Probably not a very interesting predicament, though I thought I'd share Too Much Info on my circumstances and preferences and maybe someone has had similar experience and could offer some pointers.
I've been using my Sierra-2 bookshelf speakers for almost 4 months now (about 300 hours of use), and my feelings are mixed/good. I used a pretty rudimentary set-up:
Oppo-103D (about half compact discs and half lossless files) -->Monoprice RCA connects-->NAD C316BEE 40W integrated amp-->Audioquest cables purchased in 2010--->Sierra-2 on Sanus 30" stands.
Unfortunately not much clearance on either side (maybe a foot from wall or furniture either side), but 2-3 feet from the back wall behind speakers. Speakers only about 4.5 feet apart...another disadvantage. Might be the room and arrangement, no? No fixing that presently, simply not an option.
Sitting ~7 feet away or so, ears right at the top edge of the woofers. Total space ~10ft x 15ft or so, with a wall right behind my back and to my left.
Resolution is all that, but the speakers almost seem to be at the mercy of whatever recording I throw at them. There seems to be an awful lot of emphasis of the mids, and I find the effect fatiguing and unpleasant. I listen to a lot of classical/orchestral music, and one thing that seems to be a consistent problem is a harshness in the brass. The sense of a kind of brittle mid-y quality isn't limited to orchestral brass, though. Recent masters of, for example, David Bowie's YOUNG AMERICANS and STATION TO STATION, sounded harsh and blaring. Examples abound.
With respect for the usual suggestion, I am really not sure I can deal with a sub at this point; I understand why they are recommended, but I need my speakers to work well in a 2.0 setup before dealing with a whole new dimension and the physics that come with it. Can I make these Sierra-2s work in 2.0? I know the problem isn't simply a "lack" of bass, because I have played some fairly bass-intensive recordings (Andy Stott, Bjork, etc) at them and been very pleased by the quality and cohesion of the bass, even in my compromised little space. I look forward to a sub but only when I have the space and cash for a proper AVR and/or bass management system to handle it.
Nothing but love for the Ascend customer service, packing/shipping/etc. It might be my expectations, my taste or preferences, my upstream gear, etc. I am still looking for the magic, and I hope I can still find it with these speakers. I wondered if it was simply a matter of getting a dedicated CD player instead of a "universal" player (even a cheap but reportedly good player like the Onkyo 7030 that could possibly be a good cheap transport into fine DAC or AVR/DAC situation). And/or a nice DAC. And/or an AVR with a nice DAC and preamp, like perhaps one of the Yamaha Aventages or etc etc etc. This way lies madness.
The only real reason I post here before plaguing Ascend HQ is that it seems like it might be something that could be resolved with a little simple tweaking, a little smart spending, or not at all.