Rel Acoustics HT/1205 review: a subwoofer designed for home theaters and gaming

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The Rel HT/1205 subwoofer is equipped with a 12” carbon fiber driver powered by a 500 watt Class D amplifier. Designed specifically for home theaters, this closed enclosure subwoofer can go as low as 22Hz, which heralds very deep bass. 

Sold for 899 euros, the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer can accompany either a regular home theater speaker pack with floorstanding speakers at the front, or a compact home theater speaker pack. It recently received the Home Cinema Choice – Recommended label and was voted best subwoofer of 2019 in its price range by the AVForums magazine.

The Rel HT/1205 subwoofer looks impressive without the grille over its 12” carbon fiber cone driver. The alternative feet, which are more discreet that the feet that are already mounted, ensure that the cabinet is perfectly decoupled.

Can we expect the Rel Acoustics HT/1205 to provide lows that are fast, deep and powerful enough to bring the most epic soundtracks to life?

Rel HT/1205: the brand

The Welsh manufacturer Rel Acoustics is a subwoofer specialist and is recognized worldwide as a major player in the market, in particular thanks to its high-end audiophile subwoofers. For more information about the brand, you can read the presentation in our Rel T9i subwoofer review.

The Rel T9i subwoofer is a reference in its price range.

Rel Acoustics currently offers several ranges of subwoofers for all budgets and uses.

Rel Acoustics T Series and T/i Series (hi-fi and home theater)

Rel Acoustics HT Series (home theater)

Rel Acoustics S Series (hi-fi and home theater)

Rel Acoustics Reference Series (hi-fi and home theater)

Rel HT/1205: packaging & accessories

The Rel Acoustics HT/1205 subwoofer comes in two cardboard boxes (one inside the other) in which it is held in place by blocks of polystyrene and protected by a fabric cover.

In addition to the three meter long power cable, the manufacturer includes four damping feet to screw into the bottom of the subwoofer. Conveniently, they can replace the original feet if the subwoofer needs to be placed on a hard floor (tiles, hardwood floor), which was the case for our review. If the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer is on a rug or a carpet, you can keep the original feet.

Lastly, three documents are included with the sub: a quick start guide, a safety information leaflet and a more comprehensive user manual.

Rel HT/1205: presentation

The Rel HT/1205 is a midrange model in the Welsh manufacturer’s HT (Home Theater) series. It is situated in between the Rel Acoustics HT/1003 with its 10” driver and 300 watt amplification and the more imposing Rel Acoustics HT/1508 Predator, whose 15” driver is powered by an 800 watt amplifier.

A 12” long-throw carbon fiber driver and 500 watt amplifier: the Rel HT/1205 is equipped for intense home theater sessions.

Visual design

The subwoofers from the Rel Acoustics Home Theater range differ from the manufacturer’s other subwoofers in that they are covered with a wood effect composite material instead of the usual lacquer finish. Although it looks less luxurious than the Rel T9i for example (read our review of the Rel Acoustics T9i), the Rel HT/1205’s sophisticated finish still looks very good. The edges at the front and back are perfectly level and we couldn’t see any flaws on the surface of this subwoofer. The top of the subwoofer features a black lacquer plaque decorated with the name of the manufacturer as a reminder of the origins of the range.

The Rel HT/1205 subwoofer has a less angular design than the manufacturer’s other ranges. The edges are rounded, which softens the silhouette of the subwoofer, making it look less “massive”. It’s very impressive! As usual, we found the feet decorated with the REL logo to be somewhat obtrusive. We quickly replaced them with the less flashy damping feet, which were very effective in decoupling the subwoofer from our tiled floor.

Lastly, the 12” driver on the front of the subwoofer provides great visual impact and looks ready to respond to the slightest demand. It’s a matter of taste, but we preferred not to cover it with the fabric grille.

Closed enclosure, 500 watts, 12” driver

The Rel Acoustics HT/1205 subwoofer is a closed model. This design is favored by subwoofer manufacturers when they want to obtain an excellent impulse response, in other words extremely fast and responsive lows. The anti-vibration cabinet is reinforced so that it remains completely inert and does not color the sound or generate distortion. A 12” long-throw driver is proudly displayed on the front panel. Its carbon fiber cone is both extremely stiff and lightweight, while its long-throw surround helps move a large quantity of air.

This driver is powered by a Class D amplification module with a power output of 500 watts RMS and therefore promises energetic bass without any lagging.

Connectors and settings

The Rel HT/1205 subwoofer’s connectors are limited to a Low Level stereo RCA/LFE input and a stereo RCA/LFE output. Consequently, it can be connected to an A/V receiver that has an LFE output or to the mono or stereo preamplified output of a stereo hi-fi amplifier or compact hi-fi system.

Regarding settings, the Rel HT/1205 features a phase switch (0 or 180°), a knob to adjust the cut-off frequency (40 to 140Hz) and a volume control (Level). There is a switch to automatically turn the subwoofer on, turn it off or put it in standby mode when it doesn’t receive any signal from the amplifier as well as a standard power switch that allows you to turn the subwoofer off completely when it is not in use.

