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REL Acoustics Strata II
14 Reviews
rating  4.86 of 5
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Reviews 1 - 5 (14 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by leon . a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 22, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I own it for two years now,and wasnt really satisfied because i coudnt get it tight,and it sounded muddy.
I use it now with a granit plate under it and thats really amasing,even on an allready flat ground(without carpet or other sounddamping fabrics).
You should really give it a trye.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1998

Price Paid:    $400.00

Purchased At:   dealer



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by john a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: October 6, 2001

Bottom Line:   
i agree with the positive comments below. it is a great product and i hhaven't heard much better. the comments i have relate to system building: the strata worked very well with my small size high end system with the single driver rehdeko rk115 with 96db/wm. few reviewers mentioned that the subwoofer affects the entire picture of representation, toning might be the term, this might be for the better or worse, set at low output it works best for me. but don't think of just adding a bit of foundation to the bottom end of your system.
matters changed when i tested the strata with the awesome rehdeko 175 with 109.5db/wm. the enormous precision and speed suddenly turned the strata into a slug and it became irritatingly slow trying to catch up, lacking speed and dragging behind the forwardness and sheer speed of the rk's 175 fantastic staging, resulting in muddled and irritably blurred sound picture. my verdict: the strata is great for small to mid-size systems and rooms, with large systems the scale of the sound stage increases and so probably should the sub system.
i am now looking for a faster more detailed and firm sub system experimenting with the larger REL products.

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   2000



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Micob Tacastacas a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: September 29, 2001

Bottom Line:   
"Audiophiles, musicians and music lovers… Lend me your ears (or eyes), hear me for my cause!"

Pardon me for my intrusion, but I just can't help sharing with you this turning point in my life. I just had the most exhilarating experience when I upgraded my Velodyne to a REL Strata II. Mind you, I have been so stubborn to upgrade to this audiophile-accepted subwoofer brand/model despite what I read in voluminous audio magazines, countless information in the internet and persuasions (or is that nagging advice?) from select audiophile friends (some are fellow reviewers here - see their names in the last portion) due in part to my habitual disobedient tendency. For ethical reasons, I will refrain from mentioning the Velodyne model number (you can email me if you want to know).

First, I must mention that I have already heard the REL Strata II on my pleasure trip to Hongkong way back in April '99. At that time, my Velodyne subwoofer was still new so you can just conjecture my loyalty and fondness of it. That's why when the sales guy over at Audio Art (REL dealer in HK) kept vaunting the features and advantages of the Strata II, I just put on a dubious smile and was almost tempted to tell him that my Velodyne will eat this REL for breakfast! If I were asked to explain why I had such reaction, I am now convinced that the sales guy had set the subwoofer gain too low for my predilection (probably 8:00 o' clock subwoofer gain level only!). The seemingly weak presentation made me conclude that it was likewise a weak subwoofer. An exemplary case of passive imprudence on my part.

Since then, and on many occasions similar to this one, I would leave an audio store in an upbeat mode convinced that my subwoofer at home is at par, or in some cases better, compared to the ones I've just been privileged to hear. The "upgrade bug" had never managed to sting me as far as subwoofers are concerned. Besides, I am a bass guitar player in our band. I know how the real thing sounds (talk about our bass guitar amps Hartke and Torque). My Velo's sound is close to that, so why change?

Conflict Unraveled

The trouble is, our band only plays pop, light jazz and sometimes slow rock music. We are not an orchestra. Taking into consideration that the "E" string (lowest note) of my 4-string Yamaha bass guitar is a mere 40Hz, that clearly traduced my shallow understanding and appreciation of what deep bass really is! Classical music (those with organ pedal notes), synthetic house rap, or even movie soundtracks showcase audio materials which extend down to 20 Hz or even lower. On this aspect, the Radio Shack SPL confirms the limitation of my Velodyne, whose lowest frequency range is only 28Hz. In a raised wooden flooring where vibration is obtained with maximum effect, I'm sure my Velodyne would have performed sufficiently. But hold it, building a raised flooring in our living room? Taking the "spouse" into the equation, and you would have a classic case of courting disaster there!

But you know, this thought of lower octaves, the subterranean realm kept on hunting me relentlessly to the point that the temptation to transcend to that rather exotic territory had become considerably uncontrollable that finally, I succumbed, throwing my aegis of resistance aside.

Villains take Initial Control!

You probably have heard about the political chaos and economic fiasco happening here in the Philippines, aggravated by the weakening of the US and Japan economy. The ill-effect being that the Dollar-to-Peso exchange rate had been rising steadily, sending our Peso value stumbling to never-before catastrophic abysmal level. Henceforth, prices of all imported items such as this REL subwoofer shot up, such that the funds I need to raise in order to augment the would-be sales proceed of the Velodyne kept rising ridiculously as well. Prudence prompts me to shelve my plan to go REL.

