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Definitive Technology Descend DN15 15" Subwoofer Review

by March 19, 2024
Definitive Technology Descend DN15

Definitive Technology Descend DN15

  • Product Name: Descend DN15 Subwoofer
  • Manufacturer: Definitive Technology
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: March 19, 2024 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 1,799
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz-150Hz ± 3db
  • Woofer: 15” Active Long Throw, 2 15” Passive Radiators
  • Design Type: Bass Radiator
  • Amplifier Power: 500 Watts RMS / 1500 Peak
  • Amplifier Type: Class H
  • Connectivity: Single RCA LFE input, L/R speaker-level binding posts
  • Dimensions with Feet: 24.14" x 23.44" x 24.91"
  • Weight: 114.6 lbs.
  • Warranty: 5 years woofers, 3 years electronics


  • Very low distortion
  • True 20Hz extension
  • Interesting industrial design
  • Good build quality


  • Not the highest SPL option among large subwoofers
  • No XLR input


DM15Definitive Technology DN15 Introduction

Can you have audiophile sound and deep bass?

For a long time, monster subwoofers have been the domain of manufacturer direct businesses, since demand for giant subs was relegated to a relatively niche market of home theater enthusiasts. However, the breakout success of some of these home theater businesses has proven to the audio business that the people willing to accommodate a monster subwoofer in their home constitute a larger fraction of the buying market than previously thought. We have recently seen some of the more mainstream loudspeaker manufacturers try their hand in the big sub game, and two that we looked at were the Paradigm Defiance X15 and Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-1600SW. Definitive Technology wasn’t about to let this challenge go unanswered, so they have thrown their hat in the ring with the Descend DN15, the subject of today’s review. The DN15 is basically a 2’ cube that weighs 115 lbs., and it uses a 15” driver powered by a 500-watt RMS amp to move two 15” passive radiators. In other words, it is a bruiser - at least on paper. How does it compare in practice? Can we get deep bass and audiophile sound? That is what we will try to find out in today’s review. 

Definitive Technology Descend DN15 Appearance

DM15 4  DM15 3

As with many other Definitive Technology products, the DN15 has an attractively minimalist appearance that should go some way towards making its sheer size palatable in a typical room. It leans into its cube dimensions by having all of the edges and corners be hard 90-degree angles. It follows the aesthetic set by Definitive Technology’s bipole speakers by covering the unit in a black fabric. If your speakers are Definitive Technology’s BP9000 series or Dymension series, the DN15 will be a perfect stylistic match. The sub is capped with a satin black top that has an understated Definitive Technology badge inset in the corner. It is basically a big black cube that is softened in appearance by the fabric surface. The non-reflective fabric will help it disappear in a darkened environment. Owners of cats should be made aware that the fabric covering of the DN15 might be an irresistible scratching surface for the felines; cat owners might want to skip this sub unless it will be used in a room cut off from the cat’s space. One interesting visual cue is the LCD display on the front of the sub. It is hidden unless active where it glows through the fabric covering of the sub. It lets the user see the sub’s gain level, phase, and operating mode.

Definitive Technology Descend DN15 Design Analysis

The DN15 is a 15” subwoofer that uses passive radiators, which is an unusual design these days. Passive radiators used to be more common, especially in smaller subs, but they have fallen out of vogue in the past decade or so. Passive radiators function much like ports; the backwave pressure wave from the rear of the driver cone resonates a radiating surface, which in turn creates its own pressure waves of air. In standard ports, that vibrating surface is a cylinder of air inside the port, but in a passive radiator, the vibrating surface is the moving mass of the radiator, which is largely the cone of an unpowered driver with no motor. The advantage of a passive radiator is that they can tune the system to lower frequencies for the same size enclosure, hence their popularity for smaller subs. It’s unusual to see them employed in a unit using a 15” driver because the sub can’t help but be large, but I suppose the DN15 would be even larger were it using ports to achieve the same deep bass extension. The disadvantage of passive radiators is that they add to the cost of the sub since they are much more complex than the simple hollow tubes or slots ports. Another advantage of passive radiators is that they don’t run into audible turbulence that happens when port velocity is overloaded, however, they can be pushed into over-excursion which can also turn into an audible problem.

