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Thread: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Seattle
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    Default Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    We've had the setup below for about 6 months now and it has been just awesome! Really happy with the sound.
    Sierra-2 L/R/C
    HTM-200 rears
    Rythmik LV12R

    After some discussions with audiophile friends and realizing just how much dialogue comes from the center channel (movies & TV), I've been wondering if upgrading the center Sierra-2 to the Horizon would be worthwhile? Anyone running the Sierra-2's L/R with a Horizon center?

    Thanks, this forum has been great!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    373

    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    That's a toughie!

    First up, the Horizon RAAL and the Sierra-2 share an excellent timbre match, IMO. I run three custom Sierra Horizon RAAL speakers as my Front 3, but I spent a considerable amount of critical listening time comparing the Sierra-2 to my Horizon RAAL speakers.

    It really all began because I started with Sierra-1 NrT Surrounds, Backs, and Heights. So I had those 6 Sierra-1 NrT speakers, I had my 3 custom Sierra Horizon RAAL Front speakers; but, the real kicker is that I also have a pair of super custom bookshelf speakers that use the Sierra-1 cabinet, but have the Sierra Tower midrange driver and the larger RAAL 70-20 tweeter (so the exact same midrange driver and tweeter as the ones in my custom Horizon RAAL speakers). I use these super custom bookshelf speakers as my Front Wides.

    Naturally, being the nut job that I am, I couldn't help myself, and I tried putting those super custom bookshelf speakers - the ones with the Tower midrange and 70-20 ribbon tweeter - in my Surround positions just so I could compare how they sounded to the Sierra-1 NrT as Surrounds. I also tried the Sierra-1 NrT as my Front L&R, the Front Wide bookshelf speakers as Front L&R, and compared them both to my custom Horizon RAAL Front L&R speakers.

    To cut to the chase, there was a fairly obvious difference in timbre between the Sierra-1 NrT speakers and my Horizon RAAL Fronts. The Sierra-1 NrT are excellent speakers in their own right, please do not get me wrong! But their tone and timbre simply did not sound identical to the Horizon RAAL speakers. Meanwhile, the super custom Front Wide bookshelf speakers did sound identical in timbre to my Horizon RAAL Front speakers, but the super custom Front Wides need to be crossed over to my pair of subwoofers quite high - I use a 120Hz crossover, which seems to work very well - because, after all, they are only using a dedicated midrange driver, not a bass driver.

    So for my Surround positions, I decided that I really did enjoy having that perfect timbre match, which the Sierra-1 NrT weren't quite providing. But I also wanted speakers that could cross over to my subwoofers at a lower frequency than 120Hz. My Surrounds are very close to my seats, so any chance of localization in the bass frequencies was something I want to avoid.

    So all of this led me to getting the Sierra-2 upgrades. And this is where we get to the real meat

    I am hyper critical. And, like I mentioned, my Surround speakers are physically very close to my seats. So the simple fact is that what I observed might not really be a shared experience by other listeners. And if my setup were in a larger room, it really might not even apply to me!

    But to cut to the chase, the timbre match between the Horizon RAAL Front, super custom Front Wides, and Sierra-2 is excellent. Essentially flawless. And it is - I can't say "dramatic" - but, IMO, really a fairly obvious difference from the Sierra-1 NrT. Again, not taking anything away from the Sierra-1 NrT. It's just that the timbre match with the Sierra-2 to the Horizon RAAL speakers really is just extremely close.

    So there's just that greater uniformity to the timbre of the sound all the way around the room now. And that is kind of a magical thing when you hear it Honestly, it's pretty rare in terms of moments in recordings or soundtracks where that timbre match is an audible benefit. I still maintain that if you are going to "skimp" anywhere in your speaker system, you ought to skimp on your Surround speakers because the vast majority of the time, if they're playing anything at all, it's just ambience or the odd sound effect. But for those few, rare instances where a sound actually pans all around you or you're listening to full surround sound music, it really is kind of nice when the timbre just matches perfectly all around you. One of those, "it's tough to go back" type of things

    But all of that praise aside now, I do not think the Sierra-2 sound identical to the Horizon RAAL speakers. First of all, the Horizon RAAL can play louder. That is almost certainly not a necessity in most rooms since the Sierra-2 can play plenty loud! It isn't even remotely needed in my tiny theater - haha. But nevertheless, that is an objective fact.

