Upgrade to ATC / Bryston

My system consists of a Squeezebox Touch, Audio gd digital interface, Metrum Octave DAC, HK990 Integrated Amp and Dynaudio Excite 12x Speakers. I also have a Rythmik 12 inch sub that produces tight and controlled low frequencies and blends in seamlessly with the Dynaudios.

I am not in the least unhappy with the sound produced from my current audio system. In fact, I'm am in love with what I hear, describing it as sweet, musical and heavenly with no ear irritation no matter how load I play the music.

The question I have is can I get even more detail and resolution without sacrificing the sweet sound I have come to love in this setup? I am primarily considering swapping out the power amp and speakers to see what if I can find anything I like more. I'm afraid I am going to go through this exercise and end up with exactly what I have now but may be pleasantly surprised.

When I picked up the Dynaudios from the dealer a few years ago, they where driving them with a Bryston 3b SST2 and the resolution was amazing. I can not talk to the musicality because I did not like the source material but it definitely had more detail then my HK990. I've been thinking of buying a used 3b SST to see if I really like it, or is the musicality of the Harmon Kardon worth more than the resolution of the Bryston? I may still use the HK990 as my preamp for now and eventually get an Onkyo P3000R preamp for all the digital it's digital inputs.

On a separate occasion I have also auditioned the ATC SCM 11 driven by the ATC 150 w amp and several other amps. With the ATC amp, the SCM 11 sounded amazing, with lots of detail and beautiful musical synergy. With any other amp, they lost all the magic. Evan adding a non ATC preamp made the speakers lose the wonderful sound.

So now I am considering trying out a Bryston amp and ATC speakers. Both are supposed to be extremely transparent. I could end up with one, or the other, both, or neither. If I can get fantastic detail without sacrificing musicality then I have succeeded. I was planning to get the new version of the SCM 11 speakers (2013) and a used 3b SST2. What do you all think?
Have you considered moving up in the Dynaudio line? As a former C1 and C1 Sig owner they are fantastic with the MKII/Sig being better at low to mid volumes. The originals you needed to really crank them up to sound their best. To get better than the Dyn C1 MKII/Sig I got the Raidho D1's.

As far as Bryston I had the B100sst and my sons 3Ssst and they sounded almost identical. Good resolution but a bit dry sounding. I almost bought the Naim SuperNait (better PrAT) but not enough control in the music. In the end I bought an Octave V70SE tube integrated. Better control and still a good amount of PrAT. I can change tubes to change the sound.
If you like what you have, and only want a little more resolution/clarity.. I would say try some power conditioners.
A Power conditioner will add just what you want.
Depending on the type and design a powerconditioner may change some others things .. So you would have to experiment with them to find a way to use one which perfects your current setup.

I use Bryston gear.. so I am not just jumping on the Bryston bandwagon here. If you LIKE what you have then do not throw it away expecting the net bunch of stuff to be it's equal!! (If you buy new amps and speakers you may be in for a huge disappointment compared to the curent setup)
So i would keep what you have and tweak it.
As I wrote, the key to adding clarity is a conditioner.. (and or powercords.. but i would start with looking into a conditioner.)

Thank you for your reply:)

I read about Raido speakers on another post by you but when I saw the price I just about had a heart attach. I just picked up a Yamaha 2014 FJR1300es for the same price as their entry model ha ha.

I am very much in love with the way Dynadios compose music and you might be right that I should just stay with them. I have read very good things about the latest SST2 models of Bryston amps having really smoothed out the presentation. I still think the Bryston will be quite lean (or more dry) in comparison to my HK 990 but that may not be a bad thing if the music still sounds like music. My concern would be driving relatively lean speakers (ATC) with a lean amp (Bryston). The whole thing might end up sounding impressive but is that really what I want to live with day in and day out? It's kind of like dating someone who is fun to be with but you could never imagine marrying:)))) The leanness of the Bryston may be the perfect match for the richness and sweetness of the Dynaudios.

BTW, I just found a Bryston 3B SST2 on our Canuck Audio Mart that is only three years old and supposedly only used for one month. I got it for half the price my dealer wants for it. It's going to be here this coming week. Can't wait to hear it!! It's going to interesting to listen to the Bryston/Dyn combo and see if I like it or not. Hopefully it's not like the Marantz AVR I once bought where after listening to one song through it I boxed it back up and sold it:))))


I just saw your reply after I posted my previous response. Thank you! I'm not going to throw anything away until I've got something better, believe me! Right now I have musical nirvana and only if these new components increase my love of the music will I keep them. Just providing more resolution at the expense of emotional attachment to the music will NOT be a step forward. This whole exercise may end up being futile, but at least I will know that the grass really is not greener on the other side:)))


BTW, I'm an electrical engineer and been in audio for some 30 years and just can't buy into the line conditioner, expensive power cables and speaker cable stuff.
My suggestion is to look for 3-way stand mount speakers to replace the x12s. Having a dedicated driver for the midrange is hard to duplicate with a 2-way design. I'd keep the HK990 for it's proper handling of a subwoofer.

