Wednesday, 20 February 2019

ATC SCM40A Active Speakers - Lusciously Good... on Both Sound and Sight

The ATC SCM40A (A for active) is not just another pair of speakers. When Kenny of Hiway Laser offered me to experience a full ATC set up in the comfort of my home, I did not know what to expect. My experience with ATC speakers and electronics have been limited to shop demo and KLIAV show. Though they sounded good in the shop, I always felt that they needed super duper efficient amp to properly push the full potential of ATC speakers. Given that, it is only appropriate that Kenny sent me a full ATC system i.e. ATC amplification through the built in active amps and the preamp as well.


The beauty of having an active speaker is that it comes with a built in power amplifier. Hence, all you need is a preamp and connect it directly to the speakers. Mind you, you will need 2 power outlets as each side of the speaker will need to be connected to the power supply of its own.

The SCM40A comes with a dual suspension 25 mm soft dome tweeter and 75 mm soft dome mid range driver. It is completed with a 164 mm bass driver. The amp is a Class A/B 242 watter (tri amp; split into 150 W for bass, 60 W for mids and 32 W for tweeter).

When fully set up, the speakers will take up (HxWxD): 980 x 370 x 344mm (inc. foot plinth & amp, spikes add 25mm to height, grill adds 34mm to depth) of space. It is bigger compared to my PMC Twenty5.24. Each speaker weighs 36 KG and it needs 2 people to set it up.

For full specifications,  please visit ATC SCM40A.

I was also given 2 different pre amps to review, the CA2 MK II and CDA2 Mk II

The CA2 comes with 5 line inputs and a pair of XLR and RCA outputs. There is also an additional sub port and tape and headphone outputs.  The headphone outout is a little bit inconvenient as it is located at the rear panel. One of the inputs also offers an RIAA phono input, configurable to both MM and MC.

The CDA2 Mk II is an all discrete class A pre amplifier.  It comes with 2 analogue inputs via RCA and 1 via 3.5 mm mini jack. It is also a CD player on its own with premium AKM 32 bit DAC. Another unique input is the USB input with 384 kHz PCM data and native DSD256. I connected my SONY HAP Z1 ES and it is fully compatible. There is a slight click noise when changing from DSD to WAV files but negligible. 


Initially, Hi Way Laser provided me with the ATC CA2 MK II pre amp to match the speakers. I had a good 2 months with this babies so most of the review is based on this set up. I will briefly explain the difference when I changed to the CDA2 preamp.

With regards to the source, the review was mainly done on digital sources from the Sony HAP Z1 ES and ARCAM CDS50 SACD player. I tried connecting the analogue side of things either directly to the pre amp CA2 or via MF M1 ViNL and it sounded quite open and laidback. But for simplicity sake, I will stick to digital source.

Usually, I would list down the format/resolution of digital files that I use for the review. But this time around, I will be running a Guess The Format quiz. Hence, I will only list down the tracks.
  1. Time To Blow by Del Paxton
  2. Fragile bt Julio Iglesias
  3. Somewhere Somebody by Jennifer Wearnes
  4. Never Enough by Loren Allred
  5. Gurindam Jiwa by M Daud Kilau
  6. Tak Seindah Wajah by SM Salim 

Time To Blow by Del Paxton

On this track, the ATC combo presented an overall big soundstage, emphasizing on double bass delivery with a melodious piano sound. On percussion side, especially on the ride cymbal and rim shot, it was very evident to hear the extend of the dispersion. It made the overall sound full and not just bass filled. 

Fragile by Julio Iglesias

Just listen to that vocal. It sounds energised with lots of emotion. It maintains the soundstage scale like the previous track and at the same time, opens up Julio's vocal to spread across my listening hall. I must say that it was very pleasing to te ears to hear such clarity produced from my sources. The bass was not really evident like before but the overall presentation was leaning more towards a laidback but dynamic presentation. The overall sound was just very pleasing and made me want to dig up my other Julio tracks.

Somewhere Somebody by Jennifer Wearnes

Given that I loss the bass when I switched from Time To Blow to Fragile, I chose this track to test whether I can get best of both worlds. In my opinion, this is the track that delivered me the best performance of the combo. Bass was deep, extended without any signs of stress on the speakers and its built in amp. Vocal was sweet and full of emotions and the dynamics behind it was just mesmerizing. It will envelope the listener with such huge blanket of soundstage without losing any clarity to the microdetails of the track.

Never Enough by Loren Allred

How about the delivery of a very strong vocal requirement? This is one of the more modern track that demands a very capable system to really show the prowess of Loren's vocal. Loren vocal range can go low and really high throughot the track. This track gives me a really emotional impact when watching the movie and it is sometimes difficult to replicate that when listening to the audio track alone. But not with the ATC combo. I get goosebumps listening to this track. Loren's vocal was delivered with such intensity and strength that even at the high notes, although sharp, it sounded very melodious and detailed. At the same time, the sound of the instruments on this track also supplement the overall sound to be a wholesome experience, as if I was at the live show in the movie. However, I could do with a more dynamics on the instrument sound. It was a bit flat compared to he vocal.

Gurindam Jiwa by M Daud Kilau and Tak Seindah Wajah by S M Salim

M Daud Kilau, although some might see him as a weird singer, but in the local industry, he is one of the golden oldie artist that can deliver a very traditional vocal sound. On this track, the ATC combo managed to capture the emotion of this track and reproduce it with a very huge presentation with a deep focus on his vocal especially when it goes really low.

S. M. Salim is another golden oldie that can bring emotional tears to me especially whne played in the right enviroment and mood. On this track, the ATC kept it simple with high clarity of vocal and detailed note by note bass line. The violin also sounded sharp and full of energy. High level of dynamics were maintained throughout the track that made it very lively eventhough its a slow number.


The ATC SCM40A is a pair of speakers that will not only give you a highly detailed musical presentation but also huge and enveloping soundstage that will make you listen for long hours and try out different tracks frlom different genres. It was a pleasing experience eventough it was mainly digital based experience. Never once I felt fatigue listening to the his combo.

Who is this speakers for? First of all, it is for someone who wants a fuss free and headache free speakers. You do not need to worry about amp and speaker matching challenge and you will get the flexibility of choosing just the pre amp. I will explain more in my next article on CDA2 MkII.

Secondly, if you want strong presence of vocal and non fatigued experience of high frequency, the ATCSCM40A excels in this. Melodious and full of energy. You will be able to experience this across your listening area.

Thirdly, it is for those who wants best of both worlds; sound and view. The SCM40A is a looker compared to my PMC. 

Is it a bass nutter? Not really, it delivers clean bass but it will not shake your house down. This helps to even further deliver a strong musical sound, huge soundstage but will not give you listening fatigue at all.

The SCM40A is a worthy speakers for those looking for to upgrade/purchase a new pair of speakers and amplifier. The SCM40A is priced at RM46,750 and the CA2 MK II pre amp is at RM 12,500.

Please contact Kenny on 019-2813399 for audition.


Priyanka Gupta said...

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abc said...

Great review - thanks!

El Hefe said...

Thanks abc