I have been having a great time the last six months reviewing a series of what I consider reference-level two-way stand mount monitors. This had been done in the context of my smaller two-channel system setup simply for musical enjoyment. This list includes the LSA1 Statement
, Reference 3A deCapo-i, and Aerial Acoustics 5B
. I became interested in reviewing a pair of subwoofers that would fit in, offering a physically small footprint as well as being relatively inexpensive, compared to the above-mentioned speakers, which all sell for about $3,000. Based on having very positive listening experiences with REL Acoustics Ltd.
's physically large reference-level subwoofers, I was motivated to contact John Paul Lizars of Sumiko Audio
, which is the U.S. distributor for REL Acoustics Ltd. After telling Lizars that I was seeking a pair of subwoofers for a reference-level two-channel music system, he recommended the T-7, which has a relatively small footprint and retails for $999. After setting up many two-channel systems with subwoofers, it has been my experience that using a pair, instead of a single subwoofer, leads to an exponential increase of what subwoofers add to the overall sonic performance of a system.
• Read more subwoofer reviews from the writers of Home Theater Review.
• See more reviews of Bookshelf Speakers and Floorstanding Speakers.
Each T-7 measures 13.75 inches wide by 12 inches deep and 13.75 inches tall. Each T-7 weighs 34 pounds and is rated to 30Hz. The pair delivered was in a beautiful piano black gloss, having a silver metal top piece engraved with REL, and matching feet to support the T-7 from the floor. The T-7 is designed around a front-firing eight-inch passive radiator, with a down-firing active 10-inch woofer. The internal amp is Class AB and rated at 200 watts. On the back of the T-7 are the controls for input connectors (high-level Neutrik Speakon, low-level single phono, LFE phono), phase switch (0 to 180 degrees), crossover switch (variable between 30Hz to 120Hz) and gain control (80dB). Each T-7 is supplied with a 30-foot Neutrik Speakon cable - a nice touch.
REL Acoustic believes very strongly that, in order to get the maximum performance out of its subwoofers, you should use the supplied Neutrik Speakon cable that is easily attached to your amplifier's speaker terminals, along with using REL's Neutrik connector in the back of each subwoofer. REL does not recommend that you use the output from a preamp or receiver unless this is absolutely necessary.
I experimented using both REL's cable and connector and am in complete agreement with the company's suggestions. The T-7 performed at a much higher level with the Neutrik Speakon cable, compared to using an RCA cable from my preamp to the T-7. My speculative hypothesis is, that by using the amp's speaker terminals, the flavor and tonality of your amp is passed on by the T-7 for a more seamless blend between your main speakers and the subwoofer. Finally, REL Acoustics believes that while most subwoofers
emphasize the mid-bass from 50 to 90Hz, the company's subwoofers can reproduce very low frequencies (at or around 30Hz), providing the subsonics found in music or special effects in movie tracks, which produce a more natural foundation to the music.
Although there is more benefit from a subwoofer than simply the extension of the lowest bass frequencies in the sound of the system, you do in fact get more dynamics and slam with it. However, in my experience, the wonderful and special attributes that a dialed-in subwoofer can provide to a listening area are sound-staging and spatial qualities between the players within the recording. The depth, height and width of the sound stage tremendously increases. You also get stronger image density and a more three-dimensional aspect for each player. Turning off the subwoofers flattens out the soundstage, creating a more two-dimensional image.
In my acoustic space, the placement and fine-tuning of the pair of T-7 subwoofers were straightforward and rather easy to do. Each T-7 was placed 24 inches away from the front wall on the outside corner of the two monitors and 30 inches away from the side walls. The phase was set at zero. Depending on which speaker I was using, the crossover point was anywhere from 35Hz to 50Hz. The volume also was adjusted according to the sensitivity of which speaker was being used in the system.
I used the system with the pair of T-7s on to listen to Jack Jeffer's big band arrangement of "DOUF March" (Mapleshade
), which was recorded in a large hall. Magnificently, the entire soundstage totally opened up and the layering and air between the players dramatically increased in a natural way. The ambience of the recording space was also delivered where it had not been evident before the subwoofers were inserted into the chain.
I wanted to see how the T-7s would perform with a more powerful and deep bass frequency, so I listened to Dr. Lonnie Smith's 3B Hammond bass pedals on the tune "A Matterapat" (Palmetto Records). The bass pedal notes pressurized my room with the type of timbres that a 3B Hammond organ is known to deliver. Again, the spatial qualities made the listening experience more enjoyable and realistic.
Finally, listening to the late, great tenor saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman and his special rendition of "Alfie" (HighNote Records), the acoustic space and location of each player blossomed with the T-7s. The bottom octave of the sextet rhythm section increasingly became bolder, enticing you to tap your toes to the beat.Read about the high points and low points of the REL T-7 subwoofer on Page 2.