Revel Salon loudspeaker

On a very special Saturday night in early September—late winter in Australia—I was deeply moved by hearing Brahms' Symphony 1 in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House complex. Perhaps it was Marek Janowski's fiery, inspired conducting, but I keep recalling the hall itself. Earlier that day, I had photographed—first from my hotel room, later from a ferry—the huge, nesting sail-like roofs, covered with a million white ceramic tiles, that enclose an opera theater, concert hall, and restaurant. Twenty-five years in construction and costing over $107 million, the Sydney Opera House is described in my Fodor's '98 Australia guide as "the most widely recognized landmark of urban Australia." Attending the concert that night—all 2679 seats were occupied—I found the acoustics lovely, dark, and rich.

Which brings me to the Revel Salon loudspeaker. Before I ever heard this large, floorstanding dynamic loudspeaker, its appearance caught my attention. Like the huge concrete sails covering the Sydney Opera House, the Salon's curved rosewood side panels and bowed grille screen are gracefully pleasing to the eye. Both concert hall and loudspeaker please several senses at once.

The Revel Salon is a four-way system with seven drive-units: two tweeters (1.1" on the front and 0.75" on the back), one 4" midrange, one 6.5" midbass, and three 8" woofers. These are set into a two-part cabinet more than a foot wide, more than two feet deep, and over four feet tall. The bottom section houses the midbass unit and the three woofers with their mica- and carbon-filled copolymer domes, all hidden behind the flying front grille. The woofers are reflex-aligned with a port tunnel 16" long and 4" wide, which flares to a 6"-diameter opening on the Salon's rear panel, just below the rear tweeter. Kevin Voecks, the Salon's designer, claims this multiple driver system better handles large dynamic bass peaks, dissipating heat buildup before it can cause compression. The large, flaring port was designed to not make "chuffing" sounds when the Salon is driven at high levels.

Besides the reflex port and second tweeter, the rear panel features four gold-plated speaker terminals for biwiring, a low-frequency compensation control that gives ±2dB adjustment at 43.9Hz, and separate level controls for the front and rear tweeters.

The upper section houses the tweeters and the midrange unit, and protrudes above the side panels and cants backward, placing the tweeter 48" above the floor. The front tweeter, a 1.1" aluminum-alloy metal dome, replaces the Salon prototype's soft-dome fabric tweeter, now used in Revel's Ultima Gem loudspeaker. The combination of aluminum voice-coil, the optimized magnet structure, the specially formulated anodizing of the 28mm aluminum dome, the damping plug, the inductance and flux-modulation rings, and the stray-flux cancellation magnets are said to allow this transducer to operate in a pistonic manner out to 30kHz, its dome's first breakup mode. The tweeter's off-axis response is optimized by the top enclosure's smoothly curved baffle.

Not being able to find a suitable OEM midrange driver, Revel designed and manufactured for the Salon its own 4" (102mm) concave titanium-diaphragm transducer. It employs an unusually large (1.5", or 38mm) voice-coil, optimized high-flux neodymium motor, and co-injected fluoroelastimer rubber surround, with a Faraday ring on the pole-piece to reduce magnetic distortion. This large motor structure allows the midrange to play at high levels without suffering from heat buildup and the resulting compression.

The crossover uses fourth-order slopes, the drivers operated in their optimal range to yield the flattest off-axis and first-reflection responses. Each major section—tweeter, midrange, midbass, woofers—has its own crossover board populated with high-quality individual components. The crossover elements of each Salon are individually trimmed and matched to within 0.5dB of a design reference.

The Salon's fit'n'finish are the best I've come across. The rosewood side panels on my review samples had a luster and sheen that far exceed those of the fine furniture cabinets I have in my living room. The quality of the samples' Gray Heather high-gloss paint matched or surpassed finishes on loudspeakers costing two to three times as much. Hardware and connections are sturdy, gold-plated, easily accessible, and look like they'll last a lifetime.

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.

lenslens007's picture

If you did not like the sound of them, maybe there was some other part of the system that was producing noise that you did not like. I know they can reveal sonics in cables, DAC filters, room acoustics, and pre-amp. They also throw a large magnetic field that can interact with close-by (i.e. between the speakers) electronics.

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.

steve59's picture

You're passionate about your taste i'll give you that, but why hang around here and slam one speaker in favor of another when both are out of production? I read the review of the ns1000 and tbh I would take the dq10 they compared it to over a speaker that will make 5% of my recordings magical and the other 95% unlistenable, been there, done that.