DN15 interior view 

There are two 15” passive radiators mounted on the opposing left and right sides of the sub. This is a good idea that cancels out rocking motion since passive radiators can often have some heft. In fact, it is their diaphragm weight that governs their resonant frequency. The active driver is a front-facing 15” that looks to have a paper-based cone. It uses a stamped steel frame with extruded ribs for added rigidity. It is mounted to a motor that uses a double-stacked 1 ¾” thick magnet with a 5 ¾” diameter. That is a fair amount of magnetized iron, but it doesn’t tell us the flux within the gap, which is the pertinent value here, and only Definitive Technology’s engineers know that information. The motor has a bumped-out backplate to enable longer excursions, and it is vented through the pole piece. The passive radiators look to have a similar cone and basket as the active driver.

DM15 amp panelThe amp is a 500-watt RMS class H unit that is spec’d for 1500 watts peak. Class H topologies are a bit unusual in subwoofers. They are more efficient than class A/B but also more expensive. Most large 15” subs in this price range have more power than 500 watts RMS, but the performance will be more determined by driver and enclosure design than amp wattage. The amp controls are also unusual; they feature square buttons that stylistically correspond to the cube appearance of the DN15. Phase, EQ Mode, LCD display brightness, volume, and low-pass frequency can be controlled from the amp panel. Unfortunately, there is no display in the back to see what the value change is. The amp control display is in the front, but the sub is so large that it is very difficult to change the settings from the amp itself and see what is happening. Thankfully, Definitive Technology has also included a remote that controls all the same functions, so users can easily operate the sub with an eye on the display. Connectivity is comprised of left and right RCA inputs, an unbalanced LFE input, and speaker-level inputs. I cannot understand why I still see speaker-level inputs being used on subwoofers; the situations where they would be used are uncommon. Definitive Technology would have been much better off ditching the speaker-level inputs in favor of balanced XLRs which would be a lot more useful.

The enclosure uses 1” MDF for all paneling, and there is a smaller additional layer on the panels for the driver and passive radiators. The top and bottom are crossed with ¾” braces, and there is some acoustic stuffing lining around the braces. The cabinet feels fairly dense although there aren’t the usual windowpane braces that we often see in this segment. At nearly 115 lbs., it is a heavy unit, so be sure to have help when lifting it. The feet are some wide square-shaped blocks that are surfaced with rubber mats, and they give the sub a 1” clearance.

Looking at the design as a whole, a large 15” sub with dual passive radiators promises a very healthy amount of deep bass, so let’s see how that pans out in some actual use…

Definitive Technology Descend DN15 Listening Sessions

The best placement for a single sub in my room gives me a relatively flat response for an un-EQ’d single subwoofer, with a window of +/- 4 dB from 25 Hz to 100 Hz with no broad dips in important ranges. This location trades low-end room gain for a relatively flat response, a worthwhile trade for my tastes. The receiver used was a Marantz AV7705. The crossover was set to 80Hz. The speakers used were some Ellis 1802G custom bookshelf speakers.

As always, I will note here that since room acoustics have a huge effect on low frequencies, the way these subwoofers sound in my room at my listening position is not necessarily going to be the way they sound anywhere else for anyone else, so readers would do well to keep that in mind, and not just for this subwoofer in this review but for any subwoofer in any review.

Music Listening

the DN15 was able to relay the power of this massive organ without strain.

The largest organ in Poland and the fourth largest in Europe is installed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen. It is a relatively new construction, having been completed in 2007, and it is massive, much like the church it is installed in. It has 157 stops and 12,323 pipes including multiple 32’ stops that should enable it to dig down to near infrasonic frequencies. “The Great Organ of the Lichen Basilica” is an album that celebrates this monumental instrument. Renowned Polish organist Karol Golebiowski plays a selection of pieces that demonstrate the sound of this pipe organ from eminent composers such as Charles Marie-Widor and Alexandre Guilmant. There is a lot of work for any subwoofer to do in this album that I streamed from Qobuz, and it should exhibit the DN15’s abilities to reproduce a heavy-duty pipe organ.

