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Ascend Acoustics Sierra Luna Mini-Monitor Speaker Demo Report

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Summary

  • Product Name: Sierra Luna
  • Manufacturer: Ascend Acoustics
  • Review Date: June 29, 2017 10:00
  • MSRP: $1,148/pr
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now
  • Typical In-Room Frequency Response     60Hz – 27kHz +/- 3dB
  • Average In-Room Sensitivity      85dB @ 2.83v/1m
  • Frequency Response (Anechoic)    65Hz – 32kHz +/-3dB
  • Nominal Impedance      8ohms
  • Minimum Recommended Power      60w
  • Maximum Continuous Power       150w
  • Maximum Short Term Peak Power     250w
  • Cabinet         Exclusive V-LAMTM construction featuring vertically laminated bamboo.  Bass reflex via flared front slot port.
  • Dimensions (H x W x D)      10.5” x 5.75” 6” (w/o grill)
  • Mounting Hardware         Integrated keyhole bracket for flush mounting ¼ x 20 threaded insert for brackets
  • Weight      9 lbs. ea. (21 lbs. shipping per pair)
  • Tweeter     Custom made RAAL true ribbon tweeter featuring a 10mm wide pure aluminum ribbon with a total moving mass less than 1/100th of a gram.
  • Woofer      4.5” long-throw dual compliant CURVTM woofer, non-resonant cast magnesium frame, SEAS SpiderRingR technology, vented pole-piece and vented spider. Custom made by SEAS of Norway.
  • Connectors    Two gold plated 5-way binding posts
  • Warranty    7 year parts and labor, 30 day guarantee

Executive Overview

Ascend Acoustics is a budget friendly high quality speaker manufacturer located in San Clemente, CA.  They have been in business for nearly 20 years.  As it says on their website, they are interested in “Reaching the Peak of Audio Purity.”  I was given a tour by president & chief designer of Ascend Acoustics, Dave Fabrikant and after my experience in their demo room their diligence allows their slogan to ring true.  The most recent product to emerge from the shop is the Sierra Luna mini-monitor.  This unique product is basically a miniature version of the Sierra-2 loudspeaker.  It contains the same custom RAAL 10mm ribbon tweeter, the same V-LAM bamboo cabinet material and finishes, but this time with a small front firing slot port below the 4.5” long throw dual compliant CURV woofer custom made by SEAS of Norway.

tweeter close-up copy     woofer close-up copy

The demo models were in the “Natural” finish and very smooth to the touch.  There were no gaps in the finish whatsoever.  The frequency response is 60Hz-27kHz +/- 3dB, with an anechoic sensitivity of 83.5dB at 2.83v @ 1m (typical in-room sensitivity of 85dB), 8ohm nominal impedance, and 150w maximum continuous power handling.  The Lunas are 10.5”H x 5.75”W x 6”D (sans magnetic grill), weigh-in at 9lbs ea. and have a recessed pair of gold plated 5-way binding posts.  The black fabric grill is also unique because the mounting system uses 8 completely hidden neodymium magnets to securely hold the grille in place. 

grill on copy     grill off copy

They are designed as an extremely versatile high-performance no compromise mini-monitor, ideal for use as desktop monitors, on-wall or stand mounted front and/or rear speakers, or simply as left/right main speakers. Ascend does recommend the use of a subwoofer to fill in the bottom 2 octaves.  Each loudspeaker contains a rear integrated keyhole bracket (for true flush mounting to a wall) and a ¼-20 threaded insert for attaching to swivel wall brackets.  These speakers also come with Ascend’s 7-year parts and labor warranty and 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

See how Ascends fairs in our Internet Direct Speaker Comparison

Set-up

luna setup copy

The demo room at Ascend was arranged similar to a family room one would have at home.  The loudspeakers were set up on stands along the opposite wall of the leather sofa to the left and right of the large format flat screen TV.  This orientation was longer than wide.  Along the walls and corners of the room were acoustic dampening materials, which can be removed, as Dave explained, depending on the customer preference.  To the left of the seating area was the electronic components.  The audio content came from an OPPO Blu-Ray player.  This was connected to a Rotel RSP-1068 surround processor in 2-channel operation, which was also run through an ADA PTM-6150 power amp to the speakers.  Also to the left of the seating was a Rythmik F12se subwoofer with the spectacular piano black finish.  The sub was not used until the end of the session and only on a few tracks.

Listening Tests

I was hard pressed to narrow down a small group of sample tracks among the 62 available that seemed to best display the capabilities of this loudspeaker.  This is such a capable speaker that every song played through it sounded great.

