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Revel Performa F30 Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 April 2001
Article Index
Revel Performa F30 Loudspeakers
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ImageThe Performa F30 is the entry-level $3,500 floor-standing speaker from high-end upstart speaker manufacturer Revel. Financed by Harman International, the largest U.S. based audio/video company, and under the close scrutiny of parent company Madrigal (Mark Levinson, Proceed, Madrigal Imaging etc.), Revel benefits from record-setting investments in research and development. Revel also benefits from over 35 years of speaker design and manufacturing experience from sister brands JBL and Infinity.

Madrigal takes the Revel project very seriously, especially the Performa Series speakers, as these represent a reasonable entry to the world of high-end products that are affordable for affluent but non-millionaire enthusiasts. Until now, Revel has been establishing itself as a high-end speaker presence with it's Ultima line, with cost not being nearly as much a factor as performance. The Performa line makes compromises in the fit and finish department (especially when compared to the Gem, Studio and Salon speakers, two of which have reviewed on previously), but still manages to custom-build drivers and use as much trickle-down technology as possible in a far more affordable package.

The Revel F30’s fall into an interesting price class at $3,500, just a bit more expensive than the highest-priced mainstream loudspeakers. With a slim footprint and a reasonable price tag, the Revel Performa F30’s represent equipment that might motivate aspiring audio/video enthusiasts to step up to the plate and invest in a serious pair of speakers – assuming the F30’s live up to their significant hype.

Physically, the Revel F30 is a basic rectangular box with some tricky industrial design all dressed up in a wood veneer. Unlike the Ultima Series speakers, the F30’s do not have very advanced color coating, incredible glossy finishes and non-linear shapes, nor should you expect such costly, non-performance-oriented gingerbread on high-end speakers priced at $3,500 per pair. Revel Performa F30’s are like BMW M3’s. They have some creature comforts, but they are designed for performance above all else. The F30’s stand 46 inches tall, 14-3/4 inches deep, and a slim 12 inches wide. The driver configuration consists of a 10-inch inverted aluminum dome woofer rated down to 30 Hz at –3 dB, a five-and-one-quarter-inch inverted magnesium dome midrange driver, and a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter. The F30’s cabinet is ported and constructed of one-inch MDF and braced substantially. Weighing 90 pounds per speaker, the F30’s cabinet has a surprisingly solid, dense feel. The F30’s have a rated sensitivity of 87 dB, which in itself sounds inefficient, yet the speakers seemed easier than I expected to drive.

Revel offers several veneers to choose from. The review models were dressed in rosewood and looked great. The philosophy of "It doesn’t matter what a speaker looks like - it’s the performance that matters" isn’t quite as valid as it once was. Of course, I wouldn’t think of purchasing a loudspeaker for its looks alone, but let’s face it, many of us fall in love with our loudspeakers and want them to look good, too. I think that high-end audio companies have awakened to the notion that an ugly contraption that sounds great will only sell several pairs of speakers to the several remaining audiophile tweakers who, if they heard wrapping their speakers with duct tape would help, would actually do it.

The Revel Performa F30’s weren’t out for a week before I had received raving phone calls and e-mails urging me to get the F30’s in for review. One of my best friends had one of the first pairs of available F30’s installed in his theater system, along with Proceed electronics and ultimately a full Revel Performa 5.1 system, including two Ultima series subwoofers. I was immediately impressed at his New Year’s party. I had to fight the urge to hog the sofa to get an extended listen to the mix of Orbital and Paul Okenfeld rocking all night. On subsequent trips back to his place, I was able to hear the F30’s as the transducers in a 84-inch HDTV system. The emotional experience was enough to give this jaded reviewer goose bumps, even though my reference system is valued at over six times more than my buddy’s.

The system I employed for the majority of my listening was on the higher side of what many F30’s owners may start with, including a Mark Levinson No. 39 CD player ($5,995), Mark Levinson No.383 100-watt per channel integrated amplifier ($5,995), along with Transparent Ultra speaker and balanced interconnect cables. I had the speakers set exactly three feet from the front wall, seven feet apart and my listening position about nine to nine-and-a-half feet from the speakers.

The Revel Performa F30’s come with attenuation (EQ) for the tweeters, which is a mighty handy tool when trying to elicit the best out of a high-performance loudspeaker in a real-world room. Don’t let audiophile geeks give you this "EQ is evil" garbage. They are way off. My entire front wall is glass. I was therefore happy to have the ability to tune the Revels down if I needed to. Strangely, I found the flat setting the best for this application, although the F30’s have attenuation of plus or minus 0.5 to 1 dB in each direction, hot or cold, which could potentially be very useful.

I did spend more time than usual playing around with the grilles than I normally do during a speaker review. The Revel Performa F30 has two separate grilles – one that looks like the letter "U" filled in and center-justified with the top of the speaker. I preferred to take this grille off. The 10-inch woofer has a round grille that I could take or leave. I do like the opalescent color of the drivers, which made me decide that the F30’s looked cooler with the grilles off. I liked the sound of the F30’s better with the top grille off, albeit the detectable audio change was very small.


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