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Ascend Acoustics ELX Titan Tower Mini Review

Humon

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I've been enjoying the ELX Titan Towers for a little over two weeks now, and I have to say these are just great sounding speakers. I know that's not a measurement, but those are available on the Ascend Acoustics web site, and I believe that owner exeperiences are just as important.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I didn't think I would ever own this caliber of Hi-Fi. They sound like a dealer demo of an absurdly priced rig that most people could never afford. These bad boys make all the sounds. The highs are there, the mids are there, the bass is there. Nothing is lost in the mix, and no part of the sound dominates at the expense of the rest. Brash trumpets sound like you are standing in front of the stage. You can hear every nuance of lilting piano passages. You can follow every note of every bass line, no matter how far back in the mix it is. The clarity, resolution, and instrument separation is fascinating to hear and make old standbys sound new again, no bull. The bass is clean, powerful, and it digs deeper than I would have ever thought possible from a speaker this size.

I opted for the Titan dome tweeter over the Raal ribbon option because I have always been mostly a bass head and I never considered myself a connoisseur of tweeters, so I didn't think I would appreciate the difference. That, and because we all have decisions to make when it comes to how much we can afford to spend on a hobby. I don't find there is anything at all left to be desired from the Titan dome tweeter, but now that I've heard what these speakers can to, I'm kind of curious what special sauce the Raal ribbon adds.

The rest of the system is a Parasound A21, a Musical Fidelity M6S preamp, a Denafrips Ares II, and two SVS SB-1000 subs connected to the power amp through the high level inputs. The front end is a PC streaming Amazon Music HD and I'm using Windows Equalizer APO with the Peace interface. Thanks to the ASR archives for educating me on how to get the front end sorted out. So there is a modicum of ASR content in what I admit is a subjective review. If anyone is interested in how I have them set up or other things like room size and treatments, let me know.

The buying experience from Ascend couldn't have been better. Everyone was friendly and communicative throughout the process, and this was at the height of the holiday season when businesses are busier than ever. Packaging was above and beyond as well, and a good thing too, since UPS always does their best to destroy everything they touch. They're not known as Gorilla Mail for nothing.

I would have loved to do a shootout between the ELX towers, the Kef R7 Meta, and the Revel F206/F208. While we're at it, throw in both of the Arendal 1723 towers. But since that won't ever happen, I had to make my best guess, and I'm convinced now that I chose wisely. I know most people outside the hobby would consider $4398 to be an absurd price to pay for a pair of speakers, but we all know that isn't a very big number in the price spectrum of high quality speakers, and this is still in the price range where you get what you pay for. Overall, just a great quality product and a treat to hear them in action.
 

madrac

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Congrats on the new Towers. What you paid would be 2x that (or more) in a retail shop.

FWIW I upgrade my V1 Towers with RAAL to the ELX RAALs earlier this year - significant improvement, IMO, for the investment. I find the RAALs more airy than the Titan tweeter and it does perform well with the music I listen to (mostly rock/metal, but also jazz & classical). I do have a pair of LX in my office. I'd be happy with either tweeter in my Towers.
 
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Humon

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Congrats on the new Towers. What you paid would be 2x that (or more) in a retail shop.

That's kind of what I was thinking when I first started listening to them. "Wuuut? These sound so...expensive. How are these sounds here in my living room?" All joking aside, it's a classy sound and I wish everyone had the chance to experience it and own it. Maybe if DF ever offers a Raal upgrade, I'll consider it, but with my ageing ears, I'm sure I'm at the point of diminishing returns when it comes to tweeters.
 

MarkS

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Anybody know why the "ceiling bounce" early reflection is so different near 1kHz for the two versions?


ELX_Titan_Tower_Early_Reflections.jpg




ELX_RTower_Early_Reflections.jpg
 

Zapper

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Anybody know why the "ceiling bounce" early reflection is so different near 1kHz for the two versions?


View attachment 338406



View attachment 338408
The ribbon tweeters are narrow horizontally and tall vertically, so they have wide horizontal dispersion but narrow vertical dispersion compared to the dome tweeter.

Edit: there is little difference in the vertical contour plots at 1kHz, so this is not an adequate explanation. It does explain the differences above 6kHz.