“Keith Don’t Go” (Ode to the Glimmer Train) by Nils Lofgren

Keith Don’t Go” is a live acoustic guitar track.  With this live recording, you can hear the minute detail of the strings being strummed along with the slight vibration that comes with it.  The encompassing clapping of the audience comes through very distinctly yet not very sharp, which is nice.  I felt like I was in the middle of the crowd.  The mid-bass was produced well with no distortion.  Bass was negligible because of the acoustic nature of this track.

nils lofgren copy      harp steel guts

“Last Fair Deal Goin’ Down” by the Blue Rider Trio

“Last Fair Deal Goin’ Down” by the Blue Rider Trio off their “Harp, Steel, and Guts” album is a blues track containing a couple of guitars and a harmonica.  There was very good stereo separation on this track as the lead vocals and guitar was centered in the room.  The second guitar was “located” to the left of the room and the harmonica was to the right of the room.  As with the Nils Lofgren song, there was not much bass, but for the bass that was present, they produced it solidly.

“Who Will Comfort Me?” by Melody Gardot

“Who Will Comfort Me?” off the “My One and Only Thrill” album is a jazzy track with a very “airy” vocal presentation.  This track has heavier bass, but the Lunas played on with no signs of strain even in the higher octaves.  The imaging of the individual instruments came through clean and crisp. This was my first demo experience with a RAAL tweeter and they were more revealing on this track than the others. Though revealing, the RAAL tweeters were not harsh at all and you could even hear a couple of breaths being taken by someone on this track.  I have experienced other ribbon tweeters such as the AMT tweeters on Legacy speakers and the FMT tweeters on Martin Logan speakers just to name a few.  RAAL tweeters are something unique.

melody gardot copy     alicia keys copy

“Rock Wit U” by Alicia Keys

“Rock Wit U” by Alicia Keys is off her “Songs in A Minor” album.  This track, like many of Alicia’s songs, contains strong vocals.  The highs and voice of this track are loud and clear and like the “Who will comfort me?” demo, presented itself as “airy” as well.  The piano is light and intimate, but distinctive.  When the track goes into full gallop, the bass beat is very strong even without a sub.  There are tambourines heard that shimmer but are easy on the ears.  The Lunas began to stretch their legs with this song and did not back down to any of the various sounds going on even at high volume.

“Show Me How to Live” and “Like a Stone” by Audioslaveaudioslave copy

The Lunas really opened up with “Show Me How to Live” and “Like a Stone” by Audioslave off their “Audioslave” album.  With all of the lighter tracks that I listened to I was impressed on how well they performed with the heavy rock sound of Audioslave.  They produced the powerful guitars, Chris Cornell’s vocals, and bass presence of these tracks superbly.  I heard no signs of breakup or distortion even when I cranked the volume.  I didn’t try to run for earplugs even with snares and the sizzling cymbals and hi-hats.

“Four Seasons” Op.8 by Vivaldi

The last track on this list is a snippet of “Four Seasons” Op.8 by Vivaldi.  This track displayed a room filling orchestra.  This track also made me feel as though I was sitting in a concert hall watching the LA Philharmonic.

After I had my fill of the numerous tracks available, I requested to switch the Lunas to their big brother, the Sierra-2.  The ones used were in a beautiful piano black finish.  I played back a couple songs such as “Rock Wit U” by Alicia Keys, “Like a Stone” by Audioslave, and “Four Seasons” by Vivaldi.  Obviously the scale of these speakers is more grand because they are much larger than their smaller sibling and really do not need the assistance of a sub. 

We then went back to the Sierra Lunas with the addition of the Rythmik F12se sub with the crossover set at 80Hz.  The F12 really takes it up not just one notch, but several.  The bass was never overpowering.  I have experienced subs from many different brands including HSU Research (I own a STF-2).  This is my first time experiencing a servo-controlled sub.  Even though the sub was practically next to me, I closed my eyes and it disappeared physically and audibly.  What more can I say that hasn’t been said about Rythmik subs?

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, Dave explained that the Sierra-2 and Sierra Luna are hard tofinish close-up copy tell apart when the Sierra Luna are assisted by a sub.  This is nice to think about for those who are tight on space for desktop use.  It is also beneficial if you need your speaker on a small shelf or on the wall.  As mains and rear channels you can match these with a Sierra-2 center and you’ll have a wonderful high quality compact home theater system.  I was completely amazed on how well these speakers handled a wide variety of music genres with no hiccups even at high volumes.  If you live anywhere in Southern California and are on the fence about the products available at Ascend Acoustics, do yourself a favor, call and set up an appointment.  Take a nice drive and experience what Dave Fabrikant has so diligently been putting his precious time and effort in creating for the enjoyment of others.  Thank you, Dave, for a most memorable experience. 

