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Floor standing loudspeakers
Avalon Acoustics ASCENDANT

Prices: 45 930 zł (para)

Distribution: Audio System

tel.: (0-22) 662-45-99
fax: (0-22) 662-66-74


Manufacturer's website AVALON ACOUSTICS

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Avalon is a company-legend. And it is not an old one, it did not gather appreciation, recognition and respect step by step, accumulating everything for years, but it stormed the top. The company owner and protagonist (as each project has its own engineer), Neil Patel, succeeded in creating a company, which creates loudspeakers-icons, in terms of external design (the model Eidolon is probably the most often copied one in the world), in the form of a diamond shaped box, as well as the used drivers – those are almost exclusively ceramic cones and diamond domes. Only the bass drivers are sometimes different, for example nomex-kevlar ones. This is the case in the tested, almost cheapest, loudspeakers Ascendant. Another things that distinguishes this company from others are … the prices. Those are expensive and very expensive products, and “cheaper” ones were introduced only recently. At the same time, to balance things out, Avalon introduced the incredibly expensive Sentinels. So nothing changed. Taking all this into account, we can say, that this company is too expensive, overpriced, trying to amaze with unusual shapes and drivers. And some audiophiles tend to agree with this statement. We could also do that, if not for the choices of professionals, real ones, people I value. I am thinking about Martin Colloms, the “guru” of loudspeaker manufacture (“Hi-Fi News”, “HiFiCritic”), using the model Diamond, or Mr. Winston Ma, the owner of First Impression Music, who uses the Isis for evaluating the master tapes and final discs (and earlier the Diamonds – please look at his system HERE). And this is something.

Despite this, I was never touched by the sound of those loudspeakers. I listened to them many times during shows, and they were never something else than “passable” loudspeakers. But the listening session of the Ascendant in my system showed, that probably those loudspeakers were never properly setup. That there was something wrong. This does not happen often, but the Avalon need ultra-precise positioning. If we do not take care of that, then the sound will maybe be quite OK., but there is only one single spot in a given room, where they will sound like they should. And the burn-in – the company talks about 300-400 hours, and you have to add to that the time needed for them to become acclimatized in that room, even when already burned in. This all translates into something, that was described in a test by Jeff Dorgay: “The more time you spend with the Ascendants, the more you realize, what masterpieces of fine craftsmanship they are” (J. Dorgay, Master of Detail, “ToneAudio”, Issue 14, p. 101; the whole test HERE).


Discs used in testing:

  • Bill Evans Trio, Bill Evans Trio at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0036-2, XRCD.
  • Danielsson/Dell/Landgren, Salzau Music On The Water, Act Music+Vision, ACT 9445-2, CD; review HERE.
  • Deep Purple, Perfect Stranger, Polydor/Polydor Japan, 25MM 0401, LP.
  • Depeche Mode, Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed, Mute Records, 12BONG42, 2 x 180 g, maxi-SP LP.
  • Diorama, Cubed Deluxe Edition, Acsession Records, A 114, 2 x CD.
  • Frédéric Chopin, The Complete Nocturnes, piano: Gergely Bogányi, Stockfisch, SFR 357.4051.2, 2 x SACD/CD.
  • Jean-Michel Jarre, Zoolook, Disques Dreyfus/Polydor Canada, Jar 5, LP.
  • Julie London, Julie Is Her Name. Vol. 1, Liberty/EMI Music Japan, TOCJ-90014, HQCD.
  • Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert, ECM/Universal Music Japan, UCCE-9011, gold-CD.
  • King Crimson, In The Court Of The Crimson King, Universal Music Japan, UICE-9051, HDCD.
  • Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music, ACT 9458-2, CD; review HERE.
  • Shota Osabe Piano Trio, Happy Coat, Sho Studio of Music/First Impression Music/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 031, K2 HD CD; review HERE.
  • Thelenious Monk, Briliant Corners, Riverside/Universal Music Japan, UCCO-9220, CD.
  • Thom Yorke, The Eraser, XL Records/Warner Music Japan, WPCB-10001, CD.
  • Wes Montgomery, Incredible Jazz Guitar of,,,, Riverside/JVC, VICJ-41531, K2 CD.
  • William Orbit, My Oracle Lives Uptown, Guerilla Studios/Linn Records, AKH 351, 2 x 180 g LP; review HERE.

Japanese versions of the discs are available on CD Japan.

Figuratively speaking, the Ascendant are loudspeakers, which do not forgive much, and praise even less. Before I start talking about that, I would like to add, that summarizing the below, those are classy, pedigree loudspeakers, which sounded better at my home, that any other Avalons I listened to on any show, presentation, listening session, etc. Frankly speaking they sounded splendid, in many aspects better than my Dobermann Harpia Acoustics. This did not happen with everything, and about that I will talk later, I needed to be very thorough setting them up, but they performed so well, they sounded in such an interesting way, that I spent the time testing with pure pleasure, and I know much better, what I miss in the Dobermann, and what I would expect from their successors.

