Ascendo The16 SUB Active Sealed Subwoofer Review

Posted on 23rd April, 2024

Ascendo The16 SUB Active Sealed Subwoofer Review

Tony O’Brien shakes the foundations of his movie room with this serious sealed box sub…

Ascendo Immersive Audio

The16 SUB Sealed Active Subwoofer

AUD $5,500 RRP

When you're talking about a subwoofer with an 80” driver and weighing 260 kilograms, the term 'room-filling' is not an accurate description. The largest of Ascendo Immersive Audio's infrasonic subwoofers, this monster is capable of plumbing subterranean depths and does so with Kong-like authority at a rated 114dB at 5Hz!

Indeed, look at Ascendo's website - or better still, watch our interview with Geoffrey Heinzel - and you'll discover that this company is committed to fast and controlled bass with enough power to part your hair. This philosophy is applied to all of its subwoofers, including the more affordable and house-friendly The 12 SUB and The 16 SUB, which I received for review.

While The 16 SUB is anything but small, Geoff explains the challenges of producing hard-hitting bass from a relatively compact, sealed enclosure. Hoffman's Iron Law states there's a trade-off between three key factors – size, efficiency and low-frequency extension. So you could build a smaller subwoofer that's either efficient but lacks low-frequency extension, or produces deep bass with lower efficiency or less power.

Geoff explains that the designer set out to create a subwoofer with excellent extension and exceptional punch and speed. A sealed design was chosen for greater musicality and precision. The cone is a Rohacell core sandwiched between a carbon and glass fibre layer. Glass fibre was used to reduce the overall weight of the driver, which in turn resulted in greater cone excursion.

The cone is seated in a custom-built, narrow high-roll surround, a feature engineered to provide good linear excursion (22mm in either direction) with low distortion. It's backed by an oversized triple-stack magnet motor, a unique component that Geoff proudly points out is not normally found at this price.

The engine room of The 16 SUB is a Class D amplifier with 1,000W RMS of power (claimed), using a linear power supply. Apparently, the latter was chosen because it can serve up more power over a longer period than the switched-mode power supply used in most active subwoofers. This, in turn, makes for better performance, it is claimed.

The 16 SUB has a frequency response of 20 to 150Hz, and a peak power output of 125dB. While this quoted frequency response may dissuade some, Ascendo has been both refreshingly conservative and transparent in how these numbers were obtained. They were conducted independently by a laboratory in Europe. They're also anechoic, which means they don't benefit from room or boundary gain, which usually extends both low frequency extension and output. Geoff explains that in-room response will likely be much lower.

UP CLOSE

While The 16 SUB is hardly the smallest subwoofer I've reviewed, it is still relatively small given its cone size. I received two units, finished in black ash vinyl wrap, which blended easily into my home theatre without providing a source of light reflection. Although the overall build quality is excellent, aesthetically speaking, this subwoofer will not win any beauty pageants. Yet, as a home theatre subwoofer, its job is to be as visually unobtrusive as possible. Take the front grille off though, and it's a different story – the carbon fibre cone adorned with the Ascendo logo borders on intimidating.

It's all business around the back, with 2 RCA line-level inputs (including LFE in), 2 unbalanced outputs, and an XLR input and output with LFE in. There's also an LP crossover (50Hz to 150Hz variable), variable phase control (0° —180°), volume control, and auto turn on/off. It does lack an adjustable EQ, but more often than not, such controls are bypassed in favour of the processor or receiver's EQ.

I opted to use The Spatial Audio Toolkit to level-match both subs before running Dirac Live with Bass Control. Naturally, the in-room response of The 16 SUB will vary depending upon the room, however I found that I had extension down to 17Hz. Replacing the two Ascendo The 12 SUBs that I normally use, The 16 SUBs were partnered with VAF Signature i91 front and centre and i90 rear and overhead speakers for a 5.1.2 Atmos layout. The remainder of the system consisted of a Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K projector, Lumagen Radiance Pro 5348, Magnetar UDP900 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV, and a Severtson Cinegray 100” 16.9 projector screen.

HAMMER TIME

The 16 SUB is an immensely potent subwoofer with enough tactile punch to dislodge teeth. Capable of digging low and playing loud, it's not just the more exciting moments that it brings to life with all the weight of Thor's Hammer. Able to stop and start with pin-point accuracy, its presence can also be felt in more subtle moments, where its precision and warmth add an extra layer of depth and realism to soundtracks.

Love it or hate it, there's no denying that Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of The Sith has a cracking Atmos soundtrack. With the opening credits rolling, the big subwoofers lent a sense of weight and warmth to the soundtrack without domineering or overwhelming the familiar theme song. I couldn't help but wonder if the big Ascendos would overpower my relatively small home theatre. Yet ever-present as they were, they proved wonderfully taut performers, and any misgivings I had about the agility of these larger models were immediately dispelled. 

Properly dialled in, my review pair of The 16 SUBs lent a sense of scale and grandeur to the soundtrack that was downright addictive. They gave lightsabres a wonderful sense of menace, with their low humming energising the room. And despite the considerable weight and menace they lent to the film's various duels, they never had a problem keeping up with the Jedi, able to stop and start on a proverbial dime.

It was much the same with the schlocky teen horror flick The Shed on Apple TV. Not only did The 16 SUBs do the edgy soundtrack justice, filling the room with powerful bass, but they reinforced the film's many jump-scares with enough tactile response to make me leap out of my seat. As impactful and responsive as my 12s are, they can't compete with the 16s in terms of tactile response or speed. The latter's extended frequency range unveils another level of the recording, often more felt than heard but nonetheless adding to the overall eeriness of the film.

Moving away from the heavily compressed world of movie streaming, I loaded the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Both a visual and audio tour de force, it provided plenty of opportunities for The 16 SUBs to flex their collective audio muscles. And so they did – as Phoebe powered up Egon's proton pack for the first time, The Ascendos filled my room with explosive bass energy. And as she obliterated coke bottles, the subwoofers sent waves of dynamic and visceral bass that slammed around my home theatre room. As powerful and impressive as it was, though, it was over as quickly as it began, with The 16 SUBs deathly silent one moment, then exploding into action the next.

THE VERDICT

Ascendo Immersive Audio's The 16 SUB is one of the most impressive subwoofers I've reviewed, regardless of budget. Surprisingly tight and agile for its size, it's not only able to bring a level of extension but a tunefulness that brings out the subtlest of bass notes in recordings. As welcome as these qualities are, they're all for nought if a subwoofer cannot produce enough visceral impact. I'm pleased to report that The 16 SUB is equally adept, providing enough blunt-force trauma to create an engrossing home cinema performance. So, despite its price tag, in this reviewer's opinion, this subwoofer is exceptionally good value and should be high on your audition list. Don't be surprised if, after doing so, you no longer feel the need to look any further. It should go without saying then that the Ascendo is highly recommended.

For more information visit Ascendo

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    Tony O'Brien's avatar

    Tony O'Brien

    As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Home Theatre Loudspeakers Subwoofers Applause Awards 2024
    Tags: ascendo  jayvee 



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