While the music in this album digs into deep frequencies, it doesn’t do so in a flagrant manner, so the deep bass here isn’t rattling doors and windows. Instead, it is used to give weight to harmonies and act as a rhythmic anchor, and on the DN15, it accomplishes these objectives with aplomb. The first track pulls a lot of stops and has the massive sound that pipe organs are known for, and the DN15 gives this sound the appropriate low-end force. Subsequent tracks take things down a notch, but the sub is rarely left with nothing to do, so I do think that low-frequency exhibition was a part of the criteria in selecting these pieces. The DN15 was always able to give the bass a solid foundation without overdoing it and throwing rumble in my face. An example of this is the bass melody in track 6 which flows beneath so much of the proceedings but gives it all structure to hang on; it was present without being overbearing. On occasion, Golebiowski does bring some thunder, and the DN15 was able to relay the power of this massive organ without strain. I could hear the oscillating air in the pipes in some of the deepest notes, a nice touch of detail, although much of that sound was probably above the subwoofer’s range. In the end, I thought the DN15 lacked for nothing on this recording, and any pipe organ enthusiast would surely be delighted with what this sub has to offer.

Lichen Basilica Organ      Small Town

the DN15 was able to relay the sound of this instrument with precision.

For another acoustic instrument that puts the subwoofer to good use, I listened to the jazz album “Small Town,” a 2017 release by Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan, for its fine recording of the double bass. Famous guitarist Frisell is joined by bassist Morgan, and they cover an eclectic selection of music with plenty of jazz improvisation and contribute some original pieces of their own as well. Morgan’s mastery over the double bass and the exquisite hi-res recording make this album a good demo for a subwoofer’s ability to reproduce transients as well as subtle overtones. I again streamed this terrific album released by the venerable ECM label from Qobuz.  

While much of the sound of the double bass is composed of overtones that are out of range of the sub, the fundamental frequency and, at times, lower harmonics do fall in the sub’s range, and the DN15 was able to relay the sound of this instrument with precision. A plucked double bass has always been a great instrument to gauge the transient character of the lower frequencies of a sound system, and “Small Town” serves as a great example of this. The attack and decay of the double bass involve sound well above the subwoofer spectrum, but the sub still has to keep up, and the DN15 had no trouble on this account. Of course, subwoofer calibration is critical in this regard, but the sub has to be up to snuff as well. The DN15 was able to blend very well in the system, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell whether I was listening to a sub/satellite system or some full-range speakers if I hadn’t known any better. It was very fluid in its ability to track notational melody, and there was no undue emphasis on any range or note. That, of course, is a supremely important aspect of music such as this, and in this respect, I could not have asked for more than what the DN15 delivered. Of note in this recording is an odd but enjoyable cover of John Barry’s theme for “Goldfinger;” one would not think this edgy and tight theme would lend itself to the languid improvisations of Frisell and Morgan’s jazz, but somehow it works. In the end, the DN15 was a terrific sub for the double bass and probably overkill, but if you want to be sure that the low frequencies in your jazz are hitting the mark, you won’t go wrong with this sub. 

The DN15 was able to blend very well in the system...

Changing gears, I decided to see what the DN15 could do with bass of a more subtle variety with some dark ambient music. The album I decided on was an extensive sampler from the Kalpamantra label called “Krtrima Sprha” (don’t ask me how to pronounce that). This 2012 compilation has 75 tracks from a multiplicity of artists and can be had from Bandcamp for a mere £5. Some of the artists are familiar to fans of the genre such as New Risen Throne and Kammarheit, but many are ones I had never heard of, although it was all high-quality music, at least for those who dig this stuff. This epic collection of dark ambient is a great test of a subwoofer’s ability to deal with deep bass in music because so much of this music uses low frequencies in a variety of ways on account of the diversity of artists and the nature of this genre. Fans of this genre are strongly encouraged to give this album a listen, and it can be heard here: Krtrima Sprha

