Definitive Technology Descend DN12 Subwoofer Review (Tested)

Definitive Technologies Descend DN12 Review

Inside the Definitive Technology Descend subwoofer series, the DN12 is at the top end as one of the largest.

Definitive Technology sent us a DN12 12” 1500W subwoofer for review.

Considering it has state-of-the-art technologies and promises bigger performance than a 15” ported alternative, we jumped at the chance to get our hands and ears on it!

The Descend DN12 is a high-end subwoofer with a tight, focused bass that doesn’t overwhelm dialogue and high frequencies with its deep bottom end. With multiple input options, it’s easy to set up. The size is imposing but performance is even more so. It’s a quality addition to a home theater system.

It’s also a killer speaker for listening to music, so it’s not a single-use apparatus. So, listen up audiophiles!

In this review, I relate the details of how user friendly it is, how it works, and what limitations exist.

At a Glance…

Definitive Technology Descend DN12 12" Subwoofer (2021 Model) - Optimized for Movies and Music, New...
  • MORE BASS FROM THE SAME SPACE - Featuring dual 12" radiators and the new 3XR Architecture that offers triple the bass-producing surface area of a traditional ported sub, the Descend DN12 performs like...

What We Like: 3XR Architecture & DSP

What We Don’t Like: Not wireless

Best Uses: Home Theater Sound System, Music Streaming, Surround Sound Compatible, IR Remote Control, IR Repeater System Compatible, Multi-Speaker Connectivity

  • Transducers: 12” long-throw woofer
  • Bass Type: Bass radiator
  • Amplifier Type: Class H
  • Peak Power/Continuous (RMS): 1500 W/500 W
  • Power Supply: 3-prong jack 120V/240V switch
  • Dimensions: 18.72 x 18.04 x 19.09”

Our Verdict: Neither a sealed nor ported subwoofer, the Descend DN12 has Definitive Technology’s unique 3XR Architecture that provides benefits of both in abundance. With performance that outdoes alternatives, the DN12 can be an upgrade to a 15” ported subwoofer at a competitive price with modern aesthetics.

Who is the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 12” Subwoofer Best Suited to?

Definitive Technology Descend DN12 Subwoofer setup with studio 3d mini soundbar
Definitive Technology Descend DN12 Subwoofer setup with Studio 3D Mini soundbar

The Descend DN12 12” 1500W subwoofer by Definitive Technology is best suited for home theater setups as the primary subwoofer or to complement an existing surround sound speaker system. With its triple 12” woofers, it’s a powerful speaker for medium to extra-large spaces.

Though excellent for bringing out the deep, low frequencies or bringing substantial breadth to effects and tunes in a movie, it’s a suitable subwoofer for music too. It can be a plug-in speaker option for music during parties or to showcase a songwriter’s latest work.

How Does the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 12” Subwoofer Perform?

Corner position in room
DN12 subwoofer in corner position in room

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 subwoofer has cost and aesthetic appeal as obvious advantages. Under the hood lies the components that provide a smooth blend between the harmonics and higher frequencies but is not afraid to punch bass thanks to the dual radiators.

The DN12 has connecting inputs, power, and audio/setup configuration buttons on the metal panel located on the rear. Though the buttons can be forfeited for remote use, you must use them to change the Input Sensitivity Settings. For setup, it has Line In (RCA), LFE, and High Level Input.

Rear panel of DN12
Rear panel of DN12

Additional options include an IR In for using it with an Infrared Repeater System for use with your IR remote and a 12V Trigger for simultaneous activation with your sound system, primarily amplifiers.

The included remote control is one of my favorite features about the Descend DN12 sub. It’s powered via a CR2025 cell battery. It has about every user control function on it for instant adjustments.

It’s easy to manipulate the settings via the remote for changing gears for a party to low-key movie night from your favorite seating position.

Accessories manual and remote with case and included CR2025 battery
Accessories manual and remote with case and included CR2025 battery

I hooked the DN12 to my smart Samsung TV. The audio quality was mind-blowing as it provided a high-end audio experience with unwavering connectivity. Using an alternative AUX to RCA Y-adapter resulted in sound that was underwater.

My recommendation?

Don’t do the latter though I suspect it was a bad adapter. I only tried it so I could connect it to other devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Having said all this, the DN12 subwoofer is not the most affordable sub on the block. It could be an overkill option for a beginner or amateur but is certainly an upgrade that won’t be replaced any time soon.

Those looking for more out of a 12” subwoofer will appreciate the cinematic experience for a dedicated movie room or family room.

Features & Benefits

3XR Architecture & DSP

Display settings
Display settings

The 3XR Architecture technology of the Descend DN12 triples the bass-producing resonance area that outdoes a 15” ported alternative. It has a 12” active woofer that provides tight, deep, and accurate bass. The additional 12” passive bass radiators provide port-like benefits.

The 12” passive speaker drivers produce “three times the bass-radiating surface area.” Though it seems more like a sealed cabinet, it also acts like a 15” ported sub with an incredible low-end. It does this without sacrificing clarity and inherently eliminates port noise distortion.

To ensure that the cone and low frequencies have enough room to travel inside the sealed cabinet design to provide these kinds of benefits, the DN12 is outfitted with a 56-bit DSP (Digital Signal Processor).

Cone movement is moderated and allows the low frequencies and use of the extra air movement to boost volume levels, provide punching bass, and reduce distortion while keeping tonal handling even.

What did this mean for my hands-on test of the Descend DN12? Well, the bass is reinforced, and you get thundering, roaring basses.

It meant that with the reverberations, the active speaker isn’t drowned out and maintains impressive balance between the higher-frequencies and harmonics all without the negative distortion allowing capability of low 25Hz performance.

