Revel is a speaker division of Harman International, the giant audio company with multiple brands, including such famous nameplates such as Mark Levinson, Harman Kardon, Lexicon, and Infinity. Revel started some years back with the high-line industrial-design Ultima speakers, which were not only very cool looking, but also critically acclaimed. It was a good way to start for a new company, and it soon added the more traditional-looking and relatively lower priced Performa line. These were again critically acclaimed, and Revel is now a well-established and respected speaker manufacturer. The new Concerta line is a significant move into a much less expensive market for Revel, as the top floor-standing speaker (the F12) is only $1,298 per pair. Quite a departure since the Performa F30 is about $5,000 per pair. The obvious question that begs an answer is–was Revel successful here, using all of the engineering and design know-how, or did they go too far downmarket? The short answer is that they seemed to have pulled it off, so read on.
For this review, Revel sent me a system that included a pair of F12 front tower speakers, a pair of M12 speakers placed on stands, a C12 center channel speaker, and two B12 subs. Unfortunately, for this price you don’t get the beautiful, ultra-modern design of the Ultima series–the look of the Concerta line is hopelessly traditional with cherry, maple, or black cabinets. Revel does get kudos for not only the convincingly real-looking vinyl, but also for the overall top-notch finish of the speakers, and being able to avoid the often cheap-looking “modern” design. These speakers are those rare pieces that look more expensive than their price. All have the traditional black grills, and all except the M12s come with small adjustable rubber feet, and all of them will also accommodate spikes. Although the finish looks convincingly like wood veneer, it is not. It is vinyl wrapping over an MDF cabinet, and the real money went into building a solid cabinet, as each F12 speaker weighs a nice, solid 63 pounds. The F12 has a four driver array, using a 1-inch tweeter, a 5.25-inch midrange, and two 8-inch woofers. Each drive is made from an organic ceramic composite material (OCC), and the frequency response is reported by Revel to be 33 Hz to 18 kHz at plus/minus 1 dB. The M12 is a two-way speaker, using the 1-inch tweeter and a 6.5-inch woofer. The C12 has a center-mounted 1-inch tweeter, the 4-inch midrange, and two of the 6.5-inch woofers. The B12 sub uses a 10-inch driver powered by a 650-watt amplifier.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
I first tested the Revel system with the very good Outlaw Model 1070 receiver, and then with a Krell HTS 7.1 processor/Integra RDA-7 amplifier combo. The speaker cables to the fronts and center were Audioquest Gibraltar, and the rears were in-wall 12-gauge wiring. Curiously, the F12 has bi-wiring capability, but the C12 and the M12 do not. The speakers came broken in by Revel, but I let them run for a while anyway, before spending time with them. Other associated equipment was a Pioneer DV-79AVi Universal DVD Player and a Time Warner HD cable box.
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Together, in surround mode, this was a very good system that managed to create a solid surround “bubble.” There is no chestiness or boominess to the midrange, no brightness to the highs, and the bass is solid and rapid enough to keep with music or with movies. The F12s produce a decent amount of bass, but you really do need the muscular little B12 subs for that extra oomph. I found that one sub was probably enough for most systems, although two provide a bit more smooth bass throughout the room.
What I especially liked about this system was how well it performed with either the $899 Outlaw receiver or the expensive Krell/Integra combo. It just never quite tripped up with either system; it sounded good with the Outlaw, and just “more good” with the expensive gear. It simply never offended and always managed to keep up and faithfully reproduce material. What you lose in comparison to a pricier system is top-end detail, and openness of sound that only comes with much more expensive speakers. Frankly, at $3,400 (with one sub), the system is a total winner. Revel has managed to translate their engineering downwards into this value line with great success. I highly recommend that those looking to get into a good home theater system seriously consider the Concerta line. It will grow with you from receiver power into separates, but we warned–the Concertas are good enough that you will be forced to desire Revel’s upmarket stuff. That’s the problem with good value-priced products–it’s like getting a taste of a something addictive, and you only want more!