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Upgrade / Comparisons? Ascend Sierra RAAL Towers / Revel F226Be / F228Be

mj30250

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I am currently caught in an upgradeitis loop and am looking for some assistance in breaking free and moving on with my life.

First, my 5.2 setup:

Denon X4500H AVR
Monolith 3X200 Amp for LRC
Ascend Sierra Towers w/ RAAL upgrade
Emotiva C2+ center (Horizon w/ RAAL on order)
SVS Ultra surrounds (mounted on rear wall in bipole mode)
2x HSU VTF-3 MK5 subs

See the attached drawing for a very rough idea of how the room is laid out. The MLP is approximately 8' from the speakers. I do like to listen very loudly on occassion (nearing reference levels).

Background:

Over a year ago I purchased a pair of Emotiva T2+ towers and a C2+ center. At $1200 for the trio, they perform absolutely wonderfully. I was especially impressed by how good the towers sound for 2 channel music listening (while crossed to the subs at 80Hz which is what I always prefer). They are so impressive for the money that I wanted to see if I could find a similar bang for the buck offering in a higher performance tier. The result of my curiosity took shape in a pair of Sierra RAAL towers that I came across in excellent condition at a very reasonable price.

After EQing and spending a few weeks with the towers, they are a clear and welcome upgrade to the T2+ towers. For music, they are silky smooth, very transparent, detailed, and effortless across a variety of genres. The more I listen, the more impressed I am with them. For HT use, I wasn't expecting to find this to be the case as the C2+ center is absolutely excellent, but when the front stage gets busy, it's clear that it's outclassed by the Sierra towers, so I ordered up a Horizon center which has remained on back order.

In the meantime, I've continued to poke around (why???), and became interested in the C426Be center from Revel. This thing looks like it could be a true "end game" center. Boy, wouldn't it be nice to be done with all of this for a while (ha!). Of course, even at a generous discount from a Harman dealer, it still carries a hefty price increase compared to the Horizon center. But if I could truly be done with at least one speaker for the next decade or three, I'd be willing to pay the premium.

But now that I'm thinking about jumping up yet again with the center channel, I would be looking for towers to match. This brings me to the F226Be and F228Be. Now, if there's one thing that the T2+ towers did better than the Sierra towers, it's in...I don't know...depth? Heft? Punch? They just sounded a little bit bigger (which they are) and fuller, if not necessarily louder. The Sierras are a noticeable step up in every other way, but they just don't have quite the presence of the Emotivas. I lay this primarly at the feet of the size of the woofers (5-1/4" versus 8").

The 226s offer dual 6-1/2" woofers, and the F228s get me back to 8". For my uses, would the 6-1/2" drivers get me enough of the way there given that the two subs will always be in use? I'm thinking...probably. The 228s are a good deal pricier, so if their advantage would be rendered moot by the subs, or at least mostly moot, I'd happily keep the savings in my pocket.

Beyond that, am I just being silly with all of this in general? Should I just stick with the (absolutely excellent) Sierra towers and wait out the center? Comparisons of these and the 226/228Be seem to be virtually non-existant. I've seen the shootout here involing the RAAL towers and the F206s, and the latter is clearly outclassed somewhat by the RAAL tweeter. How would they compare after stepping up to the beryllium of the 226 and 228? That's a tougher bit of information to come across.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Shazb0t

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I would wait for your matching Horizon Center and see how you feel then. The Horizon is a beast of a center channel as well.


The Ascend RAAL speakers maintain a wide directivity in their horizontal dispersion out to the high treble. This property is more akin to something like the Salon2 rather than the PerformaBe series, which has a more controlled horizontal dispersion rolloff throughout its range. Some people attribute this property to their unique sound.

Ascend Sierra Horizon RAAL (taken from MZKM)
1638717768054.png

Revel F226be (taken from MZKM)
1638718030432.png
 
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mj30250

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Yeah, I may have to buckle down and await the Horizon. I'm listening to music on the Sierra towers now and wondering why the heck I'm even considering changing these beauties out. As stated above, though, there are times I wish they'd just sound...bigger. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm quite getting a full "wall of sound" effect like I did with the T2+ towers. Now, how much of that is me missing distortion and / or a more forward / less accurate presentation and how much is just the physics of larger drivers, I'm not sure. Since the T2+s measure very well and are reasonably neutral, I come back to the thought that they sound bigger because they are bigger.

