KEF R3 vs Ascend Sierra 2EX - Blind Listening Results (Informal) - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 02:31 AM - Thread Starter
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KEF R3 vs Ascend Sierra 2EX - Blind Listening Results (Informal)

I recently bought KEF R3 and have been impressed with them. Below are the results from an initial blind test comparing these speakers to my existing Ascend Sierra 2-EX bookshelf speakers. In addition to the test itself being blind, the third party doing the subjective listening has no bias coming into this and no opinion on these speakers (nor do they recognize or know anything about them or the brands).

My Bias:

My bias going into this test was that the KEF R3 would have a mid-bass advantage that would cause it to win on half the songs (even though I'd be controlling for deep bass differences via subwoofer), and that the Ascend Sierra 2-EX would have treble advantages that would cause it to win on half the songs. My bias should not be a factor in the results, since I was not a participant in the listening tests, but it's mentioned here for completeness and because it turns out my expectations were quite wrong (as you'll see below).

It turns out that contrary to my expectations, there WAS a clear winner. It's revealed below at the bottom after all the data is presented minus the speaker names, to prevent bias from the reader from creeping in as well.

Test Procedure:

Both speakers were set up side by side on stands of equal height, placed equal distances from the wall behind. A single JL E112 subwoofer was integrated with both speakers, crossed over at 100hz (in this room, localization is not a problem). Both pairs of speakers were level matched with SPL meter (C-weighted), which showed a ~2db sensitivity advantage to the KEF R3 (exactly as per spec).

Stereo pairs of speakers here are being compared (not mono), and so to factor out soundstage differences due to speaker placement width, the speakers were arranged with speaker A immediately to the left of speaker B in each case (e.g. "AB ------ AB" rather than "AB ------ BA"). The distance between left and right channels for each speaker brand therefore are measured to be equal. The only audible difference then when switching speakers is a small angular difference left/right between the two, which was controlled for by occasionally physically shifting the speaker pairs left/right in the room between songs (while the tester keeps eyes closed).

Listener is not a "trained listener", but someone who appreciates music and listens to a lot of live music. Not a speaker audiophile or familiar with traditional descriptive terms here.

When comparing a song, a segment of the song is played on one speaker, then on the other. The listener is told they're listening to "speaker A" vs "B" where "A" from the listener's perspective is always the first speaker played, but which speaker is chosen for this is actually randomized (this prevents the listener from accumulating a preferential bias that pollutes the independence of each subsequent song test).

For each song, the following questions were asked afterwards: (1) On which speaker did you prefer this song? (2) Can you explain why? Followed by (3) neutral follow-up questions asking for clarification when necessary.

The list of songs was chosen half by me, and half by the listener participant. The following list was used:

  1. Tempus Illusio (Intro) - Gramatik
  2. The Duel - Anne-Sophie Mutter, The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles, John Williams
  3. Gravity - Sara Bareilles
  4. Prelude in E Minor - Gerry Mulligan Sextet
  5. Pusher Love Girl - Justin Timberlake
  6. Selenium Forest - Plini
  7. Madness - Muse
  8. Black Skinhead - Kanye West
  9. Super Rich Kids - Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt

Results

I will reveal the names of the speakers in the next section below, after this write-up of the results from each song, where each of these results (and 'interview transcript') use the terms 'speaker A' and 'speaker B' to withhold the actual names until the end. The double quoted sections are replies by the listener to follow-up questions.

1. Winner: Speaker A. Why? "More full sound, better instrument clarity." What do you mean by 'full'? "The sound is more 3-dimensional and all around me, and I can pick out the individual tones and instruments more clearly. The bass doesn't sound as flat as the other." What do you mean flat? "Flat, like more compressed. Like when they put the music together, it's all mixed together rather than all the different notes clearly distinguishable."

2. Winner: Speaker B. Why? "The violins sound sharper, stronger, harsher. On the other speaker they were smoother but I don't think they're supposed to sound like that. I think the harsher treble is probably more realistic. I'm not sure but for that reason I choose B."

3. Winner: Speaker A. Why? "The vocals sound so much more real! Realistic, like you're there. For vocals I imagine as if the singer would be singing in front of me. And this speaker sound much more authentic."

4. Winner: Speaker A. Why? "I can hear all the instruments all at once on this speaker, while on the other they're more muffled together. Percussion seemed similar. But on the other one I could hear the piano better, but not the rest of the instruments."

