The Making of The Product Of The Year
As I write this the 212/SE just earned Product of the Year from Tone Audio, North America’s most respected pure high end audio webzine. With critical acclaim since its launch and a truly unique and stunning design, we thought we would share our design process on this (beautiful) beast since it is something of a departure for us.
Simply put, the 212/SE was the most –– most drivers, most power and highest output we could pull together into one small-footprint design. For many, this will be as far as their REL journey takes them, meeting or exceeding their expectations for output, speed and slam from an attractively styled and beautifully finished device. That fact we have 2 designs higher up the REL tree and that these are purpose designed to be used in Reference Line Arrays of 3+ per side, speaks to our never ending pursuit for truly perfect sound and desire to improve any system, even the largest most high-end systems, not any shortcomings of the 212/SE.
Our development work on a design never stops, even once we’ve signed off and gone into production. With the driver used in our S/5 SHO which used a new continuous casting process 12”/300mm alloy cone with cast thermoplastic voice coil locator to produce speed and weight reduction, we knew there was more to be explored. Specifically, increasing the number of drivers and bass alignment to determine a new sort of optimal price-to-performance ratio.
We had our joinery build up an experimental cabinet with multiple driver openings, driver blanking plates and a small acrylic panel where the amp would normally go using just a Speak-on connector so we could outboard the amp and test many different driver/passive location combinations. It had upper and lower rear driver cutouts to see if the location of drivers or passives had an effect (it did). Justin, our Lead Engineer, and I experimented with a number of combos including rear-mounted passive drivers located low, no passive on the bottom, active rear, 2 active forward firing only, etc. After a few months of experimentation, we arrived at the final orientation with (2) forward-firing active drivers, an upper rear-mounted passive and a down-firing passive—this combination gave the most natural sound, producing effortless bass with the ability to convey a hall’s large air volumes when that quality was captured in the recording.
In this regard, the 212/SE hinted at the spatial volumes—if not the speed, precision and attack– of one of our Reference Line Arrays. Part of the credit for this is the huge current reserves present in our new 1,000-watt amp platform. And when we say 1,000 watts, these are real, certifiable watts, not what we too often see from amps claiming this sort of horsepower (“Hey, the needle on the meter briefly touched that rating in the instant just before the amp demolished itself.”). Certification of this took over 5 months because this combination of ultra-high power and zero compression wireless ability had never been attempted before. In the end, persistence paid off and the testing lab came back with a clean bill of health.
212/SE’s ability to play enormously loud and carve out realistically huge volumes of space, consistent with being present at a live venue, makes the 212/SE a best buy. For much less than twice the price of an S/5, it produces far more than double the usable spatial volumes and is capable of underpinning epic home theater installations or high end 2-channel systems due to its speed and delicacy—more than one reviewer has been pleasantly surprised to discover it can whisper as well as bite. Most of them are now sold as mono block subs—one per channel in stereo pairings, or multiples in grand theater venues.
We hope this helps explain why 212/SE was granted not just subwoofer of the year, something it has been awarded twice already elsewhere, but overall PRODUCT of the year. Nothing else, no preamp, power amp, speakers, cables or acoustic/power accessories attained this for . And it all began because we knew there was more to be had, more and better that we could deliver to our customers. It is this relentless pursuit that we bring to the mix which makes us different. Better. And now Product of the Year.