Legendary Guitarist Eric Johnson Reilies On Legendary ATC Reference Monitors
AUSTIN, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 2014: “Legendary guitarist” is justifiably the most common two-word description given of Eric Johnson, whose six-string prowess has earned him a Grammy win, several Grammy nominations, a Platinum album, and residency on practically every “Top X Guitarists of All Time” list ever made. He’s regularly played and recorded with fellow guitar greats Chet Atkins, Steve Vai, and Joe S…atriani, and Eric Clapton selected Johnson for his 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Most recently, Johnson collaborated with jazz guitar great Mike Stern on the album Eclectic, which the two recorded and mixed at Johnson’s Austin-based studio with the help of Johnson’s accomplished recording and mix engineer Kelly Donnelly. Although Johnson is known mainly for his prodigious talent as a guitarist, he is also comfortable playing numerous other instruments, including piano, lap steel, bass, and voice. He is an accomplished songwriter and, in more recent years, has plied his skills over the years as a producer and assisting his recording engineers. The common frustration of mixing a song to seeming perfection, only to find obvious mistakes when he played it on other systems, drove Johnson to find the perfect near-field monitors. He found them in a pair of ATC SCM25As, which deliver the undecorated truth so that Johnson’s mixes sound beautiful and balanced on any system, from wee computer speakers to the biggest home theaters.
Years in the making, Johnson slowly constructed the ideal project studio in his Austin, Texas home, and he only declared it finished six years ago. “I always wanted a great rehearsal space, and it seemed natural to make it a recording studio as well,” he said. “I took my time because I wanted to do it right. I like to think about the tools I use the same way I think about guitars. When I find the right guitar, it facilitates my playing. It’s like I can feel the push of the polarity, the wind’s at my back, and soon I’m not paying any attention to the guitar itself… I’m just making music. It’s the same with the studio and all the equipment and processes in the studio. At their best, they fall away and I’m just making music.”
Most of the engineering duties at Johnson’s project studio fall to Donnelly. “Kelly and I often found ourselves second-guessing our mixes,” said Johnson. “We’d take a mix that sounded perfect in the studio and notice huge bumps or holes when we played it other places. It’d be like, ‘we must have overlooked that in the studio!’ But then we’d go back to the studio and those bumps or holes wouldn’t be there. So there was a lot of back and forth, which wasted time, energy, and inspiration. I became very interested in finding a near field system that would ensure our mixes translated outside of the studio, especially as we drew close to working on Eclectic. People with ears I trust told me that ATC is the way to go.”
After performing due diligence with trials of numerous top-end reference monitor manufacturers, Johnson arrived at the same conclusion. He purchased a pair of ATC SCM25As, which feature a three-way active design starting with a seven-inch low-frequency driver. “The ATCs have a great vibe and they’re fun to mix on,” said Johnson. “The imaging is solid and in-phase, and the top end is natural – not glitchy or peaky or spikey. They’re pleasant at whisper volume or blaring, and the response seems pretty linear across that range. I’ve also noticed that we can monitor at high volumes on the ATCs as long as we like and they never become fatiguing. So the in-studio experience on the ATCs is great. Beyond that however, the mixes we’ve done on the ATCs translate beautifully, and we don’t have to second-guess ourselves anymore.”
Part of the Concord Music Group, instrumental music label Heads Up International released Eclectic, and thus sent it to Concord’s multiple Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Paul Blakemore. For years now, Blakemore has been mastering on ATC SCM150ASL monitors. “The ATC monitors are the most accurate loudspeakers I have ever heard, and I can’t imagine using anything else,” he said. “They work equally well on any genre of music, which is very unusual and particularly important for Eclectic. As the name promises, Eclectic is eclectic! It runs from rock, to jazz, to blues, to R&B, and to everything in between. The ATCs were critical for getting the high end correct and consistent across all those styles. Similarly, the ATCs were critical for making sure the low end was true and in the pocket from song to song. Once I get things right on the ATCs, I’m confident that the final product will translate to any other system in the world.”
In November 2014 and January and February 2015, Johnson and Stern are taking their otherworldly chops on the road for an extended U.S. engagement.
(PHOTO CREDIT: © 2014 Max Crace)
New Dealer Appointment for Central London – Audio Lounge
ATC are very pleased to announce that Audio Lounge have been appointed as a new Hi-Fi dealer for Central London. Audio Lounge’s luxurious store is located in Mayfair, just a few minutes’ walk from Selfridges and Bond St. tube station.
