REL has two ranges; Q and ST. Q is largely entry-level subs, while ST represents the brand's high-end aspirations. But there's plenty of crossover between the two. The Stampede subwoofer we have before us today is basically a mid-range model - it's the entry-point of the ST range, and competes with models like the Q-150E Mk II and Quake.
The differences are relatively slight at this level, but where the Q range is compact and bluff, the STs are larger and a bit more elegant and user-friendly. The Stampede is a sealed box subwoofer (like most of REL's models this side of silly money) without ports, has a down-firing 200mm bass driver and a 100W MOSFET amplifier.
Most of REL's innovations are here: Set-Safe (to prevent the driver from damage), an ABC filtering circuit, and the Slam/Depth switch, which allows the user to switch between subtle hi-fi gentility and balls-out cinema oomph. Like all RELs, the Stampede comes with a set of speaker level controls, allowing the subwoofer to be switched between a subwoofer output (for cinema) and the speaker terminals (for hi-fi).
Everything on the Stampede is driven from the front panel, with just a single LED display and multi-action knob. This can be driven from the remote control as well as the front panel. It also has a parental lock - a good idea when the kids decide to play Cradle of Filth at maximum volume.
It's also a good idea to follow REL's installation manual, because a series of LED codewords are less immediately understandable than a set of knobs and dials. REL discusses placement and set-up, and it's a good idea to follow the guidelines here, too. And the front panel has one extra bonus - it manages to make the Stampede look less brutal than the Q series (especially if you blow an extra £75 on one of the natty wood veneers).
REL has a reputation for goodquality sound that's perfect for hi-fi and home cinema alike - and the Stampede doesn't let the side down. The finish is good and the one-button set-up is handy, but the key to the Stampede is its sound quality. Sounds are deep, taut, deep, clean, deep, dynamic and... you get the picture. Try it in 'Depth mode' and you will find a sound that gently appears when the main speakers stop delivering bass, underpinning sound and making speakers seem bigger and better.
Now switch to 'Slam mode'. The speakers are less improved, but that impressive boost to the bass makes it ideal for home cinema. Sounds rumble impressively, and the blast of the engines on the Millennium Falcon - one of the stars of our Star Wars test disc - take on a real energy, making the windows rattle from the backwash.
That's what is great about the REL. Perhaps MJ Acoustics' subwoofer has the edge in flexibility, but the fun and naturalness of the Stampede means REL has yet another star on its award-winning hands.