Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 Floorstanding Speakers

CBM-170

2-way rear ported design with advanced crossover. 6.5" Aerogel woofer with phase plug and 1" neodymium ferrofluid injected tweeter. Response 69hz - 20khz +/- 3db, sensitivity 89dB. Weight = 13lbs each.

User Reviews (98)

Showing 1-10 of 98  
Former Engineer   Audio Enthusiast [Aug 02, 2017]

Took a chance on these unheard, to start building a ht system primarily for multi channel music. As a former audio engineer I've had plenty of experience with too equipment but ironically never took my home state seriously so I didn't want to invest a lot to start. After living with these for nearly 2 years now and throwing everything possible at them through Marantz gear, I can tell you that if I were still mixing music I would consider these as nearfield minutes without question. They are tight, neutral (that's a really good thing btw), and extremely engaging without any of the treble harshness usually found in low end speakers. I would think in a typical retail setting these would sell for around $1K/pair, seriously, and sell well at that price. Extraordinary value and the low end will amaze you too--i cross these at 60hz based on my Audyssey XT32 settings and the bass is so rich and complex that I often walk over to the sub and put a hand on it because I can't believe the lows are only coming from the 170s. 30+ years in audio and multimedia and I've never heard a better bang for the buck. The downside? Now I'm determined to get a pair of the now-legendary Sierra-2 RAAL bookshelf speakers, also from Ascend, and I don't know how I'm going to part with these babies. I'm running these as mains with the Ascend 200s as center/surrounds and am simply thrilled.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Josh   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 23, 2016]

I would describe myself as a musician who is very demanding of audio equipment. I want instruments to sound as they are, without any coloration. Before these speakers I tried a pair of Fluance SX6's that were highly rated and seemed like a bargain for the price but I couldn't bring myself to like their harsh, non-natural, non-detailed sound (to my ears), and after nearly a month of really giving them a chance on a few different receivers and with different sources I was getting frustrated as their free month trial period was ending. Then I found a random post about the Ascend CBM-170SE's on an audio forum and looked deeper into them. I had never heard about this brand before but from how people described the CBM-170SE's, I thought they may very well fit the bill. I had never spent this much on speakers before, but since the others left me disappointed I figured I better pony up a few more dollars. After receiving them in the mail and hooking them up, I queued the first song which was one I am very familiar with. I kid you not, the detail and life that emerged from these speakers was so realistic and natural that I could actually imagine the singer in the room with me. It sent chills down my spine and literally made me start laughing and tearing up with emotion because they were really that good. I immediately boxed up the other speakers and sent them back as it only took one song to know the CBM's are the real deal. They are worth every penny of their asking price, and you can tell a lot of research and design went into these. I don't doubt that you could use them for professional studio monitoring. The clarity with movies is amazing too, and they can get get rather loud for their size if you need them to be. I have them paired with a high quality subwoofer but they do very well on their own with everything but the deepest of bass. I am not an Ascend fanboy, nor was I paid to write this review. I am just a satisfied customer. Thank you.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Mark Mazza   AudioPhile [Nov 01, 2013]

Superb transparent imaging, airy wide sound stage, solid flat full spectrum frequency response. The most satisfying set of speakers I've ever owned. And I've owned Tannoys, klipsch, B&Ws, SVS, Velodynes, Magneplanars, and a couple dozen other brands, many with superb specs, sound and, of course, high cost.

The CBM-170s are small, light, precise, inexpensive, very we'll made, intelligently finished and above all, extremely practical! For home use, you can't miss with these outstanding little gems. The black matte finish is durable, scratch resistant and can be cleaned easily.

