Bomb the bass

Posted by: Jonathan Gorse on 06 August 2000

As many of you are aware I have been disatisfied with the quantity (not quality) of bass in my system for sometime. As a result I have borrowed some Dynaudio Contour 1.8's to compare with my existing SBL's and also an REL Storm III sub.

Initial impressions are that the Dynaudio 1.8's are boomy in my room even when 2 feet from the rear walls. (Room is 17ft by 12ft approx) and lack the transparency of the SBL's.

The REL certainly produces huge amounts of very deep bass when you max the controls for a laugh and I actually began to wonder whether I was structurally damaging my house! I am currently playing with the settings to try and integrate the sub with the SBL's better because initial impressions are that it is not adding anything except a layer of sludge to the bottom end. It does work better on records with prominent low bass synths and the like than on my usual diet of AOR.

Will post more when I have had time to listen more. Looks like there are no shortcuts to the DBL effect!


PS - wondering if I should be using the high or low level input on the sub for best effect - currently using high level ie taking a feed from the speaker terminals on the NAP180 - views?

Posted on: 06 August 2000 by Martin Payne

yes, take the high-level feed. Set the crossover point pretty low (had to set a Stadium to the lowest possible setting with KANs recently!) Also keep the gain pretty low also - start at minimum, and turn it up slightly until the mid and treble quality is improved - you won't necessarily hear much more deep bass, but this will be a good starting point.

Also, it is best to take that high-level feed from the SPEAKER end of the A5, and not the amp end. The cable that REL supply is quite capacitative, something Naim power amps don't really like. The A5 is designed to isolate the amp from this.

One of the best-sounding SBL+REL systems I've heard actually uses a low-capacitance speaker cable in this role instead of the supplied cable.

The REL may also need a lot of running in if it's new - try leaving something bass-heavy on repeat with the gain maxed out on the REL (with the overally system volume set resonably).

cheers, Martin

Posted on: 06 August 2000 by Arthur Bye
I have a Rel Stadium II that I have tried to set up with 3 different sets of speakers: Epos22, Sonus Faber Concertos and Soliloquy 5.0's.

In the end I gave up. Sumiko the US distributor was very helpful and gave me a lot of phone time.

I agree with all of what Joel has to say in the set up. I had my wires jammed in with the speaker plugs at the amp end and it worked fine. I does add a lot of nice low end.

In the end I gave up on the Rel. For a lot of music it works fine, but there's too much stuff that the timing was all wrong with.

The Epos22 were way to fast for the Rel. The Sonus Faber were a better match for the Rel, but the colorations of the Sonus Fabers eventually turned me away from them.

The Soliloquy's were a bit out their element, but probably worked the best.

I finally got tired of moving the sub around to get a better sound or timing and just gave up.

Still have the sub though. Using it for A/V.

Arthur Bye- NAC52/NAP 135's/Epos22/CDS1/Nat0

Posted on: 07 August 2000 by bob atherton

I used to use a Stentor with Naim amps about 7 years ago & to good effect. I always attached the thin Rel cable at the amp
speaker terminals with the settings -very- low. I never tried the Rel with Naim speakers though.

I was disappointed to discover one day the the system sounded worse with the Rel in placed but switched off, as opposed to
no Rel at all. I spoke to Richard Lord who said that the Rel should be always powered up to 'take control' of the drive unit. I
tried this & he was correct.

If in the end you give up on your Rel, so be it, but IMHO there is no better manufacturer of subs.


Posted on: 07 August 2000 by Jonathan Gorse
Thanks for the replies. I am continuing with 'the experiment' and am warming to the REL because it seems to make the music easier to respond to emotionally - in fact I don't even have to try. For sometime I have been struggling to lose myself in music and I know my wife has too. I found it bizarre that both of us on holiday were completely absorbed by a live band in the hotel yet when I got home and played music that 'absorbtion factor' was gone.

Both Eilish and I have also found ourselves struggling to contain our urge to dance - all very strange.

I am keen to ensure however that the sub works on all music and not just electronic and rock. I'm also not convinced that the current (domestically optimal) location is sonically optimal.

A couple of forum regulars have offered to come around for a listen later this week so will keep you posted.

In response to Peter's mention of equipment stands the naim gear sits on an Ash Designs 5 tier rack with glass shelves and spikes - it is however pretty close to a speaker so I am slightly worried about airborne vibration and will try covering stuff in towels etc to reduce this and see if there is a difference.

