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REL HT/1003 MKII Review

REL has upgraded its HT range of home cinema-focused subwoofers, but do they live up to their catchy nicknames? Read our REL HT-1003 MKII Review.

Steve Withers finds out

REL HAS LONG touted its ability to make subwoofers that work equally well with music and movies – but if you’re only interested in home cinema, the HT Series is for you. This range is specifically designed to slot into a multichannel speaker system, dropping the high-level Neutrik Speakon connectors to concentrate on LFE signals from an AV processor or receiver.

The three subs in the HT Series have been given various upgrades, with the top-of-the-line HT/1510 Predator II now using 1,000W of Class A/B grunt to drive its 15in CarbonGlas driver (see HCC #333). The other two subs in the lineup also get the sequel treatment, with the mid-range HT/1205 MKII (aka The Cannon), and the entry-level HT/1003 MKII (aka The Hammer), featuring new cabinetry, updated NextGen5 Class D amplification, and a host of tweaked filters for better bass response.

The £ HT/1003 is for home cinema fans with restricted space and limited budgets. Its redesigned compact cabinet (36cm wide approx) has curved corners and is clad – mostly – in a line-grained matt black composite; the top panel is immaculately finished in piano black lacquer. The build quality is top-drawer, even if I question the logic of a reflective top on a product designed for blacked-out environments.

Setup is nice and straightforward, with a level control, a dial for selecting a roll-off between 30Hz and 200Hz, and a switch for choosing a phase of 0 or 180 degrees. Connections are simple low-level stereo and LFE phono inputs, along with outputs for daisy-chaining. There’s also the option of adding REL’s HT-Air wireless system for a cable-free installation, but no fancy EQ, calibration or app-based control features.

REL HT/1003 MKII Review

AV INFO

Product10in front-firing sealed subwoofer
PositionEntry point in REL’s HT range
PeersSVS SB-1000 Pro;Velodyne DB-8; Paradigm Defiance V10
Websitewww.rel.net

The HT/1003 MKII’s sealed enclosure lends it an overall bass presence that feels tight and REL’s 10in driver is a glass fibre/carbon fibre combo controlled, and the driver and amp deliver a one-two punch that’s crisp, powerful and responsive. Running through my usual LFE testers, the sub handles deep notes with poise, and more rhythmic bass elements with a surprising tunefulness considering it’s primarily designed for movie night.

REL HT/1003 MKII Review

Speaking of which, the HT/1003 MKII laps up modern film soundtracks. With Blade Runner 2049 (4K Blu-ray) it adds scale to the soundfield, and showcases a low-end slam that’s great for the price. Whether it’s the blast of K’s gun, or a spinner flying into a ruined building, the bass effects come across fast and precise.

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And some moments feel supremely visceral. This is especially true during a scene in Andor (Disney+), where a TIE fighter flies through a valley, and over the heads of our heroes. The sensation of raw power is genuinely unnerving, this diminutive sub not breaking a sweat. It doesn’t plumb the depths, but there’s a bassy richness and responsiveness that’s appealing.

Sure to please

The HT/1003 MKII isn’t a heavyweight sub, all blunt-force trauma and no finesse; instead it’s a middleweight with nimble feet and powerful jabs. That’s not to saw it can’t throw the occasional haymaker, but expectations need to be managed. If you want a REL sub that’s seismic you should really be looking at the larger HT/1205 MKII or even the suitably-named Predator II.

Yet anyone considering the HT/1003 MKII probably wants an air-mover for a compact, affordable system. If so, this latest REL model is sure to please

Verdict

8 Total Score
Recommended REL HT/1003 MKII Review

If you’ve got limited space, this capable, responsive and affordable little sub will help hammer your home cinema’s low-end into shape.

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Best REL HT/1003 MKII prices in the US ?

Best REL HT/1003 MKII prices ?

See also TOP 10 Subwoofers

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE UNITS:1 x 10in CarbonGlas front-firing long-throw driver
ENCLOSURE:Sealed
FREQUENCY RESPONSE (CLAIMED):Down to 24Hz (-6dB)
ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED):300W (RMS)
REMOTE CONTROL:No
DIMENSIONS:362(w) x 343(h) x 387(d)mm
WEIGHT:15.5kg
FEATURES:NextGen5 Class D amplifier; low-level stereo RCA and LFE RCA inputs; daisy chain low-level stereo RCA and LFE RCA outputs; level control; 30-200Hz crossover; 180-degree phase switch; automatic standby option; compatible with HT-Air wireless system
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