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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I purchased both the Ascend Sierra 2EX (with RAAL tweeter) and the Buchardt S400 with the intent of ultimately keeping one, and recently got everything hooked up. In my inaugural (casual) listening test, I was very surprised at how similar the two speakers sounded! The Buchardts were ever so slightly more efficient, achieving 78 dB on my AVR's volume level of 25, while the Sierra 2EX hit 77 dB (matched using pink noise).

If I really strained to notice a difference, I found on certain tracks the Buchardt's lower midrange was a bit fuller, whereas the Sierra's sounded comparatively leaner (but cleaner). I did not find one objectively better than or worse than the other, simply a difference in characteristic.

Puzzled, I took measurements using a UMIK-1 out of an iPad running AudioTools. Each graph is C-weighted average of 3 sweeps:



I'll admit this is my first time using AudioTools so if there's a better setup/process just let me know and I'll retake them. I see most people's graphs have a nice, smooth trend line (REW thing?) which I was not able to achieve.

Edit: Measured with REW following the instructions here. Measured each channel independently and then averaged within REW. Mic's position was vertical:



Back to the speakers' similarity, this would seem to make sense right? If both companies aim to make neutral, transparent speakers then they should naturally converge.

Next up will be some blind tests with willing (and unwilling) participants. Any suggestions on procedure and/or best practices welcome!
 

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I'll be demoing both in the coming weeks so I'm interested in your opinions. Couple of questions on your setup:

What are the characteristics of the room in which you're testing them?

What are you driving them with?

What is your speaker use-case - music, home theater or some mix of the two?

Thanks.
 

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Those measurements don't appear to be typical in room measurements, if you can get REW (free), the measurements would be more accurate since you can input the calibration file into it.

NapiLopez on another forum posted measurements of the S400 and they are very good:



There are a lot of ways of going about your blind test, do you know how you're going to switch between the speakers yet? If you have that figured out then the easiest way is just to level match them as close as you can and I would do the test in mono with only 1 of each speaker, it makes differences easier to spot. Ideally you want each speaker to be in the same spot but I don't think that's very practical unless someone knows of a cheap turntable you could get for the task. Since I don't have them in the same spot I usually try to swap the position of the speakers and repeat the test for consistency. As far as the music you use, Harman does have a list of tracks they say are good to spot differences in speakers but I personally just like to use some of my favorite songs but making sure there is a good mix of male vocals, female vocals and various instruments. You don't have to take it too seriously though, as long as you do a fair comparison blind and in your own room with your own gear, you've done better than most when choosing a speaker.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I'll be demoing both in the coming weeks so I'm interested in your opinions. Couple of questions on your setup:

What are the characteristics of the room in which you're testing them?

What are you driving them with?

What is your speaker use-case - music, home theater or some mix of the two?

Thanks.
The room is a (very large) unfinished basement. Not really a looker or one with nice ambiance, but surprisingly good sonic characteristics. The speakers are at minimum a couple feet away from any rear or sidewalls, and due to the various boxes in the room, it's all very irregular. I would hazard there are much fewer reflections than normal (hemi-anechoic? ;)) and I'm open to moving stuff around.

Right side setup:


Left side setup:


Electronics (middle):



I'll take a picture from my listening position shortly.

I'm currently using a Panasonic SA-XR57 to drive the speakers since it has a convenient Speaker A + B toggle. I also have the option of hooking them up to a Benchmark ABH2 but the comparison will be a much slower process.

We are currently building a new house so the intended use case is 2-channel primarily. Depending on how things go, I may end up buying several more of the "winner" and add in HT duties.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
the graphs indicate (to me).. the sierra's have a dip at just below 1k hz and a peak at just above 2k hz(in your room), this probably is part of the reason you hear "leaner, cleaner" sound from them.. the s400 seems to have a dip around 5-6k hz that might make their mids stand out more .. thanks for doing the comp, and the measurements..i would assume the sierra's are a bit more detailed overall.. ??
That would be accurate. I'm finding myself starting to lean toward the S400 as the mids (especially male vocals and electric guitars) have a bit more presence.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Those measurements don't appear to be typical in room measurements, if you can get REW (free), the measurements would be more accurate since you can input the calibration file into it.

