When in Doubt, Step it Up

Understanding if T/5x or Tzero MKIII is the Right Subwoofer for You

At the end of last year, around the holidays, we noticed a large increase in folks buying our smallest model, the Tzero MKIII, then returning it in exchange for the next model up, our T/5x. We wondered why? What happened? We didn’t have this issue last holiday season. Was it something we said? Did?

We went back and read over every line we ever wrote about the Tzero MKIII. REL’s never been the company that over-hypes our product, you know, the type that always seem to find a way to suggest that if you just spent a little bit more, audio nirvana was just around the corner. C’mon, just another $500, ok maybe $1,000. It’s just not how we’re wired. We’re the guys that strive to provide remarkable base at every level of our line.

Then, just last week we were reviewing YouTube videos that had a few nice accolades for the new Tzero MKIII and a few nice print reviews. Going through these, many of the reviewers were surprised-in some cases shocked-that the Tzero MKIII was a “real” REL.  Sure it has our special High Level Input (yes, we use precisely the same filter used in our next step up, our T/x range). But surely, we cut all sorts of corners. Nope. Not when it comes to performance we didn’t. 

What we saved about 15% on was eliminating all the circuitry, power supplies and connections for our optional Arrow Wireless, available on Serie Tx, as wireless is not available in our Tzero MKIII. And the driver cost less because, well, all things being equal a 6 ½” (170mm) driver costs less than a higher powered, larger 8” driver. As does the Class D amplifier; at 100 watts continuous, fitted with our typical, well-made power supply and multiple output devices it’s no slouch. But it’s also nowhere nearly as expensive to build as the high current 125 watt Class A/B used in our T/5x. The power transformer in our T/5x alone accounts for almost 10% of the build cost of a Tzero MKIII.

Then in reading over the enthusiasm in reviews of the Tzero, it became clear that reviewers were just super excited to have something both affordable and excellent. That was it, that was the big secret we were trying to analyze. Under $500 and it does for affordable systems what costlier RELs do for Big Daddy systems. Don’t blame the reviewers. You see, reviewers get “yelled at” and criticized because they aren’t reviewing enough affordable stuff (if more companies built truly excellent affordable stuff, more reviewers would review it, just sayin’). They get a Tzero MKIII in, get genuinely excited about the littlest REL and gush a bit, ok sometimes a lot, and those new to the hobby run right out and buy one. For their 4,000 square foot home. 

Trouble is, they didn’t pick up on some of the qualifying language used in the review. A reviewer writes a line like “In the right-sized room and with the right partnering speakers, this little gem can make you think you’ve arrived, and with style” and a beginner thinks, ‘Hey, that’s me he’s writing for’. Who doesn’t want to feel as though they’ve arrived, when the reality is dinner was (again) Ritz crackers and peanut butter?

In our two most recent Tzero MKIII YouTube reviews, I made a point of asking the reviewers to explain that open floorplan homes like the ones we have so many of here in the States are verboten for the Tzero MKIII. Let’s review, we designed the Tzero MKIII for apartments, flats and smaller homes, examples in the millions of which exist in every major city in the world. These homes and spaces typically have a square footage of less than, usually much less than, 1200 sq. feet (120 square meters). But that isn’t the real limitation, used in a living room  of say 18’ x 20’ you would likely have little problem unless you insist on listening to heavy metal at realistic concert volumes. Unless, and it’s a big unless, that room connects to your dining room, which is connected to your kitchen with just a counter between them. You see the issue we face? We build a little dynamo that delivers the hell out of a 10” cube and beginners think it can power all 1200 square feet of an open floor plan home.

Let’s recap; the Tzero MKIII is a wonderful little gem of a subwoofer, designed for either smaller homes, flats or apartments and the speakers that make sense for those spaces. Or a defined, closed space in a much larger home. Here’s the difference. We live in a 3,000+ square foot home and used a T/5x cheerfully for over a year with a pair of older Sonus fabers. Looked and sounded amazing and even outside of our open floorplan 16 x 20’ television viewing room, the T/5x had the moxie to carry great sounding deep bass throughout most of the main floor of our home. The Tzero MKIII simply wasn’t designed to energize such a space, so we never tried. When in doubt, go with the T/5x.

April 4, 2022 - Posted in: System Thinking