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Thread: From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Upstate NY
    Posts
    19

    Default From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

    I have now had a week of listening time on my new Ascend Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12 subwoofer setup and I just wanted to share my thoughts on the experience.

    My original goal, when I started looking to upgrade from my Ascend Sierra-1 speakers, was to fill my listening area a little better and achieve more volume headroom. The area of the house where I have them is pretty open and my primary listening position is about 9 feet away. As good as my existing Sierra-1's are, it seemed like I was asking a bit much from them to really fill that large of a space.

    The Rythmik L12 subwoofer was the first component to arrive - which was nice because it allowed me to pair it with the Sierra-1's while I waited for the Towers. The addition of a good quality subwoofer positioned right between the Sierra-1's made a vast improvement in the bass. Tight and clean no boominess. It really paired well with the Sierra-1's. I debated for a while about which subwoofer to get. I figured since my setup was not going to be used for home theater and the Towers were suppose to be quite capable in the bass department, I would give the L12 a chance to enhance if I needed more, I could go bigger or add another L12.

    After the Towers arrived, I swapped out the Sierra1's with the Towers. What an impressive sound experience. While I was waiting for the Towers to arrive I was worried that I might be setting my expectations too high WOW was I wrong to worry. The quality I noticed first and foremost was the airiness of the vocals the lightness or delicateness of the sound. I found both voice and instrument incredible clear and detailed. The mid-range is full and well represented and the bass has a tight and definitive punch. The overall sound is beautifully neutral and natural. One unexpected surprise came after several hours of listening (sometimes at significant volume) - I had ZERO listening fatigue. Even after a week of extended listening, I have yet to experience listening fatigue with these speakers. That alone has made purchasing these Towers with the RAAL upgrade so worth the investment. The Rythmix L12 does a great job integrating with the Towers, enhancing the lower range and for the price, was a no-brainer. The whole setup is just so perfectly matched. These are truly special speakers.

    I cannot thank Dave and Dina enough for the advice and assistance they provided while trying to decide which components would be best for my environment just unparalleled customer service. Thanks also to the members of the Ascend forum/community for their input, helping me understand some important audio concepts and for sharing their experiences and expertise what a great resource to have available to customers. I read numerous threads and found some great information within them.

    If you are interested in changes I made to my setup other than the speaker upgrades, please read on.

    Just for perspective, here is what I started with before I began my upgrade search:

    Harmon Kardon 3490 (120w/ch)
    2011 Ascend Sierra-1 Speakers w/stands
    Cambridge SW cube-8 Subwoofer
    Source: CD, TT, but mostly streaming (laptop/phone → rca cable direct connect and bluetooth)

    ** This is a 2.1 setup with no home theater application.
    Listening room (20'L x 20'W x 8'H) well furnished.
    Listening position 8-9' from spkrs.



    Source content matters......a lot. Garbage in, garbage out. I switched from free digital content services, like Youtube and the like, to a pay for music subscription service Amazon Music in my case. Yes this did cost a little bit of money ($199 /year for family), but consistent CD+ quality content, extremely deep content library and absence of commercials was well worth it.

    Digital to analog conversion is also very important. This can be handled at a variety of points between the source and the speakers, but I found that in my setup, laptop soundcards do have a wide range of quality. Even if the bit/sample settings are equivalent between laptop soundcards, there can be a clear audio quality difference between two devices and newer does not always mean better. I found getting even an inexpensive external DAC (Schiit Modi+ $100) was worth the money to offload that work and get consistent quality conversion no matter the source device (phone, laptop, etc). I can't speak to comparing the many external DAC choices, but my guess is and from what I have read, there are some diminishing returns chasing those improvements. Not sure where the sweet spot is, but I think a decent external DAC is helpful especially if you stream from a laptop.

    Bluetooth technology is convenient but the quality loss was audibly apparent. I did not try any of the latest bluetooth versions, so if anyone has thoughts on that, please share.

    Listening environment factors (room size, distance from speakers, audio or HT, listening volume level, etc) are important considerations when trying to determine what speakers to purchase.

    The Ascend Sierra-1 speakers are still a great speaker especially if you pair them with a quality Subwoofer (like the Rythmik line) in a smaller environment. I imagine the new Sierra-2ex are even more impressive having now heard the RAAL tweeter.

    It occurred to me that I never mentioned the look and feel of the Sierra Towers as I really care almost exclusively about the sound. That said, my satin cherry Sierra Towers are some damn fine looking speakers. The build quality and attention to detail is clearly evident. I did buy felt/rubber based feet in the same thread pattern as the spiked feet and pucks that come with the towers. I have hardwood floors and these work great for repositioning/adjusting the location of the speakers.

    In the end, get good quality content to the best quality speakers your budget will allow and you will be rewarded with hours and hours of listening pleasure.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    632

    Default Re: From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

    Nice write-up! Totally agree, buy the best quality speakers you can.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Upstate NY
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

    Thanks racrawford65 - your knowledge and insights were quite helpful in deciding what speakers to settle on. I have been reading numerous posts throughout the forum for some months now. I knew from the Sierra-1s' that Ascend made great speakers, but nothing prepared me for these Sierra Towers and that RAAL ribbon tweeter - just incredible. The Rythmik sub added just the right amount of low end fullness without being overbearing. Can't stop listening to them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    632

    Default Re: From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

    Glad I could help. I run 2 E15's with my towers as I'm in a big open area as well.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    4,436

    Default Re: From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

    Quote Originally Posted by jimlucci View Post
    I have now had a week of listening time on my new Ascend Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12 subwoofer setup and I just wanted to share my thoughts on the experience.

