Revel Concerta Series £2700
1st Dec 2005 | 00:00
Revel's serious approach hits the mass market
Revel is fanatical about blind speaker-testing, using a facility called a Multichannel Listening Lab to test speakers without the listener having any idea what they look like, or whose brand they are. Its R&D team is numerous and the brand has no fewer than three anechoic chambers to play with. Part of the Harman Specialty Group, it clearly takes its game very seriously.
So when it says that it wants to bring high-end performance down to more affordable levels, you need to take notice. Classically proportioned big-box speakers, from the obelisk school of design, its Concerta Series may be cheaper than the top-of-the-line Revel kit, but it's just as imposing; I certainly don't share the brochure's opinion that they are 'svelte'. If this is svelte, so's my butt (which it's not).
There are five models in the Concerta line up. A tower, dubbed the F12, a centre called C12, a monitor shelf speaker called M12 and the B12 subwoofer. Bizarrely, the surround speaker, the S12, looks like it hails from another design house, let alone from the same range. The finish is a vinyl wrapped MDF cabinet available in Cherry, Black Ash or Maple.
The system reviewed here comprises a standard set of S12 surrounds, F12 towers, C12 centre and B12 subwoofer.
The gloriously weighty towers are a proper two-person unpacking job. The boxes comprise two 8in woofers, a 5.25in mid-range driver and a tweeter in a shallow horn-shaped plastic moulding - called a waveguide - which is said to improve the tweeter's output snap and attack. They certainly cut through major action sequences, without being rated to go up to bat frequencies. The woofers are coupled and have great control and linearity.
Downwards in frequency terms, those woofers marry up a treat with a savagely over-engineered metal-coned 10in bass driver living within the B12 sub. A small enclosure for its output capabilities, the sub bass-driver's butyl rubber roll surround is massive and fat. The amount of ferrite hanging on the rear of this pig ugly piston makes it look like some kind of acoustic weapon. It's driven by a serious 650Watt amplifier, and, as well as having the usual phase flip switch, gain and frequency setting knobs, it features a pukka single-band parametric EQ circuit on the back, which you can use to reduce unwanted room resonances.
The C12 centre uses a sealed enclosure, whereas the F12s are rear ported. The centre has only one set of gold binding posts to the towers' paired sets, so is not really meant for biamping like the fronts. The mid-range is handled by a 4in version of those organic ceramic composite coned drivers and the tweeter's ovoid waveguide thingy is lined up to be in the same horizontal plane as the left and rights. The mid-bass is handled by two 6.5in cones.
The S12 rears are trapezoidal, rather like THX dipoles, and, indeed, can be used along the wall in that configuration with the flick of a switch. You can have them bipolar for more diffuse rear channel use or even monopole, with one set of the paired woofer-tweeter sets turned off.
The whole system is vigorous to say the least, and seemed to love being played loud. It had a typically American-aggressive attack to the top end. It was easily able to cut through mayhem with detail, yet reached down to bass levels well underneath the very conservative cut-off level they quote. It may be heaps of decibels down, but the joy of sealed bass boxes is that if there's 20Hz in there, your gonads will feel it.
I auditioned a range of CDs, as well as the early chapters of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, which are quite revealing from a movie perspective. They were driven by my reference Denon DVD deck and ageing but still excellent Acurus pre/power hardware.
For me the second Harry Potter film peaks with Dobby the house elf. A CG dude with a sad lack of self-esteem and a taste for self flagellation, which he does with sickening thumps and thuds as he bangs his head on chests of drawers and side table lamp stands. It's a nice demo sequence. As we cut to downstairs, the cranial impacts shift to the rear-left channel. The imaging throughout is good and seems removed from the enclosures. As a result, you get sucked into the action.
The bit where the Weasley boys come to rescue Harry from his window-barred bedroom is also cool. Eight minutes and 22 seconds in, there's a big bassy throb and the whole system shook the room as the flying Cortina did its stuff. Again, when they travel by 'flue powder', the resulting sonic throb is impressive and really shows off the big dynamics of this kit.
CD playback is precise and engaging; the F12's make a great stereo pair.
Overall, this Revel set is bold and entertaining. I enjoyed everything played through the system - it has genuine synergy. However, I suspect that I might have preferred a configuration using the M12 monitors as surrounds.
I am also childish enough to want a bigger Revel subwoofer (they do go up as big as you can imagine, and then some), but there's no denying that the system supplied seems to add up to more than the sum of its parts. Heartily recommended and undoubtedly good value for money. They play like they cost plenty more than this. Adam Rayner