Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 Bookshelf Speaker Review

Discussion in 'Loudspeakers' started by admin, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. admin Audioholics Robot Staff Member

    admin
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    If I had to describe it in a word, that word would be "pandemonium." That was what seemed to be happening in the audiophile community as Ascend Acoustics announced their new "reference" bookshelf speakers, the Sierra-1's. Long time lovers of the brand were putting their beloved speakers up for sale with the Sierra-1's on pre-order. Sight unseen, ear unheard, the Sierra's were being compared and debated against speakers many times their price. As bookshelf speakers go, they aren't the cheapest but this is definitely a case of "you get what you pay for." And you're getting a lot. The bass and treble extension seems out of place in the same box. Usually you hope for one or the other. In this case, you get both and in a bookshelf package.
    [​IMG]

    Discuss "Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 Bookshelf Speaker Review" here. Read the article.
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  2. Geoh Junior Audioholic

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    Great review as always!
    You mentioned the Usher 520s but never, at least I didn't see it, mention how the Sierra's compared to them?
    Also you weren't completely happy with the Sierra's midrange, was that because of the bass heaviness and it's masking effect or was there something else?
    One more question if you will, have you heard the NHT Classic Three's. If so any thoughts on how the Sierra's and Three's would match up?
    Thanks for the timely review,
    Regards,
    geoh
    Geoh,
  3. Matt34 Moderator

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    Wow, great review! So that was what all the hoopla was about.


    They sure do look better than the plain-jane 340se.
  4. Davemcc Audioholic Spartan

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    I read that they are not cheap and that you get what you pay for. How much is that, exactly?
  5. avaserfi Audioholic Ninja

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  6. STRONGBADF1 Audioholic Spartan

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    Hi Davemmc,

    $798 per pair in natural, $858 for piano black, and $20 per speaker for shielding.

    Yea i've been looking at these...:)

    SBF1
  7. STRONGBADF1 Audioholic Spartan

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  8. Reorx Full Audioholic

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    The review wasnt ment to be compaired to other speakers. It was about the Sierra's. The up and coming bookshelf shoot out will compare everything.

    What's odd, is that when I heard the Sierra's, the bass was tight and very accurate. And I thought I heard the midrange just fine.

    When doing reviews, do you just take them out of the box, plug them in, and listen? Or do they get fully calibrated, then reviewed? The only thing mentioned that I saw was the positioning, ie: toe'ing them in.

    The SPL vs Freq graph looks very similar to what was posted on Ascends website. The 3khz dip is there. Though above that (4khz+), the Ascend graph is pretty flat, where Tom's graph had it higher. Could this be because of the environment it was tested in? in a chamber vs in a real room?

    Decent review. I am still on the fence, it seems like they are up there with the RBH's MC-6C's, and the Ushers. I look forward to the bookshelf shootout.

    Thanks.

    Reorx
  9. Jason Coleman Banned

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    I snagged a pair of the naturals on the day they came out and have never looked back. Great speaker and huge sound in a small hefty package. I'm in the process of building matching stands right now. I'm using the Sierras in a dedicated 2-channel no-sub setup in our office. Fantastic laid-back sound and very detailed and articulate. Plenty of bass for a small to midsized room with no need for a sub (for music at least). Only caveat is that they aren't terribly efficient. I'll consider adding a 2-channel amp at some point in the future. Right now I'm using a Pio Elite 55txi to power them. I've been very happy with their performance and people never cease to be amazed at the quality and quantity of sound these speakers can put out.

    J.
  10. sam1000 Audiophyte

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    Shootout

    Is the shootout Tom mentioned involves blind test? In that case, it would be really interesting to see whether the testers can identify the recessed midrange of Ascend Vs the midrange of s520. Same thing with the Bass accuracy. Tom loves s520 way too much :) At least he admitted that the comparison was not blind.
    User is getting good reviews everywhere, I'm going to audition it at a dealer in next few days.
  11. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

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    We didn't directly compare the Ushers with the Ascends. The Ascends are in a different class all together. We put speakers of similar pricing up against each other and heard quite a dramatic increase in fidelity from the $400/pr to $800/pr price class as expected.

    For now lets keep the this thread on topic and start a face off review thread once that review is posted. thanks.
    gene,
  12. billnchristy Senior Audioholic

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    These are very pretty speakers.

