A Festival of Bass

Bringing Live Sound Home

No matter what style of music you love, Summer is the time to keep an eye out for the best music festivals of the year. If you’re in the UK, check out Nocturne Live June 12-16 in Woodstock. No, the other Woodstock, which is pretty much what the Brits would say about our Woodstock. With Coachella and Stagecoach having already kicked off the music festival season out here on the West Coast, we thought it would be fun to revisit what makes live music and festival sound so enjoyable and how you can bring your system up to a level that truly brings the concert experience home.

A brief note to those who can’t afford some of the kits mentioned below; enjoy it. Half the fun of owning a Ferrari is dreaming about owning one for 40 years. Same thing with great audio gear. If it’s not in your budget right now, keep working on it. Usually, when someone really wants something and makes owning that experience a goal, good things happen.

At the end of this article, a link to Music Festival Wizard will be posted allowing you to look up music festivals near you and all over the world. 

Okay, without a doubt, the sonic takeaway from music festivals is the sound. Specifically the bass. There’s a visceral thing that happens when, I don’t know, 96 bass bins flying off of 8×40’ pole-mounted line arrays hit you like a sledgehammer. With a kick drum sound that compresses your chest, whether you want it to or not, it’s the bass that you’ll be talking about on the long drive home. It’s bass felt, not just heard that almost no home systems can capture. But some can.

Nowadays, deep bass is easier than ever to afford. The same HT/1205 MKII at $899/£899 is surprisingly adept at music reproduction and crushes in-theatre applications. One of our best sellers, the T/9x similarly delivers a ton of smiles per mile. Any of our Serie S deliver deep bass that leaves our more affordable offerings in the rearview mirror. These and others in our repertoire will deliver satisfying deep bass and, if you can find a good YouTube video of a festival you attended, REL will help bring back some wonderful memories.

RELTip™: For those of you who own an HT model, try running a stereo pair of RCA-RCA interconnects from the L-R preamp outputs on your AV receiver into two of the 4 RCA connectors on the rear panel. It will help you enhance the listening experience for music.

And then there are those who really want to re-live the experience as though they were actually there again…

No punches held back, the quality of bass reproduction I am going to describe doesn’t come cheap. If one seeks therarefied air, one needs to turn to military-grade bass hardware. Otherwise, those wonderful little 8” subs that are quick, tuneful, and affordable aren’t going to have you playing air drums along with Dave Grohl. Only a very few 10” based designs have the “it” to get one’s attention. For the real deal, we’re pretty much looking at 12” and larger and, even then, multiples of those drivers.  Also, the vertical height one experiences live simply can’t be replicated by a sub sitting on the floor, hence items 2-4 below.

Here’s our experience of how to reproduce true festival-playback levels of bass, for those who love live outdoor music festival sound:

  1. In our lineup, my first thought to deliver the “mostest for the leastest” would be a pair of 212/SXs. This pair would deliver 2 x 1,000-watt amps driving  4 active 12” drivers + 4 passives cannily placed and tuned to deliver massive grunt. 900 inches of surface area and a couple of thousand watts has a way of shredding air with violence that is positively un-gentlemanly.
  2. A 6-pack of S/812’s.
  3. A 6-pack of Carbon Specials.
  4. A 6-pack of any Reference model we’ve ever made.

Let’s wrap this up. You can see there’s a recurring theme operating here. It takes lots of horsepower and lots of surface area; many large drivers, to deliver “you are there” live bass. It’s hard to comprehend that a pair of powerful 212/SXs could be a starter course, but in this company, it’s because that final detail missing from even otherwise fantastic systems is the ability to convey full height /full impact to the soundstage. The 212/SX’s rear-facing passive does a remarkable job of providing necessary elevation, but once the 6-packs are switched on it’s game, set, and match I’m afraid.

We try to provide the finest value in our affordable models and we’re  very proud of what they deliver for relatively affordable prices. And, we deliver no-holds-barred experiences akin to exotic supercars at the end of the scale. Whether you can afford a VW GTi or a Porsche GT-3RS, our goal is always the same; to deliver everything we know to you, within the limits of our engineering creativity and your budget. But whether flinging a GTi down a winding secondary road or running the Nurburgring , both your and  goals and ours  should remain identical. Finding fun and joy in the activity. If you love the experience of live music, less the 20-minute lines for a Porta Potty, REL delivers that experience and will help you revisit the feelings and thrill of your favorite music festival.

Music Festival Wizard

Thank you for reading our latest blog. We strive to provide content that’s both entertaining and educational.

If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, reach out to us at We value your input and will do our best to respond within a few days.

With over 160 years of combined experience, we’re committed to making your audio experience exceptional. If you found value in this piece, please share it with friends who might benefit.

May 2, 2024 - Posted in: Deep Dive Setup