5. Winner: Speaker A. Why? "The same as before, I can hear all instruments independently more clearly. Vocals are more pronounced, too. On B it sounds blended or muddy, in contrast."

6. Winner: No Preference. Notes: "Guitar sounds more harsh on high tones on speaker B, so maybe speaker A is more gentle, but other than that observation, they both sound equally good."

7. Winner: Speaker A (but very close, weak preference). Why? "The climactic part of this song sounds a bit more 'grand' and 'surround sound' when it transitions in that moment. Also, the vocals on the other speaker sound more compressed." What do you mean 'compressed'? "Like more blended into the background and hard to hear separately."

8. Winner: Speaker A. Why? "Vocals sound more harsh on the other speaker, and not in a good way. The vocals had too strong 'SS' sounds that were off-putting and unpleasant. Speaker A didn't have this problem. The bass sounded cleaner as well."

9. Winner: No preference. Notes: "Couldn't discern any clear difference between the speakers on this song."


Conclusion

Vote tally:
  • Speaker A preferred on 6 songs.
  • Speaker B preferred on 1 songs.
  • No preference for 2 songs.

Ready to learn which corresponds to speaker A vs speaker B? Expand the spoiler to find out:

Spoiler!
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Last edited by echopraxia; 11-10-2019 at 11:28 AM. Reason: Added photos.
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post #2 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 02:54 AM
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Very interesting. Any plans to repeat this with another friend or two?

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post #3 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 03:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulburner View Post
Very interesting. Any plans to repeat this with another friend or two?
Yes possibly, if I can find others willing to sit through half an hour of me fiddling with equipment to make sure SPL at listening position is perfectly matched (and no unfair subwoofer level differences), playing a song clip, switching speakers, occasionally shuffling positions, me interviewing their impressions and writing it all down in notes, and repeat that whole process 9 times, etc.

It’s enough of an ordeal to convince one’s significant other to bear with this process — that’s like a whole other level beyond WAF. So I understand now why there are so few true blind listening tests posted out there: it’s a lot of work for both the host and participant of the test!

But yeah I’ll try, but I don’t think my description of it is going to make it sound very appealing to most people I know

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post #4 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:53 AM
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Would be a great idea for you to switch roles now, you be the blind listener and let her do the switching. Will be interesting to see if the results end up similar.
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post #5 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:55 AM
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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.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #6 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 07:01 AM
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Excellent write up! I’ve had my EX’s for about 4 days now and really enjoying them.
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post #7 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 09:26 AM
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Damn, that sucks for me. I can't get the Ascends over here in Europe but this makes it hard to go for the R3s.. :/
Thank you for doing this though, very nice! Now do R3 vs Buchardt S400 please

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post #8 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 09:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bnaan View Post
Damn, that sucks for me. I can't get the Ascends over here in Europe but this makes it hard to go for the R3s.. :/
Thank you for doing this though, very nice! Now do R3 vs Buchardt S400 please
buchardt s400.. nice compromise

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post #9 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 10:31 AM
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Nice write up. I’m in the market for new speakers and this puts a point in favor of the Sierra 2EX. If I do get them I may try to perform a similar test (with subwoofer) against my Energy Veritas v2.4i.
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post #10 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 11:54 AM
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Man I was sort of losing my mind reading through the review thinking that the Kef’s would beat the S2Ex.

Then the dramatic reveal gifted me my breath back.

What was I thinking? Always believe in Dave’s phenomenal work. I freaking heard these speakers myself. They are every bit as good as the reviews say.
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #11 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post

Some summary of the descriptions by the unbiased blind listener here about the Ascend Sierra 2-EX: On multiple occasions the Sierra 2-EX was described as having generally better 'fidelity', for lack of a better word (on my part): better instrument separation, clarity, less muddying of melodies, clearer vocals, cleaner bass. The KEF R3 was described additionally as being more bright and having more treble spikes I presume, due to the descriptions above of some sibilance in voices and some instruments sounding brighter on the KEF R3.

