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REL’s Classic 98 Subwoofer Offers Vintage Design and Modern Technology

REL Classic 98 Subwoofer Lifestyle

It has been well over 15 years since I sold my REL Strata III Subwoofer and whilst it was a fantastic performer at the time when used with a pair of Cain & Cain Abby and IM-Ben loudspeakers, it didn’t blend that well with the rest of the furniture in the living room.

Subwoofer technology also kept progressing and there was a shift in the category towards modern industrial design that worked out well for brands like SVS, JL Audio, and HSU.

REL finally realized that it needed to change course and offer subwoofers with a more modern look and feel; nobody disputed the quality of the products but they looked outdated.

Fast forward to 2023 and REL Acoustics is still manufacturing some of the best subwoofers available; the British manufacturer also offers very flexible wireless options for its range of products and they are some of the easiest to integrate into 2.0 systems with a rather wide range of loudspeakers.

We have had a lot of success with REL’s T7/x ($1,099 at Amazon) and products like the Magnepan LRS, Wharfedale Linton, and Q Acoustics 5040.

During the pandemic, REL’s John Hunter noticed that Mission, JBL, Klipsch, and Wharfedale were having a rather strong degree of success with vintage revivals of some of their best-selling loudspeakers.

Consumers were buying into the vintage audio resurgence and that perhaps it was time to revisit the classic REL subwoofers from the 1990s but with updated driver technology and amplification.

Enter the REL Classic 98.

REL Classic 98 Subwoofer
REL Classic 98 Subwoofer

This revival is a blend of mid-century charm seamlessly combined with state-of-the-art technology. The subwoofer is more than just a nod to iconic REL designs; it’s a reimagining, blending the aesthetics of the past with today’s technological prowess and performance.

The REL Classic 98 channels the essence of its renowned 10” down-firing designs from the late 90s. The rich, natural walnut veneer exudes warmth and authenticity, reminiscent of the mid-century stereo gear.

The radiused curve, accentuated by a subtle reveal line, showcases modern craftsmanship while honoring past design. The rear amp panel, with its white gold silk screening and contrasting knobs, evokes memories of the era, while the glossy black logo set against a matte background adds a contemporary touch.

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John Hunter, Chief Designer at REL Acoustics Ltd, expressed his enthusiasm for the new product. “Classic 98 is not simply a tribute to our past, but continuing proof of our dedication to audio perfection. With its impeccable design and unparalleled sound quality, it promises an audio experience that stands out in both aesthetics and performance, outshining the very models from which it draws inspiration,” said Hunter.

That sounds great but what makes this subwoofer any different from the current T/x series at a price of $1,399 USD?

REL Classic 98 Subwoofer Bottom
Bottom of REL Classic 98 Subwoofer.

New Driver

The 10” down-firing driver, is crafted using REL’s traditional paper cone technique, revives the vintage REL sound. This driver, built to handle the abundance of power offered in Classic 98, ensures a sound that’s not just powerful, but pure and deeply resonant. While Classic 98 maintains the aesthetics of their older models, it plays louder and deeper, offering an audio experience that marries the reliability and technology of modern RELs with a retro look and sound.

Hot-pressed, lightweight paper forms the outer 2/3 of the cone. The inner cap is a premium air-dried paper that stiffens the driver, allowing Classic 98 to outperform many of their older products. A natural butyl surround produces a gentle, period-correct dynamic that endures.

We’ll get to that last sentence in a second.

Back in the 90s, REL’s subwoofers were powered with a 300W Class A/B amplifier which added significantly to the price of the designs. It also made them very heavy subwoofers; my toes took the brunt of that more than a few times with the Strata III.

REL did the most logical thing with the Classic 98 and utilized a 300 watt Class D amplifier for its efficiency, size, and cost benefits.

They also designed the Classic 98 to work with the HT-Air MK II and AirShip II wireless systems; giving users flexibility with 2.0 or home theater systems that might require placement far from any amplifier or equipment rack. Both REL wireless systems offer connectivity up to a maximum of 40 feet from the transmitter and promise 17 ms response times.

But is this just a vintage version of the T9/x ($1,449 at Amazon) in a lovely walnut cabinet?

According to REL, the Classic 98 offers slightly less bass impact and and that there is a trade-off when it comes to speed, clarity, and detail.

Is that a good thing at a time when competing models from SVS and RSL offer deeper bass extension, timbral accuracy, and quicker performance for the same price?

The vintage vibe only goes so far.

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REL Classic 98 Subwoofer Lifestyle with Piano and Guitar
REL Classic 98 Subwoofer

Whilst we love the classic design and integration of wireless connectivity, the REL Classic 98 will have to offer excellent performance as well to compete in a very competitive space.

Expect our review in the coming months…

Where to buy: $1,399 at rel.net

Specifications

  • TYPE: Down-firing active driver
  • ACTIVE DRIVER SIZE & MATERIAL: 10 in. (250mm) Amended Pulp-on-Paper, Downfiring Inverted Cone, Steel Chassis
  • LOW FREQUENCY EXTENSION: 27Hz at -6 dB
  • INPUT CONNECTORS: Hi Level Neutrik Speakon, Low Level RCA, LFE RCA
  • OUTPUT CONNECTORS: N/A
  • POWER OUTPUT: 300 watts (RMS)
  • AMPLIFIER TYPE: Class D
  • WIRELESS CAPABILITY: HT-Air MKII Wireless or AirShip II, Sold separately
  • DUAL PARAMETRIC FILTER: N/A
  • DIMENSIONS (WxHxD): 13.75 in. x 18.5 in. x 11.75 in. (350mm x 470mm x 298.5mm)
    • Add 1.75in (44.5mm) in depth when using a High Level connector
  • NET WEIGHT: 40.0 lbs. (18.1 kg)
  • SHIPPING WEIGHT: 48.5 lbs. (22.0 kg)
  • FINISH: Walnut veneer

Protection System

  • FULLY ELECTRONIC SET SAFE: Yes
  • D.C. FAULT: Yes
  • OUTPUT SHORT: Yes
  • MAINS INPUT VOLTAGE: 220-240 volts, 110-120 volts for certain markets
  • FUSES:
    • 2.5 Amp semi delay 220 volts operation
    • 5 Amp semi delay 120 volts operation
REL Classic 98 Subwoofer Back
5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Mike Cornell

    September 11, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    Certainly looks the part (though wish they could have done something different with those black plastic feet!) and I think the performance will fit in well with its intended market. Looking forward to the review!

    • Ian White

      September 11, 2023 at 3:47 pm

      Mike,

      I hope it measures up. There are some excellent subwoofers now below $1,500 that offer a lot.

      I’m trying to get some smaller ProAc or Spendors in around the same time to make it worthwhile.

      Best,

      Ian

  2. ORT

    September 11, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    If I can have my druthers, down-firing subs are my choice. This sub looks very nice and hopefully it lives up to its exterior and works well with your home’s interior.

    Or somethin’ to that affect.

    ORT

    • GordM

      September 11, 2023 at 9:33 pm

      I concur. I have had good success with the down firing form factor (with room correction software in play).
      As aesthetics go, quarter cut walnut veneer is a timeless classic.

      • Ian White

        September 11, 2023 at 10:55 pm

        I really liked the Strata III. It was just too large for the room and looked awkward.

        I do like the look of the Classic 98 because it matches so many of my existing loudspeakers. I just hope it doesn’t offer less performance compared to the T9/x.

        We shall see.
        IW

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