Ah…me and my big mouth. I have recently made no secret of the fact that I sometimes experience the odd nagging doubt regarding the direction in which loudspeaker technology has moved in the last few years; technically superior but more musical and enjoyable? I’m not always convinced. Doubts cast while revisiting some classic products from thirty or so years ago were brought to a head during my time with the Spendor SP100Rs, a great (and thoroughly enjoyable) loudspeaker that has the core of its design rooted firmly in the seventies. Meanwhile, much noise had been emanating from a room not too far from the house where a new pair of Revel Salons have been clocking up the hours, running in prior to residence in the listening room. The irony here is that if there’s any loudspeaker that can claim to represent the cutting edge of technology when it comes to moving-coil designs, the Salon would undoubtedly come pretty near the top of the list.
To put this into perspective, the Salon 2 is the flagship in the Ultima 2 series of loudspeakers from Revel, a company formed in 1995 by US consumer giant Harman International with the sole intention of competing in the high-end speaker market. To that end, the combination of generous financial resources together with extensive development and manufacturing facilities courtesy of JBL was enough to attract Kevin Voecks, already something of a leading light in high-end loudspeaker design, into the fold. Under his expert guidance, and with pretty much a free hand to indulge himself, the existing state of the art measurement facility was augmented by an advanced and exhaustive psycho - acoustic listening procedure, designed with the help of Dr Floyd Toole from the Canadian National Research Council.
The ensuing products were impressive and the original Salon certainly left its mark some seven years ago as one of the best all round loudspeakers I have ever used. More tellingly, they found universal acclaim from the wide range of people who got to listen to them; a highly unusual occurrence considering the diverse tastes of rock and roll engineers when compared to classical musicians. Apart from the visual similarity of some of the drive units, there is not much to connect the revised Salon to the original version in terms of their appearance. Gone is the striking, idiosyncratic ugliness that separated Revel from the crowd, to be replaced by a more conventional aesthetic that is no doubt more acceptable in terms of what some have come to expect from large loudspeakers; tall, slim and extremely heavy. The review pair was finished in a high gloss black lacquer; I confess that this was a rare occasion when I might actually have preferred the mahogany finish, as with an enclosure this large the result of such a massive expanse of dark gloss was a little overbearing in my room. Immediately apparent is the highly contoured front baffle, machined from 2.5 inch MDF, the curves carefully engineered to reduce diffraction across a broad spectrum of frequencies. The remainder of the cabinet takes the form of a radius, constructed from nine bonded layers of composite, pressed into the required shape and considerably more rigid than the equivalent conventional enclosure. A deeply recessed panel at the back has two sets of high quality five way binding posts accompanied by two controls, one for tweeter level (±1dB in 0.5dB steps) the other to subtlety adjust bass balance for use near room boundaries. A Plexiglas door with a small cutaway for cable entry covers the panel to present a neat appearance – so long as you can actually close it. In practice, using chunky cables with 4mm plugs presented a bit of a problem unless inserted into the side of the binding posts, which is possible but not ideal. Of course, the US tends to favour spades over banana plugs; worst case scenario is that the door can be removed.
The base is threaded in the usual manner to allow levelling with the spikes (or if reversed small plastic feet) and is just slightly larger than the outline of the cabinet; this supports the structure via four pillars to allow space in which the downward firing port can breathe. The grille consists of an open steel cage covered by the cloth which should offer minimal interference if required. This sits over the front panel and is neatly held in place by a series of small magnets. The general finish of the loudspeaker was to the high standard you would expect, but I harbour reservations over the size of the bolts securing the bass units; not so much the bolts but the head, which takes the same size allen key as the small bolts used for mounting phono cartridges. Unless there is some engineered decoupling, as is the case with the larger bolts on the mid range unit, there is no chance of really tightening the bass units into the baffle, the effect of which can often be just as dramatic as adding spikes. However, this could be a moot point; did I ever feel that the bass lacked definition? Not really.