Definitive Technology Descend DN12 review: triple 12″ woofer

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The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer features a large 12″ woofer loaded in a sealed enclosure and coupled to a pair of 12″ passive speakers drivers. Capable of playing as low as 25Hz and featuring an amplification section rated at 500W RMS, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer promises to bring a new subsonic experience to movie soundtracks. But, let’s see what it is really capable of.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer promises powerful bass with its three 12″ woofers and its 500 watts RMS amplification section.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12: packaging & accessories

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer comes in a large cardboard box inside which it is properly wedged and protected. A synthetic fabric covers it to prevent damage during unpacking. The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 comes with a power cable, a user guide and an infrared remote control to adjust the volume and settings remotely (which is rather rare for a subwoofer) .

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer comes with a quick start guide, power cable and infrared remote control.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12 Overview

Design

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer is one of the most powerful models in the Descend range, but also one of the most imposing. With a width of 47 cm for a height of 45 cm and a depth of 48 cm, it is designed for a large living room or, even better, a dedicated cinema room.

The enclosure of the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 is made of thick solid MDF. The cabinet is sealed and features internal braces to handle all the power of the woofer while avoiding unwanted vibrations and resonances. On the outside, only the upper face of the subwoofer reveals this MDF frame. All the other sides are covered with black acoustic fabric. At the top of the front panel, the DN12 hides an LED panel displaying the volume, as well as information on the settings including the cutoff frequency, the equalization mode and the phase. The brightness of this display can be reduced or entirely deactivated so it isn’t too distracting while watching a movie. Despite its fairly massive size, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer completely disappears in the dark and its presence is only felt by the deep bass it delivers.

With the exception of the top pannel, all the other sides of the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 are covered with a black acoustic fabric.

Acoustic design

Designed to deliver deep lows, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer features a 12″ active speaker driver. It is loaded in a sealed enclosure and coupled to two passive 12″ drivers. These support the active speaker so the DN12 can play louder while retaining its extension in the lows with far less distortion than a bass-reflex subwoofer. The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer is thus capable of going down to 25 Hz while maintaining excellent control of harmonics.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer is equipped with a 12″ active driver combined with two 12″ passive drivers to enjoy bass extension down to 25 Hz.

The active driver of the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer is powered by a digital Class H amplifier module. This type of amplification adapts or is modulated by the input signal. The power supply adapts to continuously maintain its output voltage at a level slightly higher than necessary. This process limits the power lost in the output transistors, thereby increasing efficiency. This Class H design allows the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer to deliver 500W RMS and peaks at over 1500W. With real-time system voltage monitoring and adjustments, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer amplifier module is able to deliver higher power during short transient peaks, such as drum solos or gunfire in a movie.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer features a 500 watt amplification section to efficiently drive its 12″ woofer.

DSP and equalization

Reproducing low frequencies requires a longer travel of the speaker cone which entails a greater risk of distortion. In order to limit this, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 uses a digital processor operating on 56 bits to continuously analyze the movement of the cone in order to accurately control its movement. Thus, the DN12 can play at louder levels, while maintaining a natural and well controlled sound. During this test, the DN12 never showed any signs of weakness or clipping, even with its volume turned up to 100 %.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer also has three preset equalization modes: Flat, Deep and Loud. These mainly play on the frequency response of the subwoofer. Loud mode is the best setting to use for loud volume with minimal distortion. This is the recommended mode when sheer volume takes precedence over the reproduction of the lowest frequencies. The Deep mode works in the opposite way as it optimizes the reproduction of the lowest frequencies while limiting the maximum sound volume. Finally, the Flat mode does not apply any correction.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer has pre-set modes to easily adjust its output according to its placement in the room or the user’s preferences.

In addition to its pre-programmed EQs, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer obviously leaves the possibility for the user to make their own adjustments. The remote control or the physical interface located at the rear of the subwoofer can be used to adjust the cut-off frequency from 40 to 120 Hz and the phase from – 135° to 180°, in 45° increments.

Volume, phase and cutoff frequency can also be adjusted manually from the remote control or the physical interface of the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer.

Connectors

At the rear, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer incorporates a metal plate on which the connectors are integrated. The latter consists of a set of three inputs, with an LFE input, a line-level stereo RCA input and a high-level input. The DN12 can be easily associated with any amplifier, whether via a subwoofer output, pre-out or directly connected to the loudspeaker terminals. An IR input allows you to pair it with an infrared repeater if you want to completely hide the subwoofer. Finally, a Trigger input ensures the activation of the subwoofer at the same time as the amp when it is connected in high level and connected to the Trigger output of a compatible receiver. Added to this is a switch to activate or not the automatic switching on and standby of the subwoofer when it receives a signal from the amplifier (auto stand by). A main switch also makes it possible to completely turn off the subwoofer when it is not in use.

