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Ascend Sierra 2 Speaker Review

Shazb0t

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To mitigate the resonances you need to add braces and / or damping material (better viscoelastic). With expensive No Rez: (sandwich of damping + absorbent). http://gr-research.com/norez24x27sheet.aspx

Yesterday, Re: Sonicjoy's NX Studio build. With photos.
https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=168181.msg1786544#msg1786544

View attachment 52709

You know, more cheap with own DIY sandwich but less comfortable.

You realize that stuffing NoRez or any damping material blindly into a speaker isn't always a good idea right? Also, are you Danny Richie smurfing on ASR? The shtick is getting old..
 
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A cheap speaker that is a little more expensive and kicks the Pioneers‘ butts will come along. It’s inevitable. Do you not care one iota about the raw data, even if you would dismiss the preference ratings? The Pioneers will be humbled, they are not miracles, they are the best someone could do, in the real world, at the price point, which is extremely low. Diminishing returns have not even started to set in yet. The next one up will still present the same problem, but even worse, for the Ascends.
I've been saying that for years. The measurements are great, but the performance still leaves a lot to be desired. They are home theater speakers after all. I've owned them, sold them, but still have a chance to listen as they're with a buddy. However, they're still my first choice when recommended a budget set and I can't wait until the day something can do better at the price point.

Of course unless you've compared them properly you can't definitely say the Sierra 2 "destroy" any speaker can you? This is a large point of the Harman research and why they do their tests blind in the 1st place, you should check out the study related to the dishonesty of sighted listening tests:

http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/04/dishonesty-of-sighted-audio-product.html

This is Olive's blog that summarizes it but it shows Harman employees showing brand bias to their own products not surprisingly. The study mentioned that the brand bias of a speaker is more of a factor than the loudspeaker itself...that isn't a typo. I'm not saying the Sierras aren't better than the Primus speakers but unless you've done a proper comparison, all you have done is confirmed your bias.
I’ve owned just about every speaker in discussion here at one point. Some I still own or have donated to family/friends. I have no issues with any of these speakers, nor am I trying to start a brand war. I think the pioneer was one of best budget sets to hit the market, but its budget limitations were so apparent it didnt even require blind testing. The review reflects that to a degree, but the score/measurement does not. The one speaker I believe would give the Sierra a run is the JBL, but then you’re talking active vs passive (totally different use cases). The Primus speakers havent been measured, but I've always encountered dialogue issues with them. However, I'm positive they wouldn't 'embarrass' the Sierra's. Maybe its Anthem’s ARC, but they've never impressed me beyond adequate. 1000 hours on them based on my projector’s lamp.

If anything these reviews have confirmed my experiences. The Klipsch measured exactly how they sounded to me: terrible. The JBL’s stellar, the Pioneer capable, and the two Ascends great. The issue I have is the interpretation of the data. Half of what everyone call “embarrassing” seems downright “great” and it appears there are a select few that are really into the bashing with nothing supporting them but their warped view of the numbers.

If you have a tiny pair of studio monitors that are super linear but start to compress at 70dB they are going to lose to less linear speakers speaker with better SPL capabilities.

There will definitely be times when cheap old speakers beat expensive new ones - Harman seems to have seen this happen plenty of times with its own designs, with cheaper speakers beating more expensive ones within certain playback limits. But for the added price, you normally get speakers that are able to maintain their preference abilities in a multitude of listening scenarios.
I don't disagree with any of the sentiments, but I don't see the Sierra's as being non-linear. I think that's where I draw issue with these hot-takes. It's like we're looking at two different things.
 
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thewas_

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Does Kef still use a pathetic 1st order crossover like in the Q300? Because otherwise, I'd recommend the Q150 to some people seeking passive speakers.
The only thing that counts in loudspeakers is the total acoustic slope at the crossover frequency, so the sum of the electrical slope of the crossover and "mechanical" slope of the driver (in the past there existed also loudspeakers with no electrical filter for some drivers). Also at coaxial drivers you don't need necessarily to use as steep slopes as for conventional speakers because they don't have vertical lobing problems, the only reason you might want to use steep slopes is to increase max SPL and reduce HD and IMD.
 
