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REL T-5 review: REL T-5 subwoofer

The REL T-5 is an adorable little subwoofer that offers a musical performance for a budget price, and will play movies acceptably despite its compact size.

Ty Pendlebury
Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
2 min read

Not very well known in Australia, but a legend in its native England, REL has been pumping out "sub-bass systems" for nigh on 20 years. The company takes a different approach to what other companies call "subwoofers" by supplementing stereo sound instead of just supplying low-end effects. If you have a pair of standmounts, or are looking to add a more "muscular" bass sound to your music, then REL wants to hear from you.



The Good

Speaker and LFE inputs run concurrently. Flexible operation. Musical and punchy. Compact.

The Bad

Crossover control is poorly marked. Not as good with movies.

The Bottom Line

The REL T-5 is an adorable little subwoofer that offers a musical performance for a budget price, and will play movies acceptably despite its compact size.

The REL T-5 is the company's newest "sub" aimed at entry-level systems. Despite the low-cost emphasis, there has been zero compromise on build quality: the T-5 is beautifully constructed. From the piano-black finish to the immaculate back panel, the REL oozes sophistication, and yet its sound engineering roots remain with its solid gold RCA terminals and thick heatsink.

Now for the tech specs: the REL T-5 features a closed design with a single 8-inch, down-firing driver. It's driven by a 125W amplifier and can go down as low as 32Hz at -6bB. The box is also compact, at roughly 300mm². A lot of power from a small box, then.

The REL's selling point is that it enables you to run a set of speaker cables in parallel with your main speakers in addition to the RCA ".1" input, and enables you to control them independently. The T-5 lets you alter the LFE effects channel level, the speaker input level and the crossover frequency. We only wish that the crossover was better labelled, as it simply starts at 30Hz and ends at 120Hz. It's difficult to hear any changes until you get to about 12 o'clock, and so a relative frequency at this point would have been useful.

Music is unsurprisingly where the T-5 performs best, with funk and rock sounding tight and tuneful. Used in conjunction with the diminutive Spendor A3, the REL filled out the bottom end nicely, and added punch that wasn't there before.

On some subwoofers, bass notes can overhang and become muddy, but the REL was able to stop and start remarkably quickly. If you're looking to buy a musical subwoofer, we've yet to see anything else compete with it for the price.

The REL T-5 may not have the deepest of bass responses, but it is able to conjure up an avalanche when called for. Yet, by comparison, our AU$1000 Bowers and Wilkins ASW-600 subwoofer was able to plumb farther than the REL. But to be fair, it does use a 10-inch driver, and is nowhere near as musical as the REL.

If you own a pair of standmounts, or smaller speakers like the Spendors, then the REL T-5 offers an excellent bass upgrade, with the added ability of summoning up the occasional blockbuster. If you're looking for outright bass extension, though, then you should be looking to pay a lot more. A lot more.

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