An LED lights up when the subwoofer is powered and changes color depending on its status: red when the sub is turned off, white when it is turned on or in auto mode. This LED is very bright and, like us, you may need to cover it with a piece of insulating tape so it does not generate any light in the evening in a dark room.

  • Rel HT/1205 - Diode lumineuse
  • Rel HT/1205 - Diode lumineuse

Key specifications

 Design

  • Closed enclosure
  • 12” long-throw driver at the front, steel chassis
  • Carbon fiber cone with an inverted carbon fiber dust cap

Amplification

  • NextGen5 Class D amplification module
  • Output power: 500 watts RMS

Measurements

  • Low frequency extension: 22Hz (-6dB)

Settings

  • High cut-off frequency: 40 – 140Hz
  • Phase: switch 0 – 180°
  • Gain : 95dB
  • Standard power switch: On/Off
  • Auto power on/standby switch

Connectors

  • Low Level stereo (RCA)/LFE RCA input
  • Low Level stereo (RCA)/LFE RCA output (to daisy-chain several subwoofers)

General

  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 376 x 405 x 399mm (feet, connectors and buttons included)
  • Weight: 19.2kg

Accessories

  • Power cable (3m)
  • User manual
  • Damping feet

Rel HT/1205: listening conditions

For our review of the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer, at first we connected it to a Denon A/V receiver using a mono RCA subwoofer cable (the receiver’s LFE output). The receiver was powering a Focal home theater speaker pack that included two 3-way floorstanding speakers at the front (6½” midrange driver and woofer). We positioned the Rel subwoofer in between the front left and center speakers so that it was facing the viewers.

During our review, the Rel HT/1205 was paired with a French home theater speaker pack.

Concerning settings, we turned the crossover knob to the LFE position so that we could set the cut-off frequency directly in the receiver’s menu (80Hz). We set the volume on the subwoofer (Level) to about half way before adjusting the level via the receiver’s dedicated settings menu. We set the phase to 0° and the On/Off switch to auto so that the subwoofer would automatically come out of standby mode when the receiver was turned on, which worked every time.

Although it is designed mainly for home theater use, we also wanted to test the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer with music. To do so, we paired it with a Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D connected amplifier that powered a pair of Highland Aingel 3201 compact speakers.

We were able to test the Rel Acoustics HT/1205 in a hi-fi setup with the Highland Audio Aingel 3201 compact speakers.

Rel HT/1205: listening impressions

Home theater test

To get an idea of the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer’s performance, we decided to play the opening scene of the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. After Galadriel reveals the origins of the rings, the battle between Sauron’s army and the human-elf alliance is a festival of sound effects with plenty of low frequencies.

The Lord of the Rings’ soundtrack is perfect for testing the performance of a subwoofer.

The muffled roar of the thousands of soldiers charging at the foot of Mount Doom immediately immersed us in the dramatic tension of the scene. The arrival of Sauron on the battlefield and the devastating blows of his mace tearing through the rows of alliance soldiers were punctuated with sound effects that were reproduced with magnitude and authority by the Rel HT/1205. The 12” carbon fiber cone driver was in full swing and the amplifier’s 500 watts helped set the stage with powerful and generous bass.

Sauron’s arrival on the battlefield was announced by a deep rumble that the Rel Acoustics HT/1205 had no trouble reproducing.

At 3’35”, after Isildur cut Sauron’s fingers off, the HT/1205 produced incredibly deep lows as the Dark Lord disappeared in a gust of wind that swept across the battlefield.

Another key moment of the movie that allowed the Rel HT/120 subwoofer to fully express itself and show us what it was capable of was the arrival of the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. This is typically the type of scene that proves the importance of including a subwoofer in a home theater system. First, when the monster emerged from the bowels of the mine and uttered its hoarse and fiery roar in front of Gandalf. The low frequencies produced by the Rel Subwoofer gave this cry a much more bestial and terrifying feel than if it had only been reproduced by our front speakers and their 6½” woofer. When the Balrog chased the fellowship members to the bridge, the pounding of its footsteps that echoed across the mine’s galleries filled our entire living room. We suddenly felt very small!

Following this home theater session, the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer proved that it could produce intense and powerful bass, go very deep, and effectively fill our living room, which opens up into a living area with a total surface area of approximately 45m².

Gaming test

We wanted to take advantage of the Rel HT/1205’s qualities while playing a few video games so that we could evaluate the utility of a subwoofer in a gaming setup.

Our first test was with God of War on our PS4. As soon as the game started, the subwoofer awoke and responded to every press of the controller’s buttons. If it hardly made a sound during the exploration stage, it was to better surprise us during the fights! The player’s blows, as well as those of the enemies, seemed heavier and more devastating with the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer, which gave them depth and magnitude in perfect synchronization with the vibrations of the controller. Subjectively, the action gained in intensity and the immersion was greater.

