I listened to Tony Bennett’s “Just in Time” from the recently released LP Bennett/Brubeck, The White House Sessions, Live 1962 [Columbia/Impex]. The drummer and bassist have a nice, swinging rhythm line going, but it takes the REL to reveal individual identities. Removing the REL causes the individual textures and timbre of these instruments to meld into one another. This is where the musicality of the T7i comes to the fore. The best subwoofers I’ve encountered are just as much about detail and definition as they are about extension.
For classical music listeners, the most immediate rewards come in the form of ambient information. A prime example would be the LP of the Copland Fanfare [Dallas, Johanos: Analogue Productions], which depends on the explosive kettledrums and trombones to establish the majesty of the piece. Take the REL out of the system, and the cavernous, immersive soundstage becomes a narrower, more generic space.
Or, take the example of a solo 88-key piano. Its lowest note, an A, produces a 27.5Hz tone. (The 97-key Bösendorfer can hit 16.5Hz but that’s another matter.) Most of this massive low-frequency energy is radiated by the huge wooden soundboard that underlies the piano’s frame. And this is why most LF-limited loudspeakers sound like tinker-toys trying to reproduce a concert grand. Add the T7i and a piano recording like Nojima Plays Liszt [Reference Recordings] takes on powerful authority and vitality. The massive aura in and around the piano becomes more present on the stage, the intensity of upper treble transients are more in balance with the instrument.
The T7i faces some serious competition from another REL. It’s the Series S/5, which recently garnered my 2016 Golden Ear Award. The comparison reveals the difference between a very fast, small-driver, 30-cycle sub like the T7i, versus the 20Hz, considerably more costly S/5 ($2500) with big drivers. It comes down to the amount of weight and the foundation-rocking extension of the larger S/5. I could hear the limits of the T7i when reproducing the steady sustain of the deepest pipe organ notes—it was one of the only times it revealed itself as a sound source. The S/5 comparatively got its seismic groove on and poured forth as if connected directly to the Earth’s core.
I had the opportunity to add a second T7i to the system and the results, I hate to admit, are pretty addicting. Why more than one? A pair of subs moves more air and can smooth the overall room response as they manage the peaks and nulls within the listening space. They become less prone to our own localization antennae. If your budget allows, adding a second sub is also a great option if the system moves to a larger room.
Has REL managed the impossible? Well, not quite. But that doesn’t mean the T7i isn’t worth popping a couple of champagne corks over. As a companion in smaller rooms where placement requires discretion, its footprint-to-performance ratio makes it near second-to-none in its category. And that makes it another outright winner from the good lads at REL.
SPECS & PRICING
Drivers: Active drive unit, 8" long-throw; 10" passive radiator
Lower frequency response: 30Hz at -6dB in-room
Inputs: Hi-level Neutrik Speakon, low-level single phono, LFE phono
Dimensions: 12" x 14.3" x 15"
Weight: 36 lbs.
REL ACOUSTICS NORTH AMERICA
800 Addison St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
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