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Not to seem trollish, but would these speakers sound 5x better than, e.g. the new Monoprice Monolith bookshelf speakers, or the new Emotiva equivalents? Both have a similar RAAL tweeter, smaller, but high quality midrange drivers, are well reviewed, sold direct to consumer, yet cost around $300/pair.
I'm not even sure there are significant build quality differences, either. The Monoprice cabinets, at least, are surprisingly well constructed, feature the nicest binding posts I've ever used, and to me at least, aren't aesthetically inferior when compared to the Sierras.
I'm certainly not golden-eared, and don't engage in any critical listening, but if the Sierra's can be expected to sound significantly better in a 5.1 home theater setup, I might try them.
Can anyone comment on their sound quality versus bookshelf speakers such as those I mentioned above?
The Monoliths and Emotiva speakers both use a AMT tweeter, not a RAAL. The cabinets on the Sierra-2's are layered lamented bamboo, while the Monoliths and Emotiva speakers use MDF. I have not heard the Monoliths or Emotiva speakers so I can't comment on their sound, however, I can tell you that the I would replace my Martin Logan LX16s (which also use a AMT tweeter) with the Sierra-2s if I had the money.
RAAL is a brand name and they manufacture patented true ribbon tweeters. (http://www.raalribbon.com) Every RAAL ribbon tweeter is hand assembled in Serbia. The RAAL ribbon tweeter in the Sierra-2 is a custom model and only available to us, although there is an OEM version of it that, on the surface, looks nearly identical.
That stated, very few speakers these days use true ribbon tweeters and you would never find a speaker using this technology at anywhere near the price points of those Emotiva and Monolith speakers. Unfortunately, the term "ribbon tweeter" is being thrown around too much these days with manufacturers trying to take advantage by stating their speakers use ribbon tweeters etc.
Both the Emotiva and Monolith speakers use AMT tweeters, which is an entirely different technology - and not similar at all to a true ribbon tweeter. AMT's are being mass produced in China these days for next to nothing....
I had the emotivas before my Sierra 2s and can tell you with certainty they sound significantly better.
You don't have to do any critical listening to enjoy good speakers. I have a pair of Emotiva speakers and they are fine for what they are, but it's not really a fair comparison. I don't really like them as they are very flat sounding. There is no separation of sounds, all the highs bleed together, same with the lows, and the soundstage is very narrow meaning there is no spaciousness in what you hear. I don't own the Sierra-2's, but I do own the towers and a center with RAAL tweeter. For surrounds, I have the Acend 340's, which you could say is a closer comparison by price. The 340's are hands-down better than the Emotivas. It's not even close.
Since you can't quantify opinion, it's hard to determine value. Will a McDonald's burger fill you up? Yep. Is a Saltgrass Steakhouse Rib-eye 15x better than a McDonald's hamburger? It is to me.
So, the answer to your question is, yes, the Sierra's can be expected to sound significantly better. Until you try them or another good pair, though, it's hard to know if you will find value in them. To figure this out, Ascend offers an in-home trial. I'm not sure if it applies through Massdrop, though. In either case, you could try the Sierra's in stereo and get something cheaper for surrounds. Don't skimp on the center channel, though. I would get a 3rd Sierra for center when you are ready.
Are the Adam tweeters not ribbon drivers? This is what you seem to imply.
Adam uses an Air Motion Transformer tweeter, commonly know as an AMT.