Ascend Sierra 2Ex Mini-Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 12:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Ascend Sierra 2Ex Mini-Review

Well here’s a recap of my visit two weeks ago of Ascend Acoustics HQ, located in San Clemente, CA.

Sorry it took so long. Lol!

Disclaimer: To start off, my ears are not anywhere near audiophile quality. I also had just came from a 8 hour car ride that consisted of many elevation changes, one of which was the Grapevine in which I went from sea level to 5000 ft back to sea level in about 90 miles. To say my hearing was and is far from perfect would be an understatement. I plan on returning in the near future for special reasons, in which I will correct these issues.

Now the goodies.

I heard the Sierra Luna Duo’s, Sierra 2Ex’s and then A/B’ed the Sierra Towers w/ Raal with the Sierra 2Ex’s.

Electronics (for those wondering):

Rotel RSP-1068 Surround Processor
AVA ABX Comparator
Oppo BDP-105 Disk Player
ADA PTM-6150 Amplifier
ATI 1800 Amplifier
Synology NAS DiskStation (Music Server)

I had a listen to a pretty large range of music, all of which were FLACs found in their music server. Artists include Miles Davis, Daft Punk, The Eagles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gorillaz, Bob Marley, and some others.

Sierra Luna Duo Listening:

Let’s talk design. It’s an MTM using dual 4.5” Curv woofers from Seas and a Raal 64-10. Dual front slot ported, tuned to 60hz or so. Now these were the first speakers I heard, they were setup when I first came in.



Throughout my listening, I really could not ignore the fact they sounded like my own CMT340’s. My eyes kept picturing a ginormous stand mount speaker using 6.5” woofers, but I would realize that the sound was coming from this tiny little speaker. Listening, I came up with a word to describe them. Aggressive. These things punched like a 6’5” football player, but looked like a 5’10” tennis player! I must say, I’m a pretty big fan of the Raal tweeter. It’s nothing special up front, but in listening you can really appreciate the differences between a heavier dome and a lightweight ribbon.

I was really impressed with how the Duo did. The bass was very exact, never lingering longer than it needed to be, but was well extended for a pair of 4.5” woofers. Like I said, they made me think it was a pair of 6.5” woofers up there. The highs, obviously were great. I did not find the Raal to be laid back or the speaker warm sounding, just neutral. Proper, balanced sound, from a well designed speaker. I wish I could say more, but I spent the least amount of time with these.

Sierra 2Ex Listening:

Well, this is the main event right here. The all new, Sierra 2Ex. I know some of you will think, huh? There’s no Sierra 2Ex on their website. There hasn’t even been talk of them like the Sierra Luna Duo. Well let me tell you, once these are released, you will not stop talking about them. This new Ex woofer, made by Seas once again, is the best woofer Dave has ever seen/used in his 30 years of working in this industry. To put this woofer’s impressiveness in perspective, to produce this woofer, it costs 2.5 times more than the already phenomenal 6” Curv woofer used in the current Sierra 2 woofer.

Quote:
This woofer brings a few things to the table...

The Excel motor systems are known for having extremely low inductance (this woofer has less than half the inductance of the standard S2 woofer, which is already low), and this combined with a lower mass cone and more powerful magnet system provides exceptionally deep bass and much improved transients and dynamics.

This woofer hits hard - there is more punch and bass extends lower than much larger woofers. Even with an 80Hz crossover, you will sense the greater impact.

The extremely low inductance combined with the new damping treatment being used on the Curv cone provides improved self-damping (which is already superb with the S2 woofer and why I chose the Curv cone in the first place) and greater high frequency extension and detail.

The huge copper phase plug improves off-axis dispersion, greatly reduces any beaming, works in conjunction with the pure copper upper and lower Faraday rings to reduce distortion, linearize magnetic flux and improve power handling and thermal compression by acting as a massive heat sink...

In simpler terms, mids are cleaner - smoother sounding with more weight to them (they sound warmer, fuller with more detail). Because of the upper end improvements, we can use a steeper high pass filter slope on the tweeter, easing the workload on the ribbon tweeter which in turn increases power handling, lowers distortion and provides for an even better overall blend between the woofer and tweeter.
Now that looks great on paper, and many different manufacturers can claim this about their speakers, but how does it sound?

