Originally Posted by Meature
I am a noobie and know less than you do. I do not own any Ascend product but I am thinking I will soon. So take this for what it is worth.
I have a different take. Order the RAAL towers. Two reasons for this:
1) Coming from where you are and how you like to listen, anything less then towers will not do it for you.
2) If you get the Sierra 2s you won't have the information you need. You may find that they don't quite satisfy and you won't know if it is because Ascend is not for you or because they are bookshelves.
If this works out, you've got the foundation and you can fill it in over time with a number options.
This doesn't actually make a lot of sense if his ultimate goal is still going to be 4.1+. It's not as if he's trying to decide if he should use towers for surrounds (he could tho lol).
The idea is, if he is going to do 4 channels or more, then even if he deems the Sierra-2s are not good enough for mains, a fact I personally disagree with. I believe the Sierra-2's should STILL outperform the RTi A9's over MOST of the range by a good margin. They may CLAIM f3 of 30hz, but that doesn't make it true. In testing the RTi A9s f3 is at 45-50hz.
You have to keep in mind how the RTi A9's crossovers are setup. The fast majority of the speaker is only there for the sub 120hz range (where the 3x 7" woofers are crossed), which means in a normal system, you have 3 woofers covering 80-120hz and then a redundant crossover (that is likely not as good as the one in the sierra's) for pretty much no benefit at all. Then is has the 2 5.25 mid woofers crossed at 1.8kHz (for comparison the Sierra-2's cross at ~3k). It's also a giant power hog as it wants hundreds of watts to sound it's full potential. Especially when you factor in that the Polks are a high margin product (They have been sold on sale for $399.99 a speaker) with more components, from a mass-market speaker company which means you are also paying for part of their marketing budget. They are by no means bad speakers, but they are not comparable to the quality custom built parts of the Sierra-2.
So let's compare. From 3kHz up, I personally
believe the RAAL will beat the Polk handily, at 3khz, we move to the drivers, I believe the Ascend driver is a custom variant of this one: http://www.seas.no/index.php?option=...ers&Itemid=461
, which as you can see has a recommended range of 45-4000hz so we are safely within it's abilities. Especially when you consider the midwoofers of the Polk are sealed and thus lose a good deal of the efficiency gained from using two of them (and we only have ~30% more surface area to begin with). Given that the Sierra-2 Woofer is also likely capable of more excurision, it seems to me this is likely a wash or the Sierra-2 will still pull ahead because of the better crossover and driver. Plus there are less issues to worry about with phase alignment.
Realistically, the only place the RTI COULD have an advantage would be in the 80-120hz area. First, we could solve that, at least temporarily (if it was actually a problem) by running our subs to 120hz. No more advantage at all. BUT, we also have to remember this means there is another crappy crossover and then 3 woofers covering less than an octave. Without a sub the difference would be more significant, but you have to remember that 20hz requires 100x the excursion of 80z (40hz is 10x). By the time you remove that strain from the woofer, the advantage start to disappear.
Yes, the towers ARE better. But truth be told, I've considered moving back to Sierra-2s for mains just because I like the aesthetics of bookshelves and with the subs the gap is much smaller. I really wish there was a 3-way bookshelf with the midrange of the tower. The point being the Towers are better, but the Sierra-2s are still VERY VERY GOOD. If he is going to end up with surrounds anyway, might as well start with the -2s and see what he thinks. Best case he keeps them as mains and adds more or lunas for surrounds. Worst case he moves them to surrounds and adds towers.
Starting with the towers doesn't make much sense to me unless he only wants 2.1, as it's not like he's gonna move them to surrounds and use sierra-2s for mains?
As to the question about the Polk center, i think you could manage, but I would probably try a phantom center too just to compare and see what you prefer. One of my favorite parts of the RAAL tweeters is the dialogue clarity, and that's with no center, I imagine it would be even better with one.