Good UK speakers? ATC & PMC demos

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Jeb, May 11, 2016.

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  1. Jeb

    Jeb Friend

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    Does anyone have any experience living with speakers from these companies?


    I had a long day of demos yesterday. ATC are based not far from here in Gloucester but don’t seem to be set up for demos at their premises so I headed to the nearest dealer to hear their range of passive SCM speakers. A local dealer had the PMC Twenty range.


    ATC:

    I took a CD of 10 tracks I know well and gave it a full listen all the way through with each of the speakers. The Amp was ATCs own SIA-2-150 integrated, which is 150wpc and a Roksan CD player.

    Obviously, these are just brief impressions not just of the speakers, but of the whole systems. It was an enjoyable session and I was left well alone to just do my own thing. So I took notes!


    SCM 7 (not tested), 11, 19 & 40. Numbers refer to cabinet volume.


    [​IMG]




    SCM-11

    From what I had read beforehand, I was expecting a neutral, “monitor” type of sound – and that was basically what I heard.

    • For me, not bright, peaky or strident in any way
    • Instruments had reasonable solidity and weight which prevented it from grating. The overall sound was extremely well balanced throughout and composed at any volume.
    • Instrument timbre seemed just a bit, dull and dry.
    • Vocals clean and clear but a slight hint of roughness in upper-mids
    • Guitars lack elasticity, piano a little flat
    • Bass was very tight and controlled. I currently use a sub with bookshelf speakers but I feel that these may not require one. (But I am British and have been conditioned to accept a bass light sound in the interests of not offending the gods of PRaT.)
    • Overall impressive but shame about lack of depth and lack of emotional engagement factor for me.




    SCM-19

    These are big. Still 2-way and uses the same ATC soft-dome tweeter, but use a 6.5” mid/bass with a 75mm soft-dome.

    • Tonally very similar to the 11s but with a touch more warmth and sweetness. Still not enough for me in this set-up.
    • Less of that slight roughness in upper mid.
    • Greater weight/solidity to instruments.
    • Just as with the 11s, really excellent imaging and separation. Highly resolving sound. Again, extremely balanced and composed but still just a bit dry and lifeless overall.

    Neutral, resolving and accurate sounding but not so much “natural” or organic. Perhaps just very revealing of source/amp and maybe tubes/vinyl would help.




    SCM-40

    By no means a big floor-stander, still quite compact, but incredibly heavy, requiring 2 people to carry it in. 3-way, with same tweeter and ATCs well regarded 3” soft-dome midrange drivers with the ridic motors, which weigh about as much as a SCM-7 speaker in its entirety.

    • (unfortunately) These sounded absolutely excellent.
    • Retained the articulation, detail and separation of the 11s and 19s but midrange more open, exceptionally clean and with more inner warmth and “humanity” in vocals.
    • Great engagement-factor and Very easy to listen to. Perfect composure at higher volume and never out of control.
    • Still good with poorer recordings and more forgiving than 11s and 19s.
    • Bass dug deeper and with better rumble when called for but always tight even in this larger cabinet.




    All these SCMs are sealed boxes and they all seemed very tolerant of room placement. Also seemed pretty tolerant of listening positions, whether off to the side or sitting/standing. Design is sparse and functional but construction quality is really super-solid. All drivers now made in-house, which I think is pretty cool.



    ________



    PMC:


    I then took my test CD and headed off to hear the PMC Twenty series of speakers, which are transmission line designs. Unfortunately with a different system this time (Naim) so comparisons will be a bit vague.



    Twenty-22

    Pretty big for a stand-mount. 6.5” PMC mid/bass and PMC/SEAS soft-dome tweeter.

    • Again, still a “monitor” sound but by comparison seemed a bit richer, organic and more full-bodied than the ATC system.
    • Very coherent but more smeared and powers of resolution seemed less than ATC in this set-up.
    • Bass still of the lighter variety but less controlled and some mid-range bleed, especially with (my) lesser amplification. This improved as did spaciousness with better amplification.
    • Just a bit rolled off in the treble, which is what I have experienced with Naim in the past so may not be the PMCs. Same with the slight graininess.
    • Overall very good and seemed like a good proposition for long-term listening.

    Really liked these (probably more than any of the ATC stand mounts) and well balanced but a bit more of an “old-time” sound that would probably be more forgiving than the ATCs.




    Twenty-23

    Very Compact floorstander with same tweeter as the 22 but smaller 5.5” mid/bass unit.

    • I preferred this to the 22 in some respects – the smaller driver seemed just a little more open, quicker, tighter and agile through midrange.
    • Bass with this cabinet was noticeably more pronounced but a little bit more unruly in this demo, giving a warmish feel to the sound.
    • Again would be a nice, articulate but easy long-term listen I think but I would worry that bass might get a bit blobby in some rooms (mine).




    Twenty-26


    [​IMG]



    Big, 3-way, top of the line of the twenty series with 7" woofer and 50mm midrange dome.