NapiLopez on another forum posted measurements of the S400 and they are very good:



There are a lot of ways of going about your blind test, do you know how you're going to switch between the speakers yet? If you have that figured out then the easiest way is just to level match them as close as you can and I would do the test in mono with only 1 of each speaker, it makes differences easier to spot. Ideally you want each speaker to be in the same spot but I don't think that's very practical unless someone knows of a cheap turntable you could get for the task. Since I don't have them in the same spot I usually try to swap the position of the speakers and repeat the test for consistency. As far as the music you use, Harman does have a list of tracks they say are good to spot differences in speakers but I personally just like to use some of my favorite songs but making sure there is a good mix of male vocals, female vocals and various instruments. You don't have to take it too seriously though, as long as you do a fair comparison blind and in your own room with your own gear, you've done better than most when choosing a speaker.
Yeah I just downloaded REW and will re-measure tonight. Despite the alienness of the AudioTools graph, if one mentally smooths out the oscillations, both speakers are pretty flat above 100Hz, with just one or two notable peaks/dips.

Regarding the blind test, moving the speakers around between tests is no problem. I think I'll keep them hooked up to my SA-XR57 receiver as Speaker A and B for convenient toggling. The S400 is 1 dB more efficient at the same volume level so I just have to bump the volume down 1 tick for them. Thanks for the insight!
 

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Yeah I just downloaded REW and will re-measure tonight. Despite the alienness of the AudioTools graph, if one mentally smooths out the oscillations, both speakers are pretty flat above 100Hz, with just one or two notable peaks/dips.

Regarding the blind test, moving the speakers around between tests is no problem. I think I'll keep them hooked up to my SA-XR57 receiver as Speaker A and B for convenient toggling. The S400 is 1 dB more efficient at the same volume level so I just have to bump the volume down 1 tick for them. Thanks for the insight!
I'm not sure if it's the C weighting or what but generally a room response is downward sloping from the bass to the treble. It would be interesting to see how the REW graphs compare since they're both neutral speakers. I'm sure you know but just in case you should measure each speaker individually with the Mic pointed vertically.

The problem with moving the speakers around between switching is our auditory memory is so short you usually won't remember how the others sounded if it takes more than 10 seconds or so to switch. I would say it's more important to be able to switch them instantly and not worry about moving them but that's up to you.
 

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Yeah I just downloaded REW and will re-measure tonight. Despite the alienness of the AudioTools graph, if one mentally smooths out the oscillations, both speakers are pretty flat above 100Hz, with just one or two notable peaks/dips.

Regarding the blind test, moving the speakers around between tests is no problem. I think I'll keep them hooked up to my SA-XR57 receiver as Speaker A and B for convenient toggling. The S400 is 1 dB more efficient at the same volume level so I just have to bump the volume down 1 tick for them. Thanks for the insight!
As noted, your measurements are suspect, so I'll look forward to seeing what you get from REW. I've never seen room measurements showing a sharp ramp-up in the highs above 1500 Hz, at least not for any speaker that's at least moderately flat. You should be getting the opposite results. Also, the sampling window is too wide, which is allowing more reflective noise in than you want. I have a pair of S400's here and have compared them carefully with numerous other speakers, and I can't imagine finding that the 400's and a speaker like the Sierra EX will sound similar. If could be the program material you're using, which might on voices give a slight preference to the more forward midrange presentation of the 400's. But on more complex material, the 400's sounded very different from all the speakers I compared except the stock Emotive B1 (which I recently modded to get rid of its midrange hump). My measurements are very close to the NapiLopez plots. One ambiguity in measuring the 400 is figuring out what the listening axis is supposed to be, since the tweeter is on the bottom. With the 400's companion stands, the ear would be closest to the woofer axis. That happens to be where the 400 measures least well (although it doesn't measure badly anywhere), and that position corresponds to the sound characteristics I'm hearing. There's a small rise in output between 1k and 2k, followed by a fairly prominent dip at 2800 Hz, with a partial recovery and very flat, though somewhat depressed, response on out to 20 kHz. Ascend Dave and I voice very much alike, and I've had two other versions of the Sierra 2 (but not EX)and the Sierra 1 here for extended listening, and they all sounded quite unlike the S400's. One thing for sure, however, you'll never get listening fatigue from the 400's.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yeah I just downloaded REW and will re-measure tonight. Despite the alienness of the AudioTools graph, if one mentally smooths out the oscillations, both speakers are pretty flat above 100Hz, with just one or two notable peaks/dips.

