Period Correct Perfection: Classic 98, a Future Classic
The text below is a transcription of the video
Hi there, John Hunter with REL and we’re really happy to introduce you to the new Classic 98. This is a piece that really came about because during Covid, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time at night looking for favorites from the eighties and nineties. Picked up a few things, still looking for an immaculate pair of Celestion SL6s, but I picked up a pair of Kef Reference 101s from the early to mid-eighties. I got Serial No.: 85 and 86 of the original Wilson Watts, just stuff that you were in love with that you go, gosh, you know, there’s no reason I shouldn’t own this. It’s not that expensive. It’s really fun. And I think that’s really the joy of vintage audio is you’re able to go back sort of into your youth and reconnect with that.
So good fun trip down memory lane. However, this is a real substantial proper modern REL with a few twists. So we’re using a proper 300 watt, 10 inch driver down firing with the RELs of that era, the ones that people wistfully go, gosh, I remember my old REL. They didn’t have attack, they didn’t have the kind of clarity, the finish to a note. All the decay patterns, all the things that we really excel at with modern RELs. They had one cool thing, and that was they put base straight down and it just fills a room with sort of carpet crawling, low base. It’s very warm. It’s kind of comforting. It’s a strange thing. And so when we went to do this, we decided we’re gonna do it exactly like the days spent. A lot of time actually going back and researching how to do paper cone drivers just pure paper cones in such a way that we could retain just enough of the leading edge attack that we would be satisfied with it.
That also then has that civility, that sort of soft, gentle quietness that paper cones always have. We’re really proud of the driver development on this piece. The 300 watt amp puts the 300 watts out in its sleep. We test all of our amps at full power consistently for 24 hours to make sure that they’re dead nuts reliable. This one’s no different. We probably could have rated it at 400. There’s plenty of overlap to it, but 300 watts, 300 watts down firing 10 and a really beautiful, substantial, robust and veneered in real walnut. This is just a lovely, lovely selection of walnut we have. And the finish that we developed for it has almost no sheen to it whatsoever. There is a finish on it, but it’s really intended only to prevent fingerprint oils and things like that from transferring to the actual veneer, which looks horrible after a month. So it’s a piece that is just lovely to work with. It’s practical, looks great. It’s a beautiful piece of furniture in a sort of mid-century, modern way. Very quiet cabinet mechanically. So we’re gonna jump in on that a little bit. We’ve got cabinets that are roughly an inch thick and the sidewalls are closer to two inches thick. We added 30 millimeters, so an inch and an eight of additional bracing over both sidewalls.
For those of us who know me. Every project we start, starts with the driver. The driver is ultimately what is gonna be producing the sound. And there are certain things that you need to capture. You have to understand the scope and the direction of each project. This is a vintage reissue piece, right? So we had to make sure it wasn’t a modern technical, very fast, very staccato stop-start kind of a driver. It needed to have that soft, gentle rolling quality that the old paper cone drivers of 25 years ago had. So there’s no option but to go with paper. And what we did though, to fold just a little bit of modern in, because it just helps the driver in every way and doesn’t do anything to diminish the sort of vintage ques quality to it, is we used two very different kinds of paper.
The primary cone itself is a relatively lightweight, it’s called hot press paper. It’s a relatively inexpensive paper cone. You’ve seen them before. They kind of have these thousands of little dots in them in a slightly sheeny character to the main cone. And then we used a hand thrown paper center cap for stiffening. That technique works for us all the way up to and including our reference models. It’s something that ties the entire surface area of the driver together with very little additional mass. You got a huge amount of stiffness and it even makes the driver last longer. The driver itself where it meets up to the surround, everything acts as a piston. And when that part can do its job, things last a very, very long time. Versus if you have a cone that’s got a little bit of flexor to it, after a while, the things start skewing a little bit, left a little bit right, twerking this way, and suddenly the surround is being asked to do things that are really, really not happy.
You wind up with voice curls beginning to rub and, there goes your driver. So just enough of modern engineering to make the product both more reliable and really help us tune the stiffness of the driver completely. Everything else is by the book. You know, we’ve got one inch in each direction. So two inch stroke to this 10 inch piece. We use nothing but natural butyl surrounds in all of our drivers. It’s a classic REL driver, slightly retuned to give that vintage warmth and gentleness that we’re used to from a couple decades ago. So here we are with the rear panel amplifier of the classic 98. This is a modern REL in terms of layout and function. So if you’re familiar with those, you’ll feel very comfortable. We did make one significant deviation from the original vintage RELs of the 98 to 2005 area, and that is this.
Their crossovers were unnecessarily complex to use. Very confusing for an awful lot of customers. Frankly, the ones that we build these days are considerably better and more refined from that. So our setup conventionally for modern RELs, you have a gain control here, a crossover. We deliberately split these. So in the dark you can just find the location, realize the one to the inside is gain and the one to the outside is always gonna be crossover. We have the traditional high level REL input, which is a fantastic thing. It’s not that it’s a speak on, it’s the way we actually handle the step down internally from a high level signal that is a speaker level signal down to a low level for our filters to be able to handle it. That’s the real magic of REL’s high level. And then in addition to that, so this would be typically the preferred setup for two channel stereo and theater. We’ll come back to that in a moment. And then we also have a dedicated 0.1 input, and it has its own gain right here. So 0.1 LFE from your theater, your AVR or your processor will come in here. This gives you separate gain and by Dolby protocol, the crossover is fixed on this but you can go through and make some modifications if needed within your AVR. Here we have a single low level input over here as well. We don’t offer supply left right stereo base, but we do give you a single low level. This is really useful for things like pairing it with active speakers as an example, and of course a 0 180 face switch. Everything that you’ve come to get used to in conventional modern RELs. Yet everything is tuned to develop and make the maximum of that vintage sound that people are really going for. This is a great amplifier, very reliable. We’ve got thousands of them out in the field and we feel really good about this thing being something that lives in your life for the next couple of decades as well. If you love retro, didn’t want the lack of reliability of a 25 year old subwoofer. This is a good friend of mine who really is followed REL for 30 years. So this is the REL you always imagined it was back then, but it’s so much better.