Sidekicks to the Rescue

One morning I received an email from my friend living in Singapore, Joseph Ramon, (who is aware of my plan to go REL) that he knows someone selling off his REL Strata II. He knows the owner quite well, and so he can vouch for the good condition of the subwoofer. The price was quite reasonable. Having heard that so many audiophiles took great interest on it, he decided to buy the REL immediately to preempt others taking it; and that if I didn't want it, he will keep it for his Home Theater gear, or sell it later at a profit. I also have a kumpadre, Randee Tablizo (a computer expert, employed at HP Singapore), who was due to come home here in the Philippines. I then asked him to handcarry the REL on his way here. I am forever thankful to have such a great friends like Joseph and Randee!

The Protagonists Took Retribution

Now then, it was time for my current subwoofer to seek refuge to another owner. Advertise. Sold it. Bye-bye; but thanks for the "Velo moments" anyway. I would build upon that experience as a point of comparison to the REL.

Now, my rather svelte REL Strata II (Black Ash) sits proudly in that throne vacated by my former WBC ("World Bass Council") middleweight king, the Velo. This is in a corner, about 28 inches from the front wall, and 12 inches from the right-side wall of my small audio/living room which has an approximate dimension of 12 x 20 x 7 feet. After a thorough comparison on set up (wiring) options, I found the REL's speaker-level (via supplied Neutrik Speakon connector) connection best suited to my taste.

Right out of the box the REL sounded okay, but just that, reminiscent of the sound I heard at Audio Art. Due to sheer excitement I suppose, I again forgot about the subwoofer volume control. But my brief anxiety only lasted for a few seconds, when my brother Michor (who helped me set it up) reached out to the back of the subwoofer and started adjusting the subwoofer gain. Halleluiah, a savvy display of powerful, non-directional and graceful bass filled the room! This sent me scuttling for the SPL Meter. It's time to do the arduous task of finding the correct frequency cut-off for it to "marry" my Tannoy MX1 main speakers. Noting that the lowest frequency specs of my Tannoy is 55Hz, my hunch of the REL's cut-off frequency to be somewhere in the 50-55Hz region was wrong! The SPL meter found the target to be at an even lower setting, 39Hz. It took us about six hours doing trial and error to locate this precise setting. Gain is set at 9:00 o' Clock (for music). For movies/video, I would set the crossover point at 67 Hz, and gain at 12 o' Clock. One last word: A possible place for error here is setting the cut-off frequency by ear while standing next to the REL. If you do that, you will easily wind up setting it at the lowest rating, which is 30Hz. The best way is to ask someone else to rotate the frequency knobs while you are seated at your listening chair and directing everything from there (whether by ear or by an SPL meter, or both) until you hear/get the best integration.

The Bass is It

Holy tamale ! My minimalist audio rig had been catapulted into high end status. The REL fills the room in a manner that you would not know where the bass is coming from, other than from the main speakers. The combination of my REL Strata II and Tannoy MX1 transformed my humble domain into a haven for music. Basking in the complete sound spectrum of 20,000Hz down to 20Hz (or even lower) is truly of orgasmic proportion ! The world-class quality of bass and the exquisite blend of the REL to my main speakers are simply mind-boggling, for the price! It's like my Tannoy MX1 had been transformed into floorstanders! Make no mistake: on its own, the MX1 already sounds like a bonafide floorstander. In tandem with the the REL, however, the MX1 sounds like a very expensive floorstander, meaning those that plunge down flat to 20Hz (or even lower). Somehow, it gives me a glimpse of the likes of ProAc Response 4, B&W Nautilus 801, Wilson Watt, Revel Saloon, etc.

REL Strata II's 10-inch driver reproduces low frequencies as truthfully as to what the original musical instruments made! It's presentation of bass guitar sound has that accurate textural detail to delineate the peculiar sonic characteristics of a Fender bass guitar from a Yamaha, or Ibanez, or Washburn, etc. Whereas in my former Velodyne, nearly all bass guitars would seem to have that generic sound, no matter how I'd adjust the settings. Track #2 of the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" album (Love Will Keep Us Alive) features Timothy B. Schmit doing the vocals while playing the bass guitar. With the REL, the bass lines are so crisp, clear and melodic as he hits those round-wounds, prompting me to appreciate even more Timothy Schmit's ambidextrous talents of singing while bass playing. Bass guitar players know for a fact that the natural texture, attack, decay and relative volume of bass guitar sound essentially depend on the combination of left-hand pressure exerted on the strings vis-a-vis the plucking/ popping/ slapping motion you do with your right hand. The Strata II is equipped with that exemplary resolving power to deliver those nuances in bass guitar sonic signatures. Furthermore, it is also guilty of improving the overall sonic picture, notably midrange and imaging magic (I will elucidate that profoundly later). Right now, allow me to give you an exact word to describe the Strata: Cunning!

