REL Acoustics Strata II Subwoofers

Strata II

User Reviews (14)

Showing 1-10 of 14  
erwin   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 18, 1999]
Strength:

speed, musicality

Weakness:

the smallest model in the series

Basically, I agree with everything below. I use my Strata II for music and home theatre.

The Strata II is the smallest in REL's downward firing series, so don't expect too much bass. It fits fine it small/medium rooms.

The Strata II doesn't have the 'punch' of the home theatre oriented Rel Q100E but thats fine as i find that its musicality and speed is more important.

But then, I subscribe to the belief the subwoofers should be 'inaudible' in the sense that you should not be conscious that its on (that means its too loud) so I set the cross-over very low.

and with the introduction of the Strata III, I'm sure things can only get better.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
O.Z.   Audiophile [Dec 20, 1999]
Strength:

Very smooth bass response and very easy integration with mains.

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 !

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Micob Tacastacas   Audiophile [Sep 29, 2001]
Strength:

Depth, detail, transparency, superb effect on imaging... well kindly ready my review for I may run out of adjectives to phraise this sub

Weakness:

Best suited for speakers with usable bass down to 50Hz (since this sub is very powerful)

"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)

Similar Products Used: Velodyne VAs & SPLs, M&K MX 105 & MX150THX, B&W ASW1000, NHT , Mission, Revel Ultima sub, Paradign Servo 15
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
leon .   Audiophile [Dec 22, 2001]
Strength:

fast bass for the money

Weakness:

power,can sound muddy

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.

Similar Products Used: bigger rels
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
john   Audiophile [Oct 06, 2001]

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.

Similar Products Used: various
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Stephen   an Audio Enthusiast [Aug 17, 1998]

Posted by Stephen on August 17, 1998 at 07:46:51:
N-I-M-S —————

N-I-M-S = NOT IN MY SYSTEM
Had you asked me anytime in the last three years if I would consider adding a sub to my stereo kit, my response would have been
an unreserved “N-I-M-S,” and, (a somewhat reserved) “not in my lifetime.” Several efforts to integrate a sub-woofer into my
system when I was running Vandersteens, Magneplaners and (the most current) Dunlavys met with continually mounting
frustration and (to put it kindly) limited success.

If, by some stroke of luck, the sub could approach a successful match- up with the mains tonally and rhythmically, the active
cross-over invariably mucked things up by adding grain, haze or other forms of insidious noise. To be totally truthful, none of the
ones I tried (Hsu, M&K or Velodyne) met the mark on both of the above.

My most recent foray into the nether-world of subs came about as I found my system peaking in performance over the last year.
With cabling selections completed in conjunction with the upgrade of digital front-end and power amplification, came significant
(and telling) improvements across the system that pointed to the next step. I considered new speakers, but given the deal (read: steal
at half-price for a mint-demo pair) I got on my SC-IIIs, I felt hard-pressed to go to the $6,000 - $12,000 mark for the Dunlavy
family’s bass extension. (For those of you who have followed my meanderings, you will recognize that the purchase price of the
bigger speakers themselves would translate to a real-world cost of $12,000 to $24,000 once the spousal-unit tax was factored in.
That was more than I could handle this year, thank you!)

Anyway ... after many queries among folks who frequent this and other such forums, a lot of reading up on numerous designs
philosophies and re-visiting basic sub theory, I arranged to have several subs delivered via UPS (they love me .... they love me
NOT!) to casa de Stephen for review. Frankly, I expectation was that NONE of them would work out. My previous experience
told me that sub-woofers requiring an active cross-over to perform in my system would quickly be dismissed. Those selected
showed some promise for the ability to integrate without such a device. The short-list wound up looking like this:
M & K 125 $1200 (1050 + 8% tax after negotiations)
Paradigm Servo 15 $1400 (1200 + 8% tax after haggling)
REL Strata II $1200 (850 +8% tax upon finding an
“inadvertently opened box” with full warranty;
next best price was from Ambrosia in LA, for
$1050, delivered to WA state)
ACI Titan $800 (non-negotiable, direct from factory)

