Review: SCM40A – Stereotimes
The SCM40A continues to gain fans in the U.S. with Allen Edelstein of Stereotimes the latest critic to be taken in by the loudspeakers outstanding performance.
Allen has reviewed the SCM40A for online magazine, Stereotimes and the review is live now. Here is a just a little insight into Allen’s thoughts on this compact ‘floorstander’ and why he thinks active design could be the way to go:
“Adding everything together and how easily the ATC SCM40A can be used to produce a simple, elegant, high performance system this is a heck of a speaker system. And if you want a speaker system that allows great live recordings to make you think the performance is real, this is a must audition.”
Allen Edelstein, Stereotimes, August 2016.
You can read the review in full here at Stereotimes.
ATC MONITORS SURROUND FAMED RECORDING ENGINEER MICHAEL BISHOP
“Seasoned veteran” is perhaps too weak a term to describe audio engineer Michael Bishop, whose passion for breathtaking audio capture has earned him ten Grammy wins in a career that has spanned nearly 45 years. He served as the Chief Recording Engineer for Telarc Records from 1988 up until 2008, when Concord Music Group closed Telarc’s in-house production team, and now partners in Five/Four Productions, Ltd. with two of his former Telarc colleagues, Robert Friedrich and Thomas Moore. A tireless advocate of cutting-edge technologies, Bishop was experimenting with 24-bit, 192kHz recording when most engineers were still coming to terms with 16-bit, 44.1kHz and has since moved on to record/release in DTS, SACD, and now DSD. Since 1999, Bishop has relied on ATC monitors to reveal all of the minute details that cumulatively add up to a world-class recording. Three of his most recent projects include the recording of two new pieces by Jonathan Leshnoff performed by Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, a traditional multi-track studio session with Eighth Blackbird, and the hip-hop/orchestral fusion of Pharrell William’s collaboration with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Bishop traveled to Atlanta’s Woodruff Symphony Hall – a space where he has recorded nearly one hundred times – to create the world-premier recording of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Zohar. Although he’s never been one to create “documentary-style” recordings, Bishop is riding the leading edge of the wave that is moving traditional classical recordings in the direction of movie soundtracks. “There’s a lot more activity on the engineer’s part,” he said. “The audience is expecting more detail and color, and modern composers are writing pieces that really require the microphone technique needed to capture all of the details, actions, and interactions.”
Amazingly, Bishop mixed all 28 microphones on stage down to a stereo mix live in the moment that he recorded using DSD technology at 11.2MHz, or 256 times greater than the benchmark CD rate (44.1kHz x 256 = 11,200kHz!!!). As always, he brought his ATC SCM150ASL monitors. “The ATCs play a crucial role,” he said. “I’m making all of my recording, mixing, and mastering decisions right there, and it is thus paramount that I have an accurate image of every detail. Moreover, the 150s have the size and presence to give the producer and conductor a true impression of the recorded piece, which closes the feedback loop and gets us to a winning take with all due speed.” At a session cost of $300 per minute for the orchestra, that’s obviously important. Direct-to-stereo mixes have always been a hallmark of Bishop’s work over the past few decades so that it’s second nature.
“With ATCs, I’m able to make, say, a one-inch change in the angle of a microphone and really hear its effect,” Bishop said. “Most monitors gloss over that kind of detail, but those Eighth Blackbird are the details that add up to a great recording. Moreover, every ATC loudspeaker, from the 20s to the 300s, provides that same consistent level of detail.” Indeed, Bishop tracked on ATC SCM25A nearfield monitors at IV Lab Studios in Chicago, where he recently recorded the Chicago-based avant-garde ensemble Eighth Blackbird performing pieces written by five different contemporary composers for their Hand-Eye release on Cedille Records. “Eighth Blackbird was closer to a modern studio session, with the backbones of songs laid down, and followed by overdubs and manipulations of the recorded material as dictated by the composers.”
Bishop and longtime collaborator and former Telarc producer Elaine Martone were under pressure to work quickly. “The detail revealed by the ATCs greatly aided our decision making process and enabled us to make good decisions on the spot. With any recording session, there are a million things to worry about and manage,” he said. “ATC’s consistency and truth remove one of the most potentially damaging variables – we’re confident that what we’re hearing is the truth. That puts Elaine in a comfortable place and lets her focus on the musical aspects. She doesn’t have to question what she’s hearing.”
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra commissioned pop artist Pharrell Williams to compose a piece that he called “Rules of the Game” that also involves dance, sculpture, and video. Bishop crammed into the pit with a 28-piece chamber orchestra augmented by a hip-hop rhythm section, triggered samples, and an unusually heavy dose of percussion instruments. Of the session’s 72 tracks, 24 were devoted to percussion! Arranger and composer David Campbell, who has done similar work with Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, and others, led the effort.
