Manufacturer: HARMAN Luxury Audio Group
t’s a revelation, truly a revelation! – says one of my friends whenever he is so deeply touched by a particular sonic aspect that he can’t sit still. ‘Revelation’ in this context means something surprising and distinctive at the same time, filling us with admiration and awe. The word is also used for a striking disclosure of something previously unknown or not realized. It just so happens that the American company Revel evokes both those meanings.
Founded in the 1990s, Revel Loudspeakers was created with one goal in mind – to complement the product lineup of the high-end giant across the Big Pond, Mark Levinson. At the helm stood a pair of talented designers, Floyd Toole and Kevin Voecks. For the starters, they launched the Gem stand mount speakers gaining instant approval for their appearance. Their unique design was recognized by the movie industry and the speakers featured alongside Mark Levinson electronics and a Rega turntable in Nancy Meyers 2000 film What Women Want starring Mel Gibson. The American market wasn’t captured until Revel launched the next line, Ultima, including the Salon and Studio models. These very expensive speakers were next followed by the more affordable Concentra and Performa lines. A third generation of the latter has just been launched, comprising the M20 and the bigger M30.
The Performa3 line was showcased at the CES 2012 in Las Vegas and began selling in mid-2012 (see HERE). It includes a full home theater system that can provide two stand mount speakers for stereo playback – the M105 and M106, and two floorstanding speakers – the F208 and the F206 reviewed today. Smaller of the two floorstanding designs, the F206 is actually not all that small. Placed on the Acoustic Revive RST-38H isolation boards, and the Acoustic Revive SPU 8 receptacles under the tightly mounted spikes, they are as tall as the massive Harbeth M40.1. Standing next to each other, both speakers’ tweeters and midrange drivers are at the same height. The F206 is a beautifully assembled three-way, four-driver design in a slim, front vented cabinet with curved sides and the rear. The cabinet features strategically-oriented internal bracing and its thick walls are finished with great-looking veneers. High-gloss black or white finish is also available. Kevin Voecks says that the cabinet was designed by one of the best Italian companies but unfortunately he doesn’t want to reveal its name. All the drivers, the 25 mm dome tweeter, 133 mm midrange driver and two 165 mm woofers have been designed and manufactured in-house by Revel, which gives the engineers a full control over the project. The speakers are manufactured in Indonesia.
Have a look at the You Tube clip below with Adam Sankin’s material, in which Kevin Voecks talks about the Performa3 line.
Albums auditioned during this review
The method of auditioning and evaluating audio products employed by me is to compare the individual components, speakers, cables and accessories of my reference system and the product under review. The better the reference point, that is the higher the quality of the reference system, the greater the certainty that the sonic alterations brought by the newly auditioned component will be identified. The basic assumption is that the reference system is linear, neutral and modifies the sound as little as possible. Equally important, however, is another assumption – that the reviewer simply likes the sound of a reference system. To some extent, it modifies assumption number one as it introduces to the testing method a subjective element. After all, we all like something different. I talked about this with a number of audio journalists, as part of the "The Editors" series, and everyone repeated the same thing - the real trick is not in recognizing the differences between the reviewed product and the reference, but in balancing our personal reasons - what I like - with objective reasons, that is with the knowledge and experience gained over the years of listening to hundreds and thousands of products under controlled conditions and according to a proven method. It just so happens that the first impression is almost always based on personal preferences. It is only later, during the processing of the collected data that the observations are rationalized.
That is why what we hear right after swapping the speakers is so important. In my method, it is important to daily "re-calibrate" my hearing to the reference system. Before the actual testing, I first listen to the pre-selected tracks on the complete reference system and only then proceed to do an A/B comparison of each track individually. Changing the powerful Harbeths, equipped with a 300 mm woofer, for the slender Revels I did not expect the latter to retain the scale and "drama" that the British speakers are able to convey. I verified that in the following auditions and eventually heard the difference between one and the other, but through the whole review I had in my mind the moment when I first heard God Is Dead?, Black Sabbath’s track from their latest album 13. What drew my attention was the sound’s scale and breath. Low, slow guitars and drums intro followed by the wall of sound was shown by the American speakers freely, without any sense of damping or stifling. It was evident right from the beginning that their sound was clear and selective. The location of instruments within the soundstage to a large extent resembled the Harbeth’s, although F206’s focus on the first plane was rather obvious and it was showed stronger than further planes. The back of the soundstage was quite far away and the acoustics was not diminished yet further planes were pulled to the front. This can and often does end badly, as all of a sudden lots of various sounds end up on one plane, usually mashed up into a "blob". And if the speakers selectively decided to play, the sound is too bright, almost aggressive. For this reason, many a pair of speakers would only last through the first couple of tracks before getting packed back up and sent back to the distributor or manufacturer. The American speakers, however, passed through with flying colors. The reason is that they combine cleanness, selectivity and a really well and carefully judged tonal balance. Hence, their volume was not significantly different from that of the Harbeths, just like the tonal balance. For me, it simply means it's good.
