My speaker upgrade journey - and a few questions

So I have been running Linn Majik 140 speakers since 2015.  Started with a Rotel integrated, then Hegel 160 and currently the Hegel 390.  I like the Linn speakers as they have great presence and clarity, but (like most of us) wondered if I could find new speakers that provide a significant upgrade in sound.  Over the last three years I have listened to many, many speakers - Spendor, Vandersteen, Boenicke, Wilson, Sonus Faber, Focal, B&W, Borresen, Klipsch, Golden Ear, etc.  Just for fun I listened to some that are well over six figures.  Most were very good, but I just did not notice enough of an improvement over my current speakers.  I even found a dealer with my Linns on the floor, so I was able to do a direct A/B comparison.  Again, nothing justified an upgrade.  Last year I took a shot on some Tekton Double Impact speakers I had never heard as many on these forums love them.  I cancelled my order after about 2 months and no communication or speakers from Tekton. 

I figured I would never upgrade and perhaps my hearing is just not that good - why don't $100k Wilson speakers sound dramatically better than my $4k Linn speakers??

Until today.  I was sitting with John Rutan at Audio Connection listening to the Vandersteen Quatros and again had the same feeling - nice, but not worth it.  Then John sat me down in front of a pair of ATC SCM40A (the active version) and I was stunned.  These speakers are so much better in almost every way than everything I had heard before!  And since they don't need an external amp, the sale price of my Hegel 390 will just about cover the difference between the active and passive versions.  I hope they sound as good in my home as they do in the store.

Finally, here is my question.  To keep things as simple as possible, I would like to use my Yamaha RX-A6A (AVR) as the preamp for these speakers and connect the speakers via XLR cables to the pre-outs on the AVR.  Both the AVR and speakers have XLR terminals.  This means using the pre-amp section and DAC of the Yamaha.  The DAC in the Yamaha is the ESS SABRE ES9026PRO Ultra.  Would I be compromising these awesome speakers with the Yamaha electronics?  Thanks for your input. 



@jcs01 seems that you have already made up your mind, but I am a big fan of upgrading one component at a time, in this case, get the speakers you want, then upgrade the other components to match as your finances allow! Or go further and upgrade your pre amp to a level above to prepare for the next speakers above. 

I am not sure what you have heard and how you define the sound you are looking for.  I have heard a pair of ATC's at John's and they sounded sort of boxy to my ears.  Not very open or layered so that is what I look for to begin with.  But I also like hearing a warm boxy type of sound also so it comes down to the preference you prefer always.  When you took your preamp to John's did you compare it to something John had to see if you hear a difference?  IMP the preamp is the weakest link but you need to hear and compare for yourself.  Upgrading your equipment you may discover that the improvement with your current speakers was what you are looking for.  It is hard to know what you are hearing and what sound you are looking for as you have net described that for us.  There are plenty of times I have heard something in a system, at a dealer or at a show and was not impressed like you and thought the upgrade was not significant.

That is where understanding what makes sound do what it does and how you prefer components in your system.  We have several systems in our listening room and since we repair audio components, we get to hear so many different components in the various systems.  Plenty of times we get surprised at what changes the sound of a system.  For example, we repaired an older model Art Audio stereo tube amp 20wpc.  Tested them on Vandersteen Sevens and the sound was excellent.  We never would have thought that 28wpc would work that well on 83.5db speakers.  It was better than many top end 100wpc power amplifiers from other well known manufacturers.  So you need to understand the sound you are searching for and experiment to find what works for you.

We have also heard many higher end speakers and components and were no that impressed.  Like you, we have heard Wilson speakers in one system and thought nothing special.  Then we heard them in another system and were impressed with how they sounded.  We have also heard various set-ups at reviewers and sometimes we were not impressed but people read their reviews and think they all have golden ears.  Go Figure!

This hobby is not hear something once and that is it.  Try, try and try again and you will discover new things that you prefer.  Then try again!  LOL

Happy Listening.



My first impression would be to use a tube pre with those speakers. But if you’re sticking with the Hegel then it’s a moot point.

I have passive SCM 40s, a Musical Fidelity A308 integrated, a Moon Mind 2 streamer, and a Pontus 2 DAC. I’m very happy with my system.

The A308 line is great value, including their preamp. The integrated puts out 150 watts. I don’t think you’d want anything less with the SCM40s. All of my components are hard to find used, but you could try.

I agree with much of what other posters have written.

pair of ATC's at John's and they sounded sort of boxy to my ears.  Not very open or layered so that is what I look for to begin with. 

@bigkidz very well said. I think it has to do with the dome midrange. Detailed and uncompressed dynamics are impressive but dispersion not so good. They are made for studio monitors not so much home use so of course different design goals to begin with.