The Salon employs six drivers in a four-way configuration, three 200mm bass units, a 165mm upper-mid, 100mm mid and a 25mm tweeter. (See side panel) The choice of high order (24dB per octave) crossover slopes allows each driver to work effectively within its designated bandwidth, and well away from break up modes where cones behaviour becomes unpredictable. The crossover itself is separated into sections that are sited in different locations within the cabinet to minimise any interaction. Internal wiring is not specified but looks to be average gauge stranded copper, and high quality capacitors and air cored inductors are mounted to boards that are hard wired rather than relying on printed circuit track.
As I have already intimated, the first generation Revel loudspeakers made a considerable impression, so expectations were running high for the Salon 2. With an ample break-in period behind them and the challenging task of shifting hundred kilo loudspeakers into my listening room accomplished, I arrogantly assumed that, based on my experience with the mark one, getting a good result with the Salon 2 should be pretty straightforward. Which of course, wasn’t the case. Positioning the speakers for an even bass response was relatively easy with the aid of some low-frequency sweeps, and much like their predecessors demonstrated that if the alignment of the speaker is well engineered it is perfectly possible for a large loudspeaker to provide even and extended bass in my room. However finding a position that delivered a strong, central image and balanced soundstage proved more difficult and required incremental movements and some shifting of the furniture.
First impressions using the SP10/ Bryston combination were frankly disappointing. While there was no doubt that the Salon’s were impressively fullrange, they sounded rather coarse and mechanical, almost as if they were cold and hadn’t been run in. It was when RG suggested that I try the Goldmund Telos power amps that I began to get the picture. The Bryston 14B SST that had proved so successful with the Mark 1s definitely had the grunt to drive the latest Salons to impressive levels, but lacked a degree of refinement and sophistication, not something that I would have previously criticised it for. (To be fair, it is a quarter of the price of the Salon’s; the 28B’s I suspect might be a different case.) Likewise the ebullient if slightly rough around the edges performance of the old Audio Research SP10 came across as course and ill-defined, a really rather unhappy combination. What was becoming apparent was not so much that the new Revel’s were unnecessarily demanding, although they do need an amplifier that has plenty of really genuine power delivery, but that they were much, much more revealing of the signal with which they were being fed. Despite some pretty refined CD playback in the form of the EMM labs CDSA and the ARC Ref 7, there seemed a larger gulf than I am used to between digital and analogue replay via the relatively modest Linn set up, the latter sounding surprisingly good. This was a factor that was going to become a recurring theme throughout the review period; the Salon’s proving time and time again to be frighteningly capable of exposing the nature and the quality of the signal that they received.
And the music? With the sublime Ayre K-1xe feeding the Goldmund power amps the Salon’s began to fade into the background and became less obtrusive, providing an open door on whatever material you were listening to. To put it another way, there just seemed to be less loudspeaker between you and the performers, at which point I realised just how good the Salon could be. If I talk about cleanliness, the tendency is to immediately assume clinical, dry or lacking in warmth, but in many ways the Revel transcends such descriptions, as there is simply less crap coming from the loudspeakers in the way of coloration and distortion compared to most other designs I have heard, with the possible exception of electrostatics. What you hear is an incredible amount of detail and resolution, but not in a forced or unnatural way, just simply more obvious as there is little in the way of grunge or fuzziness smearing the result. The spatial characteristics of instruments also benefit from this articulation. Solo piano, for example, where the initial strike sat solidly between the speakers while the reverberation of the space in which it was recorded decayed away to effectively define where the boundaries were, while the speakers would ‘disappear’ in a way that usually only small precision boxes achieve.
Another trait that I have tended to associate with good panel loudspeakers is coherence, and multi-drive unit designs generally seem to fall behind in this area. While it took me a little while to put my finger on it, I realised that the Salon’s were exceptional when it came to reproducing the sense of the whole audio bandwidth with everything arriving at the same time. A well-recorded string quartet gave you an added dimension of the empathy between the players which I have rarely encountered, while the relationship that (hopefully) exists between drummer and bass player with good, non synthetic rock music was at times exhilarating, providing the rhythm and timing that moved the music along at a pace set by the players, not the system. It does of course help that the Salon’s are capable of particularly fast, taught and visceral bottom-end that you feel as well as hear, with genuine extension that effortlessly fills the room. The only thing missing was an occasional lack of bite in the midrange with certain electric guitar solos, but it’s quite possible that what was missing was the distortion that I am used to hearing, as it was the only time I felt a little disappointed. But for me, one of the most interesting things about the Salon 2s, one that I really came to appreciate over time, was the consistency of their performance across a wide range of listening levels. You won’t be surprised to learn that the Salon’s do ‘loud’ exceptionally well, with fearsome dynamics and no hint of hardening or compression; and because of the sheer clarity in their reproduction it is not until you hear something (or don’t) that puts things in perspective that you realise just how loud you have been playing them. On several occasions, alone in the house, I spent an evening listening to those tracks that ‘need’ to be played loud and grinning like an idiot at the sheer power and drama that flowed effortlessly forth from the Salons, leaving the room with that contented feeling you get after a really good concert. But turn the volume down – right down, and the Revel’s continued to deliver music with exactly the right proportions, with all the attack and dynamics beautifully intact, and losing little of the excitement and emotion that makes listening enjoyable. I guess you can tell that I have been pretty impressed by the Salon 2s. While pushing forward the boundaries of moving-coil loudspeakers, particularly in terms of minimizing coloration and distortion, they have managed to do this in such a way as to enhance the musical experience rather than render it an academic and unemotional event. However, the refinement comes at a price, as the Revel’s are both demanding of genuine load tolerant power, and ruthlessly revealing of its quality. But at the end of the day, they have restored my faith in modern loudspeaker technology, and as with all truly great products, have left me wanting more.