Active Speakers from ATC

The late J. Gordon Holt used to say that although active loudspeakers make perfect sense, they will never attain popularity among audiophiles, who want to do their own mix-and-matching of amplifier and speaker. That was some time ago. Today, active loudspeakers are ubiquitous in multi-room settings, and even well-established audiophile loudspeaker manufacturers like Dynaudio have entered the active loudspeaker market.

Coming from the pro market, where active loudspeakers have been the norm, ATC is a major advocate of the active approach. According to ATC, the advantages include more accurate crossovers, lower intermodulation distortion, improved frequency response and stereo matching, and better low-frequency control. The active speaker from ATC being demoed at CES was the SCM40A, ($12,999/pair; $6999/pair in the passive version). The source was the Callia DAC/preamp from Prism Sound.

The sound was truly excellent, with a neutral tonal balance and excellent transparency. At first, I thought the speakers sounded a bit "polite," but when the volume was turned up any trace of politeness was gone. The speaker is rather old-fashioned looking, but they're nothing old-fashioned about the sound. I wish I had the time to do a comparison between the active and passive versions.