Description

I was very happy with the stand mount ATC SCM19's driven by the brilliant Benchmark AHB2 monos - but an opportunity came up to purchase a S/H pair of the big active SCM100 ASLT's. Awesome speakers! 
Like the 19's but with far greater dynamic power, ease and grandeur along with a robust realness to reproduced music. http://www.tobespages.info
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Room Details

Dimensions: 20’ × 14’  Medium
Ceiling: 9’


Components Toggle details

    • Technics SL-1210GR
    Classic Technics direct drive featuring simplified versions of motor and plinth from the upmarket 1200G.
    • VPI Industries TNT Mk-1
    VPI TNT series 1 - original, heavy lead loaded acrylic platter. Has been updated with Mk-5 main bearing, 'ball' suspension, SDS, integrated motor/flywheel.
    • Grace G-1040
    Bought 1982 with a Rega Planar 3. Have now sold my Graham Phantom and scaling back my vinyl, so have pulled this old arm out of storage. Couldn't find the cable, so sourced one from Y.Tome audio cables.
    Cartridge setup with Tracking Wizard arc protractor with original null points for Grace tonearms.
    • Garrott Brothers P77
    Vintage MM cartridge from the mid 80's. Original stylus unit replaced with Jico Stylus-1 SAS/B.
    • Ortofon 2m Black
    Moving magnet cartridge with Shibata stylus.
    • Denon 103R
    Modded with 'Midas' body shell and retipped by SoundSmith with their Optimised Line Contact stylus. The retip gives a surprising improvement in detail refinement and clarity. Does not have the tonal accuracy, delicacy nor the authority of the Ortofon Jubilee/Cadenza Black. Perhaps favoring the individual performers rather than the overall acoustic - though the retip gives much of both. A great communicator of the music - but perhaps not best suited to classical program.
    • Denon 103R Midas body epoxy potted
    Pair of Soundsmith retipped Denon 103R cartridges with epoxy potting (Araldite super strength)
    • Denon Panzerholz 103R
    103R in Uwe Panzerholz wood body. Shown with Midas aluminium body 103R (stock cantilever/stylus)
    • Parasound Halo JC3 Jr.
    A reasonably priced MM/MC phono stage designed by John Curl. Uses op-amps for the audio stages but, unlike a few other SS phono amps I've tried, it has precision, detail and control without sounding etched or lacking body and realism. A very well balanced design.
    • Bob's Devices CineMag 1131
    Moving coil SUT with 1:20 and 1:40 ratios (26dB and 32dB respectively).
    • K and K Audio Premium SUT - Lundahl LL1941
    Step up kit using Lundahl LL1941 transformers built into a very plain metal box. Switchable 1:16, 1:32 ratios. Sounds excellent, not an obvious step down from previously used Choir Audio/Hashimoto SUT (which I sold when I was scaling back my vinyl due to pursuit of digital nirvana).
    • Cary Audio Design PH-302 mkII - capacitor mods
    Phono preamp using 6SL7's in an adaption of the classic passive RIAA phono circuit from the RCA tube manual. A second 6SL7 is used as a direct coupled paralleled cathode follower. I've replaced the output and interstage coupling caps with ClarityCap MR. Multicap RTX and AuraT teflon caps have been substituted in the PS and RIAA respectively. Tubes are NOS Sylvania Gold brand 6SL7 and 1968 vintage Mullard GZ34 in the PS.
    • Benchmark DAC3 L
    Compact DAC/Pre with design emphasis on low distortion, high SNR and hence neutrality and transparency to source.
    • Benchmark HPA4
    Pre/headphone amp with innovative FPGA controlled relay switched resistor array volume control (two independent stereo attenuators for preamp and headphone). Ultra low distortion, ultra high SNR design.
    • ATC SCM-100aslt
    Large 3-way active towers with 350Wrms (total) tri-amp. All drivers manufactured in-house by ATC: HF 25mm Neodymium, Mid 75mm ATC Soft Dome, LF 314mm SL spec. Neutral and revealing, essentially a tower version of the similarly equipped studio monitor.  Great dynamic authority and extension, but wonderful at the delicate stuff too. 
    • ATC SCM-19 Mk2
    Low sensitivity two way monitor using ATC's 150mm Super Linear bass mid driver (9Kg optimised short-coil/long gap motor assembly) and 25mm dual suspension soft dome tweeter. Both drivers made in-house at ATC. Amazing detail, resolution and dynamics (given enough quality power) for a small stand mount.
    Replaces Harbeth M30.1, a fine speaker in its own right, but no match for the neutrality and detailed resolve of the ATC.
    • Focal Utopia Headphones
    Focal's flagship headphones featuring beryllium drivers with lightweight former-less voice coils and unusually long excursion. Exquisitely detailed and dynamic sounding.
    • Sennheiser HD-600
    Former Sennheiser flagship has been in production for 20 years. Still regarded as a reference at it's price point and a great value in the current market. Makes current flagships seem overpriced given it's level of achievement.
    • Audience aR2p-TO
    Dual outlet passive power line filter utilizing Audience Teflon capacitors. All equipment fed from these outlets via VH Audio 'Hotboxes'.
    • Silver Audio Silver Breeze
    DIN to RCA dedicated phono cable. Silver conductors, WBT connectors. Used this cable for more than 10 years.
    • VH Audio Flavor 1, 2, 3 power cords and Hotboxes
    DIY power cables using Chris VenHaus' recipes, terminated with Furutech IEC and male plugs. Power cables connected back to VH Audio hotboxes on dedicated 20amp line. I don't claim to know why, but this power setup was essential to extracting the clarity, dynamics and sound staging I've achieved with my system.

