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In-room Measurements (REW): Ascend RAAL Sierra Towers, Horizon, 2EX, and Revel F206

echopraxia

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#1
Just completed a full set of in-room measurements in 6 listening positions (individually) for each of these speakers, with independent measurement sets for each individual speaker (left vs right).

Speakers measured are:
  • Ascend Sierra Towers (RAAL) - Stereo Pair
  • Ascend Sierra Horizon (RAAL) - Single Center
  • Ascend Sierra 2EX (RAAL) - Stereo Pair
  • Revel F206 Towers - Stereo Pair
Listening positions measured are numbered:

0. Left Front​
1. Center Front​
2. Right Front​
3. Left Back​
4. Center Back​
5. Right Back​

All measurements were taken with MiniDSP UMIK-1 calibration microphone connected to my Marantz SR7012 receiver via HDMI. All measurements were made with no changes to receiver volume level, so relative SPL between speakers should be valid as well. Each measurement consisted of two averaged log frequency sweeps (20hz to 20khz), for a total of 42 individual measurements (84 individual frequency sweeps).

Links to full REW measurement data:
Images attached show psychoacoustic-smoothed frequency responses for each speaker type:

1574553665729.png


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1574553694161.png


1574553682415.png
 
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ernestcarl

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#4
How far away are the speakers from any major boundaries? And is the microphone 1 meter away from the speakers' acoustical centre? Any room treatment?
 

ernestcarl

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#5
Those file sizes are rather unnecessary large! I just produced vector averages for the lot and got a zipped mdat size of less than 4MB.

Looking at the RT60, room probably is untreated. Anything below 700Hz we can likely skip as it won't be realistically representative.

I notice with ribbon and AMT tweeters, on-axis higher frequencies are almost always elevated. Presumably, we don't get the sensation of harshness similar in comparison to the usual domes. Just looking at the vector averages, I prefer the F206 and then the 2EX second. From the waterfall plots, it also looks like you have a huge null in your in-room bass response around 40Hz or so -- oh, yeah, and smaller one around 55Hz. I haven't looked at the published actual -3/-10dB LF points of these speakers yet...
 

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echopraxia

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#7
How far away are the speakers from any major boundaries? And is the microphone 1 meter away from the speakers' acoustical centre? Any room treatment?
Microphone is about 15 feet from the speakers, at the listening position simulating someone reclined while listening. Sound may be better sitting upright but I listen usually reclining so I tried to measure that way.

This room has complex geometry due to cabinets installed along the walls by the previous owner. I intend to remove/remodel at which point I’m hoping some of the rooms quirks will go away. Still, the room sounds quite nice and is acoustically very quiet though I’ve done no particular “treatment”.
 

echopraxia

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#8
Just looking at the vector averages, I prefer the F206 and then the 2EX second.
What’s very interesting here is that the results of subjective listening tests depend very much on the bass differences.

With no equalization and no subwoofer, I prefer the Revel F206 on most songs because the bass is more present. I recently tried equalizing the Ascend RAAL Towers to where the bass response sounds similar (subjectively), and the results are really fascinating. It did not result in two speakers that sound the same:

With EQ applied to normalize the bass differences, suddenly all my preference for the Revel has disappeared. Now the main thing I am noticing when A/B testing almost any song is how the sound is noticeably more clear, natural, open, and 3-dimensional on the Ascend RAAL Towers.

One way of describing the soundstage differences is, with the Revel it sounds more like someone is cupping their hands over their mouth. With the Ascend it sounds like you’re actually there in the room with the performer.

Or with musical instruments, it sounds like they’re coming from a speaker sitting in front of you. But when I switch to the Ascends, the speaker disappears and all you hear is the performance.

Also, musical instruments seem to be lacking detail on the Revel vs the Ascends, in contrast. It’s particularly obvious on treble heavy instruments like trumpet, electric guitar, violin, etc.

They’re both excellent speakers though so it’s not like you’d sit in front of any one and say any of these criticisms. But when directly A/B testing switching back and forth during a song, the differences are noticeable and very interesting.

Maybe I should do a blind test in this room after all (I was considering waiting until I remodel), despite the bass nulls from the room.
 

echopraxia

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#9
How are you liking your Sierra speakers? I just got the 2EX this week and pairing it with the Horizon with Raal and Sierra 1s for rears.
As you can see by my post above, I’m starting to think that Ascend is the significantly superior speaker in terms of sound quality / realism / clarity.

But in my room without EQ, the Revel F206 is a clear winner because the bass quantity is so much stronger. As a result, I ended up preferring the F206 on >50% of songs I listen to.

After applying EQ (bass boost) though to the Ascends so their bass output matches the Revel, the results have changed dramatically. I am finding myself prefer the Ascends on >90% of songs now.

