Revel Salon loudspeaker Page 2

Setup
I placed the Revel Salons where my Quad ESL-63s had done best: 63" from the rear wall and 36" from the side walls, on a circular area rug. The Salons faced the full length of my listening room, which is 26' long, 13' wide, and 12' high, with a semi-cathedral ceiling. The back of the room opens into a 25' by 15' kitchen through an 8' by 4' doorway. Even in this large listening area—over 5000 cubic feet—the Salon produced high volumes. Its 86dB/2.83V/m voltage sensitivity falls within the range this magazine has found to be normal. Medium-powered solid-state amplifiers such as my 100Wpc Mark Levinson No.331 were able to generate loud levels with little evidence of clipping. Even so, I chose the high-powered Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks (954W each into 4ohms) for most of my listening, for their power reserves and easily visible front-panel clipping indicators.

Final adjustments included comparative nearfield (8') and farfield (16') listening, low-frequency signal-generator sweeps, phase checks, pink-noise auditions, and optimization of listening-chair placement for optimal soundstaging and imaging.

The Salons had solid output down to 19Hz in my listening room, with no doubling (the production of second-harmonic distortion). Playing Stereophile's Test CD 3 for channel checks and phasing, I moved my chair around until I could hear the in-phase pink-noise signal as a holographic patch about 6" in diameter suspended about 4' above the floor. Imaging and soundstaging were optimized when the speakers and my chair formed the apices of an equilateral triangle 8' on a side (measured from the tweeter centers). The Salons' tonal balance did not change when I played pink noise and conducted the "sit down, stand up, walk around" test.

Using both pink noise and J. Gordon Holt's voice on Stereophile's first Test CD (STPH002-2), I tried adjusting the Salon's three rear-panel system-optimization knobs. Turning off the rear tweeter caused JGH's voice to harden. Front-tweeter boost or cut adjustments were subtle, but I preferred the "0dB" position. As for the bass adjustments around 50Hz, the "-" position kept JGH from sounding too "chesty." As a result, I left the rear tweeter on, the front tweeter set at default ("0"), and the low-frequency compensation knob set at "-".

Sound
The Revel Salon's most striking sonic characteristics were its bass response—deep, powerful, solid, and tonally accurate—and resolution of detail. With each selection I played, I heard more inner detail, felt more power, and seemed to connect faster to the music. David Hudson's raw, pulsing, raspy bass didgeridoo on "Rainforest Wonder" from Didgeridoo Spirit (Indigenous Australia IA2003 D); the solid tonal underpinnings of the powerful pipe-organ pedal notes on Elgar's Dream of Gerontius (Test CD 2, Stereophile STPH004-2); the massively percussive, sledgehammerlike thudding bass in "Assault on Ryan's House" from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2)—no matter the recording, the Salon's superb bass response swept me into the music in new and exciting ways. Those three woofers had the power, range, and pitch definition I've heard only in the best powered subwoofers. From the deepest bass up through the midrange, bass notes betwee! n 25 and 50Hz had a seamlessness—a sonic evenness—that I hadn't heard before. Even though there was no apparent bass prominence, I found it easier than ever before to follow bass lines.

But music is more than bass. Did the Salon meet its design goals of timbral accuracy, low distortion, and lack of dynamic compression?

The Salon's timbral abilities were topnotch, as heard on "For Turiya," from Alice Coltrane and Charlie Haden's Closeness (LP, Horizon/A&M SP-710). The Salon projected a solid, three-dimensional image of Haden's closed-miked acoustic bass, but also brought out—for the first time—a dark sonority in the interaction between plucked strings and fingerboard.

This timbral accuracy allowed me to resolve musical textures in a way I hadn't been able to before. I turned back, time after time, to music I thought I knew, only to hear more information about the reediness of wind instruments, the subtle qualities of the human voice in choirs, the inner sounds of drumheads and soundboards. For the first time, I noticed additional resonances in the male chorus singing "Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace," from Requiem (Reference Recordings RR-57). The bass clarinet soloist's sound on H. Owen Reed's La Fiesta Méxicana on Fiesta (Reference RR-38CD) was unusually lovely, sweet, and captivating.

