REL "S" series. There really is a difference, HT subs are for sound effects and ones like these are for music.
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Agree with Stanwal and Kal on the REL. The REL is one of the only sub systems to use hi-level inputs from your main amp with no crossovers in the signal path of your main speakers. When set correctly, you only notice the presence of the sub when you turn it off - the extremely low bass disappears and the soundstage collapses. For best performance, it is critical to use one of Synergistic Research's Tesla Rel Spec cables for the hi-level connection.
I have tried MANY subs, and finally tried a Rel (B1), and it's absolutely the best all around sub that I have had. It does 2 channel excellently, and with it's proprietary input options (both high and low level inputs at the same time) handles Home Theater like a champ.
I think the Vandersteen 2Wq was the best 2 channel sub as far as integration, but the Rel goes much deeper, and is just as fast.
The JL Audio F113 and Velodyne DD15 (with the SVS PC Ultra 13 right behind) were the best Home Theater subs I used, but they were limited on hook up options compared to the Rel's for 2 channel.
Rel is my recommendation, the higher up the food chain you can go, the better.
I had 2 Rel Stadium III for my HT slash 2 channel system. I felt the Stadium III was not fast enough and went too low for my 2 channel. I do not like subsonics when I listen to music. I sold 1 of my Stadium III after tring an Aerial SW-12. The SW-12 is much faster. It has an EQ, a left and right balanced input amoung other inputs and adjustments.
I connect the right balanced input from my 2 channel system and turn on the EQ so I can set it up just the way I want it. I want the sub to be there but not over powering. Then when I use it for HT, I turn off the EQ via remote (a macro)so I get full range from my 2 channel input and then a LFE signal from my HT processor to the left balance input for all movie effects. I took a while to get it where I liked it but it was worth it.
This setup has made me so happy I am going to get another SW-12 and have 2 subs in the front. BTW the Rel sub I still have is used in the rear.
For me I feel the faster the better when it comes to a sub for 2 channal, not how low it will go. How low do you really need a sub to go for music, maybe 25 HZ.
08-09-09: DlcockrumTrue but, often, there are good reasons to have such a crossover. Removing the bass signals from small speaker greatly increases its effective power handling.
The 'R' series seems like more for HT than 2 channel. When compared to 2 channel the 'R' series to me sounds too boomy. Not as musical. Maybe it's the class 'D' amp - I don't know but again to me it didn't sound right. FWIW I have the B3 and will say the cable made a huge difference over the stock cable. It's possible a cable upgrade would make the the 'R' series sound better. I didn't have the upgraded cable to compare then. The Nordost baseline is less expensive when compared to the SR telsa so it could be even better. I just know the stock cable does not do the Rel any justice. Although any upgraded stock cable may bring the cost of the Rel way up.
A vote for the Vandersteen 2Wq. I have a pair of these, and the bass goes lower than I can hear (or than my room can carry - verified with a SPL meter). If your mains go down reliably to about 40Hz, they integrate extremely well, are designed for corner placement (and actually work well in the corners of my room), and, best of all, do not make their presence known unless there is deep bass in the source material. They are quite tuneful and quick, as well. The adjustable Q allows you to dial in the kind of bass you want, from very tight and fast, to a bit slower and bloomier. I bought two of them used here on Audiogon, and paid less than $800 each. You will have to buy the in-line crossovers from a Vandy dealer (~$125/pr). The temporary x-over that comes with the 2Wq is not tranparent enough (nor is it meant to be) to use on a permanent basis.
I have no experience with REL, but there are similarities in the x-over approach of REL and Vandersteen. However, with REL, you lose the benefits of the Vandersteen's LF roll-off that benefits both your main speakers and amplifier.
I know I will upgrade my speakers, but the 2Wq subs are in my rig to stay!
Yes I use the hi level input with a custom made connector and the same for the power cord. The only stock cable I do use came with my Shunyata hydra 6 power conditioner. My power cables are either FMS or Shunyata. Do not get me wrong I feel Rel is a very good sub, just for 2 channel I think it is not fast enough and it go's too low. I myself do not like my chair vibrating while I listen to music. For movies that another matter and if my room could support the space for 3 subs in the front I would have kept the other Rel.
Thanks for the reply, Hevac1. During the inital period with my Stadium III, I also noticed a very slight fatness (not sure that I would describe it as slowness exactly). Adding the supplied spikes improved this considerably. It makes me wonder why REL discourages the use of them in the manual. Setting the crossover at the lowest setting (22hz) and increasing the gain setting helped also (my main speakers do 25hz at minus 6db).
I find that the main benefit of the REL in my system is not primarily the bass extension, but the substantial improvement in the dimensionality of images, layering of the soundstage, and bloom of instrumental timbres, especially piano. I think this is a product of the REL "loading the room" with sub-bass frequencies. This would seem to require that it emits frequencies so low they are felt but not heard, which is what seems to bug you about the Stadium III. Does the Aerial SW-12 equal the REL in this respect?
I feel the same as you about the benefits of a sub in the system. There is more overall body and fullness to the music and I think all subs load the room.
The SW-12 is forward firing instaead of downward like the Rel. I think that this helps with the issue of my seat vibration and the quickness I hear from the SW-12. I would think the presure of the downward firing to the floor has to reflect back to to sub and could cause the driver to move longer than it should. This could also be why you like it better with spikes, it sit higher off the floor and also make better contact. When I purchased my SW-12 Rel did not have the new front firing sub as they do now BTW other wise I would have tried one at the fime.
There really is one difference - deepest bass performance. A HT sub must perform well below 20hz to do it's job correctly, while a music only sub doesn't (as a practical matter) require such extension.
I use a pair of Rythmik subs that test great above 35hz but trade away (measured) performance below that frequency. I think this trade-off is worthwhile (others may disagree) since there is so little material in my music collection with any meaningful signal at these very low frequencies.
FWIW, the test results I've seen indicate that most of the REL models are extreme examples of this trade-off with poor measured performance at low to very low frequencies, but excellent results on group delay tests which (arguably) correlate to "speed" in audiophile subwoofer argot.
IMHO, finding the right trade off is a more interesting task for music than HT. Other than this single distinction, I'd agree enthusiastically with each of the points Bob Reynolds makes in his post.
I own a pair of gloss black 12" Rythmik SE subs with the 300w non PEq amps (this saved $100 per unit). I substituted this amp because I use external PEq (Velodyne SMS-1) and don't need the extra 70 wpc with dual subs in my room. They are very, very good subs for music. On high quality program material the overall system response sounds awfully good down to the lowest bass notes. I should add that I use the SMS for low pass and EQ and an NHT X-2 for high pass on the mains. The Rythmik x-over is defeated in my set-up.
The following observations are based on a combo of listening experience, info from informed sub users (including several A'goners) and as much test data as I could get my hands on.
As a general rule, I'd note that well designed ported subs tend to offer higher clean output capability at the lowest frequencies vis a vis similarly sized/priced sealed units. This is very useful for HT applications. OTOH, well designed sealed subs tend to offer a highly damped sound that I prefer for music. Please note the use of the phrase "tend to" - these are not blanket statements and there may well be exceptions to these "guidelines".