Would I want to trade away any of the RAAL's finer points to achieve some more presence? No, I don't think so. It then becomes a matter of how the Be dome stacks up to the RAAL ribbon. I should probably try to find a local Harman dealer who has the 226/228s available to listen to, if there is one.
 

Shazb0t

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Since you've stated that they're both properly crossed over to subs, I wonder if the T2+ would still sound bigger if you couldn't see them? Something to think about.

From Erin's review of the T2+ it looks like their dynamic range is limited due to tweeter compression at higher levels. So I don't think your impression of sounding bigger is a dynamic range thing. Maybe something else to do with directivity differences.

1638734472080.png
 
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mj30250

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Sighted bias could be playing a role. But without DB testing (not practical for me), it's hard to say how much of one.

A few days ago I nudged up the crossover from 80Hz to 100Hz and that did fill in some of what I feel is missing. This tells me that the differences are probably limited to the sub 250Hz region. Another way of describing it is that there are times while listening to familiar material that I anticipate a big slamming moment, and it arrives with less energy than I feel I'm used to. It's not often, but it does happen.
 

aarons915

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I am currently caught in an upgradeitis loop and am looking for some assistance in breaking free and moving on with my life.

First, my 5.2 setup:

Denon X4500H AVR
Monolith 3X200 Amp for LRC
Ascend Sierra Towers w/ RAAL upgrade
Emotiva C2+ center (Horizon w/ RAAL on order)
SVS Ultra surrounds (mounted on rear wall in bipole mode)
2x HSU VTF-3 MK5 subs

See the attached drawing for a very rough idea of how the room is laid out. The MLP is approximately 8' from the speakers. I do like to listen very loudly on occassion (nearing reference levels).

Background:

Over a year ago I purchased a pair of Emotiva T2+ towers and a C2+ center. At $1200 for the trio, they perform absolutely wonderfully. I was especially impressed by how good the towers sound for 2 channel music listening (while crossed to the subs at 80Hz which is what I always prefer). They are so impressive for the money that I wanted to see if I could find a similar bang for the buck offering in a higher performance tier. The result of my curiosity took shape in a pair of Sierra RAAL towers that I came across in excellent condition at a very reasonable price.

After EQing and spending a few weeks with the towers, they are a clear and welcome upgrade to the T2+ towers. For music, they are silky smooth, very transparent, detailed, and effortless across a variety of genres. The more I listen, the more impressed I am with them. For HT use, I wasn't expecting to find this to be the case as the C2+ center is absolutely excellent, but when the front stage gets busy, it's clear that it's outclassed by the Sierra towers, so I ordered up a Horizon center which has remained on back order.

In the meantime, I've continued to poke around (why???), and became interested in the C426Be center from Revel. This thing looks like it could be a true "end game" center. Boy, wouldn't it be nice to be done with all of this for a while (ha!). Of course, even at a generous discount from a Harman dealer, it still carries a hefty price increase compared to the Horizon center. But if I could truly be done with at least one speaker for the next decade or three, I'd be willing to pay the premium.

But now that I'm thinking about jumping up yet again with the center channel, I would be looking for towers to match. This brings me to the F226Be and F228Be. Now, if there's one thing that the T2+ towers did better than the Sierra towers, it's in...I don't know...depth? Heft? Punch? They just sounded a little bit bigger (which they are) and fuller, if not necessarily louder. The Sierras are a noticeable step up in every other way, but they just don't have quite the presence of the Emotivas. I lay this primarly at the feet of the size of the woofers (5-1/4" versus 8").

The 226s offer dual 6-1/2" woofers, and the F228s get me back to 8". For my uses, would the 6-1/2" drivers get me enough of the way there given that the two subs will always be in use? I'm thinking...probably. The 228s are a good deal pricier, so if their advantage would be rendered moot by the subs, or at least mostly moot, I'd happily keep the savings in my pocket.

Beyond that, am I just being silly with all of this in general? Should I just stick with the (absolutely excellent) Sierra towers and wait out the center? Comparisons of these and the 226/228Be seem to be virtually non-existant. I've seen the shootout here involing the RAAL towers and the F206s, and the latter is clearly outclassed somewhat by the RAAL tweeter. How would they compare after stepping up to the beryllium of the 226 and 228? That's a tougher bit of information to come across.

