Unless you are one of the precious few who gets to listen to music on large speakers that cost $200,000+, you are missing critical information from your music. In this article I will explain why this information is so critical to the performance of live music and recordings and why adding a REL Subwoofer may be the single best thing you ever do for your hifi stereo system.

If a tree falls in a forest and you are around to hear it, how did you know it was a tree? How did you know you were in a forest?

In the same vain, if someone plays a musical note on a piano, how are you able to differentiate between an upright and a grand piano? And why does that piano sound different in your living room than it does at Carnegie Hall? 

Are you Sub-Conscious?

Being sub-conscious means that you are aware of, and seeking to re-create, the subharmonic information that is critical to recreating the live feel of instruments and sounds in any movie soundtrack or musical recording. 

Let’s try an experiment, close your eyes for a moment and listen to your surroundings. Can you describe the space you are in? Can you describe the approximate size of the room and the height of the ceiling all from just hearing it? Of course you can. Now, what would happen if you opened your eyes and found yourself in a completely different space, say center court at the Pepsi Center. Would you be confused? Your ears and eyes are giving your brain a completely different description of the space. 

We often fail to consider just how amazing an instrument the human ear is.

A normal human ear is able to hear frequencies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz and sounds as soft as 20 micro Pascals, abbreviated as µPa. To give you perspective, a normal conversation has a pressure level of 20,000 µPa while a full symphony orchestra plays at about 2,000,000 µPa. 

This range of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz is called the audible frequency range and it describes what we “hear”. However there are plenty of frequencies outside of this range that we interact with on a daily basis. While we cannot “hear” these frequencies, we are aware of them and they have profound effects on the sounds we do hear. 

When you take in a performance at a large concert hall or stadium you there is something that give you this sense of scale and space and “tells you” about the venue you are in. But when you play a similar recording on your hifi stereo system or home theater at home, something is sorely lacking. Sure you hear all the notes, but there is still something missing – what is it?

Subharmonics (or subharmonic frequencies)

When you play middle “A” on a piano, that note will vibrate at about 440 Hz (440 vibrations per second). What we identify as the note is the 440Hz, but along with that we are also hearing subharmonic frequencies. Subharmonic frequencies are complementary frequencies that naturally occur below the main frequency of a signal. While we generally aren’t aware of these these subharmonic frequencies, they contain crucial information that further characterizes the instrument playing the note as well as the recording hall or chamber that instrument is being played in. 

If we slow the whole process down, here’s what happens:

  • Middle A key is pressed on the piano
  • The hammer hits the string
  • The string vibrates and hits the air molecules that encapsulate the string
  • The air molecules go flying and bump into air molecules which bump into more air molecules
  • This process expands rapidly filling the cavity of the the instrument and also escapes into the larger recording hall
  • The room interacts to produce the note we hear

In this example, we hear the note A440 along with the subharmonic frequencies. These subharmonic frequencies tell us that this is a grand piano being played on stage at Carnegie Hall. Now if this were an upright piano being played in your family room it would sound entirely different. That is because the piano and the recording hall are different.

All instruments – whether being used for classical, rock, jazz, or pop – interact with the room or venue within which they were recorded. This interaction may itself produce low frequencies that become an integral aspect of the final recording. With no spatial context, music lacks reality.

Enter REL – the single best thing you can ever do for your hifi stereo system.

REL home theater subwoofer

REL S/3 SHO Subwoofer

Only REL subwoofers are built from the ground up to reproduce this critical missing information. REL subwoofers connect directly to the speaker terminals on your stereo amplifier. This allows them to integrate seamlessly with your stereo speakers in a way that renders them invisible. From there, REL subwoofers incorporate their ABC circuitry to blend the subwoofer perfectly with your main speakers.  Use one subwoofer for both stereo speakers or set up 2 subwoofers as a stereo pair. Either way, the results are nothing short of astounding. 

Demonstrating a REL subwoofer

When demonstrating these subwoofers to customers, we are careful to use one or two recordings that have NO bass instruments. One of my favorites is Jacintha singing “Danny Boy” (from Here’s to Ben). When you listen to this talented singer – first without the REL subwoofer engaged in the stereo system – you are presented with a pristine image in-between the two main stereo speakers. The image is as clear as a photograph but is more 2 dimensional in nature. 

When first connecting a REL subwoofer, the subwoofer’s ability to convey space is apparent.