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Please Google the term "Strawman Argument." Nobody here is trying to argue either of those things. But you're sure winning the argument against them...those things nobody is actually trying to argue....

It has been said hundreds of times here already that the preference score is but one metric with specific limitations. It's up to you to use your brain, put it in context, and consider other metrics that may be important to you. If you can't do that, it's not the fault of the preference score, it's yours.

And can you quote one single person trying to argue the Pioneer is an "Unbeatable end-game speaker?"
Its not a straw-man, its an exaggeration to reflect everyone's reaction and highlight the review methodology limits. Again, I’ve owned and enjoyed this speaker. The price has nothing to do with my argument, and its still my defacto recommendation for someone considering a soundbar. However the score fails to capture how remarkably limited this speaker is under power. Its signature is great, its bass output is ‘meh’, and its ability to be driven is awful. The score seems to only place weight on 1.5 of those. Then on the flip side you have good results being bashed as poor, with declarations of "embarrassment".
 
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maty

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You realize that stuffing NoRez or any damping material blindly into a speaker isn't always a good idea right? Also, are you Danny Richie smurfing on ASR? The shtick is getting old..
Almost thirty years ago I started improving speakers. First adding only fiberglass and later rockwool and damping material too. I still have a huge amount of Tecsound SY70, because I had to buy a roll with a few square meters. I think € 38 and ... 45 Kg? About 52 Kg / roll. Made in Spain (EU).

TecSound-SY-specs.png


TecSound-SY-pdf.png


Always focusing on proven professional solutions, with measurements, graphs, certificates ... and cheaper!
 
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617

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Driver designers since the late 80s have put a tremendous amount of effort into making small woofers with great bass and dynamics in small form factors. Most 'audiophile' speakers use these drivers, and seeing woofers larger than 18cm/7" has become somewhat uncommon.

Cheap speakers do not make use of these drivers, and although they may have a controlled frequency response and midrange, they simply will not be able to play as loud, as clean and as deep as good midwoofers of the same size.

I invite correction if I am wrong, but the preference score does not seem to take into consideration dynamics or absolute output limits, which is the big thing which cheap speakers do poorly and good speakers do well. There are midwoofers out there which really can reproduce satisfying bass at substantial levels, and the difference between these woofers and the ones used by Pioneer are significant. To put it into perspective, I can buy a woofer similar in quality to the klipsch or whatever for under 10 dollars - their cost is less. A high end midwoofer starts at $70 and goes up to $400. You're not paying for snake oil here.

I've always had mixed feelings about the preference score on this site, because although I know what it means, I thought that lay people would interpret it as an absolute ranking of speaker quality, which it really is not. Controversy over preference scores has unfortunately obscured more interesting results that the preference scores have revealed, such as the less expensive ascend outscoring the more expensive.

I don't think we should change anything about the reviews other than to perhaps leave out the listening tests; I could take or leave them. The data is enormously revealing, however, at least to people who can contextualize it.
 
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Driver designers since the late 80s have put a tremendous amount of effort into making small woofers with great bass and dynamics in small form factors. Most 'audiophile' speakers use these drivers, and seeing woofers larger than 18cm/7" has become somewhat uncommon.

Cheap speakers do not make use of these drivers, and although they may have a controlled frequency response and midrange, they simply will not be able to play as loud, as clean and as deep as good midwoofers of the same size.

I invite correction if I am wrong, but the preference score does not seem to take into consideration dynamics or absolute output limits, which is the big thing which cheap speakers do poorly and good speakers do well. There are midwoofers out there which really can reproduce satisfying bass at substantial levels, and the difference between these woofers and the ones used by Pioneer are significant. To put it into perspective, I can buy a woofer similar in quality to the klipsch or whatever for under 10 dollars - their cost is less. A high end midwoofer starts at $70 and goes up to $400. You're not paying for snake oil here.

