High End 2023 - Munich, Germany
- Written by Jason Thorpe Jason Thorpe
- Parent Category: Shows-Events Shows-Events
- Created: 20 May 2023 20 May 2023
High End 2023 Listening Session: YG Acoustics Ascent Loudspeakers and My Horrible Hangover
It had been a slow start to Friday morning. After dinner Thursday night, we’d made a tactical error and ended up at a bar with some industry folks. I proceeded to drink more than was strictly advisable given the early starts we had scheduled for ourselves. Doug Schneider is much more mature than I am when it comes to this sort of thing. He had one beer and then split, shooting a look of warning at me as he bellowed, “8:30 tomorrow in the hotel lobby. Right, Jason?”
“Here’s to all my friends!” I shouted as I downed another shot of vodka.
The YG Acoustics Reference 3 lineup
Friday morning dawned bright and ugly, and it took until around noon for my soul to catch up with my body. By two o’clock, I had pretty much recovered, and that’s when we slipped into the YG Acoustics room, ostensibly to take a listen to the new Reference 3 line of speakers.
YG reps were rotating speakers in and out of the system based on a predetermined schedule. When we popped in, they were playing the Ascent speaker from the Peaks series, which is more affordable than the Reference line. The Ascent retails in the US for $19,880 per pair. The sound was so damn good, even way the heck off-axis, that I decided to sit down and check them out.
The Ascent, here shown in a beautiful satin ebony veneer, uses a 25mm (1″) ForgeCore tweeter, 18.5cm (7.25″) midrange, and 22cm (8.75″) woofer. The bass and midrange drivers, complete with machined aluminum cones, are the same as those on the Vantage 3 from YG’s Reference 3 line. The big difference is the cabinet, which in the Ascent is made from HDF that’s heavily doped with resin, as opposed to the Vantage 3’s machined-aluminum enclosure. The front baffle is machined out of 1.25″-thick aluminum, and the crossover is mounted in the machined-aluminum plinth. The tweeter waveguide was computer modeled for ideal dispersion, both horizontally and vertically.
The Peaks Ascent-based system
The Ascent is a medium-sized floorstander. It was a brave thing YG did, playing techno and playing it loud through this slim tower in this somewhat large room. I’ve heard bigger speakers fall apart trying to play bass-heavy music. But here it just fucking pounded. Watching a half-dozen mid-40s German men headbanging to the deep techno beat of “Purple Hat” was archetypal.
Another room on an industry-only day where the exhibitors were willing to have some fun with their musical choices. Excellent.
Jason Browning, YG’s product design lead, was acting as DJ for the day. Feeling perky, I asked him to play “Smaller and Smaller” by Faith No More, as I got the feeling that these guys aren’t shy. Normally this type of aggressive request would get me booted from a prissy audiophile room, or at minimum some passive-aggressive cut-eye. It turned out OK. They played it—loud—and everyone seemed to have a good time. Mike Patton’s voice is a serious workout for any system, as he can go from a rich tenor to a Japanese schoolgirl shriek in a single bar.
In speaking to Matthew Webster, YG’s designer and CEO, I discovered that the Ascent is equipped with a soft silk dome, which I’m thinking is at least partly responsible for my ability to withstand the high volumes at which these speakers were playing.
Listening to Jim Martin’s ripsaw guitar, I heard superb depth, and that weird audio thing that happens through certain speakers—they seemed to slow time down. Some sort of dilation, a gravitational pull (insert hokey explanation here). Whatever the cause, this effect makes the music seem to surround you, to wrap around your ears. It’s an exceptionally cool sensation.
After Faith No More finished beating the shit out of the assembled listeners, Browning threw on “Magic Bus” from the Who’s Live at Leeds. This is another gem that I didn’t realize sounded so good, likely because I’ve only heard it on lousy systems and never thought to put it on the turntable at home.
Again, terrific definition and a big, thick, deep soundstage, with excellent placement of instruments. Big, very big sound. These speakers sounded much larger than they should have, given their size.
Just because I can be a bit of a dick, I asked to hear “Awake on Foreign Shores” by Colin Stetson. After a quiet start, this track builds horrifically. The goal was to see how deep the little Ascent could go and how dynamically it could play. “Awake on Foreign Shores” is a concise call out played on a giant bass saxophone. It sounds like a massive foghorn, but with overtones that could raise the dead. I often play this track at home when I want to see how big I can make a speaker sound. It’s another clear-the-room piece. On the Ascents it sounded appropriately monstrous, much larger than I’d expected considering the speakers’ modest size.
With its elegant, compact appearance and knock-’em-dead sound, the Ascent is a speaker that truly fascinates me. Hopefully one day soon I can meet a review pair.
Senior Editor, SoundStage!
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