“Working in the pit is the pits,” Bishop laughed. “We were jammed in there, and I had to mic everything very closely. Everyone was on in-ear monitors so that they could stay in time with pre-recorded samples. It was pretty uncomfortable.” Back in the friendlier environs of the Five/Four studio, Bishop is mixing the performance on his 5.1 set of ATC SCM150ASLs. “The turnaround is tight because the dance company needs the recording for performances without a live orchestra,” he explained. “As always, the ATCs make it easy to mix and know that my work will translate to any system whatsoever. Since moving to ATC seventeen years ago, I’ve never been surprised by what a mix sounds like on a different system.”
Five Four Productions
Michael Bishop AllMusic
Transaudio Group – ATC US Distribution
3FM DJ Paul Rabbering chooses ATC SCM45A Pro
“The main reason I choose ATC was the details these monitors reveal really have an impact on me. It’s listening 2.0. The first time I heard these monitors in my own studio, they brought tears to my eyes. The pureness of the SCM45A, combined with its punch is something I have never experienced before.”
Paul Rabbering, July 2016.
Most people know Paul Rabbering as a DJ, presenting a two hour daily show on the Dutch national radio station, 3FM. He’s also a well-known voice-over artist on Dutch television. If that doesn’t ring a bell, alongside two other DJ’s, Paul presented Serious Request 2015, a 6 day live radio show from a Glass House in the centre of the city Heerlen, raising over 7 million Euro to help children in war zones.
But this versatile media man has yet another, lesser known quality. Paul owns a private studio where he transforms his creative ideas into concrete music productions. Some weeks ago when Paul visited the Dutch ATC distributor Helios, he got infected with the, “ATC Bug”. Fortunately there is a cure for this illness. After the purchase of a pair of SCM45A Pro’s, the fever vanished like snow in the sun!
“I’m very happy with the service of Helios. Ulmt was extremely patient and gave me the opportunity to listen to various songs on many different monitor brands and models before making a decision. The SCM45A took away the last bit of doubt I might have had. I will never forget the moment when we played Deadmau5 – some chords at a rather hefty volume, the transparency, deep bass, speed, that big sound. I was totally convinced. It feels good having nothing left to desire.”
Paul Rabbering, July 2016.
Helios Pro Audio Solutions
Paul Rabbering – Facebook Paul Rabbering – Wiki Paul Rabbering – 3FM
SCM19A Review – Hi-Fi Choice
David Vivian of Hi-Fi Choice has reviewed the new SCM19A for the August edition of Hi-Fi Choice. His review was resoundingly positive with the SCM19A gaining five stars and the Hi-Fi Choice ‘Editors Choice’ status for a product of outstanding quality and performance.
Here’s just a taster of what David had to say about the loudspeakers performance:
“Clearly shot through with the solid engineering and acoustic expertise loved by fans of ATC around the world, the SCM19A is an important and effective addition to the company’s extensive domestic lineup. Used in anger with high octane rock it will make most similarly sized passive floorstanders sound somewhat flat and loose. But it does the delicate stuff with great care and finesse as well. A better advert for properly implemented active design at a relatively sane price I’ve yet to hear.”
David Vivian, Hi-Fi Choice August 2016.
The hard copy of the magazine is available from the 14th July. Alternatively, you can download a PDF of the SCM19A Review.
Hi Fi Choice Website
ATC MONITORS TURN TO GAMING WITH STEVE KEMPSTER
Although he is still best known for his work on over 120 films such as National Treasure, Remember The Titans, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Armageddon, Twister, Bourne Supremacy, and Training Day, veteran recording and mix engineer Steve Kempster has, as of late, turned his prodigious talents to the burgeoning world of high-end audio for gaming. Indeed, this year composer Austin Wintory won the ASCAP Composers Choice Award for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and composer Gareth Coker won the Game Audio Network Guild Awards for Ori and the Blind Forest in the categories of Audio of the Year, Best Mix, Best Instrumental Track, and Rookie of the Year. Kempster mixed both scores at his private mix room, relying on his ATC SCM100ASL LCR midfield monitors and his ATC SCM25A LCR near-field monitors to ensure that the full emotional impact and intention of the composers’ works translate to gamers around the world, regardless of the sound systems they listen on.
“I’ve done most of Austin’s games and movies in the last few years,” Kempster said. “I helped him record the original ideas for Assassin’s Creed here in LA, and we were able to get very specific about the feeling and timbre we were after. He wanted a real tactile feeling so that the gamer would feel like the music was right there, not far off in the distance. Our early conversations and work held the project together, and so my mix was a natural extension of that.” Wintory introduced Kempster to Gareth Coker, which led to his work on Ori and the Blind Forest. Kempster is also working on new games with award-winning composer, Mikolai Stroinski.
