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The ZF3 SE sounds extremely coherent as though only a single large transducer were used. The sound is built up differently than usual however. Let’s invoke adhesion. Imagine that between the speakers there was a very thin liquid film. Walk to the line between the speakers and push your face against this imaginary film. Now return to your listening spot. It feels like the film remained stuck to your face. That's exactly how I felt sitting in front of the Ascendo speakers. I felt sucked into the space created in front of me – the space and acoustics of the room where the recording was taken transferred to my room, not the other way ‘round.

The soundstage was very coherent and continuous. Suzanne Vega's voice presented itself very closely in a full mature way just like Chris Connor's vocal and Wes Montgomery’s guitar did. All the images were shown from a particular and specific perspective. Listen to a very good recording like J.S. Bach’s Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin performed by Pavlo Beznosiuk. You’ll find out just what I mean. Linn Records often offers very sensual dense recordings and this is one of them. This becomes very special with the Ascendo. On one hand the first plane of the soundstage is very close to you, on the other hand the soundstage extends very deep. The secret is that the speaker utterly vanishes from the  picture so you can't really tell that there is a great depth behind it as it’s simply not there to serve as a marker.

It is very important to understand this distinction. Usually speakers don’t soundstage with space as the most important feature but here it is. This joins together dynamics and timbre into one coherent presentation. The images are very smooth but rendered differently. They don't have the usual distinct outlines as though they were cut out from the background. Here they are rather infused into the background, i.e. very very close to what I remember from concert halls, clubs and such. This might be the decisive factor for someone choosing between for example Serblin’s Ktêma and the System ZF3. The Ascendos won’t portray the virtual stage in separate blocks. With them there is only one continuous picture. This is so different from what we know from most loudspeakers that it takes a lot of time to realize exactly what this difference is even though when you listen to inferior speakers you might at times get a similar impression. They might feel less palpable and more distant. Here the effect simply doesn't rely on poor resolution. Ascendo’s resolution is outstanding particularly in the midrange and treble but even the bass range is bloody good. What we get here is an honest attempt at recreating live performances as closely as humanly possible.

As already mentioned tonal balance was very good even though you might get the impression of it being slightly on the warm side. Vocals were very strong, rich and deep. I loved how Harry Belafonte sounded on Carnegie Hall (1959) issued on Quality CD with LPCD M2 mastering. Absolutely beautiful! But the three-dimensionality of the venue was different than presented by Serblin's latest speakers or his earlier Sonus Faber Electa Amator. Blended is really the best word for it.

Planar drivers including ribbon tweeters often get associated with brightness. Perhaps some really do sound that way but they are rather the exception. A good ribbon offers very friendly high-quality slightly warm sound. The warmth derives from lack of distortion. There is only one condition. All the various elements of the system must be of very high quality. If you hear brightness and harshness it surely comes from some other part of the system, not the ribbon itself.

Ascendo’s ribbon tweeter covers most of the frequency range to fuse the whole presentation into something very coherent and natural i.e. similar to real music. Not once did I encounter overcooked sibilants unless that’s how they were recorded. Even than it didn't sound unpleasant but was simply audible. There is not much to say about the midrange. It’s merely the downward extension of the treble. Warm guitars are big and warm, harsh ones harsh although still presented from some distance.

One observation to remind us that these are only loudspeakers and not even the most expensive ones is that I thought the upper treble slightly rolled off and not as rich as the rest of the range. A similar thing happened in the mid-bass which seemed slightly dull and not as well differentiated as Serblin's speakers. That's the only thing I could point at claiming any possible improvement. Generally speaking the bass was outstanding, well extended and liquid. It had great rhythm but a slightly softened attack again like in real life. The resolution of this range was very good but its differentiation not as outstanding as that of the midrange and treble.

I now have mentioned the most important qualities to point you in the right direction if you are interested in these speakers. I could go on describing my impressions but it's not my job to write down everything. I tried to present you only with the core traits for a recognizable character sketch. Ascendo’s ZF3 SE are outstanding transducers which once set up properly in the room and combined with proper electronics will perform as a single large driver. They will allow comfortable listening to every musical piece and genre as they are not ruthless. Whilst fully capable of showing up all the technical issues of recordings, they do so somehow alongside the music. This makes them one of the very few speakers which can be used successfully in both recording studios and home audio systems. They might not be as physically beautiful as the Ktêma speakers but here form follows function and that’s different from the Italians. If you can accept that you might have found your Holy Grail.