The SCM19 is neutral through the broader midband, presence range, and treble, with no energy drop-off as it approaches its 2.4kHz crossover point. Neither is there evidence of suck-outs or flagging dynamics that tend to soften and lay back the mids for an unearned depth effect. The 19 is not dry or clinical sounding, either. It has a comforting warmth in the lower mids and upper bass that adds to the impression of musical scale and substance. Also a good part of the 19’s opulent character is attributable to the superb on-and off-axis dispersion of the mid/bass unit, i.e., its power response. I never felt head-locked in a tiny sweet spot. Even when I was seated well off-axis, the 19’s essential tonality, weight, and body remain consistent. Vocal reproduction—always a point of pride for this brand—has never before been as direct, live, and in-the-room as it is through the SCM19. As I cued up a cavalcade of singers—from the grit and gravel of Tom Waits to the cut-crystal clarity of soprano Anna Netrebko—my notepad silently fell to the floor, along with my jaw.
The 19’s lack of a true bottom octave obviously limits its ultimate bass extension, but the 19 descends into the midbass region with perceivable output into the upper forty-cycle range (piano aficionados take note). Where most compacts come up painfully short in attempting to reproduce the brooding weight and resonance of a cello, the SCM19 captures the most critical aspects of its timbre and dark harmonics. On something like the Ray Brown Trio’s Soular Energy [Groove Note] this acoustic-suspension design also ensures a tight, tuneful bass that few ported models can match.
While its tonality is admirable, the true greatness of the SCM19—and its most striking feature—is the lifelike relationship between that tonal balance and the speaker’s midband and treble-range dynamic output. Very rarely have I heard a two-way compact of this size that has balanced these twin imperatives— tonality and dynamics—with the ease and precision of the 19. Even as the frequencies dip into the lower mids and descend further into the upper bass–a region where smaller speakers lose their guts–the SCM19 remains undaunted. And this is why the SCM19 can fool a listener into believing it’s something more than a two-way. Rather, in these respects it sounds more akin to a small three-way.
The SCM19 benefits greatly from an uncolored enclosure that permits more of the potential of the transducers to be heard. This is a quieter, less-colored box that steps out of the way of the signal and effectively disappears. It results in a speaker that launches transients without hesitation and articulates lower frequencies with greater precision. Midrange timbral information has been clarified, and the hint of nasality that I’ve perceived in my own earlier-edition ATCs has been eliminated. (ATC engineer Ben Lilly confirmed that mods to the 19 crossover have likely contributed to this improvement.)
If there was one area where I felt that my original SCM20s could have upped its game it was in the upper treble. There was the slightest shroud over orchestral harmonics, an attenuation of air and brilliance that shaded a string section or chorus. However, as I listened to the vast chorale of singers during the Rutter Requiem [Reference Recordings], all exquisitely layered and brimming with height information, the new tweeter was a thing of beauty to experience. Revealing and fast and aided by the new waveguide it just seemed to launch an expanse of air and tone color into the room that was not just laser-guided toward the sweetspot. I noted that during Les Brown Goes Direct to Disc [Century] the SCM19 portrayed ride cymbals with a breath of additional top-end air. Trumpet solos sounded a shade quicker and friskier off the mark, a bit more discrete yet fully connected with their ambient environs. And as I listened to the Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four” my appreciation for the new tweet only grew as I keyed on Ringo’s elegantly understated playing, particularly his delicately accented cymbal work.
In low-level resolving power, the SCM19 conveys musical intimacy like few loudspeakers of this class. When I listened to the direct-to-disc recording of classical guitarist Michael Newman [Sheffield Lab] there was a near holographic sense of the artist playing, breathing, inhabiting the listening room. It’s a sensation that’s eerie in its communication of speed, tonal color, timbre, and ambience. And during Grieg’s Four Lyric Pieces [Sheffield Labs] the diamond-like transparency and color from the eight musicians of the Chicago Symphony Winds was breathtaking. This disc’s imaging has always been pristine, but here there was substance and dimension behind each image.
As I hear it, there’s a very short list of rivals that play in the league of the SCM19. And even fewer at this attainable price point. Although this review should speak for itself, let me reiterate: The ATC SCM19 is, without reservation, a superb monitor that should excite and please the most discriminating of listeners. My highest recommendation.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Two-way acoustic-suspension monitor
Drivers: 1" soft-dome tweeter, 6.5" mid/bass
Frequency response: 54Hz–22kHz
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 17.2" x 10.4" x 11.8"
Weight: 35 lbs.
ATC LOUDSPEAKER TECHNOLOGY LTD.
GL6 8HR, England