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Thread: Advice on speaker system purchase

  1. #1
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    Default Advice on speaker system purchase

    Hello all, I have a lengthy question on what route I should go. I'm posting here because I'm heavily considering some Ascend speakers and hope to get more detailed answers here than in other venues I've posted.

    So my situation is this - my HT setup is a 65e6 with some cheap DefTech ProCinema 60 and Denon receiver. It's unfortunately in a pretty small room and I'm unable to really turn up the volume because of neighbors and acoustics, so this isn't an ideal situation. I'm pretty much 100% movies and games, almost no music. While the environment isn't great now, that could change in the future so I am having an eye on being able to upgrade my audio components so that it would be better now, but would still be great going forward (I don't like upgrading often, I would rather just buy once and keep it for a very long time).

    After looking at various brands/options (like Phil, SVS, etc), I was highly considering getting Sierra 2s LCR with HMT-200s as surrounds and 15hp600. However in another forum someone pointed out that given I don't plan on using these for music, and also my constrained area and volume limitations, these are completely overkill and I probably could be just as well served with cheaper options such as the 340s (or something like Phil AA or even Klipsh). I don't have a hard and fast budget, but I don't want to spend unnecessarily either, if I can get 95% good for 50% money, I'd rather do that, but if it's only 75% as good, I'd rather just get the more expensive option.

    So I have come to the following possibilities and wanted some advice.

    1. Sierra 2s LCR w/ HMT-200s and hp15 - my original idea, it is definitely overkill (especially the sub) but if there is still a significant upgrade in audio quality even for my environment, I'd be willing to pay more. This is quite costly though so it would have to be a significant upgrade, and I don't really have the trained ears many of you have. On top of that, I keep hearing that since I don't really listen to music, that I'm wasting a lot of the Sierra 2's potential and a cheaper system would be just as good for movie and game duty. However, in the future if I move to a bigger place, I would possibly want to upgrade to RAAL towers to pair with Sierra 2 center, and move Sierra 2s to surrounds, so this has a pretty nice upgrade path (assuming Sierra 2 works well for center and I don't need to upgrade to Horizon w/ RAAL). I probably wouldn't need to do that either but I do like having really high quality things.

    2. CMT-340s LCR w/ HMT-200s (or another comparable speaker system in this price range like Phil AA) and a cheaper sub (hsu mk 5? or really cheap like BIC 15) - in terms of bang for the buck this is obviously going to be the best option. I've heard for HT and game duty, there isn't a massive delta between this and the RAALs. I suppose I could still do a similar upgrade path later by moving these to surround, dumping the CMT-340 center and getting Horizon w/ RAAL or Sierra 2, and the Sierra towers or Sierra 2s. The CMT-340s should still be a good match with the Sierra lineup right? I'd also probably need to upgrade the sub if I get a cheaper sub, so that's more money wasted down the line. However as I cannot really turn up the bass, I already know that something as good as HP15 would be way too much and something like the BIC 15 would probably be good enough for now. So the negatives are possibly "wasting" money on the sub and the CMT center down the line. Also, would I really be seeing a significant improvement given my constraints? I have no doubt the Sierra 2s would blow away my current setup even at lower volumes, but would a cheaper system do the same?

    3. Just wait for now - well if going for a cheaper setup like CMTs or whatever won't improve my audio performance that much given my restraints (small room, lower volume), maybe I can just wait until I move to a better place. Then I can go really go all out and get the RAAL towers with a high quality sub that fits my future area. This is obviously the "financially prudent" option. While my current setup really isn't even decent, if I really won't be seeing much improvement until my HT situation changes, then perhaps this would be the best. Then I can save the money for the future mega-upgrade rather than spending some of it now and having to go cheaper in the future. Also, it's possible that the future brings markedly better audio gear like Sierra 3 with super RAAL or some other new speaker tech that blows away in terms of price/performance all current options, in which case it could be better to wait for the future magical speakers.

    If anyone has some advice or recommendations on what I should think about doing, I would greatly appreciate it! I am open to any and all suggestions even ones that I haven't listed, so those three aren't by any means the three I am settled on. Thanks for any advice/help!

  2. #2
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    Feb 2016
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    No matter what you do, I think upgrading to any Ascend speakers from what you have will be a big and worthwhile upgrade. First off, the delta between performance of each speaker is really a personal thing. Certain qualities are much more important to some people than others (treble clarity, impact, dynamics, bass quantity/quality, imaging, etc) so it's impossible to slap a value on it that will be representative for anyone except that user.

