Making of the (Newest) Legend: 212/SX

212/SX surpasses, in every category that matters, the original 212 that launched 5 years ago and went on to claim 3 separate “Most Influential Products of the Past 20 Years” awards. 212/SX delivers more power and slam, more speed, and finesse in a design that extends its original beauty.

When we set out to build the original 212/SE, we felt we were taking a controlled risk. Half a decade and a couple thousand units later, we know we were right to ignore convention and go with our instincts.

Most folks associate subwoofers with short, close-to-the-ground boxes despite the fact that it’s far from ideal. Years of subwoofers that look like low-slung black cubes conditioned the public to expect that, so everyone churns along looking no farther ahead than their own weak headlight beams.

Because of our extensive experience building Reference Line Arrays, (stacks of 3 individually tunable subs stacked vertically per side-6 total-) for both stereo and home theatre, we knew better.  You see, we already knew that physical elevation was needed to bring bass alive, to energize the room in multiple modes. That elevation produces a number of benefits most especially in height of soundwaves and the ability to project bass on a huge canvas, spatially speaking. So what do Line Arrays have to do with 212/SX?

The Mission Remains the Same

Like its illustrious predecessor, the mission of 212/SX is to deliver some 80% of what a full-blown line array can, for around half its cost and do so occupying a footprint about that of a single mid-sized chassis from our lineup. What exactly is it that makes the new 212/SX so much better than the model that won outright Product of the Year awards the past 2 of 3 years? A string of seemingly endless modest upgrades that when combined deliver massive improvements.

Drive This

The carbon fiber blades on the rear of the 2 passive and 2 active drivers in the 212/SX

Beginning with the active twin 12” drivers, we retained the quickness and low moving mass but, here, bolstered by a necklace of carbon fiber blades on the rear of the cones that creates a structure three times stronger but weighs less than a sheet of paper. We continued this treatment onto the rear-firing alloy 12” passive when listening determined that it made an even larger sonic improvement than that of the active drivers. Finally, an all-new flat panel carbon-carbon down-firing passive was developed using twin suspensions acting together to better control and distribute resonance modes that stops and starts so fast the SX can startle with its suddenness.

Perfection? Possibly (but we’re never satisfied)

Our PerfectFilter™ first implemented just eight months prior and derived from lessons learnt in our pinnacle reference level No.25 subwoofer transforms both the extreme low bass and upper midrange airiness of the 212/SX’s components . This fulcrum filter extends the extreme low end beyond what the driver and cabinet alone can deliver, producing usable bass some 8-10Hz below that of the older model.

This new depth the 212/SX reached is why movies with eerily deep bass come alive in a truly tactile way, why music takes on a depth and majesty rarely heard in sub bass systems below $30,000 (£28,000). And the new upper-limit filter will open up your entire system in ways similar to our reference models. Listening to instruments whose entire range lies well above the bass region such as guitars, harpsichords, flutes, oboes take flight in utterly unexpected for those less familiar with the system-wide impact of a REL.

Reliability or Nothing

We hate things that break, it’s that simple. Between the No.25, the outgoing 212/SE and the 812, the NextGen 5 amplifier has proven itself in thousands of units, and at 1,000 watts of output, not simply a virtual torrent of high-pressure current delivery, but stone cold reliable. And that has allowed us to open up the limiters, the circuits that limit the ultimate loudness of the sub, to produce output some 20% greater than the original 212. The NextGen 5 is destined to be viewed as one of the all-time great REL amp designs.

Beauty or Bust

And then there is the cabinet. At first glance, 212/SX looks like what you imagine the original 212 looks like but in fact, the newer model is leaner, crisper and better sounding due to its finer cabinet ratios. And more practical too as the classic stainless polished handles now have large elliptical reliefs machined out that allow for easy lifting and gripping of what is a very heavy cabinet. And bespoke alloy rails, milled with lines that extend straight through their structure are both more stable than before and allow bass to pass through what might otherwise be restrictive.

212/SX is the result of thousands of hours of experience learnt over the half decade since the original stepped onto the stage. The team here has been busy during that time experimenting and tweaking in a never ending pursuit of perfect sound. The results debuting here in the glorious 212/SX show in every facet of design, component and detail, with massive sonic improvements. Absolutely every facet of performance and the ownership experience itself has been improved.

Thank you for all your support over the years. We know you will enjoy the fruits of our labor for years to come.

– REL Design and Engineering Team: John, Justin, Alex, and Vivian

June 15, 2020 - Posted in: System Thinking