What is the REL T/9x?
The REL T/9x is the flagship subwoofer in the company's newly upgraded Serie Tx range. Never one to do things by half, REL has done more than simply give the line-up a cosmetic make-over. Having said that, the newly upgraded range does get a revised cabinet, but there's also an improved driver and beefed up amplification. The Tx subs build on the success of the earlier Ti models, but this time REL's goal is to deliver some of the benefits of the higher-end Serie S range to those on a budget.
The new range is composed of the T/9x flagship (£1,299), which is intended to deliver more output and dynamics when compared to its stablemates. The mid-range T/7x (£999) combines elegance and performance, while the entry-level T/5x (£649) is designed for those with limited space. However, even the T/9x has a surprisingly compact footprint, and with a choice of gloss piano black or gloss white lacquer finishes, these sealed subs will fit perfectly into any décor.
The new Tx range boasts more stylish and larger cabinets, redesigned drivers and upgraded amplifiers
The T/9x uses an improved forward-firing 10-inch driver combined with a downward-firing 10-inch passive radiator, while a Class A/B amplifier delivers 300W RMS of power. The newly upgraded cabinet is designed to increase the volume using less space, and the styling is more up-to-date when compared to the earlier Ti range. REL claims the T/9x offers a more affordable bridge between the home theatre orientated Serie HT and the higher-end Serie S, but let's find out.
The REL T/9x immediately looks familiar, with an elegant sealed cabinet that's very reminiscent of the higher-end Serie S subwoofers. The curved edges, gloss finish, embossed badge on top, larger fabric grille, and forward-firing silver-coloured driver with its large REL logo all hark back to the more expensive models. There are no handles at the sides, but build quality is also excellent, and this feels like a solid and very well made subwoofer.
It's also deceptive in terms of its dimensions, and while technically shorter than the T/9i, the new cabinet is actually bigger, with increased internal volume. The T/9x measures 370 x 340 x 393mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 20.6kg, allowing this infrasonic TARDIS to deliver maximum bass from minimum space. The feet are also bigger in terms of their height, ensuring the downward-firing passive radiator correctly engages with the largest possible surface area on the floor.
Connections and Control
The REL T/9x might boast improved aesthetics and upgraded internal components, but at the rear of the cabinet it’s very much business-as-usual. In fact, the connections and controls are identical to the previous Ti range, with a high-level Neutrik Speakon input, low-level RCA phono input, and a dedicated LFE RCA phono input. This is comparable with the Serie HT and, while considerably less than the Serie S, should be sufficient for most people.
The controls at the rear are also the same as the previous generation, with knobs for high/low and .1/LFE levels and the crossover (30-120Hz), plus there's a switch for choosing between on and off, as well as another for choosing between a phase of 0 or 180˚. The T/9x is compatible with REL’s Arrow wireless system and there's a connector on the rear for this purpose, plus the company includes a 10m Neutrik Speakon cable for a high-level connection.
Features and Specs
The REL T/9x hasn't just had an external makeover, and the improvements extend beyond the mere cosmetic. The increased internal space has been fully utilised to improve the overall performance, and this added volume has been combined with an optimised steel housing, which contains the new 10-inch FibreAlloy long-throw front-firing driver, with an inverted alloy dust cap. This is matched to a downward-firing lightweight 10-inch passive radiator in the base that also has an inverted dust cap.
The newly upgraded driver is designed to deliver increased strength and improved recovery qualities, resulting in bass that’s not only deeper but faster and more responsive. REL claims the newly strengthened cabinet can handle all of the extra pressure generated by the driver and passive radiator, and the result is a compact sub that is intended to feel significantly more powerful than it looks. REL claims the low-end extension goes down to 27Hz, but we'll see.
In order to deliver a performance that is bigger than the subwoofer looks, the T/9x doesn't just use a redesigned cabinet, bigger feet and an upgraded driver, but also sports a beefed-up amplifier. The amps used in the previous Ti range lacked the necessary power, so REL has upped the Class A/B horsepower to a claimed 300W RMS in order to handle the improved dynamics and presence. As with the previous Ti generation, there’s also a sink at the rear to dissipate excess heat.
Set Up and Operation
The REL T/9x is easy to set up, with a choice of the high-level or low-level inputs, plus the mono .1/LFE input. The high-level input is an unbalanced dual channel (stereo) input using a Neutrik Speakon connector that attaches to the sub, with three wires at the other end to connect to the main left and right terminals on your amplifier: red wire to the red right terminal and yellow wire to the red left terminal, with a black wire that can be connected to either black terminal.
REL includes a 10m Neutrik Speakon cable for those who would rather connect their sub using the high-level input
Since you are effectively bi-wiring the sub to your power amplifier, the three cables are designed to preserve the earthing. The advantage of this approach is that the sub receives exactly the same signal that is being sent to the front left and right speakers, which means the lower frequencies being sent to the main speakers are better reflected in the bass from the subwoofer, resulting in a more integrated approach for music that results in faster bass.
While REL often includes high-level connections on its subwoofers, it's more likely you'll be connecting the T/9x to a home cinema setup using the .1/LFE input. You should use the dedicated .1/LFE/Sub output on your AV receiver or processor, and connect the sub using a suitable RCA phono cable. Then all you need to do is set the phase, crossover and level controls correctly (depending on the kind of system you are running and how it's set up).
