Ascend Sierra Towers or Salk Songtower RT - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 47 Old 09-24-2014, 07:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Ascend Sierra Towers or Salk Songtower RT

So after trying to decide on what tower speakers to get, with the help of AVS I was able to limit my selection down to two towers: Ascend Sierra Towers (with ribbon tweeter) or Salk Song Tower RT.

I am going to use these primarily for music with limited HT usage, breakdown being music:85%, HT:15%.

Unfortunately there are very few clear comparison available for the two.

I was hoping to get impressions and insight to these towers from owners, possibly those who have had a chance to do direct comparisons between the two of them with the upgraded tweeters (since that plays a significant impact on the sound signature compared to the standard tweeter.)

Any help or insight is appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Decided it may help to add this:

As for music, my tastes vary, but I would like something that would make me feel like I am in the concert or at least not make it obvious I am listening to a recording.

I listen to classical, Jazz, classic and modern rock, metal on occasion and Jpop and techno. So a rather varied set of genres.

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post #2 of 47 Old 09-24-2014, 07:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mepstein10 View Post
So after trying to decide on what tower speakers to get, with the help of AVS I was able to limit my selection down to two towers: Ascend Sierra Towers (with ribbon tweeter) or Salk Song Tower RT.

I am going to use these primarily for music with limited HT usage, breakdown being music:85%, HT:15%.

Unfortunately there are very few clear comparison available for the two.

I was hoping to get impressions and insight to these towers from owners, possibly those who have had a chance to do direct comparisons between the two of them with the upgraded tweeters (since that plays a significant impact on the sound signature compared to the standard tweeter.)

Any help or insight is appreciated. Thanks in advance.


Decided it may help to add this:

As for music, my tastes vary, but I would like something that would make me feel like I am in the concert or at least not make it obvious I am listening to a recording.

I listen to classical, Jazz, classic and modern rock, metal on occasion and Jpop and techno. So a rather varied set of genres.

I don't know what tweeters the Salks use but Ribbons are usually detailed and airy. If you are looking to get concert levels, you should pay attention to the speaker sensitivy and high WPC amps. To look further into recording and feel like you are hearing a live performance, ribbons also do a very good job in the transparency department.
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post #3 of 47 Old 09-24-2014, 09:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by NAIM101 View Post
I don't know what tweeters the Salks use but Ribbons are usually detailed and airy. If you are looking to get concert levels, you should pay attention to the speaker sensitivy and high WPC amps. To look further into recording and feel like you are hearing a live performance, ribbons also do a very good job in the transparency department.
Well the model I am considering uses a RAAL pure ribbon tweeter. Both actually use a RAAL tweeter. I generally play straight from CD, SACD or FLAC files, and as for amplification I will be using a McIntosh MC8207 Amplifier (200 WPC).
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post #4 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 12:48 AM
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If both use RAAL ribbons, then you should look into how crossover is implemented. Usually the simpler the crossover, the more transparent and clear the speaker is. I've always liked speakers with 1st order crossovers. Also, next up is bass and how low it can go. You don't want one note boomy bass if you are in the 2k range for a pair of speakers. I would look at how detailed the bass is. And always look at the measurements. Ask them for a measurement sheet and see what speakers measured better. All the good speakers that I have heard in the past, later on when I research the measurements they were always excellent. And last thing is, it might be daunting but usually pricier parts selling retail level inside the loudspeakers are better. You really do get what you pay for in this sense.

P.S - this is from my personal experience.
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post #5 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 07:01 AM
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The main difference to me is cabinet design. The Salk's are TL designs and the Ascend's are Bass-Reflex. The Ascend's are 3-way and the Salk's are 2-way.
The Ascend's have Bamboo construction standard, the Salk's are MDF (upgradable to Bamboo @ $300).
The Sierra's play into the mid 30's hz. and the Salk's @ 42hz.
Ascend's warranty is 7 years, Salk says they have an "Informal Warranty Policy".
I don't see a Spec sheet on Salk's website for the Songs with the Raal upgrade. Maybe you can contact them about the specific specs.
You might want to checkout the Philharmonic Slims line also as they also use Raal's.
I would think they all would sound great for that price point and much higher as well.
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post #6 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 08:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NAIM101 View Post
If both use RAAL ribbons, then you should look into how crossover is implemented. Usually the simpler the crossover, the more transparent and clear the speaker is. I've always liked speakers with 1st order crossovers. Also, next up is bass and how low it can go. You don't want one note boomy bass if you are in the 2k range for a pair of speakers. I would look at how detailed the bass is. And always look at the measurements. Ask them for a measurement sheet and see what speakers measured better. All the good speakers that I have heard in the past, later on when I research the measurements they were always excellent. And last thing is, it might be daunting but usually pricier parts selling retail level inside the loudspeakers are better. You really do get what you pay for in this sense.

