|Revel Ultima2 Speaker System (Salon2/Gem2/Voice2)|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Saturday, 01 December 2007|
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Over the last decade, Revel has established itself as one of the leading researchers of psychoacoustic science and innovators of high-performance loudspeakers. Positioned within the Harman Specialty Group, a subsidiary of the massive Harman International organization, Revel was conceived as the crown jewel of Harman's high-end consumer loudspeaker companies. By pooling resources from Harman, Revel has had the luxury of utilizing some of the world's most technically advanced engineering teams and sophisticated testing facilities to accomplish their objectives. The original Ultima loudspeaker system has been praised by the press and public alike for its faithful sound reproduction and cutting edge technology. Revel has upped the ante by recently releasing the new replacement for the original series, aptly named Ultima2. Having used the original Salons, Voices and S30s as my reference multi-channel system for several years, I was eager to experience Revel's new offerings.
The loudspeakers provided for this review consisted of a pair of Salon2 ($21,998) floor-standing loudspeakers, a single Revel Voice2 ($7,999) center channel with optional stand ($599), and a pair of Gem2s ($9,998) with dedicated stands ($1,398 per pair) functioning as the surrounds. My review samples came in a high gloss black finish, but they are also available in a high gloss mahogany veneer.
The Revel Ultima2 design is a substantial departure from the original Ultima series. I remember first viewing the original Salons at a trade show just before their official release and I was not a fan of the styling. The original Revel Salons and Studios had somewhat of a like it or leave it following. Many leading-edge designs are followed by a period of acclamation before they win customers over, and this was the case for me with the Salons. I now truly appreciate their aesthetics, but had I been given a choice back in the day, I certainly would have picked the Salon2s.
The Salon2 is much more universal in its visual presentation. It is a large tower, yet maintains architectural elegance with its rather small footprint and front dimensions. The speaker is rather deep, but you don't notice the depth when viewing the speaker from the front profile. Revel has tastefully softened all the enclosure’s edging, which makes the speaker pleasing to the eye while at the same time providing sonic benefits. Acoustically transparent grille covers, held on with magnetic fasteners, extend around the protruding front baffle assembly.
The utmost attention was given to every design aspect of the new Ultima2 loudspeaker series, commencing with completely redesigned transducers, including a new pure beryllium tweeter with a unique waveguide. An intricately machined front baffle was designed to reduce undesirable diffraction, and distinctive curved loudspeaker enclosures engineered to minimize internal standing waves. Each of these attributes was maximized through the use of proven engineering and Revel has revised the art of building a loudspeaker into a highly technical, science-based exercise.
Additionally, Revel conducted extensive double-blind listening tests to confirm the results of their engineering efforts, and to correlate the technical performance to the listener’s experience. Consistently, certain engineering and design parameters are perceived as more accurate and correlate to a higher degree of listener preference. Revel incorporated these studies into their design specifications and confirmed the anticipated results during their listening evaluations. To ensure that each Revel loudspeaker is matched to within a fraction of a decibel to its prototype reference, a final tuning process is conducted on all production units to ensure absolute uniformity.
The Salon2 is configured as a six-driver array in a four-way vented system. The overall shape of the Salon2 looks somewhat like a conventional tower speaker from the front, with four short standoffs connecting it to a base plate. Nine layers of laminated MDF are shaped into a single curvilinear enclosure, which helps minimize the amount of joints necessary to put together the speaker cabinet assembly. To maintain rigidity, a massive two-and-a-half-inch-thick front baffle is employed to mount the drivers and keep the front face from flexing. The front baffle was computer-designed to follow the shape of the transducers, therefore reducing unwanted diffraction. Internally, the speaker is extensively braced; combined with various other design factors, this makes for an extremely inert and resonance-free enclosure. During the enclosure design, laser Interferometer scans were used to minimize any potential unwanted resonances or colorations.
With its non-removable base, the Salon2 is 53.25 inches high, 23 inches deep, and 14 inches wide (though the loudspeaker body is only 11 inches wide). The listed shipping weight is 178 pounds.
The transducers include one one-inch pure beryllium tweeter, one four-inch midrange, a single six-and-a-half-inch mid-woofer and three eight-inch woofers. Similar to the original Ultima series, the Revel Ultima2 woofer and midrange drivers continue to use inverted dome designs and titanium diaphragms. The transducers used by Revel specify oversized voice coils and are wound with flat ribbon wire, which provides higher output capability while lowering dynamic compression. Multiple other innovative design criteria have been incorporated to reduce other audible distortions and improve heat transfer and power-handling capabilities.
The newly-designed pure beryllium dome tweeter proved to be an extraordinary transducer and is used in every Ultima2 loudspeaker. Beryllium has several unique properties, as it is extremely stiff, lightweight and dimensionally stabile over a wide temperature range. This new tweeter minimizes compression and substantially reduces high-frequency distortion via its power handling capabilities and extended frequency response. Throughout the tweeter’s mechanical assembly, great efforts were taken to reduce odd-order harmonic distortions and inductance modulation, as well as unwanted standing waves and resonances. The end result provided transparent, extended non-fatiguing high-frequency reproduction that was thoroughly enjoyed throughout my listening evaluation.
