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Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center Speaker Review

thewas_

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#81
What does the added stiffness and damping ratio of Beryllium in the new F228be bring over the aluminium dome in the F208? What physical characteristic do you think the engineering team at Revel are trying to achieve? Genuinely curious.
Usually higher breakup frequency and faster time decay.
 

MZKM

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#83
Would you say that ribbon tweeters are also targeting the same properties? Per @aarons915 question, how would these features be measured and affect the audible sound?
Faster decay time would show in the waterfall plot. If comparing with a speaker that has long enough decay that it’s audible, then the tweeter will sound “faster”, like how ribbon tweeters are described.

I also wonder, even if two speakers being compared have decay times that are not audible, that one with a much faster decay will sound to have less SPL, thus sound less bright.
 

thewas_

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#84
Would you say that ribbon tweeters are also targeting the same properties?
Not only ribbons but actually any tweeter tries such, there are different ways though to try to achieve such.

Per @aarons915 question, how would these features be measured
In the frequency amplitude response and spectral decay/waterfall

and affect the audible sound?
There the current knowledge about audibility limits is very limited. There is a thesis that showed that sufficiently good (=low distortion) tweeters all sound the same when radiation pattern is neglected, see here.
 

Shazb0t

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#85
Faster decay time would show in the waterfall plot. If comparing with a speaker that has long enough decay that it’s audible, then the tweeter will sound “faster”, like how ribbon tweeters are described.

I also wonder, even if two speakers being compared have decay times that are not audible, that one with a much faster decay will sound to have less SPL, thus sound less bright.
In the attached PDF, from the Ascend Acoustics website, you can find some comparison graphs between the NrT dome tweeter previously used and the RAAL 70-20XR upgrade tweeter that they option in the Sierra Towers and Horizon. It has decay, CSD, and impulse response comparisons towards the end.

I pulled some graphs out of the PDF for easier viewing:
Frequency Response Comparison (Sierra Tower)
FR Comparison.PNG


Stored Energy & Decay Time (RAAL 70-20XR vs NrT Dome)
Decay.PNG


RAAL 70-20XR CSD
CSD 70-20xr.PNG


NrT Dome CSD
CSD NrT Dome.PNG


Impulse Response Comparison.PNG
 

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muslhead

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#86
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Ascend Acoustics Horizon Center speaker with RAAL tweeter upgrade. It costs US $1,495 according to its owner ($350 tweeter upgrade fee).

The Horizon is a heavy beast and seems well finished:

View attachment 77214

It is too heavy for my photo booth so you see it where I put to listen to it. The fabric under it is made out of special material that helps push the electrical energy that would normally be wasted in speaker/crossover wires back into the speaker. I plan to market it as an effective tweak but we digress.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

I used over 800 measurement point which was enough to compute the sound field of the speaker within 1%error.

Temperature was 77 degrees. Measurement location is at sea level so you compute the pressure.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

Spinorama Audio Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

View attachment 77215

Not too bad! There is a cancellation around 500 Hz and a couple of resonant peaks (where all the curves tilt up together).

Due to inclusion of mid-range, directivity is good which we like to see in a center speaker that has to cover wide listening area in a home theater situation.

Early window graph averages to a good curve but individual reflections do vary a lot:

View attachment 77216

What this says to me is that the acoustic properties of your room will impact this curve as it modifies reflections differently than our simulated room below.

Putting the two together we get our predicted in-room response:

View attachment 77217

The variations we saw in on-axis response mellow out a bit which is good.

Directivity Response
Looking at how sound radiates in different planes, we get this in what we call "beam width:"

View attachment 77218

For a center speaker, we want wide beam width as this allows the side reflections to hit the walls and expand the perception of the speaker to be closer to the width of the display. Having 70 degrees here with reasonable flatness helps. Most smaller speakers are around 50 degrees for example.

I have worked on making the 3-D version of the above be easier to interpret. Let me know what you think:

View attachment 77219

An idea response would be a shaft of red color and the smoothly falling into blue. We have a lot of choppiness here but we need to examine more speakers using these settings to get better calibrated.

Here is our vertical response:

View attachment 77220

We see that I put the microphone at the center of the tweeter (all the way to the right). I can't figure out why the acoustic center of the mid-range is above that as I have indicated. Anyone has an explanation?

