Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 vs. Dynaudio Focus 140/160


I am putting together a new system which will consist of an Audio Research SP14, McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe, and a new set of smaller speakers, which I will look for on the used market. The McCormack is on its way and I’m currently looking for a good SP14 and speakers. The plan is to use these speakers in a smallish space while I take care of my elderly and ill Father. I will eventually relegate these ‘new’ smaller speakers to a bedroom system and get larger towers for the new system. I do have a set of Klipsch Heresy IIIs, and a much older set of Klipsch Cornwalls, which I may try out before opting for a new(er) set of towers.

I understand that the Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 is a fantastic option and is an extremely detailed and musical speaker, and I’m confident I’d be very happy with them. Other than the RAAL tweeter, the Dynaudio Focus 140, or possibly a 160 is very similar in that regard. The Dynaudio has an impedance of 4Ω, while the Sierra 2 is 8Ω. The McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe does 330 at 4Ω, so I will need to be mindful not to crank the volume, but I am unlikely to do so. Luckily, the SP14 has an attenuation knob, which will certainly help in this regard.

I should mention that I have not listened to either speaker as I do not have an option to do so, but I have read numerous reviews and both seem to be stellar options.  I also have never listened to a ribbon tweeter.

Budget is $1.2K, or thereabouts, but I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to saving some money since I’m spending ~ $3K on the SP14 and the McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe.

I have wanted both of these speakers for quite some time. I am leaning just a bit towards the Sierra 2. My quandary is that I have found what I believe to be a pretty danged good deal on the Dynaudio Focus 140. Sierra 2s are somewhat difficult to find and will likely cost around $4-500.00 more than this deal I found on the Focus 140s.

I also considered the Revel M22, but again, they are difficult to find, more expensive than the pair of Focus 140s I found and the reviews aren’t quite as good. Any other speakers I should be considering? Also, I am not in any particular hurry, but that deal on the Focus 140s won’t last for too long.

At any rate, I’d be happy to read your comments on these options as well as any other suggestions you may have. The one non-negotiable requirement is that I am not interested in any speakers manufactured in china.

Thank you.

 

1911

Heh heh. Here, just buy these. I’ve heard them with my DNA 0.5 Rev A and it was a magical pairing and no need to mess with stands. This is a gift and I suggest you take it.
https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649958511-joseph-audio-rm22xl-in-maple/

By the way, your DNA-1 has a known input board problem that is fatal when it fails. This happened to my DNA 0.5 recently so I spent $2700 at SMcAudio for their full upgrade because I loved the amp and just wanted more of the goodness. According to Steve McCormack the DNA-1 is even more problematic than the 0.5 with this problem, just so you’re aware. Hopefully you got a good one and will last you a good while 🤞🤞🤞. Helpful tip — leave your DNA-1 on 24/7 rather than turning it on and off as it is less stressful on the amp. This is as per SMcAudio, and they believe in this so much that my upgraded 0.5 is always on when it’s plugged in, and the on/off switch is now just a dummy light so the wife knows the amp is on. Patrick at SMcAudio said I probably extended the life of my amp considerably because I always left it on. Anyway, hope this helps and best of luck.

The Focus 140 is a fun speaker. Got a mid/upper bass boost that makes it really fun for more modern rock, pop, country. I enjoyed mine a lot. They will not play bass heavy music extremely loud nor are they the most detailed or refined. They are very easy and enjoyable to listen to with a taste of the refinement and audio trickery the more expensive speakers give. Given Dynaudio popularity I see little risk in giving them a go if you got a good deal. Look up past sales on HifiShark if you haven’t yet and see what they have been asking for them. Keep in mind that is the asking price, doesn’t mean they got that much. 
 

I never heard the Sierras but have heard some Vapor speakers with Raal. I liked it a lot, better than domes in a lot of ways. Only thing I noticed was for example a rim shot on a drum have less physical type impact than a dome. Overall though I’d say a good compromise for what it did right. 

FYI guy local to me had to lower his 140s to 600 before they sold. Just FYI. 

@soix: Thanks for the link, but the seller wants a local pickup in NY. Since I’m in TX, that won’t work. Also, I am looking for smaller/bookshelf speakers because I do not have the space for floor-standers. This is for a smaller listening area and furniture is in place that I can use to place a bookshelf sized set of speakers.