Some of these tracks used the subwoofer more extensively than others, but all of them did to some extent, and the DN15 was always able to recreate the depth and magnitude of bass demanded by any of them. From sweeping drones, resonating cathedral bells, reverberant thunder, subterranean rumbling, and a myriad of other low-frequency sounds, everything was reproduced with effortless precision. Much of the bass was subtler, atmospheric sounds that needed a delicate touch, and the DN15 could handle these more subdued elements with a finesse that created a seamless and convincing soundstage. A good example of this occurs in track 6, “Mene” by Therradeamon, a deep dive into plunderphonics that drenches numerous low-frequency sound sources in a cavernous reverb, and the DN15 was able to resolve the decay of these sounds with fine lens. The subwoofer was a great match for the high-accuracy loudspeakers I was using, a pair of custom-made Ellis 1802G reference speakers, which are certainly ‘audiophile-grade’ if that term has any meaning. And if that term does have any meaning, it would certainly apply to the DN15 as well, since it misses nothing. I have to admit not listening to the entirety of “Krtrima Sprha,” because this album is well over seven hours in length, but I did listen a good hour longer than I had intended for the session I had scheduled, in part because of how superlative the DN15 could deliver this music. I hope to get a chance to finish this album with the DN15 in house.

Krtrima Sprha    Cronos

To see what the sub could do at higher stress levels, I selected “Cronos,” a collaboration between Two Fingers and Muadeep. Anyone deep into electronic bass music will have heard of these artists and will know that putting them together would inevitably result in some pretty epic bass music. This 2023 EP from the Nomark label features some hard-hitting bass and breakbeats that will push any bass system to the limit at high levels. Two Fingers and Muadeep keep things interesting, so this is a lot of fun to just listen to as opposed to some of the more repetitive music made for dance floors from this genre.

Every track on this EQ is killer, and the DN15 did a great job of belting out the bass on “Cronos.” It’s hard to pick a standout track. Thump from the kick drums managed to have a chest-slamming sensation, and basslines were given a tactile buzz. To see how loud the sub could get without endangering my hearing or my speakers, I turned off the amp powering the speakers and raised the volume to max. At the top end of the gain, the DN15 did start to compress the sound, but it never ran into any audible distortion otherwise. There was never the telltale fuzziness of higher-order harmonics, and it kept a tight leash on misbehavior. It was a sub that wasn’t willing to sacrifice sound quality for loudness. It was nonetheless able to get very loud, so that isn’t a terrible compromise in this case. A benefit of this indestructibility is that users could crank this sub hard without worrying about it beating itself to death; it won’t allow itself to be placed in danger. However, it should be noted that if you ran this or any other sub hard frequently, it would inevitably shorten the life of the unit because of the constant mechanical flexing of the drivers and the high heat generated by the electronics. Listening to “Cronos” on the DN15 at a high level was a blast, and it demonstrated without a doubt that electronic bass music lovers have a winner in this sub. 

Movie Watching

the DN15 gave such a visceral sensation that it was as if it had occurred in my living room.

I hadn’t yet seen the 2022 science fiction actioner “Prey” but I had heard lots of good things about it, and I figured now would be a great time to watch it with such a seemingly capable subwoofer in-house. The “Predator” franchise has struggled to produce an equal to the first film although there have been several noble attempts. Would “Prey” be the film to deliver on the promise of the 1987 original? I was about to find out, and I was also going to see how the DN15 deals with movie bass of a more fantastical nature. This movie concerns a Comanche woman who must contend with the famous interstellar hunter in the North American plains of 1719. 

“Prey” opens with the thunder of the Predator’s unseen spacecraft delivering our legendary hunter to Earth’s surface, and the DN15 gave the machine an impressively ominous rumble. Further on, a savage fight between a bear and the Predator also had lots of LFE that the DN15 gave such a visceral sensation that it was as if it had occurred in my living room. The annihilation of the poachers was also a bass fest with the Predator deploying a variety of weapons to dispatch the outmatched Frenchmen. The thud of bodies slamming against trees or getting impaled was given a physical sensation by the DN15. The orchestral music score by Sarah Schachner also kept the sub busy with feverish bass drums underscoring the terror and conflict shown on screen. “Prey” turned out to be a terrific contribution to the “Predator” franchise and had a welcome simplicity after the convoluted plot of the previous entry. It is certainly a movie to watch with a good sound system and a potent sub. The DN15 complemented this movie perfectly.