I've always had mixed feelings about the preference score on this site, because although I know what it means, I thought that lay people would interpret it as an absolute ranking of speaker quality, which it really is not. Controversy over preference scores has unfortunately obscured more interesting results that the preference scores have revealed, such as the less expensive ascend outscoring the more expensive.

I don't think we should change anything about the reviews other than to perhaps leave out the listening tests; I could take or leave them. The data is enormously revealing, however, at least to people who can contextualize it.
You've really driven home one of my points: the scope of this measurement is too limited. I'm not declaring it flawed/broken, but its a limited snapshot. I also think the scrutiny of these measurements (by some users) is akin to a parents being mad at their child for getting an A and not an A+, while ignoring their teacher's remarks regarding their other skill sets.
 
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For sure, but who cares? They misuse SINAD too. The score has value when you're using it correctly, to separate a large population of speakers from eachother.
Really? "Who cares?" Part of the reason people misuse SINAD is due the fact that SINADs taken at different output voltages are being placed on the same graph, and I think that's an issue too. ASR positions itself as "pro-consumer," shouldn't presenting data in a way that is less misleading for consumers be something that the ASR community cares about? I think that would be a win for everyone.

Again, it's not clear that the preference score even has value when it is used correctly, depending on how much error it has. But we can't know either way how well it is working for the speakers that have been reviewed until large scale blind tests are being performed on them. Looking forward to the blind tests actually happening eventually. It would be nice if the preference score was still available, but a separate "user score" was tracked based on blind test results, to see how well the preference score is or is not working. This would allow ASR to essentially test the accuracy of Sean Olive's work on the preference score, and perhaps even refine it to work better, as opposed to accepting its somewhat unusual results outright. Just as science should work.

That is interesting and a bit concerning. In order to be fair to Ascend it would be helpful to get some insight into what is going on there. It does seem even on the NRC and Ascend graphs the treble is getting out of control beginning at 45 degrees (this is an area where my reach exceeds my grasp, though—maybe you could confirm or refute), but still it seems to paint a very favorable portrait of the CBM-170. So are we seeing damaged gear, or not so great QC, or vulnerable construction, or accepted variation among units—it seems like a very tough question.
I mentioned one possible cause of tweeter damage in an earlier post:

It's known that the smaller RAAL ribbons in the Sierra 2 are fragile, so they ship with magnetic boards to cover the tweeter to protect it during shipping (they look like this https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4710/25087053627_18393d2811_c.jpg). Did these Sierra 2s include the magnetic boards when they arrived? @amirm
But I didn't get any response from @amirm yet. Am I the only one that would like to know the answer to this? If the speaker was shipped without the magnetic boards, it doesn't mean the measurements in the Sierra 2 review are automatically invalidated, but it does present one possibility for why the measurements for the Sierra 2 don't track very well with Ascend's measurements while their other speaker measurements do.

Either way, it seems like the Sierra 2-EX will probably be reviewed soon, and I believe that uses the same tweeter as the Sierra 2 (but different crossover), so the ASR measurements for the 2-EX should help to tell us if ASR's Sierra 2 results were an irregular case or not.
 
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maty

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...Cheap speakers do not make use of these drivers, and although they may have a controlled frequency response and midrange, they simply will not be able to play as loud, as clean and as deep as good midwoofers of the same size.
To put it into perspective, I can buy a woofer similar in quality to the klipsch or whatever for under 10 dollars - their cost is less. A high end midwoofer starts at $70 and goes up to $400. You're not paying for snake oil here...
There was a time when they could be bought freely but a DIY fever began and they restricted it only as a replacement, providing the documentation that accredited it.

If I remember correctly, it cost each coaxial driver about $ 130. Transportation, custom, tax, about € 170 to Spain -> € 340. The loudspeakers, at home: € 398. Year: 2013.

KEF-Q100-compra-2013-maty.png


That is why, seven years ago, after I read the analysis of the KEF Q100 and LS50 5.25" Uni-Q coaxial drivers made by Erin Hardison (hardisj) I decided to buy it. With that very good starting base it was certain that the rest of the components would be very improvable by me, but I never thought it would improve the sound so much!!!

