We’ve taken a little bit of a hiatus with subwoofers of late, for an odd reason. Of recent years, our reviews have tended to be mostly of REL subwoofers (and a few notable exceptions like Eclipse). This seems partisan, but the reality is we’ve struggled to find subwoofers that integrate with music as well as REL: Eclipse being one of the rare exceptions. The problem then becomes do we hold back on REL reviews because they are the only brand that consistently makes musically-credible subwoofers (thereby punishing REL for being good at its job and the rest of us for missing out on good subwoofers), or do we lower our standards? After much soul searching, we went for – rather than hid from – quality, and the new S/510 from REL is every bit the ‘quality’ option.
The S/510 manages to achieve the seemingly impossible task of squeezing a quart into a pint pot, without either shattering the glass or making the outcome not worth the effort. It uses a 10” front firing long-throw continuous cast alloy cone bass driver, with a second passive radiator firing into the floor. It also uses the NextGen3 version of REL’s evergreen 500W powerpack. It fits all of this into a relatively small and deceptively heavy box.
We have somehow got into our respective heads that high-quality bass performance requires big subwoofers with large bass drivers. It’s the old motoring adage, “there’s no replacement for displacement” in action. The trouble is that when you bring the big bass guns to bear, sometimes what you get is big and slow bass. Bass should be deep when needed, underpinning the sound when not directly called for, and in both cases… it needs to be fast. While ‘moving air’ is all about displacement, if that air is moved even a 256th note behind the beat, it sounds ‘off’ and if the transient speed of a large driver means the bass note is even a 256th note behind the beat at the attack and release phase, it makes the musical performance sound ‘slow’ and ‘ponderous’. By delivering bass through a faster, harder working smaller bass driver, it can keep pace with the rest of the musical delivery and therefore lets the music be a little freer.