Admittedly … this is a bit of a clickbait title. But there is some truth to what we are going to cover in this opinion article. You see, we get a lot of questions in our e-mail box. And we notice a pretty clear thread. No … correction: we see two obvious threads…!
Recently, your author purchased a pair of new speakers… privately. There had been a desire to move to an active system for some time. And after hearing the ATC SCM40A a few times in the livestreams, I started saving some money. In terms of price, the ATCs are still just attainable for your author…. the Grimm LS1be is still a bit too crazy for now…. who knows… someday.
Why am I bringing up the ATC SCM40A? Well… it’s a pair of speakers that at first sounds not at all impressive … everything sounds very … ‘normal’. And that is exactly the power of this black beauty! Presenting your music collection as if it were the easiest thing in the world is a strength that a balanced – high end? – system has. Pulling everything apart and bringing it with (too) much contrast and saturation is a trick to win you over…. and that often results in misery…
So where many users go wrong is in choosing a system that sounds very “impressive”. Splashing highs, ultra high detail and stomach-churning bass…. And yes: that is impressive. But also deadly tiring in the long run. Moreover, such a system often works well with certain genres or recordings, but it goes completely awry with a lot of other work. And do you desire that? No… Of course not!
The ATC in combination with the Metrum Acoustics Adagio really proved to be a very versatile system. We could hear that very well during the two-week trial period. It doesn’t splash, it doesn’t overwhelm, it doesn’t blow you right off the couch…. Well… Jaap! That sounds boring!
No! On the contrary: I can listen very long and attentively without it becoming tiresome. Each album comes to me as – I think – the musicians and mastering engineers intended. It is very nicely layered. Music lines fall together like a beautiful puzzle, creating a lot of calmness. Tranquility… so don’t confuse that with boring! Because this system is definitely not boring!
How to avoid it?
Well… nice that your author is so happy … but that’s of no use to you. How can you prevent yourself from falling into this trap? Quite simply… if something sounds instantly impressive and you think: wow…. that’s cool! Then take a step back.
- Is what I’m hearing accurate?
- Balance (Are there any frequency areas overtly turned on?)
- Imaging (Is there balance and realism?)
- Detailing (is it not magnified?)
- What about the rhythm?
- Is it tight?
- Too slow?
- How does this sound after two hours of listening?
- Does it still sound good when the volume is low?
- How does this sound with other genres and recordings?
When in doubt … something is usually wrong. By now, your author is pretty sensitive to balance in a system. And in many cases, the bumps and valleys do get recognized immediately. That’s professional deformation, but I’m guessing that, as a reader of Alpha Audio and therefore enthusiast, you too have developed some sort of anomaly in that area.
Meanwhile, a particularly strong preference for sauceless audio has developed. The sauce should be in the recording…. not in the system. That may be different for you. That’s taste and is entirely up to you. But beware of too much gravy … it’s really going to backfire, in my experience.
Don’t listen to others
You are having a nice evening with friends listening to music. Super! You have some stuff on demo and want to share it with your (audio) friends. That’s fine, but there’s also a danger here…. everyone has different tastes. And in the end, you have to listen to the system. So above all, trust your own ears. And not necessarily those of your friends / girlfriends!
Have fun listening!