As far as the input board flaw is concerned, I believe that only affected early input boards and that the DNA-1 Deluxe is not so afflicted. I will contact SmC or McCormack of VA to find out for sure next week.

@mofojo: Thanks for the info on the Focus 140s. Maybe they aren’t the best choice for me since I am looking for detail and clarity... and at least some bass, but not too much. Perhaps if he continues to lower his price.

As far as the input board flaw is concerned, I believe that only affected early input boards and that the DNA-1 Deluxe is not so afflicted. I will contact SmC or McCormack of VA to find out for sure next week.

Uh, no.  As far as I know the Deluxe version used the same input board as the original and there’s no distinction.  I hope ur right, but I highly doubt it.  Contact SMcAudio if you will, but the news is not good especially for the DNA-1.  Like I said, just leave the DNA-1 on 24/7 and ride it for as long as u can. Best of luck. 

@soix: If you are correct and my DNA-1 Deluxe is afflicted, then I will sell it. I don’t particularly relish the very real possibility of a fatal flaw hanging over me. Unfortunate that I was not aware of this flaw on the Deluxe prior to my purchase, which was last week. I did a fair amount of research on the McCormack and I found no mention of this flaw. Neither did anyone mention the flaw during several forum discussions. This is a severe disappointment; however, I am glad you brought it to my attention.

Perhaps an Odyssey Khartago, Classé Fifteen, or an Audio Research D240 MK II would be a more reliable choice.

Sorry man. Don’t mean to be a buzzkill and you may get many years out of the amp as it’s pretty hit or miss. My guess, use it til it dies if it does, then sink another $2800 into it with Steve’s latest upgrades and you’ll have a new SOTA amp on the relative cheap. Just my $0.02 FWIW.

@soix: I just had a fairly long conversation with Pat at SMc Audio. Great news! He viewed photos of my McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe and it appears that my unit has already had this issue addressed with a new R1 Drive Board. He told me that with that board, I won’t have to worry about any degradation that would lead to failure. He still wants me to take the cover off to confirm, but it looks like I lucked out. Thanks for the information as I never would have known this unless I spoke to Pat at SMc. I’m sure you can imagine that I feel a lot better now.

Wow! That is great news and I’m SO happy for you!!! And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you’ve got the revised input board, and if you do I’m sure you’ll get many more trouble-free years out of it. My 0.5 RevA served me well for 25 years of pretty heavy use before it bit the dust so that’s not too shabby, and during that time the only thing I had to do was change a fuse that Steve talked me though.

As for speakers, here’s a pair of Usher BE-718 “Tiny Dancer” speakers that have the better diamond tweeter as opposed to the prior Beryllium model. Great speakers for the $$$, and I’m sure they’ll sound very sweet with the DNA-1 Deluxe. .

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649963888-usher-audio-speakers-be-718-diamond-version/

@soix: Thank you.  My fingers are crossed as well and I will be very happy to receive confirmation of this once I send the requested information and photos in to SMc for review.

Also, I just wanted to say that Pat at SMc was exceedingly knowledgeable and helpful. He was also more than willing to advise me at any time in the future. I came away from the conversation impressed. 

And thanks for the speaker recommendation.  I've heard of Usher, but I don't know much about them I will definitely look into these this evening.  Thanks again!

SMc confirmed that my DNA-1 Deluxe does indeed have the upgraded R1 driver board.  Good news for sure.

Yup. Patrick is awesome and a great source of information. He upgraded my DNA 0.5 RevA to their latest and greatest — the only remaining parts from my original amp are the chassis and the transformer. Other than that, it’s basically a totally new amp. I sadly haven’t gotten to listen to it yet, but it’s my forever amp and can’t imagine replacing it with anything else. I wish you the best of luck with your DNA-1, and at some point, if you like its sound, you might likewise consider doing some of SMcAudio’s upgrades to transform it into a SOTA amp. I will write a review here once I get some hours on the amp, but to me $2700 for a whole new amp is quite a bit of a bargain. Your Deluxe version already has some of the upgrades I’d think so you might save some $$$ if you go the upgrade route. The others I considered were the newer GaN amps from AGD and AtmaSphere, but they were quite a bit more expensive so I went with the SMcAudio upgrade. But, GaN amps are clearly on the rise and likely the future of SOTA amps. Just my $0.02 FWIW. Let us know how the DNA-1 works out. Great amp!!!