Regarding the blind test, moving the speakers around between tests is no problem. I think I'll keep them hooked up to my SA-XR57 receiver as Speaker A and B for convenient toggling. The S400 is 1 dB more efficient at the same volume level so I just have to bump the volume down 1 tick for them. Thanks for the insight!
As noted, your measurements are suspect, so I'll look forward to seeing what you get from REW. I've never seen room measurements showing a sharp ramp-up in the highs above 1500 Hz, at least not for any speaker that's at least moderately flat. You should be getting the opposite results. Also, the sampling window is too wide, which is allowing more reflective noise in than you want. I have a pair of S400's here and have compared them carefully with numerous other speakers, and I can't imagine finding that the 400's and a speaker like the Sierra EX will sound similar. If could be the program material you're using, which might on voices give a slight preference to the more forward midrange presentation of the 400's. But on more complex material, the 400's sounded very different from all the speakers I compared except the stock Emotive B1 (which I recently modded to get rid of its midrange hump). My measurements are very close to the NapiLopez plots. One ambiguity in measuring the 400 is figuring out what the listening axis is supposed to be, since the tweeter is on the bottom. With the 400's companion stands, the ear would be closest to the woofer axis. That happens to be where the 400 measures least well (although it doesn't measure badly anywhere), and that position corresponds to the sound characteristics I'm hearing. There's a small rise in output between 1k and 2k, followed by a fairly prominent dip at 2800 Hz, with a partial recovery and very flat, though somewhat depressed, response on out to 20 kHz. Ascend Dave and I voice very much alike, and I've had two other versions of the Sierra 2 (but not EX)and the Sierra 1 here for extended listening, and they all sounded quite unlike the S400's. One thing for sure, however, you'll never get listening fatigue from the 400's.
I measured the 3 sweeps per speaker as a single “recording” and did find it curious the 2nd and 3rd iterations pushed the captured response up for frequencies > ~100. I also used a 20-20KHz sweep generated from a third party test tone generation software. Taken together it’s most likely not an apples to apples comparison with the “standard operating procedure”.

How should I setup mic orientation (straight up?), distance, etc? Or are those of lower order importance?

As for material, I’ve primarily tested contemporary pop and some power metal. Again probably not the “usual suspects”.

Another alternative is I just have lead ears. Objectively, I’m in my mid 30’s and should have a minimum of hearing damage (not a musician, listen under 85 dB, no tinnitus, only been to 2 concerts, etc). My hearing tops out somewhere between 15 and 16 KHz, and using Harman’s “How to Listen” tests, I can reliably can differentiate at least 5 EQ bands (over roughly ~1 hour session). From this I gather while I don’t have exceptional discernment, I’m at least average. That said, “lead ears” is not a possibility I’ll dismiss out of hand.

Thus far I’ve primarily focused on bass to midrange performance between the two speakers. The bass response is more or less a wash, but the midrange of the S400 does seem “fuller” with more presence. I’ll have to find some material to exercise the treble performance of the two next.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Alrighty, I've re-measured using REW and the graph looks much "better" (added to first post).

Here is a photo from the listening position. Each speaker is roughly 8 feet from each other and forms an equilateral triangle with the listening position. From the REW graphs it still looks like both are very similar, with the S400's "more present" midrange explained.


