Archives for Subwoofer

Upgrading to an Arcam AVR750 Receiver and A REL Series S/5 Sub-Bass System

I am a classical music listener with a substantial music collection. I am compulsive enough to keep a record of every time I listen to a given piece of music and include notes about the quality of the recording and my listening experience. Excellent, accurate sound reproduction has always been important to me, and I had high quality speakers and components. On March 15, 2016 my audio world changed. With each piece of music I listen to now, since that day, thanks to my notes, I am able to compare my present listening experience with the past. It has improved dramatically with the arrival of the Arcam AVR750 Receiver and the REL Series S/5 Sub-Bass system.

The Arcam has class G amplification – which provides incredible definition and clarity regardless of power requirements which is a breathtaking advance over my previous receiver. The delicate inner voices in the classical music are crucial, and they are presented in pristine clarity. Conversely, if power is called for, class G delivers it without compromise and without distortion.
The REL replaced a high quality subwoofer that was brand-matched with my speakers when I purchased them. Besides a 12-inch driver, the REL has a 12-inch passive speaker pointed at the floor. Most importantly, it can take its audio feed directly from the amplifier-out connectors. Before, I found I was always fiddling with the gain of my subwoofer for various sources- DVD or CDs; I have never touched the settings on the REL. Ultra Fidelis sets it up and you just leave it. It becomes a natural part of your system, which never unduly calls attention to itself, but is always present – such as feeling the organ pedal in your chest, or the dark, deep notes of the cello, more than heard, but gently felt. It as if a whole new dimension of music has been opened. This is why they call it a sub-bass system, and not merely a subwoofer.
The REL was installed and carefully placed by Jonathan – and once it is set, you never need to touch it again. As mentioned above, the bass is amazingly natural, yet when called for it can startle you- experiencing the cannon shots in the film “Master and Commander” is beyond belief! I felt the concussion in my back while sitting on the couch – thanks to both the driven and passive speakers.
Coupling these two components has provided a constant revelation as I listen to post-March 2016 music. Each time I introduce music to the Arcam and the REL I am in for an invigorating new experience.
I am writing this on the one year anniversary of adding these two jewels to my music/home theater system, accomplished under the guidance of Ultra Fidelis, in particular Jonathan Spelt. When I first encountered them nine years ago, I called seeking a product. They could have simply provided that for me, but instead engaged me in a conversation concerning what it was I was trying to accomplish. They listened to me and suggested a very different path. One can buy and replace components, but to have people such as Jon involved in your musical experiences is something much richer and more valuable than mere products. I am exceedingly grateful for the great care, products and support of Jonathan and the Ultra Fidelis team which has improved a very important aspect of my life: the wonder of faithfully reproduced music.


Dave E.

Marty’s Review of the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature IIs with 2Wq Sub

This winter, I started the process of buying new speakers. Step one in that process was putting my former speakers up for sale. They sold right away, faster than expected, so things were looking good. Unfortunately my bank account wasn’t full enough to afford the Vandersteen Treos that I desired, but Jon advised me not to overlook the 2Ce Signature IIs, especially when paired with the 2Wq subwoofer. This fit my financial situation better, so he and Bob set up that combination for me in the store and I came down on a Saturday morning for an extended audition. I was more than impressed listening to them and a pair was ordered for me. My new cherry wood Sig IIs and matching 2Wq were soon in my living room.

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I attached the bases that allow the correct angle to be set and then spent some time with a tape measure and the owner’s manual to get the set-up right. Although the set-up is more involved than with most other speakers, the measurement guidelines are straightforward. The angle must be set relative to your seated ear height and the relationships between the distances to back wall and side walls are critical. All this is fully spelled out in the owner’s manual and just takes a little time, but this time spent on getting it right is well worth it. The result is “the Vandersteen sound” and it is immediately apparent. Because of the phase and time alignment that are part of all Vandersteen speaker designs, music sounds more natural and real. All of the music reaches your ears with the timing created by the musicians and instruments intact. The imaging and depth of soundstage is truly something special. If I had to sum up Vandersteen sound in one word, it would be “dimensionality.” I have heard the Treos and Quattros, the 5A carbons and the Sevens. They all do it. Naturally the higher up the line you go, the better they are, but at this price range the sound is remarkable. All of the audiophile buzzwords are there. Air, depth, imaging/dimensionality, and with the 2Wq sub perfectly integrated bass and slam.

Speaking of the 2Wq subwoofer, Vandersteen does subs differently from other manufacturers. When you introduce a 2Wq (or two) into the system, the main speakers are rolled off in the low bass and the sub fills in these lowest octaves for a full range frequency response. I am sure Jon and Bob can explain this better than I can, but just know that it works! You won’t get that one note bass boom like a home theater sub, but real dynamics and tonality. Listening to an upright bass on a good jazz recording you realize that there are actual notes being played. Plus, with adjustable “Q” on the sub’s control panel, you can really fine tune how tight or loose you want the bass. If you like that big boomy sound or maybe are using it with a home theater set-up you can have it that way, but you can also set it for a more musically accurate experience. Another benefit of the 2WQ is that when I can trade up to Treos, I can use the same subwoofer.

Ok, so how does it sound? I would say that the soundstage is about depth. Janis Joplin on “Try” is 4 or 5 feet behind the speakers. Shelby Lynne on “Just a Little Lovin'” is not as far back. The thing is, you can easily tell the difference. On the great SACD “Jazz in the Key of Blue”, Roy Hargrove moves around as he is playing. It’s easy to tell when he backs up and moves forward. He also moves side to side at different times. It’s like he is on the stage and you can tell right where he is. Not just left or right, but how much left or right.

Of course, all of the dimensionality in the world doesn’t matter if the tonality isn’t right, but the difference between a baritone sax and tenor is apparent as is soprano sax and clarinet. Back-up singers and individual instruments are easily defined. When Satchmo’s voice comes in on “St James Infirmary” I always get goosebumps.

So this must be the greatest speaker ever right? Well the Treos and other Vandersteens on up do all these things better and cost more for a reason. But at this price level, the combo of 2CE Signature IIs and 2Wq subwoofer is phenomenal. Vandersteen has sold over 100,000 Model 2s for a reason. I think one reason the price is so reasonable is because they have been in production for so long, but they have been continuously upgraded over the years. And they are made in the USA.

At the beginning of this review I said that I hoping for a pair of Treos. Well I am very happy with my 2s. At some point I will move up the Vandersteen line, but until then I still get to listen to the Vandersteen sound. Once you hear it, you can’t unhear it. And you can always tell when a speaker doesn’t have it.

Happy listening,