The store, featuring a showroom at street level and a basement demonstration room has been carefully designed to provide one of the finest listening experiences in the UK, whilst the shop itself is luxuriously equipped to create a space offering superb acoustics and a relaxing atmosphere in which to browse. Since opening its doors in 2013, the store has hosted many live music events for various recording artists to perform to small public groups, and also regularly holds vinyl listening sessions on Thursday evenings (with the odd celebrity dropping by to enjoy the music with us or to give talks about their career!)
Audio Lounge have a very wide range of ATC products on active demonstration. They are also the only company in the South East with ATC’s On-Wall loudspeakers on demonstration. Where space may be at a premium or a discrete solution is preferred, these newly designed slim-line speakers have been introduced to maximise sound quality both for music and home cinema.
Staff at Audio Lounge include Mark Withers, who has 10 years’ experience in Hi-Fi retail, as well as being a CEDIA Accredited Designer within the Custom Installation sector. Mark is extremely experienced with ATC products, including both loudspeakers and electronics and will be on-hand to help specify a system best suited to any customers requirements.
Running alongside Audio Lounge is Nebula Nine, Mark Withers and business partner, Chris Varnham’s Cinema and Smart Home Design Company. Mark’s lifelong passion for music and understanding of the high end audiophile world as well as his exceptional eye for detail has enabled them to create many of Britain’s finest music rooms, cinemas, multiroom audio systems and fully integrated future ready homes.
Together they have vast industry experience and an extensive knowledge in resolving the complexities of residential AV integration. Their team of specialists provide everything from the initial design and CAD work, with project management through to installation and programming. Their services, available through Audio Lounge include:
- Bespoke home cinema room design and calibration
- Supply and setup of world class HiFi and multi-room audio systems
- Room correction and acoustic treatment
- Tailor made Crestron control system design & programming
- IT, networking and WiFi management
- Specification of future ready wiring infrastructures
- Door entry, CCTV, telephony installation
- Lutron lighting and blind control as well as many other forms of automation
Audio Lounge, 138 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 3SG
T: +44 (0)20 7487 4080 E: email@example.com
Nebula Nine Ltd, Studio 8, 231 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 9HP
T: +44 (0) 207 607 3587 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
ATC SCM11 – Award Winners!
“We’re delighted to announce that the ATC SCM11 has won the award for, ‘Best Standmounter £800 – £1200, in the 2014 What Hi-Fi? Awards.
You can read exactly what the What Hi-Fi staff had to say on their website but for starters, we think their summary says it all:
“The new SCM11s are a drastic improvement over an already talented performance, and they have the good looks to match. ATC has raised the bar it set itself. This isn’t just a step up – it’s a running leap.”
Joel Hamilton Records Puss n Boots with ATC
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – AUGUST 2014: Puss n Boots is a three-piece, all-female, alt-country band led by singer-songwriter Norah Jones and backed by accomplished vocalists Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper. All three women learned new instruments for five years before recording their debut album with engineer/musician/producer Joel Hamilton (Tom Waits, Black Keys, Sparklehorse, Elvis Costello) at Studio G Brooklyn. Titled No Fools, No Fun, the album was recently released on Blue Note Records. As co-owner of Studio G Brooklyn with Tony Maimone, Hamilton installed ATC SCM25A three-way reference monitors and ATC SCM0.1-15 subwoofers in Studio A, a change that happily coincided with his first Grammy nomination (Pretty Lights, A Color Map of the Sun), a Latin Grammy nomination (Bomba Estereo, Elegancia Tropical), and a Latin Grammy win (Gaby Moreno, Postales). The ATCs were purchased from Audio Power Tools in New York.
“The ATCs have changed the way I work and improved the quality of my work,” said Hamilton. “I’m lucky to have a nicely tuned control room with an SSL and plenty of vintage outboard gear, and with the ATCs, I’m suddenly able to make decisions that are smaller – and yet more critical – than I have ever been able to make before. I have the ability to resolve a finer shade of the colors I’m hurling at the end-listener, and it’s been a revelation. It’s not a small thing, and that’s why I’m reaching for dramatic words like that. It’s tectonic. The entire continent has shifted.”
The glorious harmonies delivered by Jones, Dobson and Popper are a huge part of Puss n Boots’ magic. They form the emotional foreground. “The balance of those harmonies is crucial,” said Hamilton. “You’ve got these three gorgeous women with gorgeous voices, and they’re all coming at you like gangbusters because they can all project. We recorded everything live to analog tape, including the vocals. That gives a particular nuance to how the instruments sit against the vocals. You can feel the beat push and pull so beautifully. I needed to make sure that all of that nuance would come shining through for the listener. Striking the right midrange balance of those harmonies is critical, and I had to make sure all of that beauty would be immediately apparent to, say, my mom!”