    The thing to keep in mind is that the RAAL tweeters are world-class pieces of engineering bliss. Nothing else I've heard has that level of clarity and accuracy while not being harsh or metallic sounding. It's a fantastic experience. The other dome tweeters Dave uses are also incredible and great performers which will sound fantastic over what you have. I just think the RAALs add an extra level that anyone can appreciate in any room. The other thing with the Sierras is that they are in beautiful bamboo cabinets with options for finishes, while the other speakers are much more utilitarian. So if looks matter to you in the long run, that is a consideration. I'm very happy with how beautiful my Towers are in satin black and I don't regret splurging for that at all.

    As for subwoofer, that's all up to you and what you're willing to spend. Rythmik subs are always going to be tighter and punchier, but some people prefer a bit more flubby bass for games and movies because it gives you more of that wow factor and is closer to what people expect when a lot of bass is present. I think you'd be happy with whatever you can afford from HSU, SVS, or Rythmik, especially since you're in a smaller room for now.

    If it were me, I'd spring for the Sierra-2 LCR, use the HTM-200's for surround duty (they're easier to place as surrounds, no rear port to contend with, and they match just fine IMO), and pick up whatever sub makes your budget happy. There's no real reason to buy a giant sub just because you might move to a bigger room one day. I'd say just get an FVX15. It has plenty of power for most rooms, and will work just fine in a bigger space, plus it'll hit like a truck in your small room and will be tons of fun. Keep in mind that it weighs over 100 pounds, though, so it's not like it's easy to move. If that is a concern you may want to go with SVS, as HSU subs also weigh a ton.

    Ignore anyone who tells you you'd be happy with Klipsch in the long run. They are lying to you and themselves. I've been down that path and even the HTM-200's just walk all over any Klipsch speakers I've heard. Horns are just the worst for detail and imaging. Sure the soundstage is wide, but images are flat and boring and high frequency detail comes across like nails on a chalkboard when you compare them to any of Dave's designs. You're being charged $300 for speakers that cost maybe $20 to make, plus all of their marketing, sales, distribution, and normal markup to include. Dave gives you waaaaay more speaker for your dollar, no matter what way you look at it. I'm willing to bet that the crossover components in the HTM-200 alone cost more than the materials for an entire Klipsch speaker, drivers and housing included.

    It's also important to factor in what receiver or processor/amp you're using. If you have an older or lower powered receiver you'll want to upgrade that as well, lest you underpower your fantastic speakers. If you need to drop more money on electronics, I would say it's fine to ratchet the budget down a bit and go with a decent receiver and a full CMT setup.
    -Alex
    PS4/Nvidia Shield --> Emotiva XMC-1 --> Emotiva XPA-5 --> Ascend Acoustics Sierra Towers and Horizon Center w/ RAAL tweeters (L/C/R), HTM-200 SE (Surrounds), 2x Rythmik F12 subwoofers

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    Thanks for the response! Yeah I will probably get x3300 or x4300 which is a separate upgrade (something I will do regardless of what I do on the speakers). And I won't go THAT cheap and get Klipsch haha, I've done a lot of reading and everyone says a lot of good things about Ascend, the question is more if I would benefit significantly now rather than later.

    That's a good suggestion on the sub, I could probably cheap out and get a lighter sub for now. Hrm so you think then that even for only HT viewing, the Sierra 2s are still worthwhile over the 340s? A lot of people say that the RAAL are great for music which requires the utmost in detail, but movies can get away with anything since it's some dialog and explosions. But if it really does make a significant difference even over the 340s then I would probably be inclined to go that direction.

    What do you think about the Sierra Lunas? I haven't seen much about those since they are new, but I was also thinking that I could do Luna LR w/ Sierra 2 C, then in the future get the towers and move those back to surrounds. The Luna seem like they would be more ideal for surrounds than the S2 since they are smaller and can be much more easily wall mounted. Also they would be easier to squeeze in my current setup. However I have no idea how good they are as LR, or if I should just stick with the S2s.

    Also how does the Horizon w/ RAAL compare against S2 center? I've read that it's a bit better, but for HT maybe not that important? And the price and size differential seems to be pretty large.

    Anyway thanks for all your suggestions! I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do as it's a large purchase either way, and everything helps! Ultimately, if even at lower volumes and for HT usage the RAAL lineup will be significantly better than the 340 I would want to go that direction, but if it's a very minor difference (like a subjective <5%) then I'd might just go 340s.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    I wouldn't say it's a "get away with" thing, more of a fact that the CMT is a fantastic speaker that will do the job for sure, but the extra detail in the Sierra-2 and the beauty of the speaker itself are icing on the cake. The Luna is just as good, it just has a little less bass. It is actually perfect for this application and would be even more ideal than the Sierra-2 most likely, as you are intending to use a sub all the time anyway. It's in the Sierra family and is apparently vastly similar to the Sierra-2, just a little less bass, and again, not a big deal with a receiver and a nice sub. They'll also work perfectly as surrounds later on as you said.

