Revel Home Theater (SGHT Review) Page 5

Tweaking around
Driven by the Proceed PAV/PDSD surround processor and the Krell KAV-500 amplifier, the Revels sounded rather bright fresh out of the box. In the preceding weeks, I had been living with three Snell LCR 2800s across the front, two Snell SUR 800 dipole surrounds, with a Velodyne F1800R II subwoofer. This system, with its superbly resolved yet rather laid-back treble and warm upper bass and midrange, sounded nothing at all like the vivid and detail-highlighted Revels. In short, I had to readjust to a very different sound. (The Snells were designed by Kevin Voecks about four years ago, using his then-current tools, drivers, and design philosophy. They are still very impressive speakers.)

I'm not as paranoid about breaking in equipment as many audiophiles, but I can easily accept the need for it when mechanical devices such as speakers are involved. Over the first hours of use, the Revels' slightly brash out-of-the-box sound smoothed out considerably. I also experimented with associated equipment during this period. How much of the overall improvement I heard was due to break-in and how much to equipment changes is difficult to say, but things really started to cook after the first couple of weeks.

The Krell KAV-500 amplifier and Proceed PAV/PDSD surround processor are both outstanding pieces, but their combined sound is crisp and a little analytical. I decided that the Revels need a softer touch, so I ultimately settled on the Proceed Amp5 (review in progress) and Meridian 861 surround controller. Along the way, the Aragon 8008ST and 8008x3 amplifiers also passed through the system, but the Amp5 ultimately proved to be the best match.

Toward the end of the review period, I went back to the Proceed AVP surround processor mentioned earlier (review in progress). The sound was still crisper than the Meridian 861, but it was a significant improvement over what I'd heard from the Revels when they were new. Nevertheless, the Meridian 861/Proceed Amp5 is a sweet combination with these speakers; it's hardly the only way to go, but it definitely worked for me.

Up and running at last
Once the speakers were broken in and driven by a carefully chosen balance of associated equipment, the overall sound of the Revel system was stunning. The first 15 minutes of The English Patient DVD contain a wealth of different sounds—tinkling bottles, a biplane flying over an endless expanse of desert, the sounds of war, a haunting musical score—all superbly recorded. I hadn't been all that impressed by this soundtrack when I heard it in the first-run AVCO theater in Los Angeles. But on the Revels, it's a delight: open and spacious, with rock-solid bass and highly detailed but not overdone highs. I doubt if it's possible to do greater justice to this excellent soundtrack than the Revels do. (THX Re-EQ was used for most of the soundtracks referenced in this review.)

On the other hand, there is nothing at all subtle about the Con Air soundtrack. With its over-the-top bass, aircraft overflights, and testosterone-laden sound effects, it's a sonic cartoon, just like most recent action flicks. But, hey, cartoons are fun, and the stunning reproduction of all of this mayhem is a blast to hear. I saw this film in the very same AVCO theater, and it didn't sound any better there than it does on the Revels; in fact, it wasn't as good, given the typical horn colorations of even the best movie-theater sound systems.

Particularly notable is the well-matched balance of the speakers in the Revel system, which produces a near-continuous speaker-to-speaker soundstage. Lesser home-theater systems too often provide several distinct, highlighted pools of sound that compete for your attention.

The Revels are striking in other ways. In The Game, they're equally at home reproducing the distinct traffic sounds as Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) enters the airport terminal, the over-the-top rock music that surprises him as he inspects his trashed house, and the stunningly deep bass throughout the film.