Yeah, it’s amazing how important bass extension is for music. I really think people who say “you don’t really need a subwoofer with these speakers” (when referring to almost any speakers, unless they extend completely flat to 20hz) are doing the audiophile world a huge injustice, because most people don’t realize how a significant part of your subjective judgement of a speaker system comes from the bass extension, to the point where when comparing any two speakers, the superior bass extension of one can subconsciously determine your conclusion of the better speaker, despite the otherwise superiority of the other.
Let me explain how and why I went from an Ascend critic to an Ascend fan:
I’m realizing now that this is why I avoided Ascend for so many years (sadly). Many years ago, I listened to an Ascend Sierra 1 someone owned, and I found it to sound not nearly as good as the hype. I found it to sound overall much worse than many other speakers at the same price (like Bowers and Wilkins which I ended up owning for a long time). Now, I am realizing it was all thanks to this horrible audiophile trope of downplaying the importance of deep bass, which I fell for and which lead me to compare speakers subjectively without a subwoofer involved. As a result, the differences in bass extension had the overwhelming influence on my final subjective choice.
And so here I am loving the Ascend Towers, and realizing that all this time, the only reason I didn’t like Ascend as much as other brands, is in fact because I heard and compared them without a subwoofer (yes, Ascend speakers NEED a sub as do all speakers that don’t extend flat to 20hz) vs other speakers I compared to which had a naturally deeper bass extension. In the end, I preferred the speakers with a naturally deeper bass extension, even though I wouldn’t have needed it when paired with a good subwoofer.
And so this mistaken judgement of Ascend I had many years ago, I blame on the IMO wrongheaded audiophile advise that “when listening to music (or comparing speakers subjectively), speakers should be used without a subwoofer”.
The Bowers and Wilkins 702 S2 vs Ascend Sierra RAAL Towers comparisons I did without subwoofers demonstrated perfectly just how terrible that advise is, especially on some songs where you’d have both treble electric guitar and very deep bass guitar: On such a song, I couldn’t choose the favorite speaker because the Ascend Towers were so very clearly missing so much of the song in the bass department, and the B&W was so very clearly ruining the sound of the treble electric guitar! But when the subwoofer was turned on for both speakers, the Ascend was immediately the obvious favorite.
No amount of sound quality superiority from the Ascend Tower could make up for the fact that half the song was missing on it!
When the Rythmik sub was added though, it instantly became so clear that the Ascend Towers + Rythmik were better in every way than the B&W 702 S2 + Rythmik. And not just by a little bit, to my ears: it’s a very large, obvious difference. I will have some other people listen as well and it will be interesting to see the impression from “non audiophiles” as well.
Anyway, the reason I say all this is really to just shoot down the unfortunately common advise of “for best music experience you shouldn’t have a sub turned on”, or “these speakers extend to 30hz so you don’t need a sub!” etc. I know people who say that have the best intentions, and maybe they’re right in some small subset of cases (people who can’t hear bass, don’t listen to music with bass, or have some of those really exotic speakers with built-in subwoofers), but as generalized advise I must protest against it, because it’s probably turning off a lot of newcomers to audiophile speakers.
I say that because when a newcomer hears a great audiophile speaker and find they don’t like it as much as some other lower fidelity setup, they write it off to audiophiles being crazy or weird or just having different ears (some of which may be true to an extent
), but I think most of the time it’s this aversion for some audiophiles to acknowledge the fundamental importance of deep bass replication.
Anyways, rant aside: Ascend and Rythmik are a match made in heaven, to my ears. I am so glad they’re partnered, and I’m so glad I tried Rythmik, then later gave Ascend a second try because of how much the Rythmik impressed me.