Comments 60

128x128
Sweet room--I really like the diffuser panels, and the ATC towers are dream speakers of mine.  Salut

archguy

128x128
Owner
Doug, I started out experimenting with DIY - the round bass traps and panels in the front corners were built around John Risch recipes: 
I later added the grey 100mm thick foam v-pattern panels and played around with positioning - now seen on the front wall. I don't remember who made those.
Generally, I only really liked the above absorption panels behind the speaker position. Putting my DIY panels or too many of the grey foam panels in front of the speakers created a somewhat dead sound not to my liking - minimal use was ok. 

The treatment used on the ceiling are Vicoustics DC2 diffusers: https://vicoustic.com/product/multifuser-dc2
I have 18 600x600mm DC2 panels (3 boxes), 8 on the ceiling and 10 distributed around the room. Work well at breaking up flutter echos and clarifying the sound without detrimental changes in room balance.

The panels with the  slotted wooden face are the Vicoustic Wavewood - looking at the Vicoustic site it appears these may have been discontinued(?) and replaced with Wavewood Ultra Panels which have an integrated wall/ceiling fixing system: http://https://vicoustic.com/product/vicpattern-ultra-wavewood?melamine-colors=Brown%20Oak 
I have 4 of the 1200x600 Wavewood panels and found them to be much better balanced than my DIY absorbers when used forward of the speaker position.
The original Wavewood panels were meant to be glued to the wall - however I glued them to 3mm MDF and mounted using wall hooks. Less permanent and I can reposition if required. The new Vicoustic mounting system for the Wavewood appears much better than glueing IMO. 

I suggest starting with a couple of types of panels and experimenting - prop panels with whatever you have available and try different arrangements before fixing in position. IMO you'll get more gains than playing around with things like cables and probably for much less $'s.

tobes

222222&text=do
Hi there -
Nice work on your room I bet it sounds fantastic.

Would you provide links to the various sound panels in your room pls.
I'm thinking I would like to try a few different ones, especially the ceiling ones you have.

Thanks 

dougsat

128x128
Owner
Dan, I was very torn about selling my Benchmark AHB2's, but the only way I could afford the ATC actives. I love the Benchmark stuff. It only seems to get better as I chip away at other issues - see comments below.   

Added diffusion panels to ceiling at mid point between speakers and listening position.
I really wish I had explored ceiling treatment years ago because the improvement in imaging and transient clarity is profound. Its difficult to quantify how much more compelling and realistic this makes music sound. 
Not sure if this is because it was the final untreated surface or because the ATC speakers are now being allowed to strut their stuff. Probably both. 
In any case the improvement in SQ is amazing in value/$ terms and far outstrips expenditure on tweaks/cables and even hardware changes.  Actually this type of improvement is probably not possible with any of the latter, regardless of $'s spent since it is fixing a room related issue (perhaps only room DSP would get close?). 

tobes

128x128
Tobes, I finally found out last night how good the Sennheiser HD 600 cans really are. I received yesterday a Benchmark DAC 1 Pre. I'm floored by it. After listening through my system all evening, I decided to plug my 'phones in, I was just amazed how good they sounded

I'd been using Musical Fidelity X-Cans for around twenty years. This will probably induce me to do a bit more headphone listening, though I prefer listening my speakers more.

I've read a lot of good things about Benchmark's AHB2, one may have to go on my long-term wish list.