To speed things along, let’s just say that after dialing in the Titan and the REL, the M & K and Paradigm were taken out of the
running—after relatively brief auditions—primarily because they were unable to match up tonally and rhythmically with my current
system. Recent experiences in selecting a center channel for the HT set-up in the family room served me well in narrowing the field
based on the tonal criterion. While the Titan and the REL showed promise for further integration, the others did not (your mileage
in your system may vary). My patience—which was already running short after two weeks of lugging all these heavy suckers
around—may have been a factor that came into play here, as well. Where’s an audiphile groupie when ya’ need one?

The REL was a pleasant surprise (in terms of sheer physical weight and room-placement-friendliness). The technical support from
Sumiko (the distributor) was outstanding, and an education in itself. Several calls to the distributor, before purchase and during
set-up, lasted more than forty minutes. This may explain why the mark-up on RELs is so high in America, when compared with
the retail prices in the Far East and Europe. ;-)

SET UP —————

• Getting the REL dialed in actually took the better part of a week after burn in. Admittedly, I had not had a sub in my system since
several failed experiments with Hsu, M & K and Velodyne about three years ago. In a nutshell, the biggest flaw I found in
common with each of them was that the hi-pass cross-overs supplied with these subs consistently and significantly degraded the
sound. That, when combined with the Hsu’s boominess (and finicky placement requirements), the M & K’s (a baby version, I
must admit) lack of extension and the Velodyne’s “mechanical-sounding” nature, turned me off and literally left me wondering why
ANYONE would EVER purchase a sub-woofer.

• The thing that got me interested in the REL was the ability to use a speaker-level connection (directly from the amp to the sub) and
the ABC network that allows the homo oddiofool Sapiens to dial in the crossover anywhere from 120 to 30 Hz. While it offers
other connection options, the speaker level input enables the REL to receive the full, carried forward, character of the entire system.
I thought this to be a bit of marketing hype when I originally encountered the concept. Even as Stirling Trayle (from the distributor,
Sumiko) talked me through it, and it seemed to make sense, my natural cynicism remained. Oh, but to be proved wrong. My
previous reference for what the SC-IIIs were capable of (in terms of deep, taut bass) came from its pairing (prior to the insertion of
the CAL Alpha DAC and C-J 11a in the system) with the Sunfire amp. While the bass response with the Sunfire was a bit
“synthetic” (as in: too tight to be real ... literally defying the “sound absolute”) it spoiled me when contrasted with my tubed amp’s
abilities in the nether regions. I’ll get over it.

• The reality is that the speaker-level inputs performed just as promised, providing a much more synergistic connection than the
line-level option.

• I quickly eliminated crossing over at 57, 53 and, with a bit more experimentation, 47 Hz as possible cross-over settings.

• Some of my peers questioned my initial cross-over choices of 43 and 39, thinking it was much too low. But, I got the flattest
response in the 50 to 80 region using the 39 Hz setting; crossing over at 43 gave a bit of boost at these frequencies; depending on
the production quality of the media, I found myself switching back and forth; settling in at 39 also slightly extended the depth and
volume of the lowest 20 Hz region.

• That said, it gets even weirder, my friends. While the response was relatively flat at 39, the artifact of a 6dB drop at 20 was not
one of the reasons I was contemplating the purchase of a sub. After numerous e-mail exchanges with Jack G (thanks again for the
input and the encouragement to keep experimenting, Jack!) and then checking in with Stirling once more, it was decided that a
move of the sub to the other side of the room AND another drop in the cross-over frequency were in order. “You think I should
cross it over where? ... At 33! ... Are you nuts?! ... Well, I’ll try it ... but it’ll never work.”

