Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Revel Performa F52 Tower Speakers, C52 Center Channel Speaker, S30 Surround Speakers, and Concerta B120 Subwoofer



Design, in a word, is what the Performas are all about. Every aspect has been meticulously and thoroughly designed, refined, listened to, measured, and refined again. There is no element that does not contribute to the sound. Even down to the grills, there is nothing on these speakers that does not have a function. Note also that these are clean-sheet designs. Every component is designed and manufactured by Revel. No off-the-shelf components are used.

One of the more interesting aspects of Revel's development process is their Listening Lab. I spoke with Kevin Voecks, head of product development, before this review about the concept behind and the use of this special resource. Revel has created a system for comparing speakers that directly addresses the fact that human auditory memory is only a few seconds at best. A/B comparisons between different loudspeakers are made more difficult because of this. In typical tests, the time to change speakers and/or electronics is too long and then you've pretty much forgotten what you've heard. Revel's system uses a mechanism to physically move speakers in and out of various locations in the listening room so the change time is under ten seconds. The system is computer-controlled so no one knows which speaker is active at any given time. Revel is able to compare their own designs to those of their competitors very easily.

Revel's other testing resources include three anechoic chambers, computer modeling and simulation systems and a fascinating Laser Scanner. This instrument can pinpoint the exact location of distortion-causing breakup modes in the driver's diaphragm. They also employ a device called a Klippel Analyzer. It can locate the source of distortions in the motor system. One benefit of this data is to locate the optimal position for the voice coil within the magnetic field. After all this, the speakers coming off the assembly line are individually hand-tuned to within 0.5 dB of the reference standard. All adjustments are recorded and stored in a database with each speaker's serial number.

Physically the towers and centers are simply-styled boxes that taper toward the rear. The cabinets themselves are constructed from MDF and finished in a combination of satin smooth surfaces and a wood grain finish. My samples were Black Ash and there is a Natural Cherry finish available as well. Both finishes have a black front baffle that is set forward of the rest of the cabinet. These speakers are incredibly solid and well-braced internally. The rap test produced a very solid sound with almost no resonance. All corners and seams are gently finished; there are no sharp edges. Super-high quality exudes from these speakers. They will fit in nicely with any luxurious décor.

The F52s driver compliment is three 6.5" woofers, a 5.25" midrange in its own sub-enclosure and a 1" aluminum dome tweeter. The tweeter incorporates a special waveguide which aids the transition from treble to midrange frequencies. This makes the tweeter much harder to localize. The midrange and woofers are made from a ceramic composite material which is extremely light and rigid. The rear panel has two pairs of binding posts if you want to bi-amp or bi-wire. In addition there are controls for tweeter level (plus or minus 1 dB in 0.5 dB increments) and low frequency compensation (normal, boundary or contour). The adjustable feet screw on with a large retaining ring. There is enough adjustment to tilt the towers forward or back slightly. With their nearly 44-inch height however, I left them at a level position. The feet have a dull spike tip with a small rubber cap. I placed them on carpet but if you put them on a hard floor, the caps might be prone to split. I would suggest some small furniture feet be used if you want to protect a nice wood floor.

The C52 center channel uses the same midrange and tweeter but increases the woofer size to eight inches. This is the lowest reaching center I have ever experienced. Despite the fact that the cabinet is sealed the C52 had tremendous bass extension. The large woofers serve to minimize dynamic compression in film sound reproduction. Rear panel controls include the same tweeter level and a switch for placement compensation (stand, in-cabinet or on-monitor). You can also bi-amp or bi-wire the C52 if you wish. The stand I received was a stylish three-post affair with heavy cast plates for the base and speaker support. The cabinet bolts down solidly and the stand and speaker become one. Screw-on spike feet are provided.

The S30 surrounds are a three-sided asymmetrical design with drivers on all vertical faces. There is one 6.5" woofer and the 1" tweeter on the large face (directed toward the listener), and one 4" driver running full-range on each of the smaller faces, pointing forward and rear at angles. There are specific right and left speakers. The S30s feature a dipole/monopole switch which will alter the dispersion characteristics for movie or music listening. If you have a compatible receiver or processor, you can wire the S30s to automatically switch when the appropriate signal is fed.

I also received two subs with the Performa system – Concerta B120s. The Performa sub is called the B15a but Revel is currently in pre-production of a new model and they had no B15as to send me. The B120 has been recently reviewed by Secrets. The B15a has considerably more bass extension – down to 20 Hz versus 36 Hz for the B120. I was happy however to experiment with dual subs as I had not done this before.