Revel Ultima Studio2 loudspeaker

This is my fourth review of a Revel loudspeaker, and I was even more excited by the arrival of the Ultima Studio2s ($15,999/pair) than I was when their predecessors, the original Ultima Studios ($10,799/pair when first reviewed; $15,000/pair when last listed in "Recommended Components"), were delivered in 2000. (See my review in the December 2000 Stereophile, Vol.23 No.12.) After all, the Studios were my reference speakers for years and, along with the larger Ultima Salons, were statement products that were the product of the talented designer Kevin Voecks and the considerable resources of Harman International, parent of Revel as well as of JBL and Infinity. Over the years, I've also reviewed Revel's Performa F30 (May 2000, Vol.23 No.5) and Concerta F12 (July 2006, Vol.29 No.7), each outstanding at its price point. If, after all these years, Voecks and his team were ready to reconsider their statement products, they should be something special.

But when I saw the prototype of the Studio2 at the 2006 CEDIA Expo, I was somewhat deflated. Unlike the original Studio, which was assembled from separately formed bass and treble cabinets bound together by curved slab sides, the Studio2 lacked that unique appearance and seemed to be mere spare columns, albeit with gracefully curved sides and back. Still, the sound at the demo was exciting, and I immediately put in a request to get a review pair as soon as possible.

Things moved slowly, and they didn't arrive till late 2007. Further delay in auditioning for this report resulted from one of the original pair having no tweeter output due to shipping damage, though the driver itself was functional.

See it now!
Although I had hoped my review samples of the Ultima Studio2 would be finished in glowingly rich mahogany, my pair was in a piano-black finish so perfectly glossy it looks almost like . . . plastic. This wasn't helped by a door of actual plastic that matches the cabinet finish and covers the connection/control panel on the lower rear. I can understand that some people might prefer the terminal connections to be invisible, but to me it was only an obstruction. I have no other quibbles about the fit'n'finish of the Studio2, and its appearance, both in finish and in profile, grew on me the longer the pair of them stood in my living room. Still, it seems less impressive, as furniture, than a $16,000/pair speaker should be.

The Studio2 stands a bit taller than the original because the bass enclosure's flared port is aimed downward into a space created by incorporating a nonremovable base. The advantage of this configuration is that the port's output is more reliably predefined than if the port were on the front or rear. The Studio2 is also slimmer because great attention has been paid to creating a uniform in-room dispersion of sound. For example, the four drivers are set into a 21/2"-thick contoured front panel that virtually eliminates the edge diffractions of more rectangular boxes that make imaging unstable. The Studio2's sides curve smoothly around to the rear—there are no sharp edges anywhere except at the bottom of the enclosure. To retain the virtues resulting from the smooth contours, the front grille fabric is stretched over a rigid frame that firmly attaches to the cabinet with magnets—no fixtures protrude to affect the dispersion even minimally.

The choice and implementation of each internal element continues the attention to detail seen in the cabinet. Beginning at the top, Revel uses a tweeter with a dome of pure beryllium. The tweeter is set in what looks like a shallow depression but is really a sophisticated waveguide. This ensures a uniform high-frequency dispersion that is independent of the frontal dimensions of the cabinet and more closely matches that of the midrange driver. It also permits the elimination of the original Studio's rear-firing supplementary tweeter. In addition, the tweeter's mechanical resonance has been reduced to below 600Hz, in part because of its highly compliant surround, which makes for an easier and superior crossover nearly two octaves higher.

The 5.5" midrange driver and the two 8" woofers have inverted-dome titanium diaphragms and neodymium magnet assemblies—a level of sophistication beyond that even of the midranges in the original Studio. The goal of using such lightweight but ultra-rigid diaphragms driven by powerful motors is to make these drivers store as little energy as possible, for excellent transient response. As in the original Studio, high-slope crossovers are used to minimize driver overlap, which in turn contributes to improved dispersion—an abiding theme.

Access to the connections and crossover is behind that little plastic back door, where you'll find LF and HF terminals suitable for biwiring, a low-frequency compensation control, and a tweeter-level control. The LF control has settings of Normal (for when the speaker is 3' or more from walls or large objects), Contour (to compensate for an unfortunate position with regard to room modes), and Boundary (for when the speaker is less than 2' from a room boundary or large object). The tweeter-level control adjusts the highs to complement the general room acoustics. I needed neither adjustment in my room, though they did have subtle effects that I expect would be useful in more problematic rooms.

Hear it now!
Unpacking and setup were easy, as I've come to expect from Revel, although one new wrinkle is the need to remove the "eye patch" that protects the beryllium tweeter during shipping and handling. I biwired the Studio2s, for consistency and more out of habit than necessity, and placed them where the original Studios had sat. They seemed less sensitive than most speakers to small changes of position and angle, a consequence of their uniform dispersion. Still, they benefited, on a micro level, from a little tweaking; I ended up with them about 1' closer to each other than the Mk.1 Studios, and with less toe-in than with most speakers. The grille made no noticeable difference in the overall balance or HF level. With the grille off, and unless I put my ear within an inch or two of the tweeter or woofer, all the sound seemed to come from the midrange driver, regardless of the frequencies involved. That's great matching and integration of the drive-units.

COMPANY INFO
Revel, Harman Specialty Group
1718 W. Mishawaka Road
Elkhart, IN 46517
(516) 594 0300
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COMMENTS
zettelsm's picture

Hi Kal,

As one of the folks who's been able to live with both the Studio 2 and Salon 2, what's your assessment? How much does the Studio 2 give up to the Salon 2 overall? What do you think about pairing the less expensive Studio 2s with one or two of Revel's subwoofers, or maybe a sub from JL's Fathom series. We're talking 24' X 18' room with 9' ceilings and open stairwell to the next level.

Thanks for your time,

Steve Z
Libby, MT

tmsorosk's picture

I've lived with the Studio 2's for a year now can verify everything that was stated in Kalmans review.

I moved up from the Salon one's and was planning on purchasing the Salon 2's but after hearing both decided the Studio 2 was the better balanced speaker.

Still the best speaker I've heard at it's price point. A true bargain.

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