In order to maintain a narrow front face profile, Revel chose to go with multiple small woofers. It should be noted that the combined surface area of three eight-inch woofers has almost the same surface area as a single 14-inch driver. The base assembly is an integral part of the speaker, as it provides an opening for the down-firing vent to operate, augmenting the low-frequency performance of the Salon2. Looking at the smallest details, Revel conducted extensive research into the performance of different types of ports and came up with a more aerodynamic design, which improves performance and reduces potential vent noise and system compression.
Revel provided a variety of connections and controls to optimize the performance of the loudspeaker in varying environments. Hidden behind a form-fitting hinged cover located at the back of the speaker (nice touch) are two pairs of high-quality binding posts, which are connected to separate high-pass and low-pass filters, enabling the loudspeaker to be either bi-wired or bi-amped. To aid in integrating the high-frequency response of the loudspeaker to the listening environment, Revel included a Tweeter Level switch with five different settings, varying from -1 to +1 decibels, in 0.5 decibel increments. A Low Frequency Compensation control allows the user to vary the low-frequency response to adjust for room or placement issues. This control offers three different options, with the Normal setting most often utilized for speakers that are placed three feet from other boundaries. The Contour setting helps compensate for problematic room conditions, such as standing waves. Finally, the Boundary option is intended for close to boundary placements or built-in applications.
Similar in aesthetics to the Salon2, the Voice2 also utilizes a curvilinear enclosure with the same complex front baffle design. The three-way center channel is relatively large, yet aesthetically neutral when placed on its optional stand, as it was during this review. My review sample, in its high-gloss black finish, was elegant, with a look of simple sophistication. Revel utilizes a cradle assembly that allows the speaker to be rotated upward or downward, depending upon installation, to optimize on-axis positioning.
Clustered closely together, the Voice2 driver complement consists of a single one-inch beryllium dome tweeter, one five-and-a-quarter-inch midrange and two eight-inch woofers. Similar to the Salon2, the Voice2 offers controls to optimize the loudspeaker's response, depending upon the application and placement. The Low Frequency Compensation switch has three different settings, with a Flush setting optimized for bookshelf or wall unit placement, the Stand setting for when the Voice2 is placed on top of a monitor or shelf, and a Stand+ setting, which is optimized for use with the optional pedestal stand. Additionally, there is Tweeter Level Switch, with identical functionality to the control found on the Salon2. Again, there are two sets of high-quality gold-plated binding posts to accommodate different wiring and bi-amping configurations. Including the pedestal, the overall dimensions of the Voice2 are 24.2 inches high by 16.8 inches deep by 28 inches wide, with a purported shipping weight of 74.5 pounds.
The new Gem2s are multi-functional three-way monopole loudspeakers, with a radical departure in design from the previous Gems. Unlike the Salon2 and Voice2, the Gem2 enclosure is somewhat more conventional without the extreme rounded form factor. Rectangular in shape, with slightly curving sides and sloping top and bottom, its overall shallow depth will facilitate a low profile when used for wall-mounted installations. The same meticulous attention to timbre matching, engineering standards and diminishing distortion levels are adhered to in the Gem2s, as in the flagship Salon2s and the Voice2 center channel. Overall, the Gem2s have a height of 24.2 inches, a width of 12 inches and a depth of five-and-a-half inches. The optional floor-standing pedestal mount is listed at 46 inches in height. Noted shipping weight is 38 pounds for each Gem2 without the pedestal.
The Gem2 driver complement consists of a one-inch beryllium dome tweeter, a four-inch midrange with a one-and-a-half-inch voice coil, and an eight-inch woofer with a two-inch voice coil. They are equally suited as main loudspeakers or surrounds and can be wall-mounted or, like the review sample, installed on an optional pedestal. They can be utilized as the main speakers for a two-channel stereo configuration when used with their optional stands, or wall-mounted to mate with a flat panel display. Additionally, augmentation with an appropriate subwoofer would make for a true full-range system. The Gem2s can also be bi-wired or bi-amped via their dual sets of binding posts.
The Gem2s also have similar capabilities to adjust the speaker for unique listening environments. Located on the front panel behind the grille cover is a Low Frequency Compensation switch that offers three different settings for tuning the Gem2s to your application. The Normal setting will be most often used when the speakers are located away from room boundaries or large objects. The Contour setting, as noted above, works to counteract certain room interactions that may cause audible standing waves. The third setting, Boundary, is intended to be used when the Gem2s are mounted on or close to a wall. Additionally, there is a Tweeter Level switch, also positioned on the front panel, which has the same functionality of the speakers above.
The Gem2 also offers a third control, which is located on the back side to adjust for on or off-axis listening. The On-Axis setting is intended to be used when the speakers are installed on their matching stands or wall-mounted at approximately ear level. If the Gem2s are intended to be mounted five feet or more above the listening axis, the Off-Axis setting will compensate for the height differential, creating a tilted response to optimize the performance at the listening position.