1000002705.png

Ribbon tweeter

1000002704.png

Dome tweeter
 

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MarkS

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The mid/tweeter cross should be well above 1 kHz.

I actually think this might be a Klippel issue, not an Ascend issue.
 
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Humon

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The mid/tweeter cross should be well above 1 kHz.

I actually think this might be a Klippel issue, not an Ascend issue.
That's what I was thinking. I seem to remember that Raal ribbon tweeters in particular need to be crossed over relatively high, which probably means the crossovers between the two models are different.
 

madrac

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Yes, I think the cross-overs are different. AFAIK, each variant of the Tower has a different cross-over (V2 with RAAL, V2 with Dome, ELX V2 with RAAL, EXL V2 with Dome). There are at least 4 upgrade kits for the original towers (2 with just the cross-over to make v2, 2 with the cross-over+2 LX woofers+1 S2EX midrange to make ELX V2). I believe the dome upgrade kits may include the Titan tweeter.
 

mj30250

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That's what I was thinking. I seem to remember that Raal ribbon tweeters in particular need to be crossed over relatively high, which probably means the crossovers between the two models are different.
The ribbon ELX crosses lower than the dome version. In looking at the spins, the crossover for the RAAL tower looks to be around 2700Hz, and for the Titan tower it looks to be at around 3000Hz. In any case, the 1KHz ceiling bounce discrepancy is well below tweeter range. I'm not sure what could account for that other than an error of some sort.
 
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Humon

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In any case, the 1KHz ceiling bounce discrepancy is well below tweeter range. I'm not sure what could account for that other than an error of some sort.
I guess it could be an error, but it seems like these ceiling and floor bounce anomalies are pretty common.
 

MarkS

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If I understand correctly, the "bounce" curves are calculated, not measured, based on some assumption of where the relevant boundary is and what it's reflectivity properties are.

I have never trusted these calculations (and the resulting "in room response", which is a further calculation), because they would seem to require a whole bunch of assumptions that are not going to hold in any particular real-world setting.

And now we have some pretty clear evidence that they should be ignored.
 
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Humon

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If I understand correctly, the "bounce" curves are calculated, not measured, based on some assumption of where the relevant boundary is and what it's reflectivity properties are.

I have never trusted these calculations (and the resulting "in room response", which is a further calculation), because they would seem to require a whole bunch of assumptions that are not going to hold in any particular real-world setting.

And now we have some pretty clear evidence that they should be ignored.
The vertical contour plots for the two models look mostly similar between 700 and 2k, so it seems like you are right that whatever difference is being picked up is then extrapolated into a large difference in the ceiling bounce calculation. I presume the various bounces are weighted when calculating the total early reflections?
 

MarkS

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That's my assumption, as I don't see how else it could be done. But I haven't tried to verify. Presumably sonewhere there is documentation for Klippel that explains all this.
 
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Humon

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That's my assumption, as I don't see how else it could be done. But I haven't tried to verify. Presumably sonewhere there is documentation for Klippel that explains all this.
I guess the idea is to package the data into something average people can relate with. The individual early reflections are useful for deciding if you should try to absorb them if they are really egregious. By the way, good luck with that, since effective absorbers are very large, very ugly, and very expensive, not to mention being one of the most effective female repellents in the known universe. But yeah, unless I'm misunderstanding, the total early reflections, predicted in-room response, early reflections directivity index and probably others should come with a big asterisk that says 'your mileage may vary...a lot.'

Side note: I hope everyone understands I'm just thinking out loud about these terms in general and not any particular set of measurements or any particular tester.
 

NTK

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Those curves are calculated per the CTA-2034 standard.
cta-2034-1.png


And the estimated in-room response is calculated using these curves.
cta-2034-2.png
 

beagleman

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I'm not exaggerating when I say that I didn't think I would ever own this caliber of Hi-Fi. They sound like a dealer demo of an absurdly priced rig that most people could never afford. These bad boys make all the sounds. The highs are there, the mids are there, the bass is there. Nothing is lost in the mix, and no part of the sound dominates at the expense of the rest. Brash trumpets sound like you are standing in front of the stage. You can hear every nuance of lilting piano passages. You can follow every note of every bass line, no matter how far back in the mix it is. The clarity, resolution, and instrument separation is fascinating to hear and make old standbys sound new again, no bull. The bass is clean, powerful, and it digs deeper than I would have ever thought possible from a speaker this size.
While I can imagine these do sound quite good and quite neutral for the most part, I have to ask:

What other speakers have you owned in the past or directly compared these to, to warrant such excitement?

