By Lynn Hopffgarten.
Of the bells –
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
In the clamor and the clanging of the bells!
—Edgar Alan Poe, “The Bells”
I reported last spring about the magic Sonus faber Stradivarius speakers combined with Naim’s top-of-the-line CD Player, pre-amp, and amplifier brings to a diverse music collection. Since that time, our client has moved to a new home, which has a room dedicated for audio of approximately 18 x 24 ft. with a sloped ceiling. The room is a work-in-progress, and our next update will be when the furniture and acoustic paneling is in.
Nonetheless, we made a startling and stunning improvement this past weekend with the delivery of the new REL “Gibraltar” series G-1 subwoofer (it is hiding in the back left corner).
However, we must first clarify that “subwoofer” is a colossal misnomer; the G-1 is a sub-bass system. With its highly refined crossover and volume controls, the G-1 embraces the entire room, creating and ideal acoustic space for music reproduction.
My first—and really, only—criteria when evaluating new equipment, speakers, or even potential upgrades is: “Am I listening to music, or equipment?” From the first note of Bob Dylan’s re-mastered, “Tangled Up in Blues,” we—my assistant, Irving, and our client—knew we were in for something magical: the music just came to life throughout the room.
This is the first thing this sub-bass system accomplishes: by launching a bass wave below the normal listening range, the G-1 creates a platform upon which the music literally rides, and helps complete its overall harmonic structure.
Now, I’m sure you’re asking: “Wasn’t this what you said about the Strads last spring, Lynn?”
Yup, absolutely. The 2-pi baffle of the Stradivarius definitely creates a large and deep soundstage. But even the most refined, integrated room setup can’t fill a large volume with the low-frequency energy possible in a great sub-bass device.
From Dylan, we went to the client’s favorite recording—which has become mine as well—of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “The Pastoral.” The G-1 provided a stunning overall warmth, coherence, and three-dimensionality to the piccolos as well as strings. It was if the fast transient of these high-frequency instruments was clearer, and had greater body because the G-1 helped complete, while not damping, the overall harmonic structure.
But the most remarkable experience was perhaps with the least likely of demo tracks—AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” The G-1 created the illusion of actually standing inside the bell-tower, as opposed to listening to iron bells from a safe distance… hard not to think of Poe no longer living in silence after The University Church was built in his Brooklyn neighborhood in 1845…