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. 



…bargain/cheap/value oriented audiophile…


Better speakers often use more expensive parts and costlier construction.  Even buying used would only drive the price down to a certain point.  Often, high-end components have a similar sonic signature “voicing” within a brand.  Also, speaker sonic preferences are highly subjective.  Generally finding a speaker/brand that resonates with you is a very good thing, but can be at odds with one’s budget in this niche often expensive hobby.

As you may have already surmised, speakers are only a part of the audio chain.  You could upgrade to the ATCs then upgrade the rest of the audio chain as budget allows, but if it’s just the speaker then the rest of your audio chain would be the sonic bottleneck.

As suggested above, you could take your electronics to try on the ATC to see if satisfying enough, otherwise it usually wiser to lift your audio chain in a more balance way.

Good luck

@jcs01 you not far from me, you can come over to my showroom in Brooklyn or we  make A/B comparison `with my brand speakers in you room

@cdc I caught that comment about the ATC dome midrange having an effect on dispersion- you are right it does- you are wrong in that drastically improves it, not degrades it.  This wider dispersion aspect of performance is a core value of ATC engineering.  If you would like I can direct you to a white paper exploring this topic.  

Everything is designed to offer consistent dispersion on and off axis.  In some studios, many people are working at once and standing or sitting in different places within the control room.  At home, we want a person to hear the same thing on one of the sofa or the other.  



Why would they sound boxy and not open? Maybe there is another reason then. Soundstaging was not so good on the active 100’s I heard. Like Naim, part of the "flat earth audio" sound?

You are a "US Importer/Distributor of ATC Consumer Loudspeakers and Electronics"?


Yes I am the importer for ATC pro and consumer and have been for 20+ years.  Worked for JBL and EV before that and repped many high end consumer lines going back to the 80s including Dahlquist Genelec any several more.  I dearly love hi fi and music.  It’s fun to be involved in the recording side too and meet the people who make these great records.  Nice to see behind the curtain if you will. 

Active configuration should improve on imaging over passive.  The reason is better phase linearity and miles less wire between amp and driver.  I have no doubt you heard what you report but rooms play a major role in our perception of the sound of any speaker.  You must be in the same room and same exact position to hear a true A/B.  I visit many shows and see people set up speakers close to side walls which is a big no-no.  This messes with image big time.