What is intriguing to me is that the one and only song where the KEF R3 won was where the listener preferred that the violin in the song sounded brighter and harsher. To me, as someone who has heard violin in real life, on this song I very much prefer the Ascend. Violin has treble bite, but it does not sound harsh or bright; it's smooth and yet intricate. I have never heard a speaker anywhere that renders it as well as the RAAL tweeter in the Ascend does, but this is all my bias talking and clearly is the opposite of this listener's experience at least: they preferred the KEF R3's rendition of the violin on this song.
Nice write up, it would be interesting if you did the same test on yourself and compared your sighted and blind thoughts to see if anything was surprising or not. A couple thoughts though, how can the bass sound better on one when they are using a sub crossed at 100hz? I know the mains still contribute but I would think the bass would sound similar unless the extra bass from the R3 is making them sound boomy when added to the Sub. It's pretty difficult to integrate 2 different speakers to a sub unless you EQ them to have the same rolloff. Unless you do that I think I would listen without subs personally.

As far as the rest of it, I'm not really sure if the frequency response or something else is responsible for "instrument separation" but I would think the more neutral speaker would be better in that regard. If the Sierra 2 EX is more neutral, it would imply that some of the 3rd party measurements are likely more accurate than the KEF measurements in the whitepaper and they do have a dip from about 1-3k. Either way it's kind of surprising that the R3 would be called bright or harsh at all because regardless of which measurements are correct, they seem to be laid back and that's how I thought they sounded when I heard them as well as many others.

Any thoughts on driver integration between the two? Did you happen to take any pics of the test setup? I'm kind of curious on the size difference between them, the R3 were bigger than I thought they were going to be when I saw them. Nice to see more people testing speakers blind though, are you keeping the R3 or trying something else? I would see how the Revel M106 do if the R3 aren't your cup of tea.
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post #12 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bnaan View Post
Damn, that sucks for me. I can't get the Ascends over here in Europe but this makes it hard to go for the R3s.. :/
Thank you for doing this though, very nice! Now do R3 vs Buchardt S400 please
There is 1 guy with the S400 and the Sierra 2 EX that said the S400 are the best he's heard under 2k but it would be interesting for him to do a blind comparison as well, sighted listening just has too many biases and isn't a reliable way of comparing speakers.
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post #13 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 12:31 PM
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Based on the measurements I've seen of the R3 (btw, Kef's whitepaper measurements are pure marketing BS), I'm not at all surprised that the Ascends dominated.

The R3's have a broad dip in the mids which will sound muddy, blurry, and "unfocused." They also have a relative hump in the upper mids (sibilance region) which will make them sound bright and harsh especially with SSSSS sounds in vocals. This matches up with the subjective descriptions just as expected.

The Ascends are much more neutral and thus should be preferred overall.
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post #14 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bear123 View Post
Would be a great idea for you to switch roles now, you be the blind listener and let her do the switching. Will be interesting to see if the results end up similar.
It would be interesting, but I worry that I'm too biased or would be viewed as too biased, having written extensively my praise for Ascend's products. It would probably be hard for me not to recognize which speaker I'm listening to, even if unconsciously. But even if not, I think the time/effort would just be better spent with a 3rd party totally blind even to the names or brands of the two speakers being tested.

I want to keep these tests as close to double-blind as I possibly can. For example, for the same reason, the only questions I've asked during the tests are one of (1) "which speaker did this song sound better on?" (2) "why?" and (3) "what do you mean by [descriptive term]?" in the interview portion after each song. No deviation from this set of questions, and very intentionally and importantly so: I'm very careful not to stray from these set of questions because doing so could inject my bias in a way that steers the description or results, even unintentionally. I also to limit the number of times I apply (3) to ONLY cases when terms are used that may be ambiguous in audiophile terminology, and not to let my own subjective impressions of the speakers even influence how many times I ask this question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bnaan View Post
Damn, that sucks for me. I can't get the Ascends over here in Europe but this makes it hard to go for the R3s.. 😕
Thank you for doing this though, very nice! Now do R3 vs Buchardt S400 please [IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/tongue.gif[/IMG]
If it's any consolation, the KEF R3's are still very good speakers. Just because there was a clear winner here does in no way mean the R3's are dramatically inferior trash, or anything hyperbolic like that. FWIW, there are a few key strengths where the KEF R3 are notable better (IMO from subjective listening):

  • Without a subwoofer, the bass from the KEF R3 bass extends deeper, stronger, and seems to have more dynamics available to it. In this case, there were several songs where I actually had to double-check that the subwoofer was indeed turned off. The same song on the Ascend Sierra 2-EX also sound amazingly impressive in terms of bass extension for such small bookshelf speakers, but the KEF R3 does edge it out here (which makes sense given the design and size difference).