But first about forgiving. Or rather the lack of it. The Avalon quickly show errors in the sound path before them, as well as the flaws of the recordings. But they treat both elements differently than the Dobermann, being in fact more friendly towards the recordings. I will return to this statement later. The system for the Ascendants must be maximally well balanced, with the accent on bass control and lack of brightening in the upper midrange. Any step away from this, being a slight loss of discipline in the lower frequencies, or hardened attack around 1-2kHz, anything like that is being showed by the Avalon in a very direct way. It is interesting, that at the same time, this does not mean, that the sound must be unfriendly – this is not the case. This can translate into a sound, which is more attractive than the natural sound, in the sense, that it can be more saturated, more direct, than that, what we can hear on live, acoustic concerts. But you need time, to tame those loudspeakers. Placed in the same spot as the Dobermann, which are bigger, they sounded with a bit too heavy medium bass. This is fairly normal, as my room is not so big, and the loudspeakers do not stand far away from the walls. But I know the room very well, and I know, what I have to take into account when evaluating the sound of loudspeakers placed in it. This is enough for most constructions, but it was not enough for the Avalon. They needed to be placed more to the front in the room, to have the range we are talking about being fused into the rest of the sound spectrum. In the Harpia I managed that by plugging the bass-reflex ports. I tried to do it in the Avalon (the port is firing to the ground), but – frankly speaking – the changes were minimal. Hence the need to place them away from the back wall.

Placed like this, they sounded with a very coherent sound. It is incredible, but the Ascendant are loudspeakers with a rather creamy, rather saturated and full sound. On shows, they often sound harsh, or vague, and I was used to think about them that way. But placed and powered adequately, they show characteristics associated rather with loudspeakers like Harbeth, or Bravo! etc. With the emphasis on the latter – the American speakers sounded as one, slightly warm, driver.

Also the issue of the bending angle and grilles was important. The latter split the reviewers and music lovers into two camps, what was also visible, when two nice people from Audio Systems brought the loudspeakers to me, and placing them, had a discussion. One claimed that one should only listen with the grilles, then there is no problem with the upper midrange (measurements show a slight “dip” there), and the other, that the only listening option is without the grilles, because “a grille sucks life out of the Avalons”.

It turned out, that they were both right, and we can setup the loudspeakers for both options: with and without. But finally I listened to music without the grilles. To achieve smoothness from the sound the loudspeakers with grilles attached (which are most probably used during measurements and design process) and an open, clean treble with them detached, but without a boosted midrange (like I said, this is the 1-2kHz region), I had to place them in a way, that their axes would cross in front of my nose. Placed that way, the Avalon sounded in an incredibly vivid way. This was a sound with more harmonics than with my loudspeakers, harmonics that are responsible for the depth of the sound. The Dobermann, but also KEF, Monitor Audio, etc, create a splendid “picture”, but in a kind of “emboss”, with clearly shown edges, with brilliant speed and openness. On the other hand, the Avalon, similar to the mentioned Bravo! show the instruments, and the whole events, in a more three-dimensional way. This is an additional dimension, not only of the sound stage, but also of timbre, dynamics, something that we know, that this is a pedigree sound. Something like the ennoblement by having the title “sir” in front of a name. This can be heard on each disc, with any kind of music. But classical and jazz sound best. How well sounded the piano from the disc with Chopin Nocturnes! This is a master recording of that instrument, in addition musically brilliant, slightly dense and with a clear first plane – yes, this is the way, that the Stockfish main sound engineer Günter Pauler does it. The Avalon showed this characteristic immediately, but they did not engrave it. They just showed it, but the sound reached deeper, was even fuller, etc. It was similar with all XRCD recordings, like the Bill Evans Trio live record.

Rock and electronics sounded also interesting. I promised to return to the quality of the recordings, and the way the Ascendant handled it. Like I mentioned, the Avalon are rather merciless, but in case of recordings, they do rather not underline the harshness, nor spill the treble. But they do not tolerate compression. Discs recorded without it – the older (Julie London), or newer (Danielsson/Dell/Landgren) – or those where it was used in a very moderate way (Danielsson&Możdżer) – sound phenomenal. But Cubed from Diorama, where the medium level of the voice was raised, where many instruments were used, there slight chaos was introduced. Here the Dobermann fared better, because while they showed the compression, they were still able to separate everything in such a way, that the sound was not so combusted. It did not sound bad with the Avalon – it was juicy, with a very good rhythm and kick, but the flat tracks were more flat than necessary.

