Revel Ultima Studio loudspeaker Page 2

On the Studio's front panel is a pair of 8" mica/carbon-filled copolymer inverted-dome woofers covered by a fixed grille. (It's actually removable, but not easily.) Above the woofers is an exposed 5¼" inverted titanium-dome midrange driver with a 2" voice-coil and a cast magnesium frame. Each Studio has two tweeters: an aluminum-alloy dome just above the midrange driver on the front of the cabinet, and, on the rear, a cloth-dome with a small phase-correction plate. The rear tweeter is there to flatten the in-room response in the frequency range where the front tweeter becomes somewhat directional. An optional grille is available to protect the two smaller front-panel drivers, but these were not supplied with my samples.

A large port with a radiused edge on the lower portion of the rear panel loads the woofer chamber. The rear of the cabinet also bears a large connector panel with four very substantial gold-plated multi-way terminals (suitable for biwiring or biamping), heavy shorting plates (for single-wiring), and separate level controls for the front and rear tweeters. Inside is a three-way, 24dB/octave crossover with frequency divisions at 220Hz and 2.2kHz. The user's manual describes this as being hand-wired with air-core inductors and film capacitors.

I can confirm from my tour of the Revel factory that careful testing and accurate trimming are performed on each and every one crossover to match it to a standard network that, in turn, is periodically measured and auditioned. Each combination of network and drivers is tested against a carefully maintained standard, and a record is kept of all the details. Consequently, all Ultima speakers match the performance of the standard; when a replacement driver or part is required, and once they've received the speaker's serial number, Revel can supply a precise match to a local repair agency.

I fired up the Revel Ultima Studios and discovered that they had great coherence and solidity from the midrange to the lower treble. This first impression did not fade, but positioning and adjusting were required to get the best from the speakers. In the usual spots in my room, with a toe-in of about 15 degrees (I could just barely see the side cabinet surfaces from my listening seat) and the treble controls at "0," the low bass sounded a bit lumpy and somewhat disconnected. Even worse, the tweeter was as penetrating as a laser beam.

I turned down the front tweeter a couple of notches, but then the rear tweeter needed taming. The wall surfaces near the speakers are fairly hard, but I found that one notch down on both the front tweeter (-0.5dB) and the rear tweeter (-3dB) kept the laser beam off, eliminated obvious splash from the rear, and made the source of the high frequencies untraceable with good program material.

As for the bass, the cure for the perceived lumpiness was to slightly offset both Studios to the right by about 12". Each speaker was now at a new and different distance from its adjacent side wall and from the wall behind. This also moved the left speaker farther from a reflective yew-wood cabinet on the left sidewall.

Finally, I placed a pair of EchoBuster panels against the side wall in front of each speaker (to catch the first reflections), and a free-standing EchoBuster between each speaker and the room corner behind it. This was more fine-tuning than I've done before, but the Studio's exemplary midrange coerced me into ensuring that the frequency extremes were as well served.

The Studios performed well with every power amplifier I threw at them, from the resident Sonic Frontiers Power-3 (oh, what a lovely combination!) and McCormack DNA-1 (Rev.A) to the more modest Blue Circle BC-22. The Studios ruthlessly conveyed the character of all that was fed to them, and, for my report on the McCormack DNA-225 (in the November 2000 Stereophile), I found that they made it easy to distinguish among various McCormack amps. But they also seemed to be amazingly tolerant and reasonably efficient, making me suspect that their impedance curve was relatively smooth.

The Studio's treble performance was so revealing that it forced me to listen through the faults of recordings. I could pinpoint the opening and closing of mike channels and follow the decay of cymbals, but there were times when I felt that the lower treble—say, from 2500 to 3500Hz—was a little forward. However, this was so source- and mood-dependent—and rare—that I think it was evidence of the Studio passing on more of the source than I was used to.