REL R305 - WHF Review.

Discussion in 'Subwoofers' started by Member 96948, Aug 4, 2006.

  1. Member 96948

    Member 96948
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    I was standing in Tescos today, waiting for my assistant to finish her, as per usual too long shop, so I picked up WHF to see what gives. Lordy! A sub review (one more than HCC managed this month) and guess what, a forum favourite, a REL.

    I can't believe it! A sub from Blighty's favourite that actually got less than full marks. Times are a changing, evidently. The main critisisms were, lack of depth, speed and a monotonous quality. That's in the original sense of the word meaning one note.

    Now, two things surprised me, or I felt in light of recent personal experience, were worthy of note. I'm ignoring the depth judgement, given that it's a small sealed sub with a 10" driver and therefore you can't expect subterranean bass.

    First, that WHF apparently didn't pre-write the review based on the spec sheet. Sealed subs normally get full marks for speed/slam without question. Secondly, the comment about the one note quality. I wouldn't have expected this from a sub with such an obviously curtailed deep response. They're room integration friendly after all, so it got me to thinking.

    If I've learnt anything lately it's about the room's contribution to bass quality. Now I'm no REL preponent and beyond a certain Scandinavians field test results, I can't comment on the 305. But I wouldn't have expected this critisism. Am I the only one who wonders if the mags and I include all of them, use any EQ what-so-ever? In fact I'm sure they don't, because it's never mentioned. Now, whilst the arguements rage on here about subs musical qualities with/without EQ, mags for the most part focus on them as a multichannel component. In this respect (and with music), a true review of the subs qualities are inseperable from a correctly EQ'd room response.

    Many pages were spent discussing the unfavourable review of the SVS PB-10 by WHF and then the favourable review by HCC. But, in-so-far as I am aware neither of them bothered with anything beyond rudimentary room placement. Were either of the reviews actually worthy of informed comment I wonder? I was amongst those who poo-pood the nay sayers when the PB-10 got a duff review. But time and a little experience have changed my stance from questioning the quality of the sub, to questioning the review circumstances.

    I have been one, who in the past, relied upon them to inform my purchase decisions, but now realise their relative worth. How little that is. I am stating the obvious to the converted, but for those even newer to this than I, it's questions like these that should be in the back of your mind when you draw up your shortlist. The reviwers room is potentially no better than yours and could be worse. This is true for speakers also, but especially so for subs.

    Propaganda it may be, but spread the word about forums like these, there's more informed long term opinion on here than even the glossiest mag. Even if some of us can be disagreeable, off topic, apparently insular, nerds from time to time.

    Rant over. Feel free to shoot me down - again.

    Russell
     
  2. Knyght_byte

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    i read the review too....i'm so depressed now.....a bad REL :(

    :D


    anyhow....one reason the mags probably dont bother with EQ'ing etc is simple....the majority of people who buy stuff dont (well, in the past didnt, i guess more do now) suddenly think 'i better go on a website now i bought my sub and find out if there are magic box of tricks i can add to make it sound even better'........so the magazine reviewers putting the sub down in a spot thats friendly from a Missus POV is actually probably more accurate to the average What Hifi reader than them spending 4 pages discussing REW results and outdoor boundaryless plane testing etc.......

    however as more people get on to the net, obviously more will find places like this and will wnat more from their equipment and its a good thing to educate them on what else is possible......but if WHF and conventional Hifi shops (not the uber specialist ones) suddenly start telling a customer whose decided to take the plunge and blow some hard earned that they need a SPL meter, a computer with this software, and many many hours of time to adjust the settings on a BFD to get the best out of this box with a bass driver in it....dont ya think its more likely to scare the average person away?...heh

    whereas if they are introduced to it in a more easy going, pressure free environment, such as a forum where they can just read and not interact or interact if they choose to, then its a bit easier to swallow.........at least thats the general impression i've got from seeing a lot of folks new to the hifi game on this forum.....they prefer people on their own level to explain things rather than someone whose job it is to sell things....
     