Descend DN12 Class H Amplifier

EQ display
EQ display

The DN12 sub is powered via a Class H digital amplifier. Due to the way the amp monitors efficient power use, it’s able to operate a low rail voltage of 500W reducing power consumption in low-key conditions but then can switch to support high amplitude transient peaks.

When it switches over to increase rail voltage, the amp can sustain 1500W peaks for powerful performance whether watching an action-packed movie or listening to a head-banging metal music video.

This meant that I felt like I was right in the middle of the action in a John Wick gunfire fight and (yep, I binge-watched it with the subwoofer!). I also tested the awesome bass listening to Bonobo’s Kiara as suggested by The Real Musician in the list of songs you need a subwoofer to fully experience guide.

Precision Tuning

There is plenty of precision tuning to fine-tune both the amp and subwoofer audio experience. Control features include volume, phase, EQ, and low pass. They can be made on the back panel as well as adjusted via the included remote.

Volume offers a range from 1 to 40. Rarely have I needed to go past 30 and having it that loud was primarily for testing purposes.

Volume display
Volume display

The DN12 has Intelligent Phase Control technology. This allows for trying to attain an even frequency response and seamless blend between the subwoofer and other speakers. It’s adjusted in degrees starting from 0° with the following: 45°, 90­°, 135°, 180°, -135°, -90°, -45°.

There are three custom EQ modes: Loud, Deep, and Flat. Loud enables max volume levels with a minor sacrifice in the lowest frequencies. This is the mode that I would say is best for watching movies. Deep emphasizes the lowest octave bass responses but the compromise is a slightly lower volume level.

The manual cautions that the Deep “setting should not be used at high-volume levels.” Lastly, Flat mode is the default mode where are there no changes to the EQ.

You can also adjust the Low-Pass Frequency from 40-150Hz with LFE as its own setting. You can hear the difference as you adjust it, and the manual includes a low-pass filter guide as reference for setting up.

Low Pass display
Low Pass display

Build Quality

The Descend DN12 is no small sub. It has a formidable size that sits perfectly in a dedicated cinema room. Its powerful performance would do excellently in large rooms, though it can probably be heard by neighbors if you like in the suburbs. Keep an eye on the volume levels to avoid noise complaints.

Seriously though, it’s a beast made with quality that is ideal for home theater systems and perhaps some studio use. It is incredible for streaming music for plug-and-play direct from your device though probably overkill if it’s for that alone.

Descend Series DN12 12” Subwoofer
Descend Series DN12 12” Subwoofer

Made from MDF, you can imagine where it gets its weight from. The solid upper-face panel reveals the wood frame but remains classy with modern, minimalistic aesthetic appeal. The LED display can also be turned off to ensure the sub seamlessly disappears in the dark.

Multiple Speaker Connectivity

Between the 12V Trigger and Intelligent Phase Control, the ability to use the Descend DN12 in conjunction with existing sound equipment is a gainful experience.

Phase display
Phase display

I used the DN12 alongside the Definitive Technology Studio 3D Mini. I took the easy route by leaving the connecting setup as is: sub to TV and the soundbar to TV with the mini subwoofer wirelessly connected to the soundbar.

The experience of having the Studio 3D Mini and both the amp and subwoofer from the DN12 was a mind-blowing audio experience. There was plenty of roar when used in Deep Mode while allowing the Studio 3D Mini to pick up more on the trebles and dialogue.

Moving into Loud mode, it was the kind of cinematic experience where I thought maybe I’d have to pay myself for a ticket stub for having sound quality this good. Having tuned all the amp and sub settings via the remote from my chair in the family room, it felt custom tailored for my ear happiness alone.


Not Wireless

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 requires hard-wired connections to the receiver. It’s relatively easy to set up, though it may be complicated for the first timer who is using it as the first addition to a home theater system. It does not have Bluetooth or WiFi capability for wireless setups.

However, it’s not a major flaw as the lack of a wireless feature keeps down costs and eliminates complaints about related connectivity problems. For those who want unlimited location preferences in a room and the benefits of wireless connections to receivers, it’s a legitimate drawback.

Popular Questions

How Much does the Descend DN12 Weigh?

The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 weighs 73.19 lbs (approx.). It is a heavy subwoofer that is best for floor-standing use in the home. It is 18.72 x 18.04 x 19.09” in size. The packaging box is approximately 22.5 x 22.5 x 23” in size.

What Accessories are Included with the Descend DN12 12” Subwoofer?

Included accessories are limited with the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 12” 1500W Subwoofer. The subwoofer comes with a power cord, manual, and IR remote control with a soft case. Connection cables are not included and must be purchased separately.
Box opening with remote manual and AC cable

Can the Definitive Technology Subwoofer be Placed in a Cabinet?

On average, the Definitive Technology Descend DN12 is on the large side and is intended as a floor-standing subwoofer. However, it can be placed in a large cabinet if there is clearance of at least 2” all the way around it. The cabinet door should remain open.

What is the Warranty on the Definitive Technology Descend Subwoofer?

Definitive Technology warranties the Descend DN12 subwoofer with 3-year coverage on the amplifier and 5-year coverage on the drivers. The warranty covers parts and craftsmanship defects. It’s recommended to register the subwoofer and upload proof of purchase.


My current opinion is that of my first impressions. The Definitive Technology Descend DN12 provides incredible reactive depth and intensity that is needed for binge-watching or hosting movie night.

For those who want double duty out of the subwoofer, it follows suit as a high-end option for an audiophile’s music binge too. Though a little on the weak side at the lowest volumes, a subwoofer is meant to ramp things up – you have permission to blast it, it’s what it’s made for.

However, with no wireless connectivity, it may be a legitimate drawback for the minimalist buyer. Overall, for the money and excess in quality, the Descend DN12 outdoes similar alternatives and is worthy of credit.

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