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post #1 of 43 Old 10-26-2012, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, it's been the better part of a year since I made any additions/modifications to either my bedroom or living room systems, and I'm sad to say the upgrade bug is biting, badly this time. Also, I'm getting married in a few months, and I figure I ought to grandfather in as big of a system as I can possibly afford before my balls get snipped (nah, she'd never do that, she wants kids after all -- I think).

So here's where I'm at. Back in '07 I started building a Def Tech home theater -- BP 7002 mains, a CLR 2000 center (formerly 2002 -- that was an earlier upgrade), and BP-2X surrounds. The bass was pretty good, but my living room is open to the dining room and kitchen, meaning I have 7000 cu ft to pressurize, so eventually I added a Hsu VTF-15H, which has been VERY nice smile.gif The amp is a NHT Power5 (200 wpc, ICEpower). I'll be moving soon, however, and my new living room will be a much more bass friendly 3000 cu ft. Also, in the last 5 years I've increasingly been using the system for music (mostly jazz, blues, and piano, with a little classical and some very select hip hop/R&B), and less for movies. Compared to my bedroom system, I can tell that the mids are a little muddy, and the highs aren't quite as airy.

The Def Techs have treated me well, but I think they've had their time. In their place, I want a something that will be outstanding for jazz music but still hold its own on HT duty. I'm really sensitive to forward highs (I cant listen to budget Klipsch for more than 30 secs before i have to leave.) My budget is 4000 max for 5 speakers. Eventually I may upgrade the amp if necessary, but for now assume my NHT Power5 will be supplying the power. Of course I'll still have the Hsu sub (that guy isn't going anywhere). I want detail, airy treble, articulate mid bass. I'm already looking at the Ascend Sierra Towers, but I'd like to know from you all what else I should research, ideally that I can demo in music stores. The footprint can grow of necessary, and I don't need more SPL than what Im currently getting out the BP 7002s, but preferably something comparable (though with the smaller room, I think I could sacrifice some of the BP 7002's bass and still be alright with the Hsu sub).

I'm willing to look at the used market, so if the retail price exceeds 4000 for 5 speakers by, say, 50%, that's okay. I'm patient. I assume this project will take a month or 2 to research, demo, and buy everything. As far as brands go, I've heard great things about Salk, Paradigm, Dali, and several others. Are there any models you've heard that you think are what I'm looking for, and that would beat out the Ascends?

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

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post #2 of 43 Old 10-27-2012, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Thunder240 View Post

I've heard great things about Salk, Paradigm, Dali, and several others. Are there any models you've heard that you think are what I'm looking for, and that would beat out the Ascends?!

Where are you located? You might find owners of those particular speakers who will audition them for you. I'm extremely happy with the Ascends but obviously it's best to listen to as many as possible before making a decision.

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post #3 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 09:07 AM
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I just got back form a GTG here where I was throughly impressed by Salk's SongTowers (you could get the front three @4k... surrounds don't have the quality requirements fronts do anyway).

I personally use an old set of Paradigm Sigs (v1) in my surround rig (the fronts anyway) and have been very happy with those. Might be worth auditioning the current line. The price seems right.
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post #4 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks guys. I live in San Francisco, and will definitely check around for local GTGs. In the mean time, if there is anyone local with a set of Ascend Sierra Towers, Salk SongTowers, or Paradigm Signatures, and you'd be willing to let me demo, please send me a PM! (LA is probably a little far, but I can get down to the south bay no sweat.)

Jerry, based on your impressions, are you able to compare/contrast the sound you heard from the Salk SongTowers against your Paradigm Signatures?

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post #5 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunder240 View Post

Thanks guys. I live in San Francisco, and will definitely check around for local GTGs. In the mean time, if there is anyone local with a set of Ascend Sierra Towers, Salk SongTowers, or Paradigm Signatures, and you'd be willing to let me demo, please send me a PM! (LA is probably a little far, but I can get down to the south bay no sweat.)
Jerry, based on your impressions, are you able to compare/contrast the sound you heard from the Salk SongTowers against your Paradigm Signatures?