Prey     Dial of Destiny

Another film I finally got around to watching with the DN15 at home was the fifth (and likely final) outing in the “Indiana Jones” franchise, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” Word of mouth has been much more mixed about this installment, but I was excited to give it a try nonetheless. This film has an abundance of bass from all the action scenes and serves as a great exhibition of a subwoofer’s dynamic range at loud playback levels. As a major Lucasfilm production, it should have about the best sound mixing that any film can hope for.

“The Dial of Destiny” was better than I had expected, although my expectations weren’t very high after the unfortunate fourth entry. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this outing with Dr. Jones, and the DN15 proved to be a capable tool in helping that happen. Heavy-duty bass starts early with the chase after the Spear of Destiny in 1944 Germany under collapse by the Allied invasion. An unexploded bomb sets the stage for a blast that the DN15 gives a resounding roar. Later, a foot chase through a Nazi military train culminating with a hilariously malfunctioning anti-aircraft gun was given a good level of punch for the gun’s firing. The entire sequence was beautifully choreographed, and it was filled with LFE effects that the DN15 was more than game for. A subsequent car chase in Tangiers was given a satisfying rumble and crashing sounds thanks in part to the DN15. Most of the LFE effects were saved for the finale which I won’t spoil here, but the DN15 delivered the cinematic experience that one would hope for in such an epic sequence. Also benefitting from the great bass was John Williams’ unfailingly great score where kettle drums and bass violins kept the sub busy. “The Dial of Destiny” is certainly an experience made better for a competent sound system, and the DN15 proved itself to be very competent indeed.

Definitive Technology Descend DN15 Subwoofer Measurements

DM15 outdoor testing 

Testing on the Definitive Technology Descend DN15 was conducted with the microphone facing the woofer at a 1-meter distance with measurements scaled back to a 2-meter distance by subtracting 6dB. The temperature was recorded at 60F degrees with 90% humidity. The subwoofer’s gain was set to maximum, the phase was set to zero, and the low pass filters were set to maximum.

DN15 Frequency Responses 

The above graph shows the measured frequency responses for the DN15 subwoofer. Here we see a nicely linear response from 20Hz and above. There is definitely a high-pass filter preventing output below 20Hz because the low-frequency roll-off is so steep. There isn’t much of a high-frequency roll-off, and we are only down by 5dB by 300Hz, so this sub could be crossed over at any frequency that the user could want. That is great news for multi-sub systems that want to use subs with higher crossover frequencies to address room modes. I like how Definitive Technology decided on a clear and specific performance target and hit the bull’s eye. There is not a tremendous difference between the various operating modes. The “Loud” mode gives the user a bit more punch from 40 to 50Hz, and that might give some more oomph to the fundamental frequencies of low-tuned bass drums or electronic bass lines. “Deep” mode gives 20Hz a couple more dB at the expense of the 40-50Hz range, and that would perceptually give more weight to the low-end. “Flat” mode is the middle ground between these. In my listening, the differences between these modes were subtle, so I just left it on flat for most of my listening.

DN15 CEA2010 table 

here we see a very clean sub that does not lose its composure even when pushed to the max.

The above CEA-2010 measurements are short-term bursts that show the subwoofer’s clean peak SPL before heavy distortion sets in. Our measurements have been referenced to 2-meter RMS, which is 9dB down from the standard requirement for the measurements to be shown at 1-meter peak. However most publicly available CEA-2010 measurements are shown at 2-meter RMS, so we followed that convention.

Bassaholic LargeThe DN15 posts some good numbers here, but it has to be said that this doesn’t hit the same loudness levels as similarly priced large subs. I think that one aspect that holds it back is the amplification; most competing subs have significantly more power than 500-watts RMS. A doubling of amplification could potentially increase these numbers by 3dB which would put it more in line with its competition. However, there is more to performance than peak SPL, even in CEA-2010, and we should be looking at THD as well, and here we see a very clean sub that does not lose its composure even when pushed to the max. It doesn’t really go above 10% THD at 25Hz or above, no matter how hard you push it, and that makes for a very clean-sounding subwoofer. These numbers give the DN15 our Bassaholics ‘Large’ Room Rating meaning it should be able to handle a room of 3,000 cubic feet. For information on how the room ratings are determined, please read our article “Bassaholic Subwoofer Room Size Rating Protocol”.