  3. Nimby

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    Now let's be brutally realistic for a moment.

    What are the true options for our fledgling subwoofer owner?

    Sinewave test tones: Noisy, dangerous to the sub and family tempers, prone to error and then what? He missed hand drawn graphs at school while bunking off with his mates for a game of chase with the security guards at The Outoftown Shopping Centre. :confused:

    The BFD!: The BFD is a complete P I the Arse! Once installed it deserves an ASBO. Meaning it produces a serious wallop in your speakers and sub every time it is turned on and off. This is completely unforgiveable in domestic audio. :mad:

    It needs time to accumulate the necessary information before it can even be brought into service. Once the necessary info is accumulated it lacks any logical sequence of events or easy way of checking what you've acheived except yet more sinewaves. :boring:

    REW!: No matter how clever, is one of the steepest learning curves around. What it needs for most users is a Lite version stripped of 98% of its complexity. It needs simplicity. It needs a level of time and brain investment that your average punter can manage in half an hour on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night at the pub celebrating the purchase of his posh new boom box. Plug and play? Nope! :lesson:

    The SMS-1: Very expensive and (allegedly) the Auto Setup leaves a lot to be desired. For that sort of money it should do everything automatically. Then interrupt your life just long enough to tell you that audio perfection has been achieved. I am completely serious. For the money involved here you shouldn't have to move a muscle or expend a ml of sweat. Just place your microphone, switch on and come back in five minutes to within a hairsbreadth of near perfection. Nothing less is acceptable at this price point for something so simple as a black box subwoofer response improver. For this sort of money you could have bought a real subwoofer, or a sooper-dooper AV receiver, or a really great DVD player, or a high end CD player or, or, or.. :suicide:

    The AV Mate. The Mate is the good looking, AV fanatic Mate who will do it all for you while inwardly sneering at the apalling bunch of tat you've connected together from various rave mag reviews. The level of perfection achieved will be very dependant on the level of skill displayed by The AV Mate and how much time is available. :rolleyes:

    SWMBO moments must be avoided at all costs! It's no use him setting up the sub in the best possible position between the coffee table and the only way into the room if Her Indoors then puts the damn thing behind the telly to "tidy up" afterwards. :(

    Beware of The AV Mate wannabes and imposters who will do more harm than good and use up all your spare time over several weekends for very little gain except leaving with your missus. :blush:

    The AV PRO!: Your AV Pro is the latest incarnation of the fabled (24 Hour Emergency Callout) AV Plumbing Response Operative will come round by appointment with his motorised drain cleanin rods, laser plumbing scanner and and wheely camera. Plus a box of fancy looking electronics kit to set up your system to within 0.0001% of perfection. (by serupticiously changing the tap washer while you were making the tea) In this case he turns down the sub gain a little and moves the box two inches to the left while you were having a desperately needed pee to get away from his techno-chatter. In payment for his services he will require a couple of pounds of that flesh you were hoping to shed before the holidays while talking interminably and unintelligibly when you were really hoping to watch The Footy. :nono:

    I wouldn't! ;)
     
  4. Dynaudio Desire

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    WHF base the tests on 3 things: Speed, Agilty and Depth. I call it the SAG factor. They test the sub both on music and movies to determine how good it actually is. Its true WHF go about judging the equipment before they even hear it. However when it comes to subs like Russ says its obvious they take a long time to setup and heard correctly otherwise, well you arnt hearing the true bass that the sub can make. Anyone knows this.