A kick drum sound is a very good material to test the speed and transient arsenal a subwoofer is armed with. The Strata II delivers that ultra quick thud you expect to hear from a kick drum during live action or recording. I was not prepared to hear the Strata's coherent thud/stop, slam and weight such that I was literally stunned. Jim Keltner's "Drum Improvisation" (Sheffield Lab Track Records/ Drum Records CD #11420) made my neighbors to eavesdrop if I had brought a drum set into the house and might have seen me in agape, drooling and transfixed in my listening chair, quite embarrassing actually.

Organ pieces lets you relieve the experience only acquired in orchestral concert halls or recording studios. I mean, put on Bach works and get a moderate low-frequency massage from those sub-20Hz fundamentals. In instances like this, my previous Velo can only manage to go down to about 29 Hz or so. I threw in Saint-Saens "Symphony No. 3 in C Minor" and the REL literally shook the house, I had reservations that our landlord/ landlady might throw us out of the apartment! I tell you this: if Sebastian Bach or Saint-Saenz were in my audio room, they will get a Strata for themselves!

A very good CD to test (or torture) a subwoofer is the "The Great Fantasy Adventure Album" (Telarc CD #89342). Twenty one tracks (65 mns.) with heavy bass materials will urge you worship the REL Strata II. Me and my brother spent the whole sixty five minutes exchanging expletives in utter disbelief of what this subwoofer can do despite its unassuming lean stature.

It's extremely satisfying to hear/feel so many things now that I didn't quite get with my previous sub. I can now aver that we can't hear anything below 20Hz, but we can feel it! Your window grills shakes, and you feel the tactile vibration on your skin which confirms that that the room is being pressurized with subsonic frequencies. When your ear drums are being bombarded by infrasonic frequencies, you feel that tingling sensation you get just like when in you're in an airplane. You try to yawn to get rid of the "air" inside your ears, only to realize that it's just the bass from the subwoofer that causes that funny feeling.

The Haymaker

As if I haven't had enough, I asked "is that all a subwoofer can offer?" Remembering what Richard E. Lord and his disciples "preach" in the REL website, I became curious, how about for those music materials with not much bass content? I spun a favorite CD among audiophiles here, Jacintha's "Here's to Ben" (JVC xrcd2 FIM 020). Track #3 "Danny Boy", opens up with her seductive voice solo (I repeat, no musical instruments in stride here, okay?). Ho'boy, you'd be wrong if you think a subwoofer is not needed in such a case. With the REL along side, my system portrayed a holographic 3-D sonic presentation which brought Jacintha in the middle of my living room in an eerie & lifelike manner. Shocks, I could even surmise Jacintha's height! You could feel the air touching your cheek as she breaths and gasps in between lines. Aha! Since there was no musical instruments being played so instead, the Strata II assumed the role of maximizing the presence of Jacintha in my living room by reproducing those inaudible low frequency "harmonics" of her sultry voice. Gholly this sub is really good!

Revert to Kohala CD (Palm Records #4010 - a debut album by the Group Kohala from Big Island of Hawaii, which features slack key/classical guitar masters). This CD has been one of my favorites lately. It's funny that previously, after extensive comparison, I preferred not using my Velodyne subwoofer anymore. But now, I can no longer listen to this CD without the Strata. The REL heightened the holographic presence of the guitarists, and you get that obvious presence of "air" in the midst of a reverberant room as the guitar strings are individually plucked. Most dramatically, you can really pinpoint the geometric locations of the three guitarists in the room. Acoustic guitarist Charlie Recaido is heard on the left hand side of the soundstage; while Kevin Teves is heard on the right hand side, then on the center of the soundstage is classical guitarist Charles Michael Brotman. This is a true testament to the fact that the REL aided my Tannoy MX1 in their superb synergistic imaging presentation.


