Revel Concerta F12 Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Tim Hart   
Sunday, 01 January 2006

Those of us who find ourselves enthralled by all things audio and video typically have a wish list of gear that would fulfill that ultimate goal of the no-holds–barred system. For most of us it is just that: a wish list. But to dream is human and we must have goals to shoot for. When it comes to the ultimate in loudspeakers, you can narrow the wish list down fairly quickly to a handful of the top contenders. One of those revered names is Revel, and their reputation for producing some of the finest loudspeakers in the world is unquestionable. The industrial design of the Ultima series demanded attention when I first saw them, and when I was finally able to hear a pair of Salons at editor Bryan Southard’s house, I was completely floored by their sound, so floored that I managed to get a pair of Studios for my very own.

The Revel designs have a unique sound that is articulate and detailed, but never fatiguing. The resources that Revel engineers have to work with in Southern California to produce their sonic masterpieces are very impressive, all backed by the Harman Specialty Group, so it is easy to understand, once you know the capabilities of the facility and how they go about qualifying their designs, how they are able to produce such high-caliber products as the Ultima and Performa lines of loudspeakers.

So how about a speaker that can turn a wish into reality from a company known for supreme execution in loudspeaker design? Revel has something that they feel can get some of their reputation into your living room or home theater at a fraction of the cost of their more expensive products. New to the Revel line is the Concerta series and part of that series is the F12 ($1298.00 per pair), which is Revel’s foray into this segment of the market. The F12 is a floor-standing, single-ported design that is 42.3 inches high, nine-and-three-quarters inches wide and 14.3 inches deep. Weighing 63 pounds, the braced MDF cabinet comes in Black Ash, Natural Cherry or, as the review sample, in Maple. All finishes have a very well-executed vinyl-clad veneer. The cabinet is simply stated and looks slightly contemporary with the black grille.

Using Revel's Organic Ceramic Composite (OCC) diaphragm technology, the four-driver, three-way design of the F12 utilizes two eight-inch cone woofers, a five-and-one-quarter-inch mid-range driver, and a one-inch dome tweeter housed in a proprietary waveguide assembly that optimizes dispersion to match the midrange in the crossover region. This driver complement has a frequency range of 33 Hz -18 kHz ±1 dB with excursions down to 28Hz -10 dB, with a sensitivity of 90.5dB SPL with 2.83V @ 1m. These are covered by black grille cloth over a plastic frame that fits well into rubber isolated holes in the cabinet. It appears that the F12 is much easier to drive than the Performa or Ultima lines, whose sensitivity is around 87dB.

The cabinet stands on four rubber feet that will also allow for thin threaded metal spikes to be installed in the middle of the foot. A little bit better execution here would save some frustration, as the spikes are difficult to adjust due to their small diameter, and are difficult to adjust on thicker carpets. However, once set, they do provide quite a stable stance.

On the back of the speaker below the single port are the recessed speaker terminals that will allow for bi-amping. These come with stamped plated metal jumpers. The speaker terminals are mounted to a molded plastic recess that places the terminals a little too close to one another. I had trouble getting my fingers around the knurled nuts for tightening.

I mention the plastics used in the design because this is the obvious area to cut costs on materials that have the least effect on the sound. Other speakers at this price range use copious amounts of plastic in areas that may not be the best application for that material, and I applaud Revel for making some smart choices in this regard. The other cost-cutting effort is off-shoring the manufacture of the Concerta Line. Well, not off-shoring, but across the border in a Harman Consumer Group-owned and operated facility in Mexico. This gives Revel complete control over quality yet allows them to be competitive at this price point.

I gave the F12s about 40 hours of break-in time using my Anthem P5 and the Linn Unidisk 1.1 and the Kisto System Controller and Cardas Golden Cross balanced and single-ended interconnects and Golden Cross Speaker cables. I started off with the F12’s in approximately the same position as my Studios, which is 34 inches from the front wall, nine feet apart, and five feet from the side walls. They ended up a little closer to the front wall for more bass support and slightly toed in, not quite pointing to the listening position. Finding a location where the best balance was attained was straightforward and I was able get the F12s imaging like a champ.

The Music
The F12s definitely have the trademark sonic character of their more expensive brethren in the mid to high-frequency range, sounding very neutral, accurate and leaning on the slight side of politeness, but not at the expense of detail, a hallmark of Revel designs. The soundstage is very well defined and maintained between the speakers. All material I played through the F12s allowed for good depth, focused imaging and was very easy to listen to. “Yesterday to Tomorrow” by Audioslave (Interscope Records) shows some of the balance and tonal qualities of the F12s, with Tim Comerford’s opening bass line and Brad Wilk’s kick drum both maintaining good authority and low-frequency articulation, even at high volumes. Behind Chris Cornell’s voice, you can hear the subtle character of the guitar reverb dancing from left to right. As the guitar riff changes character, the single string playing cuts through with sharp-edged clarity, highlighting the F12’s nimbleness at handling transients without edginess or harshness.

