Best Musical Subwoofers

T/x Supplies Great Theater AND 2-Channel Sound

I just got off a Facetime call with Philip Sawyer, our wonderfully fun upbeat Australian distributor, and he was getting ready to address four important dealers that he’d stolen away to a quiet place for product training (Bali, I believe). Specifically, he wanted a few pointers to ensure that his presentation about REL was spot on. I described that the way we use Serie T/x—our most popular line—in theatre and music systems is unlike any other similar product. We design subwoofers so that customers can seamlessly switch back and forth between any of their multiple uses, without the need to readjust settings with yet another remote control, while maintaining peak performance.

Let’s review the basics:

  1. Music reproduction calls for truly wide bandwidth in order to capture the natural sense of space and air around voices or instruments and to create a believable context for the performance. Deep bass, perfectly integrated, is key to this sense of live people playing live instruments in real space—and that could be in a small recording studio, a huge outdoor concert, or a symphony hall. Hell, even electronic pop music that never sees the light of day going straight from synthesized creation to recorded medium– say, the solid state memory in a home recording studio–still gets the benefit of spaciousness being restored because deep bass simply does that to music.
  2. Theatre is a lot more complex in many ways, needing multiple channels; as many as 11 main and overhead speakers for Dolby Atmos (and a goodly number of RELs) all of which, in a highest-and-best-form of the art requires truly full range (down into the lower 20-30 Hz range) channels to do their best work This is exactly what REL’s High Level connection accomplishes.

So, now we understand the essential benefit of what we do, let’s dive into how we generate this effect differently than all the other practitioners of the sub bass arts.

We know that the most natural sound in an amplified replay chain (such as high end 2-channel or multi-channel digital theater) requires High Level Connection to sound its best. Why? Because your basic amplification chain (this could be 2- channels or 11 channels) requires a small signal processor like a preamp or AV processor. For all sorts of reasons, electrons like to be amplified in a couple of stages allowing for noise to be reduced and dynamics maximized. These are called gain stages; think of gain as loudness, more specifically, the rate at which something gets louder. Try and do it in one big jump it gets either not loud enough or too loud and noisy, but almost never right. So, we have a small amplifier feeding into a big amplifier that we call a power amplifier. These two basic building blocks form the basis of every playback system we know.

Listen up please: If you cut the umbilical cord connecting these two gain stages—as conventional subwoofers do when they insist on deriving their signal from the low level preamp output, or in theater supplying bass ONLY from the .1/LFE channel all the richness and texture that was poured into your system to that point is cut in half and the resulting sound is like looking through poorly mated bi-focals. The top half of the bi-focal converges and aligns in a totally different plane than the bottom half. So it is with our audio systems.

What if REL didn’t offer the ability to connect via your power (big) amplifier’s outputs, you know, the same ones driving your speakers? Then we couldn’t make the bass (the bottom half of the bi-focals) properly align with the upper half, your speakers. In other words, your speakers and the subwoofer would have no chance to sound as though they were playing the same tune. And that is precisely what we, and virtually every audio reviewer of consequence has heard and shared with their readers for most of our 25+ years making subwoofers.

This is as true of theater as 2-channel audio because theater, done properly, requires each channel to be truly wide bandwidth (a fancy way of saying all the sounds we can hear in nature occur from EACH channel of one’s theater). Now you can cheat—most folks understanding of theater is woefully inadequate and loud mid-bass is about the extent of their knowledge base. But once you hear it done properly and realize that all the fun, amazing effects in theater require full range in order to not just play bass loud, but also to properly recreate all the distance and angled vectors of sound that, when it happens, transports us into the film in a way that is utterly addictive.

So, for no more money than one of those boomy, mid-to-low quality boomers so often found in low quality and video/appliances stores, we offer a sparkling little gem called the T/5x that will play as loud as the average family likely can stand in a normal living room theater and it includes our High Level Input to permit full range seamless bass. But the T/5x also includes a dedicated theater effects channel for the very specific effects used only in dynamic theaters.

The T/x line offers this dual input with separate gain (volume) controls so you can set it and forget it. No reaching for the remote control to turn it up for theater, then turning it back down trying to accommodate music.  Just two separately controllable volumes (and beautifully created crossovers) that allow a perfect, seamless mating of your speakers to our powered subwoofers for music and then come alive and make all sorts of film magic happen when movies on Friday night are what the family needs to re-connect at the end of a long week.

Note: This ability to control gain and crossover functions by supplying what amounts to two subwoofers in one cabinet also applies fully to our more advanced lines. But it is a revelation that this technology applies to something so accessibly priced as  Serie T/x and specifically the T/5x.

March 13, 2018 - Posted in: System Thinking