Revel Performa F30 loudspeaker Page 4

The reproductions of good pop, rock, and jazz material were beyond cavil, but some live recordings, like the Eagles' "Hotel California" or Eric Clapton's "Layla" (Unplugged, Reprise 45024-2), offered an exciting propinquity to the performers at the expense of some compression of the depth of the crowd. Lewis Nash's cymbals on "Tin Tin Deo," from Oscar Peterson Meets Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore (Telarc CD-83399), were deliciously true but closer than previously experienced, even though the rest of the combo sounded just right.

As noted above, strings were generally beautifully presented, but on a few recordings they could take on an unnatural edge. The second movement of Shostakovich's Symphony 1 (Bernstein/CSO, DG 427 632-2) has long been one of my standard test recordings: it offers a wide dynamic range, from pianissimo strings to forte brass, and employs all the orchestral choirs as well as a piano. The F30 was up to the task in every way but one: Near the end of the movement, the violins' high sostenuto cut too hard. Perhaps this was related to the overtone structure of strings as compared with brass, or to the brass's more distant placement. I briefly thought that, just perhaps, what I heard through the F30 was really what's on the disc. After all, the strings are quite steely on a number of Bernstein's live DG recordings. But this unpleasantness was not apparent with the Ultima Studios or the smaller Soliloquy 5.3s when they occupied the same spots in my listening room.

There is no shortage of good speakers in the $3000-$5000 price range, and the F30 is surely one of them (he says with a smile). Within that range the Performa F30 faces stiff competition in matters of balance and frequency extension, but Revel's extraordinary midrange driver sets it apart. One needs to listen to ribbon and electrostatic drivers to hear anything to rival the F30's transparency and grainlessness, and those devices can't compete with the Revel in dynamics. This qualifies the F30 as a significant loudspeaker that serves the details and the dynamics of the music with clarity and precision.

Because of its potential, I subjected the F30 to great scrutiny, and the weight of my comments may thus seem negative. But my conclusion is that little distinguishes the F30 from the very top class: Its moderately light tonal balance limits its ability to (re)create a semblance of authority. It's unfair to say that it was overly bright, because its treble was not harsh or peaky. Neither is it fair to say that it lacked a strong bottom end, because it was capable of producing taut, room-shaking bass. Yet despite its frequency-response specs, the F30 seemed to perform as if it had a slightly tilted balance—the treble a bit up, the bass a bit down—some of which I can ascribe to my listening room. While it might not have been perfect for my room, I predict that the Performa F30 will be sensational in a warmer, more complementary acoustic.

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