    I have not heard a R305 but I have heard a R505 and to be honest it was good with movies but for music it did lack a little but we hadnt taking any time to set it up correctly and I am sure after a whilst of twiddling it would have got there for both music and movies. However the R505 was brilliant for movies HUGE amounts of Slam and its Agilty was OK but lacking slightly. But for sheer Depth, it was missing then again it is a sealed enclosure. The R505 though is a bigger version of the R305. However I will be honset now: This Rel R505 CRUSHED the PV1 (which WHF love so much). For the same price of the PV1 you can buy a Rel R505 and many other actual subwoofers at this price range that make bass that can shake your grannys teeth out just from watching her favourtie DVD of "The hills are alive". WHF seem to be forgetting that people dont care about how a subwoofer looks or how any peice of equipment looks, its how it sounds we are after. Maybe its time they let go of their little £1000 plastic ball and got to realise there are proper subs out there. They proberly didnt like the Rel R305 because it was too bassy and they got scared so had to turn it down. The R505 though was missing bits of the SAG factor and I'm sure the R305 was missing even more of it BUT my point is....The R505 will happily sit on a PV1 and gobble it up for lunch.

    :eek: Im sorry Mr PV1 but WHF have gone too far!
     
  5. Beobloke

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    Hmmm......i have a feeling a good few people out there are looking for big explosions rather than true sound QUALITY from a subwoofer.
    I haven't heard a 305 or 505, but to my ears the PV1 trounces all of the older RELs i have heard in terms of speed, timing and musicality - personally i rate this far higher than whether the unit in question can blow my Galileo thermometer off the mantlepiece when i watch Terminator 2.......;)
     
  6. Dynaudio Desire

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    Hehe. Yes the PV1 is astonishing at timing and speed (blows all other subs away) BUT for movies this sub is just lacking compared to others in this price range. Infact the Rel Stampede (awful timing & musicality I know) just went soooooooo much deeper than the PV1 and its £300 cheaper! But of course for music the PV1 is better. However when setting up any sub properly with a proper EQ and BFD etc. Its going to be just as quick as the PV1 therfor doing everything the PV1 can but much better. Dont get me wrong the PV1 is a great peice of kit but its simply not worth £950.
     
  7. Nimby

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    It sounds as if we have a new subwoofer performance parameter! :smashin:

    It sounds as if DD has definitely gone over to the dark side!
     
  8. Dynaudio Desire

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    :devil: AHA!! Watch out!! :devil:
     
  9. Knyght_byte

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    errr....last time i remember the PV1 was about £950 and the Stampede £550...thats £400 difference...

    based purely on a pound/performance criteria the PV1 should outstrip the STampede by a good 185%...heh.....(or mebbe 140% if you consider the law of diminishing returns...lol)
     
  10. Member 96948

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    KB, what do you mean 'A' bad REL. Improper use of the singular?:devil:

    Nimby, there's no alledgedly about it. The auto EQ on the SMS-1 IS rubbish. It does no more than apply cut or boost at the standard 1/6th (or so) octave frequencies. It makes no attempt to match the filter's frequency to the peak or dip and all filters have the same Q. You'd have to be dead lucky for it to work. The reality is that it applies massive cuts or boosts to influence a peak or dip nearby, that if targeted, could be treated more sensetively. The flip side to this, is the shallow learning curve. In true bloke fashion, I used it first and then reffered to the manual to see what I'd missed. Not much as it turned out and it was all far more intuative than the BFD if a touch more limited.

    I fear my meaning may have been lost somewhere along the way.

    In short, I'm asking what's the worth of ANY sub review, good OR bad if there's no EQ involved. The review will just be a subjective view of the subs interactions with the reviewers room.

    Only with EQ, can the absolute extension, speed/slam, call it what you will, be truely reviewed. Otherwise everything is subject to the rooms modes.

    I suppose that it can be argued that it's a level playing field if and that's a big IF, all the subs will be reviewed in the same room. Who'd like to bet that the PB-10 didn't suffer at the hands of a room 'boom' mode that hadn't been reached before with such authority? Reviewer goes on to draw 'logical' conclusion about ported subs, when the reality was that non of the previously reviewed sealed subs went that deep. Equally, how many weak subs reviewed well for the inverse reason?

