Revel Performa F50 surround speaker system Page 3
As well as the Revels performed on music, they really opened up with the full system—fronts, center, surrounds, subwoofer—reproducing some of my favorite soundtracks.
Dialogue was as well-served as the film allowed. As I've commented before, post-production looping of dialogue in today's films produces a wide range of vocal sound. The Revel system laid it all bare, from the natural voices on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones to the colored, boxy sound on The Ghost and the Darkness (an otherwise superb soundtrack).
You want effects? How about almost any scene in that same Attack of the Clones DVD, or the Balrog attack in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring? Going into detail here would be stating the obvious: I doubt that anyone who loves large-scale action films and whose home-theater space is anywhere near typical will be disappointed by what they hear from the full Revel F50 system. The bass was as extended, detailed, and powerful as you're likely to find anywhere, and the dynamic range of the system was enormous (it never ran out of gas in my 3200-cubic-foot room, driven by only 125W per channel). The detail and soundstaging were up to the demands of anything I could throw at it.
But effects aren't everything. We really don't know what that exploding asteroid or cave monster with a bad case of heartburn are supposed to sound like. If it's loud and goes boom (and the speakers don't), we're usually happy. I've said it before, but new readers might be surprised to learn that, apart from natural dialogue, what I listen to most closely when evaluating a home-theater system is how it reproduces the music on the soundtrack. Such music is rarely recorded to audiophile standards, but it can sometimes be shockingly good. Donnie Darko is one very weird but affecting film; what caught my ear was the song "Mad World," which plays over the final chapter before the end credits. As heard on the Revels, it sounded as musically gripping as anything I've ever heard on a soundtrack. Similarly, the song-heavy soundtrack of High Fidelity plays like a greatest hits album, but was consistently delightful on the Revels.
And from the previously mentioned The Fellowship of the Ring, just listen to the entire Lothlórien sequence. It's wonderful on any good system, but on one as good as the F50, the orchestral and choral work is riveting—with a breathtaking, enveloping ambience and sense of involvement that you simply can't get from two channels.
My reference speaker in this price range has long been the Energy Veritas v2.8, which, fortunately, I still have. The v2.8 is still in the Energy line, but is not being actively promoted. Its driver complement includes a 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter and a 3-inch midrange dome of the same material, crossed over at 380Hz to two 8-inch woofers. The Veritas v2.8's biggest shortcoming for our purposes at SGHT is that Energy never produced a matching center-channel for it. (Newer, more widely available Veritas models are designed around different drivers, though there are some similarities, particularly in the layout of the dome midrange/dome tweeter module.) At $6000/pair, however, it's competitive with the Revel F50 in price.
I schlepped the v2.8s into my home theater and placed them where the F50s had been. The comparison was 2-channel only, both speakers driven full-range, with no subwoofer. Like the F50s, the Energys were also tilted forward slightly to more closely align the axes of the midrange/tweeter modules with my listening position.
The Veritas v2.8s have a slightly more metallic flavor than the F50s (though I've never found that flavor obvious when listening to them without direct comparisons), with a less delicate but still excellent and engaging top end. Their bass is a bit more full-bodied, giving the sound some welcome warmth, but that bass is also less tightly controlled. The midrange, soundstaging, dynamic range, and depth are all equally accomplished, the biggest difference being a little more immediacy in the Energys' presentation of voices. The Energys are also slightly sweeter in the low/mid-treble and seem to retain their clarity a little better with complex, high-level music—though both speakers can turn a bit dry and bright with such material.
And what about the considerably less expensive Revel Performa F30? It left my possession about the same time the F50 arrived, and so was not on hand for a detailed comparison. But based on my relatively recent and extended experience with the F30 and C30, a system built around them would not be dissimilar to the F50/C50 (and would be identical in subwoofer and surrounds), despite their obvious design differences. The F50 system sounded a little smoother overall. The C50 center blended a little more seamlessly into the soundstage than the C30, though again, the latter is an excellent center-channel. The bass extensions of both systems were about the same without the B15 subwoofer (and, of course, were identical with it).
Is the F50 system worth its 50% price premium over the F30? It would be for me, but I strongly recommend that you audition both systems for yourself. I'd like to see the technology and cosmetics of the F50 in a somewhat smaller speaker—perhaps a stand-mounted design. When you equip a home-theater system with the exceptional B15 subwoofer, what you pay for the full bass extension of the F50 is redundant, unless you intend to listen to your music with the main speakers driven full-range and engage the subs only for films.
Those who like their speakers rich and forgiving may not easily warm to the Revel F50 system. Its cool, sometimes rather analytic sound—particularly on loud, brash music—probably won't suit tube fans, either. But the rest of you might well be seduced by its spell. It's an exceptional home-theater speaker system that will engage you on music and pull you into films with equal ease. Give it a close listen and see if you don't agree.