My comparisons: Energy Veritas v5.1, Polk LSi7's, B&W 685B's, and Ascend Sierra-1's - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 01-11-2012, 11:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Never done one of these before but heres my attempt...

WALL OF TEXT WARNING

Due to the sell Vanns had on the Energy Veritas series, i picked up a pair of the V5.1 in Rosenut. I also bought a pair of Ascend Sierra-1's in Espresso. I was skeptical about the Veritas since posts here say they are reminiscent of the RC-10, which i found to be TOO laid back in the short time i had them.

So, for my testing, i used music mostly from the 50s and 60s since the recording quality wildly varies. Sources were CDs and various 24/96 FLAC files.

My equipment is as follows:

Strategically Treated Room
Yamaha RXV667 Receiver
Parasound HCA-1205A Amplifier
Adcom GFS-6 Speaker Selector
Panamax M5300-PM Power Conditioner

All speakers have been broken in, Pure Direct was used in this A-B comparison of all 4 pairs, 12ga used in all speaker hookups and sand filled B&W STAV24 stands.

Setting up the speakers, the Veritas by far, had the easiest sweet spot to find followed by the Sierras. The LSi7s was a bit tricky since the sweet spot was a bit narrow while the 685Bs werent too hard but not as easy as the 5.1 or the Sierras.

Onward to the listening...

Listening consisted of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, The Ronettes, The Chiffons, The Shirelles, The Animals, etc. (Ill go on forever)

Right off the bat with Sherry and Big Girls Don't Cry, the Veritas were airy, crisp, and amazingly, three dimensional, as if it surrounded me. I dont know if its the way it was recorded, (instruments on the left, main vocal and harmonies on the right) but this sounded incredible. Ive always known the music was recorded this way (as is alot of the music during the time period) but Ive never experienced the music like this so it was quite a shock to my ears. My RC-10s never sounded like this, even in the sweet spot. A big improvement IMO.

The Sierras on the other hand resolved a bit more detail and while it doesnt achieve the holographic sound soundstage the Veritas did, it was still excellent! I mean, i could move around the room and the sweet spot was still there. The 5.1s sweet spot wasnt as big as the Sierras. More over the vocals were actually a bit clearer, and it sounded well balanced overall. Doing a quick A-B with the Veritas, the 5.1s vocals were forward and the lower mids seemed... I dunno... Recessed? Maybe the forward character of the 5.1 is why it seemed so holographic. The mids and lower mids were pleasing on this pair of speakers. The highs werent as crisp as the 5.1s but still smooth with some sizzle, detailed and satisfying.

Firing up the LSi7s, they have a narrow (IMO) sweet spot and are laid back. I mean, after listening to these after the first two, it made me wonder why i kept these over the RC-10s. I quickly remembered why. The detail resolved (esp. in the highs) was on par with the Sierras but more laid back. Laid back to the point where it sounded like they were coming from BEHIND (?!?) the speaker. This sounded odd to me for the first time after listening to other speakers with a different character. Listening to more material, with some content the LSi7s sounded bloated in the mids/lower mids. Over time, it began to bother me with its ripe, warm sound on some content. I will say that drums sound GREAT on these. Yeah i said they sounded odd with the sound seemingly coming from behind the speaker, but were very satisfying on these.

Now, concerning speakers, i have a question: Can speakers get sick? Cause thats how i felt about the 685Bs. Its like the mids are congested, like a honky sound. The highs were satisfying, somewhere between the Sierras and LSi7 in terms of smoothness. This speaker produces a very polite warm sound, with the aforementioned mids. Now, i cant quite put my finger on it, but i feel somethings missing from this speaker. I wanna say dynamics cause at times, the sound is a bit flat. Detailed yes, but nothing really to get my juices flowing. Turning it up did nothing for me. It just produced a half satisfying, 'hmm' from me.

Now that was on material that was recorded very well. How about subpar recorded material?

Main example is Sunny Ozuna, a guy local to San Antonio (i mean, he lived in my old house where i grew up as a kid) who sang songs like Smile Now; Cry Later, Talk to Me, Put Me in Jail, etc. While these are great songs, the quality of the recordings arent so lucky.

Smile Now is a case in point. So, switch to the 5.1s, set the volume and get ready to enjoy some local oldies, right? WRONG. Song starts with a pleasant strum of a guitar, and then, 3 seconds in, Sunny says 'Smile...' and my ears say FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU. Now back then, they didnt have de-essers and man, that one word made me wanna slap the 5.1s like the "How Can She Slap?!?!?" guy did to the host. (Hope i didnt offend anyone cause thats how i felt) The sibilance in the recording was clearly evident and the 5.1s didnt hide it. I said to myself, "The Sierras wont be as harsh since they arent forward." Or so i thought...

