REL Acoustics G1 MKII Subwoofer Reviewed

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For the G1 MKII reference edition subwoofer, REL capitalized on technology derived and invented for the best of their best Model 25. What results is a subwoofer with intense power and authority, fantastic build quality and good looks. While all of REL’s subs may be used in a home theater environment, this one is perhaps best suited in a two-channel audio system. 

First looks at the G1 show a graceful, curvilinear, sealed cabinet with a piano black finish and a complementary cloth grill covering the 12 inch, front-facing single driver. Make no mistake and good looks aside, this graceful cabinet design is intended to compensate for something which all subs must control which is back wave pressure of the driver when returning to its position at rest. The curving cabinet of the G1 facilitates that. This is a case where science meets good looks. 

REL G1 Sub Reviewed
A single REL G1 Subwoofer in a living room installation.

What Makes The REL G1 MKII Special?

  • A front facing, 12-inch, long throw, carbon fiber driver is rigidly mounted to a beefy internal bracing system. This provides tremendous overall cabinet stiffness and helps control cabinet resonances. 
  • On board is a Class-AB 600 Watt amp is a lot of power. I cannot tell you how much of a game changer I feel a Class AB amp makes in this design. The lure of a higher Watt Class-D amp is all the rage and has been since the days of the first Sunfire subs. Having this conventional Class-AB amp under the hood, the REL G1 provides remarkable authority over low frequencies. 
  • These subs sound very fast. Throughput time from input to output is reportedly four milliseconds. These subs won’t be lagging behind a fast set of floor standing main speakers. 
  • Many audio systems, especially preamps and particularly those whose cost is in the upper tier of pricing, amazingly do not have provisions for a subwoofer output. REL very wisely designed the G1 to connect to the same terminals as the main speakers as to cater to these well-heeled clients. This allows the entire musical presentation to see the exact same signal at the exact same time – irrespective of preamp controls.
  • Most subwoofers don’t come with a remote control but the REL G1 delivers. The G1 and the best of their best Model 25 both come with remotes included. All REL remotes include parameters for crossover point, gain, phase (180 degrees and 0) and an LFE control when using the low level inputs for a surround sound application. In my system, I use the high level inputs so the mains and subs see the same signal from the amp. It is very easy to micro manage the important settings from the comfort of the listening chair. 

Why Should You Care About The REL G1 Mark II Subwoofer?

  • Even the biggest, most lust-worthy audiophile speakers in the world’s most expensive music playback systems can benefit from a powerful subwoofer. The lowest octaves of music are rarely hit but when they do – you don’t want to miss out.
  • REL’s support for their product is excellent be it on the phone, the web or even some of their videos. They will help you through the process of getting the most from your sub in your system no matter the configuration. 
REL G1 Sub Reviewed by Paul Wilson
A close-up view of the $5,500 REL G1 Subwoofer

Some Things You Might Not Like About The REL G1 MKII Subwoofer…

  • Weight is an issue as these subs are pretty heavy brutes. At 108 pounds each, the REL G1 MKII need to be carefully positioned to avoid component damage or back damage – neither of which is a good thing. Make your dealer help you with installation if you can. If not, perhaps hire someone from strong from say to help you. Do not throw out your back.
  • While not the largest subs out there, the REL G1 MKII is not the smallest subwoofer on the market by any means. You need a pretty big cabinet to get the most out of such a beefy subwoofer and that needs to be considered in your overall listening room layout. 
  • I would like to see some handles of some variety on the sides of the subs integrated into the sub’s cabinet design. It would make fine placement adjustments much easier for all involved. It would also help when picking them up! 
  • REL opted not to include “DSP” or Digital Signal Processing which many subs use specifically for digital room correction. Supposedly, after experimenting with both digital and analog filters, REL decided the extra time for a computer to analyze and apply correction algorithms was not worth it – both from a performance and price standpoint. REL estimates digital correction would add somewhere between five and thirty milliseconds to the signal throughput. Their analog filter’s throughput time is four milliseconds total. REL’s position is they will take overall speed any day. This is a decision the buyer must weigh for themselves. For my purposes, the incredible speed of my mains requires a fast sub so the G1 MKII is the ideal partner. 
REL G1 MKII Subwoofers installed in Paul Wilson's reference audio system
REL G1 MKII Subwoofers installed in Paul Wilson’s reference audio system