Regards, and enjoy,
Dan 

Ag insider logo xs@2xislandmandan

Center
Looks really good! I definitely prefer short wall placement.

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

128x128
Owner
Speakers moved to the short wall and acoustic treatment adjusted accordingly.
I'd been meaning to try this for a while but the long wall placement was more practical and open aesthetically.  
Speakers baffles are now almost 2m from the front wall and angled toward the seating position about 2m off the back wall. This creates a listening equilateral triangle with sides about 2.5m.
Depth and image stability is significantly better with this arrangement.

tobes

128x128
Owner
Added some Vicoustic DC2 diffusers to the front and back walls - something I'd been meaning to do for a while.
Very noticeable improvement in sound space resolution, ambiance and imaging - recordings now displaying much more differences in regard to these aspects. 
While the system is primarily used for music I've also noticed distinct improvement in soundscape, image localisation and steering in movies, which is probably not that surprising. Dialogue also sounds more natural to the particular acoustic.
Very worthwhile given the cost - peanuts compared to equipment cost.

tobes

128x128
Owner
Well, the obvious difference is the bass extension. The 100's go seriously low and I have sold my Rel S3 subwoofer. However the ATC's only produce bass when it's in the program. The major change is th timbral weight and robustness that is added throughout the mids - voices, saxophones, pianos, guitars etc just sound more realistic. Dynamics are also much wider - instruments, even a strumed guitar, can sound explosive and project in a more realistic manner. The speakers have a sort of unburstable grandeur , they just seem to be cruising and taking everything in their stride.
I played all sorts of music on the first night, the 100's deliver with any program/genre. I was up past 3am.

tobes

Center
Congrats on the upgrade to ATC 100 active towers. What did you play on them for the first day and what did you notice most compared to the 19’s?

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

128x128
Owner
ATC SCM100 ASLT active towers added, replacing the little SCM19 Mk2 monitors - major upgrade, as it should be considering the price. Since these are active speakers the superb Benchmark AHB2 amps are gone (to help fund the speaker purchase). Have also rationalised my turntable setup and the Graham Phantom is gone - yet to decide what will happen with my turntable setup as the most of my listening is local digital downloads and Tidal these days.

tobes

128x128
Owner
Second Benchmark AHB2 added and amps configured for mono - 380Wpc/8ohms. The SCM19's are now bi-wired with 2 sets of Straightwire Maestro, brought back into service after 20yrs in my parts box.
The Maestro provides a significant improvement in clarity, airy delicacy, spaciousness, imaging and transient precision (previously using Goertz Mi2). Who knew?

tobes

128x128
Owner
In addition to what I said below regarding the HPA4 I should also mention that I compared it to my Bryston BP26 - a very competent, low distortion and great sounding two box preamp (Bryston's top of the range). 
The HPA4 is a more transparent and revealing preamp. 

tobes

128x128
Owner
I actually got my DAC3L only weeks before getting the HPA4. I never really used the DAC3L as my main preamp except to briefly check it out. I preferred the greater flexibility the Bryston BP26 gave me in terms of inputs and particularly the more linear volume adjustment. Though the DAC3L was probably the more direct conduit. 
The HPA4 has the relay driven resistor arrays - seperate attenuators for headphone and speakers - that allow adjustment in 0.5dB steps over 125dB range. This along with the headphone amp is why I got the HPA4. I can't specifically say it's better than the DAC3 alone, but it allows the DAC3 to operate without any digital attenuation so it ought to be better. 
For me the HPA4 was a matter of integration and convenience along with maintaining Benchmark's vanishingly low distortion and high SNR. I think it's a brilliant piece of gear. In combination with the AHB2 and SCM19's I get crazy resolution and insight into recordings.

tobes

Center
The Harbeth’s were stunning visually but looked a little out of place on the black stands. The ATC speakers look superb in your setup and integrate better with the rest of your gear. Congrats on these new speakers. Check out Dave Grusin Homage to Duke and crank it!

