Décor Worthy REL Acoustics Habitat1 Subwoofer (part 4)

3/9/2014 9:50:08 PM

Yes, it’s true that setting a low threshold for the limiter protects the small drivers and minimizes harmonic distortion, but this time it seemed to go too far, restricting the dynamic range of the bass relative to the midrange and treble. I’ve tested single-driver 8-inch subwoofers, such as Velodyne’s $459 EQ-Max 8, that produce greater output with 24 percent less driver area. I’ve done CEA-2010 output measurements on both subs, and while the Habitat1 outperforms the EQ-Max 8 below 40hertz, the EQ-Max 8 produces 6.8 dB more average output from 40 to 63 Hz.

Description: REL Acoustics at CES 2013

REL Acoustics at CES 2013

Typical pop fare, such as R.E.M.’s “7 Chinese Brothers” and the English Beat’s “Ranking Full Stop” showed that the Habitat1 sounded quite competent when used at moderate, even slightly loud levels, but it didn’t have a lot of deep bass output. For a sub of its size, that’s fine, but given the Habitat1’s high price tag, I expected more.

Description: REL Habitat1 Acoustics useful

REL Habitat1 Acoustics useful


In my 5.1 setup with the Sunfire speakers, the Habitat1 did a nice job of filling out the sound when I watched TV, various documentaries, and lighter movie fare such as the Blu-ray of Frost/Nixon. When I listened to Bombing Hitler’s Dams, a fascinating documentary streamed through Netflix and run through Dolby Pro Logic II, the Habitat1 gave me a nice, tight, punchy sound on the synthesized bass notes from the music track, the moderately deep atmospheric tones, and the sound effects of bombs going off. This was at what I’d consider a fairly normal volume for average TV viewing: peaks of about 80 dB, measured from my listening chair.

What that told me was that the Habitat1 can get the job done for day-to-day watching in a bedroom or a small den or media room. But could it cut it for serious movie watching?

To find out, I put on the Blu-ray of Rise of the Guardians and skipped right to chapter 6, the scene where the villain, Pitch Black (Jude Law) lays out his diabolical plans. This chapter is filled with ominous deep bass tones meant to create an atmosphere of fear, but at the levels I typically like to listen at-peaking out around 98 dB, which is loud but not as loud as a lot of home theater enthusiasts like—the sound was thin, lacking any real shake or oomph. Again, I tried turning up the level, but it didn’t improve much. I also tried playing the same scene using the Hsu mini-speakers and the high-level input. While I got a little more bass this way, thanks to the contribution of the Hsus, I still felt the sound lacked oomph.

Description: REL Habitat1 Acoustics

REL Habitat1 Acoustics


I couldn’t love the design of the Habitat1 more. It’s beautifully finished, well proportioned, and easy to install, and its wireless transmitter works flawlessly. But considering its high price, modest deep bass, and comparatively low midbass, its applications and appeal are limited. It might be a solution for those who can’t easily place a traditional sub or install an in-wall sub, and who still want a subwoofer that looks nice and blends with their décor to modestly augment large bookshelf, small tower, or in-wall/-ceiling speakers. But typical consumers can find better performance and value elsewhere.


·         Price: $1,999

·         REL Habitat1 6.5 in paper cone woofer (2)

·         10 in paper passive radiator

·         150 watts RMS

·         low-level input

·         25 x 16 x 5.5 in, 50lb

·         Longbow transmitter 6 x 6.5 x 2.1 in


·         The Habitat1 has a terrific industrial design that may work where a traditional sub won’t, but don’t expect miracles.


·         Performance: 3/5

·         Features: 4/5

·         Build Quality: 5/5

·         Value: 2/5

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