Customers immediately look up past the 8 foot ceiling to the giant vaulted cathedral where the recording was taken from. The sense of space immediately overwhelms the dimensions of the modest listening room as the long decay of each note fades into the larger hall. With the REL subwoofer’s abilities to convey intimacy, the formerly 2 dimensional photograph of a girl changes. You become aware of her presence in the room and hear her breathing through the words with the REL subwoofer in. 

Taking the subwoofer out of the system immediately results in disappointment on the part of the listener. The great space of the cathedral immediately collapses back to a 2 dimensional image between the speakers. 

When demonstrating a subwoofer with music, the most common commentary is, along the lines of “Wow, what just happened? It’s as though the space and beauty in the recording just disappeared when you switch the REL off”. Or “It got cold, hard and stiff sounding”.  Remember, this is a recording of a female soloist which has no ability to produce deep bass frequencies at all. 

Read any REL review of the last fifteen years and you will see why we are so excited about this brand of subwoofers.

Without fail, reviewers comment upon their inability to “hear” the REL subwoofer. Instead they find themselves hearing a new, full range, effortlessly dynamic richer, fuller-bodied, ultra-dynamic realization of your original system. What the owner wanted their system to be from the start of building it.

We’ve seen customers spend thousands on cables, trying to balance out various flaws in their stereo system. They’re on their third new power amp in five years. They’ve used decoupling pedestals underneath all manner of stereo electronics and room treatments applied to corners and ceiling. They’re even using expensive power conditioners  to filter the mains. And while many of those items can be of benefit, they tend to address secondary issues rather than structural. Only REL subwoofers can elevate your system from merely average performance to the Holy Grail of hifi stereo nirvana.

Come in to Soundings Fine Audio Video for a REL subwoofer demo. Wear socks, cause we’re gonna knock them off. 


Is deep bass necessary or desirable? Yes, in our opinion it is not only desirable, it is a critical part of the audible spectrum. “High Fidelity” products are designed to reproduce the original sound of an instrument or soundtrack as accurately as possible by faithfully preserving the character of the “live” sound down to the last nuance and detail. When reproducing the sound of large bass instruments, such as organ pipes or the synthesized low frequencies present in film mixes, the sonic benefit of adding a sub-bass system is immediately obvious. Higher frequencies, you may think, are unaffected, because they contain no bass. In reality every note comprises a “fundamental” frequency and “harmonics” which embrace a much wider frequency spectrum than the fundamental, and combine to distinguish a note played on say a piano, from the same note played on a violin. All musical performances will produce very low frequencies in addition to those expected. A REL will ensure that your system is wide band width, ensuring that it more closely resembles the live performance. This principle is valid with all sound reproduction media. In all cases, deep bass is both desirable and necessary. Another example; walk into a large building, such as a cathedral. Immediately you sense you are in a large building simply by the way it “sounds” – it has a special ambience. Our ability to perceive this type of ambience comes in part from a subliminal awareness of the very long wavelengths (low frequencies) that are reflected all around us. These aural clues will be missing in a music or movie system of limited low frequency bandwidth.

REL Home Theater and Stereo subwoofer

“The REL shores up the organ entries in recordings of Mahler Second (Resurrection) or Eighth symphonies, and allows them to breath in a way you might not have expected to hear outside the concert hall. But the benefits reach much further than that. The REL equally contributes to space around and substance to the sound of solo piano.” – Alvin Gold, Gramophone

Have you gone looking for your favorite CD digging around through CD cases only to find the disc is missing? Are you tired of loading that old 300 disc CD changer with discs, wondering what might play next?

Sonos whole house music systemWith the VAST number of choices available for listening to digital music and streaming online content on your stereo system, may we suggest one that defies all others. If you love music, if you want that music now, and you want access to millions of songs easily at your finger tips, you might consider adding a Sonos to your stereo.

Sonos combines online internet content, such as Pandora Radio, Rhapsody, Spotify, Mog, iHeart Radio with your existing digital music library into one very simple to use system, AND you can play it all over your home, even if your home is not wired.

Sonos whole house music systemThe Sonos system uses a powerful mesh network to send music wirelessly all over your home in pristine digital quality with no loss. You can hook up Sonos components to your existing home stereo system or directly to a pair of stereo speakers in any room in (our outside) your home. And if you have a room where you simply want a 1 box solution for nice background music with no stereo components or speakers, Sonos has that too. See what others are saying:

In my opinion, this is the compact music system for the next decade.” – Brent Butterworth, Sound & Vision.

