6-Pack (Line Array) Versus 212/SX Pairs
With all the excitement and around 6-packs line arrays, it’s easy to overlook the amazing performance that a pair of REL 212/SX can deliver. 6 pack line arrays are incredible, no question about that. A well-setup 6 pack line array of Serie S or Reference models is a remarkable sonic event. Reviewers frequently find them to be one of those top 1 or 2 experiences they’ve ever encountered in their audio journey. Still, there are many occasions where a pair of 212/SX will deliver precisely what the customer and their room require.
What are the determining factors that go into helping a client decide what serves their needs best?
Not everyone has the space to grow a 6-pack in their preferred room. One well-heeled client owned a significant art collection and couldn’t have anything above a certain height lest it would block their sight lines.
At the time of this writing, a pair of 212/SX costs $10,000 (US$), whereas a 6-pack of Carbon Special costs almost double that figure.
It’s also important to focus on the final intent of one’s system. If you’re intent on building the absolute state-of-the-art system in both 2-channel and/or theatre applications within that scope, a 6-pack of Serie S (or above) delivers all the experience that most people can envision and more. If, however, you want an all-around great experience from a system that can deliver massive dynamics – as well as a decent slice of what a 6-pack delivers (with less complication and easy dial-in), then go with a pair of the 212/SX.
To better understand the nuances that sway a decision for either a pair of 212/SX or a 6-pack, let’s look at 2 different systems. In both cases, we’ll use the Wilson Audio Sascha DAW as the speaker, but let’s change the room-scale and, importantly, Item #3 -the goals for each system.
System #1 – Livingroom System: Hi-Fi Rose RS250 driving a Pass Labs Stereo Integrated amplifier model INT-250 into the Sascha DAW in a nicely dimensioned living room measuring 9’(3.6m) X 14’6” (5.8M) X 23’6” (9.5m). However, it’s an open architecture with the “rear” wall giving onto a dining room and kitchen. Additionally, the owner uses a Yamaha AVR, model Aventage RX-A6A. This, in turn, feeds the 2-main channels via the same Pass Labs amp to drive the main speakers. It also feeds the other 7 channels to the appropriate center and surround speakers. The furniture in this room is relatively modest in scale and, as the system is primarily used as a living room, certain compromises must be accepted.
System #1 is a near-perfect scenario for a pair of 212/SX, and no one should weep for the owner who can choose them. They will deliver more than most owners ever expect in every regard.
REL-Tip: A pair of 212/SX actually deliver performance closer to a 6-pack of Carbon Specials than using 4 X Carbon Special stacked vertically in pairs of 2. This is due to the unique upper rear-firing passive radiator employed on 212/SX that delivers a portion of the upper harmonics that a 6-pack dishes out.
System #2 is a Near Reference/State of the Art Listening Room with a DCS Bartok Apex digital system, and Audio Research M-160 monoblocks with an ARC REF 6 SE preamp. Room dimensions are 10’6” H x 17’W x 27’6” L, tightly constructed, and acoustically treated. This is a state-of-the-art sound room/theatre! Let’s assume there’s a serious theatre processor, as well as appropriate in-ceiling Atmos effects speakers, etc. Here, the ideal recommendation would be for either a 6-pack of Carbon Specials (especially if the owner is unlikely to consider moving further up the Wilson chain) or, if there is a possibility of moving up to Alexia or Alex V’s later, then aim forward and purchase a 6-pack of No.31’s.
The differences here are in the intentions for these systems. System #1 is a wonderful all-around setup that will do pretty much everything the lucky owners ask of it. It matters not at all whether 2-channel playback or theatre is preferred, the 212/SX-backed system just gets on with it.
System #2 is for the extremely experienced audiophile. One who has progressed further along a listening journey, allowing them to (appropriately) reach for the finest in sound reproduction, unfettered by budget or size constraints.
For those who have fallen in love with this experience, there is an evolutionary path, one that is unique for every individual. Some have progressed to a point in their life, and their system has gone along on the journey, that a 6-pack is the obvious final key that will unlock everything that they’ve been searching for. For others, while they clearly love the experience, perhaps their family is a bit younger, the system must meet the needs of several masters. Hell, Spotify through System #1 will blow the minds of teenagers who are accustomed to only hearing music through their AirPods.
The purpose of this article is simple: to illuminate two slightly different sets of priorities. There’s no right and wrong here, as both approaches will satisfy their owners’ slightly varying needs. In the end, it all comes down to being honest with oneself and making the best choices that fit your life and your needs the best for the phase of life you are currently enjoying. Now excuse me while I slip another disc into my PS Audio transport and settle into a nice long listening session with my 6-pack of S/510s.