While talking about rhythm – the American loudspeakers always sound in an authoritative, full way. A part of such sound is a strong medium bass – also when we place them away from the walls. This is a certain departure from linearity, and we need to mention it clearly. This is the reason, that the sound was so full, so complete. Compared to those most loudspeakers sound thin – even, when on measurements those are absolutely linear! This can be heard on every disc, but it was best heard with Pasodoble Danielsson and Możdżer. The contrabass is a bit larger than usual, a bit stronger, as if the recording microphone would be placed just in front of it. Like I said – this is not unpleasant, quite the opposite, but not very accurate either. Frankly speaking, this is one of only two elements, that more expensive loudspeakers do better. The other one is related to the slightly stronger, and not so smooth, part of the midrange above 1kHz. It is slightly hardened. This is the reason, that setting up the loudspeakers, and good electronics, are so important. There will be no problems with 90% of the recordings, but with electronic generated music, or with harder rock, it was heard like a slight privilege given to the attack of elements from the midrange and midrange-treble turning point.

Like I said – only those two elements would make me buy more expensive loudspeakers than the Ascendant. The acoustics of the recording room can be shown better, but when we are talking about the sound stage in, and around the instruments, it is hard to complain. This is splendid, creamy sound, with extraordinary vividness. Vividness, smoothness are the key elements to this sound. This is not the way I imagined the Avalon, and I am mostly impressed, what came out of those loudspeakers. Bass goes far down and is vivid, only on the lowest notes there could be some more control. But it connects well with the rest of the sound spectrum – I did not say, that they sound like one, single wide band, or concentric, driver by coincidence. This is exciting and satisfactory sound, with a treble having a brilliant medium and lower part – frankly speaking, I was not aware, that a metal tweeter can do something like this, that things I heard from diamond domes, or dr. Oscar Heil tranducers (A.D.A.M. or Burmester) can be achieved with a more classic driver. The upper treble is not as resolving and precise like in the SEAS the Dobermann have, and we know, why more expensive Avalon loudspeakers employ ceramic and diamond drivers. The whole is coherent and – I need to repeat this – creamy. A beautiful sound from a beautiful loudspeaker. And a legendary brand as a bonus.


Ascendant is one of the cheapest models of Avalon – in fact this is the first, “serious” model made by this American manufacturer. Despite being built around three drivers, we deal with a two-way construction, in which two 7” Nomex-Kevlar diaphragm woofers work almost in parallel. Nomex-Kevlar is a woven Kevlar fiber covered with Nomex. According to Neil Patel, the signal reaching them is initially processed in a way allowing to correct differences in their physical position, to keep the complex phase relationships intact. The drivers have very solid, cast spiders, bolted to the cabinet with six bolts. The diaphragm is mounted on a rubber suspension, and in the middle, where there is usually a dust cap, or a phase corrector, we have a metal cone, used as a heat sink to the voice coil. Treble is handled with 1” metal dome tweeter, covered with a ceramic composite – something we know from Revel or Infinity. Here the magnet motor was taken from elsewhere, because this tweeter is driven by a large, neodymium magnet. This is the second version of the loudspeaker, the first one utilized a 25mm titanium dome. The cabinet is vented with two bas-reflex ports, firing to the floor. This allows to achieve a considerable efficiency of 89dB at 4Ω. But it is better to connect them to strong amplifiers.

The cabinet is also characteristic – with cut off edges, internal reinforcements and natural veneer. For testing we received a pair in the basic color – we should consider, if we want to listen to the loudspeakers with the grilles attached or not, because this veneer gets bleached quickly in the sun, and it is clearly visible, if the grille was on or not. Different veneers cost a premium, and not a small one. The loudspeakers are really very solid – positioning them, I almost tore my hands from the joints, they are so heavy. The loudspeakers are equipped with a black plinth, enforcing their bottom, which is placed on spikes – they are mandatory, or we lose all of what the Avalon can offer. There are three spikes, one in the front and two in the back. They are not screwed in the plinth, but just placed under it. So we need to find the right spot for placement, and then put the spikes below them. The front baffle is slanted backwards, making the drivers time-coherent. The back plate is also slanted, but only for aesthetic value – the loudspeakers look “lighter” than in the case this panel would be straight. There is a small plaque and beautiful Cardas wire terminals. They allow for an even loudspeaker spades. We cannot use banana plugs. The loudspeakers are beautiful and will be an ornament to any room.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Frequency response: 28-25 000Hz (+/- 1.5dB)
Nominal impedance: 4Ω (min. 3.6Ω)
Efficiency: 89dB
Recommended amplifier power: 50-200W
Dimensions (WxHxD): 254 x 940 x 330mm
Weight: 32kg (piece)

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  • Power amp: Luxman M-800A (tested HERE)
  • Integrated amp: Leben CS300 (reviewed HERE)
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  • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • interconnects: CD-preamp: Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52 (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Velum NF-G SE (tested HERE)
  • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
  • power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD; reviewed HERE) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp (reviewed HERE)
  • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • audio stand Base
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