Movies/Power Play

If a system has already done a stellar job in music reproduction, particularly in imaging terms, then what more if it's aided with a video screen to corroborate the sonic presentation? 'Awesome' would be an understatement. If the scene shows a huge truck idling, you'd FEEL the engine's deep rumblings. Or, if it is a concert DVD playback of say, James Taylor ("Live at the Beacon Theater"), you'd be transported to front row seats of the Beacon theater itself, or even on the stage! Suit yourself. I borrowed "Volcano" DVD to determine if it can impart room pressurization similar to my previous trusty Velodyne sub. Well, bass was so deep and powerful that the way the Strata hits the subterranean volcano sound blast, I was afraid my neighbors might think Manila is the epicenter of another earthquake (hey, our Mayon Volcano just erupted, remember?). At this point, I wish to "file a motion" to eradicate the "myth" that REL Subwoofers in general, and the Strata II in particular is feckless or "soft-hearted" when it comes to movie soundtrack reproduction. Let's have a little common sense here: of course in a much much bigger room (say four or five times bigger), the Strata may feel like it's a wall flower in an orgy! I mean, it has no business being there. Mismatch surely produces comic outcome, you see. Kin'da like boxing: if you let a Heavyweight fight a Flyweight, the Flyweight will fly! In a relatively larger room, you've got to call in his bigger ST brothers (Storm, Stadium, Stentor, or if it's in the size of a basketball court, adjure in the annihilator - the Studio!). My point is, in my 12 x 20 x 7 feet room, movie soundtrack demands can be met with aplomb by the Strata II (and remember, I only set the gain at 12 o' clock - the full turn goes all the way down to about 4 or 5 o' clock!). Upon turning the subwoofer gain higher, and the frequency cut-off to be no lower than 60Hz, you transform the cute-n-cuddly REL into an abominable monster! Mind you, it is capable of committing serious seismic havoc, particularly those urban folks domiciled in vitreous structure of patented fragility ! So, don't say I didn't warn you!

Wisdom

But then again, power/loudness is not the most important thing in subwoofery nowadays, I must admit. Rather, the quality of bass, and the seamless blend of your sub to the main speakers are the secret requisites to unfathomable joy and excitement in this utterly mesmerizing hobby, audio! It sure is flattering to see your sycophant guests wanting to nominate your "loud" system to the hall of fame. But my concern is, pretty soon you'd begin siphoning your wealth to some filthy Eye-Ear-Nose-Throat MD Specialist for his lifetime services of restoring your irreversibly damaged eardrum/s! That would be rather sad, wouldn't it?

Final Curtain

Being used to the sound of my Velo, my perception of subwoofers whirled 180 degrees! And looking back, I ask myself: How could I have lived all this years not having a REL in my audio system? Well, maybe God just opted to shower me with slowly, but continuing grace! Thanks to REL for being the latest courier of God's blessing!

I say, AMEN.

Micob Tacastacas
Email: mtacastacas1@mmm.com or micobtacastacas@yahoo.com
================================================
P.S.
Hats off to these friends, who either advised or helped me to go REL:
Joseph Ramon (owned a Strata or shall we say "Strata 1")
Daniel Long (reviewer of REL Stentor, www.hometheaterhifi.com)
Hansen D. (REL-maniac, as much as a Sonus Faber-maniac)
Moises Lua (a.k.a. "mote", who owns a REL Quake, see his review)
Rene Rivo (audio dealer, had sold some Strata IIs)
Paul D. Bui (owns a REL Storm III, see his review)
Melvin Caculitan (loaned me his SPL meter to get the best integration)
Randee Tablizo (handcarried the REL Strata for me)

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $800.00

Purchased At:   Mines is used (second hand)



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Jim Braddock a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: May 31, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I heard about this unit through these reviews. I went to a couple of stores and listened to what was available and this one had the tightest bass.

I took it home and mated it to my Sonus Faber Concertinos (replacing an old set of Advents). Starting with crossover frequencies to the mid-low 30s I was able to quickly get a natural sound (Thanks, Stephen) that blended in with the main speakers. I put on a vinyl version of Saent-Saens Organ Concerto and was impressed by hearing and feeling the bass without any hint of being overdone. These are keepers!

By moving one of the knobs one click, I can get a bass boost which works well when watching TV movies (explosions, car chases, 2001 theme song). Otherwise, the Strata doesn't draw much attention to itself until needed.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by O.Z. a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 20, 1999

Bottom Line:   
This is one incredible little subwoofer.
It integrates perfectly and easily with my Dunlavy SC3's
and the sound is so good now that my jaw just droped when I started listening to it. This is not what I expected from a 60 watt powered sub.
The only bad thing I can say about it is that the instructions manual is so poor that it looks like a chinese person wrote it. I split the signal from my preamp and hooked it to the subwoofers input and that's it because I don't want to use the sub's crossover running through my amp which will for sure degrade the sound. This way my Dunlavy's run at full range and it is probably the best way to hook this sub up !
This is not even mentioned in the manual and I am sure that there are many folks that go by the manual and use the sub's crossover to cut off the woofers on there mains which is a bad bad idea if you have a good quality full range speakers.
My system consists of : Classe CDP1 cd player,Llano 200 power amp, custom made tube pre amp,Dunlavy sc3's and the new member of the family the REL strata 2.
And a little warning here : If you try it you'll end up buying it !

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1997




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