    The S2 is an extremely competent center channel speaker. I don't think you need to splurge on the Horizon. It is a behemoth of a center compared to the luna or S2 and will be hard for you to place. Yes it is a better speaker, but in a smaller room you just don't really need it.

    It's up to you to decide if the 340's will be enough for you or if you'll want the beauty of the Sierra cabinets and crazy detail of the RAAL tweeters. To me, it was worth it.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the CMT-340 is very efficient. One forum user was able to fill a whole church with a stereo pair and a normal amp. It's quite the room-filling speaker. In your current situation it might even be overkill. I'd probably stick to the CBM-170 in the front and HTM-200 on the surrounds if you decide to wait on the Sierra series. The CBM's could always be used in a second setup or as desktop speakers whenever you decide to upgrade.
    -Alex
    PS4/Nvidia Shield --> Emotiva XMC-1 --> Emotiva XPA-5 --> Ascend Acoustics Sierra Towers and Horizon Center w/ RAAL tweeters (L/C/R), HTM-200 SE (Surrounds), 2x Rythmik F12 subwoofers

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    So how big is the room?

    Sludge's mindset on this is pretty much like my own, but I will say this:

    If you truly don't listen to music, I think the use of a RAAL tweeter is lost. That said, everyone that I know that has said they don't listen to much music and has gotten themselves some nice speakers, has always ended up listening to more music.

    I just finished watching Guardians of the Galaxy in preparation for Vol. 2 that will be released in theaters next week. Now, I am listening to some good music. Love my Sierra-2, HTM-200SE, Rythmik F15HP setup.

    Over the course of the around the last 14 years, I have had the original CBM-170's with the original HTM-200's as surrounds, then the CMT-340SE's with CBM-170SE's as surrounds, Sierra-1's with HTM-200SE's as surrounds, and now Sierra-2's. You can't miss with any of them.
    -curtis

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    Ah thanks for the additional information!

    The room is only 10x12 and there's other stuff in here too which makes the space for HT gear somewhat limited, especially full standing towers (which are a no-go). I have no doubt that I probably don't need anything that good right now, but in the future when I have the space I want to be able to bring these over without having to toss them or upgrade yet again.

    From what sludgeorgre says, it seems like the Luna would be a great solution if I opt for RAAL, since I can move those to surround duty easily in the future if I upgrade (and while the HMT would be punted, those are pretty cheap so I wouldn't feel as bad, or if by then I go for some Atmos solution or whatever I can use those as the additional speakers).

    But if only music will really bring out their potential, it might be a waste in my situation. I will say this actually, I do listen to music but never with my speakers (which suck). Instead I use headphones because I don't want to bother neighbors, and my headphones are fairly decent including several Sennheisers, Shure SE535, Westone W40, and Hifiman HE-400i. But if the RAALs will make a marked difference at lower volumes (low enough that my neighbor, who shares the party wall with my room, won't complain again) then like you said I might change my listening habits haha. But then the comparison would be with those headphones, and not a pos speaker system.

    So after some deliberation with you guys I think I would either go Luna LR S2 C w/ HMT-200s (and have a great upgrade path to towers in the future) or opt for the 340s or 170s LCR w/ HMT surrounds. This would be cheaper by a significant margin, and perhaps perfectly fine for my applications, but the upgrade path is not great. And like sludgeogre says, the S2s really do look great. Hrm decisions decisions... thanks for all the advice so far, it has at least narrowed down my options!
    Last edited by yummypuppy; 04-26-2017 at 12:30 AM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    Ahh...with that new info, I think Lunas up front would be an excellent choice. The Sierra-2 center is not needed, use another Luna as a center. Heck, Lunas all around, and you may not leave the room...although the HTM-200SE is excellent.

    In fact, in your room, HTM-200's all the way around with a Rythmik F12 would be an excellent option on a lower budget and IMO, blow a lot of many higher priced systems out of the water in sound quality.

    Where do you live? Maybe there are some local Ascend owners willing to have you over for a listen.
    -curtis

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    What are these Luna's you are writing about, I ask because I am likely to upgrade to Ascend.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    Quote Originally Posted by ilikeitloud View Post
    What are these Luna's you are writing about, I ask because I am likely to upgrade to Ascend.
    http://forum.ascendacoustics.com/sho...a-Mini-Monitor!
    Ed

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Advice on speaker system purchase

    Oh hrm then I think Lunas might be the way to go! I might still want to get S2 center simply because it gives me a really nice upgrade path when my living situation improves, and also I can't just buy one Luna! Yeah HTM-200s are very likely good enough but I think I would enjoy the little extra so to speak, and would never have to replace the Lunas out too.

    I actually live an hour away from the San Clemente HQ (northern San Diego) so I guess it might be possible to visit? Can you actually place an order there and pick up there? It would save a bit on shipping costs. But I've read that there's a listening room there? Might be fun to see how good the towers actually are!

    Thanks for all the help so far!

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