|Revel Ultima Studio Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Saturday, 01 January 2000|
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I spent considerable time speaking with Kevin Voecks from Revel, analyzing my room for the best possible speaker placement, which has a very dramatic impact on speaker performance. I worked extensive hours on placement, while the speakers ran around-the-clock to expedite break-in. After a fairly lengthy break-in period (200-400 hours recommended - I found 400 to be closer to the mark), I was ready to see what these speakers were all about.
I began by using one of my favorite new performers, Shawn Mullins, from his new release, The First Ten Years (Sony Music), which has several cuts that possess wonderfully pure midrange vocals and acoustic guitar. The vocals in the song "Joshua" were out of this world. They had great detail, with a very liquid feel. Midrange is tremendously important because it is responsible for a large portion of the lower harmonics of many instruments. For midrange to be good, it must possess very low distortion and be void of any coloration whatsoever if possible.
Coloration can be caused by several factors. One of the more common sources of coloration comes from the loudspeaker cabinet. As the cabinet resonates, it will introduce a specific unnatural flavor to your music, referred to as color. Because midrange sits right in the middle of our ears’ audible range, impurities are among the most obvious and annoying flaws a speaker can have. Revel used a variety of very high-tech instruments to evaluate and eliminate cabinet resonances. It appears to have paid off aurally. The cabinets of the Studios are the most solid I have had the opportunity to wrap my knuckles against. This, along with the fact that the midrange drivers were designed from scratch and manufactured in-house, is responsible for the lack of any audible midrange distortions in the Studios.
Something that provided me with an endless amount of adrenaline was the Studios’ bass extension. Simply stated, their bass rocks. There is nothing more engaging in music than solid bass and the Studios have it. No hype, they provide rock-solid bottom end. Too many loudspeakers priced at more than double the Studios’ mark leave you trying to imagine how the bass would sound on your CDs in case you had any low frequency performance. Don’t get me started on all of the weakling high-end loudspeakers I heard at CES 2000 and THE Show that didn’t rock. The Revel Studios rock on a solid foundation of coherent and tight bass.
Back to a common reference of mine, Cornell Dupree’s Uncle Funky (Kokopeli): In Dupree’s rendition of the song "Signed, Sealed and Delivered," there is an electrifying drum solo that will grab you and take for a ride. The Studios created a solid and detailed drum reproduction that is as three-dimensional as any piece that I have heard. The drum transients were detailed and incredibly real-sounding. Each evening I found myself scrounging through old rock discs, enjoying what the Studios would do for them. One evening, I jammed to Van Halen from their self-titled first album (Warner Brother), which I have to admit hasn’t seen a whole lot of airplay of late due to its less than stellar recording quality, and it sounded very good. Of course, I probably wouldn’t use it to demo my system, but it had great dynamic impact. I was transported to the year 1978, when I witnessed Van Halen’s Northern California debut, a concert that also included the likes of AC/DC, Foreigner, Pat Travers and Aerosmith, a line-up a true rock fan could definitely appreciate.
Many speakers do specific things well, but it’s a credit to any speaker that will elevate all forms of music, even those recordings that would make the average high-end manufacturer shriek.
To complete the full spectrum of source material, I wanted to share one of my folk favorites, The Weavers’ Reunion at Carnegie Hall 1963 (Analogue Productions), a fine blend of vocals and musical instruments. In this recording, I found the Revels to have excellent tonal balance. The vocals and instrumental timbre brought absolute life into this recording, reality greater than I have yet heard in a loudspeaker.
Overall, I would characterize the sound of the Revel Studios as very detailed and very fast in regard to transient information. Although the Studios can lie back nicely, I would probably not characterize them as relaxed or passive, nor overly polite. On the other hand, by no means would I classify them as anything like obtrusive or annoyingly aggressive. Let’s agree to call these dynamic loudspeakers emotionally involving.
Options for Revel Studios include their Ultima Voice center channel speaker, which sells for $4,050-$4,800 depending on finish, and $900-$1,100 for the stands in matching wood or aluminum styles. The very high-end Embrace rear loudspeakers runs $5,000 per pair in a painted finish. Revel’s Sub 15 subwoofer is priced ranging from $3,420 to $4,500 unpowered, depending on finish. The matching Revel LE1 crossover and 680 watt amp is priced at $6,000. I have not heard the 5.1 setup for the Revels in my room, but a friend of mine has listened to them. The report is that they are very well-matched in regard to timbre and integrate very nicely into modern rooms. The woofer is pretty big and provides much deeper and louder bass that you’ll get from the main loudspeakers. Note: the Revel Sub 15 will not work with other amps and or crossover other than the Revel LE-1.