    I suppose it was a case of a slow news day on here and I thought I'd type some musings. C'est la vie.

    Russell
     
  11. Timbo21

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    Do you mean your wife? Or, your PSA?

    I suppose the mags have to cater to the masses, and that means no eq. It would be nice if they perhaps gave a pre & post BFD analysis, and give a bit of background to the room they're testing it in..., but this is too much to ask of them really.

    Rooms affect frequencies in all areas. We don't expect them to bung some room eq over the latest set of satellites/bookshelves/floorstanders they're testing. We all know how rooms effect speakers in general. We mistakingly probably assume they have a specially designed room that imitates the average households, whatever that is :rotfl: I think the average guy out there would read a review and think, great they've got a BFD etc, but I haven't, & I don't wan't one.

    We can't rely on reviews for any other piece of gear. Why would subs be any different?
     
  12. Member 96948

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    1. PA.

    2. I do wonder if it is too much to ask. After-all, what else DO they do all day? In HCC (WHF to a lesser degree) there aren't a lot of articles, they aren't that long and they're written by a lot of people. It strikes me that the "Highbury Tech Labs" could be more gainfully employed if they broadend they're remit.

    3. You are of course quite right regarding the EQ of speakers, but when I ran a full set of 1/6th octave frequencies through my system there was only one peak even near +20dB and it was at 32Hz. The higher frequencies peaks and dips were much smaller and closer together. Unlike the sub-bass peaks and dips they don't dominate the entire sound of the speaker in such a complete manner and those that make a more obvious contribution, can be tamed with a bit of room placement fine tuning. My rising top end for instance was soleved by a bit of toe in. The bass end however, suffers broadly the same profile (to a lesser degree as there are two speakers) as the sub. As AV multichannel types, we solve this problem by crossing over higher and tuning the sub instead.

    Shifting the sub around smooths some of the curve, but that 32Hz peak isn't going anywhere regarless of placement. Nowt for it except EQ.
     
  13. Timbo21

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    Oh! I thought it might have been your Personal Sub Assistant ;)

    That's a nasty peak :eek: I would get that looked at if I were you.

    On a more serious note it would be nice if the mags gave a bit of info on the problems of subs in room responses & added some info in the back pages where they give help on how to setup etc., including BFD's et al.

    The mags could even do special in-depth series articles going deeper into display/sound setups. Then they might read the article themselves and learn something :smashin:
     
  14. Member 96948

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    PSA. Nice.:D

    I suppose the problem is, if you discount online publications,that the HC world doesn't have a Hifi News equivalent. No real in-depth tweekery and fettling. Then again, we'd only slag it off the moment they reviewed some sort of uber cable capable of transforming your life. They'd have advertising and all the pressure that entails.

    I suppose what I'd really like is British/European Audioholics.

    Russell
     
  15. Timbo21

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    What's stopping you? ;)
     
  16. Member 96948

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    Knowledge.

    Russell
     
  17. Neil Davidson

    Neil Davidson
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    @ Nimby - you seem to disapprove of pretty much every method for correctly setting up a sub. Perhaps you could enlighten us with the method that does meet your approval.

    @ Russell - I think the reviewers do try and make a decent stab at locating the speakers within the room. I think that is all you can ask really to make the review relevant to the 80% of the readership that probably don't have a clue about the importance of a properly calibrated setup. If they were to use EQ then where would they stop? There are plenty of units out there that blow the BFD away for performance if not for cost!

    I 100% agree about the waste of the tech labs. I often wonder how many HCC readers realise that all of their display reviews are based on fully calibrated units? If you compare the info in HCC with some of the American mags then you see how far the UK AV market is behind the US in consumer awareness. I have recently stopped purchasing any UK mags and now simply subscribe to Widescreen Review. Better and way cheaper!

    Neil
     
  18. Nimby

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    Neil

    I let my smilies express the gentle humour behind many of my posts.