I owned Bryston 7B SST amps for several years and I think highly of Bryston gear, but I've come to realize that without dealing with the room any improvement in electronics is wasted.
Earlxtr --

To begin with I'd recommend you trust your initial reaction on
the ATC/ATC combo.

If anything I'd consider the ATC SCM19 in their new 2013-
package over the similarly "facelifted" SCM11,
together with the ATC amp. The SCM19's sport a tremendous
midrange - very clean, open, dynamic, and highly resolved -
and will beat out the SCM11's here, as well as with bass
precision. The possible downside of the SCM19's is that
they're very revealing to the source material and hardware
used, but in your case (and with the ATC amp) I'd say they
could become a winning combination.
Bob, Thank you for your response. In theory you might be right about the three way and in effect that's exactly what I have with a two way and a sub. Even some of the smaller dyns produce fantastic bass in just a two way design. Truth is I really don't care about the technology but about the sound. Specs and data sheets mean nothing to me, even as an engineer. What my ears tell me is what I care about. I don't care about technical accuracy so much as something that sounds fantastic to my ears. Sometimes the two go hand in hand but that is defiantly not always the case. Those Bryson's you have are quite the beasts:))) I hope I like the sound of mine as well but I will have no trouble selling them if I don't....

I haven't used any sound shaping in the Hk990 and get a great balance in my room. It might be more important for surround sound but even the sub is just plugged in and set to a volume and crossover frequency. In this case I'm of the theory that you don't mess with something that ain't broken:))


Earl, I beg to differ; The only time when a two way with a sub is a three way is when all the speakers come from the same company - and even then it's not the same, as I showed in my review of the Wharfdale Opus speaker line for Dagogo.com. Aside from that there can exist a vast gulf in performance between a smallish two way with a sub and a generous floor standing three way - with or without sub. One of the reasons I gravitate toward big floor standing speakers is to attain a far superior definition and detail in listening. There is an entire universe of definition/detail which escapes a large swath of two-way speakers. They are built at a price point, and they are going to be missing a lot. Otherwise, why would the market for three-way speakers continue to thrive?

Earl, I can relate; I was an ardent cable skeptic, too, about twenty five years ago. I thought people were stupid to chase aftermarket wires - until I did my own comparison and it became clear that it wasn't stupid, but was a critical way to tune systems to one's favored sound. No one would have been able to talk me into believing it, as I had to prove it to myself. I really didn't want cables to make much difference because I knew it could cost me more if they did.

By this time in my involvement in the industry I know personally a fair number of engineers and designers (cable, component, speaker designers/manufacturers), some of whom I have helped move from skepticism to bewildered belief about the ability of cables to influence sonics in a system. For some of them the only convincing "argument" was hearing it for themselves in my room.

I still remember the day I decided to try it and went to the hardware store to buy the fattest/heaviest gauge copper cable which could still be affixed to speaker and amp terminals. I certainly wasn't going to waste much money on my experiment! I attached it, listened and became a believer.

I'm not going to try to argue you into it, but I hope at some time you try aftermarket cables. They are one of the best means of attaining the resolution, as well as dynamics and imaging, which you are seeking. :)

Oh, and if you try the ATC/Bryston thing you may be reaching for those cables sooner rather than later. Further, try some aftermarket cables and you will realize that you can indeed fix what did not seem broken. :)
Earl, like you, I didn't think that a power line conditioner would be of any real benefit and boy was I wrong, and I don't even have a degree or experience in electrical engineering to strengthen my doubts. :-)

Once inserted, I had to lower my listening levels about 2-4db depending on recording. The noise floor dropped considerably which opened everything up.
Elizabeth wouldn't steer you wrong on this one.

All the best,
The only time when a two way with a sub is a three way is when all the speakers come from the same company - and even then it's not the same,
No clue why that is a reasonable conclusion; hasn't been my experience at all.

Aside from that there can exist a vast gulf in performance between a smallish two way with a sub and a generous floor standing three way - with or without sub.
That's true, but it's also just as true of the opposite. Too much of the budget goes into the cabinet in floor standing speakers and the bass will quite likely be less than optimal compared to a properly set up sub.

If one doesn't employ bass management, then adding a sub to a 2-way speaker system definitely shouldn't be considered a 3-way.
I haven't used any sound shaping in the Hk990 and get a great balance in my room. It might be more important for surround sound but even the sub is just plugged in and set to a volume and crossover frequency.
Not sure what you mean by "sound shaping," but if you're not using bass management and employing the room mode correction system I think you're letting the room dictate the sound of your system. But if you like it that way, then ....

