There’s a Reason They’re Called Reference

Superior by Design

“The big problem with Serie S,” said Justin Magana our talented Chief Engineer, “is that people who buy them think they ought to be able to do everything our Reference models deliver, but at less than half the price.” This was back in 2019 (the older S/5 and S/3 models) when we were developing the current Serie S models. And he was right, at least until we delivered the S/812 and S/510. These do so much, so right, at such reasonable prices that owners have every right to be proud.

Yet, some differences become significant, and they come to light when the system in question has components —speakers especially –– that themselves are of reference quality; fast, and resolved enough to highlight the capabilities of our Reference range. Speakers such as the upper end of Wilson Audio, Magico, Rockport, and other exceptional loudspeakers reveal the gap between even our Serie S (of which we’re justifiably proud) and our Reference models, the No.31 and No.32.

Absence of Grain: As finely crafted as the drivers are in our Serie S, both Reference models enjoy freedom from the material signature that escapes the 510 and 812. And while the Carbon Special gets closer, even that superlative design is bested by a No.31 (or 32, depending upon our big and capable system and room area).

In renewing our relationship with Carbon Special we enjoyed the heck out of it. So much so that the parallel development of the driver used in No.31 (among other differences, it handles 3 times the power of the Carbon Special driver – gifting it with headroom for days) took a back seat for a few weeks. When we finally bolted the new No.31 driver into its cabinet and reinstalled the damping material, I think we were both a little nervous; the Carbon Special had done so well in our theatre tests that we couldn’t be sure if we had truly bested it.

The pure carbon-fiber designs we developed for Reference models are used nowhere else in our range, in part because we simply cannot afford to include them at a lower cost. It took less than 3 seconds for us to both realize that we were hearing a completely different and far better level of everything. REF drivers display this utter lack of grain that allows them to become one with reference quality speakers. Once the ear becomes attuned to this absence, and the difference in character from one’s speakers, all sorts of textures and subtlety are revealed in the totality of the system, and that is instantly addictive.

Speed: As fast as the input filters and crossover are in Serie S, Reference resides in a category of one. We’ve experienced this ourselves during development. We had just finished using Carbon Special in testing a medium-priced Japanese AV receiver whose maker claimed it allowed Full Range from all channels except Atmos (not true, like almost everything out there in the world of processors or receivers, this one only allowed output flat to 40 Hz).

The moment we fired up the No.31, we could hear all the various ways in which it was dramatically superior to the best we know how to make below this level. Richer, dynamics in spades, deeper and truer bass.

Superior by Design: Those who know REL know that we deliver an organic wholeness to our designs. It’s a rightness borne of working to polish every detail so that everything is in harmony. This ensures that every quality is upgraded. In the case of Reference models, it means reworking internal dimensions, using new insulation materials that allow us to obtain better dynamics through superior quieting, and the reworking of our filters to get the most out of drivers which have dramatically upgraded characteristics. The shapes and materials used in our Reference cabinets are unique in the world of subwoofers and they have a material impact on our sound quality. A larger cabinet volume means there’s no need to use down-firing passive radiator. We have the extra cabinet volume necessary to fit the driver like a hand-tailored suit. We know from extensive listening that nothing else imparts the speed, solidity, and clarity of bass line that our cabinet shapes and construction methods do. Finally, there’s the matter of the all-analog parametric filters…but that’s a story for a different time.

In the end, our desire to create sub bass capable of not simply keeping up with, but in most cases performing faster than the state-of-the-art speakers in the frequencies we supply is critical to your enjoyment. Because we aren’t subject to the placement demands of main speakers and can therefore make better use of room boundaries in the deepest bass regions, REL Reference is capable of not simply keeping up with, but of elevating the performance of the finest systems.

January 20, 2023 - Posted in: System Thinking