Thanks in advance!

I honestly think the only thing that really cures someone of "upgradeitis" is personally trying out more expensive speakers and realizing the performance improvement isn't as much as you thought and that you're already heavily into diminishing returns. As far as your loudness question, if the Sierra towers get loud enough for you then the F226 should get louder with lower distortion as Erin's review of them showed. I've been into KEF the past few years but I was getting sucked into the upgrade loop myself, I started with the Q150 then moved to the LS50 and then the R3, my next "upgrade" was going to be the Reference Ones. Recently, I was able to directly compare the LS50 Meta with Reference Ones and for the cost difference I just couldn't justify spending that much more, especially since I know that once I properly integrate a few subs with the Metas the differences would be even less.

Back to your examples though I don't think it would be a bad idea to try out the F226 just to see and get these upgrade thoughts out of your head. As far as the Emotiva sounding "bigger" this is usually just bass and you can set up your bass response to be whatever you want so I would experiment with possibly bumping the crossover up to 100Hz to let your subs play a bit higher and get the slam back that you lost.
 
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mj30250

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I would definitely like to audition them at a dealer at minimum. I'll work on that.

Sticking with only the Revels for the moment, as I will be integrating the dual subs regardless of where this goes, do I have any reason at all that I might want the F228s over the F226s? It seems that the 226s are just as good sans bass extension, and may even image better. I like the idea of lugging lighter speakers down the stairs as well.
 
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mj30250

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I attempted a listen at a local dealer today. Sadly, they did not have any Be Revels available to audition. They did have a pair of Focal Kanta 3s (Be tweeters), Revel F206s and F208s.

I figured I'd take a listen to the Focals first as they at least use a beryllium tweeter. It's been years since I auditioned speakers outside of my house, and yikes. I forgot what a mess it could be. None of these speakers sounded especially fantastic to me, and I think this was almost completely the "fault" of the room and whatever setup / settings / etc they were using, so I'm limited to making some very unscientific comparisons between the speakers I heard given the constraints of the environment. I was also on a work break and unable to spend time messing about with adjustments and such.

So, taking into account the above disclaimers, on to listening...

The Focals did not especially impress me. They came off as sounding imprescise...almost muddy. Adjusting the volume up / down did not improve things. I like neutral, somewhat laid back speakers (as opposed to pumped up and overly bright), but these were not very exciting at all. Strange. I'd be happy to hear these again in a more fair demonstration of their abilities, but this room did not do them any favors. They were not a contender to begin with (well out of my budget), but I would have expected more, even in a non-ideal situation.

Next I listened to the F206s. Immediately these sounded far better to me than the Focals. Imaging was great, and they had more depth, balance, and precision. Was I amazed? No, not really. Even with acoustic memory being as problematic as it is, I know that if I had been magically transported back home and immediately listened to the Ascends, they would have sounded better. Again, how much of this was the room/setup? Probably a lot. However, they sounded good enough to me that I'd have to imagine the upgraded F226Bes would have been reasonably impressive, even here.

Last were the F208s. They sounded an awful lot like the F206s, just boomier and with maybe a tinge less precision and imaging. Based on what I heard, I don't think the F228Bes would be better than the 226s in my room w/ subs. Even in this comparison with the towers running full range with no sub involvement, I wanted to knock down the low frequencies of the 208s as the 206s' better balanced low end was more pleasing.

Honestly I don't know how helpful this experience was, but at least I can be confident in liking the "Revel sound" and knowing that the 226s would be plenty suitable for my room versus the 228s. But would they be an appreciable upgrade over the Sierra RAAL towers? I still can't answer that and likely won't be able to unless I bring some Revels home. I did get a very nice package price offer on F226Bes and a C426Be center. Maybe I'll just jump on it. Those damn RAALs are so just smooth, detailed, and responsive. They can turn on a dime, jumping to life instantly and disappearing into silence just as quickly. Can the Revel's beryllium waveguides truly compete?
 
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mj30250

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I was offered a pretty good deal on a pair of new F226Bes and a C426Be center and jumped. They should be here within the next couple of weeks (just in time for Christmas break!).