The 170's come double boxed with rock solid internal foam braces making shipping damage nearly impossible with normal handling. Ascend shipped promptly and my correspondence with them was easy and polite. I couldn't be happier with these speakers and Ascend. I look forward to receiving my sub that needed to be back ordered.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Blaine   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 03, 2013]

I want to add my rave review to the multitudes. After over 9 years with these speakers they are just as mesmerizing when I sit and listen to Acoustic Alchemy or Phil Keaggy on guitar. Piano is amazing. I had these hooked up to a Hsu subwoofer but have switched to a $100 Polk 10-inch sub that I stuck into my wall to have it less intrusive in the house. I do not sit and listen to my speakers from a chair spotted in precisely the right spot, mostly I listen to these as background speakers now but every now and then I put on something I know has a lot of detail and just get lost in the music. I like these so much I want to take some apart and install the components in my car so I can take this level of refined sonic character on the road. I am very very particular about musicality but I refuse to spend thousands of dollars because I just don't have time to sit and dedicate the time just to listen. I want all my friends to find out about these amazing speakers that should cost a whole lot more.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Veda   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 12, 2012]

Having owned the super accurate Sierra Tower RAAL, I decided to give the very highly rated CBM-170 SE a try. I've always preferred ribbon tweeters every since I started this hobby so didn't think much of these monitors. My thought that they'll make do in my kid's bedroom to replace the overkill Usher Be-718 berylliums. During a few decades of my dwelling in this hobby I've tried many of the big boy monitors: Focal, Dynaudio, Totem, PSB, a bunch of Ushers, Paradigm, KEF, etc etc I don't remember all... long story short, these ultra cheap pairs of monitors are probably the most accurate and pleasurable I've ever listened to. Very balanced top to bottom, quick and efficient but lacking any harshness. Not surprising given the ultra flat frequency response but I was very suprised at the amount of bass these things seem to radiate. No artificially induced hump to make it bigger than it is, very honest speakers that I can throw any kind of music from house, jazz, acoustics. My concern of the softdome tweeters lacking any kind of high end clarity is also false as IMO the Ascends are overall more realistic sounding the Usher Be-718! Keep in mind the Ushers are 7.5x the price of the Ascends. You think that accurate monitors are agressive and cold but these speakers are just the opposite. If anything no sweetened british speakers have been so involving with jazz and vocals yet so ruthless with metal. Unbelievable...

The life of an audio enthusiast can be an expensive one with changing speakers every week or month which I did once upon a time but sometimes you come across a product so good you're willing to keep it for decades. I truly believe the CBM-170 SE is one of those and certainly has become the standard in which I will measure other monitors. So if you're looking for a pair of bookshelves (at any price), you should definitely give these a try first.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
ghill166   AudioPhile [Jan 17, 2012]

My entire experience with Ascend was top-notch. The customer service was great, and very responsive.
It's already documented all over the internet that these speakers contain drivers and a crossover that are WAY above their price-range, but you really need to see the speakers to get a feel for the quality.

My main concern with these speakers was that they would not be able to compete with the clarity of some of their metal tweeter based competitors like Axiom or Paradigm. I regret ever having doubted Ascend. If there is one word to describe this speaker, it's CLARITY. I'm not a fan of Norah Jones, but she has always had some great recording quality. On some of her songs, you can literally hear the "smack" of her lips opening and closing before she sings! Now, my Polk's sound like someone had covered them with a blanket.

I should also mention that these speakers have great dynamics. They're not big by any means, but they can really put out some SPL's for their size! They can easily fill any medium sized room when paired with a sub, and they sound so natural even when they're cranked. Even my wife mentioned that the music sounded like it was being played in the room.

There is one downside, though. Now, I need to buy a new receiver just ot make sure that my Ascends properly treated.

Forget about the competition and take the plunge. You won't be disappointed.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Kumar   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 30, 2011]

Paid $80 for a used pair and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the sound these speakers produce.
Don't buy them if u are concerned about how they look.... they look quite ugly and cheap except for the binding posts. I compared them with my NHT VT 1a floor standers and the CBM170s have a much wider range comparatively. I drive them on my Nakamichi AV-1 and cant even increase the volume to 15-20% in my decent sized living room. These dont have any artificial bass or any artificial warmth seen in most medium priced speakers. A friend of mine says these sound very much like his Paradigm Studio 20s, thats quite a comparison considering the price difference.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
RWoods   AudioPhile [Dec 04, 2010]

Picked these up for $298 on Black Friday and man do they rock. I typically only build my speakers because honestly the price/performance ratio just isn't there on mass produced audio equipment. But, I'd been hearing a lot about Ascend on the various audio forums, so I'd been wanting to give them a shot and for $298 I figured why not.

