Formed with the expectation of being a loudspeaker company that matched the
reputation of Mark Levinson, Revel was born under the Harman umbrella in
1996. Unlike most companies that start out on a shoestring budget, the
financial might of Harman gave Revel access to vast engineering resources
at its inception. With folks like Kevin Voecks (previously at Snell
and Mirage) leading the loudspeaker design team, and Dr. Floyd Toole heading
the research department, Revel set out to create loudspeakers that would
please the audiophile palette.
The company started out by launching the Ultima line of loudspeakers. This
line was to be a manifestation of Revel’s best know-how on loudspeaker
design. Next came the Performa line where the emphasis was
on reducing cost to the consumer while having the smallest possible negative
impact on sound quality. The Performa line has recently seen the
introduction of newer models. These products utilize new
transducer technology, and are the subject of this review.
(You can read an interview
with Kevin Voecks for more details on designing
loudspeakers at Revel.)
The F50 and C50 introduce the new transducer technology in the Performa
series. This includes new materials for the midrange, woofer,
The material for the midrange and woofer units has shifted from an aluminum
alloy to a ceramic composite. Both the old and new transducer materials are
light and stiff, allowing for pistonic operation throughout their intended
operating range. However, the ceramic composite pushes the first break-up
mode a little higher. In addition to the new material, these transducers
have a more sophisticated spider, surround, and motor design.. The sum of all
these improvements yields substantially lower distortion compared to the previous design. Sonically, the new transducer
sounds significantly cleaner. In Kevin Voecks’s words, “It’s as if you were
looking through an absolutely clean window, vs. one that had a layer of film
the tweeters, the shift in material is from aluminum to titanium. The use of
titanium benefits the tweeter by pushing the first resonance out further,
which helps it achieve a flat response within the audible range. Work on the
magnetic system and the surround also yielded sonic improvements. There is a
greater transparency and a reduction of a slight “spit” compared to the
previous tweeter design. The new tweeters are only used on the F50s.
The Sum of the Parts
The F50 floor-standing speaker is a reflex design featuring three 6.5" woofers, a 5.25” midrange
driver, and a 1” titanium dome tweeter. The midrange driver is housed in
its own separate sub-enclosure. The woofers and midrange driver use the
newly developed ceramic-composite drivers. A high-order crossover is used at
225 Hz and 2.3 kHz. The use of a high-order crossover is said to optimize
both on- and off-axis response of the system. A tweeter level control is
provided to tailor the in-room high-frequency response. Bi-amping and
bi-wiring capability are provided. The cabinet is constructed of 1” thick MDF
walls, and the front baffle is rounded to reduce diffraction. The speakers
sit on four cast aluminum feet, and the supplied spikes thread into the feet. Each
spike has both a pointed and a rounded end, the latter of which you can
shield by supplied covers if the speaker is situated on a wood or tile
C50 center channel speaker is a three-way horizontal design. A 1” aluminum-dome tweeter is located
above a 4” midrange driver, with two 6.5” woofers located on either side.
Like the F50, the midrange and woofers use the ceramic-composite drivers.
The tweeter, however, does not use the new titanium driver. A high-order
crossover is used at 260 Hz and 2.1 kHz. A high-frequency level control,
which functions the same way as on the F50, is provided.
In addition there is a
placement compensation control which has three options: Flush
Mounted, On Top of Monitor, and Stand Mounted. Unlike the F50, the C50 has a
sealed enclosure. Also, the C50 does not have bi-wiring/bi-amping
capability. The C50 cabinet is constructed of 0.75” MDF.
An optional stand
can be purchased that fastens snugly to the C50. This is the option I used.
The stand itself provides some upward tilt. With the stand, the front of the
speaker sits about 22” above the floor. Further tilt adjustments can be made
using the spikes which install the same way as with the F50. The drivers on
both the F50 and C50 are magnetically shielded, so the speakers can be
situated in close proximity to a video monitor.
S30 surround speaker is not a new design; it is part of the original Performa lineup, and
therefore does not utilize the new drivers. Nonetheless, it is timbre
matched to blend with the F50 and C50. You can switch the S30 between
monopole and dipole modes. You can also switch the operation mode manually or
via an externally compatible integration system, which is a nice feature.