Anyway, vertical directivity gets very narrow around 4 kHz so best to have your ear at the RAAL tweeter center.

Here is our CSD/waterfall:

View attachment 77223

Speaker Distortion Measurements
This speaker is too wide for my current deep dive distortion measurements (I am working on fixing that) so we are just going to run with standard response we get out of Klippel system:

View attachment 77222

We have a problem around 1 kHz and to some extent, around 3 to 3.5 kHz. We can see the same in absolute levels:

View attachment 77225

Notice that distortion is actually higher than the fundamental tone below 35 Hz. This often happens and it says that what you get will not resembled the original tone. So some filtering of that may be advised.

Impedance and Phase Measurements
This is a low impedance speaker so best to get a capable amplifier to drive it:

View attachment 77226

There are also some "kinks" indicating resonances. I see one around 380 Hz for example.

Speaker Listening Tests
I placed the speaker in my usual spot as you see in the review photo. But due to large width of this speaker, I had to move the stand a bit.

First impression was that "this speaker is alright." Bass was standing out a bit but no way of telling if that was too much or hitting some room mode. Or else, what it should have been producing.

I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with it other than my excitement level was not at max. Yes, that is a technical term. It is covered under US ISO standard, 23476-A (annex E).

So I went and looked up the measurements which I had created a couple of days before and forgotten by now and corrected a couple of minor things:

View attachment 77227

As usual, ignore the filter at 102 Hz as that deals with a room mode in my listening space that exist with all speakers. The rest are self-explanatory and are based on predicted in-room response. They are "eyeballed" so more precise computation may be better.

The sum total of the speaker corrections improved detailed, gave it a bit more airiness and reduced distortion/accentuation of highs. Not a whole lot bot some amount.

Once there, the Horizon Center was very nice sounding and was capable of playing very loud.

On my deep, deep bass track it would bottom out but do better than that typical bookshelf speaker.

Conclusions
Objectively and subjectively the Ascend Acoustics Center speaker rated well. It is not perfect but gets close enough at the asking price to be fine.

I give it a like but for some reason is not something I would buy. You all decide on your own.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Check out small sampling of today's garden harvest:

View attachment 77229

Need money to get some nice meat or fish to go with it! So don't be cheap and
donate what you can using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
I have found the blue fabric not as airy and detailed as the orange. But since this forum avoids personal opinions, please test the results for yourself.
 

bobbooo

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#87
Doesn’t matter the intended use, it matters the actual use. Give me a $500/pair mains and a $1000 center over the inverse.
Even though, from your own graph, there's little if any correlation between performance and price between around $500 and $1000? :p

performance_price.png


By the way, could you fit a linear regression line to these performance vs price charts? It would be interesting to see if the correlation is any better than that found by Sean Olive below for headphones (i.e. minimal for around-ear headphones and zero for in-ears).

Around-ear:


In-ear:

 
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MZKM

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#88
Even though, from your own graph, there's little if any correlation between performance and price between around $500 and $1000? :p

View attachment 77485

By the way, could you fit a linear regression line to these performance vs price charts? It would be interesting to see if the correlation is any better than that found by Sean Olive below for headphones (i.e. minimal for around-ear headphones and zero for in-ears).

Around-ear headphones:


In-ears headphones:
Since I have them separated by type, it shows a regression for each type. So, that’s pretty busy:
Price vs Performance (2).png
 

bobbooo

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#89
Since I have them separated by type, it shows a regression for each type. So, that’s pretty busy:
View attachment 77492
That was quick, thanks! Do you have r values for the lines to compare with the headphone figures? (If you can't do a line for all the speakers as a whole, the r values for the passives and standard actives without DAC would do, as there's quite a few of them.)
 
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#91
The surround original centre channels used analog steering logic and were for anchoring dialog onto the screen. To my knowledge, they were also bandwidth limited (as were surrounds) with a 7KHz LPF. By the time we got discrete digital 5/5.1, the bandwidth limit for centres was adjusted and now I think full bandwidth audio can go anywhere.
Pro logic didn't have the bandwidth limitation in the center it applied to the surrounds. The crossover is shown in the ssm2126 schematic here, I want to call it 100hz? Somewhere in there. On top of which, wide mode allowed the center to play the full range, though not all amplifiers which used this chip were set up to allow it (or they only allowed it in full surround but not 3 channel mode).
 