    But more than that, I have found - through A-B comparisons - that the Horizon RAAL are just a little bit more resolving. The way I describe it is that the Horizon RAAL make it seem as though the singer or the instrument has moved maybe 5 feet closer to you, but without getting any louder.

    So just imagine that someone is speaking to you and they're 10 feet away. That would be the Sierra-2 in this analogy. Now imagine that the same person is speaking to you, their voice isn't any louder, but now they're only 5 feet away. That would be the Horizon RAAL. You can probably imagine how you would be able to hear some really subtle details when they're 5 feet away that you can't quite make out when they're 10 feet away. I like to say that with the Sierra-2, I can hear their breath, their lips pulling apart and coming back together, the click of their teeth. But with the Horizon RAAL, I can hear them blink -- haha. That might be a little bit of hyperbole, but it's that sort of experience. So hopefully that type of silly verbal illustration will get across what I'm trying to convey

    So to put it simply, IMO, the Sierra-2 and the Horizon RAAL Center would make for an excellent match. Would going from a Sierra-2 Center to the Horizon RAAL Center be a big upgrade? No. I honestly would not think that to be the case. They sound FAR more similar than different.

    But I would say that they do not sound identical and that the Horizon RAAL does remain that little bit clearer and that little bit more resolving. Would that be worth the cost to you? I honestly cannot say. It is your money and your determination of value.

    I, being a crazy person, am glad that I went with the custom Horizon RAAL Front speakers. I am super glad that I went with my super custom Front Wide speakers; having that perfect sonic match across all 5 speakers at the front of my room is just sort of a magical-sounding thing. As front Height speakers, even the Sierra-1 NrT were honestly a close enough sonic match. I went ahead and upgraded those to Sierra-2 anyway, but I can honestly say that, at least in my experience, the Height channels just don't require a perfect timbre match because the placement and the way we humans hear just makes small differences in tone and timbre inaudible.

    I can say a very similar thing for the Surround Back positions. I'll say that I'm glad I upgrade those to Sierra-2, as well, but I can't honestly say it was really necessary. So little critical sound ever comes from those Back channels that, again, the Sierra-1 NrT probably would have been every bit as good, even without a perfect timbre match.

    My Surrounds, though, they're the real trick. Being so physically close to my seats, they're practically headphones in my setup! haha. The Sierra-2 were very, very worthwhile to me as an upgrade over the Sierra-1 NrT. Having a really, really close to perfect timbre match going from the Fronts to my Wides to my Surrounds is a thing of beauty. BUT, I do know what those super custom Front Wides can sound like in my Surround positions. And as good and as close as the Sierra-2 are, like I said, I don't think they quite sound identical.

    So since I want to get into Atmos, and maybe even Auro-3D, I actually think I might end up getting a pair of Sierra Towers RAAL to use as Surrounds. Yes, that would take me to 13 speakers and 2 subwoofers in a tiny apartment home theater. In case you couldn't guess, yes, ladies, I am still available

    Anywho, that is my extremely long way of saying that upgrading from a Sierra-2 Center to a Horizon RAAL Center might be worthwhile. It's really tough for me to just yell "go for it!" because the difference really is subtle, not large, and because the Sierra-2 already match the Horizon RAAL extremely well in timbre and tone. But, IMO, they do not sound identical, and the Horizon RAAL does still sound just that little bit clearer with just that little bit better resolution. And objectively, it can play louder and with greater dynamics.

    That might not be much help, but I hope it will give you an idea of what you might be in for if you decide to go ahead with the Horizon RAAL purchase!

    Take care,

    Rob H.
    Last edited by FirstReflect; 10-29-2014 at 09:11 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Seattle
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    First, you have an amazing number of Ascend speakers and variations. Wow.
    Second, that is an incredibly detailed description. Wow.
    Third, who wants my Satin Dark Cherry Sierra-2 center?? I've been convinced to upgrade!
    I really love that satin dark cherry, very warm.