Back in the late 1970s, Kempster got into the music business as a singer-songwriter. “I learned engineering so that I could get the right sound for the stories I wanted to tell,” he said. “I was inspired to do that because I found that if the engineer understood what I was up to, the song’s intention came through. But if he didn’t, it fell flat. It was an important place to get it right, so I trained myself on how to record and mix and worked with musicians on my own material. They said I had a better sound coming out of my garage than they were getting at the nice studios, so they started asking me to come work with them there. I think it’s helpful to keep the songwriter’s perspective as an engineer. I look at my job from a storytelling point of view first and foremost.”
Kempster explains that the biggest difference between mixing for records or movies and mixing for games is the inherent non-linearity of games. “Depending on the design of the game, the player will hear different things depending on their play,” he said. “If a player engages in a battle and loses, the game may reset to an earlier point. There can be a million different paths and outcomes, as compared to a record or movie with just a single linear arc. The music has to be composed so that it walks hand-in-hand with the action without becoming repetitious. It’s an amazing art that Wintory and Coker are adept at navigating. They build in different levels of the same cue. Those levels seamlessly transmute, and I have to be very careful that my mix works across all of those levels. That’s no easy trick.”
Kempster has two ATC setups: he has his LCR system of ATC SCM25As permanently installed in his home mix room and a large, but mobile LCR system of ATC SCM100ASLs paired with an ATC SCM0.1/15ASL subwoofer for use at different facilities around town. “My ATCs are the most important thing I own, and I own a lot of gear,” Kempster laughed. “With the 100s, I’m kind of like a mobile MASH unit. I’m pretty good at arranging them and working with the subwoofer’s cutoff and volume to get a nice even response. I have a few pieces of music that I listen to that help me calibrate things. Once they sound right, I know whatever I record or mix will translate.”
“All mixing is like sculpting,” he continued.” I chip away and remove the things I don’t want until I hear what I want to hear. With all the levels of a game’s mix, the details can add up in unexpected ways, and I rely on my ATC’s incredible clarity to alert me to any potential issues. When I have the mix right, the imaging on the ATCs is breathtaking and the mix sounds correct across all the volume levels. By relying on ATCs, my mixes translate to postproduction and consumer systems. If I couldn’t get that right, someone later in the production chain would have to do it for me. It’s great that there are talented people who can do that, but I certainly don’t want to be the engineer whose mix needs saving! Career longevity doesn’t come out of that equation!” (Spoken by an engineer who has been delivering spot on mixes for nearly forty years…).
Photo © 2016 Larry Mah
Steve Kempster IMDb
Transaudio Group (ATC U.S. Professional Product Distribution)
Hi-Fi+ Review the ATC SCM150ASL & Primare PRE60
Jason Kennedy has reviewed the SCM150ASL in the latest (May) edition of Hi-Fi+. Here is just a taster of what Jason though of the loudspeakers.
“Real gravitas, there is no excess, no flab, just girth.”
“More important is that the music makes sense, the absence of thickness in the bass allows the tune to take precedence over the sound, it allows the message in the music to be communicated in a way that most systems struggle with because they don’t have the resolution and control that this one does…”
Jason Kennedy, Hi-Fi+, May 2016.
To downloand and read the review in full, here is the PDF of the SCM150ASL review.
SCM10 Signature Edition
ATC was founded in 1974 by our Head of Engineering and Managing Director, Billy Woodman. In March this year, Billy celebrates his 70th Birthday!
Celebrations deserve something special and to mark the occasion we are building a very limited run of one of our earlier models and, a favourite of Billy, the SCM10.
This very limited Signature Edition SCM10SE has been refined from the original design. ATC’s new SH25-76S dual-suspension tweeter now handles the high frequencies and the crossover has been completely re-designed to suit. The resultant system offers superlative reproduction of the upper octaves, an extended high frequency response and greatly improved integration between the bass/mid and tweeter.
Studiobizz Makes a Big Step Forward with New ATC Monitor System
After working on audio monitors of a well known brand for over 12 years, Ulmt of Helios suggested to have a listen at ATC. After short deliberation the SCM45A Pro looked like the best option, so he brought a pair over to my studio. After all, it is best to check a monitor system in your own, familiar environment.
We played several CD tracks as well as some of my own recordings from a Pro Tools HD system. I “clicked” with the loudspeakers immediately, though I didn’t dare to say it out loud just yet! Ulmt suggested to keep the monitors in my studio for a while. “I’ll call you up in about a week to hear what you think of them”, he said. Two days later I made the call and told him I couldn’t do without them anymore.