 

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Ascend Dave and I voice very much alike, and I've had two other versions of the Sierra 2 (but not EX)and the Sierra 1 here for extended listening, and they all sounded quite unlike the S400's. One thing for sure, however, you'll never get listening fatigue from the 400's.
Interesting, and not surprising at all. I've asked Dave what he thought the audible differences were between the Philharmonic BMR that he had and the Sierra 2 EX and he said they sounded remarkably similar.

What 2 versions of the Sierra 2 did you listen to, Dennis? I wasn't aware of any other versions besides the original Sierra 2 and the 2-EX.
 

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Interesting, and not surprising at all. I've asked Dave what he thought the audible differences were between the Philharmonic BMR that he had and the Sierra 2 EX and he said they sounded remarkably similar.

What 2 versions of the Sierra 2 did you listen to, Dennis? I wasn't aware of any other versions besides the original Sierra 2 and the 2-EX.
Probably the regular Sierra-2 and the Sierra Lunas
 

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So with REW, a few things.

1) switch to logarithmic display.

2) switch from 1/2 octave smoothing to 1/6th octave

3) you are only showing 20-200 Hz. Adjust scale to 20-20KHz
 

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Gotcha, thanks. The OP has been updated.
I see in your graph you have each labeled "Right", does that you only measured the right speaker of each? If so it would probably be better to measure the left as well and average everything together, it should smooth the graphs out even more.
 

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Gotcha, thanks. The OP has been updated.
Now your really close, just need to get your Y-axis back to 5 dB increments. 45-105 dB is the correct standard range and should give 5 dB increments until you get a lot of measurements going....as the legend at the bottom grows with lots of measurements it will eventually shrink the measurement window down until it reverts to 10 dB increments.

The other possibility is that the resolution of the 'capture graph image' needs to be 1080.
 

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Subscribed :)

As Dennis has spent some time with my S400s and relayed his thoughts, it has become evident that the Sierra-2 RAAL and Philharmonic BMR are going to be noticeably brighter in the tweeter range, especially off-axis. Is that what you are hearing? This is despite the on-axis measurements being very similar and very flat. The tweeter output to the sides of the S400 is what I would describe as "shelved" rather than rolled off. The S400 waveguide contours the response of the tweeter to precisely match that of the woofer, so all reflections coming back at you are spectrally similar, just down in level. This is more ideal than a rolloff, where the off-axis curve is of a different shape than the on-axis curve on most speakers, creating a different sound to the sides, which is then reflected off the walls.

You can't see any of this in the on-axis measurements, which don't describe well the overall sound of the speaker in a room.

Research shows that 44% of what we hear in a small room is early reflected sound, so you want the response to the sides to be as similar as possible to the direct sound so you don't have "two different speakers" playing. There will be less total reflected energy as compared to the ribbon tweeters, though what reaches my ears is very detailed. Based on my understanding of the research and that of room treatments, that could be a function of the lesser reflections. So with the S400s, you don't need high output from the tweeter to get good detail. As Dennis mentioned, one benefit of that is you can listen forever and you don't find yourself reaching for the volume control to turn them down due to fatigue.

However, I wouldn't describe the S400 as laid back. Research also shows that above 10 kHz, the majority of what you hear is direct sound. So the sound of the speaker is going to be better described by something in between the on-axis and early reflections measurements: https://www.buchardtaudio.com/s400-detailed-description

The design of the S400s also allows one to crank them to stupid levels without blowing them up, or hearing distortion, despite the little 0.75" tweeter. I have not had the pleasure of hearing an Ascend or Philharmonic speaker so I don't have a point of reference, but reviewers of the S400s say that if you give them power they will just keep going. It looks like you have decent equipment driving them, so maybe you can hold a drag race to see which one sounds better at high volumes.

Anyway, enough of my comments...looking forward to your extended impressions.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I see in your graph you have each labeled "Right", does that you only measured the right speaker of each? If so it would probably be better to measure the left as well and average everything together, it should smooth the graphs out even more.
I did indeed just measure the Right channels (unplugged the left speakers). I just went by the REW instructions on the MiniDSP page, which said to measure one channel for full frequency.

Should I re-measure just the left channel speakers and then average them in REW or should I hook up both channels and re-measure that way? Thanks.
 
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