They were equally as harsh but not as painful since the 5.1s are a bit brighter, but still causing some pain in the ear. It became quickly apparent, these were not forgiving speakers. The LSi7s didnt hide the sibilance either but they werent harsh. It came across as a smooth hiss that sounded really ugly. The 685Bs on the other hand, politely brushed off the sibilance, and while it was there, it was as-if it tried to disguise it because it wasnt really all that bothering or noticeable unless youre REALLY listening.

More songs that really reenforced these opinions were The Marvellettes "Too Many Fish in The Sea", and Lesley Gore's "Judy's Turn to Cry". There are others but these stood out in my mind.

So, as it is, here are my opinions for now:

1: Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 - Excellent dispersion, excellent sweet spot, well balanced sound, high resolution, handled transients beautifully, neutral. All around, these speakers are excellent!!! They sounded great with everything I threw at it unless the actual recording has some issues.

2: Energy Veritas v5.1 - Great dispersion, holographic sweet spot, airy and neutral but highs and vocals are a bit forward with highs being a bit bright. Mids/lower mids are a bit recessed/hollow vs the Sierras. These seem a bit content dependent but great overall.

3: Bowers & Wilkins 685B - Great dispersion, good sweet spot, a polite, warm detailed speaker, but lacks excitement with its dynamics. Mids sound congested, great bass response, better than the Sierras but not as tight

4: Polk Audio LSi7 - Great dispersion but sweet spot is a bit narrow (tweeter?), very laid back but can resolve alot of detail with its high resolution, very warm, but on some material the mids/lower mids can sound bloated or exaggerated.

Part 2 will be done with more contemporary music. Metal, Rap, Hip Hop, Trance, etc.

Any questions, feel free to ask...
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post #2 of 52 Old 01-11-2012, 11:33 PM
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looking forward to this review. last time i went speaker shopping i did like the 685's but not the price tag, than i red about the sierras and want them for my next upgrade. however now i can get the 685's cheap on an employee discount . either way i look forward to more impressions on your listening expirence
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post #3 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 05:23 AM
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The sierras are with the original tweeter or the nrt?
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post #4 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 06:34 AM
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I'd have to say they're the original version and not the NrT's....judging by his comments. Just wondering if all the speakers were level matched to roughtly the same levels? Having compared my NrT's vs. RC30's and M22's at home due to sensitivity discrepancy causing higher specs speakers to sound louder... that afterwards..I found the soundstage between my 3 was not even comparable. My feeling here and with most Sierra owners is with the NrT you only expand upon where the original leaves off making them that much better. Looking forward to reading on and keeping tabs on this thread....

Regards, Bill...

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post #5 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 07:17 AM
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I have demoed B&W 685 and Ascend Sierra 1 at home and agree with your review in general. I ordered my Sierra 1 with NrT upgrade from Ascend (did not demo non-NrT Sierra) and my assessment is that the Sierra 1 provided more details than the 685. They put a on my face everytime a cymbal is hit in the recordings.
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post #6 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 07:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Billy - You are correct. These are the stock Sierra-1s and yes I did level match across all speakers. I will say if the Sierras came with a tweeter in the Veritas vein, these would be my personal end all monitors. As it is, they sound fantastic and I prefer them to the Veritas overall but I really like the Veritas airy holographic sweet spot.

I'm told the NrT upgrade provides this. I'm gonna have to look into that later.
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post #7 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 07:22 AM
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Thanks for this review, and I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts on the other music. It's helpful to me because I've been trying to compare my old B&W 601s with my RC-10s, and your comment about the politeness of the 685s made me realize the distinction.

If I listen to the RC-10s and then the 601s soon after, there's a lot that makes me want to judge them equal but different. Yet, if I haven't listened to the RC-10s for a day or so, and go to the 601s, I always feel like I like them better and they are a much better speaker overall. Is this because I've had the 601s longer, and they are comfortable like an old sweatshirt? I am starting to think it's the way that if one drinks a young cab sav and then follows up with an older, more expensive smooth merlot, the bolder flavor of the cab that is still in the palette makes it hard to appreciate the better wine.

If this is true, then how does one "clean the palette" with speaker A/B tests, as with wine tasting? I don't know, but it is an interesting subjective listening consideration that might have merit.