Not doubting they sound great or anything you say, but just would like some idea where you are "Coming from"...if that makes sense?
 

spamilton

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Thanks for sharing. I was between these and the Revel F226Be and ultimately went the safer route with the Revels. I owned the previous Ascend towers with the RAAL, and I found higher frequencies were getting lost in the mix. I think you made the right choice with the Titan. Unless you are in an ideal room, sitting at the ideal spot, the ribbon will probably be wasted. I am curious how they compare with the Revels.
 

mj30250

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Thanks for sharing. I was between these and the Revel F226Be and ultimately went the safer route with the Revels. I owned the previous Ascend towers with the RAAL, and I found higher frequencies were getting lost in the mix. I think you made the right choice with the Titan. Unless you are in an ideal room, sitting at the ideal spot, the ribbon will probably be wasted. I am curious how they compare with the Revels.

I compared the original Ascend RAAL towers directly to the F226Bes in my setup, and then later the F226Bes to the upgraded ELX RAAL towers over the course of several months. All of the more "critical" comparisons were done with the speakers setup in an ABAB configuration and with a reasonable effort made to level-match. My listening was always done sighted.

I preferred the F226Bes to the original Ascend towers overall and they became my primary speakers for a time. With most music tracks, I maintained a preference for the high-end of the Ascends, but just about everything from the lower treble and below I felt was more coherent, balanced, dynamic, and "punchy" with the Revels. There was more of a wash if not an occasional advantage for the Sierras in lower bass frequencies, likely due to some beneficial room gain provided by the rear ports of the Ascends.

After upgrading to the ELX towers, I easily preferred the Ascends to the Revels in nearly everything I listened to. To my ears, the ELXs solved virtually every shortcoming of the original speakers. In my opinion, the only remaining sonic advantage of the F226Bes is that they have a significantly larger vertical window. This means that when standing up from a seated position, the Revels have very little discernable treble drop-off. With the more constrained vertical dispersion of the ribbons, there's an obvious high-frequency attenuation when standing up (all is well when seated). Beyond that, I personally have nothing but high praise for the tonality and overall performance of the ELXs. I agree with the OP in that these provide that goosebump-inducing high-end demo experience, but without the juiced-up and ultimately fatiguing treble that often accompanies the showroom sound.
 
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spamilton

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I preferred the F226Bes to the original Ascend towers overall and they became my primary speakers for a time. With most music tracks, I maintained a preference for the high-end of the Ascends, but just about everything from the lower treble and below I felt was more coherent, balanced, dynamic, and "punchy" with the Revels. There was more of a wash if not an occasional advantage for the Sierras in lower bass frequencies, likely due to some beneficial room gain provided by the rear ports of the Ascends.
I agree with this assessment as well. I may have actually commented in the same thread as you a while back. This is sounding familiar.

But yes, The Revels won easily for me for TV and movies which is what they are mainly used for in my room anyway. I'm actually using an M126Be as a center which I wasn't immediately sold on, but it's better than the phantom center after a lot of testing for sure.

Glad to hear your ELXs are working out. I'm not getting rid of my Revels any time in the next 5-10 years, but I've always been a fan of Ascend as a company. Maybe next time around.
 

mj30250

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I agree with this assessment as well. I may have actually commented in the same thread as you a while back. This is sounding familiar.

But yes, The Revels won easily for me for TV and movies which is what they are mainly used for in my room anyway. I'm actually using an M126Be as a center which I wasn't immediately sold on, but it's better than the phantom center after a lot of testing for sure.

Glad to hear your ELXs are working out. I'm not getting rid of my Revels any time in the next 5-10 years, but I've always been a fan of Ascend as a company. Maybe next time around.

The Revels are fantastic and had the ELX never become an option I'm sure I'd still be using them very happily.
 
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