Hales Revelation Three loudspeaker Page 3

For me, the first criterion in judging an audio component's performance is reproduction of the human voice. I listen to a lot of vocal music; if voices don't sound quite right (ie, like what I remember from live performances), I really don't care if bass extends to 7Hz or if the speaker will play loud enough for a rock concert. The Revelation Three was simply superb in the vocal department, neutral in tonality and free of artificial "hi-fi" overlay. I found this to be true with my usual vocal test pieces, like Sylvia McNair's Jerome Kern CD (Sure Thing: The Jerome Kern Songbook, Philips 442 129-2), and also with recordings that are of historical rather than audiophile interest, like transcriptions of Robert Merrill's 78s from the 1940s (The Magnificent Voice of Robert Merrill, Legato Classics LCD 199-1).

The Revelation Threes (usually driven by the Sonic Frontiers Power 2) allowed me to hear the unique quality of the voice and the artistry of the singer in command of the voice. With the best recordings, there was a strong sense of voice-in-the-room, but the speaker was also kind to recordings that were overly bright or had an inherent sibilant emphasis. The entire treble range seemed smooth and extended, virtually grain-free; and, despite the Three's aluminum-dome tweeter, I detected no "metallic" colorations.

There was also major good news at the other end of the range. No, the Revelation Three did not go down to 7Hz, but in my room the pair of them produced a clean 31.5Hz warble tone, and some semblance of a 25Hz warble tone (both tones from Stereophile's Test CD 3). (The bass was essentially gone by 20Hz.) The Three's bass was tight and "tuneful"—especially when driven by Bryston 7B-STs or the Carver Lightstar 2.0—and didn't have the lean'n'mean quality that was a characteristic of earlier Hales designs. There was some emphasis at 50Hz, but I know this to be a room mode. There was also a bit of a suckout in the 100Hz area; this, too, may well be a function of a specific room interaction. (I'll be interested in what the measurements show about the Revelation Three's performance in this part of the range.) I've had speakers in my listening room that go lower and are able to produce more bass volume (notably the Dunlavy SC-IVs), but the tradeoff is cost and size. For the price, and considering that it uses a single 10" driver, the Revelation Three's bass performance was outstanding.

The Revelation Three uses 24dB/octave (fourth-order) crossover filters, which means that its drivers cannot be time-aligned. The choice of crossover slopes remains a controversial topic among speaker designers. Those favoring 6dB/octave (first-order) slopes—eg, Dunlavy, Thiel, and Vandersteen—argue that the use of any other crossover configuration results in impaired accuracy of imaging and soundstaging. As the owner of Dunlavy SC-IVs, I've bought this argument. But now, having spent some time listening to the Revelation Threes, I'm not so sure. These speakers certainly do not lack soundstage depth or width, and the images within the soundstage are clearly defined. The imaging precision offered by the SC-IVs is perhaps better still, but the difference is exceedingly minor, and apparent mostly when playing purist recordings. The Revelation Three was actually superior to the SC-IV in maintaining its tonal balance over a wide listening area.

And what about the rhythm/pace/dynamics thing? Wes Phillips downrated the Hales Concept Five for being "rhythmically reticent" (Stereophile, January 1997). I wanted to hear if this was also a characteristic of the Revelation Three. Verdict: Not Guilty. As the main test piece, there was only one possible choice: Boogeyin'! (Wildchild! 02452), a band called A La Carte Brass & Percussion playing "swamprock, salsa & 'Trane." Played at the high level that this music demands, the boogeyin' came through loud and clear, the bass providing a solid rhythmic foundation. The Revelation Threes were able to play loud without audible strain, maintaining the clarity of musical textures. At very high levels—higher than I'm comfortable with—there was some low-treble glare, but the sound never turned nasty the way it does with speakers that have significantly compromised power handling.

An unplanned test of the Revelation Three's power handling came about when I accidentally connected the output of the D/A processor directly to the amplifier's input. When I pressed Play on the remote, with the full 110W output of the Sonic Frontiers Power 3 on tap, the effect was like that old Maxell cassette-tape ad, with the guy being blown out of his chair. It took three or four seconds before I figured out what had happened and managed to turn off the amplifier. I thought I might have smoked the speakers, but there was no apparent damage. Not a test to try at home, kids.

Much of my listening for pleasure—as opposed to critical listening, which is not always pleasurable—is late in the evening, which means that music has to be played at a low level. Many speakers lose detail and resolution at this level, but not the Revelation Three. Other than a diminution of bass (Fletcher-Munson, you know), everything was there in all the right proportions, with no change in harmonics or spatial definition.

16812 Gothard Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
(714) 841-6884