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post #8 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 08:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coN83 View Post

Billy - You are correct. These are the stock Sierra-1s and yes I did level match across all speakers. I will say if the Sierras came with a tweeter in the Veritas vein, these would be my personal end all monitors. As it is, they sound fantastic and I prefer them to the Veritas overall but I really like the Veritas airy holographic sweet spot.

I'm told the NrT upgrade provides this. I'm gonna have to look into that later.

Well...if you decide to keep the Sierras...down the road you could always upgrade to the NrT if your so inclined. I had mine for about 6 months and absolutely love them for all the reason you've listed above, including those of the 5.1's.... but next week I'm returing them because I'll be trading up to the Sierra Towers...

Btw...I should have thanked you before for taking the time and doing something like this....

Thanks...Bill

Old Indian proverb: We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children!

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post #9 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by ceiph View Post

looking forward to this review. last time i went speaker shopping i did like the 685's but not the price tag, than i red about the sierras and want them for my next upgrade. however now i can get the 685's 50% off. either way i look forward to more impressions on your listening expirence

Ceiph, Would you mind sharing where you can get the B&W's for 50% off and is it available to all of us?
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post #10 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coN83 View Post

Never done one of these before but heres my attempt...

Nice review

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post #11 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 12:05 PM
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Nice review. Have you used the speakers for any movies? I am looking at the Ascend Acoutics Sierra 1's and the Energy Veritas v5.1 for my home theater/music listening room. I wish I could have one set up for movies and one for music but I need a system that can do well at both.
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post #12 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Im viewing some movies along with the music and IMO, the Sierras win out since they are better balanced. The Veritas, even with the fantastic sweet spot, are starting to really embed my ears with "source dependency" where depending on the source, they can become fatiguing whereas the Sierras are just as dynamic but it doesnt throw the highs at you. But please note, i only cringe at the most extreme dynamics with the Veritas. (For the record, they arent the Klipsch 'IN YOUR FACE' type of sound)

Are they bright? A bit vs the Sierras, but the Sierras resolve more detail. I think thats a key difference here. The neutral sound vs the forward sound. Is it because they are forward they seem brighter? Could be, not sure yet. But like i said, if the NrT provides the airy highs and 3D imaging like the Veritas tweeter without being forward (or not as forward as the v5.1), the Sierras (for me) would be PERFECT. Audition both if you can. In fact, i recommend it. As stated, neither speaker is forgiving with bad sources but it becomes more evident with the Veritas forward nature.

I needa test more...
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post #13 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 03:11 PM
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Ceiph, Would you mind sharing where you can get the B&W's for 50% off and is it available to all of us?

oh sorry its a work employee discount thing so not available to all.
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post #14 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 04:01 PM
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Nice review! Look forward to the rest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by coN83 View Post

3: Bowers & Wilkins 685B - Great dispersion, good sweet spot, a polite, warm detailed speaker, but lacks excitement with its dynamics. Mids sound congested, great bass response, better than the Sierras but not as tight

One observation I have made from listening to many speakers is that when the bass response is exaggerated or not tight, the speaker does seem to be playing deeper, when it actually isn't. Maybe this is something you can check with an SPL meter and some test tones?

Also, is there a difference between the 685 and 685B?

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post #15 of 52 Old 01-12-2012, 10:20 PM - Thread Starter
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cschang - This wasnt meant to be a technical review, just a general observation type of thing. Do i really need to pull out my SPL meter over a comment? In my room, the 685Bs are a bit better in the bass dept. than the Sierras, which are extremely impressive due to their 5 1/4 woofer.

Now, both speakers make it seem like my Emotiva 12s are on. But the Sierras win on the resolution and especially, the transients. The 685Bs are what i will say is ''somewhat lazy'' on mid & lower mid transients. Its not as tight as the Sierras. Id rather have the Sierras vs going deeper in the bass department since my Emotivas will be used when i run my usual 2-channel stereo mode as opposed to the Pure Direct im using in this comparison.

No difference with the 685/685B, it just denotes that it is the black color.
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post #16 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 07:21 AM
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coN83...

Any chance you would consider adding the Boston Acoustic VS260 to your sampling of speakers?


Interesting review from Home Theater Magazine on the Energy v5.1:


"In complex high-volume scenes, the soundfield kept its shape, although the loudest moments could induce fatigue"


http://www.hometheater.com/content/e...speaker-system


I assume the author means the speakers can be "bright"? If this is correct, your overall #2 opinion above is correct.
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post #17 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 07:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Thanks for this review, and I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts on the other music. It's helpful to me because I've been trying to compare my old B&W 601s with my RC-10s, and your comment about the politeness of the 685s made me realize the distinction.