I’m trying not to let my subjectiveness get in the way but I absolutely loved these speakers. These are sitting at the top of my list right now. I may be upgrading to these in the near future. But as far as they sounded. The bass was unheard of. I’ve said this multiple times but it needs to be emphasized. The bass was clean, defined, extended, and just all around phenomenal for a 6” woofer. I’ve heard towers with larger woofers that couldnt dream of this kind of extension. Now this bass does come with a slight drawback, and me and Dave talked about this for a little bit. It causes the speaker to sound warmer than usual and admittedly I loved how this sounded. It wasn’t warm to the point you’d have to turn the bass down or the treble up, but it made listening to songs that normally would be a bit harder on the ears so much more pleasing.

Sierra Tower/Sierra 2Ex A/B Comparison.

Well this was where the fun part happened. Comparing possibly the two best speakers Ascend has. Other than the Sierra 2Di. At first we had the speakers set up A-B A-B so it was fairer when comparing but later switched to A-B B-A so I wouldn’t have to move every time I switched.



I heard some differences between the two.  Both speakers had similar bass extension but the S2-EX sounded like it had a bit more midbass in the 60-80Hz range, neither had sloppy bass. Now as far as the midrange, the Sierra Tower sounded more filled out (perhaps even slightly more detailed) in that area than the Sierra 2Ex. Dave says it’s due to the warmth the woofer provides. Its prominence causes a spectral balance shift making the mids sound slightly recessed. Both the tower and bookshelf have flat measurements. Here is the spin of the bookshelf to verify this:



Green = On Axis
Yellow = Listening Window
Red = Early Reflections
Light blue = Total Soundpower
Dark blue = Directivity Index
Purple = Early Reflections DI

Fantastic listening window, as always.

But throughout my listening, I really enjoyed this warmth from the Sierra 2Ex. Neutral is good, which is what the Sierra Tower provides, but the Sierra 2Ex was just so much fun to listen to. Every song was great. I didn’t spend enough time at Ascend Acoustics to really discover the resolution of the Sierra 2Ex, as every speaker I had listened to was way up there on resolving chart, but I’m sure if I eventually took them home and listened to them for multiple days, I would indeed discover that the Sierra 2Ex is that great of a speaker.

Finishing up, I preferred the Sierra 2Ex over the Sierra Towers. Despite the Sierra Towers costing almost twice as much and being the better performing speaker, the sound signature of the Sierra 2Ex was just right to my ears. Slight warmth with plenty of bass and extended highs only presented by a Raal. From a purely objective standpoint, the Sierra Tower is superior, and the price reflects that.

Some will note that I forgot to mention some very key aspects to a speakers performance. Imaging and soundstage. I thought they were very similar (better soundstage going to the speakers on the outside obviously) and not any huge differences to be made between them. But being completely honest it has been my experience that imaging and soundstage are commonly a function of the room treatment and acoustics and placement regarding toe-in, depth from wall, etc. all things that will change from personal preference or necessities (can’t have speakers 7 feet into a room that is a walkway right?). So, sorry but I will not be commenting on that.

I ended up listening at pretty loud volume levels (I believe I was at 95/100 on the Rotel Preamp), and unknowingly switched from a track that was recorded at low levels (Hence the 95/100) to a song with a very strong kick drum that was recorded at very hot levels. The woofers were really moving and began “popping”. Dave came running into the room, lowered the volume a bit and informed us that was the woofer's former hitting the backplate. I would have expected that to be the end of the woofers right there and then, which would not have been a good thing as these were the only pair Dave had left at this time, but Dave told us not to worry and those woofers actually took the abuse like a champ and we went back to listening (at lower volumes, hah) with no issues.

Dave and Dina also took me into the back of the office and walked around their factory/storage area. Got to see all the fabulous finishes and tech they have back there. This was a great add on to my listening time and really appreciated it. BTW, the domestic natural finish cabinets are the bomb!

I also saw a snapshot of their new website and it looks sweet! I’m excited to see the finished product which hopefully will be coming soon!

If there’s any questions you may have about my visit, feel free to ask and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!

Thank you @Ascend !

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #2 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post

I also saw a snapshot of their new website and it looks sweet! I’m excited to see the finished product which hopefully will be coming soon!

If there’s any questions you may have about my visit, feel free to ask and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!

Thank you @Ascend !
Very nice; they clearly make some excellent products.

The EX's are up on their site at the same price as the Sierra 2's for a limited time.

Luna Duos are not however but it seems that they will end up being priced similar to the Sierra 2EX as the Lunas are $300 cheaper.

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post #3 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Very nice; they clearly make some excellent products.



The EX's are up on their site at the same price as the Sierra 2's for a limited time.



