Revel Home Theater (SGHT Review) Page 4

The Revel speakers were installed in my approximately 7000-cubic-foot home-theater room. Two Gems flanked the projection screen and were toed-in, the Voice center-channel was placed below the screen and aimed up toward the listening position, and the Embrace surrounds were mounted high on the side walls. During this review, I tried the system with one and two SUB-15s placed in a front corner and driven from a single LE-1.

The subwoofer(s) can be connected in several ways. The recommended hookup uses the LE-1 amplifier's built-in highpass and lowpass filters instead of the filters in your surround processor. This is straightforward in a two-channel system, but not in a home-theater system.

Here's how it's done: The surround processor is set up for small surrounds and a small center-channel speaker, with full-range left and right fronts and no subwoofer. In most processors, this directs the bass from all channels to the front left and right speakers. But instead of connecting the front left and right outputs directly to their corresponding amplifiers, these signals are routed first through the LE-1. The amp's filters send the bass to the SUB-15(s) and routes the remaining, highpass-filtered left and right signals to the left and right amplifiers. The same method is used with stereo SUB-15s, except that the left and right signals are fed to two separate LE-1s.

One feature of the Revel system can be used only in this configuration. The highpass filter of the LE-1 amplifier incorporates a boundary-compensation control that compensates for near-wall placement of the Ultima Gems.

An alternate, more conventional connection scheme bypasses the filters in the LE-1 amplifier and uses the highpass and lowpass filters in the surround processor. As it turned out, I used this configuration for most of my listening because the first LE-1 we received was defective. Its level control would not work consistently, and its phase control did not operate smoothly, producing a slight mechanical scraping noise. (The first problem might have been due to a static-electricity discharge that occurred during setup, but this can't be confirmed.)

To assure a consistent way to adjust the subwoofer level, I hooked up the system using the filters in the surround processor. When the second amplifier arrived 10 days later, I had already begun my listening using this configuration, so I continued in that mode with the new amp. All the observations in this review were made with the alternate setup, except as noted. (The second LE-1's level control worked fine, but its phase control still made the same scraping sound.)

Toward the end of the review period, I did get a chance to try the recommended system hookup. The processor was the Proceed AVP, which was back in the system for other test purposes. I noted only one difference of significance between the recommended and alternate setups: The sound through the LE-1's filters was brighter and more up-front. These sonic attributes were well within the acceptable range, but I ultimately preferred the slightly more relaxed presentation using the surround processor's filters. However, I did find the bass through the LE-1's lowpass filter a bit tighter and more robust, but the difference was small enough that it might well have come from the small calibration differences in subwoofer level that each setup required.

If you invest in a complete Revel home-theater package, there is no downside to experimenting with both connections (other than the minor hassle of rewiring and recalibration). And if you decide to mate Revel's main speakers with another brand of subwoofer, my experience suggests that the sound of the Revels will not be compromised if you use a good surround processor.

Should you run the Embrace surrounds as bipole or dipole? In my room, there was little difference. I listened extensively in the dipole setting, and the surround performance was superb. I switched to bipole and found it exemplary. Most of my observations here relate to bipole operation, but I wouldn't change a word to describe the dipole configuration.

The differences between these modes depend heavily on the room, setup, seating position, and program material. Ideally, the speakers can be installed so you can switch modes from your listening chair. (For this review, I did not use the Dual Drive option.) However, it is relatively easy, even without remote switching, to experiment and determine your own preference.