I’m guessing the sound quality differences come mostly from the wider dispersion pattern of the Ascend towers. The Revel’s horizontal dispersion is still excellent, but the Ascend is better (by their published measurements) due to the ribbon tweeter and smaller diameter woofers.

The fact that I have to equalize the Ascends in this room is not a point in their favor though. Personally, what I’d LOVE to see is an Ascend “supertower” with double the woofers (four vs two) so it will naturally achieve this result without EQ (and without the associated concerns about headroom when listening loudly).

Fortunately for me though I pair my towers with subwoofers, so EQ works just fine as a way of safely boosting mid-bass output that the subwoofer can’t or shouldn’t reach.
 

ernestcarl

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#10
Yes, I had a quick look at the published specs and I'm pretty impressed that the Sierra's go so low... around 33Hz -3dB (typical in-room) and the F206 42Hz or so. The room, of course, is the major limiting factor here -- doesn't matter how expensive the speakers are, unfortunately as the speaker's true bass extension can't be fully realized because of the room. But I'm really interested in ribbon and AMT tweeters -- to have alongside the KH120s as a second pair of ears. I was eyeing the HEDD type 5 or 7 as these are active instead of passives. Unfortunately, I have no room and interest for external amps, but so far have seen few "reviews" or actual measurements.
 

Blumlein 88

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#11
Looking at overall trends, it might be interesting if you took a few musical tracks and added a bit of tilt. I'd suggest anchoring the curve at 1 khz and then raise the curve by 1 db and another curve by 2 db at 20 khz. See if those tilts thru the Revel make the sound closer to the other speaker.
 

echopraxia

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#12
Looking at overall trends, it might be interesting if you took a few musical tracks and added a bit of tilt. I'd suggest anchoring the curve at 1 khz and then raise the curve by 1 db and another curve by 2 db at 20 khz. See if those tilts thru the Revel make the sound closer to the other speaker.
I’m trying this now. So far, I can’t get the Revels to sound as detailed and clear sounding without also sounding too harsh (but even if I look past the harshness it still is missing something).

And no matter what I do, no EQ changes are making the Revel’s soundstage width open up to sound like the Ascends sound. I would go back to the analogy of the Revel sounding more like a narrow beam of sound almost like cupping your hands around your mouth (but I’m not talking about the tonal shift that causes), vs the Ascends sounding more omnidirectional and real — like you’re transported into the space of the performer.

This hints at my suspicion that the preference for the Ascend comes from its wider treble dispersion pattern from the RAAL tweeter (and overall dispersion pattern I suppose, due to smaller drivers). I’m just guessing, but if this is the case it explains a lot because you probably won’t see this difference in the in-room measurements (unless I did some off axis measurements).
 

Blumlein 88

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#13
I’m trying this now. So far, I can’t get the Revels to sound as detailed and clear sounding without also sounding too harsh (but even if I look past the harshness it still is missing something).

And no matter what I do, no EQ changes are making the Revel’s soundstage width open up to sound like the Ascends sound. I would go back to the analogy of the Revel sounding more like a narrow beam of sound almost like cupping your hands around your mouth (but I’m not talking about the tonal shift that causes), vs the Ascends sounding more omnidirectional and real — like you’re transported into the space of the performer.

This hints at my suspicion that the preference for the Ascend comes from its wider treble dispersion pattern from the RAAL tweeter (and overall dispersion pattern I suppose, due to smaller drivers). I’m just guessing, but if this is the case it explains a lot because you probably won’t see this difference in the in-room measurements (unless I did some off axis measurements).
So do some off axis measurements. Might be informative or might not.

The EQ I suggest is broad and gentle. More of a spectral tilt to overall response. Trying to EQ too precisely in these situations usually doesn't work at all.
 

ernestcarl

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#14
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The overall effect should be very, very mild. Just try it, or other similar variations.

P.S. noticed the dB spacing was not the same so updated the images.
 
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echopraxia

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#15
Thanks, I tried that as well. There's still a sense of spaciousness and clarity and tonal realism from the Ascend towers that seems a bit better than the Revels no matter how I EQ them. I played with speaker placement and toe-in as well, but still no major difference.

On the other hand, as I listen to these more, I believe the Revel's low end is a bit better (despite EQ on the Ascend), at least in this room, though I have not tried my MiniDSP 2x4 to equalize the bass precisely (and I actually don't think that would be "fair" since most people won't be doing that). With my subwoofers on though, I can't really pick out the differences any more.

It's also possible that all this is because these are subjective sighted comparisons -- a randomized blind test would give more reliable results. However I am not sure if I want to jump into that directly, or first fix some of the bass nulls in this room (because I'd hate to go to all the trouble to perform blind tests, only for people to dismiss them with accusations that the room is biased or something, since this room does currently have weird geometry due to large cabinets the previous owner installed).