Please post your thoughts on these or any other Ascend products in this thread.  These loudspeakers will not be available in mass for another few months or so.  They are available in limited quantities by special order at Ascend Acoustics for $1148/pr.

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About the author:

Kevin is a blue-collar family man and A/V enthusiast who was introduced to music and movies by the age of five. He took courses on Film Music and Film History in college just for the heck of it along with receiving his BFA in Illustration from Cal State Fullerton. He grew up listening to music on vintage equipment, and soon took an interest in home theater.

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Recent Forum Posts:

davef posts on July 11, 2017 20:04
Dennis Murphy, post: 1196975, member: 29480
Hmmmmm I thought the topic was the Ascend Luna. That seems like a very interesting design. Dave literally went to great lengths (port lengths, that is) to get a tuning point of 60 Hz in such a tiny cabinet. I wouldn't ordinarily think it could work, but the Seas Curve drivers are among my favorites. Excellent bass and extremely smooth response with, ahem, minimal resonances in the breakup region. I would very much enjoy hearing how everything turned out.

Thanks Dennis, although I must say I was enjoying the friendly banter on the LS50.
Beave posts on July 08, 2017 20:41
TheWarrior, post: 1196977, member: 57254
Well before we start discussing the pythagorean theorem, Harman's correlation between subjective listening and objective measurements is what I've been adding to this the thread the whole time. It was a former Harman engineer that discussed the Soundstage measurements with me. My ears knew something was wrong, but my brain didn't have the understanding to make sense of it.

Harman's measurement standard is based off the NRC work that Floyd Toole did while at the NRC Ottawa that Soundstage uses. On axis anechoic measurements are meaningful, but myopic. You need comprehensive measurements (10deg interval all the way around both horizontal and vertical planes - 70 measurements total) to fully understand the contributions of the loudspeaker to a room. Soundstage at least covers a portion of that.

Thanks to that research, we have a clear understanding of how the room influences sound, and how much human perception negates that understanding - not very much! We can listen through rooms, as Floyd's research has demonstrated, despite what paid endorsers will tell you.

Nothing new to me here.
Beave posts on July 08, 2017 20:40
Dennis Murphy, post: 1196975, member: 29480
Hmmmmm I thought the topic was the Ascend Luna. That seems like a very interesting design. Dave literally went to great lengths (port lengths, that is) to get a tuning point of 60 Hz in such a tiny cabinet. I wouldn't ordinarily think it could work, but the Seas Curve drivers are among my favorites. Excellent bass and extremely smooth response with, ahem, minimal resonances in the breakup region. I would very much enjoy hearing how everything turned out.

Haha, good point - I'd forgotten what the original original topic was! Sorry Dave for contributing to the hijacking of a thread that should celebrate a new entry to the Ascend lineup!
TheWarrior posts on July 08, 2017 20:33
Dennis Murphy, post: 1196975, member: 29480
Hmmmmm I thought the topic was the Ascend Luna. That seems like a very interesting design. Dave literally went to great lengths (port lengths, that is) to get a tuning point of 60 Hz in such a tiny cabinet. I wouldn't ordinarily think it could work, but the Seas Curve drivers are among my favorites. Excellent bass and extremely smooth response with, ahem, minimal resonances in the breakup region. I would very much enjoy hearing how everything turned out.

Agreed, and I will end my rantings….. and great sound for all!
TheWarrior posts on July 08, 2017 20:29
Beave, post: 1196972, member: 77067
That seems rather tangential. What does believing Harman's measurement standard or following reviewers have to do with anything being discussed here?

To get back on topic, should I dig through Stereophile's measurements and show the countless examples of bookshelf speakers with resonances that DO show up in their waterfall plots? I'm still trying to grasp why so many speakers JA has measured do have resonances that show up, but somehow the KEF LS50 has significant, audible resonances that evaded his testing.

Well before we start discussing the pythagorean theorem, Harman's correlation between subjective listening and objective measurements is what I've been adding to this the thread the whole time. It was a former Harman engineer that discussed the Soundstage measurements with me. My ears knew something was wrong, but my brain didn't have the understanding to make sense of it.

Harman's measurement standard is based off the NRC work that Floyd Toole did while at the NRC Ottawa that Soundstage uses. On axis anechoic measurements are meaningful, but myopic. You need comprehensive measurements (10deg interval all the way around both horizontal and vertical planes - 70 measurements total) to fully understand the contributions of the loudspeaker to a room. Soundstage at least covers a portion of that.

Thanks to that research, we have a clear understanding of how the room influences sound, and how much human perception negates that understanding - not very much! We can listen through rooms, as Floyd's research has demonstrated, despite what paid endorsers will tell you.
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