Friday, January 14, 2011

Ascendant Audio 12" Arsenal 2-Ohm DVC Car Audio Subwoofer Review

It used to be that some of the best audio gear was made in the USA. But corporations made a move to cut costs and those jobs were moved overseas where labor was less costly. Many products are still designed and engineered here in the US, but they are not physically made here. So I did a search to see who is making audio products here in the US. And the first of this series features Ascendant Audio.
Ascendant Audio is a company out of Las Vegas, NV that focuses on car audio subwoofers. They are all hand made out of their local facility, and their product line consists of 6 models. They are the Assassin, Arsenal, Chaos, Havoc, Mayhem, and Signature. The model up for review today is a pair of their beginning mid-level product, the Arsenal 12" 2-Ohm DVC subwoofer, with an MSRP of $289 each. The product was packaged very well and securely. I also liked they way they used just a plain brown box, to help pass some savings on to us consumers.
You will find that this mid-level subwoofer model looks more like some's upper-level. The Arsenal features...

-Clean daily driver that works well ported or sealed.
-10", 12", and 15" models in both dual 2 ohm and dual 4 ohm
-Triple Stacked FEA optimized motor.
-2.5" 4 layer aluminum coil.
-Dual linear spiders.
-Ultra rigid reinforced cone body.
-Hybrid foam surround.
-Cast Aluminum basket.
-Wrap Round rubber gasket.
-Silver 8AWG Push Terminals.
-500 watts RMS.

The sub is designed for a sealed enclosure ranging from 0.75-1.25 CF, and a ported enclosure ranging from 1.75-2.5 CF. At 24 lbs, the Arsenal 12" DVC subwoofer is a solidly built component. The cast aluminum basked is thick to withstand a lot of abuse. The soldering points on the push terminals were very solid. The magnet structure, rubber surround, and cone pieces were all put together well. The fiber reinforced kraft pulp cone was extremely stiff for high excursion and low distortion. I also liked the attention to detail, such as the piece of black felt glued to the underside of the cone, right above the terminals, to protect the cone against rubbing of the tinsel leads against it during long excursions. Although it appeared doubtful that would happen due to the amount of clearance there was between the cone and leads, it was nice to see the fact that it was done, just in case. Being black it blends in with the cone and is hard to notice, but is nice to know it is there. The dual spiders also appears to be of good quality. And while the tinsel leads were not sewn into the spider, it does not take away from the performance. Ascendant Audio builds their products with the philosophy of build it so it does not come back. That philosophy appears extremely accurate, as these Arsenals were both very well built.

But construction components and build quality is only part of the story. Let's see how it sounds. I will be throwing my own arsenal of tracks at it. I want to see not only how it puts out, but how musical it is doing so.

To start off, I went to No Doubt: Hellagood. The Arsenals provided a tight clean bass, with good extension. And it did so with great chest pounding authority. Next up was SexyBack, which yielded the same results. Bass was clean, had good low end extension, and gave great output. Indeed, they seemed to play loud, and low is my sealed enclosure. As I turned up the volume, they seemed never satisfied and wanted to play louder, and did so distortion fee. Huey Lewis and the News: Heart of Rock and Roll, the bass was nice and tight in the quick kick drum beats, with good detail.

To put them to the test further, I turned to one of my trusted bass CD's - Techmaster PB: Activite. I was surprised at how well this beginning mid-level model handled. The Arsenal behaved and performed more like an upper-level model. The large foam surround seemed to provide plenty of excursion. The stiff cone showed no flex, and the motor structure provided great control. Extended bass notes and tones were chest wrenching! Last but not least I turned to Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, for a bit more of a critical listening. I was again treated to the same performance . The bass was very deep with nice extension on the tympanies. They played with a lot of authority and high output, and only a tad muddy with fast beats. Pitch definition was not as good as I have heard, but good at this price point.

The Ascendant Audio Arsenal 12" DVC 2-Ohm subwoofers provided usable extension below 30 cycles, down into the 20's. And I was surprised how musical they were. They are indeed a reference model at their price point of $289 MSRP. While they are not SPL subwoofers, they did like to play loud and deep, were responsive, and provided good definition. At 500 watts RMS they will not bring the Mayhem that a competition 2,000+ watt RMS sub will bring. But hey, Ascendant Audio has them too! For those looking for a great daily sub, the Arsenal should be on your short list. And not only will you enjoy a great sub that is built to last, but you will also be supporting our local workers! Based on their quality, features, and performance, we are happy to announce they have won our Highly Recommended Award. Congrats! For more info, and complete specs, check out their website at
Reference gear used: Kenwood Excelon KDC-X991 receiver, Rockford Fosgate Power 1000 25 to Life Amplifier, Vibe Audio Space 6 3D 3-way Component System, and Rockford Fosgate Fanatic HPC-1206U.