S30 sports a 6.5” woofer, two 4” drivers with a unique dispersion pattern
to minimize localization in dipole mode, and a 1” aluminum-alloy dome
tweeter. Like the F50 and C50, the S30 provides a high-frequency acoustic
control. The S30’s cabinet is constructed of 0.75” thick MDF. Mounting
options include wall or ceiling placement.
B15 subwoofer shares the S30 lineage, in that it is part of the original Performa
loudspeaker family. It uses a 15” driver, a 3”, four-layer voice coil,
and a massive 3.7 kg magnet. The long-throw voice coil is capable of 2.5”
peak-to-peak linear excursion, and 3” of maximum excursion. The subwoofer is
powered by a 1,000 watt (RMS) amplifier, with peak capability of 1,400
The frequency of the low-pass filter is adjustable between 30 Hz and
80 Hz in 10 Hz increments. The slope can be set to either 24 or 48 dB per
octave. The phase is continuously variable from 0 – 180 degrees. This filter
can be bypassed if the crossover is being set on an SSP. The high-pass filter
is always on. Its frequency has the same selection range as the low-pass
filter. The slope is selectable at 12 or 24 dB per octave. Inputs of both
balanced and unbalanced variety are provided.
differentiates the B15 from most subwoofers are the acoustic controls and the
Revel LFO software. Both facilitate proper subwoofer setup. The B15 offers a
three-band parametric equalizer system with adjustable frequency
(continuously variable from 18 – 80 Hz), bandwidth (continuously variable
from 0.1 to 1 octave) and level (continuously variable from -14.5 to +6 dB).
Each control has ample markings which makes it easy to find the correct
position for each control.
The availability of a three-band equalizer really facilitates corner room
placement of a subwoofer (a recommended location in the owner’s manual, and
the location I chose for the B15 in my room). In this location the subwoofer
couples with a room’s resonance modes, and the aid of a parametric equalizer
is essential to get the best possible bass response. The fact that there are
three bands that can be adjusted independently provides a great deal of
flexibility to do this well.
Accompanying the B15 is the Revel LFO Test Signal CD. This CD is to be used
in conjunction with the Revel Low Frequency Optimizer application that you
can download from the Revel website. A sound level meter (SLM) is also
required for this exercise. You play the test tones on the CD, read the
measurements off of the sound meter, and enter them into the application.
There are a total of 29 measurements to take, so if you have a tripod, use
You get to select the type of SLM that you are using. The analog and
digital versions of the SLM from Radio Shack are selectable options. Revel
has come up with corrections for both these meters, and the compensation is
made automatically by the software. Once the measurements have been entered,
Revel computes the best possible settings for each equalizer that will yield
the closest response to one of three user selectable settings:
1. “I mostly listen to music”: This selection results in a flat low
2. “I mostly watch movies”: This selection provides a very low frequency
boost (at around 35 Hz). The boost provides some additional punch, but it is
low enough that it avoids coloring the lowest voices.
3. “I listen to music and watch movies about equally”: This selection is
similar to “2” in effect, but a smaller low frequency boost is applied.
The software is an extremely useful tool, and I certainly commend Revel for
providing it. The progression here would be to automate this process through
the use of a calibrated microphone. The natural place for this to happen
would be the SSP where the EQ can be performed in the digital domain.
Lexicon’s MC12 is supposed to offer this functionality through an upcoming
When I first set up the F50s, I just wanted to get a flavor of how they
sounded. I placed them in the same location as my previous speakers,
inserted a CD and pressed play. The CD in the tray was Vivaldi’s “The Four
Seasons”. What followed was pure delight. The imaging was wonderful right
out of the box; it was dead center, right at the location of the phantom
center-channel speaker (the C50 was not installed at this point). The string
instruments were crisp, but there was a slight brightness in the treble. I
could have used the treble control to tame this, but I left it untouched.
What was to be a preview turned into an extended audition! I ended up
listening to most of the CD.
With more use, the treble smoothened. There was nice extension without
any hint of harshness. String instruments and cymbals sounded very crisp.
