I can understand your apprehension regarding Axioms following this or other forums....they are not as bad was people make them out to be but the Ascends are on another level having experienced both. The Sierra 1's would fall well within your set budget the Towers OTOH would exceed it...but well worth the upgrade IMHO.
Old Indian proverb: We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children!
Ascend Acoustics Towers, STC w RAAL, 200 SE in espresso
54" of Panasonic Bliss, Anthem MRX 300
Sony BDP-S380, TechnicsCD player, Apple TV
PSA XS30 SE in Cordovan Cherry & Svs SB13U in sig