KEF R3 vs Ascend Sierra 2EX - Blind Listening Results (Informal) - Page 3 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #61 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 10:01 AM
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echopraxia, Thanks for taking the time to do this blind comparison. It's very informative. I'm considering upgrading my Sierra-2 to the EX.
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post #62 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
Is this in the narrower room you were talking about? So you notice no difference in "spaciousness" in either setup? The Sierra 2 don't have any brightness to the highs in this room either?
Yes this is the room with the worst acoustics I have: hard floors, a large glass window, and very narrow room with speakers on one of the narrow sides. If anything, the difference is more extreme here: the Sierra 2EX’s wider soundstage and more gentle treble seems even more notable. But really surprised me also was that the 2EX seems lacking nothing in bass.

The KEF R3 sounds much more harsh in this room than the other room which had more soft materials. Yet, somehow the Sierra 2EX sounds only marginally harsher than the other room. And when comparing the R3 to the 2EX in this room the 2EX actually sounds gentler.

I’m guessing maybe it’s because the R3 forms more of a tight beam which is oriented towards the big glass window on the other side of the room, but that’s just conjecture.
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Ascend Sierra Towers (RAAL) + Ascend Horizon (RAAL) + 2x Rythmik F18 | Ascend Sierra 2EX + JL Audio E112

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post #63 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
How do you like the Rhythmik L12 sub?

My pair of towers could be replaced for $1500/pair and I'll keep them until my house burns down, (had massive fires last week here, dodged another bullet).

I'm not chasing some god foresaken upgrade path because "some guy" on AVS doesn't like their measurements.

My current system is just fine thank your very much and I wouldn't even have the towers if my @#$%^&* cats hadn't kept knocking over the B&W matrix stand mounters I had bought in the 1990s.
I actually haven't found to visit them yet. They've been very friendly e-mailing me. I live 20 min away and think it would be amiss not to visit before buying a $650 sub (incl SVS wireless kit).

Also, I haven't bought yet because (1) wondering if F12 would be better for not much more $$. Ascend calls it an audiophile sub whereas they call L12 a budget sub, and (2) wondering if Ascend owns Rhythmik since Ascend sells the L12 on their own website! I've never had a system from a small, handmade company and think that the great service from Rhythmik/Ascend may be a great experience so I don't upgrade in 2 years again.

Good to hear about all your past systems.

Yep, my friends in SF are posting beautiful pictures of the sky on fire. We left Cali last year for live music and BBQ but we miss Santa Cruz and Sonoma.

Wife went out for groceries this morning so I cranked the vol up and sure enough the shhhh noise disappears and music is pretty good on the s15 barring some clarity issues. Pure direct took my breath away on one song where 2 ch stereo was very bright/harsh though. I'll listen only in Pure Direct now.
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post #64 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
The KEF R3 sounds much more harsh in this room than the other room which had more soft materials. Yet, somehow the Sierra 2EX sounds only marginally harsher than the other room. And when comparing the R3 to the 2EX in this room the 2EX actually sounds gentler.
I would expect the wide dispersion to be more notable, I'm just surprised they don't overwhelm the room. Just to clarify, do the R3 actually sound harsh in this room, like you want to turn the volume down or just harsh relative to the Sierra 2? If you really are that much more sensitive to high frequencies, I can see the RAAL being perfect for you, they do have a gentle, relaxed presentation for sure. I feel like Revel tweeters have more bite than KEFs so I don't see you liking them either.
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post #65 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 10:38 AM
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Ascend sells them, but they don't own them. Rythmik is owned by Brian Ding, the Electrical Engineer and Inventor of his servo amplifier.
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post #66 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Soulburner View Post
Ascend sells them, but they don't own them. Rythmik is owned by Brian Ding, the Electrical Engineer and Inventor of his servo amplifier.
An EE you say? Piques my interest since I'm an EE myself. Inventor you say? Wonder if Rhythmik has any patents?
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post #67 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
An EE you say? Piques my interest since I'm an EE myself. Inventor you say? Wonder if Rhythmik has any patents?
I believe the servo amp is patented, but it would be a good question to ask him.
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post #68 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 12:23 PM
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Along with the aforementioned Wharfedale line, Crutchfield just picked up the Quad S and Z lines (the Quads having Fountek ribbon tweeters that are cheaper than the RAAL's). Quad's bookshelf speakers would also compete with the Ascend 2EX.

