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

Alice of Old Vincennes

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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.
8 inch woofers are not to large for small room with Harmon curve designed speaker coupled with ARC. Integration with sub is seemless.
 

Beave

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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.

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.


That plot is marked as not being valid below 250Hz. The Sierra towers do not start to roll off at 200Hz and are not down 8dB by 50Hz. Nowhere near that. They are rated as down to 41Hz +/- 3dB window, and down to 34Hz in room.

I compared the Sierra towers with the BMR in room, side by side, and found bass extension to be very similar (within a few Hz).

Here is Ascend's full range plot for the Sierra towers (with nrt, but bass response is the same for nrt and raal versions):

FULL.gif


http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/SRT/srtmeas.html
 
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amper42

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That plot for the Sierra Towers is for the NRT version, not the RAAL version.

But more imporantly, it's clearly marked as not being valid below 250Hz. The Sierra towers do not start to roll off at 200Hz and are not down 8dB by 50Hz. Nowhere near that. They are rated as down to 41Hz +/- 3dB window, and down to 34Hz in room.

I compared the Sierra towers with the BMR in room, side by side, and found bass extension to be very similar (within a few Hz).

That chart was shipped to me by Ascend with my Sierra Towers/RAAL speaker. One came with each speaker with the serial number marked on each sheet. I also measured them with REW and they don't offer the bass extension of the BMR monitor. Were you using Audyssey or some other EQ with your BMR/Sierra Tower comparison?
 

Beave

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That chart was shipped to me by Ascend with my Sierra Towers/RAAL speaker. One came with each speaker with the serial number marked on each sheet. I also measured them with REW and they don't offer the bass extension of the BMR monitor. Were you using Audyssey or some other EQ with your BMR/Sierra Tower comparison?

Do you see the dark, thick black mark on the bottom from 50Hz to 250Hz? That's to indicate that the measurements are not valid in that range. For each tower shipped, they (Ascend) take a single on-axis gated response for quality checking. Such a gated response loses resolution as you go down in frequency. By the lower mids, it's useless. They do not do the necessary close-mic'd bass response, nor do they splice that response to the gated response to give the full-range response.

The plot I posted above *does* include the proper measurements of the bass and it's consistent with the specs they give in the website (see link I provided).

I did not EQ when I compared bass response of the two speakers.
 
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Steve Dallas

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8 inch woofers are not to large for small room with Harmon curve designed speaker coupled with ARC. Integration with sub is seemless.

Sure, but what is the point in filling the room with more bass and exciting room modes even further, just to then correct for it? Why spend the extra money?

One's listening distance also needs to be considered. F208s at my listening distance of ~7.5' would place my ears under the tweeters in the directivity dead zone. F206s are optimally sized for my room dimensions and listening distance.
 

Alice of Old Vincennes

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Sure, but what is the point in filling the room with more bass and exciting room modes even further, just to then correct for it? Why spend the extra money?

One's listening distance also needs to be considered. F208s at my listening distance of ~7.5' would place my ears under the tweeters in the directivity dead zone. F206s are optimally sized for my room dimensions and listening distance.
Room nodes with 8 inch floorstander? Revel doesn't have a dead zone. You are over thinking.
 

enricoclaudio

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Looking forward to read your impressions. I personally own a full set of Ascend Acoustics Sierra speakers, including Sierra Towers w/RAAL, Horizon w/RAAL, Sierra 2s and Sierra Lunas. Also own Revel M106s, M105s and C205. Also owned Revel M126Be for a short period to compare with the Sierra Towers. To my ears, the Sierra Towers wins compared to the M126Be. The Sierra Towers high end is definitely more detailed. I also run my Sierra Towers crossed over at 80Hz as a pair of Rythmik Audio G22s subwoofers take care of the low ends. But definitely I would like to read your impressions because if I do upgrade my Sierra Towers w/RAAL it would be with Revel PerformaBe speakers. But for me, I don’t think it would be an upgrade and more like a lateral move.
 
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mj30250

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The Sierra Towers high end is definitely more detailed.

This is my biggest concern. Those ribbons are just so good. The midrange on the Sierras is excellent as well. It's that mid to upper bass region where I feel things sound a bit on the thin side. If these darn Revels would ship already I could put this to bed pretty soon!
 

amper42

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This is my biggest concern. Those ribbons are just so good. The midrange on the Sierras is excellent as well. It's that mid to upper bass region where I feel things sound a bit on the thin side. If these darn Revels would ship already I could put this to bed pretty soon!

