Advice on bookshelf speakers (Sierra 2, Buchardt, Monitor Audio, LS50)


Hello all. I'm interested in feedback from anyone who has experience with some of the listed speakers. Here's my long short story... after heavy interest in audio very early in my adult life, I lost track for a number of years (aka we had a kid) and have recently gotten back into stereo enjoyment. I have Monitor Audio Gold GR10 speakers which are from around 2002. Honestly I have no major complaints about the speakers' performance but I'm interested in exploring new things and seeing what might be available now after 15+ years of technological improvement in speaker design (ok, I know some 40 year old ones still sound great but stay with me here). I also have a pair of Monitor Audio Silver S6's (older ones from maybe 2004) which being floorstanders have obvious bass differences from the bookshelf GR10s but otherwise are clearly (to me) not as good.

What I'm Looking for:
Any listening experience you can share regarding these speakers (or similar):
-Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 (I've read great things about these but have never heard a ribbon tweeter in my life and have seen conflicting info saying they are flat and clear like LS-50s and others saying they are nothing like LS-50s)
-Buchardt S400 (The way I've heard the sound described seems like what I like in a speaker)
-Monitor Audio silver or gold bookshelves (for comparison to speakers I am familiar with)
-KEF LS50 (which I recently bought and do not like - see below)
If you can compare them to each other, that's great. Or if you've heard any of them and can describe the sound the produce or what kind of music you think they're good for, that's great too. Floorstanders are not an option for me due to spousal and child constraints.

What I Listen to:
While I enjoy classical music, I only use it as background music when I want to relax and don't do any critical listening so I'm not worried about classical music performance. Music I really LISTEN to covers a wide gamut from rock (sometimes hard), a lot of electric guitar (I used to play fairly seriously), some jazz (love me some Nat King Cole), "modern" female vocals (Norah Jones, Adele), and a bit of electronic craziness thrown in like Bjork and Jamiroquai. Glancing over a recent session I see Incubus, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Norah Jones, Tony Bennett, The Police/Sting, Sade, U2, and Morcheeba. Yes, all over the place. Maybe not your taste but I think it's important to understand the type of music the speakers will be used for.

What Kind of Sound I Like:
I am sorry to say I am not well versed in using audiophile adjectives to describe speaker performance. In my own words, I would say I like lively or punchy speakers with clear (bright?) highs but not bright to the point of harshness or fatigue. I don't like mid-range to be too pronounced. I remember as a kid playing with old stereos that all had EQs on them, I would set it in a V shape, turning down all the midrange frequencies. I like the sound to draw me in and make me smile and want to dance. My GR10 bookshelves can do this on some music. A bassline kicks in, or the chorus swells, and you feel that dynamic energy in the room. The KEF-LS50 can't do this on anything. And when I say punchy, I don't mean lots of bass. I have subs to fill in the low region. But the LS50s sound very flat to me - I don't mean flat frequency response, I mean they just sound like they perfectly produce a sound but have no emotion behind it. It's perhaps a lack of dynamics. The best analogy I can draw is when you turn on Dolby volume control which eliminates peaks and valleys in volume. The speaker gives me a feeling that everything sounds very clear and vocals are amazing, but it's not very dynamic, almost like no matter what is happening in the music it's all the same volume level.

Where I Listen: 
This is a family room setup in a great-room style room (aka big and open). Most listening is done standing up and moving around the room but when I really want to listen closely I usually stand in the sweet spot right behind the couch. The sweet spot is not noticeably better than other areas around the room, though, which is important to me. I'd prefer good dispersion since it's rare for me or anyone to be in the sweet spot for an extended period. The speakers are 10 feet apart from each other and a minimum of 10 feet and up to 30 feet away from our ears, depending where we are in the room or what we're doing.

Associated Equipment:
I have various gear around the house but amplification will be from Musical Fidelity - either an A5 integrated amp or an A308cr amp (both 250wpc so more than enough for any bookshelf). Source is mostly high-res Tidal streams coming via Roon to a PS Audio DSJr DAC. When not using the integrated amp, my weak link is my preamp. Currently (also due to spousal and size constraints) I am using a Marantz receiver, with the pre-outs run to the MF A308cr. Some of those things may change but suffice it to say power will never be a problem. I also have a 12 inch Sunfire sub currently mated to the GR10s and in another system/room I also have a Rythmik F12se.

Thank you and sorry to anyone that made it through this long winded post. Any feedback at all will be much appreciated. And if anyone has questions for me about any of the equipment I have, I'm happy to share.


jnehma1
Outside of the box thinking here.

You might want to try the Kef LS50w wireless version. You could get them on a 60 day trial, and listen for yourself. that would allow you to sell off your other equipment, and reduce the "clutter". Keep the DAC and Sub .