While Norah Jones’ existing albums might safely be described as “polished” and most classic country albums might safely be described as “rough,” Hamilton had to walk the line between those extremes. “The balance is deliberately raw, which is perhaps unexpected by traditional Norah Jones standards, but it also has to be informed,” he said. “We were shooting for a tiny bulls eye, but we also had to make sure that everything felt unfettered and natural; just on the edge of scratchy so that it felt rough but didn’t actually hurt people. With the ATCs, I could find that line and make adjustments with confidence. I could tell where I was overcooking it on purpose. I could dial in just the right amount of ‘road house.’”
With the introduction of the ATCs, gone too is the need to translate for the client how a mix will sound outside of the studio. “After spending a lot of time in front of other monitors, I could tell when certain things would sound bad in the studio but fine outside of the studio,” Hamilton said. “The challenge beyond that, however, was convincing the client that those bad things would be fine later on, which is just one more thing to heap onto the already-skittish nature of an attended mix session. And so clients would ask, ‘why don’t you just get monitors that sound like it will sound like?’ It seems so simple, but of course it’s not.”
Hamilton used to switch between a number of monitors and loudspeakers all day long, but now he just hangs out on the ATCs. Depending on the task at hand, he can turn the ATC subwoofer on or not. “With the sub on and the volume cracked, the ATCs rock and serve as ‘mains,’” he said. “When I’m listening closely and resolving small moves, the ATCs are my nearfields. Either way, I now have complete confidence in what I’m hearing and doing. When a mix sounds good on the ATCs, I know it will sound good everywhere else. With Puss n Boots, we were able to make solid decisions that stuck. We totally avoided the hell of endless revisions!”
Hi-Fi Wigwam stunned by ATC SCM40
Hi-Fi Wigwam’s James Palmer absolutely loved our SCM40 floorstanders and reviews them in full for the Hi-Fi Wigwam website.
Here are couple highlights from the review:
It’s what I want from HiFi. I want an insight, I want to feel like the Guitar amp is in front of me, the kick drums are not far behind and to feel involved in the music at a very live and connected level. Nothing else I have heard in a small living room has managed this feat. These do it with ease, they don’t shout at you, and don’t need to be played loud to sound their best, they deliver whether you are listening to Steely Dan, or Metallica, JS Bach or Phillip Glass.
The bass is so taught, yet thunderously deep. My room is shockingly difficult for bass bloom, yet the ATC’s have everything under control. Deep and tuneful, in a way that is entirely new at WigWam towers. I know I’ve said similar before, about other speakers, mia culpa, these are better. Trust me, these are better.
The bottom line.. I’m sold. I can’t live without them. I need them in my life and will have to make the change. Putting my Living Voice OBX R2′s back in was pleasing and frustrating in equal measure. Yes, they are a lovely listen, but the lack of comparative clarity and speed is something that I can’t live with. Many will disagree, in some systems the SCM40′s will sound too revealing. If the electronics are forward, they will sound forward and with this much detail that will be too much. Audition carefully, but please, do audition. In the right system, you would have to spend £10k to get anywhere close to this sound quality. Genuinely, you could piano gloss them and change the labels, hawk them round the European shows and sell plenty at £10k a pair…. erm… anyone know a French Polisher? I’m off.
James Palmer, Hi-Fi Wigwam, September 2014.
New ATC Dealer – Criterion Audio, Cambridgeshire
ATC have appointed a new dealer for Cambridgeshire.
Criterion Audio is opening soon, bringing the ultimate audio retail experience to the Cambridge area. With its state of the art showroom and three purpose-built demonstration rooms, Criterion Audio marks the beginning of a new era for audiophiles.
On Saturday, 4 October Criterion will be having a Grand Opening event with live music, food and drinks. Criterion staff and manufacturer representatives will be in attendance, including ATC’s Managing Director, Billy Woodman, to provide advice and answer any questions you may have. VIP places include complimentary attendance and a guided tour of the showroom. Spaces are strictly limited, so please confirm attendance before Wednesday, 1 October by emailing email@example.com and mentioning the VIP code <ATC>
Criterion hope you can join them for an amazing sound and music experience!
4th October 12pm – 6pm
Camboro Business Park,
SCM19 receives top marks from HiFi Choice Magazine
The HiFi Passive SCM19 has just received a superb review from HiFi Choice magazine. Click here to read the full review.