“Twisted Logic” on Coldplay’s latest X&Y (Capitol Records) is one of my recent favorites. Chris Martin’s vocals have the texture I would expect to hear, rendered dead center between the F12s. Jon Buckland’s soaring guitar notes are captured and reproduced with agility, conveying the energy of the notes with better authority than I would have suspected. Similarly-priced speakers I have had pass through my listening room, like the Klipsch RF-7’s, exhibited a fatiguing quality to them with this type of guitar work. I didn’t feel like I wanted to turn down the volume with the F12s. The interplay of guitar and piano on “A Message” works well on the F12s, allowing some of the strengths of the speaker to show. Midrange clarity, natural decay, tonal balance and transients are beyond what you might think these speakers are capable of, keeping within the bounds of their respective price point.

On James Taylor’s re-mastered to SACD disc JT (Sony Music Entertainment), more of the character of the F12s came across. Their neutrality was more noticeable on “Handy Man,” where Taylor’s voice sounded neither lush nor sterile, but had the right balance of midrange to highlight his crooning vocal style. With a fairly detailed layering of harmonies, the F12s drew me into this stellar recording and, if you pardon the pun, had me reveling in the deep and detailed soundstage of the organ, bass and articulate guitar by one of the premier singer/songwriters of our time.

The DTS DVD-Audio release of Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia (DTS Entertainment) is a favorite to judge decay, transients, midrange bloom and transparency. Steve Wilson’s voice is nicely suspended between the F12s with good depth and midrange on “Heart Attack in a Layby”. The harmonies in this tune are mesmerizing, as are the guitar and synth work. The F12s captured a lot of the character of this song, highlighting the textures and micro dynamics that are so captivating. Cymbals have a nice shimmer to them and the sharp edge of the bass notes maintained a palpable presence. On “.3,” bass drum and bass guitar are sorted out pretty effortlessly at higher volumes and only got congested at some pretty high volumes. Backing off a bit, the layering within the soundstage on the two-channel PCM version remained respectable.

The Movies
I wished I had the full complement of the Concerta line to hear how well they perform together. I decided to try to focus on just the F12s, even though my center channel is a Revel C30 and I didn’t want it to color my opinion of the F12s. While the F12s retain some similar sonic attributes of the other Revel speakers, they did show some of the reason they are in a different price point when run with the C30. The C30 has a more transparent midrange and better articulation and definition of higher frequencies, as well as better midrange bloom than the F12s, but the F12s have a good tonal balance and are very musical. Their presentation is not as refined nor liquidly smooth as the C30 or the Studios, but this is an extremely unfair comparison, as the F12s are a fraction of the price of the Performa and Ultima products.

While testing the waters with “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith” (Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox), I had to reduce the level of the F12s so that they didn’t overplay the C30 due to better efficiency I wanted to see how well they did in this scenario with soundtracks and was rewarded with dexterity and dynamic agility. The opening battle scene in chapter one provides a variety of sonic marvels to hear, from the explosions of ships in battle, to sonic signature of missiles homing in on the Jedi, to screaming R2 units trying to deal with the onslaught. I can imagine, based on the F12s’ performance, that the entire package is a must audition for anyone in the market for a music and movie system that is attainable by real world means and will still take your breath away.

The Downside
The recess for the speaker terminals will allow room for just about any size speaker cable on the market today. However, the problems with the actual terminals themselves are that they are too close to one another and make it hard to get a good grip for tightening. If you are bi-amping or bi-wiring, it will be more problematic.

The spikes Revel supplies for the F12 could be larger in diameter for easier adjustment. I found it difficult on my thick carpeting to get them out far enough to come in contact with the floor beneath. If you have medium to thick carpeting, you’re going to want the spikes. The height and narrow footprint of the F12s make them unstable on a carpeted floor and subject to easy tilting.

Sonically, I couldn’t find any real fault with the F12s. They performed well on all of the listening tests I gave them. They are neutral speakers, so if your gear is a bit bright or analytical, then they may not be the best match. Careful component matching is a must to get the most out of your investment.

I have found that, with the F12s, the technology trickle-down theory can apply not only to automobiles and computers, but to loudspeakers as well. The F12s have a similar characteristic sound to Revel’s more expensive Performa and Ultima lines. Neutral, leaning a bit on the polite side, without sacrificing detail in the mid to upper frequencies describes the F12s’ character. Low frequencies were solid without any boominess or bloat. The F12s could benefit from a sub (see Bryan Dailey’s upcoming review of the Revel B12 subwoofer), but the performance they give, while not the deepest bass I’ve heard, does very little wrong. The F12s have a well-blended tonal balance and are very musical. They will fit with just about any modern décor and are certainly a lot easier on the wallet than other Revel products. I can see why the Performa and Ultima lines cost what they do. The Revel engineers put the effort where it matters on the F12s: the drivers, crossovers and cabinet structure. This puts many folks within reach of a piece of that magic with the Revel F12s.
Manufacturer Revel
Model Concerta F12 Loudspeakers
Reviewer Tim Hart

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