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post #6 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 03:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunder240 View Post

Thanks guys. I live in San Francisco, and will definitely check around for local GTGs. In the mean time, if there is anyone local with a set of Ascend Sierra Towers, Salk SongTowers, or Paradigm Signatures, and you'd be willing to let me demo, please send me a PM! (LA is probably a little far, but I can get down to the south bay no sweat.)
Jerry, based on your impressions, are you able to compare/contrast the sound you heard from the Salk SongTowers against your Paradigm Signatures?
Not as directly as would be ideal. My Sigs are S2 bookshelves, so I send bass to a sub (a large SVS). The Salks were all played full-range and without sub.

I can tell you that, with music at least, I preferred the SS sans-sub to the S2+sub.
I can probably say the same over the ST... it's been a while since I've used my S2's as musical speakers.

I can compare them to the Studios... where I have more experience listening to towers running full range. The two Salk towers were far better than any of the Paradigm studios I've listened to (v3, v4, v5 studio 60 and 100). There is no question in my mind there. It's been so long since I've listened to the S8, and I spent only a few hours with one, and I just cannot be certain.

I really want to tell you that the Salk SS and even ST were distinct improvements over the Paradigm S8. I feel like that would be a true statement. But the memory is just too old to swear on a proverbial stack of bibles.

I'll see if I cannot get out to my local Paradigm dealer update that memory. For that matter: I should run some music through my S2s. I'll add another post if/when I get the chance to do those.

If you want me to compare to my customs speakers: that I can do biggrin.gif
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post #7 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 03:32 PM
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We live in the Bay Area. Just about every speaker available for us to audition is at our doorstep.

I suggest you audition speakers here in San Francisco:

http://www.audiovisionsf.com/?page=loudspeakers

Try to listen to Dynaudio Excite or Focus. See what you think. Dali is also a good brand to audition. This store has a lot of speakers and a casual blue jean environment.

If you need names of some additional stores in area send me a message and ahhh

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post #8 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 05:30 PM
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Ok. Spent some time with the S2s doing 2-channel music to compare to the Salks. I'd trade them in a minute for a pair of SongTowers.

I wouldn't expect that a newer (v3) nor larger (S8) version of the Paradigm would change that opinion. I still very much love my S2's, they are great speakers. What I heard this weekend was better.
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post #9 of 43 Old 10-28-2012, 11:05 PM
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Klipsch speakers with a couple of Epik Empires or SVS subs would do the trick for HT and music,

Klipsch RF 7 based HT 7.4, Pioneer SC 35, Acurus Five 200 amp, Chase SS 18.2(2), VS 18.1(2), Samsung BDP F 7500, Asus/My Book Live HPC 4 TB

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post #10 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 07:43 AM
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Since you've mentioned the Paradigm stuff, the Ascend Sierra Towers and the Salk stuff, here's a couple links to a get together we had last year in which we compared two Salk speakers, the Ascend Sierra Towers (prototypes at the time) and a pair of Paradigm Signature 8 v.2's. You can call me biased because I am a Salk owner, but my impressions are linked below nonetheless.

TJHUB's impressions (post 252): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/240#post_20358638
Warpdrv's impressions (post 204): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/180#post_20349509
My impressions (post 198): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/180#post_20349169
krzywica's impressions (post 214): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/210#post_20352125
jboiler76's impressions (post 223): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/210#post_20353886
Merrymaid520's impressions (post 201): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/180#post_20349279

jboiler ended up ordering a pair of SongTower RT's and is very happy, for what it's worth. In my opinion, both the Salk SongTower's and the Ascend Tower's are a great speaker and a better performer than the Padadigm's, even the big Sig 8's we had at the get together. In the end, though, you really need to hear them for yourself. Hopefully you can find a local owner of each speaker to have you over for an audition, and then hear other speakers at local B&M shops.

