Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Revel Ultima2 - Studio2, Voice2, and Gem2 Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

 

The Ensemble

For this review I requested a Studio2 pair and a Voice2 to anchor the front.  A pair of Gem2s was relegated to surround sound duty.

The Studio2 floor-standing loudspeaker is a reflex design featuring the following driver complement: a 1” tweeter, a 5.25” midrange, and two 8” woofers.  Crossover frequencies are specified at 230 Hz and 2 kHz.  The port is down-firing on the Studio2; the narrow profile on the back probably dictated this change from the rear-firing port used on the Studio.  As is typical with all Revel speakers, acoustic controls are provided to tailor their response.  A Tweeter Level switch allows the output level to be adjusted in 0.5 dB increments from -1 dB to +1 dB.  A Low Frequency Compensation switch provides three settings: Normal, to be used if the Studio2 is located 3+ feet away from the walls; Contour, to be used if the bass sounds bloated; and Boundary is to be used if the Studio2 is situated less than 2 feet from the walls or is installed within a cabinet.  Anyone buying the Studio2s will hopefully have a qualified installer who can figure out the best placement and setting combination guided by some in-room measurements.

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A notable absence on the Studio2 is the rear tweeter.  When asked about this omission, Kevin mentioned that it was indeed included in the initial design.  When they measured the power response of the new tweeter coupled with the newly designed waveguide, they found the response to be already what they wanted, so . . . .

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The Voice2 center channel loudspeaker is a three-way horizontal design featuring the following driver complement:  a 1” tweeter, a 5.25” midrange, and two 8” woofers.  Crossover frequencies are specified at 235 Hz and 2 kHz.  Revel has always utilized a three-way design in their center-channel models.  The transducer geometry is such that the tweeter and midrange units are vertically aligned with a woofer on each side.  Such designs generally provide a smooth off-axis response from a horizontal design, although this is not a guarantee if not followed by sound design practice.  This is pretty much a requirement for a social application such as home theater.

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A Tweeter Level switch offers the same functionality as the control on the Studio2.  A Low Frequency Compensation switch is also offered, however, the designations, and their corresponding use, are different from what is offered on the Studio2.  There are three options: Flush to be used when the Voice2 is placed in a bookcase or wall unit; Stand - to be used if it is placed on top of a video monitor or a shelf; and Stand + if it placed on the optional pedestal stand.

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A rounded base with four attached feet is included with the Voice2.  The curved base allows the Voice2 to be tilted upwards or downwards.  Two screws are provided to lock in the position once the desirable tilt has been achieved.  Note that the original Voice did not include a base, so this is a nice addition providing an out-of-box solution for shelf or monitor placement.  For floor placement, an optional stand can be purchased from Revel.  This is the option I chose.  The base plate which ships with the Voice2 mounts on the stand and tilt can be similarly adjusted.  Tilt adjustment was not an option with the Voice stand, so this is a welcome change.

The Gem2 is a three-way multi-purpose speaker intended for use in either a floor-standing or wall-mounted configuration.  This is also a speaker which will likely serve as a surround speaker in a multi-channel setup, as was the case for this review, although someone with an unlimited budget should aim for five Studio2s!  Unlike the other Ultima2 models, the Gem2 is compact and maintains a shallow profile, which was undoubtedly a requirement for wall-mounting.  It features the following driver complement: a 1” tweeter, a 4” midrange, and an 8” woofer.  Crossover frequencies are specified at 400 Hz and 2.3 kHz.

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Acoustic controls are also provided on the Gem2.  The Tweeter Level control functions the same way as the Studio2.  The Low Frequency Compensation control alters the response depending on the proximity to a boundary or some room mode coupling.  Three settings are provided: the Normal setting applies when the loudspeaker is located 3+ feet into the room; the Contour setting is available when some muddiness is encountered in the mid-bass; and the Boundary setting applies when the loudspeaker is mounted on a wall or inside a cabinet.  Two additional settings, On Axis and Off Axis, are provided depending on whether the loudspeaker is on or above the listening axis.  Select the Off Axis setting to tilt the sweet spot down when the Gem2 is mounted 5 feet or higher.

The Gem2 ships with a wall-mount bracket.  For a floor-standing install, an optional stand can be purchased.  The wall-mount bracket needs to be fastened to the stand, and then the Gem2 slides into the bracket just like it would for an on-wall installation.  Before doing this however, the speaker wire needs to be fed through an opening in the stand.

All the new models use a magnetically attached grille.  The loudspeakers are attractive to look at sans grille; however, care must be taken to prevent eager little kid fingers from exploring the transducers!  All models facilitate either bi-amplification or bi-wiring.  Threaded inserts are provided to screw in two types of ends: Spike, to be used when the loudspeaker sits on a carpet, and Glide, for when the loudspeaker sits on a wooden or tile floor.

Revel has designed dedicated surround loudspeakers in the past with configurable dispersion patterns: monopole, bipole and dipole.  The Ultima2 series is the first to offer no dedicated surround loudspeaker.  Revel believes that a surround speaker is best served by a monopole design; therefore any Ultima2 model can be relegated to surround sound duty, although the Gem2 is likely to be the popular choice here.  As you will read later in the review, I don’t think that this is a big omission.