This sub uses a Class A/B amp and offers some unusual hookup options. Oh, it sounds good too...
REL Acoustics has been at the business of subwoofers for a very long time and has a slightly different set of design priorities to many other brands. RELs were originally all about giving a bit of low-end shove to your stereo system before ‘home cinema’ was a gleam in Dolby’s eye. To this end, the T-7 is a somewhat different proposition to many of its rivals.
Firstly, the REL T-7 makes use of a Class A/B amplifier, which means a good portion of the rear panel is given over to a heatsink. Secondly, although the REL is fitted with an LFE and separate low-level input, the company chucks in a distinctive high-level Neutrik Speakon socket. Both are fitted with a volume control to allow them to be used simultaneously, which is the brand's suggestion for optimum performance, although you can just employ the traditional LFE output from your AVR. The T-7 is also fitted with crossover and phase controls.
Like the GoldenEar ForceField 3, the REL makes use of a downward-firing 8in driver. And, like the GoldenEar, the REL uses a passive radiator instead of a bass port for cabinet tuning. However, here this takes the form of a conventional 10in driver, which is ironically the one that's visible.
The T-7 is small but feels extremely solid and the finish is good. The four feet and top-plate logo are milled aluminium; the exterior makes use of nine coats of hand-sanded lacquer. And like the Quadral Qube 10, the REL feels like a piece of furniture as much as it does audio equipment.
In fact, the T-7’s performance is similar to the Qube 10’s in a number a ways. This is a subwoofer with excellent integration at the handover to the speakers, and the overall performance is never anything less than composed, and free of any harshness or lack of control. At the same time, the T-7 manages to conjure more aggression and excitement when it's required. This means that the pivotal sequence in The Impossible has both detail and control, and some of the savagery that you might expect a giant tidal wave to deliver. And, while it has to give ground to the GoldenEar in terms of absolute extension, the T-7 feels more assured.
With television material, the REL produces an equally composed performance with just the right amount of clout. The pacemaker sequence in Elementary is beautifully handled, with the T-7 really tracking the bass tone and helping build the tension.
Part of the reason why REL's £650 woofer is so effective in these instances is the agility that it possesses. There is almost no sense of overhang or bloat to its performance, which greatly aids the sense of realism. This also means that the T-7 is the best of the pack for music use: even when the high-level input isn’t used in the interests of a fair test, the REL has a speed, agility and depth that the other grouptest contenders simply don’t combine with the same balance.
The end result is that the T-7 is a very complete subwoofer. It does trade the last few per cent of depth and slam for greater all-round ability, and if you happen to live on a diet of braindead blockbusters you might find that you want a bit more oomph. Yet to live with every day, and use across a wide variety of material, the REL takes a good deal of beating and has a great deal to offer. Even the manual is excellent...
REL Acoustics T-7
Price: £650 Approx
Highs: Cohesive, detailed and lively performance; small footprint; excellent build and aesthetics; simultaneous high-/low-level hookup
Lows: Some limits to its absolute depth; quite expensive
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