Ascendo Coax D6 - floorstanding loudspeakers

Immersive floorstanders

[Ascendo D6 loudspeakers]
[Italian version here]

Product: Ascendo Coax D6 - floorstanding loudspeakers with Seas coaxial driver
Manufacturer: Ascendo - Germany
Test sample kindly supplied by: Audio Graffiti
Approx. price: 3900€/pair (grey nextel finish), 4200€/pair (black or white lacquer)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: July, 2019

Foreword and tech specs

I'm a fan both of floorstanding loudspeakers and coaxial drivers so I was quite curious to test a loudspeaker which combines these two aspects. The Ascendo Coax D6 is, indeed, a small footprint floorstander built around a Seas coaxial driver.

Who's behind Ascendo? Ascendo is a twenty years old German Company, founded by Norbert Heinz and Stefan Köpf, and located in Ansbach, a small town (40,000 people) in the German state of Bavaria, 90 miles (140 km) north of Munich. Their catalogue offers both active and passive loudspeakers, plus some Home Cinema system and a power amplifier, which is both a part of the active loudspeaker models and a standalone unit (DNA 1000.2 HE).

Ascendo's motto is “Immersive Audio, simply closer to your music”. The unofficial beginning of Ascendo took place at High End in Frankfurt, in 1999. Since then, the Company has been designing and manufacturing their products with an eye on sustainability and unobtrusive visual impact at home, following the simple ideas of Bauhaus design (form follows function). Their speakers can be integrated into nearly any domestic environment. Grey nextel and black and white piano lacquer finishes are the stock offering, other colors are available on request. The cabinets are produced in Metzingen, while all the rest of the work is done in Ansbach. No cheap outsourcing here!

[Ansbach - Germany]
Ansbach, Germany

Let's take a look at this Coax D6 under test, the entry level model of the passive D range. Actually, this is also the least expensive speaker of the entire Ascendo catalogue. The speakers are equipped with the Seas Prestige Vintage series T18RE/XFCTV2 H1333 18cm coaxial driver (official datasheet here), loaded by a front firing bass reflex enclosure. This coaxial driver can be purchased for 400€/pair (street price). Coaxial driver aside, what makes these floorstanders even more unusual is the presence of a switch at the rear, that modifies the frequency response according to installation (free field or close to the rear wall). This is a highly welcomed bonus, because not everyone is free to place the speakers in the middle of the room (the well-known severe WAF restrictions apply worldwide).

[Ascendo Coax D6 - Seas driver]

The WBT binding posts allow only monowiring - are we slowly getting rid of biwiring? Let's hope so! - while the plinth is height-adjustable for a firm and solid interface with the floor. These speakers use the Ascendo “Coaxial Time Coherent Speaker Technology” i.e. a coaxial driver which approximates the ideal one point source, and a slightly backwards inclined cabinet.

[Ascendo D6 loudspeakers binding posts]

Immersive floorstanders

[Ascendo D6 - drivers]
The Ascendo D6 are elegant performers. And I could stop writing anything more on them. But I'm sure you'd ask me to explain what I mean. Well, if “form follows function” is the Ascendo credo, I'd say that one could also say that “sound follows form”, in this case.

Their performance is elegant, gentle, well-mannered and “unobtrusive”, in the sense that these speakers disappear when playing (more about this later). A clean, precise and detailed mid-range is “supported” by a strong bass range. No, it is not the overblown bass of many “cheap” tower loudspeakers. It is reasonably extended (44 Hz @ -3dB) and controlled, though it won't shake the floor. Moreover, on certain tracks, there's a pretty audible turbulent air flow noise coming out from the reflex port (e.g. Massive Attack's “Angel”) which suggests to turn the volume down below 80 dB (at the listening seat). Lowest pipe organ pedals are quite challenging for the small midwoofer, as well. Nevertheless, the bass range is still convincing and unexpectedly powerful considering the size of the midwoofer.

The elegance of the performance of this speaker comes from the midrange: clean, but never harsh or shouty, precise on voices and strings, and always natural. Sometimes you might desire a punchier performance with drums, but remember these speakers' mission isn't aimed to impress or shock the listener. Voices are clear and undistorted.

The tweeter does a nice job, thanks to its low level of distortion. It enriches the performance with a good harmonic content. It is refined and clean but make sure you listen “in axis” with it, otherwise the level of the mid/high range might appear less than desirable. Of course, this also depends on the acoustics of your listening room and you might find listening off-axis a better option. The difference in/off axis is NOT subtle, though.

Summarizing, if you're a fan of rock or electronic music, played at high listening levels, you might find these speakers quite unsatisfactory, especially considering the price tag. But if you're after acoustic music, jazz or classical, they will reward you with grace and finesse in spades.

