The Making of Tzero MKIII

Not all RELs are large, expensive and go down to stygian depths. Some are small, affordable and intended to supply similar enjoyment—on a scaled-down basis to-be-sure–to those who live in smaller spaces and simply have neither the space, nor perhaps the funds, to pursue high performance full range sound reproduction in a grander sense. Live your life in a flat, a small apartment? Get your music from your computer?  iTunes, Spotify, Qobuz or Tidal and access it via your iPhone? Congrats, you’re normal and one of the great majority to whom music is necessary, like eating, and for whom it forms the background soundtrack to your life.  We’ve got you covered with our new Tzero MKIII.

The MKIII, as it’s affectionately known, is for those who live a mostly urban lifestyle in compressed spaces but still want, no, crave the good things in life. Most especially from their music, but struggle with lack of space for a big fancy hi fi rig. The original Tzero was developed for this exact brief 10 years ago and that it is now entering its third iteration is because so many of you exist; folks with a small system but still want quality, richness and warmth from their music systems in a truly tiny (10 ½” cube-like cabinet) box.

At under $500 in North America and under £400 in the UK, it’s just this side of affordable, doesn’t put out so much bass that the neighbors below will be pounding on your floor with a broomstick (hey, no promises if you turn the volume way up, that’s your issue!).

Whenever our team designs a product, we first define who is going to use this design and what we need to accomplish to make that group happy. Then I start on the driver’s development, which is engineering speak for the speaker that actually outputs deep bass into your room. In this case, the driver is a small (by subwoofer standards) 6.5”. But make no mistake, this little gem of a bass engine is a genuine REL through and through. The cool new item in the Tzero MKIII uses a full aluminum cone, backed by a paper damping element that increases rigidity by over 100% over its predecessor. I have come to favor rigidity over chasing after the lowest possible moving mass in our smaller designs because they’re already light due to their size. In this instance, increasing rigidity makes for a far more powerful sounding piece that has the weight and body to punch through and deliver a solid low bass foundation underneath the music. Fender P-basses, all but the lowest bottom-end heft of a Hammond B-3 organ, kick drums are all handled with aplomb. And because they’re so nimble due to their small size, they’re really quick and agile sounding.

To make credible bass from such a small volume takes power. The 100 watt NextGen Class D amplifier delivers the goods while taking up far less space in such a tiny cabinet than a traditional Class A/B amp would require. That it barely sips current from your a/c mains circuit means that it’s efficient to run and won’t run warm, even when the music is sizzling hot.

Upfront, the amp benefits from REL filters that are the industry’s envy and the Tzero even includes a High Level input, receiving it’s drive signal (but consuming absolutely NONE of your receiver or amplifier’s power) so that the MKIII can mold itself to your music system’s sonic signature. And just like bigger RELs, it allows for simultaneous reception of the Dolby .1/LFE signal through its very own dedicated input and with its own volume control so there’s no need to bounce back and forth between different settings for theater and music.

And, yes, quality billet aluminium that is first tooled, then milled, and finally bead blasted before receiving a coating of clear anodizing to prevent oxidation is used on badging and feet. On any REL, if it looks like expensive metalwork, you can be assured, it is quality metal work and not spray-painted plastic. Like its big brothers, the Tzero MKIII receives 5 coats of hand applied lacquer in your choice of black or white. Each coat is hand-sanded and the final coat receives an extensive polish before the top badge goes on.

Our approach to quality is simple and absolute. If it doesn’t originate from the same team that creates our state-of-the-art reference products, it isn’t going to receive a REL badge. The same REL engineering team designs and attends to all the small details that matter. Like reliability. Tzero MKIII is designed to be in your life for a long time to come.

A little-known fact is that many speaker manufacturers either hand affordable sub design off to their least expensive, lowest paid engineers. Or, worse, slag the job off to another company entirely. We never job out our less expensive models to outsourced hacks like so many others do. The same team that came up with our flagship No.25 designed this little beauty.

Why do we do this? Pride in the quality of anything that receives the REL badge, it’s very simple. And we know that a few years on, you may have moved out, have more space to spread out and can pursue a larger, better sound system. And we’ll be there to welcome you to your new home and help you start designing something really special for that space when the time come. Enjoy the new Tzero MKIII, it was a team effort and we know you’ll love it.

August 11, 2020 - Posted in: Principles of Sound