Revel Performa F30 loudspeaker Page 2
However, the initial results I obtained were what I had feared from the wide-dispersion specs. The speaker end of my room is fairly hard, with large windows and mostly nonabsorbent surfaces, which added some glare to the presentation. In addition, the large, reflective yew-wood credenza immediately to the left of the left speaker, and the absorbent sofa to the right of the right speaker, created a significant tonal imbalance. If I toed the F30s in so much that the left speaker aimed away from the credenza, then the right one was aimed at it. Either way, the glare was not entirely restricted to the left speaker, and could not be cured by turning down the tweeter-level control, as the problem extended into the midrange. This was infuriating, as otherwise, the F30s seemed to sound as I had remembered them from the CES audition—the bass was tight and deep, and the oh-so-crucial midrange was clean and clear.
The solution was long in coming because it ran counter both to my intuition and to the computer analysis offered by Kevin Voecks prior to the F30s' arrival. We had both figured that moving the speakers closer to the listening position would smooth the response by increasing the proportion of direct sound to reflected radiation, but this made only a slight improvement. What made the real difference was to move the F30s farther back, until the left speaker was a good foot or more behind the credenza. Next, I placed a large, absorbent pillow against the end of the credenza. Finally, I carefully titrated the toe-in to balance the on-axis and reflected sounds at the listening position. The final adjustment aimed the speakers so that I could just barely see their side surfaces. That is, their axes crossed just behind the listening position.
The time I spent setting up the Performa F30s was no less than expected—such care and attention are imperative to get the best out of any wide-dispersion design. "Controlled-dispersion" (read: beaming) loudspeakers may be easier to set up, but are more demanding in use: they anchor the listener to the sweet spot. Ever get a neckache during attentive listening? That's what happens when the sweet spot is so small that normal head movements create big changes in perceived balance.
The F30s reproduced a very wide, stable soundstage that could be appreciated over a large area. Balance and imaging were equally good from anywhere on the listening couch, or even when I stood behind it. The F30 is one of the few speakers I've used—and, of those, the least expensive—that did not shift perspective when I turned up the volume, but only got louder.
The F30's midrange reproduction was among the best I've heard, rivaling the Artemis Eos Signature, the sainted Stax F-81, and Revel's own Ultima Studio (remember, they were already on the truck). The midrange unit's frequency domain encompassed all the fundamentals of the human voice and delivered them with seductive transparency. "All That I've Got," from Wendy Maharry (A&M CD5283), begins with whispers from the chorus and Maharry's soft tones. When well-reproduced, as with the F30, these voices are as realistically present as any I've heard on record. As the pace and volume increased and the instruments joined in, there was simply no grain and no loss of clarity. Throughout this progression, I could discern each voice and instrument as a discrete source, if I paid close attention, but there was no highlighting.
A bit higher up the spectrum, with Rickie Lee Jones' "Dat Dere" (Pop Pop, Geffen GEFD-24426), the illusion of transparency continued at both high and low volumes. Piano, too, was brilliantly reproduced, its percussive and resonant characteristics equally presented. Deep male voices were devoid of boom or overhang, even at high SPLs. Leonard Cohen sounded dry yet powerful throughout "Take This Waltz" (I'm Your Man, Columbia CK 44191), and Hans Theessink was huge and macho on "Call Me" (Burmester CD II). Indeed, with a matching system as capable and pleasing as this loudspeaker's midrange, the F30 would be as fine a speaker as can be obtained today.