Bass management and RMC is just as important in 2-channel systems as in multi-channel systems. Historically, 2-channel folks have just ignored the room and its impact on the sound of an audio system. The HT folks are reaping the benefits of twenty-first century DSP. That's why the HK990 is such a break through product.
Bob, I think it's obvious that one will have three drivers in operation with a two-way speaker and sub. The point I was making is that it is simplitsic to conclude that one will get a similar result by using a two way with a sub versus a floor standing three way. The OP was looking for more detail/definition and in my experience a critical leap in improvement in that area happens when the dedicated Mid is introduced ala three-way. Just putting a sub with a two way imo is not comparable to a proper three-way typically.

Your last point about quality and price is well taken, but is a variable which comes into play in all speakers and systems. As such it does not support the thought that a two way with sub is like a three-way.

It may be true that in many cases the bass could be superior with a two-way and subwoofer; I don't disagree with that. But imo a dedicated Mid can really open up a speaker in terms of a sense of much more added info and spacious sound. There are some two-way speakers with sensational capacity to capture much of the midrange magic of some larger three-way speakers; ribbon hybrids come to mind. But they may be more expensive than the OP is interested in spending.
First of all, no speaker wire or other magical component I'd going to give my current system the resolution of the Bryston amp...not even close. I'm not saying that speaker wire will make no difference at all, which is why I always use a nice (low cost) heavy gauge wire, but it is minute compared to the difference this amp will make. As far as 2 way, 3 way or 10 way, I don't care in the least...my ears will tell me what good and what's not. I am a believer in lots of power, not for volume but for the instantaneous current needed for the crisp sound of piano and drums, etc.

In general I really hate the affect of any digital processing...to my ears it destroys the sound. I always run the amp in analog direct mode to bypass at that trash.

I'm not looking to reinvent my system or spend a ton of money. As I have already stated, I love the sound of my system now and if I could just build on what I already have I would be happy. Not sure that Bryston / ATC are going to do it for me but from what I've read and heard, I think it's my best chance. I didn't go with an ATC amp because of the money (used Bryston are easy to find at a good price in Cadada) and the fact that I have a bunch of digital sources and would really like a digital preamp like the Onkyo P3000R if I end up liking the Bryston amp. Of course I already have that with the HK if I don't.

Thank you all for your reply's

Douglas, I agree completely that just attaching a sub to a 2-way speaker system is not the same as a 3-way, unless (and this was my point) bass management is used. Bass management inserts a true crossover (low-pass & high-pass filters) between the woofer of the 2-way and the sub. This is exactly what is involved in a 3-way design with the added advantage that the bass driver is no longer bound to the placement of the mid and treble drivers. This is a distinct advantage that sat/sub systems have over floor standing speakers.

My point regarding the cost of a speaker's cabinet was not meant to imply anything about sat/sub systems and 3-way speakers. It was to make the point that the cost of the cabinet for a floor standing speaker will be much higher than for a stand mount speaker and thus, you'll have to spend a lot more money on a floor standing speaker to equal the performance of a stand mount speaker. I suggest that rather than spending the extra money on a floor standing speaker that the money be spend on a sub and you'll end up with a better performing speaker system.

I agree with you regarding a dedicated midrange driver completely and you get that with a 2-way plus sub as long as bass management is employed.

I'll go one step further... a good 3-way stand mount speaker with a pair of subs (or more) is going to be hard to beat at any price.
Just a couple of points:

1. It is totally possible to use a subwoofer with a state of the art speaker in a state of the art system, using totally different amps on the woofer and main speakers, and achieve world-class results.

2. Should be number 1: ATC are in lots of the most expensive new studios for a reason: they have some of the most pure, natural sound available at any price, along with detail and dynamics. You are going in the right direction!
I will politely disagree with Bob and Kiddman; I would not recommend a bookshelf and sub system, with or without bass management) as an assured advantage over (sota or not) a floor standing speaker, even a fully passive one. When I am seeking a serious SOTA sound I work with floor standing speakers, not bookshelf speakers.

The Legacy Audio Whisper DSW Clarity Edition (reviewed for Dagogo.com) can be configured either active or passive x-over. I can by changing cabling and components elicit superior sound from the passive mode over the active mode with different cables/components. I have demonstrated using the same speaker system that a person certainly does not have to move to an active system to achieve a superior result. Now, would the active x-over mode likely be better with the favored components; sure, likely. But unless you have all the components on hand to assess and the capacity to test both active and passive modes on a speaker you have no clue what the result would be. You also have no clue how it would perform up against any given passive floor standing speaker.