Set up is relatively simple, especially if you're using the .1/LFE input, but the connections and controls are limited
There's often some experimentation when it comes to positioning a sub but the better you understand the acoustics of your room, the easier it is to avoid any major issues. In my case I used the front right hand corner, which I know to be fairly balanced. I tested the T/9x using the high-level connections, but primarily I used the mono .1/LFE input, connected to a Trinnov Altitude16 AV processor and Storm Audio PA16 Mk2 16-channel power amp in a 9.1.6-channel system.
The REL T/9x was tested with a range of infrasonic classics, but we started with the subterranean bass notes at the beginning of Edge of Tomorrow just to see what this subwoofer can handle. This opening scene goes ridiculously low, and while REL only claim extension down to 27Hz, the sequence was handled with skill and power, making it genuinely unnerving in the process.
A low-end extension down to 27Hz makes sense given the decidedly bijou cabinet and 10-inch driver, but it certainly felt deeper. During the set-up I ran the Trinnov Optimiser, and looking at the graphs the measurements produced I could see that REL is being conservative in its claims. In my room, at least, while the sub does start to roll off at 27Hz it is capable of going a bit deeper.
The T/9x delivers bass that seems much deeper than the claimed 27Hz, and it does so while retraining clarity and speed
The claimed output of 300W doesn't sound like much either, but the quality Class A/B amplifier delivers plenty of responsive power. The ‘skadoosh’ scene in Kung Fu Panda is famous for unleashing waves of powerful bass as Po finally reveals his awesome martial arts skills. The REL handles this demanding sequence with plenty of power, but also clarity and tight control.
What’s really impressive is the way REL generates all this low-end slam without sacrificing clarity, transparency and speed. This sealed subwoofer also retains a light touch and delightful musicality, as evidenced during the ‘drum dance’ in House of Flying Daggers. As the pebbles bounce around the room and hit drums, there’s a pleasingly tight precision to each perfectly timed thump.
The film Monster Hunter eschews any pretence of subtlety, with a soundtrack that pummels you with bass from the opening sequence. Things kick-off with a ship sailing across an alien desert, and every time the bow ploughs through the sand dune waves there's a powerful seismic shudder. The T/9x reveals its ability to sound bigger than it is, filling the room with low-frequency energy.
The 300W of quality Class A/B grunt allowed the REL to deliver powerful bass energy despite its compact size
The ship is then rammed by a monster that looks like a cross between a triceratops and a water buffalo, and the impact is visceral in its bass assault. It goes on like this for the next 90 minutes, but whether it's sand storms, explosions, dimensional portals, battling monsters, flying dragons or the percussive kick of a 50-calibre machine gun, the T/9x never puts a foot wrong.
- Big room-filling performance
- Delivery is transparent, responsive and musical
- Impressive build quality
- Attractively designed and discreet cabinet
- Optional wireless system
- Connections and controls limited
- No remote app
- It's expensive
REL T/9x Subwoofer Review
Should I buy one?
The REL T/9x is a fantastic subwoofer that fully succeeds in the company's stated aim of delivering as much as possible from the higher-end Serie S to those on a lower budget. Not that the T/9x is necessarily cheap, and there are certainly more affordable alternatives, but at least when you get it out of the box the superior build quality, attractive design and gorgeous finish provides an immediate feeling of luxury.
It's not all looks either, and this discreetly-compact subwoofer does an awful lot with its 10-inch driver, 10-inch passive radiator and 300W of Class A/B power. While the quoted specs seem very conservative, and based on measurements and experience they are, in reality the T/9x delivers a fast and transparent performance that's combined with surprisingly high output levels and greater low-end impact.
The T/9x is an impressive achievement when it comes redesigning an existing product, and delivers plenty of output and dynamics, while retraining REL's trademark intimacy, clarity and speed. It's not perfect – the connections and controls are limited, and the lack of a remote app disappoints at this price – but this impressive subwoofer handles movies and music with skill, and is sure to please fans of quality bass.
What are my alternatives?
It's almost a cliche at this point, but if you're looking for affordable bass then look no further than the BK Electronics P12-300SB-PR. This sealed subwoofer uses a 12-inch driver combined with a 12-inch passive radiator, along with 300W of Class A/B, and similar controls and connections. It goes below 20Hz, but somehow still manages to deliver bass that’s controlled and responsive, as well as ridiculously deep. It might not have the luxury touches of the REL, but at around £500-600 (depending on finish) it's extraordinary value.
If your budget comes in a bit higher, then the awesome SVS SB-2000 Pro is definitely worth considering. This sealed subwoofer crams a 12-inch driver and 550W RMS of Class D power into a remarkably compact cabinet. It has limited connectivity, but does include SVS's superb remote app, making this particular sub a joy to set-up. It's a stellar performer too, dipping below 20Hz while managing to remain tight and controlled. Depending on the finish you choose, it costs between £899-999, so it won't break the bank either.
For the same price you can go for the SVS SB-3000, which uses a 13-inch high-excursion driver and 800W of Class D amplification. It's compact, well-made, has a steel mesh grille, and offers a choice of black ash or piano gloss black finishes. The connections are limited, but you'll probably only be using the LFE input, and the remote app is awesome. More importantly this sealed sub delivers where it counts with a performance that's muscular and controlled, but still produces plenty of power and serious amounts of depth, making it a great choice for film fans.
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