    Thanks Rob, really appreciate the insights!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    24

    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    The 2's really shine as surrounds with multichannel recordings.
    The timbre-match is well worth the extra $$$ IMHO!
    My Surrounds are also rather close at hand so it does make a BIG difference.
    Last edited by essneff; 10-31-2014 at 09:14 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    Quote Originally Posted by essneff View Post
    The 2's really come into their own as surrounds with multichannel recordings.
    The timbre-match is well worth the extra $$$ IMHO!
    My Surrounds are also rather close at hand so it does make a BIG difference.
    I just purchased Sierra 2s for my fronts and am using some Aperion audio speakers that I won as surrounds. There is definitely a difference between the two speakers. It sounds to me like the Aperions can't "keep up" with the Sierra 2s. The Sierra 2s image well and have fast transient response. I can hear how this kind of goes away when I have some sounds pan from the fronts to my surround speakers. It isn't often, but when it does happen it is distracting. Unfortunately, I am planning to have a dedicated theater room in the near future that is only about 11.5 or 12 feet wide with two rows of seats. If each row is for two or three people, the outside person would be very close to the Sierra 2s, if I am using them as surrounds. I may not have the option of going with Sierra 2s as surrounds and just have to settle with HTM 200s, unfortunately.

  6. #6
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    Nov 2014
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    Quote Originally Posted by 2000m2 View Post
    First, you have an amazing number of Ascend speakers and variations. Wow.
    Second, that is an incredibly detailed description. Wow.
    Third, who wants my Satin Dark Cherry Sierra-2 center?? I've been convinced to upgrade!
    I really love that satin dark cherry, very warm.

    Thanks Rob, really appreciate the insights!
    Have you made the switch yet? Just curious because I am about to buy a pair of Sierra 2s for my fronts, and I am trying to decide if I should go with the Horizon RAAL or Sierra 2 for the center.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    Quote Originally Posted by Chipless View Post
    Have you made the switch yet? Just curious because I am about to buy a pair of Sierra 2s for my fronts, and I am trying to decide if I should go with the Horizon RAAL or Sierra 2 for the center.
    I haven't yet, but working on it! If I were you and not too concerned about the higher price, I'd upgrade to the Horizon. Don't get me wrong, the Sierra-2's are incredibly nice and are great for L/R/C. The Horizon, from what I can tell, is a more "dedicated" center channel speaker. If you're like me and questioning it at this point in your purchase, you might as well upgrade now.

    I'll update once I do get the Horizon.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2014
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    Quote Originally Posted by 2000m2 View Post
    I haven't yet, but working on it! If I were you and not too concerned about the higher price, I'd upgrade to the Horizon. Don't get me wrong, the Sierra-2's are incredibly nice and are great for L/R/C. The Horizon, from what I can tell, is a more "dedicated" center channel speaker. If you're like me and questioning it at this point in your purchase, you might as well upgrade now.

    I'll update once I do get the Horizon.
    Thanks for the reply! I find myself agreeing with your logic, but of course the other argument is that having Sierra 2s across the front (as you currently do) is the ideal setup since everything is perfectly matched. Not to mention, it's over $600 cheaper.

    Thus, I am anxious to hear what you think once you've had a chance to compare the two. Please keep us posted, and thanks again for the response.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    It'll be a few weeks before I get the Horizon center (looking like after Thanksgiving). They are back ordered.

    I have the Satin Dark Cherry color. I've learned that the cabinet makers for the Sierra-2's (Asia) and the Towers & Horizon (California) are different. This means Satin Dark Cherry is a bit different between the two cabinet makers, not sure about other colors. If you want things to match, better to do it on the front end. You can get the Sierra-2's to match the Towers & Horizon, but you need to specify that is what you want.

  10. #10
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    Nov 2014
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    Default Re: Horizon vs Sierra-2 Center

    Quote Originally Posted by 2000m2 View Post
    It'll be a few weeks before I get the Horizon center (looking like after Thanksgiving). They are back ordered.

    I have the Satin Dark Cherry color. I've learned that the cabinet makers for the Sierra-2's (Asia) and the Towers & Horizon (California) are different. This means Satin Dark Cherry is a bit different between the two cabinet makers, not sure about other colors. If you want things to match, better to do it on the front end. You can get the Sierra-2's to match the Towers & Horizon, but you need to specify that is what you want.
    Thanks for the update as well as the info about the colors. That is definitely good to know. Now the real question is, can I hold out over a month to place an order, and then possibly have to wait another month or so to receive my presents?...I already sense myself losing that battle, but I will try nonetheless. Thanks again!

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