Décor Worthy REL Acoustics Habitat1 Subwoofer (part 3)

3/9/2014 9:48:48 PM

This broke REL’s rules, of course. But if Bob Carver (who designed the CRM-2) found out I was running his speakers full range, he’d call me up and politely ask if I’d lost my marbles.

When I went to set the speaker distances on the Outlaw 975, I wondered how the latency of the Longbow wireless system might affect those settings. So I decided to measure the latency by running impulse response tests with my Clio 10 FW audio analyzer—first with the Clio’s output feeding the sub directly, then going through the wireless transmitter.

Description: REL Acoustics Habitat1 speakers

REL Acoustics Habitat1 speakers

This test indicated that the Longbow adds 17 milliseconds of latency, relatively modest by current wireless audio standards (Bluetooth wireless is typically 100 ms or more), but audible to some. Sound travels at roughly 1 foot per millisecond, so the Habitat1’s latency in wireless mode is the equivalent of moving the sub 17 feet further away. If this concerns you, you could counteract it somewhat by reducing your receiver’s distance setting for the subwoofer, if you’re not using the sub’s high-level input.


I needed a deep yet melodic bass line to adjust the Habitat1’s crossover for use with the Hsus, so I started my listening with the modern jazz classic “Sweet Georgia Bright,” from saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s great live recording Rabo de Nube. Per REL’s instructions, I started with the volume and crossover point set as low as they would go, then turned up the volume until the balance sounded about right, and finished by raising the crossover frequency until the sub blended well with the Hsus. After a half-dozen “get up, adjust the sub, then sit back down and listen” cycles, I had it dialed in pretty well, so I sat back to enjoy Lloyd and his band.

Description: REL Habitat1 Acoustics with connector

REL Habitat1 Acoustics with connector

Rather than taking over all the bass duties, the Habitat1 augmented the sound of the Hsus in a nice way. As we heard in our mini speaker roundup last year, the Hsu is fairly full sounding, but still, when I unplugged the Habitat1, the system sounded comparatively thin. The extra half-octave or so of bass the Habitat1 added made a huge difference. So if the goal is to add bass to a small stereo system, and do it in a décor-friendly way, the Habitat1 succeeds.

While I enjoyed the sound, I can’t say I experienced any sort of bass nirvana that I couldn’t have achieved using a standard subwoofer crossover. The Hsus didn’t seem to blend any better with the subwoofer using REL’s high-level connection than they have with other subs fed directly from the Outlaw’s line-level subwoofer output. I also noticed that the bottom notes in Reuben Rogers’ bass lines didn’t have the oomph I’m used to hearing with traditional subs. I tried turning the high-level input control up on the Habitat1, but it didn’t give me much more output.

Description: REL Habitat1 wireless sub bass system

REL Habitat1 wireless sub bass system

Curious to explore the Habitat1’s limits, I put on Mötley Crüe’s beloved standard “Kickstart My Heart” and brought the volume up. True to what we found in our mini-speaker test, the Hsus withstood the punishment, their sound distorting only moderately even though their woofers were pumping furiously. The Habitat1, though, was pretty much out of the game—held back, I guessed, by an aggressive internal limiter. With the Habitat1’s limiter apparently clamping down on the fun, the sound got thin. Again, cranking up the level had little or no effect because of the limiter.

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