much, and seemed to close in the stage even further. Maybe diffusion would have worked better, not sure.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  5. Sunflower_sutra

    Sunflower_sutra Acquaintance

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    Great thread! Too many people buy floorstanders and don’t think about the effect of having a modest sized room.

    I personally prefer sealed box designs. Much better for vinyl playback! and I want tight and defined bass. Subs are for films not music!
     
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  6. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Agreed, except for this:
    There are great subs out there for music, and you also need to integrate them properly. I use a Rel.
     
  7. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    The tunings of the 20 could be different. I've never heard any others but have always read that most ATCs are extremely similar save for the low end.

    I do believe there might be driver differences, but they've also revised over the years as well. Mine are in a funny 1.5 era, as they still have the v1 cabinets but I believe have the v2 drivers... at at least one of them (maybe just the woofer? I don't remember the details anymore, it's been a few years).

    I would never describe the ATC's as airy though. I could see dry and midfocused, analytical sure, but airy does not come to mind. That just goes to show how much we hear and describe things differently.
     
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  8. Tube crazy

    Tube crazy Rando

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    I have the SCM19's v2 and drive them with a tube amp (2x130W). They need a stable amp to shine. It took me quite a bit of time and a number of trials to find the right amp for me. The 19's v2 will show what is happening (good or bad) upstream in the hifi-chain. There is plenty of bass and I don't have the feeling I need a sub. The soundstage can be a bit narrow. This can be improved by reducing the toe-in.
     
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  9. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yeah I said “good” air didn’t I. That’s probably an overstatement. They not as dead/smoothed over up top as some, but certainly not bright airy like Focal or Be tweeters. Maybe 5 out of 10 on air. Although not super airy, I do find they still have a slight bright tilt. The fact that you find them mid focused and not etched or a bit bright makes me think you may have a different variation, or we have some differences in upstream gear surfacing (i.e. my Yggdrasil and Vidar vs whatever you have) or my room is just creating more emphasis in that region.

    There is a bit of a 7k, 10k and 12k peak, and a slight dip through the mids according to this:

    [​IMG]

    http://www.avmentor.net/reviews/2016/atc_scm19_2.shtml
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  10. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Having a complete a Schiit-stack isn't helping the brightness/dryness/etch up top either.
     
  11. yunie_

    yunie_ Facebook Friend

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    I actually found the sound stage of my atc scm11 to be so much better than BBC monitors. But then again, maybe BBC monitors are even narrower, and atc speakers are narrow in comparison to others

    Looking forward to your review of dynaudio s40 and graham ls6. I am personally never impressed by any dynaudio speakers
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  12. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    will be curious to read your graham ls6 review...
     
  13. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    KRK Rokit 10-3, V8 S4, and JBL LSR 708 P give a shit ton of speaker for the money. As accurate as ATC or the V6? HELL NO but BIGGER is needed. Used Dynaudio BM15 is also a good deal for this "mains sound" on a stand.

    Quested V3110 is killer if you can afford it. It's darker and has more bass than comparably sized ATCs. ATCs are more accurate but the SCM 50 is best used as a near/mid field and costs 15k a pair.
     
  14. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    and ATCs on a SCHIIT STACK? WTF. You're gimping them. Get that outta the chain. Get something super clean in there. I mean Prism clean, Metric Halo clean, Dangerous Convert scrubbed clean. Apogee and MOTU cleanish will be revealed as CLEANISH cuz they're warm sabres. Lynx treble will be shown to lick butt. RME will be digititus city throw it in the trash bad. Schiit DACs are unworthy. Chifi and colorbox bullshit will be JACK THE RIPPERED with ORGANS CUT OUT AND EATEN.