Luna Duos are not however but it seems that they will end up being priced similar to the Sierra 2EX as the Lunas are $300 cheaper.

I’m not too sure why the Luna Duo’s aren’t out yet. They were supposed to release before the Sierra 2Ex’s if I remember correctly.

He did say the Ex will be priced the same, but will move to a more expensive price soon, while also phasing out the normal 2.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #4 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 02:39 PM
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I’m not too sure why the Luna Duo’s aren’t out yet. They were supposed to release before the Sierra 2Ex’s if I remember correctly.

He did say the Ex will be priced the same, but will move to a more expensive price soon, while also phasing out the normal 2.
You know you should have used the 340s as a "control" in your listening comparos, right?
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post #5 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
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You know you should have used the 340s as a "control" in your listening comparos, right?

I was going to, unfortunately he had none on hand. At least the tweeters. He had a pair with the woofers, but were missing the tweeters! What do you know, lol.

I’ll return eventually, and either bring mine or hope he has some on hand
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #6 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 03:13 PM
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I just finished my kit about 15 minutes ago. Two immediate things I noticed:

1. The EX are definitely warmer than the standard S2s
2. The bass is huge. Didn’t think I’d find a bookshelf that could match the Buchardt S400s, but the EXs might do it.

Right now I have them hooked up to a monster John Curl Parasound amp, but have a new Van Alstine amp/pre-amp coming Thursday, which should be better. I’ll save my serious listening and the comparison with the S400s until then.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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Stereo: Buchardt S400, Van Alstine Vision SET 400, Transcendence 10RB and Vision DAC.
Home Theater: Ascend Sierra 2 EX for LRC, Sierra Luna’s for rear, HTM-200s for front and rear Atmos. Dual PSA 15S subs. Denon X6400 with Parasound HCA-1500A driving mains.
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post #7 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by RMW1982 View Post
I just finished my kit about 15 minutes ago. Two immediate things I noticed:

1. The EX are definitely warmer than the standard S2s
2. The bass is huge. Didn’t think I’d find a bookshelf that could match the Buchardt S400s, but the EXs might do it.

Right now I have them hooked up to a monster John Curl Parasound amp, but have a new Van Alstine amp/pre-amp coming Thursday, which should be better. I’ll save my serious listening and the comparison with the S400s until then.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

The bass is huge! It’s crazy, I know. I’d like to upgrade to these if I cannot find something with slightly higher sensitivity but equivalent frequency response.

What Parasound are you using? JC1’s?

Let me know when your Buchardt’s come in and you compare the two.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #8 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
The bass is huge! It’s crazy, I know. I’d like to upgrade to these if I cannot find something with slightly higher sensitivity but equivalent frequency response.

What Parasound are you using? JC1’s?

Let me know when your Buchardt’s come in and you compare the two.
you know .. you probably should go the sierra2 ex route , the synergy/ karma thing sure would dictate it

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Originally Posted by Lp85253 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
The bass is huge! It’️s crazy, I know. I’️d like to upgrade to these if I cannot find something with slightly higher sensitivity but equivalent frequency response.

What Parasound are you using? JC1’️s?

Let me know when your Buchardt’️s come in and you compare the two.
you know .. you probably should go the sierra2 ex route , the synergy/ karma thing sure would dictate it [IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/wink.gif[/IMG][IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif[/IMG]
I wholeheartedly agree as an Ascend owner and reading his observations....(great read...btw)...that would be the easy route...but of all the speakers discussed in his other thread the revels must be listened... too. Ive checked for local dealers around here.. they're few n far from my area...and about the only speaker that most intrigue me at this time.
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you know .. you probably should go the sierra2 ex route , the synergy/ karma thing sure would dictate it

I really want to, but that 85dB Sensitivity is just killing me.

They were definitely loud enough during my listening at Ascend though, no doubt. But I don’t trust my Onkyo receiver to put out enough clean power. I’d hate to lose them to clipping.

Perhaps I could ask about an MTM version. Expensive!
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #11 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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I wholeheartedly agree as an Ascend owner and reading his observations....(great read...btw)...that would be the easy route...

Haha thanks. Took a while to get the draft out and approved.

But yes, it should be an easy decision right!

But it never is....

This hobby sucks!
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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I wholeheartedly agree as an Ascend owner and reading his observations....(great read...btw)...that would be the easy route...but of all the speakers discussed in his other thread the revels must be listened... too. Ive checked for local dealers around here.. they're few n far from my area...and about the only speaker that most intrigue me at this time.
i see you are from Toronto.. home of the greatest 3 piece rock band in history..
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Haha thanks. Took a while to get the draft out and approved.