I'm trying out a pair right now and it is easily replacing my Cronus Magnum I integrated and Warfedale 10.7s and the Totem arros.

They do need at least 20 hours of break-in preferably more. Mine sounded boxy and boomy when I first powered them up.
Now after a couple of very long days they are sounding really good.

good luck
mdr
Hi mdelrossi1, thanks for your reply. I'm hesitant on this approach for several reasons. First, I already am predisposed against the sound of the LS-50s, and I know the powered ones incorporate DSP, but I still have a lot of doubt that the speaker will sound completely different than the passive version. Also, I bought my amps more than a decade ago and am somewhat attached to them. I was hoping, now that I've been getting back into stereo again, to use them rather than sell them. It's like being reunited with some old friends :-)
Monitor Audio's silver series is sometimes like that. Musical and slightly punchy. Certainly very good value for the money.
@jnehma1, 
Fair enough on your concerns about the LS50w sounding like the passive model, and not wanting to get rid of your amps. Though a 60 day trial gives you an out. 

That being said, the only other speakers I’ve heard that I like are  Focal, I own the 1008be2. Wonderful speakers soundstage for days and matches well with primaluna dialogue integrated.

Also the Totem line, I had the rainmakers they needed a sub, but other than that holographic imaging. So you might want to check out their Forrest signature floorstander.

good luck.


mdr
30ft listening distance?!!!!

Well, that’s your issue, most speakers aren’t loud enough for >15ft away, especially not the LS50’s which are <85dB sensitive, I was gonna recommend the Philharmonic BMR (better than the Sierra-2 and LS50), but it’s barely more efficient than the LS50.

Your MA speakers are around 88dB (they aren’t super neutral so it’s hard to estimate), which means it needs about 1/2 the wattage the LS50 needs to get as loud, that’s a big difference, it also is a slightly easier load, so it likely gets around 2.2x as loud with the same wattage.

The Sierra-2 is also <87dB, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

The S400 is 88dB and 4ohm, so it should be fine.

The Polk LSiM703 is good.

The KEF R300 at 88dB is good. Accessories4Less has a new pair in gloss black and KEF recertified models for $1000 in gloss black, rosewood, and walnut.

The Selah Anniversario is good, but may be out of budget.

If ok with a wait in exchange for gorgeous cabinets, this Salk model, is real good.
Here’s an idea for you.

Ditch the solid state amp, go for tubes and pickup a speaker from Coherent Audio.
@mzkmxcv thanks for the feedback and other options to look into! The 30 foot distance is when we are in the kitchen, which is open to the family room. It's not the normal distance but we listen from there and from in the family room around 15ft away. Forgive my ignorance but I didn't anticipate any volume problems from any of the speakers. My Musical Fidelity amp weighs over 60lbs and is rated at 250x2 at 8 ohms. Why would a few dB less efficiency (at 1 watt) be a factor?

Salk speakers are definitely very pretty, I should look into them more. I wish I didn't live in a HiFi desert so I could do some auditioning in stores but we have nothing within 3+ hours drive besides Best Buy.
@jnehma1

The issue isn’t limited wattage supply, the issue is limited wattage handling by the speakers. Most speakers can’t handle more than around 100W, especially without distorting. Some even only 40W and the most I have seen is ~200W (such as some SEAS drivers). The Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 for instance states 200W continuous power handling, yet the measurements show the woofer distorts with only 10W.

As I stated, the LS50 only handles ~125W, which is the same as feeding your MA speaker ~55W (factoring in the harder impedance load), that should show just how much louder the MA can get. 
 
Even 15ft is pretty far. Is your seating against the wall? If so, that is the absolute worst place in a room to listen. If so, I would recommend a sofa table (skinny table behind your seating, can place some trinkets, photos, lights, etc.), which I have done. 
 
Feeding a speaker 40W while listening 7ft away gets as loud as roughly 100W while listening 14ft away. Even at 15ft, the LS50 can easily be seen as not being dynamic enough for many genres of content.
Interesting, thank you for educating me on some of those technical details. The room is wide open so there is open space behind the couch for at least 6 feet. But the funny thing about this is that I tested the LS50s in both the family room and in my media room (man cave) which has about 9 foot listening distance. It was in the man cave where I especially noticed the lack of dynamics in the speakers, and they were mated with a Rythmik F12 in that room.
i agree the ls 50s sound like they are made of plastic. 
try a harbeth, or any used pro ac ,   kef R , amphion,   i bet you like any of them better than the ls 50
Given you listen standing up a lot, I’d probably avoid speakers with a ribbon tweeter as their vertical dispersion tends to be limited. The Buchardts sound interesting but might be a little darker sounding than you might like given the review that compares them to the LS50s. Here’s a new discounted pair of Silverline Minuet Grands that would probably add some more detail than the Buchardts and quite a bit more punch, weight, and tone than the LS50s. I think they’re a good step up over the other speakers you listed and really doubt they’d disappoint in any way. Best of luck.
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9b50e-silverline-audio-minuet-grand-as-new-monitors

