Larger than the Angstrom, the Revel I20 sports a 7.5-inch woofer and a 1- inch titanium dome tweeter vertically bisected by a molded phase splitter. Controls on the baffle enable a high degree of tweaking: high-frequency level, high-frequency tilt, low-frequency boundary, listener axis—everything short of a parametric equalizer. Such adjustments should allow installers to make this speaker sound good almost anywhere. As with the Angstroms, I did all my listening with these controls in their neutral positions.
The installation procedure is almost identical to Angstrom’s, but the Revel has more clamps and screws. Manufacturing quality and materials are first rate.
The owner’s manual goes on at length about the depth of research and development behind this Revel product— no mere hype, as anyone who has toured the Northridge, CA, factory or spent any time listening to the com-pany’s Ultima or Performance series loudspeakers will affirm. (I’ve long thought the Performa F30 was a great, affordable loudspeaker.) The manual also describes the engineering prowess exerted in making every aspect of the I20 as close to state-ofthe- art as design parameters and ultimate street pricing allow. Reading the following induces great expectations—“ natural tonal balance over a wide operating range . . . constant linear voice coil inductance with forward and backward motion . . . smooth octave-to-octave balance and timbral accuracy.”
Great engineering is admirable. While the I20 fulfilled its promise of tonal purity—Kathleen Battle's Carnegie Hall performance of “Summertime” sounded wonderful [Kathleen Battle at Carnegie Hall, Deutsche Grammophon]—the I20 generally failed to generate excitement. Recordings that came into the room with the Angstroms, like Katy Moffatt’s “The Evangeline Hotel,” from her CD The Greatest Show on Earth [Rounder], seemed inexplicably distant and uninvolving through the Revels. The tonal balance was right, but the warmth and ache of Moffatt’s vocal was absent.
Although the I20 claims a smoother response than the AV-6.5, its treble was softer and more “splashy.” The overall sonic presentation was clean and refined, but less dynamic. I couldn’t seem to get the same degree of dynamic contrast that the AV-6.5 had delivered, regardless of recording or volume—perhaps evidence of a bit of dynamic compression? Unlike the Angstroms, through the Revels, the Benoit cut didn’t induce any involuntary urge to dance. The upper midrange sounded a tad veiled, and the soundstage was shallow. Background vocals sounded more homogenous than they did with the Angstroms. Harry James’ big band (Sheffield Labs’ The King James Version) wasn’t as big as it had seemed with the Angstroms, despite subjectively equivalent volume.
The Revel I20 is a bit like a superbly engineered German automobile whose high technology somehow isolates you from the soul of the open road. What the speaker does is pleasant, but not sumptuous. It won’t make you want to ransack your music library for long-forgotten guilty pleasures. Its presentation is civilized and polite and probably closer to an engineering ideal, but it lacks a compelling musical hook. If emotional involvement is the primary appeal of music and movies, the I20 probably isn’t the speaker for you. The Angstrom would be a better choice. The bright side for Revel and for Revel dealers is that there is a big market for a loudspeaker like this. It’s perfect for installation in trendy upscale offices and in whole-house audio systems where its primary duty is delivering light classical and smooth jazz without the intrusion of provoking real responses.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM LCR8
A slender two-and-half-way, B&W’s CWM LCR8 also employs two-piece construction—not counting the pressin- place perforated metal grille. Its frame has ten clamps, or dogs, that hold it securely in a cutout in sheetrock. The heavily built baffle mounts to the frame with eight recessed Allen bolts. Intended to accompany 50-inch plasma displays, the LCR8 has a center-mounted 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter flanked by a pair of 5-inch Kevlar midrange/bass drivers. Five-inch aluminum cone bass drivers are at each end of the speaker. Apart from their cones, the midrange and bass drivers look identical, with pointed, protruding phase plugs.
Connection to speaker wires is via a pair of spring-loaded gold-plated connectors on one corner of the crossover board, inconveniently located in the midst of several wires. When installing, it’s best to turn the speaker with theconnectors up so they can be seen, and rest the baffle against the frame’s bottom lip, because inserting the wires requires two hands. Once you’ve done it, the baffle secures to the frame without a hitch. Unlike the two models mentioned above, there are no adjustment controls on the front baffles.