    My original goal, when I started looking to upgrade from my Ascend Sierra-1 speakers, was to fill my listening area a little better and achieve more volume headroom. The area of the house where I have them is pretty open and my primary listening position is about 9 feet away. As good as my existing Sierra-1's are, it seemed like I was asking a bit much from them to really fill that large of a space.

    The Rythmik L12 subwoofer was the first component to arrive - which was nice because it allowed me to pair it with the Sierra-1's while I waited for the Towers. The addition of a good quality subwoofer positioned right between the Sierra-1's made a vast improvement in the bass. Tight and clean – no boominess. It really paired well with the Sierra-1's. I debated for a while about which subwoofer to get. I figured since my setup was not going to be used for home theater and the Towers were suppose to be quite capable in the bass department, I would give the L12 a chance to enhance – if I needed more, I could go bigger or add another L12.

    After the Towers arrived, I swapped out the Sierra1's with the Towers. What an impressive sound experience. While I was waiting for the Towers to arrive I was worried that I might be setting my expectations too high – WOW was I wrong to worry. The quality I noticed first and foremost was the airiness of the vocals – the lightness or delicateness of the sound. I found both voice and instrument incredible clear and detailed. The mid-range is full and well represented and the bass has a tight and definitive punch. The overall sound is beautifully neutral and natural. One unexpected surprise came after several hours of listening (sometimes at significant volume) - I had ZERO listening fatigue. Even after a week of extended listening, I have yet to experience listening fatigue with these speakers. That alone has made purchasing these Towers with the RAAL upgrade so worth the investment. The Rythmix L12 does a great job integrating with the Towers, enhancing the lower range and for the price, was a no-brainer. The whole setup is just so perfectly matched. These are truly special speakers.

    I cannot thank Dave and Dina enough for the advice and assistance they provided while trying to decide which components would be best for my environment – just unparalleled customer service. Thanks also to the members of the Ascend forum/community for their input, helping me understand some important audio concepts and for sharing their experiences and expertise – what a great resource to have available to customers. I read numerous threads and found some great information within them.

    If you are interested in changes I made to my setup other than the speaker upgrades, please read on.

    Just for perspective, here is what I started with before I began my upgrade search:

    Harmon Kardon 3490 (120w/ch)
    2011 Ascend Sierra-1 Speakers w/stands
    Cambridge SW cube-8 Subwoofer
    Source: CD, TT, but mostly streaming (laptop/phone → rca cable direct connect and bluetooth)

    ** This is a 2.1 setup with no home theater application.
    Listening room (20'L x 20'W x 8'H) – well furnished.
    Listening position 8-9' from spkrs.



    Source content matters......a lot. Garbage in, garbage out. I switched from free digital content services, like Youtube and the like, to a pay for music subscription service – Amazon Music in my case. Yes this did cost a little bit of money ($199 /year for family), but consistent CD+ quality content, extremely deep content library and absence of commercials was well worth it.

    Digital to analog conversion is also very important. This can be handled at a variety of points between the source and the speakers, but I found that in my setup, laptop soundcards do have a wide range of quality. Even if the bit/sample settings are equivalent between laptop soundcards, there can be a clear audio quality difference between two devices and newer does not always mean better. I found getting even an inexpensive external DAC (Schiit Modi+ $100) was worth the money to offload that work and get consistent quality conversion no matter the source device (phone, laptop, etc). I can't speak to comparing the many external DAC choices, but my guess is and from what I have read, there are some diminishing returns chasing those improvements. Not sure where the sweet spot is, but I think a decent external DAC is helpful – especially if you stream from a laptop.

    Bluetooth technology is convenient but the quality loss was audibly apparent. I did not try any of the latest bluetooth versions, so if anyone has thoughts on that, please share.

    Listening environment factors (room size, distance from speakers, audio or HT, listening volume level, etc) are important considerations when trying to determine what speakers to purchase.

    The Ascend Sierra-1 speakers are still a great speaker – especially if you pair them with a quality Subwoofer (like the Rythmik line) in a smaller environment. I imagine the new Sierra-2ex are even more impressive having now heard the RAAL tweeter.

    It occurred to me that I never mentioned the look and feel of the Sierra Towers as I really care almost exclusively about the sound. That said, my satin cherry Sierra Towers are some damn fine looking speakers. The build quality and attention to detail is clearly evident. I did buy felt/rubber based feet in the same thread pattern as the spiked feet and pucks that come with the towers. I have hardwood floors and these work great for repositioning/adjusting the location of the speakers.

    In the end, get good quality content to the best quality speakers your budget will allow and you will be rewarded with hours and hours of listening pleasure.
    Thank you for the wonderful review! Thrilled to know how much you are enjoying the towers and thanks for putting up with the extended delays
    .
    .
    .
    Good Sound To You!

    David Fabrikant
    www.ascendacoustics.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    S.E. La. - USA
    Posts
    149

    Thumbs up Re: From Sierra-1's to Sierra Towers w/RAAL and Rythmik L12

    Quote Originally Posted by jimlucci View Post
    ...Listening environment factors (room size, distance from speakers, audio or HT, listening volume level, etc) are important considerations when trying to determine what speakers to purchase.

    The Ascend Sierra-1 speakers are still a great speaker especially if you pair them with a quality Subwoofer (like the Rythmik line) in a smaller environment. I imagine the new Sierra-2ex are even more impressive having now heard the RAAL tweeter.

    ...In the end, get good quality content to the best quality speakers your budget will allow and you will be rewarded with hours and hours of listening pleasure.
    Great RAAL-Tower review, Jim!

    All spot-on comments. My 2EX Monitors are Perfect for my smaller dedicated music environment!

    Ted
    Sierra-2EX, Axiom EP 500, Emotiva USP-1, Emotiva UPA-2, Phillips CD880 (dedicated 2.1 listening room)!

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