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Bookshelf Speakers | Editorial Reviews | Pro-Review | Speakers

Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 Bookshelf Speaker Review

Components Paired With The Sierra-1

If one were to have dropped by my secluded little home in the rugged San Gabriel mountains, one would see a listening room stuffed with solid states, tube amps, pre-amps, speakers and cables. I have a lot of options on what to pair the Sierra-1 speakers with and that’s just what I did during the review period. The goal being the more stuff I can hear driving them, or cables tweaking the sound, the better my understanding of their fundamental character. And thus I can better tell you, the reader, what to expect when you demo or purchase the Sierra-1’s for your system.

For amplification I mainly paired the Sierra-1’s with the Electrocompaniet PI-1 100W solid state ($3250) but I also used the Arron XX Anniversary 100W solid state ($3250 w/o remote) and Van Alstine Omegastar 250EX ($300 used price). I tried some tube amps out of the Sierra-1’s but frankly with the 86db sensitivity of the speakers and the limited 30-40 watts of power from either the Melody MK88 ($1995) or PrimaLuna Prologue Premium ($2295), I’ll just tell you know, you need more power. For digital source I used the Electrocompaniet PC-1 CDP ($2400) and Magnavox ($10) for the smooth analog sounding DAC. (Really a gem if you like succulently rich rolled off highs) For analog I used the Rega P3/24 table with Moon LP3 phono amp and Simuko Blue Point Special Evo III cartridge. Cabling ranged from Granite Audio #470 ICs ($1000), Supra Sword ICs ($1000), Blue Jean Cable super low impedance ICs ($30). Speaker cables where the Supra Sword ($800) and power for the amplifier generally came from the sparkling high and bass thumbing Granite Audio #560 ($600) or PS Audio PerfectWave AC5. All off the PS Audio Quintet. Boy, if that isn’t a mouth full I don’t know what is.

Final Thoughts

Overall the Sierra-1 monitors do a lot of things right. They especially move air well at high volumes. They seem to have met all the goals David was trying to accomplish in a reference speaker below a thousand dollars. Relatively linear and their transparency rivals the exceptional speakers of its peer group.

I personally enjoyed the sound best when matched with a warmer solid state amplifier like the Van Alstine Omegastar 250EX that gave the mid range a little more warmth. But that mid range could be brought to life with the Electrocompaniet with the PS Audio Perfectwave AC5 as well. I have to admit though, even with the backing of a $7000 system I wish I could have squeezed out a bit more detail out of the speakers.

My only regret is that I didn’t have a different room to hear the Sierra-1’s in. I wish I could come to a better conclusion to that issue.

I would still recommend these speakers though, especially if you have a mid sized to large room. The Sierra-1’s image better and have a more coherent mid and high end than most floorstanders in the same price range. A room larger than mine would provide more distance and opportunity for volume and with some gain added my experience was that the speakers really opened up and became very engaging.

Ascend Acoustic sells directly to consumers and offers a 30 day guarantee and the speakers have a 7 year parts and labor warranty. If you are in the market for speakers around this price point you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t give these speakers a listen.


Typical In-Room Frequency Response 39Hz – 22kHz ± 3dB
In-Room Sensitivity 87dB @ 1 watt / 1 meter
Frequency Response (Anechoic) 44Hz – 22kHz ± 3dB
Sensitivity (Anechoic) 86.5dB @ 1 watt / 1 meter
Average Impedance 8 ohms
Minimum Recommended Power 45 watts
Maximum Continuous Power* 200 watts
Maximum Short Term Peak Power* 400 watts
Cabinet Exclusive V-LAMâ„¢ construction featuring vertically laminated bamboo. Bass reflex via flared rear port tube
Dimensions H x W x D** 14.25″ x 7.5″ x 10.5″
Weight (each) 20 lbs each
Shipping Weight (pair) 43 lbs per pair
Tweeter (1) 26mm high-definition soft dome tweeter w/integrated elastomer wave guide, wide surround, low-viscosity magnetic fluid cooling, pole-piece damping chamber. Fully manufactured by SEAS of Norway
Woofer (1) proprietary 5.25” long throw mineral-filled polypropylene cone, non-resonant cast aluminum frame, copper shorting rings, low-inductance motor assembly, vented pole-piece and vented spider.
Connectors (2) gold plated all metal 5 way binding posts.
Inserts (1) ¼” x 20 inserts for mounting to stands
Warranty 7 year parts and labor
*Unclipped peaks **Grille Off
Ascend Acoustics
Sierra-1 Cherry
Sale $788 / pair
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CMT-340 SE
Sale $468 / pair
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340 5ch System
Sale $998 Delivered
$1118 + shipping
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CBM-170 SE
Sale $348 / pair
Ascend Acoustics

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  • Anon says:

    I have to say, I’m impressed. A review about speakers with die-hard fans which managed to remain unbiased. Its actually a little refreshing to hear that these speakers *do* have some shortcomings, since every speaker does but nobody seems to point them out with the Sierra reviews. I was very surprised to hear that the bass sounded… off?

    Also for the record, bamboo indeed has a tensile strength greater than steel. The fact that basic bamboo looks good and is the most renewable “wood” on the planet makes them all the better.

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