I'm looking forward to seeing how they perform in my room versus the Sierra towers. Assuming the Revels win out, I might consider sending the Sierras to Amir or Erin to measure if either would be interested. Watch this space.
 

amper42

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I was offered a pretty good deal on a pair of new F226Bes and a C426Be center and jumped. They should be here within the next couple of weeks (just in time for Christmas break!).

I'm looking forward to seeing how they perform in my room versus the Sierra towers. Assuming the Revels win out, I might consider sending the Sierras to Amir or Erin to measure if either would be interested. Watch this space.

As I read your posts it reminded me of my journey. I also have the HSU VTF-3 MK5 HP Subs, Denon 4700 and the Sierra Towers with RAAL tweeters. The Sierra Towers don't offer much low end as they begin to roll off at 90Hz but the mid bass can kick hard with my Monolith 7x200 amp. As with you, I wanted to try the next level.

I found a deal on the Revel F328Be. Once they arrived, the F328Be depth and power was a night and day difference compared to the RAAL Sierra Towers. At first, I missed the extra shimmer the RAAL offered on cymbals over the BE sound. But the BE tweeter grew on me and seem a little more precise to my ear now.

The next step I took was trying to clean up the source. I now use the RME ADI-2 DAC FS with RPi4 via UPnP to send my stereo music to the F328Be. The sound is much preferred by my ear compared to using the Denon 4700. No matter how I setup the Denon (Direct or with Audyssey) the RME ADI-2/Purifi/F328BE combination sounded cleaner to my ear. I could use the subs with the RME but I'm totally happy with just the F328Be speakers for my stereo listening. Don't get me wrong, I still use the Denon for 7.2.4 movies - but stereo with the F328Be is my preference for music (which is now 95% of my listening).

You will have fun trying various combinations until you get to the point where your ear doesn't want anything to ever change. :D
 
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mj30250

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Nice. Those 328s are impressive, and probably way more than I need for my room / seating distance. I expected that I'd lose a bit of sparkle but gain a little precision in switching to the Be tweeters. It seems like your experience matches up with that. I don't think there's any question that I will miss the RAALs a bit, but obviously I hope to gain in other areas. I think Ascend packs about as much performance as anyone reasonably could into those towers, but I just need some more heft/depth. I'm really excited about that monster center. I doubt I'll be wanting at all for HT at any rate. It's heavier than the F226Be towers!
 
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Steve Dallas

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I am very interested to hear back on your thoughts. I suspect you may be venturing into the area of diminishing returns.

I am in a similar place in that I have BMRs with RAAL tweeters and Revel F206s. Once optimally set up, with room correction applied to the bass frequencies, I do not have much of a preference. I can hear a difference in midrange and high frequency response, but I cannot hear any difference in any other dimension at the MLP.

This is not an audible thing for me, but RAAL tweeters do product higher distortion at high SPLs, but I do not listen loud enough for that to matter (average in the low 80s with transient peaks in the mid 90s). The additional bass driver in the F206 theoretically allows for lower bass distortion, but with dual subs crossed at 80Hz, this point is most likely moot. So, the only concrete advantage the F206s have is a couple dB better sensitivity.

As for the sound of the tweeters, there is a perceptible difference between the ribbons and domes, but I like them both. I have never heard a Be tweeter that made me want to open my wallet as compared to other materials. Perhaps I am wrong about that?

It is good to see the point made that bigger speakers placed in smaller rooms simply complicate room treatment and correction rather than actually sounding "bigger," unless there is signficant low frequency extension offered by the larger drivers.
 

amper42

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I am very interested to hear back on your thoughts. I suspect you may be venturing into the area of diminishing returns.

I am in a similar place in that I have BMRs with RAAL tweeters and Revel F206s. Once optimally set up, with room correction applied to the bass frequencies, I do not have much of a preference. I can hear a difference in midrange and high frequency response, but I cannot hear any difference in any other dimension at the MLP.

This is not an audible thing for me, but RAAL tweeters do product higher distortion at high SPLs, but I do not listen loud enough for that to matter (average in the low 80s with transient peaks in the mid 90s). The additional bass driver in the F206 theoretically allows for lower bass distortion, but with dual subs crossed at 80Hz, this point is most likely moot. So, the only concrete advantage the F206s have is a couple dB better sensitivity.