Some other awesome speaker brands are :

Kef
Revel
Dynaudio
Philharmonic Audio

I must mention one caveat about all of the speakers I mentioned, though: if you watch movies at reference level (very loud) they likely won't cut the mustard, even if crossed to a subwoofer(s). Speaker design is all about trade-offs, and a hi-fidelity speaker designed for music reproduction cannot be pushed to sustained 105 decibels without showing signs of strain; they simply aren't designed to be played that loud for extended periods of time. Many will handle quick peaks without much issue, but sustained playback at those levels will cause problems. So if you watch movies at reference level (00 on the receiver), you may want to look at a high-sensitivity design such as Chase Home Theater or JTR. With that said, you'll lose some accuracy when it comes to musical reproduction by going with such a design, though. Just my opinion.

Hope that helps.

Edited to add links.

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post #11 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuance View Post

Since you've mentioned the Paradigm stuff, the Ascend Sierra Towers and the Salk stuff, here's a couple links to a get together we had last year in which we compared two Salk speakers, the Ascend Sierra Towers (prototypes at the time) and a pair of Paradigm Signature 8 v.2's. You can call me biased because I am a Salk owner, but my impressions are linked below nonetheless.
TJHUB's impressions (post 252): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/240#post_20358638
Warpdrv's impressions (post 204): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/180#post_20349509
My impressions (post 198): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/180#post_20349169
krzywica's impressions (post 214): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/210#post_20352125
jboiler76's impressions (post 223): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/210#post_20353886
Merrymaid520's impressions (post 201): http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg/180#post_20349279
jboiler ended up ordering a pair of SongTower RT's and is very happy, for what it's worth. In my opinion, both the Salk SongTower's and the Ascend Tower's are a great speaker and a better performer than the Padadigm's, even the big Sig 8's we had at the get together. In the end, though, you really need to hear them for yourself. Hopefully you can find a local owner of each speaker to have you over for an audition, and then hear other speakers at local B&M shops..

Not a good comparison since the Sierra Towers in that GTG were prototypes and did not sound the same as what made it into production.

Some better comparisons IMO from a more recent GTG (some same participants too) were done here:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1324185/se-wi-tower-speaker-gtg

In the above, there was some amp controversy. Do your research and pay attention to the thoughts of those that do not own particular brands(a lot of us here can help you with that if you need help). It helps to filter out the bias. As Nuance mentions, good to hear them for yourself....the bias injected into thoughts is pretty telling when you do. There is a list of posts with thoughts in the first post.

and another thread here:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1423228/salk-songtower-v-sierra-tower

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post #12 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 12:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, tons of good info here, thanks folks for all the replies and suggestions

@Jerry - I really appreciate your impressions on Salk vs Paradigm. If at some point you find yourself in front of a pair of S8s and you remember this thread, feel free to post a comparison of Songtower vs S8 , but in the mean time I'll see if I can find both sets of speakers in my area and give them both a listen for myself. I understand that at the end of the day this is really about subjective taste, and I'm the only one who is going to derive enjoyment from the speakers that I buy so I owe it to myself to demo everything under the sun.

@Hooked - I'll browse the James website, but I'm somewhat against in-walls. I change things up too often for them to really make sense for me. That may change down the road, but for now I'm looking at floorstanders.

@SoftDome - My grandmother literally lives above that store, no joke! I guess I'll be visiting her a little more often smile.gif Go Giants!

@Derrick - I've auditioned Klipsch, and unfortunately they're not for me. But thanks for the suggestion. I've been interested in checking out the Epic sub. Opposite facing drivers to cut down on rattle -- great idea!