  • The KEF R3's coaxial design means they sound excellent even if you're listening literally inches away from the speaker, since no distance is required before the tweeter and midrange properly integrate. Because the Ascend Sierra 2-EX are not coaxial, you have to be listening at least a few feet before the tweeter and woofer integrate properly. So for this reason, generally any KEF speaker will be better for extreme near-field listening, like for a computer desktop setup. These R3's would make an incredible PC music/gaming/etc. setup, and would be perfect as a stereo pair without a subwoofer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
Nice write up, it would be interesting if you did the same test on yourself and compared your sighted and blind thoughts to see if anything was surprising or not. A couple thoughts though, how can the bass sound better on one when they are using a sub crossed at 100hz? I know the mains still contribute but I would think the bass would sound similar unless the extra bass from the R3 is making them sound boomy when added to the Sub. It's pretty difficult to integrate 2 different speakers to a sub unless you EQ them to have the same rolloff. Unless you do that I think I would listen without subs personally.


As far as the rest of it, I'm not really sure if the frequency response or something else is responsible for "instrument separation" but I would think the more neutral speaker would be better in that regard. If the Sierra 2 EX is more neutral, it would imply that some of the 3rd party measurements are likely more accurate than the KEF measurements in the whitepaper and they do have a dip from about 1-3k. Either way it's kind of surprising that the R3 would be called bright or harsh at all because regardless of which measurements are correct, they seem to be laid back and that's how I thought they sounded when I heard them as well as many others.
The bass differences observed here were about quality and clarity in the mid-bass region (100-200hz or so), never about quantity and never about deep bass (which was the same due to the subwoofer crossed at 100hz). I transcribed the interview notes without annotation here, but did note that the listener here isn't familiar with traditional audiophile terms, i.e. if I asked about "mid-bass" vs "bass" the response would be "what's the difference?"

Regarding brightness, I do not find the KEF R3’s to be bright relative to most speakers out there. In fact, one reason I bought them as a serious contender is because I listened to them, and found their treble to sound acceptably smooth to me (certainly far better than the other speakers in that room in-store) — because my ears are extremely, unusually sensitive to excess treble (most headphones are actually unbearably painfully piercing to me).

It is therefore only *relative* to the Ascend Sierra 2EX that the KEF R3’s are more bright or sibilant, which is not so much a knock on the KEF R3’s, as a testament to the absolutely exceptional neutrality of the Ascend’s treble. And, it’s not just me and the blind listener in this case saying this: This is perhaps the most universally repeated observation about Ascend speakers from people who own them — that the treble manages to be smoother and more pleasantly delicate and unoffensive than almost any other speaker out there, while simultaneously NOT sounding recessed or lacking detail (which is what makes it so exceptional).

As far as what contributes to the rest of the results, your guess is as good as mine. But these results do align exactly with what I find the Ascend's to be so amazing.

Quote:
Any thoughts on driver integration between the two? Did you happen to take any pics of the test setup? I'm kind of curious on the size difference between them, the R3 were bigger than I thought they were going to be when I saw them. Nice to see more people testing speakers blind though, are you keeping the R3 or trying something else? I would see how the Revel M106 do if the R3 aren't your cup of tea.
After my wife learned which speaker was the winner, I proposed keeping the R3's anyway (because to be honest I still really like them, these are all great speakers, even though I do not challenge the results of this test and agree that the Ascends do sound better overall when crossed with a sub). However, WAF of the R3 has basically dropped to zero when you combine these three factors: (1) they're massive compared to the Ascends, (2) they're more expensive than the Ascends, (3) the test results show that the Ascends sound better.

I think the only way I could justify the R3's is if I was running them without a subwoofer, in which case I do think they're still an amazing speaker. If you didn't know they were bookshelf speakers, you'd swear you're listening to towers. The bass extension and energy is that good, IMO. Oh, or, I could justify keeping them if I used them as obnoxiously large PC speakers for my home office [IMG class=inlineimg]/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif[/IMG].

Regarding more blind tests, I definitely would be curious to also compare to the Revel M106 (or the much hyped Buchardt's as well). But I do feel a little bad about ordering speakers unless the company I do so has an explicit satisfaction-guaranteed return policy. I made sure this was the case for the R3 when I bought them. I know Buchardt has this deal as well, but for Revel I'd probably have to swallow the return fee (since I'd only be buying one from Crutchfield) if I did end up sending them back. I'd also have to successfully convince my wife to repeat this whole process several more times, and her patience was already wearing thin by the 5th song ("it's already clear which one is better, why even continue?").
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post #15 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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P.S. @aarons915 Oh and regarding thoughts on driver integration -- I don't know exactly how one listens for "driver integration", aside from just assessing the general sound quality with perhaps a focus on the crossover frequencies.