If I listen to the RC-10s and then the 601s soon after, there's a lot that makes me want to judge them equal but different. Yet, if I haven't listened to the RC-10s for a day or so, and go to the 601s, I always feel like I like them better and they are a much better speaker overall. Is this because I've had the 601s longer, and they are comfortable like an old sweatshirt? I am starting to think it's the way that if one drinks a young cab sav and then follows up with an older, more expensive smooth merlot, the bolder flavor of the cab that is still in the palette makes it hard to appreciate the better wine.

If this is true, then how does one "clean the palette" with speaker A/B tests, as with wine tasting? I don't know, but it is an interesting subjective listening consideration that might have merit.

Very insightful.

Edit: You mean to say "cleanse the palate," though

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post #18 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coN83 View Post

cschang - This wasnt meant to be a technical review, just a general observation type of thing. Do i really need to pull out my SPL meter over a comment? In my room, the 685Bs are a bit better in the bass dept. than the Sierras, which are extremely impressive due to their 5 1/4 woofer.

Now, both speakers make it seem like my Emotiva 12s are on. But the Sierras win on the resolution and especially, the transients. The 685Bs are what i will say is ''somewhat lazy'' on mid & lower mid transients. Its not as tight as the Sierras. Id rather have the Sierras vs going deeper in the bass department since my Emotivas will be used when i run my usual 2-channel stereo mode as opposed to the Pure Direct im using in this comparison.

No difference with the 685/685B, it just denotes that it is the black color.

Nope...no need to measure. No worries. Thanks.

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post #19 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by SaviorMachine View Post

Very insightful.

Edit: You mean to say "cleanse the palate," though

I know. I'm a horrible proofreader of my own writing, especially now that I'm older and need reading and computer distance glasses. And it's particularly embarrassing some times because I'm a college professor who teaches technical writing. LOL

BTW: because I'm an academic, this is one reason why I'm interested in the palette idea. It's obviously so difficult to compare speakers without bringing them into one's own home to test them over a good length of time. Speaker comparison is such an interesting qualitative research challenge for both buyers and those just trying to share testimonials. With it becoming more and more difficult to even test speakers in a retail environment--not to mention the ID brands--we need to develop better methods to provide good subjective reporting.

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post #20 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

BTW: because I'm an academic, this is one reason why I'm interested in the palette idea. It's obviously so difficult to compare speakers without bringing them into one's own home to test them over a good length of time. Speaker comparison is such an interesting qualitative research challenge for both buyers and those just trying to share testimonials. With it becoming more and more difficult to even test speakers in a retail environment--not to mention the ID brands--we need to develop better methods to provide good subjective reporting.

What makes the comparison process relatively easy is instant level matched A/B switching.

Though, getting that setup can take some work.

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post #21 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by cschang View Post

What makes the comparison process relatively easy is instant level matched A/B switching.

Though, getting that setup can take some work.

On the one hand I agree. For comparing individual speaker characteristics to find out which has more of one thing than the other, level matching makes a lot of sense.

But what about overall speaker aesthetic evaluation, where it is the sum of the parts as whole that make one speaker better than another? A speaker is a design, a composition, an artwork. I would not be surprised to find that for speakers of significantly different character or quality, when people listen to each regularly, that someone's normal listening volume for one would be slightly different from the other level matched volume, and not the same as the level matching difference would indicate. The sonic character of one speaker would need slightly less or more volume to satisfy the listener at the same aesthetic level.

I also question level matching as the only solution (I'm not saying it shouldn't be part of testing) because of qualitative aesthetic considerations from other types of "art." In cuisine, sampling a bold food immediately before something with very subtle, nuanced flavors will overwhelm the latter, and you can't "level match" the flavors in the second dish to the first--it's no longer the same dish any more. And even cleansing the palette doesn't solve this. It's one reason why some foods are paired with others (and one reason why we generally wait to eat very sweet desserts until the end of the meal).

Or consider photography. Level matching would be like trying to apply the same gray scale to every photograph as part of an evaluation process. It wouldn't work.

I know these analogies don't directly correspond to the speaker evaluation situation. I only suggest them because they might challenge current thinking. After all, aesthetic evaluation is more than just science.

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post #22 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 12:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

On the one hand I agree. For comparing individual speaker characteristics to find out which has more of one thing than the other, level matching makes a lot of sense.

