What is the ATC HTS7?
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?
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.
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.
How was the HTS7 tested?
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.
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.
- 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 Review
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.
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