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Magazine compares active and passive ATC SCM50

Discussion in 'audio' started by vln, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. vln

    vln Shuns mooks. And MQA.

    So after many years of abstinence I once again bought a HiFi mag ("Stereoplay", from Germany) because an article really interested me - a comparison between an active and a passive version of their ATC SCM50 speakers.

    After reading the article, I instantly regretted my purchase, as it was ridiculously short, but also not very informative (yeah, I know - did I really expect otherwise?!).

    Two claims they made I found a bit odd:

    1.) they say that they couldn't measure any advantage the active version might have over the passive version


    2.) they could only hear a difference when the passive version was driven by a 19800EUR Ayre amp (then the passive version sounded better, so they say); when the passive version was driven by an average amp... wait for it... the active version sounded better

    In the end, this "finding" didn't surprise me that much, IMO they would have to write something like that in order to still justify the existence (and, consequently, the reviewing) of very expensive "Audiophile" / "High End" amps (20k, FFS! Is it made out of gold?!), which is why the combination of expensive amp + passive version just had to win.

    Am I being overly cynical? Anyone got any comments? James perhaps?


    Here's the link to the article for those of you who can read German:
  2. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    The fairest comparison is to use the same amplification modules. But since ATC does not sell their active amps separately, it's difficult to determine if their are exceptional or average to middling.

    I have always maintained that a well designed passive loudspeaker driven by a good amplifier can sound better than an average active loudspeaker with average on-board amplifiers.

    In this case, it suggests that the passive SCM50s have a good passive XO and that the on-board amplifiers on the active version are average in quality.

  3. vln

    vln Shuns mooks. And MQA.

    Hi James,

    thx for that.

    I would have thought that these days, the difference between two competently designed transistor amps (with comparable power ratings) are pretty small, and that the use of speaker concept (passive or active) would make a bigger difference.

    OTOH, of course I understand that there are crappy active speakers, which are bettered by good passives (driven by good amps).

  4. Interzone

    Interzone pfm Member

    I like active speakers for various reasons but if they were the be all and end all don't you think more manufacturers would produce them? Other than a few the real high end is passive.........
  5. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    Some say the Naim DBL sounds better driven by a single NAP500 than an active six-pack of NAP135s. I haven't heard the comparison so I can't comment.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that the active "version" of a loudspeaker will be missing an inductor, which changes the system Q. I'm not sure whether the SCM50 compensates for this with slightly different porting or enclosure volumes. In the main, when system Q is reduced with the elimination of the woofer inductor, the bass becomes leaner and tighter - but subjectively lighter. Some may prefer the fuller passive version.
  6. Blzebub

    Blzebub Banned

    It's a hi-fi magazine article. Hi-fi magazines depend on people walking into shops and spending money on hi-fi, and the more they spend, the merrier.

    Interpret its contents in the light of this fact. Buy active ATCs.
  7. RustyB

    RustyB Registered Ginga

    But since ATC does not sell their active amps separately, it's difficult to determine if their are exceptional or average to middling.

    ATC sell pre and power separates, one would assume the power amps bear some resemblance to those used in the active speakers.
  8. bottleneck

    bottleneck pfm Member

    If I were building the speakers myself, I'd make some ATC 50's or 100 passives with Wilmslow kits.

    If I were buying second hand, I'd try to get an active pair.

    Don't be silly, they are ridiculously expensive..
  9. Markus S

    Markus S 41 - 29

    Has it occurred to anyone that the magazine may simply speak as it finds?
  10. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    You may take that leap of faith, but under different operating conditions - all bets are off for me.
  11. Paul R

    Paul R pfm Member

    It would be interesting to know what they would find if they used ATC's expensive active option.

  12. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    I think such a review tells you more about the competence, if any, of the magazine and it's test procedure rather than about ATCs loudspeakers and amplifiers.
  13. smithy

    smithy pfm Member

    Similarly on the Gearslutz forum Dynaudio passives with a decent amp outperformed their active cousins.Maybe activating with decent amps would be better still.
  14. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    I would fundamentally disagree with the point on amplifiers.
    You need to look very hard indeed today to find 'average' amplifiers - most SS amplifier at least fall into the very good camp.
  15. fishnchips

    fishnchips Member

    They also sell an integrated that Stereophile rates as Class A, FWIW.
  16. Ohmsford

    Ohmsford pfm Member

    The ACTIVE ATC's are an old design now of about 20 years and have not changed. So it is of no surprise what they have wrote. Spacey can confirm this when he moved from this old active design up to his far more modern and superior Adam's. The price old these old active 50's does not reflect the vast changes in design that have happened over the last 20 years.
  17. bottleneck

    bottleneck pfm Member

    Dont feed the troll.
  18. Ohmsford

    Ohmsford pfm Member

    Woah there! I am not trolling. My point is simple. They have compared an active design of 20 years old amps and special active crossover design against the passive version fed by more modern amps. For this reason my point was that it is no surprise that the findings said there was little difference at times.

    Referring to Spacey who once he bought a more modern design of active realised, from what I read, that the newer Adams are better. I am not saying the active atc's are poor but just an older design.

    Perhaps I am wrong in MY opinion and maybe ATC completely redesigned the amps in the last year or two to more modern standards and if I am wrong then fair enough but please don't accuse me of trolling.
  19. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    So what do you consider these advances in modern speaker and amp design to be? I notice 'smaller' and 'cheaper' nearly everywhere I look, though very seldom 'better'.

  20. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    I agree with Tony - most analogue audio technology is now mature and has been for many years. Very many years in some cases!

    You can design something according to your own particular theme and taste but the building blocks have been static in terms of performance for decades.

    The two areas where things have improved IMO are cost and production consistency.

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