Mississauga-based Reel Acoustics made its name in the audio visual market by producing affordable subwoofers that stood up to well-established speaker companies. Recently their entire line of subwoofers was revamped and Reel Acoustics introduced their first line of home theater speakers.
Four bookshelf speakers, a centre channel and a subwoofer are combined to make a typical 5.1 speaker system. The bookshelves are available in your choice of 5-1/4″ driver (model RB-5) or 6-1/2″ driver (RB-6) and are sold in pairs. The centre channel (RC-5) is available with the 5-1/4″ driver only and the subwoofer comes in 8″, 10″ and 12″ versions (models RSW-810, RSW-1012, and RSW-1215 respectively). The speakers are geared towards home theatre enthusiasts to enhance the movie watching experience, so our listening tests consisted mostly of watching DVDs.
The speaker system we tested consisted of four RB-5 bookshelf speakers ($229/pair), the RC-5 centre channel ($219) and the RSW-1012 subwoofer ($449). The combined suggested retail price of the system totaled $1126.
At first glance, all the Reel Acoustics speakers look simple and elegant. The black oak finish flows seamlessly to the front grills disguising the speakers themselves. For any audio enthusiast of course the grills are barely ever used or appealing for that matter, so we took them right off. Speaking with one of the designers of these new speakers, it was very clear that the Reel Acoustics team concentrated on speaker performance and less on asthetics. Nevertheless, we thought the speakers looked great in their raw simplicity.
The front of each RB-5 bookshelf speaker is composed of three elements: a 5-1/4″ mid/bass driver (made of poly treated paper “aligned fibre” cone), a 1″ ferro fluid cooled soft dome tweeter and a port hole. Each magnetically shielded bookshelf is solidly constructed out of 5/8″ medium density fibreboard (MDF), has a frequency response of 50 Hz to 22 kHz and a power handling of 100 watts. Every component on the front of the speaker is black with the exception of the Reel logo resting just below the tweeter. This gives the speakers a clean and classy look that can complement any room tastefully. The back of each bookshelf sports gold binding posts finished with red and black plastic caps.
Two of the same 5-1/4″ drivers appear in the RC-5 centre channel, with the same 1″ tweeter placed between them. The centre channel has two port holes on each side and was just the right size to rest firmly on top of our 32″ Wega without the need for extra support. The RC-5 has a frequency response of 45 Hz to 22 kHz and a power handling of 100 watts. The styling follows from the bookshelves, with the only non-black element being the Reel logo.
The updated down-firing RSW-1012 subwoofer follows the black oak finish all around except on the top which features pebble treatment. This makes the top stain resistant and easy to clean. The top of the subwoofer cabinet is trimmed at 45 degrees in each direction producing beveled edges. The front of the subwoofer has a green power light incorporated into the Reel logo. The rubber feet are useful if you want to stack one subwoofer on top of another (without producing any rattles) and work well on hardwood floors. The back of the cabinet houses high level spring clip connectors as well as a low level RCA output jack. A frequency knob will let you adjust the crossover between 50-150 Hz. You will also find a dual flared port hole on the back of the subwoofer cabinet. The use of a dual flared port allows the subwoofer very efficient air exchange and makes it sound more powerful than single flared port subs (a dual flared port is simply a port that flares out on the outside of the subwoofer cabinet as well as on the inside of the cabinet). The new generation subwoofer features a 30 percent increase in magnet size yielding more impact to the sound. The RSW-1012 has a built-in 150 watt AB class amplifier as compared to its predecessor which had a 125 watt amplifier. A “Reel to Reel” RCA jack on the back panel allows you to connect additional subwoofers to achieve the desired level of bass.
With the speakers in place, we connected them to our mid-range Onkyo TX-SR701 receiver and played our movies through Pioneer’s popular DV-563A. Our first impression of the Reel Acoustics system was that the subwoofer is very powerful for its size and the rest of the speakers deliver a great amount of detail. These impressions held their ground throughout our listening tests.
After a few days of breaking the speakers in, we began our listening session with the X2: X-Men United DVD. The movie has a wide range of soft background music, dialogue and powerful effects. In the opening of the movie we had the chance to listen to conversations between the characters, very often accompanied by background music or effects. Every voice came through very clearly, uninterrupted by the background audio. From time to time, a deeper sound would come in to the background, obviously played by the subwoofer, yet unknowingly to our ears. In other words, the transitions from the bookshelves and the centre channel to the subwoofer were unnoticeable. A slightly more powerful sound started filling the room when Wolverine borrowed Cyclops’ Mazda RX-8 and during the scenes with the X-Men aircraft in motion. Again the transitions were very smooth between the speakers and the subwoofer. When Pyro started blowing up police cars, the 10″ subwoofer finally got a chance to stretch its legs. In fact, the subwoofer produced powerful enough audio that we kept the volume at a very low setting.
Watching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl once again proved to us that the Reel Acoustics system is capable of delivering great surround sound to complement a DVD and it did. The sound had great accuracy, immersing us into the movie itself during the slower spooky scenes on the pirate ships, and was just as accurate during the much louder action sequences. The dynamics of the sound were also very proper for a system of this price – loud parts of the movie were appropriately louder than the quiet scenes.
Overall, the Reel Acoustics system raised our movie watching experience to an excellent level, reproducing softer sounds accurately while delivering the perfect punch when needed.
Impressed with the speakers while watching movies, we proceeded to try some music CDs. We choose Esteban’s Enter the Heart DVD-A album to let the Reel Acoustics system show us what it has to offer. We were once again astounded with the excellent dynamics of the system. Even small elements like fingers sliding down the guitar strings and plucking of the strings were reproduced with amazing detail.
The Reel Acoustics speaker system delivered a powerful movie watching experience but also did very well in our music listening tests. It is capable of delivering the performance that many speaker sets in its price range fail to do. Another nice thing about this system is that it does not come all in one box. You can choose the size of the bookshelves and the subwoofer to best suit your home theatre and you don’t have to purchase the whole system at once. The size of the bookshelves allows flexibility for their placement. You can place them on speaker stands, on top of furniture, and even insert them into a tightly spaced bookshelf since they are ported in the front. So if you’re looking for an affordable set of speakers that are capable of bringing clean and powerful sound to your home, and you don’t particularly care about space-age looks be sure to give these speakers a try.
Power handling: 100 watts
Impedance: 6 ohms
Frequency Response: 50 – 22 kHz
Sensitivity: 87 dB / 1 watt / 1 meter
Dimensions (HxWxD): 11.33″ x 7″ x 7.125″
RC-5 Center Channel
Power handling: 100 watts
Impedance: 8 ohms
Frequency Response: 45 – 22 kHz
Sensitivity: 90 dB / 1 watt / 1 meter
Dimensions (HxWxD): 6.69″ x 19.6″ x 8.42″
Amplifier: (AB class) 150 watts
Woofer Size: 10″
Variable crossover: 50 – 150 Hz
Phase switch: 0 – 180 degrees
Frequency Response: 33 – 150 Hz