@Nuance and cschang - Wow, those GTGs must have been awesome. And great resources for the rest of us. Also, I do put a lot of stock in owners impressions. I know some people try to push the speakers they own, either to help them feel good about their own purchase or because they see it as a competition, but those recommendations are often easy to weed out, and I think most owners are past that. (If someone were to ask me for a review of my Def Tech BP 7002s, I think I could give a candid review of them. And see Jerry's comparisons of Salk Songtowers against his Paradigm Signature S2 earlier in this thread.) The harder thing avoid is an underlying bias that occurs when an owner gets used to his or her speaker at which point that speaker becomes a subconscious reference point. For that reason alone, I think better reviews tend to come from people with more experience reviewing. But anyhow, reading through some of your links, I think there are several excellent and informative reviews. Of course, as I said to Jerry, I'll do everything I can to give all of these speakers a listen before making a decision.

Question for anyone familiar with Salk Songtowers and Ascend Sierra Towers -- what sonic improvement (if any) does the RAAL add? My ears are fairly sensitive to bright tweeters. I know that this is often associated with detail, and I do like detail and airiness. If I were gonna buy one of these two speakers, do you think the RAAL upgrade would offer me what I'm looking for? If anyone has every heard Hybrid Audio Technology car speakers, those speakers have all the detail I want and are right on the border of what I'd call too bright. I roll my eq off just a touch to keep from getting fatigued.

Re volume, I don't listen at reference level. When I watch movies, I may go up as high as -8 on the receiver, but I've only ever gone higher just to see what my rig is capable of.

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post #13 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunder240 View Post

Question for anyone familiar with Salk Songtowers and Ascend Sierra Towers -- what sonic improvement (if any) does the RAAL add? My ears are fairly sensitive to bright tweeters. I know that this is often associated with detail, and I do like detail and airiness. If I were gonna buy one of these two speakers, do you think the RAAL upgrade would offer me what I'm looking for? If anyone has every heard Hybrid Audio Technology car speakers, those speakers have all the detail I want and are right on the border of what I'd call too bright. I roll my eq off just a touch to keep from getting fatigued.
More detail and airiness you will get from the RAAL. Definitely not bright. Some have generally said "more detail, but sounds smoother", "more delicate".

Here is some good information on the RAAL 70-20XR as measured over on the Ascend site.
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/SRT/Ascend%20Sierra%20Ribbon%20Tower.pdf

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post #14 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 01:56 PM
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Not a good comparison since the Sierra Towers in that GTG were prototypes and did not sound the same as what made it into production.

I mentioned it was a prototype model. The comparison was just fine, and impressions of the non-owners didn't change at any of the other GTG's when we used the production version. The Sierra Towers are much better with the RAAL ribbon to my ears, though. I like how punchy the bass is too. I have grown fond of transmission line-style bass, but the bass reflex design on the Sierra Tower's sounds really good.

Speaking of the RAAL, it is smoother but without detail loss, or at least that's how I'd describe it. It's like removing the pane of glass from your window and just being able to look outside to the real world without anything in between. I think it's worth it if you critically listen to music, but you really need to hear for yourself.

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post #15 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Nuance View Post

I mentioned it was a prototype model. The comparison was just fine, and impressions of the non-owners didn't change at any of the other GTG's when we used the production version. The Sierra Towers are much better with the RAAL ribbon to my ears, though. I like how punchy the bass is too. I have grown fond of transmission line-style bass, but the bass reflex design on the Sierra Tower's sounds really good.
Speaking of the RAAL, it is smoother but without detail loss, or at least that's how I'd describe it. It's like removing the pane of glass from your window and just being able to look outside to the real world without anything in between. I think it's worth it if you critically listen to music, but you really need to hear for yourself.
Yes you did...I just added that the production model does not sound the same, which in turn means that the comparison is not good, ie. not the same speaker. Actually, non-owners sway one way more than the other for the production model...but we can let non-biased parties do the tally. smile.gif

Good description of the RAAL, but I think it actually has more detail.

