Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeaker Page 3

I also heard what Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times called "explosive lyricism, surging power, and incisive attack" from pianist Yundi Li's recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto 2, with Seiji Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic (CD, Deutsche Grammophon 001017502). And I enjoyed the natural balance of bass weight, treble control, and slight reverberation in pianist Robert Silverman's recording of Liszt's Liebestraum.

Vocal recordings were rendered with outstanding timbral accuracy and stunning realism. The Salon2 captured a smoothness and lyricism in tenor Albert Jordan's version of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You?" on Cantus (CD, Cantus CTS-1207), that I'd never heard before. Harry Connick, Jr.'s rich baritone singing "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," from the When Harry Met Sally . . . soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 45319), was as natural and realistic as I've heard it, with none of the honk, midbass emphasis, or closed-in quality I've heard from lesser speakers.

The Salon2s delivered a deep, broad, rock-solid image of the soundstage, projecting a solid, three-dimensional image of the full choir, powerful organ, and harp on A Gaelic Prayer, from John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR57-CD)—as well as a sonic image of the choir that hovered suspended, deep offstage, behind the voice of tenor José Carreras on the Kyrie from Ariel Ramirez's Misa Criolla, conducted by José Luis Ocejo (CD, Philips 420 955-2).

Like the Salon1 before it, the Salon2 had outstanding timbral accuracy that allowed me to hear subtle qualities of male vocalists in choirs, the reediness of wind instruments, and the sounds of drum rims and soundboards. I noticed a series of distinct resonances in the male chorus singing "Lord Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace," from Rutter's Requiem, and the solo bassoon that opens Le Sacre du Printemps was unusually rich, sweet, and captivating.

The Salon2 demonstrated jaw-dropping dynamics in my listening room. I heard no grain or compression until the amplifier ran out of steam. The Salon2 played synthesizer and bass-drum crescendos so well that I kept cranking up the volume. David Hudson's raw, pulsing, raspy, bass-didgeridoo version of "Rainforest Wonder," from his Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia IA2003 D), and the thudding, sledgehammer-like bass synth in "Assault on Ryan's House," from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2), hit exceptional peak SPLs, but the Salon2 refused to choke. The Stravinsky recording thrilled me, especially when the wind instruments joined the thunderous stomping of strings used as percussion. The Rite's pulsing tempo and surging energy built through Adoration of the Earth, near the end of Part 1, then erupted into the explosive Dance of the Earth. The Salon2 possessed all the power, range, and pitch definition I've heard from the best powered subwoofers. I let up only when the Krell FPB-600c blew my house's circuit breakers.

The Ultima Salon2 remained in complete control, falling silent after each percussion note. Cymbals sounded startlingly clear, utterly transparent, and sweet—as in the opening of "The Mooche," from Jerome Harris's Rendezvous, and Patricia Barber's "Noxus," from Café Blue (SACD, Premonition/Blue Note/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2002). The Salon2s had a spatial precision that I normally associate only with my Quad ESL-989 electrostatic speakers. Nor was the Revel's ability to deliver large, even amounts of sonic power into my listening room done at the expense of the most subtle musical details. After I pointed out, to the usually taciturn John Atkinson, the utter clarity of Jerome Harris's soft bass-guitar line in "The Mooche"—JA had been the recording engineer for Rendezvous—I heard him whisper, "These are very good loudspeakers, Larry." The resolution with which this subdued bass line was being presented struck us both as most impressive, especially coming from 178-lb, floorstanding, full-range, dynamic speakers.

While I find the sounds of Revel's Ultima Salon1, the Quad ESL-989, the Burmester B-99, and the Dynaudio Evidence Master to be still among my favorites, the Revel Ultima Salon2 is the best-performing, most natural-sounding full-range loudspeaker I have auditioned in my listening room since I started writing for Stereophile in 1984. The Revel design team has smoothed the Salon1's upper midrange while retaining that award-winning speaker's powerful bass extension, timbral accuracy, and superb dynamics. The result is an open and transparent top end, an utterly neutral and grain-free midrange, and bass that is extended and pitch-perfect. The Ultima Salon2 does all this while sounding completely neutral, with top-to-bottom smoothness, coherence, and remarkable resolution of detail.

While $22,000/pair is a lot of money, the quality of this loudspeaker equals that of others costing up to three times as much. In the Salon2, Kevin Voecks and his team have produced far more than a cosmetic upgrade of the Salon1. They have created a new reference standard in floorstanding loudspeakers that has earned my strongest recommendation.

Theodor's picture

Could any of you please compare the REVEL Salon 2 performance and GoldenEar Triton Reference especially in the music clarity at mid and low levels (assuming both powered with McIntosh MC462)?

JRT's picture

Take a look at what Kal Rubinson, Jim Austin, and Larry Greenhill are using as reference loudspeakers in their own systems. Kal discussed his recent change from B&W 801D in a recent column, and you can see the others' loudspeakers in associated equipment in their relatively recent reviews.

They seem to be using Revel Ultima/Ultima2 Studio2, and are not using GoldenEar Tritons.

As for you choice in amplifiers, you should know that a pair of Benchmark Media AHB2 bridged as monoblocks would play cleaner with lower noise and lower distortion across the full audible spectrum for less money than the McIntosh MC462.

Jim Austin's picture
The GoldenEar Triton Reference is a fine speaker, but speakers with powered woofers/subs are not practical for reviewers. Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
Ayrehead's picture

Hi Jim:

I’ve owned my Salon 2’s for about three years. When I first set them up, I was in a hurry and didn’t bother with the spikes. A couple of weeks later, while I was hanging around a forum and showing off about the Salons, I casually mentioned the fact that I had not spiked them. A Salon owner and participant in the forum told me that I should immediately spike the speakers and listen.

Frankly, what I listened to when I spiked the Salons was a very different speaker in the low frequency department - night and day. There was audibly ‘less’ bass but what there was was a hugely increased definition in low frequency delivery.

My speakers rest on carpet so, that might have had an effect when I raised them. I see that, in achieving such excellent sound, yours stood on a wooden floor. You mention not having received the spikes and then, later, you mention the blunt end of the spikes. Did you listen to the speakers without and then with spikes? Any impressions about the difference?

mauidj's picture

...and I still love them.
Its so nice to read that some of my favorite audio reviewers still find these to be among the best full rangers out there. Even more so considering the price. I've owned mine for just over 9 years and they continue to amaze me when the music is right. Yes Jim, you are spot on...they do not like bad recordings.
And yes Larry, that D2D Romeo and Juliet is a stunner played through the Revels. One of my all time favorite records.
So the Revels are sensitive to the music and also, as I discovered, very much to the amplification.
Mine originally lived with a full Krell EVO system...pretty damn good but...there was something not quite right with the tonal balance. They did not sing quite like I heard them singe with other amp systems.
Then I changed to a Pass/Esoteric front end and they sounded dreadful. Flat. No life at all.
I had other components to change out and thus discovered it was the Esoteric not playing nice with the Revels.
Could not believe the difference a power amp made in such a negative way. The system bordered on unlistenable.
It was hard to fathom how such a well made and reviewed power amp could sound so bad.
So the Esoteric was then replaced with a Luxman m900u. they are singing so sweetly.
I completely agree with pretty much everything both Jim and Larry wrote.
When time and budget allow the Pass will go, to be replaced with the matching Luxman Preamp.
Looking forward to hearing even better sound from these great transducers.
BTW...mine are on a solid wood suspended floor with the spikes reversed.
A big mahalo for the reviews gentlemen.

aRui's picture

You paired the Luxman M900U with the Revel Salon2s? What do you think about the combo sofar?