WEST LONDON, U.K. – MARCH 2014: Matt Colton has been mastering albums for fifteen years. He continues to build on his growing reputation, mastering for the likes of Coldplay, James Blake, Gary Numan, and Metronomy, and his work recently earned him the title of “Mastering Engineer of the Year” from the Music Producers Guild. He has worked at several of London’s most esteemed mastering houses, including Porky’s Mastering, Optimum Mastering, AIR Studios, and Alchemy Mastering, the last of which he recently re-launched with original owners Barry Grint and Phil Kinrade. To maintain his edge, Colton installed a pair of ATC SCM150ASL PRO 3-way active loudspeakers in his critical listening room at the new Alchemy Mastering in West London.
For Colton, there’s more to mastering than simply having access to the latest and greatest ear-bending analog and digital signal processing technologies. “The things that are really important are the acoustics, speakers, amps, convertors, and power supplies, along with the wiring that connects them all together – everything that affects the sound in the room,” he said. “You cannot get around that. So I would rather have a great-sounding room and a workstation with a couple of plug-ins than every piece of hardware ever made and a poor-sounding room, because, no matter how much you say you understand the room, we all react to what’s coming out of the speakers and make our judgments based on how it sounds in the room. If the room is too bassy then the recording is going to be bass light, even if we know the room is too bassy.”
Fundamental to Colton’s current way of working is a pair of ATC SCM150ASL PRO 3-way active loudspeakers. “Having worked at AIR on a really lovely pair of hi-fi speakers, I felt I wanted to go back to studio monitoring and have something that maybe sounded a bit less polished in terms of the actual sound that’s coming out of the speaker,” he said. “So I’m working on a pair of SCM150ASL PROs. I’d previously worked on a pair of SCM200s many years ago, which I loved.”
An unconventional demonstration convinced Colton that the SCM150ASL PRO patently met his critical listening criteria: “I did a lecture at Westminster University in Harrow to over one-hundred people in a really big lecture hall with a massive ceiling height of fifty feet or so. Ben Lilly of ATC brought along a pair of SCM150s and I played some James Blake records with really low sub-bass – down at around 35Hz – and they just sounded glorious. It was a wonderful experience to hear those records played in that room only on a pair of speakers. So, on that basis, I’ve got the 150s in my mastering room – sadly, not quite as big as that lecture hall!”
With well-honed listening skills, Colton is perfectly positioned to provide honest insight into the SCM150ASL PRO in action at Alchemy Mastering. “They’re a direct and honest pair of speakers,” he said. “If the mix sounds good, then it sounds good here; if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. There’s no flattery on the part of the speakers, though they’re wonderful to listen to when you get it right. I’ve really enjoying working on them.”
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