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post #16 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 03:33 PM
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^ I do think the production model sounded better (duh), and that the RAAL is even better than that. I'd be happy to own a pair of Ascend Tower RAAL's. wink.gif I also agree the RAAL has more detail, but I was avoiding saying it because I didn't wan't the anti-ribbon guys to jump down my throat. But you stated it first, so I'll just say I agree with you. smile.gif

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post #17 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 04:01 PM
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A good point: All of the Salks I listened to were with the RAAL tweeter. I have not heard any of his speakers with the other tweeters.
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post #18 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 04:08 PM
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James makes inwall and floor standing also they will customize anything you need.

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post #19 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuance View Post

^ I do think the production model sounded better (duh), and that the RAAL is even better than that. I'd be happy to own a pair of Ascend Tower RAAL's. wink.gif I also agree the RAAL has more detail, but I was avoiding saying it because I didn't wan't the anti-ribbon guys to jump down my throat. But you stated it first, so I'll just say I agree with you. smile.gif
I'll go even farther....

I have heard a handful of ribbon type tweeters, and I can understand why there are "anti-ribbon" guys. I'd bet these same guys have not heard a RAAL. I'll take the heat for you.

That said, there are people that will prefer a dome tweeter over the RAAL.

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post #20 of 43 Old 10-29-2012, 06:49 PM
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I would redo your frontal arrangement only. No real need to do the "surrounds" as I see it. They handle very little important sound in movies. Spend the money on Salk or PSB's Imagine line. Get LCR and call it a day.
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post #21 of 43 Old 10-31-2012, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
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I would redo your frontal arrangement only. No real need to do the "surrounds" as I see it. They handle very little important sound in movies. Spend the money on Salk or PSB's Imagine line. Get LCR and call it a day.

Let's talk about this option. If I redo only LCR, then that brings the RAAL speakers into my budget, so it's definitely attractive. It would mean not running the system as 5 ch stereo, but I rarely ever do that now, so that's not really a big loss. My bigger concern is with the mismatch between the Deftech BP-2x and any of these awesome speakers that folks are mentioning for watching action movies. Is consensus that it isn't important to have a match? I watch a lot of action movies, and I always love the sense of immersion I get in a well made 5.1 movie with airplanes flying around my head, bullets whizzing by, explosions, etc. Is that type of sound (explosions, bullets, jet engines) 'messy' enough to begin with that the finer qualities of good stereo speakers wouldn't come out and cause me to notice the mismatch?

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post #22 of 43 Old 10-31-2012, 10:44 AM
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Let's talk about this option. If I redo only LCR, then that brings the RAAL speakers into my budget, so it's definitely attractive. It would mean not running the system as 5 ch stereo, but I rarely ever do that now, so that's not really a big loss. My bigger concern is with the mismatch between the Deftech BP-2x and any of these awesome speakers that folks are mentioning for watching action movies. Is consensus that it isn't important to have a match? I watch a lot of action movies, and I always love the sense of immersion I get in a well made 5.1 movie with airplanes flying around my head, bullets whizzing by, explosions, etc. Is that type of sound (explosions, bullets, jet engines) 'messy' enough to begin with that the finer qualities of good stereo speakers wouldn't come out and cause me to notice the mismatch?

The most important speakers to match are the front three (the fronts and center channel); the rears are of much less importance IMO, even if you listen to multi-channel music. A really good 3.0 or 3.1 system will sound better than a mediocre 5.1 system every time. If was you I'd order the front three speakers and keep the BP-2X rears. Listen for a while and determine if you think it is necessary to replace the BP-2X's. If you deem it necessary, get them later down the road.

Start with the front three and then add on when funds become available. You'll be happy you did!

P.S. The RAAL ribbon is outstanding!

