Manufacturer: Ascend Acoustics
Model: CBM-170
Suggested Retail Price:  $359.99
Rating:

Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 Bookshelf Loudspeaker

Ascend Acoustics is doing consumers a favor, cutting out the middle man.  They are a direct to the consumer speaker manufacturer which keeps the price down.  We recently had the opportunity to review their CBM-170 bookshelf speaker and evaluate its performance.    

Look and Feel
Ascend definitely didn't cut any corners in the manufacturing process.  The first impression we had was how heavy and well constructed the speakers appeared to be.  The cabinet is constructed of 5/8" MDF board, and weighs in at around 13lbs.  

The speakers have a very "clean" look to them, and we preferred the look without the grills.  The grills were a nice match to the speaker, featuring the same round edges found on the speakers.

The speakers are 12"x9"x10", appearing almost square when sitting on stands.    The flat black finish wasn't our favorite, as we prefer the glossy look like NHT speakers.

Look and Feel  - 4/5

Features
The CBM-170 features a 1" soft dome tweeter and ambitious 6.5" woofer.  There is a single rear port, located slightly above the tweeter.  A nice touch was the addition of threaded bolts to make mounting easier.

The feature we liked the most about these speakers, were the very nice set of 5 way binding posts.  The binding posts used were of excellent quality, and made excellent, good sounding connections with a variety of connection types that we used during testing.

 

Features - 4.5/5

Performance
Our staff thought one word would best describe the CBM-170 speakers, "accurate".  Listening to music on these speakers was a delight, and the stereo imaging was incredible.  The CBM-170's were definitely up to the task of rigorous home theater, but home theater usage isn't where they really impressed us.

We put the CBM-170 speakers under the paces of music and home theater powered by a Onkyo TX-DS484 receiver and a higher end Sony 333ES receiver. The CBM-170's performed well, even when powered by the budget Onkyo receiver.  

These speakers are very crisp, and provide a tremendous sense of depth.  Mid Range and treble were both produced with excellent clarity.  However, we weren't overly impressed with the amount of mid-bass produced, especially considering the larger woofer size.  The bass that was produced was very crisp and clean though.  As with most bookshelf speakers this problem was easily cured, by teaming them with a subwoofer.

Performance - 4.5/5

Overall
We considered the CBM-170 to be a speaker for a music lover first, and a home theater lover second.  If you listen to music 75% of the time, this is your speaker.  If you listen to music less than 25% of the time, you'll probably be better off by purchasing a cheaper speaker.

Ascend Acoustics has definitely built a nice looking, incredibly accurate speaker that makes music come alive.  The $360 price tag for 2 may be a little steep for someone trying to build a 5 speaker system, but you would definitely be well served by starting with 2 CBM-170's as your left and right channels.  For music, we haven't found a speaker we prefer over the CBM-170s yet.  

Overall - 4.5/5