• Guess what? It worked big time! I have to agree with Sumiko’s contention that most audiophiles (out of sheer
over-intellectualization) tend to set the cross-over too high AND (out of fear of overwhelming the mains) at too little gain. I would
have never suspected that 33 would be the best setting. Based on my mains, my initial guesstimations would have suggested 57, 53
or 47 Hertz.

• For those of you who MUST know the specifics, here’s an abbreviated chart of the most relevant frequency facts (sorry if the
formatting does not translate well):

Speakers With REL With REL With REL With REL
Alone crossed crossed crossed crossed
at 39 at 43 at 36 at 33
20 -16 -6 -7 -2 -2
25 -10 -2 -2 +2 flat
31 -2 -2 -1 +4 flat
40 -7 -1 flat +4 flat
50 -2 flat +2 +2 flat
63 +3 flat +4 +2 flat
80 +3 flat +2 -6 -1
100 -4 -4 -2 -3 -2

Given that, prior to the insertion of the REL, the speakers were rolling off from -2 at 50 to -7 at 43, the bump from 60-80 (when
run sans sub) offered a welcome degree of weight to the presentation. With the sub in the system, I preferred to remove this
emphasis by repositioning the speakers.

• The REL was relatively non-critical of placement in my room. It was quite happy tucked away in the corner behind one of the
mains.

• Use of the line-level inputs proved interesting: the net effect was to diminish the deep bass extension; frequency remained
essentially flat to 63 Hz and then consistently dipped by 2-3 dB at subsequent lower frequencies when compared with the
speaker-level inputs.

• Phase adjustments proved to make a big difference. When run out of phase with the mains, the output at lowest frequencies
dropped by 8dB; in the 50 -90 Hz range, I would find peaks of 2 - 10 (yes 10) dB when I ran the sub with the phase reversed.

• Moving the sub from one corner (behind the mains) to the other corner boosted the 25-60 Hz realm by 2 -3 dB. Given the odd
shape of my room, it made sense that the sub loaded the room quite differently from different corners.

THE IMPACTS —————

* Music selection listed below in addendum.

• The clarity of mids and highs improved even though no high-pass filter was used to reduce range of frequencies fed to mains.

• Brass exhibited more bite and body.

• Vocals had more clarity ... a level of articulation and projection I have not experienced before in my system.

• Guitars sounded more like ... erm .... uh ... guitars (I hesitate here, because many of the sonic contributions I will attribute to the
sub are supposed to be (at least I was indoctrinated to believe) a result of using a hi-pass filter and freeing the mains of their
lower-frequency responsibilities ... these improvements came despite NOT using any sort of filter ..
.
• The soundstage became somewhat wider (depending on the recording) and deeper (on most all recordings).

• A subjectively wider dynamic range that allowed for “getting the big picture” at consistently lower volumes.

• Hearing the fundamentals of harps, low range of piano, string bass and percussion brought a realistic sense of venue and (I
believe) accuracy to many records and cds.

• The sense of space on analogue recordings increased dramatically, as did the dimensionality of various instruments and
performers.

• Pianos ... guitars ... did I mention pianos or guitars? As a player of each instrument, I was duly impressed ... ‘nuff said. Weight,
scale, blah, blah, blah.

• Extreme bass was present only when it was really in the music and it never overwhelmed the mid-range. No overhang or
boominess was detected.

• The downside: the “enhanced” clarity of the midrange and treble can, on occasion, reveal production flaws and lead to some
listening fatigue reminiscent of my experience with less-than-stellar solid-state amplification.


As I write this, the comparative “speed”—which to my way of thinking is more an issue of successful/seamless frequency
integration, than actual “speed”” per se—of the REL sub is an unknown... I do expect the Titan to arrive shortly. I am very curious
about how this sub will sound, given that it is a an acoustic suspension design and offers triple the power (a necessity given the
sealed enclosure). While the REL makes no claims to be flat to 20Hz, the Titan does. It also boasts a “Q” very close that of what
one gets with the acquisition of a pair of Dunlavys. Could it be a match made in heaven?