Production power trio tackle Titanfall gaming blockbuster OST using ATC monitoring
“We all came to these monitors from different paths — writing, mixing, and mastering, which I think is testament to their versatility as a range.”
- Stephen Barton (Composer, Titanfall)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, USA: specialist British loudspeaker drive unit and complete sound reproduction system manufacturer ATC is proud to announce that film and video games composer Stephen Barton, music scoring mixing engineer extraordinaire Alan Meyerson, and Grammy® award-winning mastering engineer Gavin Lurssen professionally pooled their formidable resources and talents to complete the recently released Titanfall original soundtrack album using an all-ATC selection of reference monitors… Titanfall is the latest gaming blockbuster from one of the co-creators of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, which has spectacularly sold over 14-million copies to date. Crucially, it, too, benefits from another superlative score from film and video games composer Stephen Barton, a British émigré who headed for the Hollywood Hills back in 2002 to work as an assistant to fellow Brit composer Harry Gregson-Williams, who has won numerous awards as well as receiving widespread critical acclaim for his film and video game scores, including The Chronicles Of Narnia, the Shrek movies, and the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Today Barton works out of his own well-stocked studio setup in a leased room within Lurssen Mastering, a full-service mastering studio on the famous Hollywood Center Studio lot, a location steeped in over 80 years of entertainment history, which, of course, is precisely where the Titanfall composition success story began, skilfully and sympathetically mocked up on an all-singing, all-dancing DAW. Here he hears exactly what he needs to, thanks to a revealing pair of ATC SCM50ASL Pro three-way active monitors. “The ATCs are nothing short of phenomenal,” Barton begins, before continuing: “There’s nothing out there that equals them to my mind in terms of clarity, lack of fatigue over long-term listening, and truthfulness, which is the most important quality of any studio monitor. I’ve been using them for nearly seven ears now, so, when I started working out of Lurssen Mastering a few years ago, the fact that Gavin Lurssen was using the bigger brothers to hose in my setup was actually a big influence, and a great indication that we were like-minded in our listening approach.”
Cue Gavin Lurssen, Chief Mastering Engineer at Lurssen Mastering, whose sought-after skill-set brought the Titanfall original soundtrack production to its natural conclusion: “I have a strong relationship with Stephen Barton, who wanted me to do what we do to his music that was being released on Titanfall. When you’re also dealing with some orchestral music — beautiful stuff like this that was done in Abbey Road, it clearly falls into the high standards and practices of what we normally do — creating a total spectrum of balance that’s going to translate into all consumer listening environments, which includes mobile devices with little earbuds all the way through to audiophile listening environments.”
Sited within that historic Hollywood building — formerly used to fashion movie sets, Lurssen’s listening environment is naturally second to none with larger ATC SCM150ASL Pro three-way active and smaller ATC SCM25A Pro three-way compact active monitors at its heart: “The way that I ended up with ATC was that I was working at another mastering facility and a client came in with a pair of ATCs so that they could complete a project. Within seconds of hearing them I knew that something magical was happening and also knew that when the time came to open my own place then that’s where I’d turn to. So when that happened eight years ago their US distributor hooked me up with the 150s and I’ve used them ever since. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re the only thing that I can use to create my audio balances. They’re smooth and not fatiguing, and, somehow, make digital sound like analogue. I can sit in a room all day long and not burn out.”
Outside the mastering and compositional confines of the Titanfall soundtrack-spawning Lurssen Mastering building, those epic-sounding orchestral music scoring mixing sessions at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios fell upon the seasoned shoulders and exemplary ears of Alan Meyerson, one of Hollywood’s top scoring engineers, with extensive credits including the majority of Hans Zimmer’s movie music. “Alan also uses ATCs, and it’s just been a case of coincidence that this amazingly huge project was done down the line on these speakers,” summarises Lurssen.
Coincidence or otherwise, in this case, there’s no doubting the benefits of an all-ATC reference monitoring experience in Barton’s finelytuned musical mind: “The translation across the entire range made the entire workflow incredibly smooth. On mix down there were maybe two or three cues out of 30 or 40 for the IMC (Interstellar Mining Corporation) — one of the two factions in the game — that needed small tweaks. The majority of them were perfect straight out of the gate. Obviously a major part of this is down to awesome mix talent, but I think the fact that we weren’t adjusting to an entirely new monitoring approach meant that it was a much more cohesive process without any of those ‘I didn’t think that sounded like that’ moments. That’s especially true in important aspects of the frequency spectrum for a game like this, which is generally in the low end. Crucially, the translation to the game is superb. We did a direct shootout between the 25s and 150s whilst mastering Titanfall and it was stunning how consistent the sound was. All of these monitors simply tell you what’s there, and that’s a rare quality that’s vital, whether composing, mixing, or mastering.”
