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Cafad

ATC SIA2-150 Mark 2 Integrated Amp Review

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With a little luck the ATC SIA2-150  review will be completed this weekend.  It has been on hold for several weeks now as things popped up that robbed me of time or energy but it seems at least half of this weekend will be free so I'm going to step on the gas and see if I can get this one finished and written up.  I know there's at least one SNA'er waiting on it.

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It isn't a large amp, reasonably weighty though at 20kgs, but it can pump some serious power.  As demonstrated at Terry's place it was one of the few amps that we tried on those VA Concert Grand speakers of his that took control and made the speakers perform.  This places it in the same category as the Sansui 907 NRA, 907 Limited, ME-240, and Zeus Integrated.  And that is some pretty decent company to be in.

 

The ATC suffers a little in my home system in that it doesn't impress as much as it did at Terry's place.  I think this is one of those amps that reacts well to being asked to work harder so it will step up on lower impedance speakers.  Since my Lenehans are fairly benign in impedance I believe the ATC is coasting a little.  Still a very good amp but not quite as "Wow inducing" as it was on those VAs of Terry's.

 

Details to follow once my washing machine has finished it's job and quietened down a bit.

 

There is more info on the ATC SIA2-150 on page 5 of the thread Terry and I started, link below.  Some rather nice pics too.

https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/topic/263126-terry-o-and-cafads-integrated-amp-challenge/page/5/

 

Edited by Cafad

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I guess that SNAer would be me?  I agree with your assessment on benign loads.  On my SCM40 passives it didn't seem to work all that hard but it also seemed to run out volume at higher levels.  This was compared directly to the active version so possible not a fair comparison.

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I've been lucky enough to clock up a few miles listening to ATC gear in recent years- Scm19, 40, 150 active towers, Scm100 active classic, SPA2-150 and P1 power amps, the CDA2 Swiss army knife, CA2 preamp. All that electronic stuff plays very nice with other brands too.

ATC gear has a house sound that should have very broad appeal but they are determined to let the products speak for themselves rather than foist it on to us via cosmetic enhancement and slick marketing. ATC refuse to plug in to audiophile neuroses to make a buck. They're not sell outs.

That's why you can ring ATC up and talk directly with happy technical people, they love talking about what they do and have nothing to hide.

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As it is an English amp the ATC does run a little on the warm side.  That's why I cut up some pine and made little chocks for each of its feet, just to make sure it had enough height underneath it to get some unrestricted air movement over those heat sinks.  Unfortunately the 9 volt battery from my heat gun was recently used to get one of my smoke detectors back up and running so I can't tell you exactly how hot it gets, all I can say is that it was still cool enough to hold my hand on indefinitely.

 

Let's get the associated gear paragraph out of the way shall we?

Source in use was my trusty YBA Heritage cd 100, connected via Aurealis all copper dragon interconnects to the ATC.  Speakers were my just as trusty Lenehan S2R stand mounts and speaker cables were Redgums "Audio Pipeline" 7 gauge "you could tow a ute with them" cables.

 

There we go, all done.  Now for a little more about the amp itself.

 

I like the fact that ATC have an integrated amp that is all analogue and all unbalanced.  No frills, no added bling, just a true and tried design with a serious power supply.  Let's not forget the separate torroidal for the preamp section as well, (or possibly just the DC motors) always a good thing in an integrated design, IMO. 

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Much of the 20kg weight is due to the heat sinks but that main transformer is solid enough to make the whole unit just a little front heavy.

 

Now usually I separate out an amp review and write about the top end, mids and bass, vocals and so on.  This one is going to be a bit different for reasons I'll get into.  You see, most amps treat the different regions of the treble, mid-range and bass differently.  So while an amp may have nice clean mids it may back those up with tight or warm or understated bass and the top end may be rolled off or extended or a little hard or sweet.  Basically they can all sound a bit different to each other and this is not so unusual. 

But not the ATC SIA2-150, it plays no favourites at all.  So when I say that the top end does not seem rolled off at all but at the same time it isn't softened, it is just well detailed and not harsh to listen to.  As is the mid-range and the bass.  No favourites.  None!

To elaborate on that, the top end is at the same time as hard and harsh and ragged as it needs to be but it is still not too much of any one to make it sound unpleasant.  I seem to have coined a term here "well detailed", the sort of detail that is considered by the ear to be supplying all the detail that is needed to be heard but doing it in a way that carries very little in the way of anything that could contribute to listening fatigue.  Add a character that I can only describe as, slightly on the warm and earthy side of neutral and you've got the SIA2.

I do have to say more about the bass because the bass region takes much more power to make it work well than the mids or the top end and power is something that the SIA2 has plenty of.  Bass is fast and tight but also full and well weighted.  Drums are  So!  Damn!  Good!  Even better than the Luxman 507u and that is some serious praise right there.  I've awarded scores of 8.75 for the top end, 8.5 for the mids and another 8.75 for the bass.

 

Vocals are also brutally honest in their reproduction.  The SIA2 does not give any singers any assistance at all, no extra breath or warmth to be found.  Depending on your preferences this could be a bad thing but you have to recognize that this could be invaluable in evaluating the rest of the audio chain.  I like it, and I certainty appreciate it, but it does make awarding a score rather difficult.  I'm going to go with a flat 8.0 for both but I'll reserve the right to increase that upon further consideration.

 

I just have to talk separation, the SIA2 has it in spades.  Every instrument is kept well and truly away from every other one, vocals are separate too and this lets you hear so much more detail in the performance of every one of them.  The 2D sound stage assists greatly with this effect.  

I just have to say, on having listened to the SIA2 I feel like it has gotten something correct that most other amps have not managed to as it not only separates everything out but it does so in such a way as to enhance both the musicality and the dynamics of the music.  

 

There's more that I want to say but I think I may be tired enough that I'm not expressing myself as well as I would like.  I think I'll pick this up in the morning with a fresh head.  TBC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I really enjoyed the ATC when it was hooked up in my system, easily one of the best integrated amps I heard, it was that good that after reading reviews I started looking at their powered speakers as a option but as it’s very hard to find any to audition it is to much of a leap of faith to lash out and buy them.

 

The only downside for me when we played it in my system was it was one of the very few amps that actually sounded worse when hooked up to the Superchargers, and when I say worse it was not nice at all, go figure.

Other than that which means very little as Superchargers aren’t exactly a common component the ATC was very nice, if I was looking for another Integrated this would be on my short list.

 

cheers Terry

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