ATC HTS7 AV Speaker System Review
Because convenient doesn’t mean compromised
What is the ATC HTS7?The ATC HTS7 is the smallest member of a new on-wall speaker range from ATC that debuted at the recent Munich show. While the speakers themselves are new, the technology that goes into them is something that we have seen before – we’ll cover that in a bit – but their arrival to market is timely as high quality on-wall speakers are not a terribly common product category and the more I think about that, the less sense it makes.
An acronym that has existed on this forum since its earliest days is ‘WAF.’ Shorthand for ‘Wife Acceptance Factor' – neither terribly politically correct nor especially useful in describing the balancing act that a modern household goes through trying to fit the accoutrements of modern life into living spaces that aren’t getting any larger – it is applied in varying levels to products in terms of their practicality and aesthetic. One area where this unquestionably matters is AV speaker packages. If you aren’t in the fortunate position of having a separate room for them, you have to find space for a clutch of speakers in a room that has to do a great many other things.
On the face of it, wall mounted speakers seem like an obvious answer to this but high quality offerings designed to sit on a wall are not terribly common. Phil Hinton has looked at offerings from MK and XTZ that can deliver an excellent performance when wall mounted and I myself use a quintet of Elipson Planet Ms that are wall mounted so they don’t have to be removed when a set of AV speakers comes in for review. The arrival of the HTS Series from a manufacturer with the pedigree of ATC seems like the answer to a prayer but do these new arrivals deliver the goods?
SpecificationsThe HTS7 is the smallest member of the HTS Series, they are available individually and retail for £475 each. For people with good memories, the HTS Series should look at least slightly familiar. While the range is newly launched, the hardware that makes up the speaker is not. The HTS7 is an exact duplicate of the SCM7 that was reviewed as the front and rear speakers of a complete ATC package back in January. It uses the same 125mm mid bass driver and 25mm soft dome tweeter and has the same seven litre internal volume as the conventional standmount.
This is significant for two reasons. The first is that the drivers used in the SCM speakers – and indeed everything else ATC does – are very high quality units. Built in-house to ATC’s design and specification, they are very heavy duty devices, intended to survive the rigours of pro audio use and possessed of extremely good measured performance. The second is that you can mix and match SCM conventional cabinet speakers with HTS on-wall ones and get the same basic tonal behaviour from all of them. As we covered the SCM7 in some detail, this review will focus only on specific differences between the two.
Importantly, this mixing and matching is not something you can only do with the HTS7 and SCM7. ATC has replicated the entire range of SCM speakers in HTS format so everything up to and including the deeply impressive SCM40 can be combined in this way. As you might expect, a forty litre on wall speaker isn’t going to be as discrete as a seven litre one but it’s a fairly elegant riposte to the idea that these are only for convenience.
One member of the SCM range that has not made the transition is the C1C centre speaker. Conscious of the potentially limited volumes of such a device, ATC has not made a direct version of this for on-wall use. Instead, the HTS7 is also available as the HTS7C. This is materially identical to the HTS7 but rotates the drivers through 90 degree for a ‘portrait’ view of the cabinet. There is a degree of contention about centre speakers – however cleverly they are voiced, they will always behave differently to a stereo pair which runs counter to the multichannel ideal – but the C1C is a fearsomely good centre so it might not be a potential loss. All other members of the HTS range are available as C models. There is also no wall mounted sub but the C1 we reviewed with the conventional package is available in a matching white finish.
In keeping with their conventional cabinet cousins, the HTS7 supports single wiring only and like the SCM7 sensitivity is on the low side. Once again though, the impedance of the ATCs is very benign so provided that you have the outright power to drive them, they don’t do anything unpleasant while being driven. Like the SCMs, the cabinet is sealed but, as it will gain reinforcement from the wall, bass response is quoted as considerably lower than the conventional speaker can match.
DesignThe HTS7 and its larger brethren show all the signs of the same careful design processes that go into everything from ATC. The cabinets are extremely solid in terms of their construction and design and, as a result of that, the speaker is fairly heavy. To minimise the load, ATC has equipped the HTS7 with two keyhole mounts rather than one and supplied a template to help with installation. There are some other nice touches too. The terminal panel is at the top of the rear panel but to ensure that the fitment on the wall is flush, the rear is channelled to allow the cable to pass unimpeded. The build quality is absolutely top notch. To help with that flush fitting, thin padding is mounted on the corners to help couple the speaker to a wall without marking either.
If you are in possession of a ‘batcave’ style room, you can also order the HTS speakers in black which would be more suitable for such a space. One thing that this would also help with is the visibility of the drivers. In the white chassis, the driver stands out considerably and the white grill doesn’t really obscure them to any great extent. You can legitimately point out that the ATC isn’t the prettiest speaker going but it is clean and elegant and – as noted right at the beginning – can go into a room and take up none of the floorspace. I did ask ATC if it was possible to paint the cabinets and they confirmed that it is but that doing so will void the warranty which is worth keeping intact as it is both long and usually honoured quickly and efficiently.