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

222222&text=yy
My mistake I should have said, HPA4 not AHB2.

yyzsantabarbara

222222&text=yy
Like your tastes in equipment. I also have a Becnhmark DAC3L and a AHB2 amp driving my Audience 1+1 V2 in my office. I was wondering what your AHB2 brought to your system sound other than the headphone?

yyzsantabarbara

128x128
Owner
Proof that I have no self restraint - no sooner do I say no changes are planned, than I go and audition the ATC SCM19 monitors. 
Once I'd listened to the SCM19's (with my own Benchmark AHB2 power amp) I had to have them!
The 19's actually sell for less than my previous Harbeth M30.1's, so I wasn't really sure what to expect having never actually heard an ATC speaker (the shop sold both ATC and Harbeth). I was completely captivated by the pristine sound of the 19's, their transient speed/dynamics and taut, surprisingly extended bottom end. Imaging was first rate as was the musical detail and presence.
Though somewhat less sensitive than my Harbeths, the AHB2 can drive them to high levels without any apparent issue. Nonetheless I'm wondering about a second AHB2 (running as a mono pair) to exploit the full dynamic range of the SCM19's (ATC recommend 75-300W).

tobes

Center
I concur with your findings. If you have the right speaker then everything sounds great and differences between DACs don’t matter that much. That said I find Benchmark to be the best I have heard especially if you use the XLR output.

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

128x128
Owner
No wonder I was getting no thread updates - haven't been around much and forgot to update my email address. Lol.
BTW, I'm about 160km North of Melbourne.

FWIW I've had a number of setups that I thought worked well with the Harbeth m30.1's. They're pretty unfussy and seem to produce a bit of midrange magic with widely varying gear.
For instance the ARC sp16/vs55 tube combo worked really well I thought, as did the Grace m920/Halcro MC30 - which could hardly be more different in topology/power output etc. 
Having said that, for purity, resolution and insight into the recording the Benchmark gear is the best I've had in my room. Such revelation may not suit all systems, but the Harbeths are so non-clinical in their sound it all works very well. Actually the Benchmark stuff doesn't sound clinical either IMO, just transparent to the source.
Benchmark is not for people who like to show off though - the components are small and visually unimpressive, looking more like a mid-fi mini system than traditional Hi-Fi components. 

tobes

Center
I will be in Melbourne in the next year or two - is that close to you?

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

128x128
Owner
Thanks.
I don't have any immediate plans to change anything.
I'd love to be able to stretch to the Harbeth m40.2's - but they're super expensive in Australia at 5-6 times more than I payed for m30.1's back in 2012. So can't see that happening.
But then the 30.1's still sound wonderful to me after nearly 6 years ownership - and even better with the HPA4 in the chain.
Time to be sensible, exercise a bit of self control, and just enjoy the music!

tobes

Center
Wow. What a fantastic setup. I would buy your entire setup in a heartbeat and never need to change anything. The HPA 4 has technically the best analog volume control I know of. I would love to hear your setup!

Is there anything you would like to change or are you done for now?

Ag insider logo xs@2xshadorne

128x128
Owner
Several changes to my system which follow a transition to computer based music as my primary source (streaming and local). I'm utilising a Mac mini with Uptone Audio linear PS. I doing a lot more headphone listening - especially since adding the Focal Utopia headphones almost 2yrs ago. 

A turning point for me was getting the Benchmark AHB2 amp which provided less coloration and lower noise than any of the 6-7 amps I'd tried in this system prior to the latter.
I've owned a few different DACs over the past few years - including Schitt Yggdrasil and PSAudio Directstream Jnr - but ultimately wanted less of a  'fingerprint' on the music. Given my experience with the AHB2 I added the Benchmark DAC3L which I find less coloured than the above mentioned dacs.

I've now added the super low distortion Benchmark HPA4 pre/headphone amp which offers transparent sound as well convenient, finely adjustable, independent control of both my headphone and speaker setups.

tobes

128x128
Owner
Now have the JRDG Capri S2 preamp in
my system - amp is the Odyssey
Khartago mentioned above.

Except for a lapse in communication I
almost ended up with the Parasound
JC-2.
The Capri S2 is a very compact preamp
with a nicely made, milled from
solid, case. Feature wise the JC2 and
Capri are similar but the JC2 offers more
inputs. I do like the volume/balance of the
Capri which are adjustable in
precise steps of 0.5dB. Internally the
Capri follows a quite different design
philosopy to the JC2.
From pictures the JC2 appears beautifully
built with shielded conventional
linear PS and discrete components on
seperate channel PCB's - fairly
purist/minimalist I would have said.
The Capri takes minimalism to the max. A
small SMPS sits in a separate
milled cavity. All signal circuitry is
mounted on a single compact PCB to
which inputs are directly connected. An
input transformer for each channel
connects
inputs to the central preamp section on
the PCB - which appears to use a
single LM49740 quad opamp per channel
mounted right next to the output
connectors.

Listening to an Alison Krauss track as I
type this - beautiful sounding
preamp! Sounds open and transparent
but also organic, refined and
expressive. Who would have thought from
a apparently simple opamp
design……guess it's all in the
implementation.

tobes

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