We made the same observations with both Spider-Man and Persona 5. The tremendous amount of work carried out to produce the soundtracks of today’s video games is deserving of an equally impressive sound system that includes a subwoofer, which is essential for reproducing the full intensity of the music.

With Hatsune Miku – Project DIVA Future Tone, the Rel HT/1205 wasn’t called upon as often as when we were playing action adventure and RPG games, but it really helped to enhance the rhythm of this musical rhythm game. The tempo of the various tracks was clearly defined, and the subwoofer helped the player to keep up with the often frenzied rhythm of the songs. The responsiveness of the HT/1205 was perfectly suited to this game. 

Consequently, we wondered what this subwoofer could bring to a hi-fi listening session.

Hi-fi test

Once the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer was connected to the Yamaha R-N803D amplifier, we were able to play our CD and Hi-Res quality playlists on Qobuz (Studio subscription) via the MusicCast app. Because the frequency response of the Highland Audio Aingel 3201 speakers ranges from 65Hz to 20kHz, we set the subwoofer’s cut-off frequency to approximately 75Hz. As for the subwoofer’s volume, after many tests we found we achieved the best results at around 25-30%. Any higher and the lows become overpowering and monopolize the listener’s attention. The Rel Acoustics HT/1003 subwoofer may be more suitable for these very compact Highland Audio speakers. 

The Rel HT/1205 subwoofer proved to be helpful for reinforcing the lows of the Highland Audio Aingel 3201 compact speakers.

The advantages offered by the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer for music were undeniable. The Aingel 3201’s dynamic character, stereo image and ability to reproduce a plethora of details were all enhanced. The depth and magnitude of the soundstage were greatly improved. The extension in the low end of the sound spectrum provided by this subwoofer hugely improved the overall balance of the restitution. Responsive, the Rel HT/1205 kept up with the rhythm and the lows never lagged. That said, one could criticize the sub for being more (too?) demonstrative and less nuanced than the brand’s other models, such as the Rel T5i for example. Its “in your face” home theater style can be either appealing or off-putting, depending on how you like to listen to your music. 

Rel HT/1205: compared to…

Klipsch SPL-150: equipped with a huge 15” driver, the Klipsch subwoofer provides deeper (its low frequency extension is 18Hz) and even more intense lows. But it comes at the price of a much larger cabinet than that of the Rel model, which is easier to place. Concerning looks, the Rel HT/1205 is much more appealing with the impeccable finish of its composite cabinet and rounded edges that soften its silhouette. The Klipsch SPL-150 looks a lot more basic. 

SVS SB-2000: the Rel HT/1205 shares many similarities with the SVS SB-2000 subwoofer. They both have a similar size, rounded edges, 12” frontal driver, closed enclosure and 500 watt amplification. Both models are responsive and powerful, producing agile and intense lows with excellent timing. However, the SVS SB-2000 can go a little lower than the Rel sub (19Hz compared to 22Hz), which provides a more “physical” sound.

Emotiva Airmotiv S12: slighter smaller than the Rel HT/1205, the Emotiva subwoofer also features a 12” driver powered by a 500 watt amplifier. Its enclosure is different, as it is equipped with a 12” passive driver. This design allows it to move more air, which in turn provides more substance in the lows. However, this means that it is less responsive than the Rel model, which is more rapid.

Rel HT/1205: conclusion

Part of the Rel HT “Home Theater” range, the Welsh manufacturer presents the Rel HT/1205 subwoofer as being a model primarily intended for enjoying cinema at home. This is why it doesn’t feature the High Level input with Speakon connector that is characteristic of the brand’s hi-fi subwoofers. In practice, the Rel HT/1205 packs a punch and proves to be very effective in dynamizing the soundtracks of both movies and video games. The bass is responsive, deep, generous and perfectly controlled, offering a breathtaking experience.

Ideal for gaming and home theater, the Rel Acoustics HT/1205 subwoofer provides powerful, reactive and impactful lows. A real treat for the ears!

With music, even though it isn’t its primary purpose, the Rel HT/1205 is far from laughable and benefits from the brand’s hi-fi expertise. When connected to the pre-amplified subwoofer output of a stereo amplifier and accompanied by a pair of compact speakers, the result is quite impressive.

What we liked

  • The visual design and exemplary finish
  • The generous and deep lows
  • The responsiveness and intensity
  • The extra set of feet that provide excellent decoupling

What we would have liked

  • A little more nuance when listening to music (but it isn’t its main purpose)
  • For the LED to have been less visible


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Traductrice et rédactrice avec des goûts très éclectiques en matière de musique et de cinéma. Lorsque je ne suis pas au travail, vous pouvez me retrouver en train de regarder “Lost in Translation” de Sofia Coppola pour la centième fois, ou d’écouter un disque de David Bowie, Kate Bush, Joy Division ou Daft Punk sur ma platine Rega Planar 1. Étant d’origine britannique, je suis également adepte de séries à l’humour absurde comme Monty Python’s Flying Circus et The Mighty Boosh !

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