Listening to some orchestral recordings was breathtaking. From the detail in
the silent passages, to the punch in the crescendos, the F50s presentation
was superb. Vocal reproduction, both male and female, was excellent, as was
the remarkably tight bass from the six woofers. The smooth vocals, crisp
cymbals, and tight drums blended wonderfully when listening to Patricia
Barber’s Café Blue. The precise imaging of the F50s did justice to this
excellent recording. I was simply having a jolly good time!
When using the system in surround mode, all speakers were set to "Small", and
the crossover frequency was set to 80 Hz. The bass from the F50s when driven
full-range was nice and tight, and the B15 matched that. In addition, it
filled the void in the bottom octave. Tracks on the Blue Man Group disc
sounded very dynamic, with solid bass reproduction courtesy of the B15.
Playing a track by an a cappella group called Zephyr on AIX Records' DVD
Audio sampler showed that this system had very good tonal balance. One
version of this track is recorded with the group standing in a circle with
the microphone situated in the center. With voices being reproduced by all
the speakers, any tonal imbalance becomes distracting. This was not the case
I had been listening to the Amelie soundtrack through the F50s, so I decided
to watch the movie as well. The music of Yann Tiersen blends very nicely
with the mood of the movie, and it was a real treat to have it reproduced by
the Revel system. The voice of the narrator plays an important part in the
movie. His voice was very intelligible (both on- and off-axis).
On the opposing end of the delicate spectrum lie the roars of the Pod Race.
Playing back this sequence through this system showcased its punchy
capabilities. The roars of the engine filled the room as the B15 flexed its
muscle. The surrounds did a nice job of diffusing the sound of the raucous
crowd. The spatial cues were precise as the engines flew by, and the system
never showed any signs of compression.
Comparisons & Options
The Revel system arrived for review on the heels of a previous system. By then, I had been listening to the
system for a few months, and I had been quite impressed by both its dynamic
and bass capabilities. Switching in the Revel F50s in stereo mode, I was
struck by the clarity in the treble, which was extremely detailed and
extended without sounding edgy. The other striking attribute of the F50s was
how well they imaged. The F50s bettered the other system in both these
categories. What I preferred in the other system was the tight bass. The
edge in bass performance was most likely the result of having the placement
flexibility of multiple subwoofers – I only had a single B15. With respect
to a single subwoofer setup, however, the edge goes to the B15 which offers
a three-band parametric equalizer, allowing for finer control when it comes
to attenuating room modes, instead of a single-band equalizer offered on the
other system. Looking at the price dimension, the Revel system is more
expensive. The difference in price is primarily in the cost of getting the
F50, which is an outstanding full-range loudspeaker.
You might also consider going down the sub/sat system path. The B15 is an
extremely capable subwoofer, so this is certainly a good lower-priced option
to consider. The M22 (the “elF50”), which retails for $2200/pair, is a new
monitor utilizing the new transducers. The M22 should be shipping by the
time you read this review. I have not heard the M22, but I would certainly
recommend that you compare it with the F50.
I also happen to own Revel’s Ultima Voice, so a comparison with the C50 was
in order. After matching the levels, and switching back-and-forth between
the two speakers, it did not take long to determine the better performer: it
was the Ultima Voice. Between the two, the Voice sounded cleaner.
In my interview with Kevin Voecks, I had asked him
if the Ultima Voice, which was Revel’s first center channel offering, had
stood the test of time against the new and improved Performa models. His
response was yes, and I certainly agree with that assessment!
Dainty on one end and bold on the other, this system from Revel covers the
entire audible range with ease. In surround mode the blend between the
speakers is seamless. In stereo mode, the imaging, courtesy of the F50s, is
outstanding. Whether used in stereo or surround mode, this package sounds
Once you press “play”, these loudspeakers perform a disappearing act and fill
the room with joyous melodies. Highly recommended!
DVD/CD playback: Panasonic RP-91
Preamplifier: Integra DTC 9.4, Proceed AVP
Amplifier: Integra DTA 9.4, Proceed AMP5
Cables: BetterCables/Monster interconnects/speaker cables
Power: P600 Power Plant
Room: ASC Cinema Panels, ASC Iso-Wall