I only have one pair of commercial speakers to compare these against, which are Paradigm Studio 20s I purchased in the early 2000s, before I discovered the wonders of DIY. Compared to the Studio 20s, the Ascends blow them away for about half the price. They reproduce music so accurately it's really quite astonishing. In my room I measured about +/- 2 dB from 70 Hz - 18 kHz...pretty incredible for a sub $300 speaker! The highs are airy and let you "see" into the music better than any commercial speaker under say $750 that I've ever heard. They are missing some bass. These don't go much lower than 60 Hz. But, what is there is punchy and accurate. No fake boom to make these sound deeper than they actually are.

In terms of build quality, they are very good. WAF isn't there, because honestly the finish is pretty ugly, but the cabinet uses pretty thick MDF and is well braced. The drivers are high quality, manufactured by OEMs with pretty prestigious reputations, and supply drivers to some speaker manufacturers for use in speakers that cost in the thousands of dollars. The tweeter, made by SEAS, is the real star, but the Audax woofer is excellent as well. They really work well together. Finally, you have the crossover which you can tell had a lot of work put into it. This is not a single capacitor used simply to keep the speaker from blowing up, which is what you'd find in the typical sub-$300 speaker (and sub $1000 for that matter). This crossover is actually doing something! Ascend doesn't skimp here either using pretty high quality air core inductors and bypass caps.

OK, I'm done rambling. In a nutshell, these are a great alternative to DIY and far superior to anything you'd find your typical "audiophile" shop. Honestly, I'm not sure I could build complete speakers for $300 that sound as good as these.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Audiophonics   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 15, 2008]
Strength:

Great tweeter, airly highs. Midrange is spot on.

Weakness:

weak low end, but, of course are meant to go along with a sub.

I purchased these speakers as rear surrounds to complete a 5.1 system. My setup consists of a Panasonic sr55 reciever, paradigm studio 20s as LR and a 470 center. Basically I wanted an inexpensive way to complete the setup without resorting to buying another set of studio 20's. (aiming to get studio 60's soon).

Anyway, these speakers fit the bill perfectly. Had no expected such quality, but they sure come close to the studio 20's, for half the price. The timber matching is off slightly, but far closer to my mains and center than I ever expected. Highs are airy, midrange is full, and imaging is quite wide. I am getting a VTF2.3 to complete the setup, and I have no doubt that the 170s will shine with the low end support.

Additionally, the time I did test the 170s as mains when I first purchased them, I did hear a small but distinct difference between the tweeters of the 170's and those of the 'digms. The studio 20's are ever so slightly crisper w/dialogue, and in the upper harmonics of explosions and the like, this is probably due to the 170's soft dome tweeters vs the studio's aluminum one. As I've said the difference is slight, and the 170's are quite a phenomenal value.

Similar Products Used: Sony, Aiwa, Klipsch RBs, Paradigm Studio
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
stimuli   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 01, 2007]
Strength:

Excellent Value, reasonable price for quite good sound. Beautiful highs, decent mids.

Weakness:

Nothing glaring, when used with a quality sub. Works as engineered to (small rooms, on-axis, with sub).

The are good speakers; nothing more, nothing less.

The highs are outstanding and are what separate these from big box retail speakers. The mids are good; the bass weak and in need of a quality subwoofer for true full-spectrum sound.

Off axis sound is unremarkable... these are not Ohm Micro Walshes! But for small box speakers these have fair imaging and are not brutally unforgiving of less-than-ideal positioning. For the very fair price these will surely please, if not amaze, the audio enthusiast. Pair with a detailed amplifier and good digital source for

A very good product at a fair price, with no glaring weaknesses sans the lack of bass (which was a conscious trade-off of the manufacturer). Don't let he endless stream of over-keen reviews skew your judgement: these are not miracle-working speakers. Nonetheless I do recommend them.

Customer Service

Very good; agreed to ship to Canada via USPS so as to avoid me getting financially raped by UPS or Fedex. Fair shipping cost.

Similar Products Used: Polk, Mirage
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Showing 1-10 of 98  

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