I have been reading this thread for a very long time, and I have been a fan of Boston Acoustics speakers since 1991 owning ONLY their products in my cars and also in my home. I recently decided to upgrade my nearly 10 year old Compact Reference home theater bookshelves, and have been looking at the VR2 and VR3 for the past few months. Due to their popularity and positive reviews, I also have been considering speakers from Ascend Acoustics and av123. The CRs have always been on the bright side, sometimes hurting my ears when played at higher volume levels. I decided to order the Ascend 340SE front mains and center channel, and compare them to the Boston VR2 mains and VRC. I had both systems set up in my house at the same time, running on the same Yamaha RX-V995 100wpc*5 receiver with A/B switching capability for the mains.
I replaced my existing CR8 mains and CR2 center with the VRs and there was a major, big-time, huge difference. Notice I said difference and not improvement. While the VRs did sound much better than my CR8's on some types of music, the overall sound was basically just more of what I already had: more treble, more mids, and more bass. The upper midrange and treble were very pronounced, and still hurt my ears when played at louder volumes or with most types of music. I listened to only the VR2 and VRC setup on TV, movies, and music for a full week while waiting for the Ascends to arrive. No doubt the sound was impressive, and I did hear things in the music that I had not heard before, but they were still not what I was looking for. In fact, I told my wife that I would not be satisfied keeping these speakers even if I had no other choices in mind.
I was concerned that my high expectations for the Ascend speakers would impact my perception of how they sound. The reviews are so great, anything less than greatness would leave me disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised at their appearance when I first pulled them out of their packaging. Everyone talks about how terrible the cabinets look, but I actually find them appealing. I've also always purchased the black finish on the Boston speakers though, so YMMV. I hooked up only the Ascend mains for A/B comparison to the VR2s. The first song auditioned was My Immortal by Evanescence. My wife is typically not interested in my hobby, but she came running into the room and listened to the speakers with me. We were both amazed with how great they sound. We continued listening to various reference music, and determined that these speakers perform far better than I even anticipated. I began pulling out old CDs trying to find some type of music where they didn't sound great, but I did not succeed. The glowing reviews don't even do these speakers justice, they really do sound that great. Both my wife and I were also able to understand the pronunciation of lyrics that were muddled with other speakers, from bands such as System of a Down and Slipknot. Probably the most notable difference I found with regards to brightness/harshness was the A/B comparison of the Gretchen Wilson song "Redneck Woman". I could hardly turn the Bostons up before the sound became painful, but with the Ascends I was able to crank the volume very high and Gretchen's voice never became offensive. It was a pleasant experience! I really do listen to all types of music. I then replaced the VRC with the 340SE center and listened to some of my reference movies. Having three basically identical speakers across the front soundstage blends the sounds much better than the "timbre matched" BA combinations. Dialogue is much clearer, and I am now able to turn down the volume and still hear the dialog clearly. I will upgrading my older Yamaha receiver to new components soon, and I look forward to the new features, ability to set a 60Hz crossover point across the front, and also increase in power. I'm considering Emotiva's LPA-1 and MMC-1 combination.
I regret to post in the BA owner's thread that I returned the VR2s and VRC, and will be ordering a pair of Ascend Acoustics 170SE surrounds to complement their front speakers. I will most likely loan my 5.1 CR package to my father-in-law until he buys his own speakers. Final plans for me involve a DIY subwoofer and then room treatments, and I should be happy for another 10 years.