|Revel F50 Performa Home Theater Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Saturday, 01 March 2003|
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It was only a few years ago that Revel embarked on its journey to design and develop some of the world's most accurate and musically satisfying loudspeakers. The company was established in 1996 through a collaboration consisting of Harman Kardon founder Dr. Sidney Harman, Sandy Berlin of Madrigal, and well-regarded speaker designer Kevin Voecks. From the outset, the design philosophy of the Revel team was to incorporate the highest level of engineering knowledge, fused with sound scientific principles in conjunction with real-world listening evaluations. Using these objectives, Revel created the founding benchmarks for developing their products. Though Revel itself is a relatively small company, its ability to exploit the enormous resources of Harman International gives them unparalleled ability to achieve their design goals. Their debut product, the Ultima Gem, drew critical acclaim for both its musical attributes and unique styling.
Following the Gem’s release, Revel continued with various new loudspeakers under the Ultima series banner, all of which have been extremely well received and garnished with numerous accolades and awards the world over. After accomplishing their initial objectives with the Ultima line, Revel set forth to incorporate many of these technical advances and sonic qualities into more affordable series, leading to the conception of the Performa line of loudspeakers.
Similar to the Ultima series, the criteria for developing the Performa line includes the same goals of producing loudspeakers that feature wide dynamic and power handling capabilities, while maintaining high-frequency purity and midrange accuracy. The Performa series currently consists of the M20 bookshelf speaker, the floor-standing F30, the C30 center channel, S30 surround speakers, the B15 subwoofer, and the recently introduced F50 floor-standing speaker and C50 center channel. Revel has matched the timbre across the entire Performa line, allowing the speakers to be successfully mixed and matched, creating flexibility for the consumer to configure a system that meets individual needs and budgetary constraints.
The speaker complement used for this review consisted of a pair of Performa F50s ($7,500 per pair), a single F50 center channel ($3,000 each) with matching speaker stand ($260 each), four S30 surround speakers ($2,295 per pair), and one B15 subwoofer ($2,995 each in black).
The recently introduced F50 occupies the flagship position in the Performa series. It has an especially attractive three-way ported design that is unimposing visually considering its size, 46 inches high by 11-and-9/16 inches wide by 17.5 inches deep. The driver configuration consists of a one-inch pure titanium dome tweeter, a 5.25-inch ceramic-composite mid-range driver, and three 6.5-inch ceramic-composite woofers. Revel uses high-order crossovers in both the Performa and Ultima series to optimize timbre both on and off-axis, ensure low distortion, and provide ample power handling capabilities and low dynamic compression. With a rated sensitivity of 88 dB and a nominal impedance of five ohms (3.2 ohms minimum at 64 Hz), the F50s were not difficult to drive, even working quite well with a 120-watt surround receiver. At a weight of 100 pounds each, the F50 is extremely solid and imparts a sense of substance and density. This is in part due to the Medite (one-inch-thick MDF) used for the exterior walls and the ample internal bracing incorporated throughout the speaker. As with the Ultima series, the F50 uses a significantly tapered port to reduce turbulence and potential port noise. It is also equipped with a tweeter control that allows adjustments from -1 to +1 dB in 0.5 dB increments to compensate for different room environments, dual binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amping, and magnetic shielding to prevent interference with video monitors.
Though I wouldn't consider its aesthetics conventional, the F50 departs from the more industrial designs found in the Ultima series. There is a gentle front to back taper that is very complementary to the slender, understated and elegant cabinet profile. The F50 presents a graceful, curved and softened face to the listener, and blended extremely well with the decor of my listening room. At times, I favor the more high-tech look of loudspeakers without grille covers, but I much preferred the F50s with grilles in place. The review sample came with a Sycamore wood veneer and silver high gloss trim, with a very high-quality lacquer finish. Available finishes for the F50 include high-quality wood veneers of Rosewood, Black Ash, Sycamore and Dark Cherry.
The C50 is Revel’s newest Performa loudspeaker, designed to mate specifically with the F50s, but capable of integrating with any main speaker in the Revel line. The C50 uses two 6.5-inch ceramic-composite woofers flanking a four-inch ceramic-composite midrange and a one-inch aluminum-dome tweeter. Revel rates the C50 at 90 dB sensitivity, with a nominal impedance of 5.7 ohms (3.2 ohms minimum at 200 Hz). The aesthetics of this 36-pound center channel are a perfect match for the F50s, measuring in at 10-and-5/8 inches high x 26 1/4 inches wide by 10 15/16 inches deep. The C50 is also quite flexible in its placement adjustability, including a three-position switch that allows you to compensate for above-monitor, flush wall mount, or speaker stand installations. Additionally, the C50 is equipped with a tweeter level control that allows adjustments from -1 to +1 dB in 0.5 dB increments, and magnetic shielding, similar to the F50. An optional stand attaches directly to the base of the C50, angling the loudspeaker slightly up towards the listener. Fit and finish of the C50 is again first-rate, similarly available in Rosewood, Black Ash, Sycamore or Dark Cherry wood veneers.
The S30 surrounds present a very appealing and versatile design. They are deployed as side and rear surround speakers for this system. They feature a direct-facing one-inch aluminum-alloy tweeter, a 6.5-inch midrange/woofer, and two four-inch all-range drivers (used to minimize localization in dipole mode) on the side cabinet faces. These speakers can be operated in either dipole or monopole mode, and can be user-controlled either by the side panel rotary dial or remotely via a 12-volt control input.
In dipole mode, all drivers are active, with the exception of the direct-facing tweeter. Also, the direct woofer has a fairly low crossover point of 250 Hz. In monopole mode, the S30s function like standard two-way monitors, with both all-range drivers disabled, and the tweeter to woofer crossover point set at a much higher 2.5 kHz. They are rated at 90 dB sensitivity, with a nominal impedance of six ohms (three ohms minimum) in either operating mode.
The S30 surround loudspeakers come in triangulated, asymmetrical, mirror-imaged left and right pairs, measuring twelve-and-a-half inches high by fourteen-and-three-sixteenth inches wide by eight-and-three-eighths inches deep, each weighing 18 pounds. Color choice for the S30 surrounds is limited to black or white. They are capable of effectively serving as surrounds for any Performa or Ultima main and center speaker configuration.
Enlisted to cover the lowest octave was the potent B15 subwoofer. With its 15-inch high-excursion driver and built-in 1400-watt amp, the B15 was more than capable of providing low-frequency support for the entire Performa system. In June of 2001, AudioRevolution.com reviewed the B15, and I was as impressed with its performance and innovative calibration system as was the reviewer, Jerry Del Colliano. Rather than reiterate the B15’s attributes at this time, I recommend that you take a look at the aforementioned review in AudioRevolution.com’s archives to get a much more comprehensive description of this subwoofer.