* https://www.erinsaudiocorner.com/driveunits/kef-q100-drive-unit/

* https://www.erinsaudiocorner.com/driveunits/kef-ls50-drive-unit/
 
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bunkbail

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You realize that stuffing NoRez or any damping material blindly into a speaker isn't always a good idea right?
Can you expand on that for a layman like me? I've always thought that cabinet resonances are bad and adding/stuffing damping materials can fix some of the resonance issues, no?
 

617

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Can you expand on that for a layman like me? I've always thought that cabinet resonances are bad and adding/stuffing damping materials can fix some of the resonance issues, no?
Cabinet construction is a really complicated subject. You're dealing with a lot of things and there is very little research in the public domain about what works, and a lot of people applying 'static thinking' to paraphrase a turntable engineer on ASR to vibration problems. It's hard to measure cabinet vibration and it's even harder to accurately characterize what resonances are audible.

The stuffing/damping will absorb some of the sound on the inside of the speaker, and this isn't a bad thing, but there are limits to how effective this is, and adding more stuffing to a box can change other box characteristics in extreme cases, and in any case won't be as good as using a different box shape. The best damping of a backwave is a long tube filled with stuffing - see the B&W nautilus design or the Linkwitz Pluto. The problem with these tubes is that you get no bass, so if you want a bass reflex enclosure with some backwave attenuation you accept that compromise. A good argument for a dedicated midrange driver, certainly.

'Cabinet resonances' normally refers to flexing of the cabinet itself, which can re-radiate sound into the room in ways which are undesirable. Stuffing does nothing to stop this. The traditional method to fix this is to make the cabinets more rigid and more massive, but this is not always a good approach, and the consensus now at least among DIYers and other crazies is that some kind of lossy bracing is probably the best approach, where the braces connecting opposite walls of the cabinet have some sort of elastomeric component which turns those vibrations into heat as the cabinet flexes. There are some other approaches but the idea is the same, rather than simply making the cabinet more rigid, which simply raises the frequency at which it resonates, you actually try to convert the mechanical flexing into frictional losses.

In any speaker under say, 5k USD, you're just looking for a heavy and rigid cabinet. Lossy bracing is used to somewhat limited effect in some other speakers such as the KEF LS50.

Speaker modding in my opinion is rarely worthwhile; the best results in most cases come from redesigning crossovers which is a whole other kettle of fish.
 

617

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There was a time when they could be bought freely but a DIY fever began and they restricted it only as a replacement, providing the documentation that accredited it.

If I remember correctly, it cost each coaxial driver about $ 130. Transportation, custom, tax, about € 170 to Spain -> € 340. The loudspeakers, at home: € 398. Year: 2013.

View attachment 52718

That is why, seven years ago, after I read the analysis of the KEF Q100 and LS50 5.25" Uni-Q coaxial drivers made by Erin Hardison (hardisj) I decided to buy it. With that very good starting base it was certain that the rest of the components would be very improvable by me, but I never thought it would improve the sound so much!!!

* https://www.erinsaudiocorner.com/driveunits/kef-q100-drive-unit/

* https://www.erinsaudiocorner.com/driveunits/kef-ls50-drive-unit/

One of the great NLA drivers...I sort of wish I got a pair. You used to be able to get the Thiel coaxial units as well.
 

bunkbail

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Cabinet construction is a really complicated subject. You're dealing with a lot of things and there is very little research in the public domain about what works, and a lot of people applying 'static thinking' to paraphrase a turntable engineer on ASR to vibration problems. It's hard to measure cabinet vibration and it's even harder to accurately characterize what resonances are audible.

The stuffing/damping will absorb some of the sound on the inside of the speaker, and this isn't a bad thing, but there are limits to how effective this is, and adding more stuffing to a box can change other box characteristics in extreme cases, and in any case won't be as good as using a different box shape. The best damping of a backwave is a long tube filled with stuffing - see the B&W nautilus design or the Linkwitz Pluto. The problem with these tubes is that you get no bass, so if you want a bass reflex enclosure with some backwave attenuation you accept that compromise. A good argument for a dedicated midrange driver, certainly.

