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In the pursuit of maximal differentiation of individual sounds, it’s not just about frequency domain linearity and a lack of peaks and troughs (since each ‘character’ emphasizes or damps specific spectral components which might sound ‘good’ but certainly are less accurate). It’s also about time coherence to not smudge out these fingerprints.

To underplay it, the Ascendo here does very well. Earlier I mentioned greater ‘richness’ in the bass. This holds true for all the bands. To me this manifests as a more highly gradated color palette. But there’s more. The F also manages to distill individual tone textures in detail.

This refers to the physical consistency behind the ‘actual’ tone colors. To borrow from painting, there’s a difference whether the same red, green or blue is applied with oil to canvas or water color on paper. Acoustically, this invokes very subtle microdynamic processes which track the spectral shifts of tone color over time. Just think about a piano’s decays which don’t merely reduce in amplitude but change timbre and harmonic weighting. It’s about the miniature modulations inside the tone of a dying cymbal and their transitions over time. When a speaker has a solid handle on that, it sounds less polished and artificial. Things become more real, grippy and tacit. These precisely are the attributes which set the System F apart. This speaker doesn’t merely separate cleanly between individual sounds and instruments. There's greater insight into the 'atomic half life' of each tone. In short, it's about amazingly informative nuances.

Now I come to the dimensional and spatial attributes as another strength of this design. As first encountered with Ascendo’s C8, the System F is a sharp shooter, meaning localization focus veers into the holographic and the fully developed third dimension. A further similarity is the enormous depth layering. Fanciers of the long view should really hear an Ascendo speaker. It’s quite fabulous. If memories are to be trusted, this dearer model simply broadens the stage a good deal. In the C8 review, I talked of "a window on the music" to describe an imaginary cut-out between the boxes through which one observed the tunes. With the F meanwhile I felt—contingent on program and levels of course— that the entire width of my room was suffused with sound without softening its depth of field. The stage simply expanded.

Another difference was that the F predominantly played from the base line between the enclosures but occasionally dared to move forward. Combined with wider lateral expanse and a more acute rhythmic persona, all stage actors benefited from a very lively involving aspect – fantastic with good recordings.

Frank Zappa’s orchestrated "G-Spot Tornado" from The Yellow Shark was pure delight in high definition. Without any nasty hard cut-out edges surrounding the instruments, the sense of organic interaction remained alive and the sounds occupied textbook depth and width. Cat Power’s Jukebox is wonderful music but image focus is somewhat compromised. It could have done with less reverb which the System F unmasked as studio trickery. But this didn’t undermine the basic fun which begins with the "New York, New York" opener and massive drum kicks which rush forward from stage rear with great power.

"Something to Say" from Martina Topple Bird’s The Blue God meanwhile seemed custom-mixed for a vintage Commodore C64 after three or four drinks perhaps - great for car audio and if intentional, perfectly realized. But such fare in the home does better over softer more diffuse speakers than sonic microscopes which ruthlessly portray the hard splices and seams of disparate puzzle pieces. Certain mastering decisions are best left unknown. (Incidentally, in such instances the System F with activated TOS unit sounded more pleasing and integrated – less assembled).

Moral of the story? Don’t expect sonic stunners from each album that's fed to Ascendo’s System F. This speaker essentially strips them down to their true selves. The sight isn’t always pleasant but routinely awesome. One should be prepared to reassess the sonic variability of the resident collection. It'll be broader than anticipated. This isn’t the stuff of dramas of course. It’s a mere pity that not each album should be more lovingly produced. What else is new though?

Conclusion: Ascendo’s System F is a neutral full-range speaker without tonal tendencies that’s blessed with enormous resolving power and impressive soundstaging attributes. Should this suggest ‘analytical’, we better question what that means. If it suggests "light in the bass, lit up, hyper present, artificially crisp, somewhat hard", then absolutely no. If it means "exceptionally transparent to the preceding equipment and recording", then assuredly yes.

The System F is a very relaxed non-spectacular all’rounder – and perhaps more neutral than some might wish. It simply requires an audition to gauge. I personally responded so powerfully that I acquired the gleaming loaner pair after the review. I still need this speaker for both work and pleasure.

  • Ascendo’s System F possesses a rhythmically astute, well defined and unbelievably extended bass which conveys mass and volume with detail and nuance. Only very large rooms above 50m² might wish for more pressurization.
  • The midrange/treble sectors are seamlessly integrated and utterly free of preferential treatment.
  • The Ascendo is endowed with very high resolution. Percussive noises and transients are exceptionally obvious and sound simply real. Excellent microdynamics penetrate deeply into tone textures to reveal harmonic modulations over time.
  • Coupled to microdynamic finesse, this speaker distinguishes itself with macrodynamic attacks and grand SPL stability.
  • Given good recordings, the System F is nearly holographic and voices and instruments are properly embodied.
  • The virtual stage mostly begins behind the base line. Width and particularly depth are well beyond average. The Ascendo System F combines involvement and ‘correctness’.
  • Concept: Three- or four-way floorstander with bandpass bass and optional dipole dispersion above 2.4kHz, variable time alignment on treble module
  • Trim and options: Piano gloss black or Rosewood - €11.800/pr without plinth, €12.77/pr with plinth - €13.100/pr for custom colors without plinth
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB/W/m
  • Nominal impedance: 6 Ohm
  • Dimensions and weight: Speaker 29 x 109 x 44cm, 48 kg / Plinth 29 x 6,3 x 44cm, 8 kg (WxHxD)
  • Other: Tri-wirable/ampable, cable jumpers for single-wire drive included
  • Website

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