    • Seemed quite a big step up from the other 2.
    • Just as with the ATC 3-way, the mid unit really seems to help with mid-range articulation and openness. Just beautifully controlled, warmish, natural, easy sound that does not give up too much detail.
    • Still didn’t seem to quite resolve, separate and image like the ATC40s and sounds less clean but very pleasant indeed and preferred to the dry slightly flat sound of the ATC bookshelves. Bass could be pretty big when needed but also better-behaved than the 23s.


    Everything sounds a bit “fuzzy” compared to the ATCs. But based on this demo, I do like the PMC sound. One positive vs the ATCs was that although they were less composed than the ATCs at higher volumes, they sounded very good at lower volumes By comparison, all the ATCs seemed to just get better and better the louder they went.




    Conclusion:


    It's a shame I couldn't hear them all with the same system. With the system I heard, its hard to recommend the ATC 2-way stand-mounts for pleasurable listening, despite their impressive clarity and balance. Just a bit too flat/dull and lacked swing and emotion. However, for me, none of them really exhibited any harsh treble that some of the old ATCs with Vifa tweeter were sometimes known for.

    The PMC standmounters and compact floorstanders were more enjoyable for me than the smaller ATCs, despite the PMCs having lesser powers of resolution and being less controlled. They reminded me more of HD-650 and also seemed to scale well and open up as we improved amplification and increased wattage when moving to a pricey Bryston pre/power combo. With my 50wpc Nait 5i they exhibited some congestion and sloppiness.

    The big floorstanders were a different prospect with both PMC and ATC models being a large step-up from the others. The ATC SCM-40 with the soft-dome midrange unit was the standout for me, sacrificing nothing in overall coherence. They just seemed to pull it all together, taking everything that the ATC stand-mounters did in clarity and resolution but adding much needed smoothness, warmth and more body, which I thought produced an overall sound with outstanding realism.

    The ATCs are a little over half the price of the PMC 26s. I was set on the idea of stand-mounters but feel that I will probably continue to save for the SCM40s, while I see what else is out there.

    Thanks for reading!


    __________


    TEST TRACKS: Alt-J - Tessellate, Radiohead - House of Cards, The National - Runaway, Paul Simon - Graceland, Dave Brubeck - Take Five, Natalie Merchant - Carnival, John Marytn - Over the Hill, Gregory Porter - Hey Laura, Blood Orange - Champagne Coast, Brandy Clark - Pray to Jesus
     
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  2. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Both ATC and PMC are highly regarded in pro circles. I sometimes work in a studio which has PMC BB5 monitors, the sound is terrific. I've long thought about building a pair of speakers with dome midrange speakers, but they are usually very expensive and not easy to implement in 3-way constructions.
     
  3. Mikoss

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    I've had the PMC Twenty.21 bookshelf speakers in my listening room for 18 months or so and I enjoy them. They fit the bill for what I was looking for, although they were a lot more expensive than other speakers I'd auditioned. Very natural sound, a slight emphasis on treble which tends to bring some air up top for vocals.

    I'd like to hear some more efficient speakers such as some Fostex full range in the same space and see how they compare. The PMC's don't leave much to be desired, just wish they were a bit more efficient. I had also compared the full sized Twenty.22 series, and the bookshelf speakers captured the same experience.
     
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  4. hifi01170

    hifi01170 Facebook Friend

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    I spent a couple of months last year looking for nice speakers! I was initially blown away by the HE5LE and hence was looking for something similar but with speakers! haha

    Went through Totem, Duevel, Apertura, Tannoy, etc. before I stumbled upon a thread in a french forum on active speakers mentioning PMCs. Went then to listen to passive PMC 22s and 23s but too bright for my taste. Anyway long story short, I settled on active speakers (PSI audio).

    So why don't you try some nice active speakers from PMC, ATC or even PSI? Might find your perfect pair! I think the Q/P ratio is pretty good on active speakers tagged as "pro". Just my 2 cents.

    Cheers!
     
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  5. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    While we're on the topic of active monitors, yesterday I got a pair of Equator Q12's. They're as wrong as they get audiophile wise as they have built-in DSP and do AD conversion for all incoming signal. The sound, however is oh so good... 12'' lightweight woofers mated with compression driver horns.

    Must be the biggest "computer speakers" I've ever used. I'll try to re-arrange my setup to a more mid-field setting.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Jeb

    Jeb Friend

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    @Mikoss - have you had to mess around with the placement of the Twenty-21s? Are they okay quite close to a rear wall?

    What amp are you using?
     
  7. Mikoss

    Mikoss Friend

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    Yeah, I definitely messed around with their placement. The room they're set up in is quite small 12' wide x 11' long (just a spare bedroom). I set them up and played around by ear, figuring out what sounded the best to me.

    So they are on 30" mass loaded stands, and they're spaced approx 6' apart, and in an equilateral 6' triangle with my head when I'm sitting on the couch listening. They aren't toed in much; only half an inch... So I have 24" of spacing to the back wall on the inside and 24.5" on the far ends.