You will be able to tell from the tone of this review, that we are totally in love with the Sonos system. Having used it for a few months I can assure it is worth every penny and has actually changed the way we listen to music.” – Will More, Cult of Mac

For more information about the Sonos Wireless Home Music Systems come visit Soundings for a fun music filled demonstration.

If you want better picture and sound out of your home theater or home audio system, look to your wall socket.

The power coming from your wall outlet may be fine for your refrigerator or toaster but in most cases it can do some really bad things to the quality of the picture and sound coming from your home theater or home audio system and shorten your home theater or home audio systems’ life. While some electrical issues come from outside your home, most of them originate in the home. The 1960’s marked the beginning of the era of non-linear loads which now include electronic ballasts, computer power supplies, fax machines, lighting dimmers, CFL lamps and cell phone chargers. These non-linear loads put a lot of harmonic distortion and current issues back into your home’s electrical circuit. While most home theater and stereo components were built to withstand some of this, the number of non-linear power supplies and the amount of distortion in homes continues to increase.

Adding a power conditioner to any home theater or home audio system can dramatically improve the picture and sound quality of your home theater or stereo. By providing power that is free of harmonic distortion the soundtrack from your home theater will be clearer and more dynamic and the music from your stereo will launch from a deep quiet background. The image from your home theater projector or flat screen TV will make you feel like you just took off your glasses and cleaned them. The blacks will be blacker, the picture more stable and film like and the image will draw you deep into the background.

Today’s home theater and home audio sources are more dynamic than at any time in history. CD’s, SACD’s, DVD’s, and Blu-Ray’s are giving us real-life sound reproduction that was once reserved for idustry proffesionals. To meet this demand power amplifiers have increased in size, power, and efficiency yet most homes do not have clean stable power these amplifiers desperately need for stable peak operation.When a power amplifier is reproducing audio content with big transients (ie : a quiet classical piece that suddenly demands your attention with a crash and striking of cymbals and timpani on your stereo, or; a loud, sudden explosion in an action film on your home theater), it will need a sudden large draw of current to reproduce the signal accurately.

Furman Home Theater & Stereo Power Conditioner with Power Factor Technology

Furman has developed Power Factor Technology in their power conditioners which stores a reservoir of energy while lowering the high frequency AC impedance. This circuit acts like a massive “fuel tank” for your home theater or stereo equipment providing up to 80 amps of power at a moments notice to feed your home theater or stereo equipment. Adding a Furman to your home theater or stereo will greatly increase the dynamics of the sound while cleaning up the quieter passages as well.

At Soundings Fine Audio Video in Denver, Colorado we can help you get the most out of your stereo, home theater or home audio system.  For more information on power conditioning or for a live demonstration, visit our showroom or click here.

I know this sounds like a silly question, but think about it for a moment – what is the job description of your home audio or home theater speakers? I mean we all know the job descriptions of other things around our house, the toaster is supposed to deliver golden brown toast, the dishwasher is supposed to clean your dishes until they sparkle, the microwave is supposed to heat things up quickly. What then, are your home audio or home theater speakers supposed to do?

Home Audio or Home Theater Speaker

Knowing a products job description is important because it allows you the homeowner to decide whether or not it’s living up to its potential. If your toaster burns your toast, you get rid of it. If your dishwasher doesn’t clean your dishes you call a repairman. So then, how do you know if your home audio system or speakers are doing what they’re supposed to do and if it’s time to get rid of them?

Let me offer this answer. The job description of a home audio speaker or home audio system is to zonk you, to remove you from reality and take you to another place where time passes without you knowing it, where distractions don’t exist. Good home audio speakers allow you to get completely and emotionally involved into the piece of music or film. Is your home audio or home theater system doing that for you?

I’ll never forget my first time listening to great speakers. It was a pair of Vienna Acoustics Mahlers. When the music played, the first thing I noticed was the hair on the back of my neck standing up, followed by goosebumps down my arms as Andrea Bocelli began to sing to me. The song was in Italian, and I don’t speak Italian, but I understood exactly what he meant. My vision blurred, things around me got slightly darker, and I was motionless. About 4 minutes later, after the last note had played followed by silence, I snapped out of it, and had to take a moment and look around to figure out where I was.

When you sit down to play a movie or piece of music on your home audio or home theater system, you will insert a disc, and hit play. Only 2 possibilities now exist. The movie or piece of music will take hold, grab you, and absorb you completely into it…. or not.

That is the job description of a home audio speaker. If you’re not experiencing what I’ve just described, you need to come down to Soundings in Denver, CO and hear it for the first time. I promise you, it won’t be a waste of your time.