by Rafe Arnott

Rutherford Audio was showing some sonic svelteness at RMAF this year in Denver. The high-end distributor had curated a beautiful-sounding demo in their room at the Denver Marriott Tech Centre consisting of the heavyweight (130 lbs each) ATC SCM50ASLT three-way active loudspeakers ($32,000 USD/pair), an ATC P1 300-watt/channel power amplifier ($4,599 USD), a Vertere Acoustics Magic Groove MG-1 turntable with SG-1 tonearm, Scheu MC cartridge/Vertere Phono-1 MC/MM phono stage, and a Reference Line Burmester 111 Music Centre ($55,000 USD) acting as a music server, CD player/ripper, DAC, and analog preamplifier.

I’ve got mixed feelings about active vs. passive loudspeakers – with a personal preference for passive – both have inherent benefits, and incredible musicality when properly implemented, which in the case of the ATCs they most certainly were.

Active loudspeakers have a lineage steeped in professional audio, and the sound in this room reflected that to my ears with outstanding resolution, accuracy, and speed – along with incredibly deep, tight bass – that won me over instantly. Unlike a number of active-loudspeaker solutions on the market, the beefy ATCs do not use DSP, instead they reside firmly in the analog domain which could explain the air I enjoyed in their upper registers, although it could have been the Burmester 111 (which I’ve heard a number of times in the context of an all-Burmester system, and loved) adding the delicacy to the high end that I had found previously lacking in active-speaker systems I’d spent time with.

Whatever your preference for amplification choices or implementation in a loudspeaker design, the ATCs, and their cohort power amp, paired with the Burmester Music Centre offered a powerful, coherent window into the recorded event.