    I am seriously contemplating building a set of bookshelfs with that tweeter and maybe a 7" hi-vi.
  13. silversurfer Senior Audioholic

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    Will you do your own crossover too? That seems to be a pretty exclusive piece to the Sierra. The tweeter is supposedly customized for Ascend. I have seen a similar tweeter on Totem's wall mount speaker.
  14. PatrickBateman Junior Audioholic

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    I am pretty sure the tweeter is custom made for Ascend.
  15. Matt34 Moderator

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    Text taken from AcsendAcoustic's owner David F description of the tweeter used in the Sierra 1.

  16. WmAx Audioholic Samurai

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    As for good tweeters with typical monopole off axis response, very flat response, superb CSD and very low distortion, get a BG NEO 3 PDR. In addition to all of these traits you seem to want, it is an almost perfect resistive load (it's a planar), and can be used down to 2000Hz with appropriate crossover, making it extremely easy to integrate with a wide selection of mid-bass drivers.

    The only notable thing about that tweeter, compared to what you can typically get DIY, is the waveguide. A waveguide (used on pro monitors for many years now) removes the edge diffraction disturbances that occur when the tweeter's sound pressure waves meet a sudden pressure change at the cabinet edges. The waveguide focuses the energy to be distributed more on axis, to remove the stray off axis energy. Of course, this further limited off axis response may not be desired, depending on the objective/end use of the speaker. But that's another topic. You can achieve the same diffraction reducing effect, with wider dispersion(a desirable thing in normal circumstances), by using very large radius on the cabinet edges (2"-3" for example). However, this can often lead to large increases in cabinet production cost, and as such, is a fairly rare feature in low and moderate cost production speakers. You can also make a waveguide if you have a lathe, and copy the profile of a known working unit. Or you can buy some plastic shallow horn waveguides, which are appropriate, if you shave the back off and mount the tweeter to the back at the appropriate depth. Zaph Audio DIY blog site has such an example thoroughly documented along with part numbers and sources. [Note: I do not endrose the Zaph site, I only refer to it in the specific citation of the DIY waveguide]

    The Seas tweeter used by Ascend may be a nice integrated package. But I don't believe it's available to DIYers yet, and I am not sure of the cost. Will it be cost effective for DIY, as compared to the alternate methods to achieve the same effect it offers?

    Another issue here is the cabinet. Due to the inherent increased stiffness of the bamboo, it would be substantially less resonant than a MDF cabinet of equal construction dimensions/bracing. While still not likely to be non-resonant, it would likely be a large improvement. This needs to be considered in the DIY cabinets. Typical MDF box construction methods/bracing, IMO, is worthless, for a supposed high-fidelity loudspeaker. The reviewer also commented that the speaker used what looks like fiberglass board cut up and placed in bags in the speaker. Could this be rigid fiberglass board? Like OC705 or equivalent? If so, it would be rare that a speaker manufacture bothers to use extremely high quality acoustic damping material. Normally, a low density fiberglass, low quality thin foam, or low density Dacron/poly fill is used. Usually sub-optimal. This should also be considered in the DIY design.

    The Sierra, according to the manufacturer, uses a very low distortion mid-bass with long linear excursion/incursion. The surround of the mid-bass certainly appears to be unusually capable, though this is only superficial evidence. But let's assume this speaker really does have the non-linear distortion vs. excursion performance of say for example, a premium Seas Excel driver.

    Overall, it would appear the Sierra is one hell of a well engineered speaker for it's retail price class.

    -Chris
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2007
    WmAx,
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  17. billnchristy Senior Audioholic

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  18. silversurfer Senior Audioholic

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    Yeah, externally it looks the same, but my understanding is that there are modifications internally. According to a post on the AVS forum, the one you linked to is not chambered(also the Seas site does not list it as chambered), but the one Ascend uses is. My guess Ascend combined some aspects to get a custom version of this tweeter.

    To my knowledge, I don't think LEAP can create a variable slope crossover with the phase aspects of the Ascend crossover.

    What other speakers have you built and why do you want to build a Sierra clone?
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2007
  19. Tex-amp Senior Audioholic

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  20. billnchristy Senior Audioholic

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    Im sorry dude, but there is no voodoo in this:

    [​IMG]

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