To those reading this and considering buying one of these, your takeaway should be: Yes! These are all great speakers. Buy with confidence :). As far as comparing Revel F206 vs Ascend Sierra RAAL Towers, you can see I currently prefer the Ascends for music, but only when EQ'ed with a ~2b bass boost -- though this may be specific to my room and how the front-ported F206 interacts with my room vs the rear-ported Ascend Towers.

However, if for some reason you're considering making the mistake of never buying a good subwoofer to pair with your towers, try to steer your tower choice towards something with a lot of total displacement for best bass headroom, e.g. something like a Revel F208.
 
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ernestcarl

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#16
Even with four woofers for the towers you’d still likely need a sub in that room. Maneuverability with sub(s) is far easier and nevertheless will help fill up the nulls in the bass area. Glad that you enjoy those RAAL tweeters, they look pretty sweet.
 

raistlin65

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#18
As you can see by my post above, I’m starting to think that Ascend is the significantly superior speaker in terms of sound quality / realism / clarity.

But in my room without EQ, the Revel F206 is a clear winner because the bass quantity is so much stronger. As a result, I ended up preferring the F206 on >50% of songs I listen to.

After applying EQ (bass boost) though to the Ascends so their bass output matches the Revel, the results have changed dramatically. I am finding myself prefer the Ascends on >90% of songs now.

I’m guessing the sound quality differences come mostly from the wider dispersion pattern of the Ascend towers. The Revel’s horizontal dispersion is still excellent, but the Ascend is better (by their published measurements) due to the ribbon tweeter and smaller diameter woofers.

The fact that I have to equalize the Ascends in this room is not a point in their favor though. Personally, what I’d LOVE to see is an Ascend “supertower” with double the woofers (four vs two) so it will naturally achieve this result without EQ (and without the associated concerns about headroom when listening loudly).

Fortunately for me though I pair my towers with subwoofers, so EQ works just fine as a way of safely boosting mid-bass output that the subwoofer can’t or shouldn’t reach.
That is good to hear, and I really appreciate all the comparative objective and subjective information you provided.

The Revel M106 were the one speaker that I demoed in-store that I like the improvement over my Sierra 1s. Sounds like I could not have made a bad choice had I gone with the Revels instead, but glad I move forward with the Sierra 2EX given that the Raal tweeter appears to be the main advantage here. That, and the Horizon Center with Raal has been a fantastic center (I've been using it for over a year) that absolutely wowed me right out of the box.

Did you see the blind listening test at AVS between the 2EX and the KEF R3? https://www.avsforum.com/forum/89-s...rra-2ex-blind-listening-results-informal.html
 

echopraxia

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#20
That is good to hear, and I really appreciate all the comparative objective and subjective information you provided.

The Revel M106 were the one speaker that I demoed in-store that I like the improvement over my Sierra 1s. Sounds like I could not have made a bad choice had I gone with the Revels instead, but glad I move forward with the Sierra 2EX given that the Raal tweeter appears to be the main advantage here. That, and the Horizon Center with Raal has been a fantastic center (I've been using it for over a year) that absolutely wowed me right out of the box.

Did you see the blind listening test at AVS between the 2EX and the KEF R3? https://www.avsforum.com/forum/89-s...rra-2ex-blind-listening-results-informal.html
Yes I definitely saw the KEF R3 vs Sierra 2EX blind listening test results, because I’m the one that performed and posted them :)

I bought these Revel F206 because:

1. I wanted an additional pair of speakers for background music in my living room (vs my theater/media room).

2. The Revel F206 seem to be the default science-based speaker recommendation around audio science forums (both AVS and ASR).

3. I wanted to hear for myself how they sound and compare vs the Ascend RAAL Towers, and also be able to do a blind comparison for the benefit of others.

When I originally bought my Ascend RAAL towers, it was actually after I realized many flaws in my Bowers and Wilkins 702 S2 both subjectively and in the measurements (which I hadn’t learned about prior to buying them, unfortunately). I did a lot of research into the science, saw exactly the flaws of the 702 S2 that I heard in the measurements, and using measurements narrowed down my replacement purchase to either the Revel F206 vs Ascend Sierra RAAL Towers. They were tied in my mind, but I ended up going with the Ascends first because local Revel dealers were too hard to find/contact.

Anyway, yeah these results are quite interesting, it does seem to be the RAAL that makes the difference here — because I don’t know what else it could be. One theory with the KEF R3 vs Sierra 2EX was that maybe the 2EX won because of the wider dispersion, but I’m told the Revel F206 and Sierra RAAL Towers actually have similar dispersion width. I can confirm that unlike the KEF R3, the Revel F206 sound quite good at fairly extreme off-axis angles and do a great job filling the room with sound. So what else could explain it scientifically? I don’t know.
 
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