I'm am VERY uncomfortable writing this, but I'm more interested in what some of you will say than I am worried about you all thinking I'm some kind of moron. So here goes...
I finally received my Sierra's today after waiting a week for shipping. Seemed like forever! I got them home and hooked them up with some temporary stands to get a feel for them. Basically I had nothing better than some old wooden 2-drawer file cabinets. They are the only thing I had that was the correct height.
When I initially fired them up playing Patricia Barber's "Modern Cool", my first impression was that they had a nice smooth clarity to them. They sounded hi-rez in a way. There seemed to be a distinct clarity in the midrange.
Just so you all understand my process. Over the last week I listened to a variety of tracks from various artists looking for subtle nuances and in general anything that I thought sounded cool, interesting, or levels of realism. Here are my brief notes: (note: all initial observations came from my B&W 602 series 3 speakers)
Prince's "Xpectation" album: The track "Xcogitate" has a flute playing about 2 minutes in that sounded VERY flute like. It was airy and metallic sounding; exactly like a real flute sounds to me. The Sierra's do not reproduce this metallic sound at all. The flute sounds like it's made of wood. It doesn't sound metallic in any way.
Prince's "Karmasutra" album (an opera he wrote that is just cool to listen to): The track "At Last... The Lost Is Found", there is a bassy tone that bounces around the stage that I use for identifying how well the stage is focused. The Sierra's stage very well and easily disappear just like my B&W's do. However this bassy tone sounded weird and almost fake. Sorry, but this is the best I can describe it. It sounds produced and not real, but has a distinct clarity...
Prince's "Karmastutra" album: The track "Cutz" is a neat track for metallic percussion. He uses scissors, bells, and other assorted metallic items for a cool track. This was actually reproduces very well by the Sierra's and I wrote down "good" as it sounded similarly pleasant and real like I was used to with my B&W's.
Norah Jones's "Come Away With Me" album: The track "Don't Know Why" sounded wrong. The piano doesn't sound like a percussion instrument. It sounded more electronically produced. It had no metallic quality that I was used to hearing. My kids play piano and I'm very familiar with the sound. The B&W's produce it well, the Sierra's do not. But the worst thing of all is that Norah's voice was piercing and made me squint my eyes a little. Her voice was not sweet or warm and sultry. Instead her voice was smooth and very strongly midrange pronounced. Again, I'm sorry if this sounds moronic. I'm trying here.
Dianna Krall's "The Very Best Of Dianna Krall" album: The track "You Go To My Head" has the drummer with brushes on the snare drum that is way too pronounced. It's like the mic was about an inch away from the brushes and it over takes the song. It sounded like brushes with the B&W's while it CLEARLY sounds like static on the Sierra's. It was shocking to me. I couldn't make out the sound correctly at all. Dianna's voice didn't sounded nice or inviting either. The Sierra's made me not care about her voice at all. Nothing appealing about her voice at all. I feel the opposite about her on my B&W's.
Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine" album: The track "Sanctified" is one that I'm very familiar with. I wanted to hear how the Sierra's would handle Trent's use of distortion. That part was actually ok, but I while I didn't write down anything else in particular for this track, I immediately missing subtleties in the music. Small soft tones are just missing. I'll listen more and try to pinpoint the time where the tones appear to be missing if anyone else has and or likes this album.
In general I'll comment on some Jean-Luc Ponty material. Jean uses a lot of cymbals in his music. I can't describe the tonality of the cymbals other than like this: To me, the cymbals tonality reminded me of when I was doing some critical listening to MP3 compression levels. At anything less than 192kbs, cymbals sounded lifeless and deadened. As if someone was holding a finger on the metal causing it to roll of quickly and die. No air about them and no realness to them. Lifeless is about how they sound to me. Jean also has several tracks with bongos in them. The bongos don't sound correct either. They're sort of there without sounding real. They sound electronically produced instead of sounding like a musician hitting them.
In general Fourplay's music is very beautiful. Delicate, inviting, and just cool to listen to. The Sierra's just don't make me care about the music at all. It doesn't have that life to it. Again, I realize how sad my descriptions are.
One think that I've never liked about the B&W's is that they just don't some some music and will stick it in your face; very unpleasant. 30 Seconds To Mars is like this. Their music has very pronounced cymbals and the B&W's just shove that right at you so you can't stand it. To me the Sierra's were worse. The cymbal tones are more lifeless, but they too shove them in your face and it sounds even less attractive.
Now before any of you start to think I'm a complete idiot, I'd like to mention that I've had the Sierra's playing softly the entire time I've been typing this. I'll actually comment that they sound pretty damn good at lower volume. Dianna Krall's voice sounds more pleasant and cymbals sound metallic and more clear and real. I can't really play it any louder as my kids are in bed now, but I'm going to give them a better chance over the next few days.
I don't know much about break-in, but maybe I need to let the Sierra's open up a bit. I was reminded by a friend earlier tonight that I hated my 602's for the first couple of days or so as well. All I remember was adding enough toe-in to get them almost on axis which made them come alive. However, I couldn't listen to them like that now. They sit 13' apart and are toed in about 5 degrees. I sit 15' away from them.
Overall, I'd just like to say that as of right now I could easily put these things back in their box to ship them back and not feel bad about it. I'm not even going to open the center channel speaker up right now. I'll give them the rest of the week and I'll play with placement a little more, but I think there is little to gain there.
Overall all I was worried about the small speakers in my rather large room. Well I can safely tell you that there is nothing small about the sound. My room is every bit as filled with sound as it ever was with the B&W's. Impressive considering that the Sierra's look to be literally half the size of the B&W's. There is a HUGE difference in size.
I'm trying to get a couple of friends to come over later this week to listen to both sets of speakers. Neither of them reads forums and neither of them will hear my comments. I'm just going to ask them over and play one set and then the other to see what they objectively think. I don't think that'll happen until late in the week or the weekend, so if break-in is actually an issue, they should be ready to go by then. I'll run only the Sierra's as much as I can until they come over.
Edit: I just realized that you can't list equipment in your sigs here. FYI: I running an Emotiva MMC-1/ISP-1 (pre-pro/amp) combo to power my speakers. I've only ran the B&W's and Sierra's with a x-over point of 70Hz with my SVS 20-39 PC+ filling in the bottom end.