Many British speakers tend to appear to be overpriced in the US, once you factor in the exchange rate and the cut the importer gets. Once we get beyond that, I feel that Wharfedale and Quad usually offer good value for the money, what with me not wanting to cough up $3000 for the Dynaudio Special Forty's (though those are also a hefty 2500 pounds in the UK). My Quad amplifier sounds warm, and I wouldn't be surprised if their speakers did too, and I wonder if they would allow the listener to hear every last detail in a recording.

I hope Ascend midrange quality would be among best in class at the prices they sell for, if they incorporate technology from the expensive SEAS Excel W line, offered at a lower cost. I also hope that their drivers don't have the cone breakup that my previous Monitor Audio Silvers had (audible as "warmness" compared to more expensive Revel models I had heard recently). Personally, I feel that I need at least two six inch bass drivers in order to properly reproduce classic rock music, let's say at some point below 200 Hz and where the sub would be crossed over at. That's why I've been avoiding the Ascend Towers and their 5 1/4" woofers.

The EVO 4.2 appears to be a solid three way design, at a reasonable cost. It appears that Wharfedale is using the inexpensive Hi-Ve DMB-A midrange driver for which I have few reviews available. I would give the 2EX the nod for bass extension, it appears that they had used porting techniques that added bass extension at the expense of sensitivity, like in the larger BMR Philharmonitor (that one, is also on my list still).

I am seriously considering the EVO 4.4 at $2000. It has the same midrange driver and tweeter as the smaller 4.2, so it appears that you are paying for the bass as you go up in that line. WhatHiFi? gave the EVO 4.4 five stars, but I don't know if that speaker's midrange is demonstrably superior to a conventional cone design, despite that magazine's glowing hyperbole about it. It's a bit of an oddball product, that hasn't been thoroughly reviewed.

Another bookshelf speaker I intend to listen to again, is the Martin Logan 35XTi, which appears to have an identical AMT tweeter to that of the Wharfedales, but crossed over lower (2 kHz vs. 3.9 kHz), which should allow the detail offered by that driver to shine through in the former model, where their bass driver could be mediocre at best. Not sure what the Ascend 2EX is crossed over at. My guess is, 3 kHz.

I had also found Elac and Usher bookshelf speakers for under $2000.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorba922 View Post
Supposedly the RAAL tweeter is in a whole other league than the AMT, but from my very rough and unreliable aural memory I doubt the gap is as large as most people assume...and this is using as reference the decidedly imperfect, low-budget Emotiva B1s (which have a smaller AMT than that on the Evos if I understand correctly) vs both the Sierra 2 originals that I heard at Ascend HQ (and loved) as well as my own Phils BMRs (which I love as well). The other factor is that the Evo 4.2 is a 3 way design vs the 2-way of the Sierra 2EX...which might well close the gap and/or give them a slight edge. Either way, I doubt one is night-and-day "better" than the other, similar to the OP's conclusion about the R3 vs the 2EX.

All idle speculation of course.
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Last edited by dan3952; 11-03-2019 at 12:47 PM.
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post #69 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 12:47 PM
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It looks like you are only considering speakers with non-dome tweeters. I wouldn't count them out. It's all about the implementation.
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post #70 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by dan3952 View Post

Another bookshelf speaker I intend to listen to again, is the Martin Logan 35XTi, which appears to have an identical AMT tweeter to that of the Wharfedales, but crossed over lower (2 kHz vs. 3.9 kHz), which should allow the detail offered by that driver to shine through in the former model, where their bass driver could be mediocre at best. Not sure what the Ascend 2EX is crossed over at. My guess is, 3 kHz.

I had also found Elac and Usher bookshelf speakers for under $2000.
I have Usher V602/V603 in my main setup and they do the trick for me, (discontinued and Usher has minimal presence here).

I have the 2 way LX16s in my secondary system and while the 2 way 35XTi has a larger AMT than the LX16 the 3 way Evo 4.2 has an even larger AMT doing even less work as it crosses over at a higher frequency to the midrange so "in theory" should be capable of better reproduction.

That is what intrigues me about the well priced Evo 4.2.

But not enough to upgrade!
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post #71 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
I am now comparing these speakers in another room and with no subwoofer. (Sighted test though.) However, my bias has been inverted again. The Ascend Sierra 2EX actually has no worse bass extension to my ears, and it may even reach a little bit deeper than the R3. If anything, the KEF R3 may have a bit more midbass presence, but if I just play with the equalizer a bit the Ascend actually sounds better in that area too.