    Though I am rather too fond of exaggeration for humerous effect.

    If you're not having fun you're [definitely] not doing it right! ;)

    In case there is any doubt I consider your shared knowledge valuable to this forum. :)
     
  19. Member 96948

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    Call me Europhile - but it's American! You're spot on about their in depth analysis and I read it avidly but, sad is may seem, I'm a transducer junky and am not really interested in the raft of kit irrelevant to Europe. Plus, we have smaller rooms on average. I'm looking for something more relevant to us.

    I've bookmarked it all the same.

    Russell
     
  20. Steve.EX

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    That is a fantastic post but clearly (and rather surprisingly) you have left someone out:

    The HiFi consultant close relation.
    The individual will nearly always be older than you. He will insist that nothing on earth can compete with good old vinyl. He will not be open to perfectly logical comments that may be in disagreement with this. He will think even worse of your digital devotion when you try to explain that in the cold light of day vinyl reproduction really is dragging a rock across a lump of (frequently distorted) plastic and similar comments about S/N ratios.
    He does come with an elevated sense of superiority to that of the AV Mate(tm) and even if you own the worldwide acknowledged best sub-bass unit it still wont compare to his 30 year old Leak turnable and amplifier and 15 year Sony SS range speakers.
    He will offer many words of advice, from turning the sub off, to raising speaker cables off the floor via upturned polystyrene cups, painting the inside of your amplifier green, using silver interconnects teminated with Vanker Pro plugs.
    This absolute gems of 'real' advice will come with the fellows hands never leaving his pockets and most likely without even hearing your set-up.
    The price for this consultancy will be 2 of your very finest 15 year old reds and the inevitable "you must come and listen to my set-up, its very lifelike indeed" whilst adjusting his hearing aid.

    Meh!

    Steven
     
  21. Nimby

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    Thankyou Steven. :D
     
  22. PTO

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    Sorry, I don't quite follow, are you happy or not happy with the review? And, have you heard the sub in question?
     
  23. russraff

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    I think that he is surprised that a REL got a bad review in WHF, but the review in that, or indeed any other, publication rarely mention room EQ as part of their subjective listening. In which case, how can we accept their word that the sub was set up in a room that complements the design in order to show the unit at it's best. After all, if you listen in a small room you are hardly going to benefit from an SVS or Monolith, In which case, if all subs are tested in the same environment at "AV Magazine Towers", how can a publication justifiably say with any certainty that Sub A is poor and Sub B is good when the room is probably more to blame than the sub in question?

    The fact remains that the application of room resonances to a sub's output is perhaps the largest factor in determining how a sub will work in a given environemnt. So, while sub placement should always be the preferable solution to these issues, it is perhaps strange that little mention of this is made in reviews, despite the variety of designs tested, of how a sub was positioned to allieviate any bass boom or troughs encountered.

    For example:

    I have just sold a BK Monilith and have a REL R-305 on loan as a replacement. Now, these are pretty different beasts with only the forward firing nature in common. Both were placed in different locations and hooked up in a different manner in order to get the best out of them: The Monolith was against a side wall in front of the speakers with just LFE going to the sub; the REL is in a corner behind the front right speaker with both high and low level connections going to the REL ad front speakers set to large.

    Utterly different approaches to get the best out of them simply becasue the room is affecting the subs in different ways. Therefore I would like to hear whether a sub worked better in different environments or even some reccomendations as to how differing rooms would benefit/degrade the subs performance.

    As the REL R-305 sub was mentioned I reckon some thoughts are in order.