The turntable sits on a Sound Org Z021 2 tier table - which was well regarded in its day but is no Mana! It has to be said though that the brightness is independent of source.

One final question - am I correct in assuming that if I couple the REL using the high level input I am in fact not using the REL on board amplifier at all - ie it is behaving as a passive sub would?

I have no manual for the loan kit so am having to guess my way!


Posted on: 07 August 2000 by Mark Packer

The REL wibsite contains a lot of information about setting up their subwoofers.




Posted on: 07 August 2000 by Martin Payne
Regardless of whether you use the low or high level inputs on a REL the internal amp is always in use.

BTW, I'm reliably informed that taking a low-level output from the pre-amp or power supply in a Naim system has a very detrimental effect.

cheers, Martin

Posted on: 18 August 2000 by Jonathan Gorse
As promised I can now finally report on my experiments with an REL sub alongside my SBL's and also summarise Kevin and Joel's impressions of my system after they kindly ventured around for a listen and gave me a hangover last week!

Very articulate and fast sound with a good sense of openess and pace, but a little lacking in the guts department. I am relieved to say that Joel and Kevin didn't detect any major set-up issues but I think Kevin's view was that the Ash designs rack may not be optimal in view of its location next to the left SBL. Also Kevin was of the view that on one track the Gyro seemed to be running slightly fast. Using a mains fed strobe indicated this is the case (slightly) but stylus drag may even things out and in any case the mains driven strobe will add a degree of variation - further testing over the weekend should confirm whether or not the QC powered Gyro is indeed running a bit fast or is keeping pace with the (supposedly correct) CD player. The speed issue may be due to the copious amounts of wine consumed. Joel seemed particularly impressed with the bass articulation and speed.

Night and day better!! The top-end became less strident and the bass increased in power and depth. I detect a much greater sense of acoustic space and far more accurate portrayal of stereo and imaging. This was done using Kevin's Hicap (thanks Kevin) but by then I had already bought a second hand one and was awaiting delivery. Quite honestly the system was seriously compromised before this and distinctly ragged sounding. I now feel a no-capped naim system is like driving your car on a spacesaver wheel! A staggering improvement. The system can now produce a sense of menace and sound genuinely angry when playing music with that feel about it - bass and drums really make you jump in the way they can at a gig before you acclimatise to the levels!

On some tracks I think this improved things over the non-hicapped system, but the difference compared to the hicapped set-up was far less. I think by the time the sub was turned down to be almost acoustically invisible you found yourself wondering why you needed it. Turning it up a bit worked really well on some dance, rock and pop. On the Pretenders live CD there was a much greater sense of being at a gig and listening to the sound through a large PA which I really liked, on the Corrs Unplugged it became much easier to feel the size of the venue and surprisingly made the beautiful Andrea Corr's voice more natural. The problem was I found myself adjusting it too often to achieve the correct balance. I think Joel and Kevin felt the system didn't need it with the hicap and in any case if I've got £1000 to play with a CDX or an 82 would be a better investment. Me? well I took the sub back but I still miss what it does, I'm just not convinced it is worth a grand and in any case I'd like to get used to the hicapped system so great is the improvement wrought.

I still don't feel I'm getting quite as much bass power as I'd like but then to be fair I like music to sound like it's being played live and it's pretty hard to give the richness of tone on for example bass guitar without having a 15" woofer a la DBL which isn't exactly a £1000 solution!

Having tried the Dynaudio's when I first brought them home and found them muddy in the bass compared to SBL's I decided to give them another shot before taking them back. This time I was much more impressed although to get this effect I had to pull them a domestically unacceptable 3 feet out from the back wall. They are a seriously well balanced speaker. They lack the nth degree of transparency which one gets with SBL's but they are fast by the standards of mosdt other speakers on the market and fuller sounding. On poorly recorded material they produce a nicer sound than SBL's and are certainly easier on the ear. In many ways they are easier to live with and still deliver a good amount of prat. In many ways to use a motoring analogy I feel the SBL's are a Ferrari and the Dynaudio's a Porsche. Similar in terms of performance and for 90&% of journeys the Porsche is more sensible, but if you want to live life on the edge, to really feel alive and have the hairs on the back of your neck raised with the intensity of the experience every time you sit behind the wheel the Ferrari wins hands down. Yes it's compromised, it's a bitch in terms of staying on tune and on some roads you'd rather be in just about anything else but for visceral thrills it is second to none.

Thanks to Joel and Kevin H for taking the trouble to come over.