This work proposes a novel support vector machine (SVM) based robust automatic speech recognition (ASR) front-end that operates on an ensemble of the subband components of high-dimensional acoustic waveforms. The key issues of selecting the appropriate SVM kernels for classification in frequency subbands and the combination of individual subband classifiers using ensemble methods are addressed. The proposed front-end is compared with state-of-the-art ASR front-ends in terms of robustness to additive noise and linear filtering. Experiments performed on the TIMIT phoneme classification task demonstrate the benefits of the proposed subband based SVM front-end: it outperforms the standard cepstral front-end in the presence of noise and linear filtering for signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) below 12-dB. A combination of the proposed front-end with a conventional front-end such as MFCC yields further improvements over the individual front ends across the full range of noise levels.