REL T-5 subwoofer

The REL T-5 is an adorable little subwoofer that offers a musical performance for a budget price, and will play movies acceptably despite its compact size.

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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

Not very well known in Australia, but a legend in its native England, REL has been pumping out "sub-bass systems" for nigh on 20 years. The company takes a different approach to what other companies call "subwoofers" by supplementing stereo sound instead of just supplying low-end effects. If you have a pair of standmounts, or are looking to add a more "muscular" bass sound to your music, then REL wants to hear from you.

The REL T-5 is the company's newest "sub" aimed at entry-level systems. Despite the low-cost emphasis, there has been zero compromise on build quality: the T-5 is beautifully constructed. From the piano-black finish to the immaculate back panel, the REL oozes sophistication, and yet its sound engineering roots remain with its solid gold RCA terminals and thick heatsink.

Now for the tech specs: the REL T-5 features a closed design with a single 8-inch, down-firing driver. It's driven by a 125W amplifier and can go down as low as 32Hz at -6bB. The box is also compact, at roughly 300mm². A lot of power from a small box, then.

The REL's selling point is that it enables you to run a set of speaker cables in parallel with your main speakers in addition to the RCA ".1" input, and enables you to control them independently. The T-5 lets you alter the LFE effects channel level, the speaker input level and the crossover frequency. We only wish that the crossover was better labelled, as it simply starts at 30Hz and ends at 120Hz. It's difficult to hear any changes until you get to about 12 o'clock, and so a relative frequency at this point would have been useful.

Music is unsurprisingly where the T-5 performs best, with funk and rock sounding tight and tuneful. Used in conjunction with the diminutive Spendor A3, the REL filled out the bottom end nicely, and added punch that wasn't there before.

On some subwoofers, bass notes can overhang and become muddy, but the REL was able to stop and start remarkably quickly. If you're looking to buy a musical subwoofer, we've yet to see anything else compete with it for the price.

The REL T-5 may not have the deepest of bass responses, but it is able to conjure up an avalanche when called for. Yet, by comparison, our AU$1000 Bowers and Wilkins ASW-600 subwoofer was able to plumb farther than the REL. But to be fair, it does use a 10-inch driver, and is nowhere near as musical as the REL.

If you own a pair of standmounts, or smaller speakers like the Spendors, then the REL T-5 offers an excellent bass upgrade, with the added ability of summoning up the occasional blockbuster. If you're looking for outright bass extension, though, then you should be looking to pay a lot more. A lot more.

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DonU posted a comment   

I purchased this subwoofer and was initially highly disappointed with its performance. I was looking for a replacement to my Bose system when my Series II command center took a dump. The Series II Bose subwoofer is useless without the command center however, I still had the Bose cube speakers to work with, I now needed a new receiver and sub. I went to Best Buy looking for a sub after searching many websites and reviewing every sub on CNET. After arriving at Best Buy and browsing the selection of subwoofers and receivers I was highly disappointed. I was looking for more all around bass to supplement my cubes but just wasn't impressed with what Best Buy offered. A separate section of Best Buy caught my eye so I redirected myself to the new section of Best Buy called Magnolia. The Magnolia section of Best Buy was under construction and really wasn't fully operational however, the sales men were still available for discussion. Long story short I was ultimately confident with what the T5 offered and was willing to give it a chance, it had a great warranty and if I didn't like it, they would take it back. I took the sub home and hooked it up via the REL proprietary cable. After having high hopes and turning everything on I was highly disappointed. It was very high in the bass and was not deep as it was advertised. I reflected to what the salesmen told me and he mentioned that there was a multitude of tuning, break in period, location of the sub, and combination of wiring options that I could do which included hooking up the LFE and the REL proprietary speaker cables. To add to that I went onto the internet to gain a understanding of what this all meant. Well, I figured it all out! First, I had to place the sub into a corner of the living room that would allow the acoustics of the corner to take advantage of the wavelengths and spread them amongst the room (in other words place in a corner of the room, you will figure it out from trial and error) Second, I hooked up both the LFE and the REL proprietary speaker cable per the directions. Third, I had to tune the speaker freqs to my desired listening pleasure and the adjust the gain. Last, I had to select the correct setting on my receiver (I picked up the Pioneer Elite VSX-42, it too was on sale). After all that and now allowing the sub to break in properly (per the directions again, see the theme here) THIS THING THUMPS and has WAY better bass than any Bose I have ever owned or heard. I recall the sales person telling me this thing rocked his house, I didn't believe him at all when I initially plugged it in however, once I settled in and installed it properly I can now say, "This thing rocks my house!" Bottom line, this is no plug and play subwoofer, it requires proper install, location and break in. I have owned this now for 3 months and today I was reminded about its performance after watching my kids play Dance Party and thundering the house with music. I felt compelled to write a review, it is worth every penny!

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User Reviews / Comments  REL T-5 subwoofer

  • DonU


    "I purchased this subwoofer and was initially highly disappointed with its performance. I was looking for a replacement to my Bose system when my Series II command center took a dump. The Series II ..."

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