As for the sound of the tweeters, there is a perceptible difference between the ribbons and domes, but I like them both. I have never heard a Be tweeter that made me want to open my wallet as compared to other materials. Perhaps I am wrong about that?

It is good to see the point made that bigger speakers placed in smaller rooms simply complicate room treatment and correction rather than actually sounding "bigger," unless there is signficant low frequency extension offered by the larger drivers.

Steve,
I have the BMR Monitor and the Sierra Tower with RAAL Tweeter. They are quite different animals. The BMR has a much lower extension than the Sierra Towers. The Sierra towers start to roll off at 200Hz and by 50Hz they are down 8dB. If you compare the BMR it offers strong bass response down to 37Hz (ignore my 50-60Hz room mode in the image below).

SierraT.png BMR - office tests with Hegel H90-4700-P452.png

On the other hand, with HSU subs the Sierra Towers offer much more punch and a bigger sound in a larger room than my BMR Monitors. Three woofers vs one makes a difference. The Sierra Tower also features a larger 70-20 RAAL vs the 64-10 version in my BMR. Below is a side by side comparison of the two. The 70-20 is larger. The two image are not to scale. They were adjusted to show a similar size.

BMR RAAL 64-10 vs RAAL 70-20.png

Bottom line, the BMR monitor sounds amazing in my 12'x13" office while the Sierra Tower sounds better in the 24' x 28' home theatre room. AND if you take one step futher, the Revel F328Be is a huge step up in power and punch in the 24' x 28' room. Room certainly is a factor in what works best but the BMR and Sierra Tower offer completely different approaches. Displacement certainly matters.
 

Steve Dallas

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Steve,
I have the BMR Monitor and the Sierra Tower with RAAL Tweeter. They are quite different animals. The BMR has a much lower extension than the Sierra Towers. The Sierra towers start to roll off at 200Hz and by 50Hz they are down 8dB. If you compare the BMR it offers strong bass response down to 37Hz (ignore my 50-60Hz room mode in the image below).

View attachment 171858 View attachment 171862

On the other hand, with HSU subs the Sierra Towers offer much more punch and a bigger sound in a larger room than my BMR Monitors. Three woofers vs one makes a difference. The Sierra Tower also features a larger 70-20 RAAL vs the 64-10 version in my BMR. Below is a side by side comparison of the two. The 70-20 is larger. The two image are not to scale. They were adjusted to show a similar size.

View attachment 171867

Bottom line, the BMR monitor sounds amazing in my 12'x13" office while the Sierra Tower sounds better in the 24' x 28' home theatre room. AND if you take one step futher, the Revel F328Be is a huge step up in power and punch in the 24' x 28' room. Room certainly is a factor in what works best but the BMR and Sierra Tower offer completely different approaches. Displacement certainly matters.

We do have some important differences in our environments--specifically in that my media room is 12' wide by 13.5' deep.

But... Does displacement really matter? Is not the punch you feel a function of SPL at impactful frequencies? Does it matter how that is achieved? A system of mine from a few years ago featured 3 LS50s and 2 subs, and it jiggled my jiggly bits just fine for music and movies, once it was well configured.

I remember you posting that tweeter photo in my BMR Roadshow thread, so you probably saw my FR curve comparisons and saw how similarly the BMRs and F206s compared in SPL at normal music listening levels. The BMRs extended lower, but the overall sound pressure levels were similar across the spectrum. Both are similarly impactful in my system.
 

Shazb0t

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The Sierra Tower also features a larger 70-20 RAAL vs the 64-10 version in my BMR. Below is a side by side comparison of the two. The 70-20 is larger. The two image are not to scale. They were adjusted to show a similar size.
If I'm not mistaken the RAAL ribbons are named for their size in mm. So, the Sierra Tower 70-20xr has ~54% more surface area than the 64-10 in the BMR. This is likely a large contributor to its higher power handling and lower distortion capabilities.
 

Alice of Old Vincennes

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Sighted bias could be playing a role. But without DB testing (not practical for me), it's hard to say how much of one.