Listening To The REL G1 MKII Subwoofer…

Daniel Powter – “Song 6” (44.1 / 16 Compact Disc)

At the 45 second mark, a subterranean bass note suddenly and emphatically blasts out. Before I had the REL Subs and was relying on a set of KEF Blade speakers for my low frequency performance – this bass note tracked at about 30 Hz and sounded less like a note from a song and more like low frequency effects. My original KEF Blades had a reported low frequency performance rating of 28Hz (-6 dB) and just did not have the extension to accurately portray this very low note. This was not so with the G1’s and their 15 Hz factory measurement. Clear and powerful, this low frequency note running all through this song comes across as the powerhouse it is. 

Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes” (Compact Disc 44.1/16)

This track is perhaps the quintessential forlorn love, teenaged angst song. In the movie “Say Anything” who can forget a love-sick John Cusack holding the boom box over his head outside the home of the girl who had rejected him? The actual recording has a lot of things going on in the bass frequencies mainly thanks to Tony Levin’s Chapman Stick play. In this instance, it is almost imperative any reproduction system be able to render each instrument clearly and cleanly. The G1’s were able to effectively accomplish those goals. Not only is the duty of a sub to reproduce low frequencies, they must also delineate the individual instruments, image them in a cohesive place in the room and allow the listener to recognize the distinction. The G1’s accomplished these tasks to remarkable effect.  

Who Is The Competition For The REL G1 MKII Subwoofer?

Perhaps more than any other brand at this price point, REL competes with JL Audio and their Fathom Series of subs. One of their more popular subs, the f112v2-GLOSS , is a very worthy competitor. Both are excellent products. Both are close to identical in retail cost.

JL Audio’s Fathom series does include DSP room correction and has front mounted controls. A remote is not included. Both JL and REL units utilize a 12-inch, long throw driver in a front mounted configuration. JL Audio has an XLR connection for connecting a second sub. REL, with their high pass filter, simply allows the user to directly connect two subs, one to the left speaker terminals on the amp, the second sub to the right. In fact there are numerous design differences between both brands. Each perform exceptionally well. What this ultimately boils down to is personal design preference on your part. 

Beyond JL Audio, other worthy competitors include SVS, MartinLogan, Wilson Audio, Magico,Sonus faber, Paradigm, MartinLogan among many others. All of these brands produce very convincing, authoritative bass in products at a variety of price points in the high end audiophile marketplace. Expect tremendous build quality, exotic finishes and low output from these LFEs (fancy word for a subwoofer) that pair well with excellent, top-level audiophile speakers.

Not as much of a competitor but an option, you can stack upwards of three REL G1 MKII subwoofers in a line array tower which is an expensive but powerful statement. Take that, Thor’s Hammer! 

REL G1 Sub Reviewed by Paul Wilson
A rear view of the REL G1 Subwoofer including its internal amp.

Does The REL G1 MKII’s Have Any Resale Value?

REL does not frequently redesign their subs. Because individual models, particularly those at the top echelon of their lineup, remain on the market for several years, their resale value is normally pretty strong. I’ve seen used REL subs move quickly in the used market but logistics for packing and shipping are obviously a meaningful issue. 

REL G1 Subwoofer
REL G1 Subwoofer installed.

Final Thoughts On The REL G1 MKII Subwoofer…

I had to be drug kicking and screaming into trying a set of world class subs because I was set in ways of the audiophile past. In more recent years, when I finally relented and installed and set up the G1 MKIIs in my upstairs audiophile system, I sat speechless in my listening chair wondering why in the world I had been so closed minded. These subs, as a stereo pair in my room, provided an incredible additive presence in the overall musical presentation. I felt my music as well as heard it – more like you get at a live performance. My two-channel system will henceforth always include a stereo pair of subs. I especially like the fact that both G1 MKII’s can be connected to the same speaker terminals on the amp as the mains. I also like the remote so that I don’t have to bend over to make small setup adjustments. 

Subs come in many configurations, designs and all have their benefits and drawbacks. While it is true that selecting a brand of subwoofer will be based on a wide variety of factors, I found a pair of stereo REL G1 MKII subwoofers to be a major upgrade to my pretty well-tweaked out audiophile reference system. I bet that they could do the same for you.

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