To get to the next layer, I needed louder tracks with more energy and a stronger beat. First, however, I listened to vocals on the remixes of Diorama Child of Entertainment ("Broken"), Depeche Mode Soothe My Soul ("Gregor Tresher Shooted Remix") and Frank Sinatra from his album Songs For Swingin 'Lovers! on Mobile Fidelity. With all them the Revel speakers sounded smooth, large, and full, showing excellent driver integration. Particularly impressive was the presentation of human voices, which were large, saturated and located slightly toward the front, right on the speaker line. I had the impression of "being there" – perhaps not as overwhelming as with the Harbeths, but really rewarding. It’s not something that happens too often. In terms of midrange saturation and resolution, the British speakers are outstanding and every other speaker I heard at home could only try to match it. The American speakers fell just short yet their version was really good and didn’t lack anything in particular, especially considering the multiple price difference between them and the columns of reference.
With higher transients, the stronger upper midrange became more apparent. It’s not unpleasant, but worth remembering. As the speakers show lots of information, very close to the listener, higher vocal registers and the higher range of electric guitars or trumpets, etc. is quite strong. The Revels don’t lose control over it but they need attention in terms of their distance from the listening position. They should be at least 2.5 m, and even better over 3 m away from us. Only then do all the drivers "stick" together and can’t be heard separately, which is important as that’s the designers’ trick that came off. With the right positioning it’s difficult to identify crossover points between the drivers. The low bass will not be a problem, even in a small room. There is plenty of it and the range is well covered, yet the lowest octave sounds a bit weaker compared to those above it. Still, it’s done so gracefully that the only way to figure it out is a comparison against such speakers as the Harbeth. It’s not manifested as a lack of bass and there is a sense of ample power and mass. Rather, the American speakers don’t present such full-bodied soundstage and as firmly anchored to the floor as the Harbeth does. On the other hand, the recently reviewed Tannoy Definition DC10, much bigger and more expensive than the F206, didn’t show a lower bass extension nor did they have a "bigger" sound (see HERE). The PMC OB1i exhibited a stronger and better focused bass, yet clearly emphasized this range (see HERE). However, they didn’t have the same midrange and treble selectivity and breath that makes the F206 sound so astounding.
Revel is part of Harman International, one of the world's largest audio companies. It has access to extensive research facilities and spends lots of money on development, employing the best engineers who really enjoy what they do and are proud of their results. All of this can be seen and heard in the F206 that looks simply beautiful and its sonic characteristics demonstrate that its designers managed to overcome various problems that prove too difficult for many other manufacturers.
The F206s are easy to set up. There are no particular restrictions on more or less toe-in or on the distance to the back wall. They will always sound in a similar way, slightly modified to our expectations. They do not require expensive electronics much above their own price level and will be a good match even for amplifiers costing below 10,000 PLN, as long as they are good.
One just can’t dislike slender speakers. When they are nicely assembled and finished, they must please anyone. Although the F206’s cabinet echoes design ideas from several other manufacturers, the whole makes a very good impression. A "hood" covering the top has been taken from KEF. Originally, this was an extension of the inner chamber designed to minimize tweeter diffraction. Here it’s more of a decorative nature as the tweeter is located much lower. I wouldn’t rule out its more important role, though, that of stiffening the top. The "hood" is an aluminum cast and hence is perfectly suitable for this task. A rounded lyre-shaped back of the cabinet, in turn, is the legacy left to the audio world by the late Franco Serblin. Sonus faber’s owner never patented it and the shape is now widely used. This way the speakers from the Performance3 line resemble Revel’s flagship Ultima2 design. The cabinet is made of many layers of curved and laminated wood with a total thickness of 25 mm. It features strategically-oriented internal bracing and the midrange driver has its own separate chamber. The speakers are covered with natural veneer and have a high gloss lacquer finish. They are stabilized with quite tall plinths permanently connected to the cabinet. Four long adjustable spikes with large locking rings are screwed to the bottom.
The F206 is a three-way four-driver bass-reflex design. All driver units have aluminum diaphragms. They’re black anodized for aesthetic reasons, and look really good. The midrange driver and the two woofers working in parallel are equipped with ribbed aluminum cones for increased rigidity. They feature rubber suspensions and cast baskets. A 25mm dome tweeter is placed in a concave acoustic waveguide resembling a short horn. It’s not meant to raise its sensitivity but to provide a better integration with the 133 mm midrange driver and better dispersion, especially off-axis. The manufacturer calls this solution "Acoustic Lens Waveguide", here in its 6th generation. Tweeter dome is protected by metal grille. The tweeter has been designed specifically for the new Performa3 line. Bass-reflex port is located on the front panel, below the lower 165 mm woofer. The port features identical flares on both ends and is designed minimize port-generated noise. The crossover frequencies are at 275 Hz and 2150 Hz. As we read in the user manual, the crossover networks are of high-order and use carefully selected components to reduce distortion and dynamic compression and optimize timbral accuracy enhancing on-axis and off-axis phase response. This minimizes sound degradation in listening rooms characterized by a "live" acoustic signature, or in other words by a low absorption coefficient of all surfaces. Such rooms are actually most common. User manual provides valuable information on the speaker placement and acoustic room treatment. Crossover networks are mounted on two boards, attached to the back panel. One board houses components of the woofer crossover network section and the other houses the midrange driver and tweeter section. The crossover components include core and air coils and electrolytic and polypropylene capacitors. Internal wiring is made with stranded copper with slip-on connectors to connect driver terminals. A single pair of solid gold plated speaker binding posts is located on the rear panel. The cabinet is heavily damped with low density felt.
Specification (according to the manufacturer)
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: fuse – power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) – wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One