All I can say is that the KEF R3's do obviously sound better if I'm listening 6 inches in front of them, due to the coaxial design. But as long as I'm listening more than a few feet away from the Ascends, they sound far more consistent independent of my listening position. For example, when sitting in the ideal listening position, if I lean right and left several feet, the KEF R3's sound signature noticeably changes in subtle ways. Very typical of most speakers, and you may be so used to it (if you've never experienced the contrary) that you don't even note it down. But with the Ascends, the sound signature is absolutely rock solid stable, and doesn't even have a hint of change. Additionally, the Ascends do seem a bit flatter and as someone described above, the KEF subjectively to me seem to be lacking some midrange frequencies that are more neutral/flat on the Ascends.

In this room (large master bedroom setup), we have seating on the side of the room which is almost 70 degrees off-axis from one of the speakers. Sitting there, you can clearly tell that the KEF R3 has lost all the direct sound treble, and the rest of the upper treble that you do hear is from wall reflections. Kind of a weird sound, as expected, and not really desired. But with the Ascends, the upper treble is so wide in dispersion that the sound is virtually unmodified even at that extreme angle.

This is a difference that isn't even really subjective because it's so drastic and obvious, vs the on-axis impressions (which though pretty consistently favoring the Ascends, I would say take more intense listening to *consciously* discern the subtleties of the difference). In contrast, I still don't know of any speaker in this price range that is capable of delivering the extreme off-axis performance that these Ascends do.

But in the same way, I also find the KEF R3's bass extension and near-field listening experience to be absolutely fantastic. The bass extension and energy is amazing for its size, perhaps rivaled only by the Buchardts (which I have not heard). And for near-field listening, it's probably unrivaled by any other speaker on the market aside from Genelec and other coaxial designs.

P.P.S. I'll take some photos for size comparison.

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post #16 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 01:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
Nice write up, it would be interesting if you did the same test on yourself and compared your sighted and blind thoughts to see if anything was surprising or not. A couple thoughts though, how can the bass sound better on one when they are using a sub crossed at 100hz? I know the mains still contribute but I would think the bass would sound similar unless the extra bass from the R3 is making them sound boomy when added to the Sub. It's pretty difficult to integrate 2 different speakers to a sub unless you EQ them to have the same rolloff. Unless you do that I think I would listen without subs personally.
I don't think it's hard at all. Connect both speakers to your AVR with an 80 Hz crossover. Their unique contours under the crossover will remain, but they will just roll off faster. I think that's fine and will match real-world use.

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post #17 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
in the blind test, and in this case the results are pretty clear --
Nice job.

Thanks.

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post #18 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
It would be interesting, but I worry that I'm too biased or would be viewed as too biased, having written extensively my praise for Ascend's products. It would probably be hard for me not to recognize which speaker I'm listening to, even if unconsciously. But even if not, I think the time/effort would just be better spent with a 3rd party totally blind even to the names or brands of the two speakers being tested.
I get that but it's hard to say that if you're blind and truly don't know what speaker you're listening to. I thought I would be able to spot my speaker easily blind since I've been listening to it almost a year but I had no idea. It probably is better to use a 3rd party, I doubt the results will be much different honestly, I don't think people have as different of preferences as many assume on the forums.

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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
Regarding brightness, I do not find the KEF R3’s to be bright relative to most speakers out there. In fact, one reason I bought them as a serious contender is because I listened to them, and found their treble to sound acceptably smooth to me (certainly far better than the other speakers in that room in-store) — because my ears are extremely, unusually sensitive to excess treble (most headphones are actually unbearably painfully piercing to me).
It's possible that the brightness is due to the dip before the highs, making them a bit higher relative to that dip.


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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
Regarding more blind tests, I definitely would be curious to also compare to the Revel M106 (or the much hyped Buchardt's as well). But I do feel a little bad about ordering speakers unless the company I do so has an explicit satisfaction-guaranteed return policy. I made sure this was the case for the R3 when I bought them. I know Buchardt has this deal as well, but for Revel I'd probably have to swallow the return fee (since I'd only be buying one from Crutchfield) if I did end up sending them back. I'd also have to successfully convince my wife to repeat this whole process several more times, and her patience was already wearing thin by the 5th song ("it's already clear which one is better, why even continue?").
I'm the same way, I prefer being able to borrow the speakers from a dealer so that I'm not opening up a brand new pair. I know there aren't a ton of Revel dealers around though.