Despite the fact the mixes I made on my previous monitors still hold their ground, the ATC’s give me much more detailed and accurate information, especially when it concerns layers of instruments, placement and depth of field. After experiencing this, there simply was no way back. But the most important thing for me was that, while so much more information was presented to me, the overall sound appeared more relaxing to my ears. It caused, so to say, less confusion in my head. The positive result of this is that it leaves more room for creativity in my mind. Making mix decisions is now so much easier! Music is a story to be told and when mixing, all the track information needs to be brought into balance, giving each and everything the right dynamics. The SCM45A Pro’s are a great support accomplishing this.
Peter van Tilburg, Studiobizz, Oss
Helios Pro Audio Solutions
ATC MONITORS DELIVER FOR TV’S PROLIFIC COMPOSER DEVIN POWERS
“I know it’s cliché to say, but it’s true. The most important piece of gear in my studio is the monitor system. My ATCs are the best overall loudspeaker that I’ve ever heard.”
Like The Beatles, Madonna, and Nirvana, you’ve undoubtedly heard the music of Devin Powers, but you probably didn’t know it. Powers is arguably the world’s most prolific recording artist turned composer for modern television. He’s written, performed, and recorded literally tens-of-thousands of songs in every genre and style imaginable for all manner of TV shows. His clients include the pioneering reality show Blind Date, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, and Naked & Afraid, the ground breaking #1 survival show for Discovery along with others for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The History Channel, MTV, A&E, and more. In fact, Powers has had music in over four hundred TV shows over the last seventeen years. He’s earned numerous awards from ASCAP, including “Most Performed Television Underscore” in 2006. The three keys to his success are a limitless wellspring of musical inspiration, the capacity to perform every aspect of his compositions, and the professional tools to nail the sound of the target genre and deliver a perfect mix on deadline. For the last two years, Powers has relied on ATC SCM25A active near-field monitors to craft those perfect mixes in an enjoyable, non-fatiguing way, day-in and day-out.
Powers didn’t start out aiming to be top dog in the world of television underscores. Instead, he was a bona fide rocker; an ace on guitar and vocals, with plenty of chops to spare on everything else. He wrote for and led the Universal Records band The Vents in the 1990s. With top-10 radio hits saturating the airwaves, The Vents toured the USA, opening up for bands like Smashmouth, Matchbox 20, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, and Wilco. Clearly, Powers had arrived. But alas, the vicissitudes of corporate mergers and steely boardroom decisions saw The Vents dropped from the label despite radio hits and an undeniably ascending trajectory.
It was a blessing in disguise. “My goal had never been to be a rock star, per se,” Powers said. “I live and breathe music. It oozes out of my pores. My goal was always to make a living making music. I started producing for younger bands when I met up with an industry friend who was looking for an authentic rock guy to write songs for a ‘reality TV show.’ This was back in 1998, and no one knew what a ‘reality TV show’ was! He explained the concept, and I thought it sounded like a fun opportunity to sit in one place and write punk, funk, rock, R&B, metal, you name it. I signed on, and it was way more rewarding in many ways than working in the rock world with no touring! In Blind Date’s first season, Powers wrote and recorded over 1,500 tracks, and at the end of five seasons, he had 7,000 tracks.
Now eighteen years later, Powers has a group of writers working under him, but his main focus is still on writing, recording, and mixing music for his biggest clients. And he has amassed the resources to be a true master of tone. He has all the guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, microphones, vintage outboard gear, and all the deep know-how to pick and choose among that massive arsenal of tools to get just the right sound for a piece. And he does it at a breakneck pace, often starting with nothing in the morning and leaving eight hours later with several completed mixes of songs he wrote and recorded that day!
“Only the biggest primetime scripted shows master or sweeten the music tracks before they’re incorporated into the show. On unscripted shows it’s on the composer to make sure everything is absolutely perfect before it goes out the door,” Powers said. “I have found that my ATC 25s reveal everything that’s going on in my mix, and they do so at any volume. Their midrange is fantastic, and overall, they have the right combination of rock, detail, and punch. And I can listen to them all day and not leave feeling fatigued.”
Powers notes that there are a few differences between mixing for traditional music outlets and for television. First, there’s no unity volume in TV, so Powers typically mixes in the green, leaving more room for dynamics than you might guess. Second, the effects of low volume on sustained sounds (e.g. synth pads) versus transients (e.g. drums) can wreak havoc with a mix. Although he doesn’t want to give away too many secrets, Powers always checks his mixes at low volume on Auratone Sound Cubes. “I listen carefully to the transients,” he said. “My mixes have to work well and translate at all volumes.”