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Revel M20 Performa Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2003
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Revel M20 Performa Loudspeakers
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ImageThe Revel Performa M20 is the compact, bookshelf-sized sibling to the floor-standing Performa F30 speaker reviewed by in April 2001. Revel is the high-end loudspeaker company of Madrigal who is owned by parent company Harman International. Their entry-level Performa line targets audio enthusiasts who are looking for excellent sound and build quality at more reasonable prices than their high-end Ultima line. The M20s cost $2,000 per pair, plus optional stands and grilles.

The Performa M20s are rear-ported, two-way loudspeakers, featuring a six-and-a-half-inch inverted magnesium-alloy woofer, with a low-frequency extension to 44 Hz at -3 dB and a one-inch custom aluminum-alloy dome tweeter. Upon unpacking the hefty 36-pound loudspeakers, I was immediately struck by the exceptional build quality of the Performa M20s. Constructed of one-inch-thick MDF with extensive internal bracing, the M20s are solid as a rock. Mine came in an attractive black ash finish, but are also available in cherry, sycamore and rosewood veneers.

Since I was going to use the Revel Performa Pedestal 1 stands ($200 per pair), I removed the three cast-aluminum feet from the base of each speaker cabinet and reattached them to the base of the easy-to-assemble stands. The speakers screw securely into the stands, making them extremely stable. The stands also have a contemporary look, which compliments the attractive appearance of the M20s and should easily fit the décor of most homes. Some listeners, however, may opt for their own stands, since the Revel Pedestal stands seemed a bit high at 29 inches on their spikes, which position the tweeter 41.5 inches from the floor. This was too high for my tastes. Furthermore, the stands are not sand-fillable. After careful listening, I found no meaningful difference in sound with or without the M20 grilles ($170 per pair) and opted to leave them off in favor of the Revel’s sporty and striking magnesium woofer.
The Revel M20s have a rated sensitivity of 87 dB and nominal impedance of six ohms. While my Proceed AMP5 drives them with ease, most high-end A/V receivers should have no problem providing the M20s with enough power to sing. Interestingly, Revel suggests in its very well-written instruction manual (I’ve found easy-to-understand manuals to be a hallmark of Madrigal, which is a blessing when setting up a Proceed AVP2) that the M20s, with their high-order crossovers, can handle exceptional power levels. No power rating is given anywhere in the manual, just a “rule of thumb” not to play the Revels beyond levels where the sound is clean. I frequently listen to music fairly loud and am still unable to tolerate levels that test that threshold, so it’s safe to say that most other listeners won’t want to try the volume at those levels, either.

The M20s have several features I found accommodating to the less-than-perfect aesthetics of my real-world apartment. Like other speakers in the Performa line, the M20s come with a Tweeter Level Control. Being able to add or trim as much as 1 dB in half-decibel increments was definitely a plus. After much listening in my slightly brighter-than-average living space, I decided on trimming 0.5 dB off the tweeter. Since I would be using the Performa Pedestal 1 stands, I set the Placement Compensation Control to Stand Mount, which provided greater bass response versus Flush Mount, an option for placement of the M20s in a cabinet or on a bookshelf. After much tweaking of speaker placement, I was ready for some serious listening.

I listened to the M20s in two-channel stereo with and without my Sunfire True Mark IV subwoofer as well as in multi-channel surround. Listening gear included a Proceed AVP2 preamp/processor, a Proceed AMP5 five-channel power amplifier, the new Lexicon RT-10 Universal Disc Player and Transparent MusicWave Plus speaker cables and MusicLink interconnects. I used two pairs of Performa M20s, a Performa C30 center channel and the Sunfire True Mark IV subwoofer for multi-channel listening. I broke in the system for several weeks before beginning my evaluation.


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