Anyone who has attended an audio show knows how hectic an enterprise they can be. About the only time one is relaxed during show hours is typically the interminable time spent waiting for the elevator to arrive. It was one of those times at AXPONAin April 2018 that I ran into Trent Suggs, the Sales Manager for REL Acoustics, a manufacturer of subwoofers. Ever the sales guy, Trent was “explaining” to me why I should add subs in my two channel audio system. I was having none of it.
Ask most of my really close friends and they will laughingly tell you I can be somewhat stubborn about certain things. I prefer to call it “determined.” One of those deterministic perceptions on my part was that I absolutely, positively, categorically did not need subwoofers. I have always felt they were a great addition to a home theater set up but for a high performance system, particularly one with large, efficient floor standing speakers? Na, not so much. And so it became, my determined opinion resolute, no subs for Paulie.
That day in April talking with Trent at AXPONA, and just before parting for audio rooms unseen, I invited him to stop by my home the next time he was in Charlotte. He agreed and we went our separate ways. Scarcely two months later, Trent was seated in the sweet spot of my listening room, eyes closed, and absorbing the music pouring from my speakers. After about twenty minutes, Trent made two comments, the first I was not surprised to hear and the second caught me somewhat off guard. “Your system sounds fantastic, world class for sure.” Followed by “but if you’ll give them a try, a stereo pair of subs will make your system dramatically better.” I saw this as an obvious statement from one sales guy to another and my “determined” outlook on subs raised its ugly head when I told Trent – “I’m not really interested in sonic booms so loud the neighbors two blocks away can hear them.”
Trent went on to explain that subs are not especially intended to make things go “boom.” Rather, they are to complete what speakers sometimes can leave out, that being a FULL range presentation of the recording. Using a properly matched pair of subs in a two channel system allows for a more full soundstage from the lowest frequency to the highest. They can also add image width and depth. They tend to “raise” the level of the imaging and depending on where said imaging occurs, this might be a very welcomed condition. According to Trent, adding the correct pair of subs will add clarity, not only in the lower bass notes, but also the mids and to some degree the highs. Lastly, use of subs will make it easier for the speakers to reproduce mids and highs and not worry so much about lows. All said, I was still skeptical.
For some unknown reason, about a month or so later, I decided to try a pair of subs. I’m not sure what made me change my “decided” stance but suffice it to say, I had become intently curious. So I took Trent’s recommendation of the correct subs for my KEF Bladesand added a pair of REL G1 Mark II’s.
The G1 Mark II’s are pretty substantial at 108 pounds each. Unlike some other subwoofer manufacturers, they connect to the output speaker terminals on the back of the amplifier. According to REL, this allows the subs to see the exact same signal as the speakers. In fact, a supplied Neutrik Speakonconnector makes this connection very simple. And, at about thirty feet in length, it allows the subs to be placed most anywhere in relation to the system. A convenient remote is included to allow setting the crossover and gain.
When the subs arrived, shipped two on a pallet delivered on a 58 foot FedEx truck, and judging by the size of the boxes, I wondered just how in the Sam hill I would ever get these things upstairs much less where they would go. With the help of a friend, I got them unboxed, up the stairs and placed beside my speakers for a trial run. My first exposure to subwoofers was not what I expected. Or maybe it was. Truth told, I was very unimpressed by what I heard. The bass was so loud and pronounced I could hardly hear the midrange. “Okay boyo, calm down,” I thought, and set about positioning and adjusting the subs to hear what they could do. Trent had already promised to come by and dial them in so I was free to experiment.
About a week or so later, Trent left my home with me completely spellbound. I did not hear a “sonic boom” or any such audible effect. The soundstage was remarkable and on several live recordings I played it sounded like I was in the venue along with the audience. Imaging was improved and although the Blades naturally image pretty high, I could easily tell that certain songs did, in fact, image higher than before the subs were added.
Needless to say, there are numerous subwoofer brands on the market. There are numerous technologies among those various manufacturers. I decided to choose REL because I liked their primary design features. Others may see a higher value proposition in a different technology. Those are the personal choices audiophiles must make.
My single point here is I was wholeheartedly convinced subs were unnecessary for my system. I could not have been more wrong. After only a month or so, I wonder how I ever got along without them. Subs properly matched to the main speakers can make a profound difference in the sonic presentation. A more full body, better soundstage, imaging and improved detail were all promised. Adding subs delivered those promises without compromise. I was previously opposed to subs on all levels. Call me a convert because I can honestly say I was wrong. Subs can make a huge difference in a two channel audio system. They sure did for me.