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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
P.S. @aarons915 Oh and regarding thoughts on driver integration -- I don't know exactly how one listens for "driver integration", aside from just assessing the general sound quality with perhaps a focus on the crossover frequencies.
I guess what I mean is that in well integrated speakers, it sounds like the sound is coming from 1 driver and not 2 separate ones. 2 way coaxials obviously do this very well because the sound is coming from 1 source but even the Revel M105s did this, which was kind of surprising. Switching back and forth, it is very clear to me that the coaxial sounded clearer but I never noticed a problem before listening to a couple 2 way Kefs. Even the R3 isn't as good at pulling this off, the woofer is crossed over at 400Hz so the vocals are split between the woofer and midwoofer, and while the integration is really good it still bothered me that I could tell the vocals were coming from 2 sources, it just didn't sound as natural to me, I feel like the KEF 3 ways should really be crossed over no higher than 200Hz to alleviate that effect, or maybe it's just my expectation bias and I wouldn't hear that blind lol, who knows.

Side note, this is one reason I think the Sierra towers are such a good design, I read that Dave crosses the midrange at 180Hz so the critical midrange and vocals are coming from the midrange driver, similar to a 2 way. There is just something that sounds right to me about a good 2 way crossed over to subs and I have a feeling this is why.
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post #19 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by l0nestar8 View Post
Based on the measurements I've seen of the R3 (btw, Kef's whitepaper measurements are pure marketing BS), I'm not at all surprised that the Ascends dominated.

The R3's have a broad dip in the mids which will sound muddy, blurry, and "unfocused." They also have a relative hump in the upper mids (sibilance region) which will make them sound bright and harsh especially with SSSSS sounds in vocals. This matches up with the subjective descriptions just as expected.

The Ascends are much more neutral and thus should be preferred overall.
I don't know if I'd go that far but I would like to see them measured at the NRC chamber. The R11 measurement in the whitepaper is actually pretty close to the NRC measurement if you zoom in on the whitepaper.

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I don't think it's hard at all. Connect both speakers to your AVR with an 80 Hz crossover. Their unique contours under the crossover will remain, but they will just roll off faster. I think that's fine and will match real-world use.
Just to be clear I meant integrating 2 different speakers with 1 subwoofer, 1 is going to blend better with the subs and sound better, I would expect that to be the speaker with less bass generally.
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post #20 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by aarons915 View Post
I don't know if I'd go that far but I would like to see them measured at the NRC chamber. The R11 measurement in the whitepaper is actually pretty close to the NRC measurement if you zoom in on the whitepaper.
That might be true of the R11, but I've seen a handful of R3 measurements, and they don't look anything at all like the curves in the whitepaper.

As to driver integration, as long as the center-to-center (c2c) distance is less than 1/4 of the crossover wavelength, it's an acoustic point-source (i.e., no off-axis lobing.)

So, for the R3, as long as the distance from woofer to the tweeter is less than ~8.5 inches, it's an ideal point source (maybe @echopraxia could measure this for us.) For another example, my Elacs have a crossover of 270 Hz, which would indicate that the c2c spacing should be less than 12.5 inches (it is) to eliminate off-axis lobing.

The Elac AS-61 is even better at 200 Hz.

Obviously, coaxes don't lobe at all, no matter the crossover frequency (c2c = 0.) This doesn't mean that a directivity mismatch can't still exist, though.

Whether or not lobing is actually audible is another topic altogether.
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post #21 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:21 PM
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Damn, that sucks for me. I can't get the Ascends over here in Europe but this makes it hard to go for the R3s.. :/
Thank you for doing this though, very nice! Now do R3 vs Buchardt S400 please
I have been gathering these impressions over the past year. So far, I have found, with the bolded speaker being preferred:

1 YouTube reviewer (Z Reviews) with KEF R3 and Buchardt S400
1 YouTube reviewer (The Next Best Thing Studio) with KEF R3 and Buchardt S400
1 AVS member with KEF R3 and Sierra-2EX
1 AVS member with Sierra-2EX and Buchardt S400
1 AVS member with Philharmonic BMR and Buchardt S400
And there is currently 1 other AVS member currently listening to the Philharmonic BMR and Buchardt S400, though I will wait to see what the verdict is or whether that will even be revealed.
In addition, I hope to compare my Buchardt S400s to a friend's Vapor Audio Sundogs soon.