The HTS7 and its larger brethren show all the signs of the same careful design processes that go into everything from ATC
How was the HTS7 tested?The ATCs have mainly been connected to a Yamaha RX-A3040 but some stereo testing via a Naim Supernait 2 has also taken place. Source equipment has been a Cambridge Audio 752BD Blu Ray, Sky HD and Netflix and Amazon prime via Fire TV stick. An Elipson Omega 100 BT Carbon turntable has also been connected to the Yamaha at various points. The speakers have been tested with the ATC C1 subwoofer and a BK Electronics P300 SB subwoofer. Testing in stereo has been via a Naim ND5 XS streamer with XP5 XS power supply. Test material has been varied as a result.
Sound QualityKey to the entire ethos of ATC is their professional origins. It still accounts for a significant amount of their business and the requirements of pro audio use shape their domestic products as well. The HTS Series speakers might be a little more ‘lifestyle’ in their outlook but their basic approach to audio reproduction is pure ATC. What is most impressive is that their general abilities are extremely close to the SCM7 based system. More than anything else, their performance will reflect the equipment they are connected to. The very slightly warm presentation of the Yamaha is reflected in the ATCs and, for me, this makes a very happy partnership.
Watching Rogue One on this system is deeply impressive. The chaotic streetfight in Jedha is opened out and rendered more comprehensible by the ATCs. There is space and three dimensionality to the sound they create that doesn’t come at the expense of their ability to sound exciting. Their upper registers in particular are very well balanced. You can drive them extremely hard without any sign of harshness or aggression creeping in and this means you can listen to them for hours. Above all, there is a simple believability to what the ATCs produce that is critical to enjoying them. With something like Sully, the little details in the soundtrack all manage to sound utterly convincing.
There is also no question that there are clear advantages to having the same driver complement in every speaker. The handover from channel to channel is seamless and there’s never any sense of output dipping or peaking at any specific point. While I don’t think that the HTS7C is quite as clear as the C1C, it still relays dialogue brilliantly and locks the action on screen into a fixed point of reference. What is interesting is that even though, there is no toe-in on the HTS – because they are flush to the wall – they still manage to sound wide and immersive. They unquestionably do their best work with a bit of volume behind them but they remain a good listen at lower levels too.
Their fundamentally revealing nature has some side effects that need to be taken into account. Give them something thin and poorly recorded and they will make it abundantly clear than what you are listening to is, well, thin and poorly recorded. They don’t really sugarcoat poor material in the way that some more traditionally domestic systems can do. Go a bit too far down the dial on the Sky guide and the ATCs tend to show how little bandwidth there is for some channels but this can hardly be seen to be their fault. The flipside to this is that good source material sounds superb. They are great with Blu-ray but even material on Sky Atlantic and the BBC tends to impress as well.
They are also exceptionally good in stereo. Even without being able to physically anchor them to the wall – as they will have gone back to ATC by the time you read this, I’ve not physically wall mounted them but instead had them flush to the wall on stands – they have an extra element of low end authority than the SCM7 doesn’t really have. There is a slightly greater sense of the cabinet holding the drivers in place than there is with the conventional cabinet but it’s still a wonderfully neutral and considered performer. They are also able to sound convincing without a subwoofer which is always useful for music reproduction.
In terms of partnering them with a sub, the C1 is still a fine device but there is no escaping the fact it is relatively pricey. The tremendously good value BK P300SB has proved a fantastic partner as well and using this would get the price of a 5.1 pack below £3,000 which is a useful psychological price point. I’ve found in both cases, a 60Hz crossover has been most effective for a seamless handover – the HTS units are capable of going lower but the response is entirely even down to this point and both the C1 and the BK are perfectly capable of behaving evenly up to 60Hz.
The HTS Series speakers might be a little more ‘lifestyle’ in their outlook but their basic approach to audio reproduction is pure ATC
- Exceptionally accurate and believable performance
- Well made
- Extremely space efficient
- Not very sensitive
- Won't flatter poor material
- ATC sub is quite pricey
ATC HTS7 AV Speaker System ReviewIt perhaps should not be terribly surprising to note that I have found the HTS Series speakers to be very similar to their conventional cabinet brethren. With the same driver complement, it was unlikely to be otherwise. What I didn’t necessarily expect is that if it was my own money choosing a set of AV speakers at this price point, I would choose the HTS models over the SCMs. To get this level of multichannel and stereo performance from a set of speakers that can also reduce the amount of equipment I need to find floorspace for is quite a serious temptation.
Viewed beyond the specific case of the HTS7, the range offers some tantalising possibilities. Having a stereo pair of visible SCM speakers with HTS units filling in the rest of the channels is one of them but so is something like an Arcam SR250 with a pair of the HTS40s for a truly stealthy but deeply capable modern setup. ATC has managed to deliver a product with enormous real world appeal that doesn’t compromise on their principles. If you want serious performance with less clutter, this is an indisputable Best Buy.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £475.00
Value For Money9
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