Acolleague of mine recently took his SUV in for its 60K tune-up. The bill? $1200. Ouch. Keeping a car in good running shape in today's economy often means tapping one's cash cache at irritatingly re-occurring intervals. But here's a comforting alternative to consider: For exactly $98 more than the price of that 60K tuneup, you could buy a pair of Revel Concerta F12 loudspeakers and enjoy years of maintenance-free listening.
Revel is guided by its Director of Technology, Kevin Voecks—a man respected both as a designer of "no compromise" loudspeakers and as a researcher whose studies have led to development of specialized speaker performance measurements said to correlate closely with listeners' perceptions of sound quality. Few manufacturers work harder than Revel to merge the artistic and scientific aspects of speaker design, so it is not surprising that the firm's Ultima- and Performa-series speakers both enjoy reputations as capable, well-balanced performers. The only catch is that Revel's speakers are expensive.
As an audiophile on a budget, I was delighted when Revel introduced its shockingly affordable Concerta series loudspeakers at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show—and with the promise that they would be "real Revels," not cheap Revel wannabes. The Concerta family includes the full complement of surround sound elements, but as a twochannel guy I was most interested in the $1298/pair F12 floorstanders, which are the flagships of the Concerta line. We immediately requested a pair to try out.
The Concerta F12 floorstanders sport four proprietary transducers—two 8" woofers, a 5.25" mid-range, and a 1" tweeter. The pair I reviewed came in a beautiful black-ash finish, but the F12s are also available in cherry and maple. As taken as I was with them visually, I couldn't wait to put them through a sound test of my own with my listening room as the lab, and once I got them up and running I made several basic discoveries. First, the speakers are pleasingly transparent, offering a good measure of clarity and articulation— especially in the midrange. Second, their imaging, as enjoyed on a variety of reference CDs, was precise yet spacious, with images sometimes extending far to the left and right of the speakers Third, sound stages were deep and three-dimensional, starting from a plane forward of the speakers and extending well behind them. Finally, the Concertas offer extended and very evenly balanced frequency response that ranged from around 30Hz on up to the highest violin upper position whisper range and beyond. Revel claims the F12's treble frequency response extends to 18kHz, and based on my listening I believe them. But now let's give added meaning to all these audiophile descriptors by considering some musical examples that show how the Concertas really sound.
I had the pleasure of hearing Matt Haimovitz play the Bach Cello Suites live, along with a variety of more modern compositions and as a finale—his rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Anthem"— at the Enchilada Bar in San Antonio this past year. He played a 1710 Matteo Gofriller cello, which has beautiful sympathetic overtones, especially down on the instrument's C string (its lowest). So I was eager to play the Haimovitz CDs [Matt Haimovitz J.S. Bach and Matt Haimovitz Anthem, Oxingale Records] to see how close the Concertas would come to that listening experience. They did not disappoint. There were no audible frequency- response bumps as Haimovitz moved from Bach's low chord counterpoints and implied harmonies up into the higher registers of the cello in the haunting C minor "Sarabande" to Cello Suite 5. And you can't get into a higher register on cello than Haimovitz does with his Jimi Hendrix "Anthem" tribute. Closing my eyes in the Enchilada Bar, I could imagine Hamovitz playing a Hendrix rock guitar; and closing my eyes in my listening room, the Concertas had Haimovitz sonically replicated in 3D with his cello singing acid-rock riffs that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
When you first see Paul Galbraith walk onto stage with his 8-string guitar with cello endpin and combination stool/chair/sound box, you know you're in for a treat. Galbraith holds his guitar in the cello position and the combination end pin/sound box gives the guitar an almost eerie organ-like reverb. The Concertas showed impressive transparency on Galbraith's rendition of the D Minor last m o v e m e n t "Ciccona" to "Partita No. 2," originally composed for unaccompanied violin and transposed to E minor for the guitar [Bach: The Sonatas and Partitas, Delos]. The Concertas captured the tight focus of the guitar's ringing overtones propelled by the specially designed sound box that overcomes the guitar string's natural tendency for quick sonic decay with a resulting cathedrallike resonance.