P.S - this is from my personal experience.
I don't think the OP should worry about whether the crossovers are first order. Neither Dave at Ascend nor I use that approach because it isn't possible in a tower with a vertical baffle, and it places too many constraints on the choice of drivers (ribbons need not apply). I think perhaps you're confusing a first order electrical topology with a first order acoustic slope. The former will usually produce roughly a second order slope once the natural roll-offs of the drivers are taken into account. The latter is extremely difficult to achieve and usually requires a very complex network. I've never heard any advantage to the sound, and have heard disadvantages, but it's academic for this particular comparison. This is one case where you would absolutely have to hear both speakers to judge them, or find some reliable feedback from someone who has. I suspect, however, that you would be happy with either.
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post #7 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 09:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ESSNEFF View Post
The main difference to me is cabinet design. The Salk's are TL designs and the Ascend's are Bass-Reflex. The Ascend's are 3-way and the Salk's are 2-way.
The Ascend's have Bamboo construction standard, the Salk's are MDF (upgradable to Bamboo @ $300).
The Sierra's play into the mid 30's hz. and the Salk's @ 42hz.
Ascend's warranty is 7 years, Salk says they have an "Informal Warranty Policy".
I don't see a Spec sheet on Salk's website for the Songs with the Raal upgrade. Maybe you can contact them about the specific specs.
You might want to checkout the Philharmonic Slims line also as they also use Raal's.
I would think they all would sound great for that price point and much higher as well.
I did consider philharmonic, but decided against it. My main reason being is that such a low end extension isn't very helpful when you have a subwoofer (hsu vf-1 in my case). My hsu lower extension is roughtly flat to either 32hz or 25hz.

The ascends will sound similar to the philharmonics in low/highs, assuming the tweeter upgrade, the low end I imagine would be significantly more responsive on the ascends.

So from what I gathered the salk and ascend are twice as loud as the philharmonic, thus my reason to limiting it to those two.

Good point! It would be great to get some measurements along the lines that ascend has on their site.

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Originally Posted by Dennis Murphy View Post
I don't think the OP should worry about whether the crossovers are first order. Neither Dave at Ascend nor I use that approach because it isn't possible in a tower with a vertical baffle, and it places too many constraints on the choice of drivers (ribbons need not apply). I think perhaps you're confusing a first order electrical topology with a first order acoustic slope. The former will usually produce roughly a second order slope once the natural roll-offs of the drivers are taken into account. The latter is extremely difficult to achieve and usually requires a very complex network. I've never heard any advantage to the sound, and have heard disadvantages, but it's academic for this particular comparison. This is one case where you would absolutely have to hear both speakers to judge them, or find some reliable feedback from someone who has. I suspect, however, that you would be happy with either.
Useful information, thank you. Unfortunately auditioning these two is a little harder than possible. I will be auditioning a Sierra -1 (with RAAL tweeter upgrade) this monday, so that will give me a rough idea of the sound signature, but it would be nice to compared apples to apples so to speak. Though I do wonder where I'd be able to audition the song towers.

For now I will have to rely on other people's accounts and insight for the sound of the two towers. Rather difficult since each has its own following, and hard to say one is better than the other overall, so I will need to figure out and get insight on what each tower excels at compared to the other.

I do wonder what the extra midrange driver managed to accomplish compared to the song towers though. And what difference the phase plug makes as well.

Though I must admit some of the finishes offered by Salk are just downright gorgeous. If I was going by looks alone, I'd be tempted to go with Salk.

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post #8 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 01:33 PM
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You heard it from someone who knows his stuff (Dennis) - the key is to get them in your home. Ascend has a 30 day trial period, I don't believe Salk does the same especially if you get into custom finishes. All 3 mentioned are great speakers, as an owner of Ascend I wouldn't cross off the Phils because of the low extension ability, honestly I don't even get that comment since there is more to a speaker than just low end performance and one not quite going as low doesn't ensure its doing the other parts better. Even with my bookshelf speakers it isn't uncommon for me to listen to high rez music in pure direct and be very pleased with the sound. A tower with greater ability to go low most likely would enhance my enjoyment/improve flexibility if I could use them in my HT.

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post #9 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 01:59 PM
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I own the Ascends and think they're excellent. But I would also recommend the Salks or the Phils, even though I haven't heard them - because people whose opinions I trust say they're really good.

I don't think you can go wrong. So you can either choose based on price and looks; or you can buy both, do your own A/B comparisons and keep the one you prefer.

