The Reference Compact
The text below is a transcription of the video
Hi there, John Hunter with REL here, and we are here to take you through the No.31. Now, where this resides within the REL hierarchy is, this is one down from our No.32. The 31 was actually started before the 32, hence the numerology. But what the 31 has the task of doing, and it’s a great one for everybody who falls in love with the No.32 and goes, “I’ve got to have that,” or “I’ve got to have a line array of those,” and then looks around at their room and goes, “can’t happen, amazingly, I just don’t have the room to do it.” 31 is considerably more compact. It’s 35-40% smaller in volume. You can see this doesn’t even look large on camera. It’s incredible. A line array of these comes up to here. It’s nothing. So, it flows into almost every room out there.
It is exactly the same quality of construction as the No.32. It’s just a bit of a size reduction exercise, but the quality is identical. All right, so the 12 inch driver in this is contrasting with a 15 inch that we use in the No.32, a full carbon fibre cone. Now, we don’t go for the single, very pretty, hemispherical piece that’s just laid up in a hemispherical mold. They’re fine. They don’t do what we need them to do. There’s a speed and a tactility to REL drivers. And one of the techniques we use to achieve that is we use different carbon fibers for the actual, center cap as opposed to the main body of the cone. And by using two different pieces laid up as a composite, we wind up getting something that’s much, much stiffer, doesn’t weigh anymore, and you get a much better controlled performance out of the piece.
What we’re going for is instantaneous start, stop in the reference. It’s extremely important that we not overshoot and lag, and that when it stops, it doesn’t continue to make a little bit of residual input. It’s got to start and stop with the music. It’s got to start and stop with a special effect in a movie. And that’s what we go for here. This is a driver that is really, really over designed for the application, but it’s because we intend for these to still be running 20-25 years from now.
The amplifier that’s used in the 31 is a precise duplicate of the one that’s used in the 32. The only difference, and the reason there’s a wattage rating is because we deliberately use our limitless limiters a little bit more aggressively here to limit because the driver’s a 12 inch instead of a 15. It is all the same components, identically reusing the power supply board and the amplifier boards themselves.
We have two parametric filters on this exactly like the others. It’s exactly the same formula second filters that we use in the No.32. It is a duplicate. The only difference is it puts about a hundred watts continuous out less, as I said, that’s just to accommodate those. Briefly, the parametric are designed to allow you to gently lift the extreme bottom end up. I’m talking about typically below 25 hertz, just a little elevation because most rooms begin to fall off, the room does, not the subwoofer. So, we need to accommodate that. And then the second filter, the B filter we use traditionally to just pull out, above your crossover point, very subtly. And what it does is it produces a cleaner, more transparent mid-range and high frequency signature. So, let me take you on a very quick, short guided tour of the cabinetry of these bases.
It’s simply incredible. First of all, we’ll just start at the grill. It’s absolutely beautiful. I claim no authorship of this at all. This was inspired by Franco Serblin of Sonus Faber fame. He wanted it on his designs to mimic the approximate strings spacing and things of a violin. Here we are, working with more of a cello or a double base spreading, but it’s done in our case principally is a functional issue, these drivers put out huge amounts of very large weight fronts. You know, when you’ve got a driver that can explode two inches out, it can put out huge amounts of air pressure in a conventional cloth fabric grill, would just stifle that. Frankly, it would probably blow off the front because you’re moving so much air that it would eventually just pop it out of the fixtures.
These cabinets are built in a unique way. I don’t know of anybody else that does this within the industry. So, it’s extremely important that we get consistency. We can’t have customers going, “hey, you know, my left one consistently seems to sound better. I swapped it right for left, and now my right one sounds better.” So, it’s definitely the cabinet or the unit. We use an RF, radio frequency bombardment chamber. So, it gets put into a square room, with a large number of RF antennas. And they’re literally bombarding the HDF that we use, the identity fiber board, we use 30 millimeter one in an eight inch thick billets. They weigh a ton each, and they go into this chamber and they go into special supports and it gets bombarded for hours until it just begins to loosen up. The technical term for it is at the point that it becomes plastic, meaning it’s open to being easily changed in its shape, but not running gooey. And you then take that off and you put it into an inverse form. It’s a huge block of machine MDF that weighs hundreds of pounds. And they lay that in and there’s the corresponding male form comes down and curves it perfectly into that, and then they stand and just hold it there for hours until it’s back to absolutely ice cold. It’s not going to change. There’s nothing that will shift that short of breaking it. And then they pull that curve, build it out, and that becomes the basis of one wall. It’s about three weeks of construction to build a No.31. The painting alone takes another three weeks, but it’s a huge number of individual handcrafted steps.
And even as you get to the rear of the cabinet, there are these little details that we borrow from the Serie S, which themselves are kind of inspired by details from 1930s-40s era, wooden speed boats. And that came about, you know, it informs everything in here. This is truly a boat tail where it dies in elevation even as it goes back in plan. So, the back of this cabinet is rounded off. And as you look at this, it’s really evocative of an old Reva or Chris Craft, a hacker runabout.
So, we’re here to show you a little bit about the remote control on the No.31. This is the only control panel for the entire thing. There are no knobs and switches on the back of the thing other than face switch and a power activator for the parametric. So briefly, first thing about it that will hit you is it’s beautifully weighted and fits perfectly into the palm of your hand. That is not an accident. I think that most remotes are really purposeless in their design. The idea of using a big wand, it’s fine for TVs where you may have 54 buttons on there, but all we really need is the high-level gain control, the crossover and the 0.1 LFE control. Now, these are beautifully weighted. They have precise detents like any high-quality pot, but they’re not potentiometers, their digital tax switches. So, these are programmed to give you precise decrements. If it’s volume, it’s exactly one DB per click, right? If it is frequency on the crossover here, that is in one hertz increments. It’s really important to us that you have complete control over these things when you start doing Reference level work.
All right, so let’s wrap this up with a bow. The No.31 is a No.32 with about a 35 to 40% physical space reduction. That’s it. Every aspect of quality, virtually every part, but the driver is duplicative, right? So, there’s no step off in quality whatsoever. It’s simply that some people can’t accept the physical volume of a 32 under their room. This is not louder than some other pieces we make. It’s better in every possible way that matters.