The Salon was less prone to distortion and dynamic compression than the previous Voecks design I had heard in my listening room, the Snell Type A Reference. This was evident while playing deep-bass transients at high volumes. The Liberty Fanfare from Winds of War and Peace (Wilson Audio WCD-8823) includes a close-miked bass drum. The Salon's woofers played this fortissimo drumstroke as a sudden, well-defined thud with a cleanly defined leading edge. There were no lingering overtones, no overhang, and no disturbance of the midrange or treble sounds. Strangely enough, the usual subwoofer pyrotechnics—shaking floors, rattling baseboards—were absent, although the note had more heft, solidity, and slam than heard before. Nor did the Salon's woofers evince compression during sustained bass notes, as was shown by the "First Haunting/The Swordfight" from the Casper soundtrack (MCA MCAD-11240). The Salon played the synthesizer and bass-drum cresce! ndos so well that I advanced the volume until the Bryston 7B-STs' clipping lights flashed—but the Salon remained clean, refusing to choke.

COMMENTS
Ornello's picture

These abominations are some of the worst speakers i have ever heard. That they are sold, let alone that the 'manufacturer' asks $15,000 per pair for theses abominations, is an insult to the human race.

makrisd's picture

Are you experiencing hearing problems? Probably the best speakers in the world!

Ornello's picture

These abominations sound like crap. My hearing is exceptional.

Christopher's picture

@Ornello :
You must not be familiar with Harmon Audio Group's testing facilities and procedures, and, you also must not have heard these speakers working properly. Either you heard some bad quality clones, or there was something terribly wrong with some other piece of equipment in the chain, or, very bad source material.

Because not only do these speakers measure exceptionally well from an entirely objective perspective, they also have EXCELLENT sound quality both from my perspective as a person who listened to them while working for a COMPETITOR -and- from the perspective of a panel of expert trained listeners working at the parent company.

Even if these speakers did not suit your personal preference [for non-neutral sound], I don't believe you honestly could have listened to them and come away with an opinion that the were not at least "generally excellent"!

In 2003 I went to all the major high end audio boutiques in Manhattan and auditioned several of their finest (and some more modest) speakers at each store. The Madrigal Revel Salon Ultimas stood out as clearly superior to every other pair we heard over that period of a couple days that we spend listening to the best the competition had to offer. Every other pair had at least some minor unpleasant quality to their sound, these were the only ones where nothing stood out as an obvious imperfection to their ability to accurately and dynamically reproduce recorded music.

makrisd's picture

When and where did you hear these? What is your favourite speaker system?

Ornello's picture

I own Yamaha NS-1000M speakers. Prior to that I owned Rogers Studio 1s. Either of these trounce the Revels.

steve59's picture

I got lucky enough to get a pair to and these speakers live up to their reputation bigtime. I'm generally disappointed by hi-end loudspeakers because my mid-fi electronics tend to translate into harsh, ultra revealing noise that's not musical, in fact I was in the process of upgrading my electronics when I found these and drivin by an anthem 225I and kimber 4tc wire these are the most impressive and musical speakers i've had and I can finally say my home system sounds as good as the systems I hear at the hifi stores. I'm sure better electronics will produce better sound but it's nice that they sound great as is. previous speakers, revel f52, VA beethoven, kef 107/2, 105/3, Dyn audience 80. The 107/2 are full range but can't compare to the salon.

amh020's picture

Dear Ornello,
I also own Yamaha's NS1000 and I am familier with the Salon2. I think the design strategies of both speakers are not that different. Recent measurements on NS1000 drivers show that the big mid driver has exceptional dispertion even at 5K. Distortion levels at around 1KHz are extremely low, like no cone driver can give. The Yamaha's sound extremely detailed without dynamic compression. The Salon2 sounds like that too, a bit less detailed in the mids and a bit more modern (laid back). And if you haven't upgraded some filter components then I believe the Salons can sound better then the yamaha's.
The Salons were and still are a high-end bargain, if your amp can handle the low impedance. If you can't afford them, buy second hand Yamaha's and recap the filters.

Ornello's picture

No way. The Revels are horrid in every way. Typical American speakers, 'badass' rather than good.

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