... in the meantime, on one of this weekend's hifi shows I got hold of a home trial of Benchmark Dac1 HDR. The sound quality is excellent and fits my taste, although the comparison to Grace m902 is from memory only (not a side by side) the Benchmark wins. I have not done extensive side by side with the Gem yet, but based on a quick one the sound is very similar.
I also liked the looks of the black Benchmark much more than the silver one and it looks better in reality than on web pictures (I used to hate its looks before I saw the balck one in the flesh).
So, here are some pics. And the ATC demo is tomorrow!
It is all jaxwired's fault!
How did the ATC demo go?
Everything is so beautiful in your room, nice upgrades.
Thanks, vinod david, I am sure it can be improved!
The demo: I had two. One was passive classic 50s + CD + ATC amps vs active 50s + the same CD, in a hifhi show environment. The second demo was atc active classic 100s with MacMini and Benchmark hdr, with my own music and at a dealer.
50 passive vs 50 active:
My impressions were that both sounded good. The first difference I noticed was in the bass - the passive ones compared to actives felt a little boomier or deeper. Actives had no boom in the base and I even felt they sounded thinner. The mids and highs we good on both with actives being slightly better. Overall - the difference was not night and day but was noticeable.
First impression was not related to sound but size. Huge. I am not sure I can or even should fit these into the flat. Re sound: Excellent. Very dynamic. Metal instruments sound like metal instruments, wooden are like wooden etc. Very clear and transparent. A thought that crossed my mind was they sounded like speakers I heard at concerts. Strong and sharp, rather than just loud. One thing puzzled me and it was the bass. I thought it was not there and asked - are they out of phase or smth? They were in phase. But there was very little weight in the drums and bass lines. At least where I used to get weight. I use a sub so it could be that I am used to whatever is the sound I have. Although I do try to be subtle with the sub, I thought. Then I played a track with very low organ notes and at those the speakers rattled the room, effortlessly. Good clean low organ notes. So they do do low bass and do it well, but it sounded like there was a clear lack of bass maybe in the 40-60hz range, like it is filtered out. This was my impression and that was nothing that I expected. I tried them at 0, +3 and +6 bass setting and although the bass did lift a bit, basically the behavior was the same. I do not know what that was - the speaker or the room response or me being used to subwoofer sound. I will explore this further.
Overall, very impressed with the 100s. Big, dynamic, clear, effortless sound.
Also I noted that they run quite hot (the radiators at the back), playing or not so looks like they do not enter a standby mode and need to be switched off. --- EDIT following the visit to ATC: the newer models run much cooler as they now have less bias current, apparently without significant increase in distorsion. EDIT 2: That was for the speakers I saw at ATC, but my pair runs very hot... go figure...
Next step.. Hold your breath..(this is where dramatic music plays in the background
). The ultimate test..Home demo of BOTH 50s and 100s active towers! And I keep one pair! Watch this space.
p.s. I have no idea where to put 6 speakers (2 of which are big and 2 huge) + 4 even bigger boxes that the 4 will arrive in! That is a lot of room-damping material!
p.p.s Any suggestions for an appropriate sub to join the demo???
sounds like a room thing re. the bass.
It'd better be the room. I hope the home demo will sort that side out.
I will take a trip to ATC factory to finalise the order and it will be several weeks before they make them. In the meantime I want to tidy up the back of the rack by shortening the power leads and some of the interconnects. I will also be researching hi-rez downloads. may also need a remotely controlled mains sockets block to switch the atc,s on and off remotely. Any advice on these?
NB: I am keeping one important thing until the very end of this thread. And that will be the best part, I think.
And the final stage of the upgrade is here.
Back from ATC factory visit today. Very interesting, informative and exciting!
First of all - the people.
It was very pleasant to be there. And it was not just because people were trying to be nice while selling something. They just are nice, I think. Everybody I met were very simple, straightforward, relaxed and open. My host showed and explained to me absolutely everything and answered any question I had in full technical detail without going for a moment into "marketing mode". There was absolutely no hype, pushing or corporate talk. It was like I was visiting a friend. And that is very rare these days. The place has a feel of a zero-stress working environment where a small group of people works together for many years.