Micro & macro-dynamics

This small coaxial driver can't play miracles and, when forced to reproduce the deepest and most powerful bass, it tends to compress dynamics a little bit. As said, the Ascendo D6 aren't exactly made to shake your walls or floor, they prefer a more controlled and well-educated approach to music. Dynamic variations are never underlined. And certainly there are similarly sized floorstanders that can give the D6 a run for their money, in the dynamics department. When forced with highly energetic musical programs it seems the bass range slows down a little bit, obviously the midwoofer (which is a 17 cm, actually) does its best to do everything that is required, but fails because of the obvious physical laws restrictions.
Nevertheless, the performance is emotionally involving, especially with acoustic music and jazz. With rock, metal and electronic music they lack the grunt which is needed.
On the other hand, in the microdynamics department, they perform much better, since the Seas coaxial driver is quite precise and transparent. For sure, they perform better at moderate/mid listening levels than at high SPLs.

3D soundstage

This is probably the area where these speakers perform better. The small cabinet, paired to the rather small coaxial driver, make the loudspeakers disappear. Ascendo describes this as “holographic spatial imaging” and I admit no better words could be used to explain what these speakers can do. The 3D stage they create is wide, deep and high, and also extremely detailed and stable. Voices and instruments live in a 3D space that surrounds the speakers, literally. There's a price to pay for such an “immersive” performance: find the sweet spot and stay glued there! Move laterally a little bit and almost all the magic is lost. They still image well, but that magic performance is no longer there.

Complaints

Manufacturing & finish.
These speakers are pure beauty: simple and elegant, with a perfect piano lacquer finish. It is hard to find a flaw. Of course, the lacquer finish is hard to keep clean from dust and fingerprints. You are forced to use the supplied cotton gloves! Finally, I'd have preferred a set of extra spikes for a firmer interface with carpeted floors. The supplied ones have rounded edges and might be in trouble when the speakers are placed on a carpeted floor.
Sound.
Easy to listen for hours and hours, they certainly aren't made to impress at a first listening. No wall shaking dynamics, no ear-splitting highs or mind blowing bass. If you're after a more lively and punchy sound, perhaps you should look elsewhere. They perform better with acoustic music, jazz or classical. They do not possess enough “brute force” for heavy rock or electronic music such as trip-hop. The bass range, considering the size of the cabinet, should have a better extension: 44Hz @-3dB is a performance that, nowadays, can be achieved (and bettered) by mid-sized bookshelf loudspeakers.
Quality/price ratio.
4000€ might be the first step into the Ascendo world, but certainly it is hard to consider these speakers a real bargain. On the other hand, their high price might justified by the excellent level of finish and craftsmanship, and we shouldn't forget the 10 years warranty.

Some advice

These Coax D6 require a careful room installation. They perform at their best when placed far from the rear wall because their fascinating 3D image is free to develop all around them. In my opinion they sound better when parallel to the other, but “your mileage may vary” depending on listening seat distance. If your listening seat is very close to the speakers, a bit of toe-in might be needed. When placed against the rear wall, do not forget to select the “wall” position via the rear switch. 3D imaging gets highly affected, of course. Be careful with listening height, as well. The tweeter must be in axis with your ears. Since these speakers are quite tall, it is possible that your listening seat is too low. Listening to these drivers below their axis causes an unpleasant effect of the mid range that sounds a bit shy and recessed (especially on voices).

As for partnership, they do not seem a difficult load for the amplifier. I'd choose an amplifier which can control the deepest bass. Tube amplifiers do not seem, generally, their favourite partners.

Conclusions

These Ascendo D6 are classy, elegant and deliver a refined sound with a 3D image to die for, that can add countless hours of listening pleasure to a listener who prefers a clean and precise performance over wall shaking dynamics and bass. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but definitely worth a careful listening test.

Manufacturer's comments

[Original English text supplied by the manufacturer]
The D6 is a very neutral sounding speakers. The D6 add nothing, but play what she get. For this reason, the sound depends also for a great part on the room acoustic, the D6 position in the room and the quality and charateristic of the connected cables and electronics. Playing the D6 in a room up to 35 qm without low frequency canceling with a back wall distance of 5 cm 100 cm, with a powerful fast and controlled amplifier. You will suprized how loud, powerful and deep the D6 can play. Really amazing if you see the small dimensions of the D6.
The D6 have no Limits. The better the quality of the connected devices the better the sound. Try it. Play the D6 with really super high end components for 70.000 and more. Certainly, this makes no sence. But you will here the serious sound improvement of the D6 at once.
Michael demonstrate the D6 in his 30qm show room, back wall distance 1 m. In this room the D6 have a amazing bass performance, also at high level. I want to say the D6 can play at high level and also with deep bass and pressure but you need a good enviroment and a good (not expensive) amplifier Also important. The D6 is very neutral. Therefore the sound quality depends also an the quality of the connected components.
Stefan Köpf

DISCLAIMER. TNT-Audio is a 100% independent magazine that neither accepts advertising from companies nor requires readers to register or pay for subscriptions. After publication of reviews, the authors do not retain samples other than on long-term loan for further evaluation or comparison with later-received gear. Hence, all contents are written free of any “editorial” or “advertising” influence, and all reviews in this publication, positive or negative, reflect the independent opinions of their respective authors. TNT-Audio will publish all manufacturer responses, subject to the reviewer's right to reply in turn.

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© Copyright 2019 Lucio Cadeddu - direttore@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com