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post #10 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mepstein10 View Post
...
So from what I gathered the salk and ascend are twice as loud as the philharmonic, thus my reason to limiting it to those two.
...
Twice as loud? In what sense? The Ascend towers probably have the highest sensitivity, the Phils the lowest, but I don't think there's a 10dB difference.

Noticing that you have a subwoofer already, you could also consider the Ascend Sierra 2's or Philharmonic monitors (forgot their name).

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post #11 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:26 PM
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Twice as loud? In what sense? The Ascend towers probably have the highest sensitivity, the Phils the lowest, but I don't think there's a 10dB difference.

Noticing that you have a subwoofer already, you could also consider the Ascend Sierra 2's or Philharmonic monitors (forgot their name).
I think he means the Phils. would take Amp double the power to drive. That would mean only 3db difference.
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post #12 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Twice as loud? In what sense? The Ascend towers probably have the highest sensitivity, the Phils the lowest, but I don't think there's a 10dB difference.

Noticing that you have a subwoofer already, you could also consider the Ascend Sierra 2's or Philharmonic monitors (forgot their name).
I meant the Philharmonics, it would take twice the power for the amp to drive them. Which would be a 3db difference.

But in going to a monitor wouldn't I lose some mid-range as well? Not to mention they are not as visually imposing.


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Originally Posted by NAIM101 View Post
I think he means the Phils. would take Amp double the power to drive. That would mean only 3db difference.
Precisely.

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post #13 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:32 PM
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Well, with a Mcintosh amp, I don't think you'll have any issues powering any of the above speakers.

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post #14 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:34 PM
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They're both genuinely excellent speakers.

An in home audition to see which you prefer might be the most logical (and satisfying) next step.
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post #15 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, with a Mcintosh amp, I don't think you'll have any issues powering any of the above speakers.
I know

One less thing to worry about.
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post #16 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:36 PM
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They're both genuinely excellent speakers.

An in home audition to see which you prefer might be the most logical (and satisfying) next step.
Agreed...what a great dilemma to have!
Hard to go wrong with either.
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post #17 of 47 Old 09-25-2014, 02:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Agreed...what a great dilemma to have!
Hard to go wrong with either.
Great or not. A dilemma is precisely called that because it is a dilemma. I know they are both amazing speakers. In home auditions will take a while yet, especially since ordering both and trying out is not a feasible option for me.
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post #18 of 47 Old 09-26-2014, 05:42 AM
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Great or not. A dilemma is precisely called that because it is a dilemma. I know they are both amazing speakers. In home auditions will take a while yet, especially since ordering both and trying out is not a feasible option for me.
If you truly have it between just Sierra's and Songs your decision is an easy one.


Order the Ascends and you have 30 days to decide if you like them. If you don't, send them back and Buy the Song's.
Without hearing them in A/B testing or auditioning them individually, that would be about as well as you could do in your current situation.
It's not a bad problem to have! Good Luck!
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post #19 of 47 Old 09-26-2014, 10:15 AM
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I think you're choosing two very similar speakers at what appears to be very similar pricing. Does bamboo matter to you? Do you want a custom finish?

I personally would want to do a nice custom finish, so I would lean to the Salk. If you don't want to spend a bit more for such a finish, just flip a coin :-)
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post #20 of 47 Old 09-26-2014, 11:21 AM
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If one brand is a bamboo finish and the other is plain MDF for the same price, I'd go with the bamboos. It's not just for aesthetic reasons, more have to do with dampening factor than anything else. Bamboo is 10 times stronger/stiffer than MDF which result to better dampening, less vibrations, better isolation, flatter response = better sound overall strictly from cabinetry perspective.
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post #21 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
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If one brand is a bamboo finish and the other is plain MDF for the same price, I'd go with the bamboos. It's not just for aesthetic reasons, more have to do with dampening factor than anything else. Bamboo is 10 times stronger/stiffer than MDF which result to better dampening, less vibrations, better isolation, flatter response = better sound overall strictly from cabinetry perspective.
Does it really make that big of a difference?
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post #22 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 09:25 AM
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One more part of the total package that yields the incredible performance. The on-axis and especially the off-axis performance of that custom RAAL is what would intrigue me more than anything else. Dispersion of a finely executed dome with the detail of a ribbon. How many tower speaker ribbons do that? At this price point?
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post #23 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 11:34 AM
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One more part of the total package that yields the incredible performance. The on-axis and especially the off-axis performance of that custom RAAL is what would intrigue me more than anything else. Dispersion of a finely executed dome with the detail of a ribbon. How many tower speaker ribbons do that? At this price point?

I'm not taking a position on the choice, and I may be reading something into your post that isn't there, but for the record, the ST's and Ascends use the same RAAL tweeter. The sensitivities differ a little to match the specific crossovers and drivers, but there's no difference in the basic performance.

