Live is Live

The ways to hi-fi excitement are manifold. And for quite a few music listeners, often with an emphasis in rock music and a particular liking for live performances of the same kind, the fascination often kicked-off and still kicks-off with horns or professional speakers from the PA/musicians' sector.

Once you have experienced the seamless dynamics and directness of a higher-rated system, it’s hard to resist the fascination. And yet it is extremely difficult to get such a sound into your own home. Classical passive hi-fi horns are often recognisable as such, and professional speakers in typical homes often cannot be controlled acoustically because they were conceived for completely different listening distances.

It merges alltogether
There should be a loudspeaker that combines the dynamics and directness of a PA with the audiophile qualities of a high-end speaker! A horn, of course, and yet a compact design in the mid-high frequency range, ideally designed as a one-point-source. A large sweet-spot would be practical, and due to the expected, but not easy linkage to the room acoustics a digital calibration or adjustment would be convenient, which again makes active speaker technology useful.

These are exactly the kind of observations made by the loudspeaker specialists at Ascendo. Not only because they themselves pay homage to this sound ideal, but also because they are one of the few companies that move effortlessly in both the professional and high-end world. With their new floorstanding speaker creation, the most important key technologies of the Franconians will be brought together for the first time: horn, coax and digital full- active technology.

Never before have the live dynamics of horns and active speakers been combined so homogenously.

To the point
However, one shouldn’t put the cart before the horse when it comes to this top-end 3-way floorstanding speaker by preferably focussing on the digital calibration only. Mastermind Stefan Köpf likes to emphasize that the quality of the coaxial midrange-tweeter unit had top priority throughout the development. The astonishing result of his own research is a rare combination of 12-inch cone and 1-inch compression driver. Because the former has a very large voice coil, the entire tweeter unit, including horn and titanium-fired compression driver, can be flange-mounted inside the cone’s motor.

The horn starts at 1100 Hz and is calculated in such a way that it radiates the entire frequency range above it at an almost constant angle with a wide sweet spot without

producing any significant resonance. Thus, even when the diaphragm is in motion, the hardened paper cone with its stiff surround hardly affects the radiation of the high frequencies. The duo acts as a perfect point source and, thanks to digital time/phase correction, produces an almost perfectly flat wave, even as from 65 Hz. The subwoofer (which can even be electronically separated for home theater purposes) is a gigantic 40 cm driver operating in a closed cabinet, which can move twice as much air as a standard professional audio 15-inch woofer.

The tweeter horn is concealed behind the dust protection cap of the cone, and a colour- controllable lighting system accentuates it, if desired. The small annular outlet of the pressure chamber can be seen in the centre.

The electronics
The separation of the frequency ranges as well as a possible room calibration is effected by means of a digital DSP crossover, which only produces a maximum delay of 7 milliseconds in total and is therefore also suitable for live and cinema purposes.

Per speaker, two completely separate stereo power amplifiers are installed, one of them producing up to 1000 watts for the bass in bridged mode, while the second 500 watts are intended for the midrange and another 150 watts for the treble.

More live? No way!
As an appropriate plunge into the experience of a rock concert at original volume levels, we threw Queen’s Blu-ray "Hungarian Rhapsody" into the player. And after a crackling, suspenseful intro, the first guitar riff left the listeners open-mouthed with amazement: no other loudspeaker had ever performed in stereoplay’s listening room with so much drive, directness and straightforward dynamics. Others certainly are also capable of reaching similar dynamic levels, but the speed, coherence and effortless impetus, especially in the low frequencies, bestow the Ascendo an exceptional status.

The voice was extremely precise, but on the first go it found itself located a little bit in front of the stereo base, which is why the test crew decided to give the Live 15 an even larger stereo triangle with a distance of 4.5 m and to place the speaker almost parallel to the wall. Lo and behold, even demanding, dynamic classical music like the finale of Wagner's "Meistersinger" (Janowski SACD) got depicted with the necessary opulence in room width and layering. Each of the voices could be followed with complete ease; in terms of resolution, the Ascendo tended to show more of a studio monitor character, serving up detail in all clarity, but without appearing chilly or over-detailed. At best sensitive minds could have missed a little breathing space within this dynamic opulence.

It were preferably live recordings that found their way into the player and incited the test crew in wanting to listen to more and more of it. Hattler's "Live Cuts" with snapping bass strings and hammering beats showed once again the homogeneity and bass precision of Ascendo’s speaker. More live? No way! Malte Ruhnke

The XLR inputs accept analogue signals only, while via Ethernet both the DSP is controlled or a signal complying to the professional AVB standard is fed in.

Ascendo Live 15
Distribution: Ascendo GmbH
Phone: +49 721 95139929
Dimensions (W×H×D): 42 × 129 × 33/48 cm Weight: 94 kg

Measurement diagrams Frequency & Impedance response

Very deep, laterally balanced, wide sweet spot, uncritical narrow interference

Level & distortion response 85-100 dB SPL
Very clean and low distortion, which only in the lowest bass tends to rise a little too fast

Lower limiting frequency -3/-6 dB
Maximum level (full, >45Hz)
Wireless system

26/21 Hz 94/108 dB –

Equalizer very flexible DSP, software-controlled with practically no restrictions
Inputs analogue RCA/XLR –/•
Inputs digital USB/AVB/opt. –/•/–
Remote control/Software –/•

Practice and compatibility

Room acoustics and positioning

15-20 degrees out of listening position axis, fully equalizable, distance in damped rooms >4.5 m

Listening distance Wall clearance Reverberation time

Evaluation Naturalness Fine resolution Dynamics

Bass quality Imaging

1 m ■ _■ _■ _■ _■ _5 m
0 m ■ _■ _■ _■ _■ _1,5 m
0,2 s ■ _■ _■ _■ _■ _0,8 s

12 14 13 14 13

Insane speed and dynamics in all registers combined with very holographic imaging and monitor-like resolution - the Live 15 is the ultimate loudspeaker for those who dream of horn, monitor and coax at the same time. Everything is united here.

Measurements Practice Valence 878

Sound absolute top class

Stereoplay Verdict

Overall verdict Value for money


89 points top range

Room calibration simple and complex

The digital room calibration included in the DSP of the Live 15 is one of the most complex around and allows virtually any filtering in frequency and time domain. The manufacturer's service team uses the professional user interface (below) to calibrate the system to the room and optimise it to suit the listening habits.

For the end user, there is a simplified interface (small on the right), which can be accessed via a PC through an Ethernet connection and which works simply via a browser. Up to 100 presets for different listening situations can be saved and edited.