Definitive DN15 vs Monoprice SW-15 Subwoofer Comparison

For some perspective, I tested this sub on the same day that I tested the Monoprice SW-15, and while the much less expensive SW-15 has a lot more perceptual punch, the DN15 was so much more refined and unperturbed at high levels. There was a major difference in sound character, especially at high drive levels, and anyone more concerned about sound quality than loudness will certainly opt for the DN15. To use an analogy, it’s like the difference between a cheap muscle car that has great 0-60 times but not much else, and a dialed-in sports car that is not as fast in a straight line but handles well, stops quickly, and has good stability and balance at every point of operation.

DN15 long term output response 

Testing for long-term output compression was done by first conducting a 20-second sweep tone where 50Hz hit 90 dB with the subwoofer 1 meter from the microphone (graph has been scaled to 2 meters for easy comparison with our other review measurements). We then conduct further 20-second sweeps by raising the gain by 5dB until no more output could be wrung out of the subwoofer. These tests show us the long-term continuous headroom that the subwoofer is capable of.

The DN15 performs well in this testing, and it does not change its response shape at all until the last 5dB of headroom. At the maximum drive level, it does compress some output from 20Hz to 30Hz, but this is not as severe as we see from most subs in this test. Again, while the max output isn’t bad, it isn’t on the level of many of its peers, mainly in the range above 40Hz. More amplifier power probably wouldn’t have given it more headroom in the range where we see compression, but it would have increased output in mid-bass frequencies above 40Hz.


The above graphs show the corresponding total harmonic distortion to the long-term output graphs. Essentially, they depict how linear the subwoofer remains for the corresponding drive level seen in the long-term sweeps. The quantity being measured is how much of the subwoofer’s output is distortion and is shown here as a percentage.

As we saw in the burst testing, the DN15 holds its composure well, even when pushed to full throttle. Yes, there is a lot of distortion below 20Hz, but there isn’t much output in that range, so that doesn’t matter. What matters is distortion within its operational range, but it stays well-controlled above 20Hz. Distortion can barely break 10% THD even at the maximum drive level. This sub just does not want to produce any sound that isn’t in the source signal, and it maintains its fidelity no matter how hard it is pushed. I still think there is room for more amplification. If Definitive Technology did add another 500 watts, I wouldn’t guess we would see a major boost in distortion on top of the levels seen here, only a minor increase. I think it would be worth the additional headroom. However, I should say I never really topped out its headroom in my own listening.

DN15 2nd order harmonic

DN15 3rd order harmonic

the nature of the DN15’s minor levels of distortion makes it very difficult to hear.

The above graphs depict measurements of the constituent harmonics from the long-term output sweeps and are what the total harmonic distortion measurements are composed of for the 2nd and 3rd harmonics. These individual harmonics can give us a clue as to what might be the cause of some quirk or non-linearity. We are only showing the 2nd and 3rd here because they more or less reflect the higher even-order and odd-order behaviors, although higher-order harmonics tend to be much further down as a percentage of distortion compared to the second and third.

It’s interesting to see that the majority of measured distortion is even-order. That tells us that most of the distortion is originating from only one side of the driver’s excursion. I would guess, from the steady rise in 2nd-order harmonics, that the distortion comes from induction. I think that if it were suspension or motor-based, then we would see an abrupt rise at the edge of the DN15’s performance envelope, but instead, we see a gradual rise as the drive levels increase. I am not sure what measures Definitive Technology has taken to reduce induction, but there are a lot of measures that can be taken to inhibit induction. There may be room for Definitive technology to do more here and get even cleaner output, although the results may be more a technical achievement than anything that is audibly beneficial. Even-order harmonics tend to be more difficult to discern than odd-order harmonics since the spectral character of many musical instruments as well as the scaling of octaves follow even-order harmonics, therefore music recordings can do a lot to mask even-order distortion components. In other words, the nature of the DN15’s minor levels of distortion makes it very difficult to hear. The bottom line is that this sub produces extremely clean and accurate bass.