For more information on the products mentioned above, visit the product page for the SCM25A Pro, SCM50ASL Pro or the SCM150ASL Pro.
Gavin Lurssen – Lurssen Mastering
Stephen Barton – Afterlight Inc.
SCM40 Review – Hi-Fi Choice
Another loudspeaker from our new Hi-Fi Passive Series has recieved a glowing review from the UK press. Hi-Fi Choice have reviewed the SCM40 in the October edition of the magazine and, in conclusion, found it to offer, “superlative clarity; excellent phase coherence; sublime bass”.
You can read or download the review in full here: ATC SCM40 HiFi Choice Review Oct 2014
To read the full details of the product, please visit the SCM40 web page.
New SCM20ASL Pro and SCM20PSL Pro Launched
ATC is proud to announce the release of two new high performance reference nearfield monitors — the active SCM20ASL Pro (V2) and passive SCM20PSL Pro.
As implied by name, the active model replaces the previous-generation SCM20ASL Pro, while the passive model is an allnew affair, providing an entry point into ATC studio monitoring at a lower price point, albeit without compromising component quality over features.
Both models feature ATC’s renowned drive units, hand built in its UK facility. Of particular note is the new SH-25-76S 25mm/one-inch soft dome tweeter, the first to be designed and built by ATC, and the result of six years of research and development by Managing Director Billy Woodman and R&D Engineer Richard Newman. “The tweeter is designed and built with the same no-compromise philosophy as all other ATC drive units,” notes Newman, before continuing: “The design takes notes from the highly-regarded ATC midrange dome by utilising a dual-suspension design, negating the requirement for Ferro-fluid, and avoiding the detrimental effects of this drying out over time, a feature considered to be of utmost importance for longterm consistency.” The massive neodymium motor with heat-treated top plate is optimised to ensure an extended frequency response (-6dB @ 26kHz) and low non-linear distortion. The geometry of the waveguide is designed for optimum dispersion and made from a precision-machined alloy so that the entire structure is extremely rigid and free from resonances.
The bass/mid driver used in both loudspeakers is ATC’s proprietary 150mm/six-inch Super Linear device. Constructed with a 75mm/three-inch voice coil and a short-coil, long-gap topology, it combines the high-power handling and low-power compression usually only found in large, high-efficiency systems with the fine resolution and balance of modern high-fidelity systems. Unique to the drive unit is ATC’s Super Linear technology, which, by employing specialist materials in the magnetic circuit, reduces third harmonic distortion in the lower midrange.
The electronics in the active design have also had considerable development time invested in them, resulting in reduced noise and distortion (a further -10dB @ 10kHz) and a reduced operating temperature for improved reliability. The amplifier design is a revised version of ATC’s discrete MOSFET Class A/B design with 200W and 50W continuous power available for the bass and high frequency sections, respectively. The user controls have also been improved over the previous generation with more flexible input sensitivity controls and a revised low frequency shelf control to help achieve good balance in difficult acoustic conditions. The amplifier includes protection circuits for both DC offset and thermal overload.
The cabinet has been restyled to more closely follow the larger monitors in ATC’s professional range and is constructed from heavily-braced MDF. Highly damped, elastometric panels are bonded and stapled to the cabinet’s inner walls to suppress cabinet panel resonances, while the enclosure’s front panel is heavily radiused to reduce cabinet diffraction, improving the frequency response and imaging. The loudspeaker can be wall mounted via a K&M 24120 Wall Mount (available separately). Note that the cabinet requires modification to accept the ‘top-hat’ mount.
Ideally suited to critical nearfield listening applications in all control rooms, LCR surround monitoring in small-to-medium control rooms, and surround channels in medium-to-large control rooms, anyone looking to seriously improve their reference nearfield monitoring experience surely owe it to themselves and their studio setup to take a listen to the SCM20ASL Pro (V2) and/or the SCM20PSL Pro in action? EQ, balance, and edit faster, with more consistent results and reduced listening fatigue using the latest reference nearfields from ATC.
The SCM20PSL Pro passive high-performance loudspeakers carry a UK RRP of £2,083.00 GBP (plus VAT) per pair; the SCM20ASL Pro (V2) active high-performance loudspeakers carry a UK RRP of £3,647.00 GBP (plus VAT) per pair.