But yes, it should be an easy decision right!

But it never is....

This hobby sucks!
i am currently debating getting the(sierra) 1's.. if all goes well that's my next purchase

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I really want to, but that 85dB Sensitivity is just killing me.

They were definitely loud enough during my listening at Ascend though, no doubt. But I don’t trust my Onkyo receiver to put out enough clean power. I’d hate to lose them to clipping.

Perhaps I could ask about an MTM version. Expensive!
maybe the mtm idea would work.. Dave might be able to custom make something for you..trade out for summer job wages next summer.. i know , long commute

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I wholeheartedly agree as an Ascend owner and reading his observations....(great read...btw)...that would be the easy route...but of all the speakers discussed in his other thread the revels must be listened... too. Ive checked for local dealers around here.. they're few n far from my area...and about the only speaker that most intrigue me at this time.
i see you are from Toronto[IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif[/IMG].. home of the greatest 3 piece rock band in history[IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/wink.gif[/IMG]..

Haha...Rush fan....I tell yah...I certainly appreciate them more now then back in HS.
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maybe the mtm idea would work.. Dave might be able to custom make something for you..trade out for summer job wages next summer.. i know , long commute

Hehe yes, a bit of a commute. I actually asked him about a job/internship, but he says he is good on labor, he’ll let me know though.

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i am currently debating getting the(sierra) 1's.. if all goes well that's my next purchase

I think those could be awesome. Better grab them before the sale is gone!
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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Haha...Rush fan....I tell yah...I certainly appreciate them more now then back in HS.
since 1976.. seen em 4 times there has *never* been a better drummer.. just ask any other drummer...
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i see you are from Toronto.. home of the greatest 3 piece rock band in history..
I'm a fan of Triumph too...
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Haha...Rush fan....I tell yah...I certainly appreciate them more now then back in HS.
since 1976.. seen em 4 times[IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/cool.gif[/IMG] there has *never* been a better drummer.. just ask any other drummer...
Plus...a very accomplish writer...which he hardly gets any acclaim because of this>


PS...yea I liked Triumph and Max Webster...but enough of a thread derailment...lol
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Plus...a very accomplish writer...which he hardly gets any acclaim because of this>

https://youtu.be/LWRMOJQDiLU

PS...yea I liked Triumph and Max Webster...but enough of a thread derailment...lol
Lol.

As a drummer, I find Peart to be obviously technically gifted but rather boring in the way he shows it.

There are plenty of unknown drummers who are much more interesting. I can find probably find 100 in an hour. A random example - a guy who used to play shows in town when I was younger. Gets pretty interesting at the 1 minute mark:

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Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
The bass is huge! It’s crazy, I know. I’d like to upgrade to these if I cannot find something with slightly higher sensitivity but equivalent frequency response.

What Parasound are you using? JC1’s?

Let me know when your Buchardt’s come in and you compare the two.


I wish it was the JC1. :-) It’s an early 2000s HCA-1500. I’ve read the HCA preceded the Halo series. The Van Alstine should be a nice upgrade, as I’ve heard one owner prefer it over their JC1 and another thought it was on par with a Pass Labs they own.

I’ve had the Buchardt’s for a few weeks now. After a few hours of listening to the EX, they seem really close.


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Stereo: Buchardt S400, Van Alstine Vision SET 400, Transcendence 10RB and Vision DAC.
Home Theater: Ascend Sierra 2 EX for LRC, Sierra Luna’s for rear, HTM-200s for front and rear Atmos. Dual PSA 15S subs. Denon X6400 with Parasound HCA-1500A driving mains.
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post #22 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RMW1982 View Post
I wish it was the JC1. :-) It’s an early 2000s HCA-1500. I’ve read the HCA preceded the Halo series. The Van Alstine should be a nice upgrade, as I’ve heard one owner prefer it over their JC1 and another thought it was on par with a Pass Labs they own.

I’ve had the Buchardt’s for a few weeks now. After a few hours of listening to the EX, they seem really close.


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Ah I see. That HCA is no joke.

Really close huh? Interesting. Keep me updated if anything changes.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #23 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by sigpig View Post
I'm a fan of Triumph too...
Triumph is a cute band , i enjoyed them for the time they were hot.. i always thought of them as Toronto's other band that was any good...