DN15 Group Delay

Group delay is the measurement of how much time it takes for individual frequency bands of an input signal to be produced by the speaker. It can indicate that some frequency components are developing slower than others or are taking longer to decay. It is generally thought that 1.5 sound cycles are needed for group delay to be audible at bass frequencies, although there is an argument that group delay should remain under 20ms to be completely unnoticeable, but that is likely meant for mid and upper bass frequencies.

These time domain results are overall quite good. In the ranges where rises in delay might have an audible penalty, it is very low, not exceeding 10ms until around 40Hz. It doesn’t even exceed our worst-case scenario of group delay audibility until just above 30Hz where it is too low to matter. Group delay does break 1 cycle around 20Hz, but that is far too low in frequency to be of audible consequence. These results match my own listening impressions that the DN15 is a sharp sub with excellent transient behavior. If you are looking for a sub that can nail the quick attacks and decays of sudden sound, whether it be a kick drum or gunshot, the DN15 doesn’t have any lag or overhang to smear the sound.

Definitive Technology Descend DN15 Subwoofer Conclusion

Before bringing this review to a close, I will briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under evaluation. I’ll start with the weaknesses since I always want to hear the bad news first. The Definitive Technology Descend DN15 is a well-rounded subwoofer, but one could criticize it for falling a bit short in output versus some of its peers, and by peers I mean large subwoofers in a similar price range. Its deep bass performance is nearly what I would have expected, but its mid-bass performance doesn’t match what can be had from many of its competitors. As I mentioned earlier, I think this could have been remedied with a more powerful amplifier; many of its competitors have 800 to 1,600-watt amps, but the DN15 only has a 500-watt amp. However, I should also mention again that I never really reached its limits in the normal course of my listening, and I don’t think many other people would either unless they were only using a single DN15 to try to power a dedicated home theater room to THX reference levels.

DM15 7

I don’t really have any other criticisms, although interested buyers should be warned that it is not a small subwoofer. It is a 115 lbs. cube with 2’ dimensions, so it won’t be easy to move into place without some forethought, and it will eat up some floor space. But that is the inevitable price of high-performance deep bass; it cannot be delivered in a small package.

The bottom line is the DN15 sub produces extremely clean and accurate bass.

Moving on to discussion of its strengths, while it might not quite be the output monster of some of its peers, it does deliver a decent punch in its size/price class, and it does so with excellent sound quality. The DN15 is much more concerned with sound quality than sound quantity. Those looking for a sharp, accurate sound that never distorts have a great choice in the DN15. It is an extremely clean sub that doesn’t run into audible distortion no matter how hard you push it. Audiophiles should be very intrigued by the sheer fidelity to the source that the DN15 offers. This fidelity carries over to very low linear distortion, which is evidenced by its near-ruler-flat frequency response and superb time-domain performance as well as nonlinear distortion with exceptionally low harmonic distortion at any drive level. In short, its sound quality is impeccable.

DM15 6

Outside of the sound, I think one of the strengths is the appearance of the DN15; while it is essentially a black box like so many other subs, this one does not look like anything else on the market on account of its fabric finish. I think it looks nice, but some might find it a bit odd-looking, so potential buyers will have to decide for themselves. The LCD in its minimalist cube appearance does give it a slight retro-futurism aesthetic that I dig.

The build quality is good, and it feels fairly solid as a unit. The amp looks well-built too, and it never became hot to the touch no matter how hard I pushed it which bodes well for its long-term reliability. The included remote control is a very good idea for this particular sub, since the control display is on the front of this sub rather than the rear, whereas remotes for most subs feel like a pointless accessory. I do wish it had balanced line inputs such as XLRs for higher-end systems or even pro-audio systems. Its sound quality is certainly good enough for use in studio mixing and mastering.

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In the end, I really liked the Descend DN15 subwoofer. Those looking for the highest SPL for their dollar do have better alternatives, but those who want an interesting-looking sub with first-rate sound quality have a terrific choice in the DN15. Definitive Technology is marketing it mainly as a home theater sub, but I think audiophiles would miss out by dismissing it from consideration for a 2.1 system geared for music as well. Its high fidelity would be wasted on only using to power movie explosions when it can reproduce any content with dexterity. But however it will be used, it’s a very good sub that I think most buyers will greatly enjoy.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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