Size Matters, But is That All?
Recently, while I was listening to a system using the new No.31 along with a very high-end reviewer, he opined that it may well be the replacement for his older No. 25s. We were listening on a pair of Acora SRC-1 granite speakers, which have garnered the attention of some other high-end reviewers. True, careful dial-in had secured greatly improved sound from the Acoras, and a simple 30 minutes or so of work made the system sing. His comment got me thinking, “Is it possible that the No.31’s, being significantly more transparent and with incredible “jump factor”, are actually equal, or even superior to, the No.25’s?
As with so much in the high-end, the answer was both yes and no. Yes, the system before us had wonderful intimacy, engaging rhythm and drive, excellent sound-staging, and see-through transparency. Damn good bass, too, bass well down into the upper teens. Most people would say it was one of the best systems they’d ever heard. Yes, it was good, it was very good, but there’s still something very special in the extra girth of that 15” driver in the No.25. The driver that’s now updated and strutting its stuff in the No.32. So why was this reviewer so over the top about the No.31?
As I thought about the system and its qualities, I considered the reviewer himself. At 60-something, he is beginning to cast sidelong glances at what a lifetime of hard work has created, which as the opportunity, sometime in the next decade or so, to consider a well-earned retirement. He was visualizing, in the No.31, the ability to take this magical sound we were listening to and ride off into the sunset. This got me thinking… might he be right? The answer was yes, not just for himself but for many in similar circumstances. And not just the maturing audience, but anyone who may envision themselves living in less-than-palatial listening rooms for the foreseeable future.
This brings us to a significant point. One that, without question, reveals the No.31 for what it will undoubtedly become in the fullness of time: REL’s best-selling Reference model ever. The No.31 is the No.32 for those of us with less space and money. For our reviewer, who’s looking back at the recent past, it becomes his updated and improved No.25! What? Why? Huh?
You see, a pair of No.25, are ideal to take with him on that long lovely ride into the future. A future where a lifetime of good work (and maybe a little luck) has afforded him the ability to spend more time doing the things he loves, like listening to music and watching movies on a truly epic home theatre in an optimal space. But, if those conditions are less likely, or he’d rather downsize to a simpler lifestyle, then what he had in his No. 25s isn’t going to be as good of a lifelong solution as his new No.31s
I’ve said this before and this experience solidifies it for me: the No.31 is the No.32 for the rest of us. To wit, it’s the big top-dog reference subwoofer that’s capable of keeping up with the planet’s best speaker designs. Even better it’s in a package fits into a large flat or a smaller house. It does not take a lot of imagination to recognize that if you can fit a pair of No. 31s into your space then, oh my, a 6-pack of No. 31s would fit there as well and deliver magical things indeed!
So, there you go. Is the No.31 better outright than the No. 25? Is it larger, with a skosh more power and a deeper, more relaxed presentation than its new smaller stablemate? Well…yes, and no. Let’s be clear, it’s a fine thing indeed to live in a world where a No.31 allows something like 3-4 times as many people to be able to access and live cheerfully – perhaps for the rest of their lives—with the kind of performance that encourages buying a dozen new records or cd’s every month (or a similar number of Blu rays). And, in the end, isn’t bringing home night-after-night of incredible performances really the whole point of the exercise?