Stayed tuned.


THE ACI —————

When I received the ACI Titan. I was immediately impressed with the
apparent build quality and looked forward to hearing it my system. After burning it in for 80 hours, I began experimenting with
placement, crossover and volume settings. I used the speaker level inputs. I was a bit disappointed about the difficulty of setting
gain and crossover. The knobs are SO tiny, that making small adjustments is extremely difficult. I'd highly recommend slipping
some larger knobs over these to facilitate such adjustments.

After burning it in for 80 hours, I plopped it in the corner where the REL previously sat. Not bad for starters, but ultimately, I
located it between the mains just behind and two feet away from the left speaker. This gave the smoothest overall response.
Smooth, but far from flat.

My initial impressions:

• punchier and tighter than REL? Is this due to hearing a pronounced mid-bass?

• maybe a touch faster than the REL, but does not strike me as being as tonally-correct or more refined

• improved the sense of recording/performance space, but not to the degree (and accuracy?) that REL does

Regardless of placement in my room, the Titan exhibited a seemingly un-attenable boost in the mid-bass. Depending on placement
the boost ranges from +3 to +7 in the 40-100 Hz range. The sonic result is less than appealing, given that my mains are flat which
are flat to 50 and down 6dB at 40.

Even in the best placement, a flip of the phase switch produced some interesting results. The response of the Titan was to become
very flat across the board with the exception of a 5dB dip at 50 and a 5dB rise at 63. Yes, you read that right ... a 10dB shift. A
real roller-coaster ...

An e-mail to ACI prompted a response which suggested:

“It is possible that (because of the low end extension of your mains) the sub and the mains are "stomping" on each other. Flipping
the phase switch may have put the sub out of phase with the mains which would seemingly flatten the whole system but with erratic
(as you stated "roller coaster") side effects. The proper position for the phase switch is the one which gives the most bass. From
there, any boom is tamed through the crossover, gain, and possible main rolling off.

I would try filtering the mains at 65 hertz and then at 85 hertz. This
may smooth things out a bit.”

Despite my unwavering disdain for filters, I agreed to try them. At my request, ACI overnighted two sets of filters because the trial
period on the REL was quickly coming to an end and I had only four days to finish my comparisons.

These “passive” filters go between the amp and pre-amp and are inserted immediately before the amp. I tried the 85 Hz filter first.
All other things aside, even at low volumes, it was difficult to not be distracted by the obvious localization of the sub. Scratch
those. In with the 65 Hz filters.

Frankly, I was expecting nothing but trouble. Instead, I walked away slightly amazed. I was hard-pressed to identify any added
grain or stridency; the filters were surprisingly transparent. Moving on to fine tune the set-up, I was able to flatten out the response
from 20 to 160 Hz quite nicely. The only anomaly was a persistent 5 dB bump at 63. Nothing I did, short of reducing the gain (and
impacting the other frequencies, as well) would diminish this rise. Short of heroic efforts, this was a good as it was going to get in
my room.

Fair enough. Time for some serious listening. As it turned out, the best placement of the Titan in my room allowed me to put the
REL in the room, as well, allowing for some rather quick comparisons when tempted to do so.

In the end, I preferred the REL.

• There was something about the Titan’s character which I could not come to grips with. It was a Jekyll and Hyde thing. I found it
to produce subjectively tighter, better articulated bass, yet I could never get it to match tonally the rest of the system. It always
managed to find a way to intrude into the music.

• Its ability to be articulate in the deepest bass, yet come off as “boomy” overall confounded me.

• Even after I got the frequency response to match as closely as possible, it would overwhelm the mains when things got cooking.
It had a tendency to “jump out of nowhere” when it wasn’t really called for; something the REL never did.

• At the “proper” level of gain, it was simply intrusive. When the gain was reduced, you could only discern it’s presence during
very loud passages; the rest of the time it was missing in action.