I'm not sure we can draw too many definitive conclusions as to which is "better"; however based on what I've gathered from the Sierra-2, S400, and BMR, they are all some of the most neutral, uncolored speakers you are going to find, and it seems it's going to come down to a preference for a wider sound (the ribbons) or more focused imaging (matched dispersion between the tweeter and woofer). There are differences in bass quality as well.

Some additional comments on the R3 and S400 here:
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post #22 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by l0nestar8 View Post
That might be true of the R11, but I've seen a handful of R3 measurements, and they don't look anything at all like the curves in the whitepaper.

As to driver integration, as long as the center-to-center (c2c) distance is less than 1/4 of the crossover wavelength, it's an acoustic point-source (i.e., no off-axis lobing.)

So, for the R3, as long as the distance from woofer to the tweeter is less than ~8.5 inches, it's an ideal point source (maybe @echopraxia could measure this for us.) For another example, my Elacs have a crossover of 270 Hz, which would indicate that the c2c spacing should be less than 12.5 inches (it is) to eliminate off-axis lobing.

The Elac AS-61 is even better at 200 Hz.

Obviously, coaxes don't lobe at all, no matter the crossover frequency (c2c = 0.) This doesn't mean that a directivity mismatch can't still exist, though.

Whether or not lobing is actually audible is another topic altogether.
Yeah that would be a shame if the official KEF measurements were BS and it's starting to look like that might be the case. Of course I've also noted many times that the early reflection directivity index of the 2 EX are wrong as well.

I don't know if it's the lobing that's audible or what but I know when I had the Q150 and now the LS50, the big difference when A/B most speakers was that the coaxials just had a clearness to them that I attributed to it being a point source. Frequency response is still important though, so I totally understand a speaker like the R3 not being preferred to a more neutral one. The Elac seems to be a good design and is tempting at the current prices for sure.
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post #23 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Soulburner View Post
I have been gathering these impressions over the past year. So far, I have found, with the bolded speaker being preferred:

1 YouTube reviewer (Z Reviews) with KEF R3 and Buchardt S400
1 YouTube reviewer (The Next Best Thing Studio) with KEF R3 and Buchardt S400
1 AVS member with KEF R3 and Sierra-2EX
1 AVS member with Sierra-2EX and Buchardt S400
1 AVS member with Philharmonic BMR and Buchardt S400
And there is currently 1 other AVS member currently listening to the Philharmonic BMR and Buchardt S400, though I will wait to see what the verdict is or whether that will even be revealed.
In addition, I hope to compare my Buchardt S400s to a friend's Vapor Audio Sundogs soon.
It is starting to seem that the S400 is the speaker to beat under 2k. I didn't see that someone preferred it to the BMR, very interesting. I don't know why but I seem to be pretty much the only one not in love with the RAAL ribbons, I thought they were too laid back in a 2 way and I think the BMR is bright, but based on the measurements I think that's most likely because of the BMR driver and not the RAAL. It could also be my smaller room is overwhelmed by the broad dispersion, my mains are only about 3 feet from the sidewalls so maybe the controlled dispersion of the KEFs just work better in this room, I do remember listening to them at the dealers room sounded pretty bad.
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post #24 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:57 PM
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Of course I've also noted many times that the early reflection directivity index of the 2 EX are wrong as well.
I must have missed that. How so?

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post #25 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Bnaan View Post
Damn, that sucks for me. I can't get the Ascends over here in Europe but this makes it hard to go for the R3s.. :/
Thank you for doing this though, very nice! Now do R3 vs Buchardt S400 please
Why not? Ascend will ship internationally according to this: http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages.../shipping.html.

Shoot them an email to confirm.
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post #26 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 05:58 PM
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It is starting to seem that the S400 is the speaker to beat under 2k.
It's certainly a contender, but according to the list I've been compiling, there are still a lot more speakers to compare

And the above does appear to start to show a trend, but I think we don't have enough data points yet on the comparisons between the S400 and the Ascends or others. It does seem the R3 is having a rough time against these guys, though.
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post #27 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 06:08 PM
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I must have missed that. How so?
Because by definition it's the difference between the early reflections and the listening window and if you check some of the points it's clearly not abiding by that spec. It looks much better than it really is.
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post #28 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 06:26 PM
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I don't know if it's the lobing that's audible or what but I know when I had the Q150 and now the LS50, the big difference when A/B most speakers was that the coaxials just had a clearness to them that I attributed to it being a point source.
Agreed. Also, I'm curious what kind of weighting/averaging Kef is displaying in their graphs. There's not much info in that regard.