My previous comments about the KEF R3 having better bass without a subwoofer were all based on my initial listening of them alone, not direct comparison where I switched back and forth. I think my initial impressions were almost entirely “shiny new gadget” bias.

The KEF R3 is still a great speaker. But I am all the more impressed now with the Sierra 2-EX. It’s not just a great speaker, it is an incredible speaker.
Ascend makes good stuff... My lowly cbm 170's hold their own against anything I have heard at $300...and some stuff quite a bit more expensive...
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YAMAHA TSR 5790.. front l/r emotiva b1's and /or kef q100's ..BIC v1220.....Emotiva basx10.... ascend cbm 170 center.. polk t15 rears..samsung 55" j620d
bedroom .. YAMAHA r-xv 383... front l/r.. wharfedale 10.1s... ascend cbm 170 center ... Emotiva basx8... samsung ku6300 50 in
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post #72 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 01:25 PM
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I am now comparing these speakers in another room and with no subwoofer. (Sighted test though.) However, my bias has been inverted again. The Ascend Sierra 2EX actually has no worse bass extension to my ears, and it may even reach a little bit deeper than the R3. If anything, the KEF R3 may have a bit more midbass presence, but if I just play with the equalizer a bit the Ascend actually sounds better in that area too.
With a quick and dirty look, I would expect them to be pretty close in extension. Looking a little deeper, it looks like Kef sacrificed some extension for midbass. The driver has a lower Fs, so they had some room, but that wasn't their design choice. The Sierra tuning is more conventional. Being a 3-way, Kef had more options, which makes the Seas woofer in the 2-way Sierra all that more impressive. It has to cover a lot of spectrum.

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post #73 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 01:51 PM
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Along with the aforementioned Wharfedale line, Crutchfield just picked up the Quad S and Z lines (the Quads having Fountek ribbon tweeters that are cheaper than the RAAL's). Quad's bookshelf speakers would also compete with the Ascend 2EX.

Many British speakers tend to appear to be overpriced in the US, once you factor in the exchange rate and the cut the importer gets. Once we get beyond that, I feel that Wharfedale and Quad usually offer good value for the money, what with me not wanting to cough up $3000 for the Dynaudio Special Forty's (though those are also a hefty 2500 pounds in the UK). My Quad amplifier sounds warm, and I wouldn't be surprised if their speakers did too, and I wonder if they would allow the listener to hear every last detail in a recording.

I hope Ascend midrange quality would be among best in class at the prices they sell for, if they incorporate technology from the expensive SEAS Excel W line, offered at a lower cost. I also hope that their drivers don't have the cone breakup that my previous Monitor Audio Silvers had (audible as "warmness" compared to more expensive Revel models I had heard recently). Personally, I feel that I need at least two six inch bass drivers in order to properly reproduce classic rock music, let's say at some point below 200 Hz and where the sub would be crossed over at. That's why I've been avoiding the Ascend Towers and their 5 1/4" woofers.

The EVO 4.2 appears to be a solid three way design, at a reasonable cost. It appears that Wharfedale is using the inexpensive Hi-Ve DMB-A midrange driver for which I have few reviews available. I would give the 2EX the nod for bass extension, it appears that they had used porting techniques that added bass extension at the expense of sensitivity, like in the larger BMR Philharmonitor (that one, is also on my list still).

I am seriously considering the EVO 4.4 at $2000. It has the same midrange driver and tweeter as the smaller 4.2, so it appears that you are paying for the bass as you go up in that line. WhatHiFi? gave the EVO 4.4 five stars, but I don't know if that speaker's midrange is demonstrably superior to a conventional cone design, despite that magazine's glowing hyperbole about it. It's a bit of an oddball product, that hasn't been thoroughly reviewed.

Another bookshelf speaker I intend to listen to again, is the Martin Logan 35XTi, which appears to have an identical AMT tweeter to that of the Wharfedales, but crossed over lower (2 kHz vs. 3.9 kHz), which should allow the detail offered by that driver to shine through in the former model, where their bass driver could be mediocre at best. Not sure what the Ascend 2EX is crossed over at. My guess is, 3 kHz.

I had also found Elac and Usher bookshelf speakers for under $2000.
This post is extremely helpful.
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post #74 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
I’ll clear the air here since it is needed.

He was planning on spending $4000 on a Wharfedale Evo system before coming into the Ascend forum and asking about them compared to Ascend products.