My F328Be speakers blow the Sierra Towers away. Its not even a contest. You will be totally happy with the F226Be. The Sierra Tower is nice but once you setup the F226 next to them you will hear the undeniable difference. If you want to experience a full comparison put the Denon in Pure Direct Stereo mode and run them both without subwoofers. That will open your eyes. :D

Sierra Tower vs F328Be.png
 
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mj30250

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I'm going to run through a variety of music with both sets of speakers in full range and then listen to the same tracks again w/ the subs integrated at 80Hz. I expect a bigger advantage for the Revels in full range, but since I always use subs, it'll be interesting to see how things change. If nothing else, it should be fun.

I'm probably most excited for the C426Be center. That will clearly crush my current unit as the Horizon centers have been on back order.
 

Shazb0t

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If you want to experience a full comparison put the Denon in Pure Direct Stereo mode and run them both without subwoofers. That will open your eyes.
That's an obvious difference though. Comparing speakers with a large bass disparity will obviously sound different; with the lower extension speaker generally preferred. It's when both are properly crossed over to an identical subwoofer system that a more fair comparison can be made.
 

enricoclaudio

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My F328Be speakers blow the Sierra Towers away. Its not even a contest. You will be totally happy with the F226Be. The Sierra Tower is nice but once you setup the F226 next to them you will hear the undeniable difference. If you want to experience a full comparison put the Denon in Pure Direct Stereo mode and run them both without subwoofers. That will open your eyes. :D

View attachment 172572

Comparing the Sierra Tower with the F228Be is not a fair comparison. I compared the Sierra Tower w/RAAL with the M126Be, both crossed over at 80Hz and to "My Ears", in my room, the Sierra Towers sounded better not by a mile, but better. Mostly the high ends and female vocals is where the Sierra Towers shine. In fact, thanks to that comparison is why I decided to upgrade the speakers in my bedroom to Performa3 speakers.
 
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mj30250

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A big old pallet of Revels shipped out from Harman yesterday. Fingers crossed that they arrive in time for a little weekend shootout.

I have my predictions but I'm trying really hard to wipe my mind clean and go into this as open as reasonably possible. No matter the outcome I'll be left with some awesome speakers, so there's that.
 
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mj30250

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The speakers just hit the local terminal and should arrive tomorrow.

I'm putting together a little playlist for the "shootout" and I'm open to suggestions.
 
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mj30250

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Alright, the speakers are here and I've conducted my "shootout".

First, I'll provide some general observations regarding the Revel PerformaBe speakers.

My wife is sick to death of my speaker shenanigans, so to calm the waters, I allowed her to choose the color scheme for the Revels. She selected black for the F426Be center (yes!), but white for the F226Be towers (UGH). I'd have never chosen white in a thousand years, as I think it's generally just far too loud of a color in large amounts (no pun intended), but I'm also happy to give credit where it's due. The white floorstanders are gorgeous and blend with the decor of the room perfectly. I love the contrast with the black center as well. Good call by her!

After getting the speakers positioned, just for kicks I performed a brief knuckle tap test on the cabinets of the Sierras and Revels. I thought that the Sierras were really inert (they are), but the Revels just sound dead when you hit them on the sides. Impressive. The Revel towers are a few pounds heavier than the Sierras, but were pretty easy to haul downstairs and maneuver. On the other hand, that center is a beast - noticeably bulkier and heavier than the towers. I was very happy once I got it settled onto the entertainment center.

Now onto the important stuff...

***WARNING***: What follows is a largely un-scientific, sighted comparison of two sets of speakers. There was only one participant (me) with his own biases and preconceptions to deal with and work around (whether successfully or otherwise). Should you find such activities mostly (if not utterly) worthless, you are more than welcome to exit this topic and engage in more productive uses of your time. I completely understand and take no offense.

Preparation / biases: My goal in embarking on this endeavor was to finally settle on my end-game speakers - well, at least end-game for the next decade or two. Once the kids have gone off on their own and are financially independent, who knows? I came very close with the Ascends. While they are wonderful speakers, I feel like they don't quite make it all the way to hitting the depth and heft I'm looking for. I'd love to fill in that small gap, and to do so without making sizable - if any - compromises.

To help mentally prepare myself for as unbiased a sighted comparison as I could muster, I told myself that no matter which set of speakers wins, so do I.

If the Sierras win: They're already here and settled in, I've got them EQ'd, and if they can best speakers that retail for twice the price, well, I'm probably not going to do any better. I'll continue to tweak and further address shortcomings of my room to try to dial in whatever additional performance is possible. I can then pack up the Revels and reclaim THOUSANDS of dollars.

If the Revels win: Alright, am I done? Yes, for goodness' sake, yes. Done. I've spent more money than I'd have preferred to, sure, but I'm done (or am I? Hmm...wait for the end).

Preconceptions: The Sierras will have better high end. The Revels will sound slightly "bigger". Will either be true? If so, by how much? Again, I did my utmost to purge such thoughts from my mind and just listen. These aren't speakers in the room, just noises. Shut your eyes and listen, dammit. Good? Good. Let's go.