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post #24 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by BeMurda View Post
Lol.

As a drummer, I find Peart to be obviously technically gifted but rather boring in the way he shows it.

There are plenty of unknown drummers who are much more interesting. I can find probably find 100 in an hour. A random example - a guy who used to play shows in town when I was younger. Gets pretty interesting at the 1 minute mark:

https://youtu.be/ZfETnLKOrpU?t=25
i knew my comment would be inflammatory .. it's all good , but you can't really dispute the claim .. it's not like i pulled it outta thin air..if you polled 100 *good* drummers, 50 would agree with and the other 50 are jealous ...

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
Well here’s a recap of my visit two weeks ago of Ascend Acoustics HQ, located in San Clemente, CA...........
Thanks Russdawg1 for the great write-up. I was already very much intrigued by the original S-2s. These sound like they are that much better even! Would love to here any or both of these some day.


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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Very nice; they clearly make some excellent products.

The EX's are up on their site at the same price as the Sierra 2's for a limited time.

Luna Duos are not however but it seems that they will end up being priced similar to the Sierra 2EX as the Lunas are $300 cheaper.
I had asked Dave in the Ascend forum around a month ago about the Luna Duo center and his response did seem to confirm what you said about them being similarly priced to the 2EXs. Granted, they are not out yet and things can obviously change.
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post #26 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Billy p View Post
Plus...a very accomplish writer...which he hardly gets any acclaim because of this>

https://youtu.be/LWRMOJQDiLU

PS...yea I liked Triumph and Max Webster...but enough of a thread derailment...lol
max webster, wow, that brings it back 40 yrs...edit: sorry Russ i'm done being the clown that screwed up the thread , but i got nostalgic for a minute...

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Quote:
Originally Posted by D33vious View Post
Thanks Russdawg1 for the great write-up. I was already very much intrigued by the original S-2s. These sound like they are that much better even! Would love to here any or both of these some day.



I had asked Dave in the Ascend forum around a month ago about the Luna Duo center and his response did seem to confirm what you said about them being similarly priced to the 2EXs. Granted, they are not out yet and things can obviously change.

No problem. The least I could do.

Well worth the listen. Hopefully there will be lots of new owners spread out around the US, open to giving you a demo.

I thought Dave had started selling the Luna Duo just not listing them on his website as of now. Odd.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #28 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 09:53 PM
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Now to get this thread back on track. What are the difference's and similarities between the Sierra 2 ex and buchardt s400?
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post #29 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 10:48 PM
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Does anyone know how long the introductory price will last? I already have my first pair of Ascend (Ribbon Towers) on the way, which should arrive in a few days. If I end up really liking the Ascend (I expect I will), maybe I’ll want to buy these too to replace some really old speakers or mine in another room. The reviews, measurements, etc. all point to these being really incredible speakers, especially for the price.

Neumann KH310A | Neumann KH120A | Ascend Sierra Towers & Horizon (RAAL) | Ascend Sierra 2EX | Revel F206 | Rythmik F18 | JL Audio E112 | SMSL M500 | Topping D10 | Sonos Amp | Marantz SR7012
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post #30 of 66 Old 08-06-2019, 10:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbecue Tech Tips View Post
Now to get this thread back on track. What are the difference's and similarities between the Sierra 2 ex and buchardt s400?
Right now, there is only one person who can answer that from a sound perspective: RMW1982.

The differences in their technical aspects are easy enough to see from their respective websites. From that, it is probably safe to say the Sierra 2 has wider horizontal, yet narrow vertical dispersion. The S400 has even, conical dispersion. So, they will interact with the room differently, which will cause us to perceive the sound differently, even if on-axis frequency response looks identical.

The Sierra 2EX needs double the power to reach the same SPL. Stated another way, the S400 has double the sensitivity.

The S400 probably requires greater distance for convergence due to the big waveguide spacing the drivers farther apart.

The Sierra 2EX uses much more expensive parts. It's something like ~4-5x more for the drivers vs the S400. However, that's not counting the R&D and tooling to make the S400 waveguide, so there are fixed costs involved. But per unit, the Ascends are much more expensive to produce in raw parts, and we haven't even counted the difference in labor between U.S. and China.

What do they have in common? They both aim for neutrality and are similar in size and price.

What's so interesting is the drastically different approaches to achieving their sound.

Russ, thanks for letting us live vicariously in San Clemente for a bit.
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Last edited by Soulburner; 08-07-2019 at 03:00 AM.
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