Power handling is almost identical, and the 3 way design allows for more crossover dips which I guarantee will be apparent, vs the S2Ex which would only have 1 crossover dip, which is barely visible in the measurements.
What is this crossover dip? I'd expect there'll be a bump in vol at the crossover since both the lower and upper driver are in play?

But I once read an interview with Matt Polk a while ago where he said he prefers 2-way designs because he didn't want to put a crossover in the middle of the midrange that is critical for music.
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post #75 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 02:04 PM
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Depends on the crossover design.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkwi...utterworth.svg
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post #76 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Soulburner View Post
Depends on the crossover design.



See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkwi...utterworth.svg

Not quite, it’s more about getting the drivers to actually follow those slopes. As we know, even order L-R filters end up with a flat crossover sum, but rarely in practice can we get perfect slopes so we end up with non flat crossover sums, the most common being a dip around the crossover.
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #77 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 02:59 PM
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It depends on a lot of things we don't think about on the surface. It is certainly easier to design a two-way crossover, but I don't subscribe to the notion that the simplicity automatically leads to better performance, just as I wouldn't say 1st order crossovers are the best because there are less components in the signal path.

There are a lot of factors at play, but I will say that as driver quality has improved, you don't necessarily have to consider a 2-way a compromise in the same way you might have in the past.

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post #78 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
Not quite, it’s more about getting the drivers to actually follow those slopes. As we know, even order L-R filters end up with a flat crossover sum, but rarely in practice can we get perfect slopes so we end up with non flat crossover sums, the most common being a dip around the crossover.
Of course. But it still depends on the crossover design. As shown, the easiest way to end up with a bump at the crossover is by only using a 6 dB slope. My original reply got more technical about beginning your filters at the right frequencies, but I edited it for simplicity. Not an expert on crossover design.

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Nice testing setup!

Haven't heard the 2-EX only the original S2 and the R series...and wasn't surprised at all in the results. Pretty much guessed which one was "Speaker A" halfway through reading.
^^^

This. I was smelling that the Ascend was A when the speaker B was declared the winner because of "harsher treble" that the listener interpretted as more realistic with the 2nd song... and I had a hunch that whichever speaker won #3 (Sara Barielles) was gonna be the Ascend, because she's been my "new favorite listen" ever since getting my Sierra RAAL Towers about 3 weeks ago; those songs (particularly the Keliedescope album that I think Gravity is on?) really showcase everything it does well, IMO. So when #2 won for "harsher treble" and #3 won the Sara Barielles song, I was 98% sure I knew "A" = "Ascend".

Still cool, thanks to OP for conducting the experiment and then taking the time to write down the results.
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post #80 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 04:34 PM
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How do the Sierras do on Classic Rock n Roll and Blues?
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post #81 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
I would expect the wide dispersion to be more notable, I'm just surprised they don't overwhelm the room. Just to clarify, do the R3 actually sound harsh in this room, like you want to turn the volume down or just harsh relative to the Sierra 2? If you really are that much more sensitive to high frequencies, I can see the RAAL being perfect for you, they do have a gentle, relaxed presentation for sure. I feel like Revel tweeters have more bite than KEFs so I don't see you liking them either.
I wonder if that has something to do with the tangerine waveguide of the KEFs. Virtually all tweeters (including the RAAL) drop off in output off-axis above 10KHz.

The KEF UNI-Q is one of the few drivers that I know of that has hardly any roll off in the 10-15KHz range even out to 60 or 75 degrees.

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post #82 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 05:30 PM
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Have there been any independent (or non-Ascend) measurements of the Sierra?
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post #83 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Dodds View Post
Have there been any independent (or non-Ascend) measurements of the Sierra?

Check Soundstage’s NRC measurements of the Sierra 1 and CBM170 (not SE).

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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Check Soundstage’s NRC measurements of the Sierra 1 and CBM170 (not SE).
I've seen those. I meant the Sierra with the RAAL. Even the towers.
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post #85 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 06:13 PM
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Have there been any independent (or non-Ascend) measurements of the Sierra?
I don't think so but there is an effort on another forum to buy a klippel testing unit that can create the Harman style Spinorama, the guy is in Seattle, I think Echopraxia mentioned being from the PNW also so he could possibly have both measured if he wanted.
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post #86 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Weird, isn't it.

150 posts or so IIRC on that topic alone.

Seems the 2EX might be THE stand mount speaker to buy at $1500.

