The Beautiful Beast

How the 212/SX excels in both 2 channel and home theater systems

Most big, powerful subwoofers do one thing well. They play extremely loud in a theatre environment. That’s it. Generally speaking, the louder and more bombastic they are, the less capable they are at supplying the suppleness and fluidity necessary to rendering musical instruments properly. Take it a step further and ask them to render instruments in a specific venue and capture the scale and air within a hall, or the intimate space of a cramped small studio and suddenly they’re being asked to speak French while chewing on a piece of licorice.

What makes the REL 212/SX subwoofer unique, indeed the reason its illustrious predecessor won 3 separate “Most Influential Products of the Past Twenty Years” awards is because it is that unicorn that can deliver the heavy blows of a trebuchet’s missile crashing into armor, then turn around and deliver the smoke and intimate closeness of a jazz club in the late ‘50’s; all tube microphone floating warmth, glasses clinking as the waitress clears away the Manhattans and the bass player laying down slow, deep rhythms.

We’re talking over 400 square inches of driven surface area, almost a horsepower of Signore (Nicola) Volta’s finest motivation. Four 12” drivers, 1000 watts, a cabinet 32” tall; when you start speaking about the physical realities of a 212/SX the numbers assail your sensibilities, and yet its sleek, almost pretty. But if you were to conclude that it’s just another blunderbuss in the technical war of specs and numbers that theatre woofers are given to fighting over, you would be very, very mistaken. Alone among big, powerful woofers the 212/SX swings both ways and makes it look and sound easy.

What allows this multiplicity of competencies is extremely light cone structures that allow even the finest traces to be tracked with precision and acuity that only the finest small subs, ones noted for their speed and reaction times, can aspire to. Carbon fiber blades tightly dressed to the rear surface of each active cone allow our drivers to react like titanium alloy Formula-1 engine valves. They positively POP when hit with a sudden impulse. It is this quality of suddenness that imbues theatre scenes with the visceral reaction to duck, to avoid the contact of the impending missile strike; the lizard brain takes over in the presence of stupendous deep bass and you’re left grateful to still be alive.

After the movie is over, spinning a favorite slice of vinyl, as the stylus nestles down into the first groove the familiar ambience of presence announces an old favorite is beginning (isn’t it funny how few digital recordings allow a few moments of air to simply fill the room and prepare your psyche for the wonderful event to follow?). Your shoulders relax as you settle in and the magic act that is the 212/SX in full song begins to flex its abilities. For the next 2 hours you range from musical genre to musical genre and the 212 simply transports; there’s nothing it can’t do and as this reality begins to settle in you reflect how rare a component this is. If you love music and you love great sounding replay systems, most of us can count the number of systems we have heard that can do it all with equal verisimilitude on one hand –for most it would be one finger.

So let’s answer an important question before we leave; if the 212/SX is so special what would make one choose a Line Array of S/812 (or G-1MKII or No.25) over a pair of 212/SX? For pairs are how the 212/SX should truly be experienced due to the speed and resultant clarity with which they render music and space, not to mention the awesome dynamics that pairs deliver.*

Simply put, choose the 212/SX when it is further than you ever thought you would go with low bass-accurate, full range systems. When your speakers are the farthest you ever thought you would go. For some, that bar, and it’s a high one, will be speakers in the range of $20-30,000 or £18-30,000 and this includes some of the best near-ultimate speakers. But there are speakers whose capabilities extend far beyond this normal range of (for their manufacturers) reference model loudspeakers. Hell, almost the entirety of the Wilson Audio range is priced well above the highest level most loudspeaker manufacturers offer. Check out virtually everything Rockport Audio makes to find yet another ne plus ultra maker of incredi-speakers.

For these, depending upon which model you’re working with, the Line Array and Reference Line Array is the way to go (assuming the right REL Line Array is selected). If you don’t know which REL subwoofer or REL Line Array is right for you, or are simply conflicted, please write us as we can help sort through the noise to get you pointed in the right direction. There is virtually no speaker that cannot be given a REL-pediment from which to launch the speakers very considerable gifts and improve the entire system.

So, 212/SX when the ease of setup married to remarkable performance is what you crave and Line Arrays when your sights are set to No Limits –when you want to be free to explore all the possibilities the market offers. Either way, enjoy the hell out of your system, you’re among the luckiest people alive to be able to experience music and theatre at this level. Enjoy the Journey.

*Please do not attempt to stack 212/SX. They are not designed to be stacked and doing so could result in serious injury or worse. Simply don’t do it.

August 3, 2020 - Posted in: System Thinking