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Thread: Is it worth it for me to upgrade **** 301 speakers for music use?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017

    Default Is it worth it for me to upgrade **** 301 speakers for music use?

    A speaker reviewer stated that there is a rule of 5, that is to get 100% percent improvement the cost of the speakers should be about 5 times higher.

    For me vocals are more important than instruments. I am not the kind of guy who would say Oh! this instrument is played on this position close to this other one; or this instrument sounds exactly like the real one; close is good enough from me. As a matter of fact, the closest I have been to a live presentation (other than live music at church with cheap instruments\equipment) is watching the movie Woodstock. Read a review where the reviewer said the Sierra-2 speech was like a person speaking to you while the Sierra-1 was like a person speaking through speakers. This is appealing if it can be translated to Music. HT use is not important for me.

    Also, I am sixty and I don't think I can hear everything. Many people believe that Tidal quality is better than Spotify. I checked Tidal 30 second previews and it seemed far better than Spotify. A week later I tried again and the same impression but it occurred to me that Tidal plays louder, I increased Spotify volume and I could not really tell the difference.

    Considering my setup and that I am not able/willing to change the position of my speakers\sitting position, is it possible to purchase better Ascend speakers which will make feel a significant impact on sound quality.

    Some additional information:
    For me usability is the most important attribute for my setup.
    Back in the 90's I purchased a 110 Technics CD changer which worked great for me.
    My speakers were a pair of B*** 301 bookshelfs (The best affordable speakers an uninformed buyer could buy before Internet info was available).
    About eight years ago the changer broke down and I stopped listening music regularly; I replaced the 301's with smaller JBL E20's.

    I recently got an Onkyo TX-RZ610 which has all I always wanted from my ideal setup: Great integration with my desktop computer. I am again listening music regularly. I use the Spotify Desktop app to quickly select anything I want to hear and a third party desktop app that allows me to control the receiver (change volume, sources, zones, etc.).

    This got me back to the 301's thinking the bigger speakers will give me better sound and in my setup they do. However, I remember reading not so goods reviews about **** speakers so I tried to understand why I like them and what could be better about other speakers. I found my answer in the review by "bobfromla" here "****/301-series-iii/prd_119184_1594crx.aspx#reviews" (on second screen after clicking Next 15). Replace **** with the name of the forbidden 4 letter company.

    I started looking for better speakers and got a pair of Polk Audio RTI A3. They sure sounded a lot better than the 301'as with the Sony STRDN860 (which was a floor sample without calibration mic). After getting the Onkyo and using the receiver’s calibration the RTI A3 sound was still better but marginally to the point that I could not tell the difference when I swapped them several times back and forth. I returned the Polks.

    While researching bookshelf speakers I frequently read that a subwoofer will make a big difference but I was not willing to place a big box in my small room. Many bad reviews about low priced subs under $400-500. However, the cheap Polks looked tempting; I was concerned about too many long time owners reporting amp failures in their reviews of the Polks. Then I came across good reviews for the inexpensive Dayton AudioSUB-1200, a Craigslist search found one listed for $80 about 30 miles from my place. Bought it on impulse for $70.

    Ran the calibration again with a 2.1 configuration. Despite the fact that I used one channel from a cheap long stereo cable to hookup the sub the sound was a big improvement over the 2.0 configuration. Subjectively I'd said a 100% improvement.

    My room is about 15'x9' and I my sitting position is in front of the 50" 4K TV (Computer Monitor) to the left. My speakers and receiver to the right(see attached pics)

    Are there Ascend Speakers that can make me feel a big improvement over my current constrained 2.1 setup. The cheaper the better but I am also an impulse buyer when I see a good value for something I like that will serve me good for many years (perhaps last speaker purchase in my lifetime).


    Last edited by TonyMon; 01-18-2017 at 06:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Somewhere in the Boston area

    Default Re: Is it worth it for me to upgrade **** 301 speakers for music use?

    A pair of CBM-170 SE will be your ticket to Ascend's audio Nirvana :-) Seriously, I have yet to read something bad about them. They are compact, not expensive and highly regarded for their neutrality.

    And do not discount your ability to hear nuances in music. The ear can be educated. Plus, someone with three guitars just cannot be so acustically challenged :-)

    Oh, and by the way, I strongly recommend you put more space between the left and right speakers.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2016

    Default Re: Is it worth it for me to upgrade **** 301 speakers for music use?

    I get where you're coming from, and do feel any number of Ascends would make you happy.

    From the guitars hanging on the wall, I might draw a parallel with instruments.

    Would an American Standard Telecaster sound better than a Squier in a full band setting? Maybe not. How about if you were covering Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" ... just you and the guitar. Probably.

    What I would suggest is that much depends on the type of listening you are doing, the room acoustics, etc. I had an old set of Polk Monitor 7's that sounded terrific to me ... right up until I dropped into see Dave in San Clemente. I really understood what "critical listening" meant when comparing all the models.

    I have a set of Sierra 2's which I love (listening to them as I write this), but the rest of the line is pretty darn respectable as well. Some of this might depend on your budget, and willingness to part with your hard earned money.

    If I were considering my last speaker purchase (which my S2's may well be) I'd look at Sierra 1's or 2's. Both are excellent speakers, with (to me) a bit more bass with the 1's and more detail and "presence" with the 2's.

    I would resist the temptation to act on impulse, and see if you can find someone to audition a set of Sierras in your area. That might well give you the answer you're looking for.

    And yes, I would separate your current speakers, and set them up so your seating position is roughly level with the tweeters. That in itself might make you happy (at least in the short term).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2017

    Default Re: Is it worth it for me to upgrade **** 301 speakers for music use?

    Thanks for the replies/advice.

    And yes, I would separate your current speakers, and set them up so your seating position is roughly level with the tweeters. That in itself might make you happy (at least in the short term).
    I have considered that many times in the past. It can be done but it creates usability issues that I am not willing to accept.
    Last edited by TonyMon; 01-18-2017 at 11:06 PM.

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