First off, I configured the speakers in an ABAB fashion, with 8 feet between each set and 8 feet between them and the MLP. For fun, I listened to a few songs with both speakers in full range (Pure Direct), no subs, no EQ, no nothing.

The first thing I noticed is that, yikes, the Revels are getting smoked. Why? Well, one reason was that they weren't toe'd-in much at all. The Ascends don't seem to much care where they're pointed, so I've been using them with a only a very slight toe-in, and I started off the same with the Revels. No good in my room. I pointed each Revel tower at the MLP and they immediately sounded much better. I also found that the Revels were down about 2dB vs the Sierras, so I would need to level-match for all testing going forward. Ok, let's start again. The next surprise: Despite being down on woofer displacement, the Sierra's low end was...better? Well, slightly punchier and more detailed, even louder - yes. One reason may be that they are rear-ported, and the Revels are front-ported. Being about a foot off the back wall, the Sierras were likely getting some bass boost. Frankly, I wasn't as discerning with this testing as I always use subs for both movies and 2 channel music, but seat of the pants impression was the that Sierras were sounding better overall.

Alright, enough of that. Let's get down to the real 2 channel music test. For these comparisons, room correction and EQ were off. Subs were engaged and crossovers set to 80Hz. I chose a variety of songs that I'm familiar with. If you're not, I'd suggest giving them a listen so you have a frame of reference to work from.

Eugene Ruffolo - Poor Lonesome Me

Revels: Acoustic guitar sounds good but slightly muffled. Strong, smooth vocals with good dynamics.

Sierras: Whoa, there's the guitar sound I'm familiar with - crisp, detailed. It sounds like it's in the room with you. Similar vocals, but slightly more forward.

Winner: Sierras by a moderate amount.

Blind Melon - No Rain

Sierras: Sharp, crisp, but not super dimensional. Vocals are clear and prominent.

Revels: Great imaging and good texture. Vocals are more recessed and behind the instruments.

Winner: Revels by a very slight amount.

Marion Rampal - Youkali

Sierras: Vocals eerily natural, she sounds like she's right in front of you. Very centered and detailed. Bassoon is textured and breathy.

Revels: Vocals smooth and clear but slightly recessed and boxy in comparison. Bassoon more forward.

Winner: Sierras by a moderate amount.

Norah Jones - I've Got To See You Again

Revels: Good depth. Vocals are breathy and blended with instruments. Good dimension.

Sierras: Smoother, not quite as deep. Vocals are more forward.

Winner: Tie

Laura Marling - Soothing

Sierras: Punchy but tight drum and bass. Vocals are wow. It sounds like she's right in front of your face.

Revels: Bass more forward. Drum is boomier. Vocals are boxier.

Winner: Sierras by a solid amount.

Radiohead - Daily Mail

Sierras: Crisp vocals. Good piano imaging. Guitar gets a little muddy when loud. Sounds more intimate, even when it opens up towards the end.

Revels: Piano sounds more natural and present in the room. Vocals are warmer / smoother. When the song gets loud, it sounds bigger and more coherent.

Winner: Revels by a solid amount.

Pete Belasco - Deeper

Revels: Smooth, decent imaging. Vocals blend with instruments.

Sierras: Crisper and punchier. Imaging is similar. Vocals are more prominent.

Winner: Sierras by a slight amount.

Tool - Pneuma

Sierras: Punchy, but a little muddy. Vocals sharp. The track sounded a little harsh at times.

Revels: Wow! Smooth, better blended. Big sound when the song really gets going.

Winner: Revels by a very solid amount.

Eagles - Hotel California - Live from Hell Freezes Over

Revels: Smooth acoustic guitars. Nice immersive sound of applause. Bongos slightly recessed. Imaging awesome. Vocals balanced but a little recessed at times.

Sierras: Acoustic guitars sharper / more detailed. Applause a little flatter, not as "live" sounding. Bongos slightly punchier. Imaging a bit fuzzier. Vocals forward.

Winner: Revels by a slight amount.

Art Pepper - Jazz Me Blues

I was particularly looking forward to this one as I'm a (permanently aspiring) jazz drummer and Philly Joe Jones is one of my favorites. It's also a very high-quality recording.

Revels: Tom hits sound great, very life-like. Breathy saxophone. Snare drum is textured if slightly recessed. Ride cymbal has good dynamics.

Sierras: Saxophone is sharper. Drums sound a tinge thinner / boxier. Ride cymbal sounds excellent. Hi-hats more forward.

Winner: Revels by a slight amount.

Mozart - Dies Irae

Sierras: Highs prominent. Some instruments seem recessed in comparison.

Revels: Fuller / bigger sound. Better balanced. More impactful.

Winner: Revels by a solid amount.

