Revel Ultima Gem loudspeaker & Ultima Sub-15 subwoofer

A dream I have had since I discovered the pleasures of music is to possess a time machine. Not a fancy one, just a small device that would allow me to escape modern music-making and drop in to hear what must have been some of the greatest musical experiences of all time. Classical music presents no problems: Off to 18th-century Leipzig on Sunday, of course, to hear J.S. Bach play the organ in church, after an early 19th-century Saturday evening spent in Vienna listening to Beethoven improvising at the pianoforte. During the week it would still be Vienna, but forward 80 years or so to hear Brahms premiere one of his chamber works after afternoon cocktails at the Wittgensteins', with perhaps a trip to England's Three Choirs Festival just before the Great War to hear the first performance of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. And the time machine would have to have transatlantic range—I couldn't miss Mahler conducting the New York Philharmonic around the same time. But with jazz and rock—music that is reborn every time in performance to a greater extent than in classical—there is a bewildering choice of live events from which to choose.

But of course, those musics are provided with a time machine: the recording angel that has captured so many concerts on tape and disc. That, to me, is what being an audiophile is about—being able to cocoon in your listening room after a hard day's wage-slaving, pour yourself a glass of your favorite tipple, get comfortably ensconced in your special chair, and be transported to attend whatever concert catches your fancy, whether it be Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool" nonet at New York's Royal Roost in September 1948, the Who at Leeds University in February 1970, or Van Morrison's best performing band ever in San Francisco in December 1993.

And for that time machine to work effectively, you'd better fit it up with a good pair of speakers. Since 1994, the B&W Silver Signatures most often painted the soundstages in my listening room, with Thiel CS6es seeing service since Christmas 1997. And this summer I have been using a pair of Revel's Gems, either on their own or augmented with Revel's Sub-15 subwoofer powered by a Revel LE-1 crossover/amplifier.

The Ultima Gem
When Revel's chief engineer, Kevin Voecks, was at Snell Acoustics, he produced a series of fine speaker designs that, while each was designed to a price, handily outperformed most of the competition. When he was asked to join startup company Revel, it appears that he was given carte blanche for the company's first design, even down to designing and manufacturing dedicated drivers for the Gem with the resources of Revel's parent company, Harman International.