Perhaps the Buchardt at $1800 though, truth be told, you'd likely have to A/B them in the same room with the same material to find any "difference."
I'd have to consider the Revel M106 in that mix......I question if the poor vertical off axis response of ribbon tweeters would fare well in accurate blind testing against another extremely well designed speaker like the M106.
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post #87 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Jakeshields View Post
I wonder if that has something to do with the tangerine waveguide of the KEFs. Virtually all tweeters (including the RAAL) drop off in output off-axis above 10KHz.

The KEF UNI-Q is one of the few drivers that I know of that has hardly any roll off in the 10-15KHz range even out to 60 or 75 degrees.
Yeah possibly, most of the measurements I've seen on Soundstage show KEFs declining off axis but it's smooth and controlled. It seems like from the OPs testing, the RAAL has them beat in this area though. I know you have had both speakers, do your thoughts align with his generally? I thought the R3 were a bit warm or laid back but they were very smooth, it was surprising hearing them called harsh.
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post #88 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 06:58 PM - Thread Starter
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I want to reiterate that the KEF R3 are NOT harsh. They are also NOT bad speakers. They are great speakers.

It is only in contrast to the extremely linear treble of the Ascend Sierra 2EX that the R3’s sound harsher. And it is only in contrast to the exceptional Sierra 2EX that you notice the R3’s have narrower soundstage, sound more congested regarding instrument separation, etc.

I would not call either speaker bright either. I would not even necessarily say that one is brighter than the other; in fact, on axis their frequency response sounds very very similar. The biggest difference is in treble smoothness, soundstage, instrument separation, and a few other misc differences.

So when I say the treble is harsh, I mean that there are more little peaks and spikes at different frequencies, to my ears, especially because my ears are very sensitive to this and can’t stand harsh treble. To reiterate: The Sierra 2EX and KEF R3 sound about equally “bright” to me, it’s just that the Sierra has a flatter frequency response up there.

As far as what the blind test listening found, I can only assume it’s describing the same thing — but I can’t know that. This is another reason I don’t want to be a subject of the blind listening test: Someone might just say “well your results aren’t useful because you’ve already said you have unusual sensitivity to high frequency imperfections”. The blind listener has very “normal” hearing in that sense, so the conclusions should be about as close to unbiased as I can possibly manage.

It’s really hard to put a number on “how much better” one speaker is vs another. Yes, I would say the Sierra 2EX are “significantly better”. But if I owned an R3 I wouldn’t sell it to buy a 2EX; rather I would sell it (or especially so if I had an R11) and upgrade to the Sierra RAAL Towers, which remain the best speakers I have ever heard. That said, I haven’t listened to a lot of exotics aside from some $50k Martin Logan and Bowers and Wilkins (both of which disappointed me).
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Ascend Sierra Towers (RAAL) + Ascend Horizon (RAAL) + 2x Rythmik F18 | Ascend Sierra 2EX + JL Audio E112

Last edited by echopraxia; 11-03-2019 at 07:42 PM.
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post #89 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
How do the Sierras do on Classic Rock n Roll and Blues?
They are the best speakers I know for this, but this may be specific to my ears sensitivity to harsh treble. The Ascend Sierra 2EX and RAAL Towers are the only non-recessed non-laid-back speakers that allow me to actually enjoy metal music or music with forward electric guitar presence on high notes.

They also allow me to enjoy older lower fidelity music much more than most hifi speakers. AC/DC for example is very hard for me to listen to on any other speakers or on any headphones, but is actually enjoyable on the Ascends.

P.S. I should note that the KEF R3’s are also better than most here, and I specifically tested some songs with energetic treble on them in-store for this reason. I find they’re quite good for all kinds of rock and blues. But yes, the Ascends are even more so better here.
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Last edited by echopraxia; 11-03-2019 at 07:39 PM.
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post #90 of 376 Old 11-03-2019, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
Yeah possibly, most of the measurements I've seen on Soundstage show KEFs declining off axis but it's smooth and controlled. It seems like from the OPs testing, the RAAL has them beat in this area though.
Right--the 70-10 and 64-10 RAAL's both have substantially wider horizontal dispersion than any of the KEF's. I can't think of any other driver that beats them in this regard. However, I'm sure the
R3's vertical dispersion in the midrange and treble is better than the any MT or WMT speaker that uses a RAAL tweeter. Whether that's a plus or minus is still controversial.
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Last edited by PhilharmonicDennis; 11-04-2019 at 11:16 AM.
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