Conclusion: Whether my preconceptions got the best of me or whether they were simply proven true (I leave that for you to consider), I ended up fairly close to where I expected to. High end detail and texture, particularly with vocals, are really hard to beat when you hear the RAAL tweeters. The Revels' beryllium-led waveguides put up a respectable fight, and even pulled ahead in certain cases, but overall, there's just something sweet, natural, and magical about the RAALs. The Revels did provide that extra oomph and dimension I was after. It's just a shame to have to unload the Sierra's high-end to get there.

What to do? Well, I want my cake and I want to eat it, too, so, the plan is to ultimately sell off the Sierra towers and upgrade the bookshelves in my living room to 2EXs. That way I can have my fun in the basement "theater", and sink into the couch in the living room to enjoy some acoustic goodness. YOLO and such...right?

More obvservations / thoughts to come as I EQ and spend more time auditioning.
 
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enricoclaudio

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Almost same conclusion I came with when compared the Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Revel M126Be. With jazz and female vocals like Norah Jones and Lala Hathaway, the Sierra Towers shine due the RAAL and the amazing mid driver. Anyways, thanks for sharing your honest impressions :)
 

amper42

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After reading your Sierra Tower vs Revel F226Be shootout I'm glad I got the Revel F328Be. It sounds like the 226Be is closer to the Sierra Tower based on your post? In contrast, the F328Be is 2dB more sensitive than my Sierra Towers and the sound is recognizably fuller and engaging.

I decided to keep the Sierra Towers on my Denon 4700 for home theatre and moved the Revel F328Be to an RME ADI-2 DAC FS/Purifi amp combination for Stereo only music. It offers a crystal clear sound that I absolutely love. I use it for 95% of my listening. Movies are great on the 4700 but the RME ADI-2 seems to offer the next level of clarity to my ear. Playing the Revel F328Be without the grills is also my choice. It's funny how when you peel off the grill while music is playing you can instantly hear the treble slightly more present.
 
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mj30250

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I would certainly expect the F328Be to be more "impactful" in full range versus the F226Be. It's a much larger speaker, more sensitive, and capable of more bass output. It'll still push more air around with subs (especially if near a rear wall), but I'd expect the differences to shrink if not mostly disappear beyond that based on measurements.

Again, I spent little time / effort on the Sierras and 226s in full range. With sub integration, the Revels are certainly fuller and more engaging with certain material than the Ascends. This was the case in a big way with the Tool track (as I'd expect it to be with any similar material). Big, complicated classical pieces tend to favor Revel as well - I casually listened to other classical tracks after the initial comparison. During more intimate tracks, especially when vocals and instruments seem to be recorded near-field, the Sierras tend to be more engaging. They fair very well with super-clean, electronic type music as well. For a busy collection of live instruments, Revel starts walking away. It really depends on what you're listening to.

I did run room correction and adjust after completing the shootout. Things definitely improved for the better on the Revels. They're still not going to match the high frequency openness and extra layer of detail of the Sierras, but they sounded incredible overall.

I also did a bit of HT listening to get the center channel involved. At first it was...strange. I've never heard film dialogue sound so clean and clear. It was honestly a little disconcerting. I'm looking forward to cranking it up and truly putting it through its paces.
 

Odorb

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I also did a bit of HT listening to get the center channel involved. At first it was...strange. I've never heard film dialogue sound so clean and clear. It was honestly a little disconcerting. I'm looking forward to cranking it up and truly putting it through its paces.
I'm near sold on aiming for the exact same endgame setup and that's exactly what I wanted to hear. Congrats. I can definitely see a pair of F226Be speakers and matching C426Be in my future.

Just checked back to see that you're upgrading from an Emotiva C2+. I've currently got the T1 towers and C1 center so that should do me while I save the funds. Would be curious to see a comparison between the C426Be and the Sierra center with RAAL.
 
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mj30250

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I just spent a few hours auditioning some movies with the new front stage.

I think the C426Be scared the hell out of Audyssey as it knocked down the center's trim to 5.5dB below the R and L speakers. I've never seen that kind of disparity before. I nudged it up and then played some busy scenes very loudly.

This is the cleanest center I've ever heard. Dialog is incredibly clear, dynamic, and detailed. It's also rock solid off-axis. There's virtually no discernable difference in clarity, response, or volume as I moved around to various seats. It's also incredible at moderate to lower volumes. This is where most centers tend to struggle. It retains high levels of intelligibility and dynamics even at a barley background noise volume level. The front three speakers create a massive and perfectly cohesive soundstage when called for just as easily as they do an intimate, confined space, and sometimes eerily so. It's been very difficult to peel myself off the couch. I never got the opportunity to listen to the Horizon center as it's been on back order. I'm sure I'd have been thrilled with it, but it's difficult to imagine a single speaker besting what I'm hearing out of the C426Be.
 
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