Thanks to its stereo RCA, LFE and high-level inputs, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer can be easily associated with any amplifier.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12: Implementation

We tested the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer in one of the three cinema rooms in the Paris-Est Son-Vidéo.com store. It was associated with a 5.1.2 home theater system comprised of Focal 300 IC LCR5 in-wall speakers and a Marantz SR-8015 AV receiver to which it was connected in LFE using an Audioquest Irish Red cable.

We configured the subwoofer’s crossover to LFE mode in order to adjust the cutoff frequency directly from the receiver’s menu. We set the phase to 0° and set the On/Off switch to auto so that the subwoofer could be automatically activated when the amp is turned on, which worked every time we used it. Finally, we went back and forth between the Deep and Loud mode, depending on our needs.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12: listening impressions

The first time we used the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer, we thought it was quite undemonstrative. The bass was timid and lacked impact, even when pushing the volume of the subwoofer. To really make it come out of its shell, we had to increase the level of the LFE output of the Marantz AV receiver. The DN12 was a bit more generous then, but we still had to turn the volume volume up for it to liven up.

With the film The Marsian , the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 did well and brought depth to the soundtrack. At high volume, the shuttle’s take-off sounded believable, gripping and without an ounce of breathlessness or shortness. Throughout the film, the subwoofer contributed greatly to accentuate the moments of tension. Without being abysmal, the lows were deep and energetic enough to punctuate action scenes with determination and pleasant intensity.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer punctuated action scenes with determination and pleasant intensity.

With Jurassic Park , the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer reinforced the scary nature of the film by giving body and presence to the footsteps of the dinosaurs. The roars gained authority, credibility and sounded more frightening than ever. Overall, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 did not try to be excessive or demonstrative. It stayed true to the soundtrack, making it livelier and more physiological during action scenes, but without ever taking precedence over the other channels. The entire soundstafe gained in realism and density with deeper and denser low frequencies.

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer brought an extra dimension to Jurassic Park by highlighting the presence of the dinosaurs.

Finally, we used the Marantz’ Spotify Connect function to test the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 with music. Undoubtedly, the presence in the bass is reinforced, resulting in a soundstage that seemed better layered and clearer. The overall sound gained in dynamics and depth, with a solid foundation. We heard more information in the low end of the spectrum, which brought additionnal depth to the sound and made the instruments feel more natural. Finally, the attacks were frank and no dragging was to be deplored.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12: compared to…

Magnat Omega CS 12 : both are sold for the same price and the Magnat subwoofer is also a sealed model fitted with a 12″ woofer coupled to 525 watts RMS amplifier. We think the Magnat Omega CS 12 is capable of delivering sub-bass with more power and more presence. And when it comes to esthetics, the Magant Omega CS 12 has a black lacquered cabinet which makes it look more elegant. However, this lacquered coating has the disadvantage of reflecting the light from the TV or projector. Also, the front panel display cannot be turned off, unlike the Definitive Technology Descend DN12. The DN12 is therefore more discreet.

The Magnat Omega CS 12 is a little more generous in the sub-bass, but its drawback is it lacquered finish that can catch the eye while watching a movie.

SVS SB-2000 Pro: marketed from €1099, the SVS SB-2000 Pro received the EISA award for the best subwoofer in the world in 2020. It has slightly more compact design that make it even easier to integrate in a room. On the technical side, the SVS SB-2000 Pro is equipped with a 12″ woofer coupled with 550 watts RMS class D amplification. The speaker is loaded in a sealed enclosure, has a bass extension down to 19 Hz and excellent transient response. The bass is a little deeper and more powerful than with the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 during the most intense action scenes.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12: who is it for?

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer is primarily aimed at movie enthusiasts looking for an effective solution to bring breadth and depth to action scenes. It offers a more substantial and realistic experience, for an even more impactful sound immersion, with films, series and video games. Due to its fairly large format and its three 12″ woofers, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer will find its place more easily in a dedicated cinema room or a living room measuring more than 30 m².

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 is aimed at movie enthusiast looking for a subwoofer capable of bringing a new experience to films, series or video games, without taking precedence over the rest of the sound spectrum.

Definitive Technology Descend DN12: Conclusion

At first, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer may seem a bit shy and lacking in energy. However, after a few adjustments to both the amp and the subwoofer, you can enjoy more generous lows, provided you push the volume up to ¾. The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer then becomes quite reactive and manages to deliver tight and well controlled bass. It energizes the overall sound and brings substance, without ever bleeding over into the other registers and effects, nor crushing the listener under the weight of its presence.

What we liked

  • The remote control
  • The many settings
  • Bass control

We would have liked

  • More power at low volume
  • Even deeper bass

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