    Firstly, the sub is extremely well made with annodised brushed aluminium panels and a very sturdy cabinet. Shame the thing is so bloody ugly - whoever designed the thing want's shot with the contact lens gun. it s also one of the least ergonomic designs with fiddly, albeit nicely made, knobs located behind some removable glass.
    Performance is good with pace and agility far in excess of the Monolith and my previous Q400 and CHT-12. In addition, the high level connection - with a seperate frequency roll off from the low level - makes both stereo and AV performance that little bit better than if just low levels are used. Ultimate depth is not as low as the Monolith, nor is the REL's output. What I would say is that within 2 hours of setting the sub up I had the thing sounding much sweeter and more accurate than the Monilith - probably due to room interactions.

    I am not sayng that the Monolith is poor and the REL great (I still haven't decided to buy, yet), However, you can imagine that if I was to have reviewed the both of them them in one room for an AV Mag, it is easy to see how the performance of one sub could be "wrongly assessed" as poor while another good.

    Russell
     
  24. Member 96948

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    Couldn't have put it better myself. So I won't.:)

    Did you consider investing in some EQ before flogging the Monolith?

    Russell
     
  25. Crustyloafer

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    Very well said that man. :thumbsup:
     
  26. recruit

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    A very balanced view point Russell :thumbsup: good post mate !
     
  27. russraff

    russraff
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    Thanks for the compliments.

    No. Fact is I got the Monolith as it was cheap and had a good rep. Unfortunately, and I should have learnt my lesson after getting the Q200 blind, as the Monolith was just plain wrong for my room in terms of bass resonances and shear size. Adding EQ in this instance would be like drinking a glass of poison with the antidote mixed in - if you get my meaning. If there was only a slight discord, then I would have considered an EQ arrangement. As it is, the Monolith has gone to a much larger home, where I am sure it will work well, and I am earching for a well engineered 10" sub for my room. While the 305 is good, I do think that the B&W675 may be it's equal in AV terms, albeit without the high level connections which I do like...

    The benefits of a home dem for subs has been irrevocably re-enforced IMO...

    Russell
     
  28. Nimby

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    Time for some generalisations I think: :)

    The RELs as a family seem to have humped responses with early roll off points. While the SVS and BK Monolioth have flat responses with low roll off points.

    Humped responses suit smaller rooms where room gain will lift the bottom end without things becoming too overblown in the bass. Such subs are usually preferred for music and described as "quick" and "nimble". In larger rooms they will lack impact on action films.

    The Monolith and most SVS models suit larger rooms where the room gain still lifts the bottom end but at much lower frequencies. Such subs may be better suited to film watching where "room shaking" bass is considered very desirable. In larger rooms they will usually sound good on music without a BFD provided they are carefully matched for level with the speakers.

    The SVS and Monolith run the risk of becoming rather slow and heavy in smaller rooms without some equalisation. It isn't really their fault that they do not suit smaller rooms without some external control. They do, after all, offer much higher listening levels as well as considerably more extension. Which are surely very desirable features for any subwoofer? Perhaps their much greater size is the real warning sign that their style shouldn't be allowed to become too cramped?

    Reviewers must state room dimensions. Not mentioning the test room size in a review clearly illustrates the level of trust that should be placed in the review. (and the reviewer!) :suicide:
     
  29. Knyght_byte

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    so i take it that means the oft (apparently now mis)quoted rule of buy the biggest you can get and just use a percentage of its power if in a small room isnt necessarily the right path to follow?.....

    which could mean that subs like the REL's, in a more average size room (ie 12x16ft), are actually likely to be a very good purchase?.....

    whereas in a large more volumous room (say 15x20ft) a Monolith or PB12 would be a better idea?...

    (assuming a ceiling height of 9ft for both as an average)
     
  30. russraff

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    This is my understanding from first hand experience. The Monolith was just too big and the bass bloated out of control - perhaps the XLS200 was a better option? The REL 305 is much better suited to the smaller listening environment even though it doens't have the same depth as the Monolith. Saying that, the 305 really is quite powerful on audition. The driver seems to be very rugged as it has never distorted, or sound boomy, even with some pretty hefty bass scenes (I wonder who makes the driver for REL??).

    Russell
     

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