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post #23 of 43 Old 11-02-2012, 04:53 PM - Thread Starter
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The most important speakers to match are the front three (the fronts and center channel); the rears are of much less importance IMO, even if you listen to multi-channel music. A really good 3.0 or 3.1 system will sound better than a mediocre 5.1 system every time. If was you I'd order the front three speakers and keep the BP-2X rears. Listen for a while and determine if you think it is necessary to replace the BP-2X's. If you deem it necessary, get them later down the road.
Start with the front three and then add on when funds become available. You'll be happy you did!
P.S. The RAAL ribbon is outstanding!

I think i'll keep the focus on the LCR then. Like you said, I can always change out the surrounds later if I can hear a mismatch and it bothers me. And for several speaker brands, spending my budget on 3 instead of 5 speakers will make a noticeable difference and allow me to move up a tier (Ascend appears to be one of the few exceptions, with CMB-170s being really inexpensive).

Also, I heard Paradigm Studio 100s today at Music Lovers in SF, and the sound isn't what I'm looking for -- not transparent. That said, they sounded awesome playing Zeppelin (too bad that's not the type of music I typically listen to). I'll still demo Sigs if/when I find them. Il haven't been to AudiovsionSF, but their website shows a few DALI, Dynaudio, and KEF models in my price range, so hopefully this weekend I'll have a chance to do a bit of listening.

Still looking for folks in the Bay Area with Ascend or Salk towers with/without RAAL. If you have them and would be kind enough to demo them for me, that would be much appreciated!

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post #24 of 43 Old 11-02-2012, 04:59 PM
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While surrounds, overall, are certainly not as important as the front three, I do think there are instances/recordings where they are as important, or at least almost as important (depending on your point of view).

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post #25 of 43 Old 11-08-2012, 12:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Well, I heard the Sierra Towers w/ RAAL tweets this evening, I was blown away. Those RAALs made the intro guitar solo of ACDC's "Back in Black" sound luscious, which is more than I can say for any other speakers I've heard. Also, the piano in Eva Cassidy's "What a wonderful world" sounded truly life like, giving me shivers. They weren't the be-all/end-all (with Chopin's Etude #1 it sounded like some of the allegro notes were blending together a bit), but they're gonna be darn hard to beat for $4000.

Edit: The one other criticism I had of the Sierras was that they weren't as forgiving as I'd have liked for some of my old jazz tracks (e.g. Duke Ellington's "Minnie the Moocher"). I suppose that this is a tradeoff that comes with really detailed and revealing speakers.

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Was this an in-home audition or did you find a local owner?

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post #27 of 43 Old 11-08-2012, 09:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Was this an in-home audition or did you find a local owner?

Not in home unfortunately -- I found a local owner. I realize this isn't ideal, but I plan to demo many speakers, and if I were to pay return shipping on all [but one] of them, I'd eat up a good chunk of my budget!

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post #28 of 43 Old 11-08-2012, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Today I heard Dynaudio Excite X36s. On the plus side, they differentiated instrumentation (e.g. picked out the the keys and guitar in Stevie Wonder's "I Wish", differentiated cello from male vocal in Mozart's Requiem "Confutatis maledictis" chorus) extraordinarily well. Midbass was the opposite of muddy. In that vein, they were superior to the Ascends playing Chopin's Etude #1. But they lacked the energy that I've grown accustomed to with my Def Techs and that the Ascends also possessed. They had a much more of a clinical sound, not very suitable for rocking out except on tracks that have been 'over mixed' (kind of ironic, given their name). As for the highs, they couldn't come close to the Ascends w/ RAAL, e.g. the life-like piano sparkle.

While I really liked the Dynaudio's mid-bass, overall I don't think they are what I want. But I can clearly see why Dynaudio has a great reputation. For some people, these might be perfect.

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post #29 of 43 Old 11-08-2012, 06:36 PM
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What's next on your audition schedule?

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post #30 of 43 Old 11-08-2012, 07:07 PM
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During your auditions, any EQ or processing going on? Mid-bass can be pretty room dependent too.

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