Speakers like the SCM 100A move goal posts. In active form, with 350W of power amplification built-in, they deliver massive volume with awe-inspiring composure. Most conventional passive alternatives would crumble if asked to deliver a similar volume of sound.
How loud? ATC claims a maximum level at 115dB – pretty much watching-AC/DC-at-the-Shepherd’s-Bush-Empire volume.
Even at very high levels, the kind of earplug territory that numbs the ear’s response in minutes, the SCM 100As simply refuse to harden-up or squash dynamic extremes.
So clean do these floorstanders sound that we found ourselves listening to them far more loudly than usual.
It was only when we had to shout to be heard that we realised how high the volume really was. People’s perception of loudness is closely tied to levels of distortion: with speakers as clean sounding as these ATCs, that threshold is far higher.
More after the break
Hairy chested approach to volumeIt’s fair to say that we weren’t totally surprised by these speakers’ hairy-chested approach to volume, nor their ability to deliver huge amounts of bass with power, weight and agility.
After all, this is an active three-way design with a massive 100-litre cabinet and a 31cm bass driver. The chances are it would be able to do those things – with all the gusto we could hope for.
Less expected is the seamless integration between the three drivers.
We’re familiar with the 25mm soft-dome tweeter and 75mm dome midrange, and they sound as good here as we’ve ever heard.
That large bass driver dovetails beautifully into the midrange, and manages to deliver lots of bass without attracting too much attention.
Consistency of characterThe SCM 100As enjoy a lovely consistency of character throughout the frequency range: it’s something that’s rare, even at this kind of price level.
Tonally, things are spot-on. ATC speakers tend to be neutral and these towers are no different.
It makes a huge difference with well-recorded acoustic material such as Bonnie Prince Billie’s Summer in the Southeast. This is a live recording, and the speakers’ convincing tonality and impressive detail resolution make it an absolute joy to listen to.
These floorstanders are immensely muscular when required, but with subtler music such as this, their agility and finesse is deeply impressive.
Of course, the ATCs’ range of abilities means they sound at home across a wide range of music.
They have the attack to work with Nirvana, the authority to deliver the Inception OST and the ability to convey the emotion in Arvo Part’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten with the utmost skill.
Hugely demanding to ownIn some ways this is a hugely demanding speaker to own. It’s transparency means that the spotlight shone on the source and preamplifier is brighter than usual. Any shortcomings in either area will be highlighted.
The SCM 100A’s sheer size, bass extension and preference for a free space siting means a large room is essential.
A weight of 68kg per enclosure means moving them around is awkward and many will have an issue with their rather functional appearance.
Yet, considering the level of performance on offer – and the inclusion of dedicated power amplification for each driver - makes the SCM 100As stonking value.
If you value tonal neutrality, dynamic reach and deep bass, we haven’t heard anything better at this money.