It is very small. I expected it to be small but it is even smaller. It is basically a group of small basic country buildings, formerly (small) part of an airbase or something like that. Inside, after a smart and tiny reception, it is basically a set of rooms dedicated to parts of the manufacturing process, sometimes interconnected, sometimes not. Electronics, drivers room, coils room, cabinets etc. And a listening room, of cause. Check the pics below for visual impression.
Another big impression here. Having read about ATC before I expected that there is basically a lot of manual work and making of things. But again I did not expect that they actually make everything almost entirely from scratch. For example, the wire for coils. They make the round-section wire into rectangular-section wire themselves by pulling it through a special machine that they have for decades. They actually wind and glue together the coil, glue spider to the coil, then the coil assembly to the diaphragm, then the diaphragm to the rubber rim etc. etc. Or take the magnet assembly - they take the ferrite for the magnet, fit it with the metal surroundings and then . actually magnetise the whole thing. They make the magnet a magnet. Although this is more a manufacturing requirement rather than some hyped-up purist audio effort - apparently, if you try to assemble a magnet that is already magnetised, it just snaps together in the wrong way and you are stuck. So they assemble it first then magnetise the whole thing, getting a few % of extra magnetic flux from all the additional metal to boot. The pcb's are collected and soldered manually. Well, I won't try to re-tell the whole tour, but you probably get the idea.
Well, the demo was the 50s classic active and 100s towers active, fed with 16/44 files of very familiar music from MacMini via Benchmark HDR.
Great, dynamic, fast sound. Basically, the impression is identical to the one described in the earlier 100s demo post. Note the sound can be a bit too sharp on some recordings (the "s" vocal sounds, if you know what I mean).
I have also decided that I will still need a sub, regardless of if I go for 50s or 100s as I am probably too used to it.
So, the order is placed. Now - a 6 weeks wait.
i am officially very jealous. doesn't suprise me, re. your opinion of the atc people. as a company they are very free from marketing flim flam, relying instead on good, solid engineering. the end result is great sound, and very good value for money.
nice to see just how hand built by atc, those drive units are, having read comments by another speaker designer, on his companies forum. shows he didn't know what he was talking about.
A jealous owner of a QBD76?! No way!
Although I agree a visit to ATC is a very enjoyable privilege. As is using a QBD!
Another idea (along with soft dome tweeters) that Billy Woodman developed during his time at Goodmans as a design engineer between 1970 - 74.
"During his time with Goodmans
Woodman had developed one of the first soft dome tweeters, later sold as
the Axent, which used a one-inch doped fabric diaphragm. In doing so he
had gained an enormous amount of practical experience of the quirks of
this type of transducer. Much of his other work was in improving
Goodmans' range of public address cone drivers, to increase efficiency,
power handling and dynamic capability. One of his ideas, continued at
ATC, was the edge-wise winding of voice-coils with flattened wire."
Nice article and photos. Very interesting.
"We are currently awaiting the loading of our complement of small lemon-soaked paper napkins for your comfort, refreshment and hygiene during the journey."
Good posts and thanks for sharing your visit.
I think it is great that you got see these terrific products being made by old school engineers.
All the best
Rick @ Musicraft
AlmaataKZ, awesome pics! Thanks for sharing. Very cool look inside ATC. I just read a 25 year old editorial by J. Gordon Holt the founder of stereophile magazine talking about why they focus so much on smaller lesser known audio companies. To summarize, it's because they make the best stuff. Makes sense. Big companies have trouble with bureaucracy and often lack innovation. Also, Holt points out that they can't make improvements even when they identify them because they are married to a particular part and manufacturing process due to a large investment in production.
If it was me, I'd go for those 50 actives. The 100s are just crazy big. Maybe if I had 30 x 20 foot dedicated listening room.
Anyway thanks for updating us. Have fun...