The Very Good, The Great, and the OMG!
Perhaps the most common advice calls we receive from our high-end dealers have to do with requests for guidance among our highest end models. These calls usually follow a certain pattern, “I have a really good customer that I’ve been working with for years and he wants to get a pair of RELs and he’s not sure which one to settle on between the G1 MKII and the No. 25.” The details vary, sometimes it’s between the 212/SE and the G-1 MKII’s, but the issue remains the same: Once a client has determined that they are ready for one of our top models, how does one narrow it down to the perfect recommendation? This short article can’t possibly answer that question for every instance, but it should begin to provide real clarity on which direction you should be thinking of when it comes to upgrading your own needs.
So, let’s jump in and look at the three models and what they are intended to deliver; then we can look at an example or two and see how this can be applied.
Intended purpose, loudest single model, great for very-large-scale but not edge of the art home theater, and especially when used in stereo pairs, fantastic for speakers up to the US$30,000/£20,000 level. This model was always designed to be the “most”, most drivers, biggest amp to accompany the best “normal” speakers. Note that our working model for this unit is the B&W 800D3. I mention this simply to provide an idea of what this unit represents, not intending to suggest that these speakers are ultimate exemplar of performance at this price. But they are very good and a well-known reference point.
Think of the 212/SE as the final goal for most enthusiasts in building up ones’ system; and a very high goal it is. Yet, for some lucky few, their journey continues upward.
Reference Models (G-1 MKII and No. 25):
REL Reference models, as the name implies, are intended for truly Ultra-High End loudspeakers which, as a rule, are immediately notable for their extraordinary speed and resolution. After that, divergence occurs as designers seem to pursue quite different goals of tonal balance, dynamics, bandwidth, etc. For this reason, our Reference Filter Set delivers the fastest filters we know of at just 4 milliseconds of group delay. These filter sets, along with extremely high output carbon fibre drivers, backed by curvilinear cabinets that control and dissipate the rear energy path of those drivers, create the most tonally accurate, dynamically accurate designs we have experienced during our almost 30 years in business.
The less expensive of our two Reference-class models, G1 MKII’s fundamental sonic qualities are a precisely proportional reduction of our top of the line No. 25. The MKII, as its affectionately short-handed internally, was developed AFTER the No. 25 so we had a clear picture of the performance standard required.
Modularity: What uniquely imbues the Reference line with the ability to allow unlimited system growth and expansion is that these are designed, from the first, to be modularly expandable. For this example, we will use Wilson Audio’s Sascha.1 This speaker pairs perfectly with our G1 MKII—intonation, speed and dynamics all meld seamlessly. Moreover, this customer, unfettered by the financial considerations we mere mortals face with each purchase, is likely to consider moving up the Wilson line at a later date. By designing the Reference line in every way to be modularly expandable, that same customer may choose to trade in his earlier Wilson purchase and upgrade to their latest Alexia Series 2. In so doing, they instantly benefit from our Reference Line Array design goals. By adding four G1 MKII’s (total of six possible, with required stacking kits), a vertical stack of 3 per side transforms all but the highest performing systems on the market. In this example, the original G1 MKII’s are simply added to, requiring no trade-in.
 For three decades its predecessor, the Wilson Watt/Puppy, was the breakwater denoting the jump into truly high end. Our guidance for these earlier Watt/Puppy version 1 through 8 is the G-1.
There are times in life where, circumstances permitting, there is no substitute for treating yourself to the finest. So it is with the No. 25, a 15” carbon fibre-based wonder of a beast that combines power with speed, releasing precise tones of exceptionally deep bass with almost micronic precision and an implacable sense of force – not unlike the steam-powered launch catapults used on aircraft carriers.
And there are extraordinary loudspeakers whose performance dictates just such a partnering match; if one has the means, go for it. Thus, the larger Utopias within Focal’s mix, the Wilsons beginning at Alexia or the older Maxx range, the upper end of Magico’s Q-corral, larger TAD’s and so on. Whether in stereo pairs or graduating as one’s system grows into a full Reference Line Array; No. 25 (and G-1 MKII) permits extreme flexibility.
Summing it All Up:
In the end, the choice of 212/SE or Reference comes down to a few simple decisions; in the 212/SE REL have given our customers access to a wonderful mix of power, scale and performance. This represents a sort of mini-Reference Line Array for a fraction of the price. For many, this will be enough and for home theater, it is a wonder.
If, however, you are concerned that the next step in the evolution of your system—whether 2-channel or theater–may overstep the (considerable) competencies of the 212/SE, our Reference line is designed to allow one’s system to grow. Supported by the modularity of the Reference Line Array design, with virtually no regard for limits, it delivers a combination of spaciousness and ease found in real concert venues, the ability to play music or film on any scale—from the tiniest most intimate studio recordings to the largest film score or movie replete with all of Hollywood’s most remarkable effects. To put it simply, the No. 25 and G-1 MKII provide extreme performance, modular upgrade-ability, and physical beauty. This unique combination usually eludes the subwoofer category and means they are welcome in many high end studios and grand listening rooms.