|Revel Ultima Salon Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Thursday, 01 February 2001|
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I initially listened to the Salons with the Pass X350 amplifier, which I reviewed a few months ago. As soon as the Salons were broken in, I replaced the Pass amplifier with the brand-new Sonic Frontiers Power 3 (Special Edition) amplifier, which I will be reviewing for an upcoming issue.
The first piece of music I used to test the system was something that I recently found at a used software retailer: Santana Live at The Fillmore. Recorded in San Francisco in 1968, this disc is a rare find in that it is a combination of fabulous music and even better recording quality. In the awe-inspiring 15-minute version of "Soul Sacrifice," the Salons impressed me out of the gate with a profoundly coherent soundstage. I had asked two respected retailers in the past to list the differences between the Studios and the Salons. Both retailers told me that the only difference was in the bass. I found many differences first-hand. Certainly none were more obvious than the bass, but improvements to the overall coherence and transparency of the upper octaves were noticeable as well. This was never more apparent than when listening to the latest from Keb Mo, The Door (Sony Music). The song "Loola Loo" had a sense of reality that was incredible. The vocal midrange was very liquid, with inherent warmth and sweetness, yet it was also fully detailed. I am typically hesitant to describe sonic signatures with such phrases as "sweetness," as this can imply a sense of softness due to rolled-off highs and/or a sense of top-end slowness. This is clearly not the case with the Salons.
I recently headed down to the Hollywood Hills to party like a rock star with Audio Revolution’s publisher Jerry Del Colliano, as well as to hear his Wilson Watt Puppy Version 6.0 loudspeakers. I dug the WATT Puppys and can honestly say that the Salons do not possess the quickness and detail of the WATT Puppys in the higher frequencies. To some, myself included, this is a welcome characteristic. The Salons have a voicing and tonal balance that made nearly all of the recordings I tested sound enjoyable. The Wilson Watt Puppy Version 6.0’s possess a hopped-up, edgy sound that energize you with their agility, responsiveness and presence. The Salons will excite you equally, or possibly even more, with their sheer sense of realism, smoother tonality and deeper low end. The Salons provide great levels of detail without ever sounding forward or in your face. When listening to the re-mastered version of the Beatles’ Abbey Road (EMI Records), I found myself almost feeling that I was falling forward into the speakers as the music pulled me towards them rather that pushing me away.
The Revel Salons are not for everyone. In fact, they are not for many. They are very large, very heavy and demand a moderately large listening room. They have a tremendous amount of bass and will perform best on solid and preferably concrete flooring. As mentioned earlier, the Salon has a knob that is capable of attenuating the bass. If your suspended flooring becomes a large resonant speaker, or if you are rattling your paintings off the wall, you can attenuate the bass by –3 dB, but you would only be cheating yourself. If you think you’re liable to find yourself in this situation, I would suggest the more moderately sized Revel Studio at nearly half the price. The Salons are very expensive loudspeakers and consequently should be driven by electronics that are equal in performance.
I have heard many formulas that define the amount that should be spent on each component in the audio chain, most of which are bogus. To put it simply, the Revel Salon is a reference loudspeaker and should be driven by reference components. For amplification, I would recommend one of a number of amplifiers, including the Mark Levinson No. 336, the Krell FPB 600 and the Pass Labs X350. For amplification, I would recommend a tube amp with a minimum of 150 watts per channel, like the Audio Research VT200 or my personal favorite, the new Sonic Frontiers Power 3 Special Edition monoblocks.
It is hard to mention the price of this loudspeaker without becoming at least a little stunned and perhaps a tad skeptical. Let’s face it, you can buy a car, and for that matter a pretty nice new car, for $17,000. So who the heck owns these loudspeakers, then? You will find them in the homes of people who find music and/or video a high priority - someone who either has a lot of money or makes the appropriate sacrifices necessary to own a speaker of this caliber.
There are few speakers in the world that compare to the Revel Salon. I found this loudspeaker to possess the dynamics, transparency, detail and finesse to make it my favorite loudspeaker to date.
Loudspeakers are very much a personal choice. Therefore, there will never be a single perfect product for every music lover and/or audio/video enthusiast. Before laying down your hard-earned cash on a new speaker at this price point, I would recommend that you audition the competition. Look into the Wilson WATT Puppy Version 6.0 or the Sonus Faber Amati Homage at the $20,000 price range. The B&W Nautilus 802 and Martin Logan Prodigys make for serious contenders at nearly half the price. With that said, the Revel Salons earn my vote as the better speakers of the aforementioned group and the best speakers on the market in their price range. For me the choice was simple. I wrote the check and now call the Revel Salons my reference loudspeakers, which I will use to judge the best audio/video equipment for years to come.