Hifi Test Jahrbuch 2019

Versatile talents
If you look at the brand-new floor-standing speaker D6 Active, you might think that the youngest scion of Stefan Köpf appears to be a bit too plain and a bit too simple. But the straight-lined beauty originating from the house of Ascendo is much more than just a simple floorstander.

The 18-inch coaxial driver from Seas is positioned on the baffle’s top-end. The bass reflex tube below takes care of sufficient surge in the lows.

It has become an unruffled, well-proportioned loudspeaker: The D6 Active is approximately one meter tall, just 20 centimeters wide, and with its 28.5 centimeters, it's not that sweepingly deep. The slightly reclined speakers rest on solid, 33.5-centimeter deep wooden plinths, which are lacquered in the speaker’s colour.Customers can choose from wonderful genuine piano finishes in black or white, which are applied.

A whopping 650 watts of amplifier power take care of each speaker: 500 watts for the woofer and 150 watts for the tweeter in twelve layers to the speaker cabinet. Somewhat less expensive, the D6 Active shows up with a Nextel lacquer coating. Other finishes can be obtained from Ascendo upon special request. The D6 is also available in a passive version, but the variant shown and tested here presents itself in a fully active configuration. This liberates the speakers from their bonds, so that they can be adapted in many ways to the listening habits of their owner, to the acoustic shortcomings of the listening room or to different listening situations.

The baffle of the speaker is hardly wider than the single driver, which is used far top on it. Only one driver? Exactly, here one single 18 cm coaxial driver supplied by specialist Seas from Norway is doing its work, a unit which has already proven its accomplished capabilities in several other Ascendo designs. A pairwise selection done by Ascendo ensures the high quality standards laid down by the manufacturer and its customers. With a transparent plastic membrane and the centrally-mounted 25 mm soft-dome tweeter, this twosome starts at a true 45 hertz and reaches up to beyond the 20 kilohertz mark. Of course, instead of a common speaker terminal there is an amplifier module inserted in the back of the speaker cabinet. This shows up as a very potent bi-amping version, which provides 500 watts to each woofer and 150 watts to each dome tweeter. The inconspicuous active plug-in unit features a digital signal processor with three Ethernet sockets, two XLR connectors and an on/off switch - that's it. It’s most likely that 650 watts of power also want to be cooled, even this unit being conceived as a highly efficient switching amplifier. For this purpose the plinth has got a full-height opening to let the amp "breathe". To the outer bottom ends of the plinth four metal feet are screwed, which can be height-adjusted in order to ensure a wobble-free installation of the speakers.

The particular strength of the Ascendo D6 Active lies in its DSPs, with which developers and customers can toy around to their heart's content. Of course Ascendo uses the signal processor in conjunction with the two power amplifiers for the basic configuration of the speaker. At the filtering stage (the first DSP level), comprising the filter typology, the slew rate and the crossover frequencies, customers cannot change anything. And that's a good thing, otherwise the concept surely would suffer unintended backfire. The AIA Speaker Management technology offers numerous possibilities to interact with the loudspeaker. This is best done by a knowledgeable retailer, who adapts the purchased D6 Active speakers to the sonic preferences of the customer in his own home. Depending on the complexity and the demands, one or more setups that are adapted to specific listening situations or requirements can be stored. Accessible to the user are the second and third DSP levels, allowing for room acoustics correction and sound adjustments. Volume level, input sensitivity and delay can also be set here.

The D6 Active is always delivered with a neutral frequency response setting. Using a web browser by means of a computer, a tablet-pc or a smartphone, the sonic properties of the speakers can be configured as required. In this light the coaxial driver ensures at any point a homogeneous and time-coherent radiation behaviour.

Simple and cool: the Ascendo D6 Active impresses with its clear design and excellent craftmanship
You want different presets for classical music, rock or jazz? This is no problem at all, even a setting for nocturnal music with a reduced bass level can be preset and saved. Everything is possible and can be completely adapted to the needs and requests of the owner. Nowadays, the acoustic conditions in listening rooms appear to be rather worse than in the past, as reduced interior design styles result in more hard surfaces that adversely affect the sound. In this case the room acoustics correction options of the loudspeaker help to bail out. The D6 Active can be individually or corporately adjusted via web browser. And once set, owners can write this matter off and connect the speakers to a given preamp like any other actively powered speakers.

At work
Stefan Köpf had brought his latest creation in person and calibrated it to match our acoustically already favourable listening room. That procedure took about 15 minutes: adjustments were made separately for each loudspeaker due to their non-symmetrical positioning in the room, resulting in a wonderfully balanced frequency response as shown on the display of the measuring computer. In case we had wanted it, and despite the existing room influences, we would have managed to achieve an entirely linear amplitude response with a maximum deviation of 0.5 dB. So due to all the given adjustment possibilities, we mutually decided not to print the frequency response of the loudspeaker. Nevertheless, we measured a room corrected speaker just for the fun of it. The undertaken adjustments were quite subtle, and except for a few humps and irruptions, there were no special pecularities to be noticed.

Quite a few uncorrected speakers used to come up with by far headier frequency responses. Conspicuous, however, is the excellent radiation behaviour of the D6 speakers.
Through the cutout in the plinth, the amplifier module can snap for fresh air. This ensures sufficient cooling of the digital amplifier.

The slender active speaker shows off in the measuring laboratory with an excellent high-level behaviour. Although the SPL is set at 95 decibels, the K2 and K3 distortion values always remain well below the one percent mark. Only below 200 hertz does the distortion naturally increase Transparent: The conically shaped diaphragm of the coaxial driver is made of a clear material, which ensures an attractive look.
with almost identical amplitude characteristics under 0, 15 and 30 degrees. Only at 10 kilohertz measured on axis a small extinction is to be seen, which is caused by the coaxial driver design. The harmonic distortion behaviour is excellent as well, almost sovereign for a driver of this size. Even at high-level 95 dB, the critical K3 value always remains well below one percent in the relevant area. Only below 150 hertz does the K3 value exceed the 1% mark.

Due to having calibrated the speaker to the listening room and having cancelled out the bulge in the upper bass, the D6 Active performs in a purified and outlined way. The selected neutral setting.

Located in the center of the pairwise selected drivers: the soft-dome tweeter. Attracting the eye: the inverted surround, which optimizes the radiation behaviour makes them sound wonderfully spatial and sculptural, with best possible focus and excellent transparency. Lowest as well as highest volume levels are rendered in admirable clarity and highest precision. It’s really amazing to which extent these graceful floorstanders are able to strike up in terms of dynamics and bass power. Even if the bottommost octave may be missing, the available amount of "real" bass will satisfy even the most discerning listener. Electric bass, drums and synthetically generated sounds are projected by the D6 Active strenuously into the room. We very much like their enormously good resolution in the middle and high pitch ranges - there is not any lack of detail. Thereby the speakers remain very harmonious and never get annoying with exaggerated roughness or analytic overstatement.

Everything performs seamlessly, working well with either Dillon's fragile voice and sparse instrumentation or with Agnes Obel's fine vocals or with elaborately produced pieces of rock, such as the tracks we listened to from Puscifer and A Perfect Circle. And the best thing is that the magic of the music is thoroughly preserved, whether playing it from good old vinyl records or from our NAS server.

This is what we call a true full active speaker: easy in use, very flexible in its possibilities and with a magnificent sound. And all of that paired to a visual sobriety that lets the speaker find its place in any living environment, and that makes it look very elegant. Great speakers, these D6 Active from Ascendo!

Jochen Schmitt