Revel Ultima Gem loudspeaker & Ultima Sub-15 subwoofer Page 4

One area of weakness for all subwoofers is the quality of the feed to the main, high-pass-filtered speakers. It's nice to have the bass extension, but not if this is at the expense of added midrange grain or a reduction in the soundstage. The LE-1 added a very faint treble haziness to the system's presentation that was noticeable on direct comparison but was not significant when I was assessing the system on its own sonic merits.

As I was writing up the measurements for this review, I was listening to the Adagietto from the 1991 Welsh Symphony Orchestra's live recording of Mahler's Symphony 5 with Tadaaki Otaka (BBC Music Vol.I No.9). The harp and pizzicato bass notes that punctuate the very Viennese, sadness-and-sweetness-ridden string writing illuminate the acoustic like small stones tossed into a still pool (as do the various audience noises). And as the harmonies slowly move toward the cathartic tonal resolution at the end of the piece, the pedal notes on the double basses, reproduced without boom by the Gem/Sub-15 combination, pin down the work's tonal center. This was bass clarity I rarely hear from full-range speakers.

Finally, the review written, I rewarded myself by putting on Van Morrison's A Night in San Francisco (Polydor 521 290-2), disc 2, cuts 3 and 4, where Van and his band, with Georgie Fame on Hammond organ and Jimmie Witherspoon guesting on vocals, blast through "I'll Take Care of You," "It's a Man's Man's, Man's World," "Lonely Avenue," and "4 O'Clock in the Morning," exploring the triple-time blues in body-swaying detail. I am here to tell you that with the full Revel system powered by the Levinson monos and the Wadia digital front end, I was there. Van was the man! Live sound in the home just doesn't get any better.

No doubt about it, this is not a loudspeaker system for the financially faint of heart. The Revel system as reviewed, with gloss-black carcass and rosewood sidepanels, costs $18,500, with $9800 of that sum being for the subwoofer and amplifier. And don't think you can skimp by not buying the stands—these are essential to getting the best from the Gems. At $7500-$10,200/pair (including stands), Revel's Gem is a shoe-in recommendation for someone with not too large a room, who wants a high-dynamic-range speaker with state-of-the-art transparency and is prepared to pay for it. Add the Sub-15 and an LE-1 and you have a superbly engineered, true Class A speaker system that will raise goosebumps with all kinds of music. It's my new reference.