Anyway, I doubt the lobes themselves are audible, but all summed they do contribute to the overall sound power and early reflections, causing some dips and peaks in the frequency response that can be totally eliminated using coaxes (in all directions.)

That much has to be somewhat audible since dips around crossover usually show up in the graphs for conventional 2-ways. Spins are biased in the horizontal direction, so they don't look as pronounced on Revels, Sierra-2EX, etc. If you remove that biased weighting, lobing (especially vertical) would look worse in spin graphs. Coaxes solve that issue regardless of the directional weighting.

Coaxes aren't perfect though. They lose surface area for power handling, unless they are a 3-way. They also have a small high-Q dip in the low treble where midwoofer and tweeter cancel on-axis. Kef and Technics, for instance, use a phase plug to amplify this region to counteract this cancellation (small horn effect.)

This might put an emphasis on sibilance off-axis, though. I'm okay with a small on-axis dip in the sibilance region, since it fills in quickly off-axis, and is gone completely when looking at early reflections and sound power curves, which are arguably more important.

I think Buchardt is doing themselves a major disservice by incorporating "floor bounce" in their sound power curve. That graph would look much better is they assumed an anechoic response. That's an example of a company choosing to publish a graph that makes their speaker look worse than it should!!

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post #29 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 06:49 PM - Thread Starter
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If I had a nickel for every time aarons915 criticizes the Sierra 2EX’s measurements on this forum and others, I’d have enough money to buy a Buchardt S400 to test against the Sierra 2EX. No matter what forum I go to, wherever an Ascend or RAAL product is mentioned, a wild Aaron appears out of the bushes to criticize it :P

If you think the directivity index they publish is defined unconventionality, we can just look at the rest of the measurements. Unless you’re going to call those into question too — in which case, why bring up the measurements at all? I don’t think that line of reasoning will be productive, since the results of this blind test should stand independent of what you think of those measurements anyway.

I do wish we had something like what Amir of AudioScienceReview does for amplifiers, for speakers. I know he’s considering buying the equipment to do so. I hope he does. It would be an amazing contribution to the field to have a consistent source of unbiased and uniformly measured data here. But I think this is a discussion for another thread, not this one.

Without trustworthy measurements, all we can really do is just keep doing blind listening tests between various pairs of speakers. But as those of us who do them know, those are also a fair bit of work (and to be ultra reliable, they should ideally be repeated many times).
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post #30 of 380 Old 11-02-2019, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
If I had a nickel for every time aarons915 criticizes the Sierra 2EX’s measurements on this forum and others, I’d have enough money to buy a Buchardt S400 to test against the Sierra 2EX. No matter what forum I go to, wherever the Sierra 2EX is mentioned, a wild Aaron appears out of the bushes to criticize it :P

Let’s try to keep the discussion focused on comparing these speakers, rather than debating endlessly about measurements — except to try to explain these findings with whatever measurements we do have.

If you think the directivity index they publish is defined unconventionality, we can just look at the rest of the measurements. Unless you’re going to call those into question too — in which case, why bring up the measurements at all? I don’t think that line of reasoning will be productive, since the results of this blind test should stand independent of what you think of those measurements anyway.

I do wish we had something like what Amir of AudioScienceReview does for amplifiers, for speakers. I know he’s considering buying the equipment to do so. I hope he does. It would be an amazing contribution to the field to have a consistent source of unbiased and uniformly measured data here. But I think this is a discussion for another thread, not thistle,

Without trustworthy measurements, all we can really do is just keep doing blind listening tests between various pairs of speakers. But as those of us who do them know, those are also a fair bit of work (and to be ultra reliable, they should ideally be repeated many times).
How do you know it's all the same person lmao? I really wasn't criticizing them, based on your test and many others they appear to be very good speakers, I'm just saying if the KEF official measurements are indeed BS they're not the only ones. I do agree doing the blind listening tests is the most useful metric because regardless of the measurements, preference is preference.

Also hell yes I criticize speakers, whether that's the R3 or any other, more people should do the same and stop being apologists for brands period.

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