You can declare all you want that any given bookshelf/sub (even with bass management) setup will beat a floor standing speaker, but unless you have the comparison at hand you are overreaching in your statement. I assert that any given floor standing speaker may beat a bookshelf/active bass setup and not have to cost an arm and a leg to do so. The only nearly assured advantage for the bookshelf/sub setup is extened LF - that is all.

We could go round and round about this, but I'll leave it at that. I'm not interested in debating this further, though it has been pleasant. :)

Regarding bookshelf/sub systems and an attempt on SOTA, I would not recommend it as first option. I could pursue very fine bookshelf speakers and have subs, but I'll take the fine floor standing speaker for ultimate sound quality nearly every time. The only time I would urge a bookshelf/sub setup is if one has financial constraints and or space issues. i.e. When I get too old to huck around big speakers, then I'll be forced to go with smaller ones. But I'm not going to kid myself and dream that they as a genre of speaker will perform on the same level as the big floor standing speakers; that would be a delusion, imo.

Earl seems to have dismissed using sets of cables, doesn't seem to desire reconsidering moving to multi-way speakers and seems fixated on the power rating of the amp. So, there's not much else to discuss there. :(
Doug, my last comment is to reassert a point that you may have overlooked. All floor standing speakers have the characteristic that the bass driver is bound to the same cabinet and therefore placement in the room as the mid/treble drivers. It's the nature of small room acoustics, not specific implementations of speakers, that this situation causes problems. It's unlikely that the speaker placement yielding good imaging and sound staging will also yield good bass response or as good a bass response as when the bass driver is placed elsewhere in the room. Sat/sub speaker systems simply provide a better solution to dealing with the room. It's not a matter of extending LF.

Large floor standing speakers have their place in large rooms that require high SPL. But, even then I would want sub(s) and bass management to handle the room.

All the best,
Bob, no, I did not overlook that point; it simply does not make your argument true, imo. You think a bookshelf with bass management is going to assure superior performance, and I disagree.

Why do you assume that large floor standing speakers require high SPL? I use many large floor standing speakers, none of which require high SPL. Usually high SPL is an effort to recreate live or concert sound, which I don't care to do. I don't think it's particularly good sounding, nor sensible.
Douglas, don't misrepresent what I said. I never said that a bookshelf/sub combo is better. I merely said that different amps can be used on a sub and a speaker and still get great results.

For the record, I've never heard a bookshelf speaker and sub combo that sounds state of the art. The best subwoofered systems I have heard use big, full range speakers in conjunction with subwoofers. I don't do bookshelf speakers, I don't like bookshelf speakers, with subs or not, and never represented anything about bookshelf speakers.
Kiddman, you are right; I assumed you were piggy backing on bob's thoughts. Thanks for the correction.
Doug, you can ignore the room's impact on sound, that's your choice. You may consider why Richard Vandersteen adds parametric equalizers to his top end speaker designs. And I'll refer you to Page 10 of Dr. Toole's paper "Getting the Bass Right"
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompany/Innovation/Documents/White%20Papers/LoudspeakersandRoomsPt3.pdf from which the following quote is taken:
And this is why bass management and subwoofers make sense. Now
we can place the woofers where they perform optimally for a specific
room with a specific listening position. We can place the satellites (a
term that seems inappropriate for some of the large capable
loudspeakers that we use in the high-passed channels) where they
need to be for directional and imaging effects.
In other words, we design the low-frequency portion of the system
separately because rooms force us to do so.

In my previous post I wrote the following, which based on your question was misinterpreted...
Large floor standing speakers have their place in large rooms that require high SPL.
I was saying that large rooms that require high SPL are better served by large floor standing speakers than smaller stand mount speakers.
My time is running away on me; this will be my last post to this discussion.

Bob, we've both been making assumptions, thanks for correcting the perception regarding large floor standing speakers.

Now, correcting your misperception; I do not ignore the room's impact on sound (I assume you been bass, since that is the sticking point it seems). Thanks for the link to the white paper. Scanning through it I noted the room construction techniques, most of which I have done such as ceiling and walls, treatments, etc.

We know where we are at on this, and I believe we would continue to disagree even if discussed at length. I need to move on to other things. It has been a good chat. :)
Thanks Doug.

Original Poster, you were heading in the right direction with the ATC. No power conditioner or power cables will give you that increase in purity, detail, etc. that the ATC will.

Comparing the magnitude of improvement from accessories like conditioners and power cords to the improvement of using a great speaker like ATC is like talking about how you should keep your Ford Mustang and improve it with to aero windshield wipers, special smooth license plate holders, and cool wheels instead of upgrading to a Porsche.
And figure out the speakers first, then the amp.