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Trying to write this review I was faced by a serious problem. This time I dealt with loudspeakers I couldn’t ‘make mine’. Despite clearly being splendid and very mature designs with certain exceptional aspects, they simply were not my cuppa tea. The challenge was thus how to approach them without letting subjective reactions interfere with objective truths (the latter within the possible boundaries of course). In other words, how to subtract the—lack of—emotional excitement from all the other cognitive functions reviewers use.


The most important message here is that these are perfectly crafted excellent loudspeakers which nevertheless utterly missed my taste and did not fit into how I’ve assembled my system over the years. I listened to them for a long time. They replaced the Ascendo System ZF3 S.E. which in their turn replaced the Ktêma Franco Serblin. In the meantime there was also the Avalon Ascendant. This was a nice group of very expensive very good loudspeakers. From amongst it the two Avalons were cheapest and today’s model costs half of the first two. Obviously it also isn’t as good. Except for a few elements which were almost as good as the Ktêma and one or two in the ZF3 S.E., it was apparent how these are lower-priced loudspeakers for a reason. I do not have a problem that this very clearly wasn’t a sound even half as good or 1/3rd. But my system also turned out to not be a very good environment for them.


The Transcendents are completely different than the Ascendants. They are quick, open, well developed, dynamic and impressive from the start. In their sound the very precise and very resolved treble dominates. Not that there is a lack of bass—absolutely not!—but the energy of cymbals, trumpets and everything above the 2-3kHz is very potent. This makes for a very clean sound, a result I think of using the concave ceramic tweeter known also from the upper Avalon models. The Ascendant had a ceramic dome resembling the tweeter used in the Revel Ultima. It could be heard immediately and without any extensive listening that the driver in the Transcendent is far superior. I reviewed many speakers with these tweeters. Because they tend to be a perfect tool for it, during the last few days I listened mostly to XRCD discs. The resolution, precision but also massiveness and substance (somehow related to saturation) of the treble allowed me to fully appreciate the skills of the people who invented this way of mastering but also the mastery of the sound engineers who made the recordings of the 50s and 60s.


The Avalon showed very palpable instruments surrounded by dense noise which was not part of the music but something aside from it to where the brain perfectly identified it as an artifact separate from the main musical data. This is one of the characteristics of the treble here. Cymbals had a very vivid character yet were neither brightened nor thinned. In terms of resolution, speed, decay etc., the tweeter in the Avalon is frankly better than that in the Ktêma. Only the Ascendo ribbon showed even better extension and a nicer harmonic spectrum.


I concentrated on the treble and upper midrange because this band becomes visible immediately after firing up these loudspeakers. This is a high-class sound for sure. But the fact that this range is reproduced so powerfully would, if I was to keep the Transcendent, make me search for a different amplifier than what I own. These loudspeakers need a tube amplifier, a quite warm and creamy one at that. A solid-state amplifier can sound that way too so it could be a warm transistor. Lately many solid-state amplifiers with saturated harmonics and coherent sound have appeared on the market, with Atoll’s IN400 or Nagra’s MSA just two examples. Avalon itself would seem to recommend such a route because they voice their loudspeakers with solid-state gear and exhibit at shows with it.