It used to be that in order to get some decent bass in your home theater, you’d have to spend several hundred dollars. But with an increasingly competitive audio video market that’s not the case anymore.
After a successful launch of their first line of home theater speakers, Reel Acoustics is at it again. An engineering journey of over 18 months has led to the introduction of the new RS Series speakers. The line up includes the RSX speakers (sold in pairs) for the fronts and surrounds, an RSC centre channel and an RSS powered subwoofer. The speakers can be purchased separately or as a complete 5.1 system called the RS-1. The RS Series comes in a silver finish to complement today’s silver electronics. While the RSX and RSC speakers were not yet available at the time of writing, we did get our hands on the RSS subwoofer.
The $299 entry-level RSS is a front firing design that uses an 8″ woofer and two port holes located in the front of the enclosure. A red/green LED incorporated into the Reel logo indicates whether the subwoofer is in on or in stand-by mode. The rear panel features low level (gold-plated RCA) and high level (spring clip) inputs, volume and crossover knobs, as well as power and phase switches. A gold-plated Reel to Reel RCA output is also provided for a simple connection of additional Reel subwoofers to your system. The crossover can be adjusted from 50 to 150 Hz when your main speakers are connected to the high level inputs. The power switch has three positions: on, off and auto.
The silver finish of the RSS cabinet gives it a more appealing look than the average subwoofer and is a good match for all the silver home theater components out there. The subwoofer stands 14 mm off the ground on four rubber feet. The removable front grille is also silver and the 8″ woofer itself is black. The power LED shines through the grille and since it’s in the front makes it easy to tell when the subwoofer senses an audio signal. The enclosure is of an average size for an 8″ subwoofer measuring 270 mm (10-5/8″) wide by 348 mm (13-11/16″) high by 346 mm (13-5/8″) deep.
I connected the RSS to our Onkyo TX-SR701 receiver with a coaxial cable. The volume was adjusted to blend well with our Pinnacle Black Diamond speakers and the subwoofer output was crossed over at 80 Hz on the receiver. After trying a few locations for the subwoofer around the room, I settled for the front-right corner, a few inches away from the front right speaker. Music was played on the system for a few days allowing the subwoofer to break in.
I began the test session by watching a few DVDs since the main purpose of the subwoofer is to be used for movie watching. One of my favorite DVDs to begin the listening tests is the computer-animated comedy Ice Age. The movie is filled with a wide range of sound frequencies and has countless speaker to speaker transitions on its Dolby Digital soundtrack. The first minute of the movie is a quiet scene during which a squirrel is looking for a place to bury its acorn. It’s not long before the squirrel’s persistency creates a rapidly forming crack in the ice causing a large iceberg to break off. The look on the squirrel’s face never ceases to make me laugh. It is also at this moment, that the deep bass notes begin kicking in. Rumbling of the sliding icebergs was reproduced with as much impact as it should have and chunks of ice hitting the ground were also appropriately striking. The RSS definitely packs some punch and it does it well for an entry-level subwoofer.
Satisfied with the subwoofer’s performance during my favorite scenes from Ice Age, I proceeded onto two of the newer additions from my DVD library: Hellboy and The Bourne Identity.
Hellboy, the recent comic book adaptation, is an action-adventure film filled with loud explosive scenes that can really put a subwoofer’s ability to the test. The story begins in 1944 as a group of Nazi thugs open a transdimensional portal to hell. A ten minute action sequence breaks out when group of American soldiers crash the party. From gun shots to exploding grenades the RSS reached for some low frequencies during this scene. The explosions and thunder of pieces of the portal machine hitting the ground sounded realistic and never over-boomy. In a later scene, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) causes a fire at the Bellamie Hospital which in turn triggers a massive explosion. The RSS not only made it sound powerful enough, it made me feel the explosion.
The Bourne Identity begins, when Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is found by a fishing vessel during an intense thunderstorm. The RSS recreated the low frequencies of thunder with a strong thump giving it a realistic feel. During later parts of the movie, the subwoofer had no problems belching out low bass notes as well. Various fight scenes and explosions showed that the RSS has what it takes to add enough punch to make movie watching an exciting experience.
Putting the subwoofer through enough action, I began listening to a few bass heavy music CDs. Quickly scanning through my CD collection, I picked out Cake’s Fashion Nugget album remembering some good bass in their songs. The subwoofer’s rendition of the bass-loaded song “The Distance” was impressive. No less impressive was the subwoofer’s performance of “Daria”, “I Will Survive” and “Stickshifts and Safetybelfts”. The bass was tight and never boomy in all the songs I listened to.
On Radiohead’s Ok Computer album I also found a few tracks with some good bass lines. “Karma Police” and “Lucky” have the most prominent bass notes and were played very appropriately by the RSS. The more subtle bass of “Climbing the Walls” and “No Surprises” was also performed well.
Overall, the Reel Acoustics RSS performed very well for an entry-level subwoofer. It is marketed primarily to accompany the listen while watching movies, and I can definitely give it a high mark for it. The RSS added realism and punch to the demanding Dolby Digital soundtracks of all the movies I watched. Throughout my listening tests it always sounded appropriately powerful, filling the room with the right amount of bass. On the music side, it performed almost as well. During music listening, the bass was tight and well defined. If you’re building a home theater in a small or medium sized room on a smaller budget, I would definitely give the Reel Acoustics RSS a listen. And if this is the first time you’re adding a subwoofer to your home theater, you’ll be more than happy with what the RSS will do for you.
MSRP: $299 (Canadian)
Reel Acoustics RSS Subwoofer:Woofer: 8” poly treater paper cone with rubber surround
Frequency response: 38 – 150 Hz
Variable low pass filter: 50 – 150 Hz
Phase adjust: 0 – 180 degrees
System: Front firing/front ported
Amplifier power: 75 watts RMS
Dimensions(WxHxD): 10-5/8” x 11-11/16” x 13-5/8” (270mm x 348mm x 346mm)
Weight: 20 lbs (9.07 kg)