Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeaker Page 3

I also heard what Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times called "explosive lyricism, surging power, and incisive attack" from pianist Yundi Li's recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto 2, with Seiji Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic (CD, Deutsche Grammophon 001017502). And I enjoyed the natural balance of bass weight, treble control, and slight reverberation in pianist Robert Silverman's recording of Liszt's Liebestraum.

Vocal recordings were rendered with outstanding timbral accuracy and stunning realism. The Salon2 captured a smoothness and lyricism in tenor Albert Jordan's version of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You?" on Cantus (CD, Cantus CTS-1207), that I'd never heard before. Harry Connick, Jr.'s rich baritone singing "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," from the When Harry Met Sally . . . soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 45319), was as natural and realistic as I've heard it, with none of the honk, midbass emphasis, or closed-in quality I've heard from lesser speakers.

The Salon2s delivered a deep, broad, rock-solid image of the soundstage, projecting a solid, three-dimensional image of the full choir, powerful organ, and harp on A Gaelic Prayer, from John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR57-CD)—as well as a sonic image of the choir that hovered suspended, deep offstage, behind the voice of tenor José Carreras on the Kyrie from Ariel Ramirez's Misa Criolla, conducted by José Luis Ocejo (CD, Philips 420 955-2).

Like the Salon1 before it, the Salon2 had outstanding timbral accuracy that allowed me to hear subtle qualities of male vocalists in choirs, the reediness of wind instruments, and the sounds of drum rims and soundboards. I noticed a series of distinct resonances in the male chorus singing "Lord Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace," from Rutter's Requiem, and the solo bassoon that opens Le Sacre du Printemps was unusually rich, sweet, and captivating.

The Salon2 demonstrated jaw-dropping dynamics in my listening room. I heard no grain or compression until the amplifier ran out of steam. The Salon2 played synthesizer and bass-drum crescendos so well that I kept cranking up the volume. David Hudson's raw, pulsing, raspy, bass-didgeridoo version of "Rainforest Wonder," from his Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia IA2003 D), and the thudding, sledgehammer-like bass synth in "Assault on Ryan's House," from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2), hit exceptional peak SPLs, but the Salon2 refused to choke. The Stravinsky recording thrilled me, especially when the wind instruments joined the thunderous stomping of strings used as percussion. The Rite's pulsing tempo and surging energy built through Adoration of the Earth, near the end of Part 1, then erupted into the explosive Dance of the Earth. The Salon2 possessed all the power, range, and pitch definition I've heard from the best powered subwoofers. I let up only when the Krell FPB-600c blew my house's circuit breakers.

The Ultima Salon2 remained in complete control, falling silent after each percussion note. Cymbals sounded startlingly clear, utterly transparent, and sweet—as in the opening of "The Mooche," from Jerome Harris's Rendezvous, and Patricia Barber's "Noxus," from Café Blue (SACD, Premonition/Blue Note/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2002). The Salon2s had a spatial precision that I normally associate only with my Quad ESL-989 electrostatic speakers. Nor was the Revel's ability to deliver large, even amounts of sonic power into my listening room done at the expense of the most subtle musical details. After I pointed out, to the usually taciturn John Atkinson, the utter clarity of Jerome Harris's soft bass-guitar line in "The Mooche"—JA had been the recording engineer for Rendezvous—I heard him whisper, "These are very good loudspeakers, Larry." The resolution with which this subdued bass line was being presented struck us both as most impressive, especially coming from 178-lb, floorstanding, full-range, dynamic speakers.

Summary
While I find the sounds of Revel's Ultima Salon1, the Quad ESL-989, the Burmester B-99, and the Dynaudio Evidence Master to be still among my favorites, the Revel Ultima Salon2 is the best-performing, most natural-sounding full-range loudspeaker I have auditioned in my listening room since I started writing for Stereophile in 1984. The Revel design team has smoothed the Salon1's upper midrange while retaining that award-winning speaker's powerful bass extension, timbral accuracy, and superb dynamics. The result is an open and transparent top end, an utterly neutral and grain-free midrange, and bass that is extended and pitch-perfect. The Ultima Salon2 does all this while sounding completely neutral, with top-to-bottom smoothness, coherence, and remarkable resolution of detail.

While $22,000/pair is a lot of money, the quality of this loudspeaker equals that of others costing up to three times as much. In the Salon2, Kevin Voecks and his team have produced far more than a cosmetic upgrade of the Salon1. They have created a new reference standard in floorstanding loudspeakers that has earned my strongest recommendation.

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