    Belden/Mogami/Canares non quad cables in there too. Cables differences will be revealed! There can't be any shit in the path. You're rocking ATCs bro. Shitting on ATCs when eveyrthing else you have is pretty much a turd compared to them is ridiculous. ATCs on tubes? WHY????? Get the ATC amp. Get a modded ADCOM or modded QSC RMX at least! NO BRYSTON BS! NO KRELL CLONES! NO SHIT! BRYSTON AND DRAWMER MEME SHIT SHOULDN'T BE TOUCHING THEM!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
  15. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    ^ Lol, what Pandora’s box have I opened??!! Haha
     
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  16. sidq

    sidq Acquaintance

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    @Psalmanazar adds a lot more to this place than I do, but god his hyperbole filled rants are boring sometimes. They just all roll into one eventually - Schitt = ok, KRK = value, people = noobs etc.

    Just create a copy/paste mate.
     
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  17. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Zero of the opinions expressed about the gear was hyperbole. Try the gear yourself. You clearly haven’t. ATC are the holiest of holies for detail and clarity. They reveal ALL. The only thing they lack is bass extension relative to their size. If anyone says some ribbon or electrostatic sheened over bs is more detailed, they can shove it. If you’re cheap, naive, or stupid and use them with a shit amp in a shit reflective room that’s your own fault. They’re wider dispersing speakers meant to perform extremely well in good chains in good rooms. Even using the passives is a major compromise.

    Oh and finally, size does matter unless you’re sitting there with your face 1-2m away from the tweeter when a smaller speaker might blend better.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
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  18. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    The ATCs are great speakers. Full stop. I just found I eventually wanted something a touch more euphonic with a larger stage and a bit less forward and edgy in the highs is all. I’ve already said my relatively narrow, untreated room was likely the biggest contributor to my issue with the highs.

    As far as what gear I used them with, yes the majority of the time was a Schiit stack. However before that time, and during that time, I had lots of other gear I tried with them. I started with a Hegel integrated and an Arcam DAC. Then I had an Exposure integrated with a PS Audio PW DSD DAC (actually a pretty smooth sounding Sabre implementation). Also has a Peachtree Class D integrated with DAC but this was a terrible match. Later for DACs I had an IFi micro, Chord Mojo and a Holo Spring KTE. For power amps I also had a Belles 150A reference and a Cambridge 851A. For preamps I mainly used Schiit, but for quite a while it was a Saga in passive mode (no tube) and then later a SYS (which sounds better than the Saga IMO) - so lots of time with no tubes.

    Bottom line, I was actually stunned by the ATCs when I first got them, and still really enjoyed them up to the day I sold them, which I did very reluctantly. But ultimately I just wanted something a bit smoother on the top end, maybe a bit more laid back, with a much more expansive soundstage. Room treatments just aren’t in the cards for me at the moment, so I work with what I’ve got.

    I would agree with Psal that previous gen Brystons would likely be a terrible match based on my limited exposure to them (I’ve not heard the cubed series however, but still have my doubts).
     
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  19. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    I am a big fan of Bryston and did not hear ATCs but I think you are right. If you want less edgy highs and use smaller speakers, stay away from Bryston power amps. I have 4B SST2 with Totem Hawks, small floor standers with great bass extension and quality. But 4B SST2 makes the treble scream. I will try to equalize that with ADI-2 DAC when I get back home (welcome any opinions on that idea?), it it fails I am selling both 4B and Hawks and replacing those with studio power monitors, @Psalmanazar mentioned a few, with large woofers. I do most of my listening on headphones anyway, I would like to have a nice two channel in the living room, but 4B/Hawks combination is not nice at all.
     
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  20. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Ditching Bryston is a huge improvement. I’d rather use class d than Bryston. You can’t eq the nastiness away without nuking the treble. It doesn’t even matter if you special softening, passive with tube makeup gain eqs. It’s still there.​

    Bigger woofers or a three way will be better to crank up. Classical can get very boxy. I don’t like speakers that can’t play back guitar tones well and for bombastic symphonies? I want heavy metal volumes and not modern, hyper limited stuff. It has to be visceral for me. Something 5” can be okay to mix on with a bigger, less detailed speaker reference but it’s utterly uninvolving. The further you sit back, the worse and boxier it becomes.
     
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