REL Reference

An Experience Like No Other

The improvement a REL Reference subwoofer can make, or a pair of REL Reference subwoofers when the underlying system requires its presence, is profound. It is quite literally a one-note-before-your-eyes-widen experience. And, in those circumstances, lesser RELs will not deliver the same experience because, by definition, they were never designed to. All the materials used to form the most perfect realization of REL, the exemplar of all we offer, cannot be accomplished using lesser materials, techniques or size of either cabinet or driver dimensions.

I was recently in one of my favorite stores and, having dialed-in a pair of $40,000 speakers on a previous trip, set about upgrading the system. They sounded, frankly disappointing at $40,000/£30,000, even though a set-up had improved their performance up hugely. Lackluster, when it came to dynamics and the involvement that stems from deep, full range sound and the hugely natural soundstages that place one into the most perfect perspective of a performance.  I introduced a pair of our G/1 MKII to the system and took this particular spaceship through a jump of intergalactic proportions.

Gone was the stiff, stilted performance that made the speakers seem wooden and the images 2-dimensional; instead it was replaced by a huge, life-sized stage with performers accurately placed with depth and substance. And the stage and/or room that each recording was made in changed recording-by-recording, as is exactly correct. Beware “improvements” that result in everything sounding uniformly “better” in precisely the same way every time; that artifact should never happen with a truly reference-grade kit. And all music on a reference system shouldn’t sound “pretty” all the time either; a true reference system will growl when called upon to do so. It will sweat, swear, spit and smoke on occasion (of course not literally). Its purpose is to transport you to a time and place where something magical happened, the elusive connection between performer and audience happened that, when it occurs is as obvious as a bolt of lightning striking nearby. It gets your attention.

Returning to our store set-up, the dealer’s initial inclination was to simply use their demo S/5 SHO pair with these European uber-speakers. It wasn’t until I gently challenged them, “Why do you suppose we make Reference line, if not to properly mate with reference-grade speakers and systems like these?” that they began to slowly acknowledge that, yes, perhaps there was a reason we offer this level of performance-based depth to the REL lineup. Some two hours later, I had broken out a pair of our latest G-1MKII, warmed them up and put them through their paces. Only after I had the system properly dialed-in and warmed up breathing fire (only on fiery pieces, mind!) could they fully understand why we produce these remarkable designs. And they got it on that first note. Great systems have a way of doing that.

What is it that we do for our Reference models that we can’t offer for less money? Specifically, everything. From the instant the signal enters a Reference unit through its High Level Input, the signal is treated as though it just checked into the Mandarin or the Georges Cinque in Paris and was assigned its own concierge. The first stop is the input filter and crossover where speed is of the essence. Here, it jets through a 4-millisecond group delay filter bank that makes a Ferrari seem like it’s loafing. Passing into the amplifier, the signal path is shortened as much as our engineers possibly can during layout; again, with the aim of keeping delay to a minimum. Once in the high current amplifiers, we use multiple banks of fast power supply caps and power FET’s—why design super-fast circuits if the amp can’t keep up? And thence onto our crown jewels, the ultra-quick carbon fibre drivers that produce not mere bass, but using every trick learned in 43 years in high end audio, capture and reproduce texture, body, delicacy, all while producing tremendous energy and power. Four inches of stroke forward and back in a 12” or 15” driver is an awesome amount of energy delivery.

And here’s our solemn promise to our clients; we will NEVER guide you to a Reference line product unless your system demands it. Our team has well over 100 years of hands-on in field experience spread among us, specifically dealing with the highest end of high end systems. We always guide to the best and most appropriate of partnering application because we know that when one reaches out to the manufacturer for advice they need the finest, least-alloyed-by –commercial-concerns recommendation possible. Pure performance. Expect to be asked a host of questions about your room, partnering equipment and how you use your system. We won’t ask you about what type of music you listen to because your system should allow you to play any type of music to an extremely high standard.

So, the next time someone asks, “Why are you thinking of using those big REL Reference subs in your system, their fill-in-the-blank lesser model does great in my system,” smile and know that while not everyone can understand or even needs the capabilities of our Reference subwoofers, your system will benefit greatly.

In the next chapter, we’ll hear from actual customers who have installed REL Reference products into their own systems.





September 19, 2018 - Posted in: System Thinking