    I preferred having them spaced out at least a foot from the wall... The PMC manual suggests you may get more bass having them spaced closer to the wall. Not sure how much this actually plays in... the ATL design seems to suggest they shouldn't be as fussy as ported speakers.

    I've just been using a Yamaha AS500 to drive them... it sounds nice, but I'm on the lookout for an amp upgrade as well. They also sounded much, much better bi-wired.

    Not sure if you saw this yet https://pmc-speakers.com/sites/default/files/attachments/twenty_series_manual_feb14_lores.pdf
     
  8. Jeb

    Jeb Friend

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    Nice one Mikoss - thanks!

    I need to place quite close to the wall so have always gone for sealed boxes, but the PMC standmounts did seem reasonably flexible in placement. I was sure I would go for stand-mounters before but the ATC SCM40s were pretty special I thought. We'll see!

    I also noticed that PMC have just released a new (more expensive) series - called the twenty5 series, with the same (21, 22, 23 etc) model numbers. I can't tell if this series will replace the current ones or sit alongside it as a higher-end option. I think maybe the latter, although that seems a bit messy.
     
  9. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Depends, if you like sealed or transmission line bass. Both have their pros and cons. Sealed usually requires more driver excursion, which usually means higher THD and brings down sensitivity. Best thing about sealed bass is that it has very little time smear, due to extra control from the pressurised box. TL's usually go lower with less excursion, but time smearing can be an issue.
     
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  10. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    I have atc scm7 v3 and seriously consider going up the range with scm40. OP, did you get the scm40 finaly?
     
  11. Jeb

    Jeb Friend

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    @murphythecat - no not yet. The Speaker Fund is a work in progress :)

    I didn't hear the 7 but I thought that the 11 and the 19 were progressively better but also quite similar whereas the 40s were a massive step up and just so much more enjoyable. I think their mid-range unit is the star of the show so I don't think I would go ATC without it now.

    But I'm wavering slightly on the 40s at the moment partly because, apart from the older versions, they seem to almost never come up for sale 2nd-hand. I need to check this out for myself but it also seems to be almost universal that people think ATCs active speakers are where their strengths lie. If you go to the ATC forum lots of the members there who have worked their way through the different models will always tell you to at least check out the actives first before spending lots of money on the passives and an amp.

    I don't currently have an amp that could drive the 40s well. Once I add in a suitable amp/pre-amp (I guess ATCs own SIA-2-150 integrated would be an obvious choice) then I am right in the price-range of just getting 2nd-hand active SCM50ASL, which are quite common to see and have the mid-range unit and the super-linear bass unit too and which most people say kick the 40's ass.

    They've also recently released an active version of SCM-40s, which is something to consider. Or the SCM25A 2nd-hand, which are the active, pro-version of the SCM-40 in a more compact but still quite large, horizontal bookshelf type format.

    Anyway, that's where my thoughts are at the moment. I still thought the 40s were really great! It's hard to find the actives at dealers showrooms. I would like to try and get over to their factory if possible. I think they're quite old-school so it should be interesting for a visit.
     
  12. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    hi
    ive heard often that the active atc are a bit lifeless, or that the mid while amazing may be somewhat too analytical on the long run. I also know that the atc 25 is definitely not the speaker id get. many user complain about the bass integration, soundstage lacking. Id go with amphion one18 before the atc25. I had one18 and they are stunning but wanted to try something else.
    the high end nearfield at gearslutz have many user saying the same complaints about the atc25. for active, id go atc 45 which feature the new tweeter.

    Im really curious about how much better the atc 19 is to the atc 11. would you say they are very similar? care to explain a bit more 11 vs 19?
     
  13. Jeb

    Jeb Friend

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    Hmmm pretty difficult to be any more specific than my first notes since so much time has passed now. I just felt that both the 11 and 19 had that dry, somewhat sterile sound, but the 19 had a little more overall warmth, solidity and greater weight in the low-end. Any chance of a local demo? That would be the best way to go, of course.
     
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  14. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    thanks a lot. I use scm7 v3 and can relate to that dry, sterile sound that you describe. I find it after getting used to it really musical sound weirdly. im coming from the overly warmth from harbeth p3esr so its a nice change of pace.

    The atc scm40 was very interesting and I almost pull the trigger until I saw measurements:
    http://www.avmentor.net/reviews/2014/atc_scm40_2.shtml

    ouch
     
  15. Orkney

    Orkney Acquaintance

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    What worries you about the measurements?

    I had these in for audition and liked them -- excellent bass reach and definition, very clear and extended terrible and fine mids -- but they do like a whack of power and need a larger space than mine. Thought they were better-behaved in the treble than the smaller PMCs, which I found bright overall -- but I don't find the P3ESR to be a particularly warm-sounding speaker.

    best,

    o
     
  16. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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    for me, the dip between 2khz to 6khz is not acceptable from a speaker that pricey
    http://www.avmentor.net/reviews/2014/atc_scm40_2.shtml

    the p3esr are not warm per say, hard to explain, a bit soft perhaps? lovely for jazz and acoustic and ill likely keep both scm7 and p3esr
     

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