Setting Yourself Up For Success
The moment we hear questions such as, “does REL offer an accessory that lets me remotely turn on and off a REL when it sounds like the bass is boosted too high?” we know that chances are high that the selection of reference cuts with which the system was tuned were incorrect. Using music you simply like for setup and assuming that it will obtain the best results for your new REL is like trying to fly a plane and discovering it’s not so simple. So, let’s discuss how big of a difference the right cut makes in setup and a few suggestions for tracks that will help you to achieve the best subwoofer performance.
The small group of masters hand trained in this system–and in the North America, the number of master-level instructors is fewer than 10, in the rest of the world, perhaps 3–who can dial-in a system under pressure (capable of setting up and dialing in systems for high level reviewers, at world class trade shows such as CES and in dealer showrooms). This technique is legendary, and can bring systems to life and in proper focus and geometry in ways no other set-up protocol has ever been able to replicate and applies to all brands, types of speakers and in all room-types.
While we don’t have time to dig into the details of this set-up protocol, the 200+ years of experience that accrues to the fewer than 10 senior individuals (over the past two decades, we trained around 1,500 people in the industry at the entry level of how to use these tools but many never worked at these skills) who evolved and practice this protocol use exactly two (2) cuts of music to perform this bit of wizardry.
We use one cut of music to set-up and dial-in speakers to the highest levels and a second to dial-in RELs. That’s it. What are they and why don’t we use others? Because no other cuts have stood the test of time. Whether the music appeals to you or not, with practice and familiarity, these cuts expose system’s flaws and, when properly used, allow for precise set-up. Many popular cuts of music simply do not possess the geometric precision necessary to use them as reference cuts.
1. Robbie Wasserman’s Duet’s CD is the ultimate cut for setting up speakers. If you’re asking, why do I need to set-up my speakers to tune a REL? The simple answer is, the REL can only provide support for the performance of the main system. If your system sounds its best, then the REL can give of its best. Simple. Using the cut will not suddenly give you superhuman set-up skills, but the basic structure of dynamic, plucked bass coupled to the human female voice gives such honest, basic grounding in what is fundamentally right sounding that it is a beautiful tool, even when one is not fully equipped to know all the ins and outs of formal setup. As basic guidance, experiment with setting your speakers up wider and toed-in more than you may be used to.
2. The soundtrack to the ‘90’s Robert Redford movie Sneakers supplies a symphonic cut (#4) that features a concert bass drum rhythmically struck (gently) producing repeatable and evenly-spaced deep bass compression waves that will tell you volumes about how much gain to use and what the correct crossover frequency should be. Follow REL’s basic set-up instructions (found in every owner’s manual produced over the past 20 years) and you will achieve excellent, trustworthy settings for crossover, gain and phase.
Does one use the REL set-up cut (Sneakers, track 4) for dialing in the REL High Level Input for theatre sound too? The answer is yes, because it provides accurate phase, level and crossover settings for producing the main bass that correctly supports film soundtracks; it’s very easy to get confused by what is correct, versus what sounds “good” since in theatre soundtracks there often exists no sonic reality to check against.
If you are experiencing anything other than a perfectly blended full range system, then something is off either a little or a lot in your speaker and, latterly, your sub set-up. Spend a little bit of money and invest in reference quality set-up tools. I just jumped onto Amazon and found the Sneakers CD available for $11.98. The Wasserman is pricier and harder to come by.
In the end, a properly set-up REL does not announce its presence as do more prosaic subwoofers. Rather, a REL-based system sounds exactly like your old pre-REL system except that it sounds as though one using the $25,000 version of your affordable speakers. Or, at the top end of the scale, like the $200,000 (£150,00) version of your $43,000 (£30,000) speakers. Big, rich timbres and air everywhere there should be in, around, and above the soundstage with focus, clarity, grounding to voices; everything you always wanted your system to be but was always missing that secret ingredient.