But what about overall speaker aesthetic evaluation, where it is the sum of the parts as whole that make one speaker better than another? A speaker is a design, a composition, an artwork. I would not be surprised to find that for speakers of significantly different character or quality, when people listen to each regularly, that someone's normal listening volume for one would be slightly different from the other level matched volume, and not the same as the level matching difference would indicate. The sonic character of one speaker would need slightly less or more volume to satisfy the listener at the same aesthetic level.

I also question level matching as the only solution (I'm not saying it shouldn't be part of testing) because of qualitative aesthetic considerations from other types of "art." In cuisine, sampling a bold food immediately before something with very subtle, nuanced flavors will overwhelm the latter, and you can't "level match" the flavors in the second dish to the first--it's no longer the same dish any more. And even cleansing the palette doesn't solve this. It's one reason why some foods are paired with others (and one reason why we generally wait to eat very sweet desserts until the end of the meal).

Or consider photography. Level matching would be like trying to apply the same gray scale to every photograph as part of an evaluation process. It wouldn't work.

I know these analogies don't directly correspond to the speaker evaluation situation. I only suggest them because they might challenge current thinking. After all, aesthetic evaluation is more than just science.

You make very good points.

Spending more time with speaker setups is definitely the way to go for evaluation. As you spend more time with different speakers and gain more experience, these nuances and aesthetics become easier (and quicker) to realize/judge.

For the photograph analogy though, the output is the photograph, as with the speaker it is the sound. So judging the speaker would be more akin to judging the camera. So you would adjust each camera's settings accordingly, and the judge the output. With pictures, experience photographers can pic one up and quickly judge it's characteristics...the same can be said with folks that have a lot of experience with speakers.

With sound, it is like experienced musicians that can judge particular guitars, violins, pianos, etc., by spending just a little bit of time with them.

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post #23 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 01:52 PM
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For the photograph analogy though, the output is the photograph, as with the speaker it is the sound. So judging the speaker would be more akin to judging the camera. So you would adjust each camera's settings accordingly, and the judge the output. With pictures, experience photographers can pic one up and quickly judge it's characteristics...the same can be said with folks that have a lot of experience with speakers.

You are dead right. I got that part wrong (lol) And I appreciate the reply. It's fun (to me) to talk about how we can improve the subjective assessment we must make to evaluate what is a ultimately an aesthetic experience. In some ways, the scientific, more objective methods are so much easier.

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post #24 of 52 Old 01-13-2012, 02:09 PM
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You are dead right. I got that part wrong (lol) And I appreciate the reply. It's fun (to me) to talk about how we can improve the subjective assessment we must make to evaluate what is a ultimately an aesthetic experience. In some ways, the scientific, more objective methods are so much easier.

Agreed. Comparing speakers/audio is fun to me, it just takes time/energy to do it properly.

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post #25 of 52 Old 01-14-2012, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Gonna be throwing in the CM5 in the mix since a coworker of mine owns them.

Also, anyone got a Sierra-1 Espresso center for sale?

And, can anyone tell me how much the NrT upgrades are? Cause now im getting antsy.
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post #26 of 52 Old 01-14-2012, 07:17 AM
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Gonna be throwing in the CM5 in the mix since a coworker of mine owns them.

Also, anyone got a Sierra-1 Espresso center for sale?

And, can anyone tell me how much the NrT upgrades are? Cause now im getting antsy.


Adding another speaker like the CM5 can only add to an already impressive list of speakers! As for locating a Sierra centre maybe call Ascend for that infomation they could have some returns in stock from guys moving up to the Towers and ST centre...or you could always try an locate a 3rd espresso Sierra 1.

The NrT adds another ~300.00...to the final cost......but well worth it IMHO...

Good luck with all this and your pending final decision...keep up the good work & information coming....

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post #27 of 52 Old 01-14-2012, 07:22 AM
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The NrT adds another ~300.00...to the final cost......but well worth it IMHO...

Is that 300 a pair or each speaker?

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post #28 of 52 Old 01-14-2012, 07:25 AM
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Is that 300 a pair or each speaker?

for the pr....

Old Indian proverb: We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children!

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post #29 of 52 Old 01-14-2012, 07:36 AM
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for the pr....

Thanks

I'm thinking about getting a pair of sierra's on audiogon and I would want to do the nrt upgrade.

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post #30 of 52 Old 01-14-2012, 07:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Thats where i got my Sierras, but i am DYING for the natural finish. (I have espresso) Well, cant complain since i got a good deal with 5 years remaining on warranty IIRC.

Anyone wanna trade finishes? lol

In fact, what finish did you want tdogroeder?
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