PrimaLuna + Klipsch + REL = Minds Blown
We were schooled by the EVO 300 Int, Cornwall, and HT/1510 trio
A demonstration of the new HT/1510 from REL had us alternately pinned in awe and jumping out of our seats.
This week, we were excited to welcome back into the store John Hunter (owner and lead designer) and Paul Magee (western regional sales manager) from REL Acoustics. They were there to conduct product training on the new HT/1510 Predator, but—and here's the interesting part—specifically in a stereo-paired, hi-fi music setting.
What We Heard
John and Paul worked quickly in Demo Room #2 to set up a system with a PrimaLuna EVO 300 Integrated driving the Klipsch Cornwall IV, and a pair of REL HT/1510 Predators connected via the sub outs on the EVO.
These are beautiful subwoofers, looking machined rather than built. Once John hit 'play', and those 15" CarbonGlas drivers and 1,000 W amp joined the fray, this was a system that inspired all the breathless-reviewer cliches. We'll spare you all but one: it was a profound display of—apologies for using this word—synergy. We came away with a new respect for the Cornwall IV, because the REL, like all great supporting acts, made us appreciate the Klipsch's many skills without drawing attention to itself.
This lightning-quick speaker-sub combo was able to throw out a tremendous uncompressed wave of dynamic sound that conveyed all the brutality of the Nine Inch Nails track 'Into the Void' as if you were cowering inside the studio.
When things got quieter, those sensitive Cornwall horns conveyed all of the delicacy and nuance of another sensitive horn, the trombone of J.J. Johnson. The live jazz track presented so much depth that more than one of us thought the clatter of trays and glasses in the background was from our office break room down the corridor.
Paul ran the now familiar exercise of playing a track first with subs, then without, and then with again. With the subs, cymbals took on body and weight, images became even more stable and three-dimensional, depth and height increased... we're almost tempted to say "visibly increased" because it was all so immersive that the music actually left visual memories.
These improvements were heightened by just how well the three products worked together, pulling us so much into the deep tracks on an assorted test CD, that one of our passing colleagues walked in saying, "This is the first time I've willingly entered a room that's playing Nickelback, it sounds that good."
So why did this holy and unholy trinity work so well?
First, The Most Important Question
Why use a subwoofer designed for home theater (it's even got HT in the name) in a music-only high-end system?
While REL has imbued the HT series with extra power and gain to give movie watchers the slam they need, these subs are still RELs. This means that the HT/1003, 1205, 1508 Predator, and 1510 Predator are designed as coherent, detailed, emotional, active loudspeakers that happen to cover only low frequencies. These are no bass bins; they work extremely well in music-first systems.
During the development of the HT/1510, REL realized that its characteristic high-gain and high-dynamic ability even at low volumes, brought a tremendous benefit to users of high-sensitivity speakers such as the Klipsch Cornwall IV.
When an amp is driving a speaker with sensitivity in the high 90s and above, its output circuits are barely ticking over. The Klipsch Cornwall IV, for example, is rated (perhaps a smidge optimistically) at 102 dB sensitivity. Even our room-shaking Nine Inch Nails escapades would have run off barely three watts of power.
In these situations, a high-level sub output taken from the speaker taps of the amp will be a very small signal, one that requires a lot of subwoofer gain.
What John Hunter and team found is that with the right low-level output on an amp, the HT/1510 is able to produce a lot of deep-bass support without needing to crank the subwoofer gain knob anywhere beyond 12 o'clock. This allows the sub to enjoy huge amounts of headroom even as it keeps up with sensitive horn-loaded speakers.
What Is High Level and Low Level?
A high-level signal emerges from the loudspeaker connections on the back of your amp. It is a high-current flow that is able to move the speaker cones, and is used (after being stepped down) by music-first active subwoofers to capture the full characteristics of your amp, allowing for a seamless match with your speakers.
A low-level signal is one that comes out of RCA or XLR outputs on your amp, usually preamp out, sub out, or tape out. This signal cannot drive speakers, and needs further amplification. Depending on where in the circuit it is tapped from, it may or may not exhibit the characteristics of the entire amp.
PrimaLuna Completes This Trinity, But Why?
We've mentioned that the type of low-level output from the amp is an important part of this Klipsch/REL pairing. The PrimaLuna EVO 300 and 400 Integrateds offer the ideal output because it is (1) full-range and (2) tapped from the output transformer. Think of it as a "high-level" low-level signal.
1) Why Full-Range Sub Outs Are Good: The sub out on some amps have a simple (cheap) low-pass filter, unceremoniously chopping off all content above, say 100 Hz, and sending this truncated signal to the subwoofer.
But, REL subwoofers come with extremely high-quality and carefully designed crossovers designed to critically filter a full-range signal, and pass through a bass signal for the sub amp without losing detail, speed, dynamics, and so on. You want this expensive crossover on the subwoofer to do all of the work.
2) Why The Origin of the Sub Out Matters: A low-level output can be tapped from many parts of an integrated amp, and often comes from the preamp circuit. PrimaLuna, however, sends both the headphone output jack and the subwoofer output RCAs a stepped-down signal from its output transformers. This means you are listening to the entire amp at both outputs. You have all of the magic of the small-signal tubes and the power tubes, giving the low-level subwoofer signal the same personality, and yes, the same quirks, as the high-level loudspeaker signal. This is how the HT/1510 was able to work utterly seamlessly in the room with the Cornwall IV.
Do you love the idea of a system that can be dreamy and ethereal but also leap across the room and grab you by the throat? Call us to set up a demo, or simply to talk to one of our audio experts to see if this amazing trio will work for you.
|PrimaLuna EVO 300||Klipsch Cornwall IV||REL HT/1510 Predator|
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) Version:
Why This Trio Works So Well
The Klipsch Cornwall IV is a horn-loaded speaker and extremely sensitive. This means that the amp that's driving it is creating a very small high-level signal, requiring a high gain setting on a high-level-input subwoofer.
The PrimaLuna EVO 300 Integrated's subwoofer outputs are full-range and "whole amp", meaning that it contains the magic of the entire EVO 300 circuit, and allows the subwoofer crossover to do its best work.
The REL HT/1510 Predator is designed with high gain and power, offering heft and dynamics even at low volume settings. The sub out from the PrimaLuna gives the HT/1510 a big dynamic signal to work off, one that perfectly matches the signal being used to drive the speakers.
What We're Listening To
This is a great album that captures a live stage at a moderately sized venue extremely well. One of my favorite tracks on the album is 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' which is obviously an Elton John cover, but she brings a sense of despair to the song that just pulls you in emotionally.
Something to listen for: the piano on the right side of the soundstage should sound large with a big tonal presence that is portrayed well on a good quality pair of fullrange speakers. Her voice is haunting and full-sounding while the mic also picks up some feedback from the production equipment which just adds to the realism of the recording. A great evening listening piece.