Our visit to the remarkable ATC factory
Jack and myself finally managed to make the short journey over to Gloucestershire last week, and make a long overdue visit to see the folks at ATC. Of course ATC need no introduction. Their monitoring loudspeakers can be found in the worlds most respected and exclusive recording studios, and it’s a pedigree that has been introduced into a consumer loudspeaker range with incredible success. The long list of hi-fi industry awards pays testament to that fact!
Down to business
The ATC factory facility is divided into key areas – mostly to facilitate workflow and organise the logistics of building a range of loudspeakers, drivers and electronics all from scratch. We started in the winding room, where exceptional attention to detail is made with the very start of process – producing a high-end copper wire for winding the voice-coils.
ATC begin by passing their round copper wire stock through a pair of rollers, forming the wire into a rectangular profile. This allows the coil windings to pack tightly together, increasing copper area and increasing performance. Spaces that would be filled with trapped air/adhesive are also greatly reduced, to allow quicker heat dissipation.
A completed reel of formed wire ready for winding into voice coils. This machine has been in continuous use since the 1970s, faithfully producing the wire needed for all ATC’s drivers.
Wired for sound
Now that the wire has been carefully processed and is ready for assembly, it is carefully wound onto a kapton or aluminium voice coil former which is itself is formed around a steel mandel (tooling). The coil passes through quality control where it is sized and then tested for correct electrical characteristics. This is then passed to the oven for high temperature baking where the coil assembly glue is cured. . The coil then undergoes a final visual inspection before it’s ready to pass onto what ATC call the software part of production, where it can be joined to diaphragm and suspension.
Ben Lilly of ATC on the far left, giving myself and Dave (ATC) a run down on all the factors involved with building the final coil.
The legendary ATC mid – driver. All of ATC’s drivers are treated with a proprietary ‘coating’ which keeps the material stable and resonance free even under high SPLs
Diaphragm assemblies are built around the same steel jig that is used for coil winding. The assembly above is nearly ready for the next stage where the loudspeaker software and motor assembly come together to form a finish drive unit.
Each mid-dome diaphragm assembly benefits from a double suspension shown in the picture above. This effectively means that the voice coil is supported in not 1 but 2 positions, ensuring a linear movement of the driver – minimising unwanted distortion and artefacts.
Metal work department….here the copper voice coils are magnetised, and the rest of the assembly put together.
The power behind the driver
Then it’s time to move on to ATCs other major operational area – electronics. A range of electronics are manufactured on site, including integrated and separate pre and power amplifiers, CD players and DACS. Last but not least of course, are the active/passive cross-overs and inbuilt amp packs which are integral to the overall design of the ATC loudspeaker. A series of active crossover boards ready for installing into cabinets.
Above, a series of active amp pack boards ready for installing onto chassis assemblies and into cabinets.
Above, a 3-way crossover from an SCM50P. ATC uses the highest quality air cored inductors (wound in-house) and high-end metalised polypropylene capacitors.
Pictured above, one of the amplifier modules for a P2 power amp..
A P1 dual mono amplifier in all its glory.
The resident joinery team can produce custom solutions on request, pictured above is the standard SCM 50 baffles ready for assembly with cabinets and drivers.
The stock room is somewhat busy, with pallets of loudspeakers ready for despatch and new items ready for picking. ATC are planning a large expansion of their current farm location to increase capacity, which often has to fight to keep up with demand.
When you’re regularly fitting out recording studio’s around the world, where time is money, often in $1,000’s per hour, and professionals are using your product as a tool, hardware failure is not acceptable. Quality control is paramount and this applies to home products as well. Below, Ben shows us part of the compliance test they run on a bass driver, putting it to incredible stress so that they can be happy that it will offer faultless performance in the field.
The end of the day presented a chance to relax a little and enjoy the final product. Pictured below is a range of ATC’s loudspeakers and electronics, including the on-wall HTS40…basically a wall mounted SCM40.
As part of a home theatre 7.0 system, the HTS40 sounded incredible! Absolutely no need for a sub-woofer, SCM7’s making up the side and rear channels. Watching Blade Runner 2049, the music may not have had the haunting beauty of the original Vangelis soundtrack, but it certainly had the ability to immerse you in the film. Perhaps a tip for the future guys, get the original Blade Runner movie running in there!
[EDIT] Ben informs me that it is on the shopping list!
On a final note….
It was long overdue, but the wait was well worth it, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to ATC. It’s rare to find a business that is still as passionate after so many decades as it was when it first started out. But most of all, ATC really make music, whether it be active SCM50, or a pair of passive SCM11s…they are good enough for the world’s finest recording engineers, they are certainly good enough for us!