Décor Worthy REL Acoustics Habitat1 Subwoofer (part 1)

3/9/2014 9:46:52 PM

Almost every subwoofer on the market today is a boring, bulky black box, designed with hardly a thought about how the thing’s going to look in a living room. With its new Habitat1 subwoofer, REL joins the small group of manufacturers who’ve put serious thought into making their subwoofers blend in with room décor.

The slim Habitat1 can sit flat on the floor, snug up against a wall, or even mount directly onto a wall. Wall-mounted, it stands out just 7.13 inches, so it looks more like an air conditioner than a subwoofer. And by that I mean one of those slim, stylish air conditioners the Europeans and Japanese use to cool a room, not one of the monsters we Americans use.

Description: Description: Habitat1 white

Habitat1 white - flat on the floor

How do they do it?

Instead of using a single large driver, the Habitat1 uses two slim, 6.5-inch drivers, both of which fire forward and hide behind a fabric grille. A rear-firing, 10-inch passive radiator reinforces the low bass; the wall mounts leave 1.5 inches of space for the radiator to breathe. A 150-watt RMS Class D internal amplifier drives the dual woofers.

Befitting an on-wall design, the Habitat1 has wireless capability built in and comes with a small wireless transmitter that connects to your system. The sub itself has a full set of inputs, so you can use a wired connection if you choose.

Description: Description: Habitat1 lifestyle loft

Habitat1 lifestyle loft - no data compression and has low latency

REL says the Longbow wireless technology used in the Habitat1 uses no data compression and has low latency, which means it doesn’t appreciably delay the bass relative to the mids and treble. (I was able to measure this, as we’ll discuss below.)

How do they wire it?

Longtime audiophiles are probably aware that REL offers a hookup scheme different from any other subwoofer manufacturer. The sub and the wireless transmitter each have three inputs. Two are common: an RCA line-level input intended to accept full-range signals from a preamp’s line output and another RCA input intended for the .1/LFE channel of a home theater system.

The third is a high-level (i.e., speaker cable) input in the form of a Neutrik speakON connector, a type commonly used for P.A. speakers. REL provides an adapter with a speakON plug on one end and bare wires on the other; these connect to your amplifier’s outputs. The manual insists on the use of this connection. Thus, instead of filtering the bass out of the main left/right speakers as the crossovers built into audio/video receivers and surround processors do, the REL scheme lets the main speakers run full range. You adjust the subwoofer’s crossover point so the sub starts to come in right at the point where the main speakers’ bass response starts to diminish.

Description: Description: Subwoofers for Home Audiophiles

Subwoofers for Home Audiophiles

Why do it this way? The idea is that you’re not adulterating the sound of your main speakers by running them through a subwoofer crossover. However, a normal subwoofer setup, with the receiver or processor filtering the bass out of the main speakers, has advantages, too. Freed from having to reproduce deep bass, your main speakers will play much louder with lower distortion. There’s also little or no adjustment required, outside of setting the subwoofer level with the receiver or processor’s test tones and maybe selecting a crossover point.

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