- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 02 January 2014
The REL T-9 Subwoofer In Use
The T-9 subwoofer has a very musical soul. But don't take that to mean that it doesn't perform well on cinematic material because it does. This duality of purpose means the REL T-9 is the best kind of subwoofer.
By contrast, the worst subwoofers typically put out lots of bass. They may grab your attention at first with a movie or two. Then later they become wearisome because the bass may be under damped (a/k/a one-note) and quite possibly distorted. They subsequently don't handle music very well and in the end they are rather useless because even the flashiest, actioniest movies have music (and probably a lot of it). I like to feel the special effects as much as the next guy, but massive effects don't go on non-stop throughout the movie. As a matter of fact, there is usually more music than bomby things in most movies.
Take the buddy cop movie 2Guns as an example. This movie has gunshots, explosions and fisticuffs galore. And surely the REL T-9 pounded out those effects with the best of subs in its class, even more than one would expect given its size and power rating.
For me, however, I got more out of the REL's handling of the music on 2Guns. The musical score on this movie is replete with a groovy bass line which is reminiscent of the caper-type music you might hear in a movie like Ocean's Eleven. It involves the sound of an acoustic upright bass plying its way through the registers. I'm sure this music is fun to play and it is fun to listen to over a high quality system while putting the audience in the right contextual mood. The REL T-9 nailed these bass lines. The notes were tuneful and balanced. They bubbled right along in perfect time with the music.
Later in the film, our protagonists are forced to cross the border from Mexico back into the US under the guidance of a "coyote". This scene is accompanied by the song "Two Against One" from the Rome Soundtrack by Danger Mouse and Daniele Lupi. This particular version sounded like a re-mix over the copy I have of the CD, but it was the best I've ever heard the song reproduced. And it set the mood nicely as intended by the director.
Another action film I watched in my evaluation of the REL T-9 was World War Z. This is one movie that is action packed from the opening credits to the big finale. The T-9 never sounded strained and the low bass effects were felt as much as they were heard.
This movie still had its share of mood-setting music. Particularly at the beginning, the score features ominous horn sounds that are reminiscent of War of the Worlds. The REL T-9 shined in reproducing the splat and blat of the fundamentals and harmonics in the lowest horns. There was a fine blend with the satellites as well. Gunshots and choppers had a startling realism too, and the T-9 strutted its stuff even more so during the vivid, concussive plane crash scene.
The T-9 further impressed by not showing signs of thermal or dynamic stress even on scenes of sustained bass. A good example of this would be the extended race sequences on the Blu-ray of Secretariat. The horses' pounding hooves were unrelenting and this was a perfect opportunity for the little REL to pull you into the scene. It let me feel I was right there in the moment and it was a rather exhilarating experience.
One aspect of the REL T-9 that was quite compelling was related to its ability to decode complexities in music. I've almost always listened to the CD of Jackson Browne's political statement piece Time the Conqueror on headphones because the thick bass lines get muddled when played on average speaker systems. In this case, I listened in Dolby Pro Logic II over the Venere/REL set up.
Even the most bass heavy tracks like "Where Were You" with lots of deep synth and bass drum were terrific. The REL sorted through the complexities and delivered a coherent foundation to the music. On subtler songs like "Going Down to Cuba", the deep bass can have a way of sounding detached and bloated. The REL blended beautifully and let me kick back and enjoy the music.
I finished up with the Junior Wells and Buddy Guy classic Hoodo Man Blues on vinyl. This was played in a 2.1 configuration over the Venere 3.0's and the REL T-9. I played this record a little louder than usual. The REL T-9 maintained pace and a fine blend on "Hound Dog". On other tracks, the REL proved to be tuneful and spry in reproducing Jack Myers' bass lines. This T-9 subwoofer has a very musical soul.