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post #24 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 11:51 AM
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Dennis,

Be careful with how you say they use the same RAAL tweeter. I know you are quite aware of them yourself, since you build the cross-overs in the Salk's. The new bookshelf Sierra 2's use a different RAAL tweeters than the towers.

I'm thinking you're speaking on behalf of the Ascend towers and the Salk ST's? Are those the same? Thanks for the info...

Mike
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post #25 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 12:38 PM
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Dennis,

Be careful with how you say they use the same RAAL tweeter. I know you are quite aware of them yourself, since you build the cross-overs in the Salk's. The new bookshelf Sierra 2's use a different RAAL tweeters than the towers.

I'm thinking you're speaking on behalf of the Ascend towers and the Salk ST's? Are those the same? Thanks for the info...

Mike
Mike--I can't quite follow your post. Why are you referencing the Sierra 2? I thought this thread was about the 2 towers? Unless I missed a left turn, I think the issue is whether the two towers have the same RAAL tweeter, and they do. It's the OEM unit that Jim has been using for several years. The transformers on this unit can be custom wound to meet the specific needs of a particular speaker, but there's no difference in the design. Perhaps you thought I was including my Slims Jr tower in the discussion? I didn't mean to. It uses basically the same tweeter that's in the Sierra 2, although there may be some minor differences in the specs because it's an OEM unit as well.
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post #26 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 12:50 PM
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Dennis-

Correct, the two models in comparison are the Ascend Towers and Salk STRT's. Sorry, I was confusing the two models myself, thanks for the correction.

This was a tough decision for myself when I made my purchase. I pondered on these two for months, until I made the plunge when Jim(Salk) asked me if i wanted to play with the new upcoming Veracity ST's. I decided to take the Salk route.... For the main reason of the upgraded 6" Seas Mid's. I do not regret my decision one bit, even though the VST's are quite a bit more money.

Mike
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post #27 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by mepstein10 View Post
Does it really make that big of a difference?
It does make a difference in my experience. There is a whole crowd out there that spend hundreds and thousands to isolate and minimize vibrations on their speakers or amps etc.

Also looking at the specs the Ascend seem to be a 3-way vs. Salk which is a 2-way. On paper, the Ascend towers seem to be the better choice. Surely, the Ascends use better cabinets and an extra driver which is ofcourse results to better value and better bang for the buck.

I've looked at the measurements for their entry level bookshelf the 170SE and it looks like it's one of the best measured bookshelf of all time regardless of price. The Towers you are thinking of getting seem to measure nicely as well.

Just based on specs and some measurements, I would recommend the Ascend Towers. I only say based on paper because I haven't heard either speakers.


-peace

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post #28 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 01:14 PM
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Using more drivers or using a 3-way config does not mean its a better choice or value. Personally, I'd rather have a speaker with a 2-way MTM configuration as the Salks, compared to the Ascends. Just my personal preference.

Also, Salk uses at least 3/4" or 1" MDF on their speaks, and are built like tanks. Using bamboo is a wash and a tree-huggers preference. Jim also uses MDF on his top of the line SoundScape 12's, that cost 18K. If bamboo made a difference, Jim would use it. AFAIK, Ascend outsources his cabinets from China, Salk's are all made in house(USA).

Mike

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post #29 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Murphy View Post
I'm not taking a position on the choice, and I may be reading something into your post that isn't there, but for the record, the ST's and Ascends use the same RAAL tweeter. The sensitivities differ a little to match the specific crossovers and divers, but there's no difference in the basic performance.
Thanks for that Dennis. I thought when I posted I might (wait a minute, that's way too many I's) hear something from someone with your knowledge, hence the question marks. I thought a customized version of a known tweeter in a specific tower design meant more tweaking than that. But would the ST's with RAAL be able to chart similarly to the Sierra Ribbon towers? Obviously the differences in cabinet, drivers and X-overs should affect this, for better or worse. Does Jim provide such info, do you know? Not questioning the SongTowers, in any version. They are wonderful, with an understandably loyal fan base.

I guess a revisit to the Salk website is in order. Haven't been there in a while.

Last edited by ClarkeBar; 09-27-2014 at 02:37 PM.
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post #30 of 47 Old 09-27-2014, 03:23 PM
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How about GR Research N3 tower being put in the mix

Got to plug this speaker. Very similar foot print. Plays down to 40hz. Incredibly stout transmission line cabinet (lined with no Rez), top notch drivers, and crossover designed with top notch parts designed by Danny Ritchie. Flat packs can be ordered and not that hard to build. Very natural sounding tweeter. 90+ sensitivity.
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