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#92
At ~$1500 each I would expect magnetic grilles, they recently added them for their tower speakers. It really lowers the beauty when you take the grilles off. Also not sure why they need 8 holes.

______

That is around the crossover region for the dual woofers. Maybe it is some cabinet diffraction up top and that doesn't appear near the bottom due to the ports below each of them (them sucking in some of the off-axis response)?


___________


Wonder if 1kHz woofer or midwoofer.
As for 3-3.5kHz, I guess that shows again that RAAl tweeters like to be crossed at 4kHz.
FYI--the reviewed speaker is nearly 8 years old, and new models ship with magnetic grilles (even though Ascend's website photos don't reflect the change).
 
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#93
Doesn’t matter the intended use, it matters the actual use. Give me a $500/pair mains and a $1000 center over the inverse.
Not me. Movies play music all throughout them from the mains, and that’s not even including action sequences. I’ll take a 300 dollar center any day if it kills it on dialog and doesn’t call any attention upon itself [cant be localized below the screen]. If it can get those 2 things correct, then I’ll buy it. I don’t have a large enough room to need robustness on top of it.
 
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#95
Huh, they state new magnetic grilles for the towers on their site, but not for the Horizon.
In their forum, the owner of Ascend stated the Horizon speakers have been shipping with magnetic grilles for about 18 months. It seems keeping their website updated isn't a top priority... :)
 

MZKM

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#96
In their forum, the owner of Ascend stated the Horizon speakers have been shipping with magnetic grilles for about 18 months. It seems keeping their website updated isn't a top priority... :)
I emailed them years ago stating the SoundStage review/measurements they have linked is the wrong URL and I even gave them the correct URL, it still isn’t fixed.
 

Shazb0t

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#97
As an owner of the Horizon with RAAL and a pair of the Sierra RAAL Towers I am happy with the measurements from this review. I don't agree with Amir that these are missing "max excitement" level, but that is what subjective means. I am unable to hear any distortion that would be attributable to the tweeter as seen in the 96dB distortion measurements, but then again I don't generally listen at those levels and it's not as large a spike as seen on some other measured speakers. Overall I find that the Ascend RAAL speakers with the 70-20xr tweeters are very neutral and clean sounding. They are fairly efficient and can get pretty loud while maintaining, what is to my ear, a very clean sound. I do think that there is something special about how the highs sound from the RAAL tweeter as opposed to a conventional dome. It could be my own bias as I've always preferred planar magnetic headphones over their dynamic counterparts and may be projecting some sort of implied logic over to ribbon tweeters, but the highs do sound really clean to me without ever feeling fatiguing or bright. The issue with distortion in the low bass below the port tuning frequency is something that I don't find offensive as I cross these over to my subwoofer at 80hz. In my opinion, these aren't built to perform at their best without subs, they only employ two 5.25" woofers after all. That's my 2 cents.
 
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#98
As an owner of Ascend towers and the Horizon, this review has answered a very important question for me. During several movies at louder volumes, I noticed that certain male voices yelling (like the Rock) would sound harsh. I measured the frequencies with REW and it was a spike in the 600Hz-800Hz range. This issue was only audible for me during 3 movies. I've had zero issues with many different types of music over thousands of listening hours. I should add that I have 4 subs and the speakers are crossed at 80Hz.

I've been using this filter (along with the Harmon curve) for several years and it works perfectly.

Filter.png


The measurements capture exactly what I was hearing!!! So freaking cool to see the measurements align with my subjective hearing.

I always thought it was just a weird sensitivity to that specific range.
Ascend Acoustics Horizon RAAL tweeter upgrade Spinorama CEA-2034 Frequency Response Measurement.png


I have done blind testing in my room with many speakers including the F208, and the Ascend's were my preference. Crystal clear dialogue and all the dynamics I need in a small room. Couldn't be happier with them. They're one of the few speakers that give me no listening fatigue at higher volumes. I can watch movies or listen to music all day/night and my ears never have that clogged or stuffy feeling. They effectively ended a very long journey that involved lots of stress and swapping gear every few weeks.

They won't be suitable for everyone of course...
 

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