I’ve watched the Mad Max lizard eating scene on many, many occasions and yes, the first was the most impressive. Until today. Today I was invited into a very special demo room, hidden in the hills of Pretoria, to experience home theatre at a level that only a lucky few have ever seen, heard, and felt.
When Max stepped on the unlucky two-headed reptile it’s as if the couch I was sitting on was under his heel. When he drove away it was like I was in the passenger seat. I was utterly mesmerised – indeed as if it was the first cinema I had ever listened to.
Describing the Ascendo Immersive Audio (AIA) experience is frustrating for a writer – because the only word that truly fits is ‘Immersive’ – making me appear frighteningly unoriginal. Indeed, Ascendo’s home theatre offerings are all sold under the ‘Ascendo Immersive Audio’ brand, which is extremely apt.
All of the adjectives that you have ever read explaining awesome systems apply here. Immediate, dynamic, immensely powerful yet non-fatiguing. I lost myself in the audio-visual delight of the AIA system. As impressive as it may be, though – with the 32-inch (!) infrasonic subwoofer shaking you in its Thanos-like grip – the system is more than just another powerful player.
The AIA system has a sense of clarity and tone that left me gobsmacked. Music sounds wonderful, and there is no unwanted resonance or distortion at virtually any volume level. Combined with the superb installation and setup done by Brent Durr of Brent’s Hi-Fi Shack, as well as excellent ancillary equipment, this writer has never experienced home-theatre (or any theatre for that matter) at this level.
The AIA demo system installed at Brent Durr’s premises consists of a McIntosh front end and processor, feeding video to an Epson TW 9400 projecting onto a Black Diamond 104-inch screen, and audio signals to active AIA loudspeakers, as well as the Ascendo 8-2704 8×225 Watt RMS into 8 ohms amplifier which supplies the passive speakers in the system with oomph.
The classic HiFi enthusiast in me is most excited by the AIA CCRM12MkII active speakers deployed in the front and centre of the system. These innocuous looking units (they are covered in a non-reflective finish for placement behind screens) feature a point source design, with a coincidentally mounted compression driver a la the old-school greats such as Tannoy or Altec.
The 12-inch coaxials are each powered by a DSP-fed two channel 1kW amplifier, with the front speakers augmented by the smaller subs in the system – a pair of 18-inch (yes you read that right, these are the small woofers) SMSG18 woofers in massive sealed enclosures, each powered by 3kW of AIA amplification.
AIA CCRM6-P six-inch passive coaxials serve rear duty, with multiple in-ceiling height speakers also powered by the 8-channel AIA amplifier. The visual star of the show must however be the 32-inch, 6kW SMSG32 infrasonic subwoofer. This massive unit, finished in a delectable 12-layer piano black lacquer, features stitching instead of glue to assemble the cone and surround assemblies. This mammoth is responsible for frequencies from 7Hz and tops out at 50Hz.
While the price of admission to an AIA cinema system is necessarily high, the system still offers excellent value. Jeandre Botha takes time to explain how the AIA product can undercut other high-end brands by as much as 50%, and as such has an extremely powerful place in the AV landscape. Jeandre believes that he can assist clients with budgets from R500 000 with a workable high-end cinema solution.
I spent most of the morning listening to the AIA system. Time literally flew, as I watched scene after scene fly past, pulling me into fantastical worlds. I left the demo room transported, elevated. Like a spa for audiophiles, this type of experience is invigorating, a break from the world’s realities.
For those privileged enough to be able to install such a system, I have no doubt that this would become a focal point of home entertainment. Aside from the long life and high performance such a system provides, I would imagine the payback in hours of enjoyment of this unique experience is high.
Thank you for reading this feature. Please visit our YouTube channel by clicking on the video for a taste of what this system can do.
Imported by Jeandré Botha of The Audio Visual Boutique, the Ascendo products emanate from Ansbach, a town in the Franconia district of Germany. The firm has produced high end passive and active loudspeakers, as well as amplification and DSP, for the past two decades. Unlike many other brands, the Ascendo team prides itself on sourcing as many components as possible from Germany and Europe, thereby creating a sustainable approach embedded in quality.
Ascendo Immersive Audio was launched as an Ascendo sub brand in 2015 and focusses purely on high-end home theatre products. Jeandre delights in explaining his first encounter with the products at a trade show, and his pride at The Audio Visual Boutique being appointed the sole South African distributor for Ascendo.
1 x SMSG32 active Infrasonic Subwoofer in genuine piano lacquer
2 x SMSG18 active Subwoofers in genuine piano lacquer
3 x CCRM12 MKII active front stage speakers (L/C/R) in structural finish
2 x CCRM6-P passive surrounds in structural finish
Thank you for reading this feature.
This feature is intended as a showcase for the system, and is not a critical review. No commercial consideration was received for the feature.