A few days ago I nudged up the crossover from 80Hz to 100Hz and that did fill in some of what I feel is missing. This tells me that the differences are probably limited to the sub 250Hz region. Another way of describing it is that there are times while listening to familiar material that I anticipate a big slamming moment, and it arrives with less energy than I feel I'm used to. It's not often, but it does happen.
That is why I require 8 inch woofers. I think you won`t tell a difference with Perfoma series. F208 and C208 will meet your needs.
 
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mj30250

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I am very interested to hear back on your thoughts. I suspect you may be venturing into the area of diminishing returns.

Without a doubt. The Sierra towers are fantastic. I'm just after a little bit more depth / heft or whatever you want to call it. It'd be nice to spin up some music and be able to genuinely say, "Yup! That's it! As far as this room is concerned, I'm done." I'm almost there. I'm obviously rolling the dice a bit and placing my faith in the F226Bes to get me there. We'll see what happens.

That is why I require 8 inch woofers. I think you won`t tell a difference with Perfoma series. F208 and C208 will meet your needs.

After listening to the F208s and F206s in the same setup, I'm less confident that the 228s would be better in my room. I actually preferred how the 206s sounded as they were more balanced and imaged better than the 208s.

My current floorstanders have 5-1/4" woofers, so the 226s are already a step up in terms of raw driver displacement.

Outside of subwoofer frequencies, the 226s tend to measure better than the 228s as well. I also like that the tweeter height on the 226s is closer to ear level. Maybe that's not a big deal given their good vertical dispersion.

It seems to me that the cost increase involved would be much better spent elsewhere in my setup. Other rooms / situations will certainly vary.
 

Steve Dallas

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This is how my F206s perform in my 12'W x 13.5'D x 10.5'H media room. This measurement was taken in stereo with pink noise using the moving mic method to average ~60 samples at the MLP.

F206 Stereo Uncorrected.png


Same after Dirac correction to 600Hz.

F206 Stereo Dirac to 600Hz.png


With 2x SVS SB2000 subs and Audyssey XT32 correction / integration to 600Hz with 80Hz crossover. A bit on the warm side for music, great for movies. (Sorry for the 1/6 smoothing instead of my usual 1/12.)

MMM Stereo F206 SB2000 Audyssey 180.png


I'd say you should experience plenty of impact in the right sized room. I enjoy the hell out of mine and have less than zero urge to "upgrade" to anything else.
 
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amper42

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Without a doubt. The Sierra towers are fantastic. I'm just after a little bit more depth / heft or whatever you want to call it. It'd be nice to spin up some music and be able to genuinely say, "Yup! That's it! As far as this room is concerned, I'm done." I'm almost there. I'm obviously rolling the dice a bit and placing my faith in the F226Bes to get me there. We'll see what happens.



After listening to the F208s and F206s in the same setup, I'm less confident that the 228s would be better in my room. I actually preferred how the 206s sounded as they were more balanced and imaged better than the 208s.

My current floorstanders have 5-1/4" woofers, so the 226s are already a step up in terms of raw driver displacement.

Outside of subwoofer frequencies, the 226s tend to measure better than the 228s as well. I also like that the tweeter height on the 226s is closer to ear level. Maybe that's not a big deal given their good vertical dispersion.

It seems to me that the cost increase involved would be much better spent elsewhere in my setup. Other rooms / situations will certainly vary.

The 11' depth of the listening space you selected may somewhat limit the difference you detect between the Sierra Towers/RAAL and the Revel F226Be. This room size could easily place you within 7 feet of the speakers at the MLP. While the Revel certainly offers a lower bass extension, using the Denon 4500 with an 80Hz sub crossover and the F226Be set as small will reduce the difference between the two. The Sierra Towers can punch hard in lower mid bass and it's tight. You might notice the F226Be sounding fuller at lower volumes. But at medium to higher volumes (80db+) dual subs and the Sierra Towers can certainly hold their own.

The main difference will be that Revel C426Be center which will add another dimension of punch if you set it 2dB above the Audyssey level. At a distance of 7' the F226Be and C426Be combination will cover you in more punch and power than you can imagine. Compared to a weaker center with the Sierra Towers you will definitely notice a difference.

If I was buying these new Revel speakers and some of the other larger spaces in the basement were available I would certainly want to try them with my new toys. :D
 
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