Here’s a review I found...
https://positive-feedback.com/reviews/hardware-reviews/silverline-minuet-grand-loudspeakers/

Oh yeah, you gotta ditch using the Marantz as a preamp ASAP.  It's no doubt sucking the life out of your sound. 
ATC speakers have the headroom you need. The SCM19 model would be perfect for you. All the aliveness the LS50 miss. Sealed. Your Rythmik subs will be a perfect match. The new MA Studio also interesting but probably not hte headroom. Tannoy, Klipsch...
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Take a look at the Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend

https://www.zuaudio.com/loudspeakers/omen-dirty-weekend-2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTZX9FfZF4w


I have the Zu Omen Dirty Weekend floor standers for a few months now and love them.  They replaced a pair of more expensive Opera Platea floor standers, which were in use for 8 years or so.

I made the move because I was getting bored with the sound of the Plateas. I also tried the Ascend Sierra 1 in the same space.  These speakers are great for near field, but I felt that they lost their magic in bigger, open spaces.   

The Zu sound is  alive, not polite.  The Zu's are often described as speakers for rock music.  They capture the energy and speed of the music.  Clean and clear, not smeared.  Detailed, but not in an etching way.  The sound calls attention to itself ... you  notice the music when it is playing.

A few weeks ago ... I was listening to Elton John's 'Live in Australia' on vinyl (new pressing).  I have listened to this album a lot for close to 30 years and this was the first time I was noticing the chestiness of his vocals and his pronunciation of certain words. The song that struck me in particular was 'Have Mercy on the Criminal.' Very moving to feel that involved in the mix.

And maybe that is the primary 'thing' that I get with the Zu Omens ... the music moves me.  I feel like I am a part of it.    

Because of the 10 inch woofer and high efficiency there is a lot of oomph to the sound.  These speakers make noise.  They also play very clearly, when played low.  


Rich 

I felt the same way you did about the LS50’s not having much dynamic impact at all.  I went with the Wireless LS50’s and am really happy.  The sound amazing.

With that said, I think the Ascend Acoustics look like great speakers; same with the Buchardt S300’s.  I think a good point was made though about the ribbon tweeters not having ideal dispertion properties for your application.  

Those Bucharfts look to be super nice though with a good dispertion I imagine, with that wave guide.

Z reviews loves the Buchardts.  Check out his review on you tube
Correction, S400, not S300...
Thanks to everyone for replying. I've been furiously reading about all the above mentioned speakers!

@b_limo Yes I thought the same thing about the S400's waveguide tweeter. Everyone seems to indicate that you can move about the room with little to no change in tone from the tweeters. That is very appealing in my situation. And I did see the review from Z Reviews, plus a couple other similarly positive ones from Thomas Stereo and Zero Fidelity. I also contacted Mads Buchardt directly and described my setup. He basically confirmed that the S400 was specifically designed for my type of application (not necessarily the large room but the bookshelf setup with little breathing room). He said in his home he has the S400s so close to the wall that the binding posts actually touch it.
I listen to a lot of the same music as you, and am enjoying my s400’s with all of it.  I have them about a foot from the wall, and sit about ten feet away.  I’ve only partially broken them in and they seem to be getting better every day.  I would describe the sound as very clear, and sweet.  They sound great at low volume, better at higher levels.  If you have any specific questions, I’ll be happy to try and answer them. 
I disagree with the tweeter dispersion comments regarding the Sierra2's. Yes, when speaking about most ribbon tweeters, vertical dispersion is lacking compared to domes. But the RAAL tweeters set themselves apart in this regard. They are truly special ribbon tweeters. I have enjoyed my Sierra's for years.
@thecarpathiam 
 
Measurements from Ascend’s own site  
 
It’ll still sound good around +/-10° vertically, which is 6ft is about +/-1ft.

If you have interest in huge sweet spot listening from any location in the room consider OHM https://ohmspeaker.com  something a bit different. That is what I use in similar room.


ls50s are too small for larger rooms. I tried them there and was similarly not impressed. I do have a pair now though in a much smaller 12x12 room with powered sub and they are wonderful in there.
I believe RAAL ribbon's vertical dispersion is competitive with a dome tweeter with the foam inserts. I dont know if you can buy those separately though, you might have to contact RAAL in Serbia directly.