Ascendo’s Seismic Subwoofer Is a Modern Marvel Page 2

The mammoth SMSG50 subwoofer anchors Ascendo’s impressive demo cinema.

S&V: Any other design goals behind what we assume to be the biggest subwoofer on the planet?
Geoffrey Heinzel: I mentioned group delay earlier, which is tied to phase response and ultimately the tightness of a woofer’s response. If you lower the group delay you can hear and measure the benefits. A higher group delay is associated with a more sluggish or loose sounding woofer that also doesn’t behave as well in terms of phase. These latter, negative results are all too common in subwoofer designs.

In our opinion, any subwoofer — even one with a 50-inch driver — that can’t integrate well with the timing and phase of the rest of the system (and room) shouldn’t be in the system. Deep bass — even the infrasonic bass produced by ours — should add its impact to the dynamic expression of the system in perfect timing, and not detract from the experience with bass that is sluggish, boomy, and loose. To hear and feel (!) the perfect integration of timing and phase between the subwoofer and the rest of the system is to understand what’s really achievable — and different from the typical assumption that deep bass is only meant to rumble and shake without tonal differentiation.

Ascendo already offers a wide range of subwoofers of different sizes and shapes for different applications, including both 24- and 32-inch infrasonic models. We set out to design something larger than our SMSG 32 to prove to ourselves, and interested partners and clients, that we could achieve the desired performance benefits I detailed earlier. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t offer it. Now that we’ve done so, we have our sights set on something even larger. Stay tuned.

S&V: Wow, keep us posted on that! Who’s the target customer for the SMSG50 and what does Ascendo see as the primary application(s) for it?
Geoffrey Heinzel: We understand that not everyone has the budget or room to accommodate the SMSG50. This is our current statement subwoofer product. For residential and commercial theater projects with the budget and space, demonstrations have proven that the SMSG50 isn’t a science experiment with no practical applications but a reference subwoofer that will prove it deserves to be used in the finest theaters.

Standing 6 feet tall, Ascendo’s SMSG50 subwoofer is a veritable beast.

S&V: What does it take to install the SMSG50?
Geoffrey Heinzel: As is the case with large-scale video projectors, projection screens, micro-LED walls, etc., the engineering and labor involved to accommodate the SMSG50’s weight and size is not a unique challenge for the level of residential and commercial partners Ascendo works with. We’re most often involved to assist as needed from specification through installation.

S&V: How many SMSG50 subwoofers are out in the field and what's the breakdown between residential home theater and commercial installations?
Geoffrey Heinzel: To date, we’re seeing faster adoption in the world’s finest private cinemas than in the commercial market, which is typically significantly slower to specify. In private cinemas, we’ve sold two SMSG50s into a Swiss Chalet in Zermatt, a single piece into a stunning theater in China, four pieces are specified into an installation in Dubai, and one or two more are planned in a home in Indonesia.

S&V: What do you say to people who say a 6-foot-tall subwoofer is impractical and gross overkill?
Geoffrey Heinzel: They would likely have the same opinion regarding a 1,500-horsepower supercar, $20,000 watch, $2,000 bottle of wine, or a $20 million-plus home (or several of them around the world). As is the case with these other examples, there are clients around the world who can afford and appreciate the SMSG50’s performance and exclusivity versus the alternatives. For those interested and able to consider it, this subwoofer can easily prove its worth beyond the competition in terms of price vs. performance.

S&V: What does it cost (USD) to have one installed?
Geoffrey Heinzel: While there are so many variables involved, including the location(s) within the theater, labor, and machinery involved to bring the unit(s) into the space from elsewhere on the property, etc., it’s safe to say installation can cost at least many hundreds, potentially into thousands of dollars. By comparison to similar processes and labor involved for a large-screen video wall or projector installation, the SMSG50 expense will likely be less.

This exquisite home theater in a Swiss chalet in Zermatt is home to two Ascendo SMSG50 subwoofers.

S&V: Tell use a bit about the SMS line of active subwoofers to which the SMSG50 belongs. For example, which model is most popular and why?
Geoffrey Heinzel: The SMS15 is preferred in some markets where value for money is important — that is, output per dollar is the highest goal.

We’re seeing an unexpectedly high demand for our new SMS21, and hearing from our partners that they like its unparalleled SPL and precision among any subwoofer they sell today for home theater. It also pairs extremely well with our Black Swan or CCRM12 MKII speakers, extending to a linear 18 Hz in a typical room.

Both models are vented designs (hence no G in the model number) with vented woofers that deliver up to 6 dB higher output on at low end of the spectrum, around the tuning frequency of the woofer. However, this added output is traded for a slightly delayed bass signal from the secondary sound source — the vent — which is a resonating air mass, not a cone.

In contrast, a sealed woofer delivers tighter bass reproduction and extends to the lowest notes by rolling off with a less steep slope than a vented design but delivers up to 6 dB lower output. A sealed subwoofer design is definitely our preference for its ability to deliver tight and punchy clean bass — one of the many traits Ascendo is recognized for. But, we offer both types and a range of price points so our partners can decide based on their preferences and project budget.

The SMSG50s’s formidable sibling, the 32-inch-driver SMS32, is installed in Trinnov Audio’s U.S. training facility.

As for pricing, because these are not retail but instead custom installation products, and every application and integration requires several variables that the theater designer/custom installer will specify, we don’t provide retail prices. Those conversations take place with our partners and include all variables. We have a sizable range of options and are confident that anyone looking for top quality, pro-level subwoofers will find a solution by Ascendo — one that fares extremely well against any competitive alternative.

For more detail on Ascendo’s SMSG50 subwoofer, click here.

For more information on Ascendo Immersive Audio’s full line of products, visit

Ascendo products are distributed in the U.S. by Sutherland AV Marketing.


Olaf the Snowman's picture

MOAB bomb blasting could sound real :-) .........

mround's picture

...though not necessarily in subwoofers. Consider the 64' organ stop. There are two pipe organs in the world that have a true 64' stop. Fundamental frequency of the lowest note is 8 Hz. For practical purposes, the full range of the stop is inaudible, but when combined with a more common 32' stop it makes for a truly massive bass presentation. Finally, with this subwoofer, it's possible to fully reproduce the Sydney Town Hall organ (assuming it's recorded with a full frequency range). (The other one is in Atlantic City, and may not currently be functional as that organ is (and has been for years) under restoration).

As for the more likely use (LFE), USGS just called, and they're wondering why their seismographs keep seeing high-frequency shocks in Switzerland...

drny's picture

Fantastic article Bob. Great questions, and thorough detailed answers on the product. These type of articles, and more thorough product reviews are a must for S&V. Stereophile magazine and online site continue to rule the high end audiophile market because it is singularly focus on giving their base readers what they want (advertising revenue follows).
S&V needs to focus on their customer base interest.