'Cabinet resonances' normally refers to flexing of the cabinet itself, which can re-radiate sound into the room in ways which are undesirable. Stuffing does nothing to stop this. The traditional method to fix this is to make the cabinets more rigid and more massive, but this is not always a good approach, and the consensus now at least among DIYers and other crazies is that some kind of lossy bracing is probably the best approach, where the braces connecting opposite walls of the cabinet have some sort of elastomeric component which turns those vibrations into heat as the cabinet flexes. There are some other approaches but the idea is the same, rather than simply making the cabinet more rigid, which simply raises the frequency at which it resonates, you actually try to convert the mechanical flexing into frictional losses.

In any speaker under say, 5k USD, you're just looking for a heavy and rigid cabinet. Lossy bracing is used to somewhat limited effect in some other speakers such as the KEF LS50.

Speaker modding in my opinion is rarely worthwhile; the best results in most cases come from redesigning crossovers which is a whole other kettle of fish.
Thank you, that cleared up a lot of things for me.
 

q3cpma

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The only thing that counts in loudspeakers is the total acoustic slope at the crossover frequency, so the sum of the electrical slope of the crossover and "mechanical" slope of the driver (in the past there existed also loudspeakers with no electrical filter for some drivers). Also at coaxial drivers you don't need necessarily to use as steep slopes as for conventional speakers because they don't have vertical lobing problems, the only reason you might want to use steep slopes is to increase max SPL and reduce HD and IMD.
Controlled breakup is still breakup, though.
 

617

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More off topic

My idea of a closed box:

Front wall about 30 mm thick. The others, 18 mm. MDF.

With hollow rectangular reinforcements, not placed in the middle but to an odd unit: 1/3.

DIY sandwich with viscoelastic material + acrylic sealant + absorbent pressed.


If big box, the first layer: viscoelastic + acrylic sealant + viscoelastic.

Before putting viscoelastic strips on the inner joints.


In small boxes, sandwich with one layer of viscoelastic and strips.
Maty curious what the last speaker you built was? You seem like you're tinkering a lot.
 

maty

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More than twenty years ago. I meditated and decided that it was more practical and economical to find a good speaker and correct the deficiencies that are hidden inside. The same with amplifiers and... that is why I like to see the inside of things. All the hardware of my two systems have been modified by me. And soft of my second sytem too, well, very optimized: Win 10, soft players and...

- End off topic -
 

617

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Oftentimes I feel like I’m the only person outside of the DIY community who understands and appreciates this.
Right and if you've bought and handled and looked at enough drivers you can tell what price class they belong to just by looking at them. In this case, it looks like a SEAS curv cone which uses a woven polypropelene if I am not mistaken. Cast frame, free air resonance below 40hz, weighs 3 1/2 pounds, 20mm xmax, advanced spider design. 90 dollars at retail.

Meanwhile the driver used in the Pioneer Bs22 is a cast frame, and only 4" in diameter, so less than half the radiating area, with less xmax, and we're supposed to believe they're in the same universe? I'm not even talking about just bass, a 6" woofer will have a lot more headroom at midrange frequencies as well.

I would love it if a budget speaker came along which blows away everything, but unlike in DACs where the parts are generally cheap and small, good speakers require large amounts of powerful magnets, heavy and large cabinets, and for passive speakers, a good amount of copper and large capacitors. That stuff costs money.

It is pretty cool that we're getting data points from all price brackets but I think we've seen what really cheap speakers can do at this point.
 

Thomas savage

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More than twenty years ago. I meditated and decided that it was more practical and economical to find a good speaker and correct the deficiencies that are hidden inside. The same with amplifiers and... that is why I like to see the inside of things. All the hardware of my two systems have been modified by me. And soft of my second sytem too, well, very optimized: Win 10, soft players and...

- End off topic -
Well meditate on staying on topic ..
 
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