There's a New Predator on the Loose

The fine folks at REL Acoustics have been busy, busy, busy, and have announced this week a brand new model as the flagship subwoofer in the Home Theater series, the HT/1510 Predator. I wanted to go over some of the features for two reasons: #1 because REL updates are always substantial and result in a completely new listening experience, and #2, to take the chance to explain some things about subwoofer design and put some of these types of updates in better context.

Once again, REL has decided to not just “tweak” the previous Predator design but redesign it from the ground up. There’s a new driver requiring new filters, limiters, and updated amplification. There’s more power than ever available, and there’s even a cabinet redesign that sports new proportions closer to the T and S series. There’s also an attractive full-gloss top on this new version of the home theater flagship.

Looks are one thing, but how do the internal design changes result in more power, which is what REL claims was their goal for the redesign? Let’s first look at how typical home subwoofers work and why they need what they need to perform their best.

Dirty Work

Bass waves are big; there are no two ways about it. Subwoofers must launch huge waves, and sub drivers ideally benefit from very large cabinets to make convincing bass. The problem is, almost zero real people out there want subwoofers to dominate a listening space with the kind of enormous size that ideal subwoofer design prefers.

The modern expectation is that subwoofers should be relatively small or as small as possible. But place a subwoofer driver in a small box, and you watch the frequency response on the low end of the subwoofer’s range take a nosedive. Ports are a messy way to help tackle the issue, and REL prefers a finely-tuned passive radiator in many of their subwoofer models, although the Predator II is a more straightforward sealed box. But no port or radiator can fully solve the massive drop in bass response due to the cabinet, so other tools are needed.

A (relatively) small subwoofer box with a big driver and a powerful amplifier will need to crank out tons of gain at the lowest frequencies, meaning tons of current and more cone movement. The filtering, or EQ curve, should match the characteristic roll-off of the driver as it performs in the small cabinet, but in reverse, so it counteracts the drop.

Modern subwoofer designers like REL apply more power from the amplifier, design a driver that can handle more power, and craft special analog filters to apply this power opposite the drop in response. REL’s self-designed subwoofer drivers like the 15” CarbonGlas beauty in the new Predator can handle tons of current for those bottom frequencies while remaining quick and responsive. The fiberglass and carbon fiber composite cone remains stiff and linear even through the lowest, high-excursion, boosted-by-EQ frequencies.

The Predator’s amplifier, a 1000-watt brute with a linear power supply, is fine-tuned for high-current output at low frequencies and designed to work with the specific characteristics of the driver used. The CarbonGlas woofer has a resonance and unique impedance and phase curves, which must match the amp well to keep the system linear across those bottom octaves.

To The Limit

One of the other ways REL says they were able to coax significantly more power out of the new Predator design is by revising the limiter settings from the previous model to more closely match the new driver’s abilities and the amplifier’s extra power.

Subwoofers are violent machines. Explosions come out of nowhere in films, and modern recording capabilities result in more bass transients throughout music and movies than ever before.

In a great subwoofer, you want to walk a fine line between tons of power and too much power for the driver. But you want to ensure the system can keep the throttle up or handle poorly mixed and overly bloated sub-bass without blowing up.

Limiters are essential for this, and their parameters like ratios, slopes, thresholds, attack times, and release times are all variables that must be fine-tuned for the task. REL’s updates in the Predator II squeeze the absolute most out of the new ingredients to this new subwoofer system, resulting in a 40% power increase over the previous HT/1508 model.

All Together Now

The art of creating a great subwoofer lies in selecting and combining all of these elements into a working system that measures according to design goals. This is where REL sets itself apart from competitors, as every element of their subwoofers works together to form an extremely calculated system. Hard work aims to avoid compromises at every turn and to deliver the most performance for the dollar on the market.

Nobody does it like REL, packing all kinds of performance into relatively affordable (for what they do for a system) systems, in this case producing a monster powerhouse for under $2K. Updates like these in the Predator are the fruits of what must be tons of R&D labor, given the nearly ground-up redesign of the already-classic HT/1508 Predator.

I have been paying attention to REL subwoofer updates long enough to know that every new product or update they announce is a significant step forward and worth mentioning. There is a distinct level of continual advancement we’ve come to expect from REL, which I would say is unique to them, and there is a high expectation of quality from the brand overall.

In my view, sight unseen, or rather, unheard, REL owners, specifically HT series owners, should consider the upgrade to hear what REL’s been able to pull off this time. Remember - The Music Room’s upgrade process is the easiest in the industry, allowing you to trade your old subs against the cost of the new, making the whole process seamless and stress-free.

Reach out today for more information about how to try out the new HT/1510 Predator subwoofer from REL or about special bundle deals available (think: wireless connection, cables, isolation, etc.) when you buy the HT/1510 Predator from The Music Room.