It’s not just About the Bass, It’s About the Space
This article is for the advanced owner, someone who already has a pair of larger RELs, and are trying to determine if they want to take that big step into the world of REL Line Arrays, commonly referred to as 6-Packs.
Let’s take a short journey through how this individual wound up owning a pair of RELs in the first place. They already owned a superior audio system. Then someone, perhaps a knowledgeable friend or dealer who, themselves, had experienced their own “REL moment” suggested that they would benefit hugely from hearing what RELs could do for this system. Often, our most ardent proponents are those who, before hearing RELs properly demonstrated, might have turned up their noses at adding a subwoofer to a well-constructed high-end audio system.
RELs aren’t like other subwoofers, and they aren’t designed to be. We offer 10 models whose primary purpose is to greatly expand the performance envelope of a high-end 2-channel system. Conventional subs primary focus is performance in theatre-based systems (where we currently offer 3 specialized models). These subwoofers focus primarily on their .1/LFE performance.
Stick with me…our theoretical client now owns a very fine system, and it already has a pair of advanced RELs. To consider Line Arrays, they would have to already own RELs from a short list, as not all RELs permit Line Array deployment. These include:
- Carbon Special
(HT/1510 also permits use as Line Arrays but this model does not offer the High-Level Connection most audiophiles value and use to connect their RELs to their systems. HT/1510s are best used in high-efficiency speaker setups with their dedicated low-level inputs.)
Finally, we arrive at the decision-making step of whether to move forward with a Line Array. Why would anyone do this? Let’s say our customer already owns a very fine pair of RELs, like the Carbon Specials. Surely, that’s enough deep bass and speaker-blended assist to make even the highest-end audiophile happy, right? This gets straight to the heart of why 6-packs have such ardent support among some of the hardest-to-please audiophiles. It’s not just about the bass, it’s also about the space.
In the entire audio kingdom, nothing can do for a super system what a Line Array does, and here’s why. The ultimate goal of a high-end audio system is to create sound so compelling that it feels as though you might actually be experiencing a live performance. Of course, there are several qualifiers (quality of the recording, accuracy of the system set up, the correct composition of the components, etc.) that also effect this, but the No.1 failing of most super expensive systems is they can’t deliver see-through transparency into the third dimension. 0 That takes deep bass. In fact, most can’t even correctly identify what the third dimension is. Maybe that’s because when the term is used to describe a physical object, we define it as Length, Width, and Depth. So, understandably, when reviewers write about three dimensionality, they usually mean depth of image. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for decades.
I’m going to identify the speaker design, one that many audiophiles have heard of, and nominate it as the moment where the first two dimensions (width and depth) of a modern stereo image were reliably delivered. That being the introduction of the LS3/5a BBC monitor, first mentioned in a press release dated February 19th, 1974.From that moment on, we’ve had width of image and depth of image, as anyone who has ever heard them in the ensuing 49 years can attest to. Yes, Quad electrostats were also able to do so, when properly set up, but they were quite rare.
Therefore, the third dimension is not depth, but is the height of the image. The height of the image that conveys, finally, the accurate perspective on a brilliantly recorded musical event. This height’s great clarity, along with very deep bass, is the defining signature of multi-hundred thousand dollar/pound/euro speakers. Those tend to run 600-700 pounds (per speaker), and rarely deliver the deep bass hoped -for. By comparison, a REL 6-pack of S/510s can start at $16,500, stands just 4’ (1.2M) in height, and weigh just 70 pounds per unit (210 pounds per side).
Once heard, you cannot unhear the prodigious jump forward that a REL Line Array-based sound system delivers. Records and CDs that you know well become sparkling fresh, as though one is hearing them for the first time. Last night, I popped in a used copy of The Beatles Love I had purchased the day before. This beautifully re-engineered release of many of the Beatle’s greatest hits had spatial and deep bass information I’d never dreamt of, all for the princely sum of $5.99 at a used book store. So many of their early recordings sound compressed and thin, as though they’re straining to be released from a sonic cage. This later release. played through a REL S/510 6-pack with electrostatic speaker pairing, felt like I was in the control room at Abbey Roads Studio. It was crazy to hear John and Paul, seemingly standing at full height in front of me. So, I took out the 6-pack; just two connectors unplugged and…poof, gone were John and Paul, replaced by thin-sounding miniature versions of themselves.
Whether a Line Array is in your future is, of course, entirely up to you. But having climbed my own personal version of the same journey that some of you are on. Namely the quest for palpable believability that takes us far beyond where we’ve ever been able to get before, I highly recommend that you seek out any opportunity to hear a properly setup REL Line Array. It may have the same effect on you that it had on me the first time I experienced it. As one very high-end reviewer exclaimed as he jumped out of his seat some 6 seconds into hearing his first 6-pack “Yes, yes, yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for for the past 40 years!” It might very well be what you’ve been looking for, too!
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