• Oddly, while the filters may have freed-up the mains a bit and allow them to perform with less effort, the dynamics of the system
seemed constrained with them in place. As I mentioned, the passive filters did not introduce audible grain or stridency into the
mains. However, the systems overall tonal balance was much more healthy when the mains were run full-range.

• The Titan delivered an exaggerated sense of weight to almost all the music; compared with the REL’s natural “support” of the
music, the Titan seemed to “land on” and overwhelm it.

The biggest revelation for me is that going into this, I was sure that a sub with a Dunlavyesque Q of .6 would have to be a better
match for my mains, which offer tight, very-well articulated bass to the mid 40’s. In the end, despite it’s “apparent speed” the Titan
could not match the overall character of my system nearly as well as the REL, even when using the Titan’s speaker-level inputs.

The REL integrates quite naturally with the system. It does not call attention to itself. I think the best compliment one can pay a
subwoofer is to not know it is there. Such a compliment came a couple of weeks ago. A friend who is familiar with the system was
visiting and commented on the apparent increase in the clarity, scale and weight of several favorite recordings, but did not notice the
sub. A few flips of the switch convinced him that the “box in the corner” did have something to do with what he was hearing. The
REL plays its supporting role with subtlety and finesse. And it dishes out the heavy stuff when called upon to do so.


IN CLOSING —————

I can’t say enough about the effortless manner in which the REL fit into my system. I continue find myself amazed at the
contributions it’s making while at the same time being so “invisible.” This unit never calls attention to itself, yet manages to help
instruments and vocalists find their place in the soundstage and maintain stability (of place) and a degree of clarity that is heretofore
unsurpassed in my system.
The REL has been touted repeatedly in other reviews for it’s ability to seamlessly integrate with a variety of mains and “carry
forward” the character of most any system it’s asked to support. Was this all sheer marketing hyperbole? N-I-M-S. It really did the
trick.

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT —————

• CAL Delta Transport driving CAL Alpha DAC via Illuminati D-60
• Audible Illusions M3A preamp (w/ John Curl designed gold MC phono board)
• C-J Premier 11a
• VPI HW-19 Jr./PT-6 tonearm/AT OC-9 cartridge
• Dunlavy SC-III speakers
• Tara Labs RSC Reference Gen 2 interconnects
• Tara Labs RSC Prime 1000 cables (discrete bi-wire)
• Nakamichi RX-202 deck
• Tice Power Conditioner
• Bright Star and Townsend platforms
• VPI 16.5 record cleaner
• various DIY tuning blocks
• various DIY room treatments


* ADDENDUM: THE MUSIC —————
Given the constant mantra of many that most music does not contain much sub-35 to 40 Hz frequencies, I was surprised at how
much low-frequency content there was on numerous favorite recordings. While I selected a couple of albums for their obvious
low-bass content (*) the most critically evaluated recordings included:

*Weinberger: Polka and Fugue Reference Recording cd
* Soundtrack from Titanic #8 Unable to Stay cd
Alan Parsons Project Vulture Culture lp
Oregon Ecotopia lp
Karajan Adagio cd
*Jennifer Warnes The Hunter cd
Ray Obiedo Iguana cd
Muddy Waters Folk Singer lp
Ring Soul to the Pleasure cd
Monks of Keur Moussa, Senegal A Mass and Hymns lp
Holly Cole Temptation cd
Cowoy Junkies Trinity Session lp
*Dead Can Dance Spirit Chaser cd
Deep Listening Band Ready Made Boomerang cd
Adam Makowicz The name is ... lp
Me’Shell Ndegeocello Plantation Lullabies cd
Terry Evans Puttin’ It Down cd
*Hearts of Space TAS Sampler cd

The Hearts of Space disc has oodles of low-frequency synthesized bass that will literally wash over you at healthy levels of gain.
With subs in place, the recording venue of the Cowboy Junkies album revealed itself as more spacious than ever before.

