Revel Salon loudspeaker A Visit to the Revel Factory

A Visit to the Revel Factory
Driving 75 miles on Southern California's crowded freeways was a first for me, but I was determined to visit designer Kevin Voecks at Harman International's Northridge facility. I traveled north from Anaheim, through Hollywood, past the Van Nuys airport, turned off Balboa Boulevard into Harman's parking lot (catching just a glimpse of the beautiful San Gabriel mountains in the distance), and entered a huge, 450,000-square-foot factory once used to assemble Titan missiles.

The next hour was a blur as Kevin and his engineering team raced me through Revel's engineering digs. I walked by the new, fully automated production line used to manufacture the Salon's unique midrange driver; perched myself on the wire-screen floor of the 5000-cubic-foot "4Pi," full-space anechoic chamber used to collect exacting measurements on early Salon prototypes; took a computer-aided instruction program used to train Revel's double-blind listening panel; sat in the darkened, ultraquiet Multichannel Listening Laboratory as a hydraulic speaker mover shifted loudspeakers in a simulated listening test; held a plastic port horn carved by laser using stereo lithography; and looked—very carefully—over a huge laser measuring the vibrational resonance velocities of Salon side panels.

All during this engineering walkabout, I chatted with Kevin Voecks about his role in the Salon's creation...

Larry Greenhill: Kevin, how did you come to be a loudspeaker designer?

Kevin Voecks: I started engineering school, but left to go into retail... While working at Natural Sound in Massachusetts, I became frustrated with the high-end loudspeakers I sold, and what traditional engineering offered for loudspeaker design. I left retail to start Symdex, with the goal of making better loudspeakers. My first designs followed the trends in vogue, with time-aligned drivers and first-degree crossovers that reproduced squarewaves. Later, I worked on the M-1 Mirage, developing an early prototype later perfected by John Tchilinguirian and Ian Paisley. Next, I went to work at Snell Acoustics, and began to spend time at Canada's National Research Council's [NRC] audio laboratory in Ottawa, where I first worked with Floyd Toole. Two years ago, I joined Revel.

Greenhill: You once told me that you moved to Revel because there you'd finally have the research budget adequate for designing a better high-end loudspeaker. How does a bigger research budget translate into a better loudspeaker?

Voecks: At Revel, we've had the luxury of being able to design drivers from scratch, and not have to settle for what I can purchase from other manufacturers. That allows me to make the ideal tradeoffs. Say I want a driver to extend well above the crossover point, as well as have excellent power handling and avoid dynamic compression. If I had to use the typical lossy cone available in OEM drivers, it had to be well damped so breakup was not apparent. In the past, I might have had to use Band-Aids to cover up the breakup problem.

Here at Revel we can get the extended upper range by designing our own driver with a lower-mass cone material: titanium. I want it to have good power handling, which usually means a heavier motor structure. Because the titanium does not have a low-frequency breakup mode, I can use a huge voice-coil and still have high-frequency extension. I was able to specify a curved front baffle to reduce reflections, where previously I could use only the standard box enclosure with strategically placed pieces of felt, which did the same job but not as well. Now I can have it all!

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COMMENTS
Ornello's picture

These abominations are some of the worst speakers i have ever heard. That they are sold, let alone that the 'manufacturer' asks $15,000 per pair for theses abominations, is an insult to the human race.

makrisd's picture

Are you experiencing hearing problems? Probably the best speakers in the world!

Ornello's picture

These abominations sound like crap.

makrisd's picture

When and where did you hear these? What is your favourite speaker system?

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