The Deep Listening Band and the Muddy Waters album both revealed the most interesting aspect of the addition of a sub to the
system. DLB was recorded in an underground, concrete cistern. The odd array of instruments exploit the cavern’s characteristics in
some very interesting ways. The sub allows a deeper view into the cistern and the “music’ played therein. The same holds true for
the sense of space in which the Muddy Waters LP was recorded.

Plantation Lullabies (“If that’s your boy friend, he wasn’t last night) highlighted the REL’s ability to pressurize the listening room
and makes it’s presence known in the street, as well.

Ring’s “Soul to the Pleasure” features Barbara Imhof on harp, Patti Clemens’ voice and various friends injecting upright and
fretless bass, slide guitars, talking drums and other percussion. The subs reminded me about how deep the harp (and marimba)
actually play. They added a good deal of weight to the each instrument’s presentation.

Karajan’s Adagio has a couple of pieces that feature some interesting pairings of instruments, including the organ. While one
would expect the subs to bring out the best in that instrument, it was not lost on me that Adam Makovicz’s left-hand work on the
piano has never been better revealed in my system.

The Benedictine Monks of Keur Moussa, Senegal, are unique in a number of ways. Of the 24 brothers, 12 are Senegalese and the
other French. They make their own instruments, including a kora with keys (as opposed to the more traditional African harp). They
also write their own liturgy, mixing traditional African strains with the Gregorian tradition. Xylophones, with graduated wood
resonators, whose sound is amplified by gourds of various sizes. Handmade drums, and flutes round out the instrumentation. In a
word, the album is nothing but inspired. If sounds interesting to you, it may take a bit of effort to track down their collections. I got
their album about 12 years ago through the Musical Heritage Society. For information on their recordings you can contact:
Monastére de Keur Moussa; P.O. Box 2459; Dakar, Senegal. The Library of Congress catalog number is 81-750214. Enjoy.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Mack   an Audiophile [Nov 09, 1998]

I auditioned this sub with the ProAc Response 1SC's and loved it (see my 11/9/98 comments under the ProAc link). It not only adds the bass slam, but solidifies the soundstage of the main speakers. It is fast, precise and very musical. Moreover, it's a surprisingly small box. The price makes it a steal. I highly recommend it.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
JR   an Audiophile [Nov 22, 1998]

The REL Strata is the best sub in its price range, period. I have the original one, not the II, and I've owned it for 4 years, and I believe no other brand has beaten the Strata I/II yet as a true audiophile sub at it's price range (it's only around S$1000 in Singapore, that's about US$ 600.00). Matches well with any speaker and room ! Tight, powerful, well-defined bass, never one-note like many subs. This sub is designed to augment the bass of good speakers, and only kicks in when needed, and subtly at that. You'll never know there's a sub around, just excellent bass filling the room. 60 watts amp, but you'll think it's around 100 to 150 watts. In my system, best hooked with Kimber 4TC or 8TC parallel to the main speaker cables (Kimber 4TC/8TCs are logical choices as these are well-known for their excellent bass control). Listen to Siri Svale Band's "It A'int Necessarily So" or Holly Cole's "Temptation" albums and be amazed at the bass quality (not quantity). Or even
Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" album (check out the speed).

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Dave   a Casual Listener [Nov 20, 1998]

Most musical sub I have heard. Blended very well with ProAc Response 1Sand Vienna Acoustics Haydn. Great features, such as an excellent high-level
input. It's especially good for fast speakers, because not many subs can
keep up with them (ProAc, Aerial and Acoustic Energy are some examples).
I really like their design, being tall and flat, with a down-firing driver.
They don't have a nice wood finish, nor have I tried them as a HT sub. And
they suffer from the problem of all subs - positioning and mating. But for
what they do and what Rel is asking for them, they are a great deal. If you
see one around, don't hesitate!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Kimball Corson   an Audiophile [Jul 06, 1999]

See Coments under Hales Revelation Threes on the Rel Strata II subwoofer. Great combination, largely due to the flexibility of the Re Strata II.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
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