Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.
If you've read our reviews of Revel's F226Be and F228Be floorstanding speakers, you may have the impression that those two models, along with the F328Be ($16,000/pair), are simply the small, medium, and large iterations of the PerformaBe floorstanding lineup. While technically correct, this would be greatly oversimplifying the truth. We expect the larger versions of similar speakers to have greater dynamic range and to have more low-frequency extension, and F328Be performs accordingly. But there is a lot more to this speaker than merely "louder F228Be with more bass."
Let me get the similarities out of the way right off the bat. The F328Be has a cabinet design similar to the rest of the PerformaBe floorstanding lineup, with a flat front baffle, rounded side walls that meet in a rounded point at the rear, a beveled black plinth at the bottom, and a curved metallic black top panel. The cabinet is extensively braced, with a sub-enclosure for the midrange driver. As with the rest of the PerformaBe floorstanding family, the F328Be is available in your choice of choice of four high-gloss finishes: Black, White, Walnut, and Metallic Silver.
The five-driver, three-way speaker is fairly large at 50.9 inches high, 13.5 inches wide, and 17.6 inches deep, and it weighs in at hefty 112.6 pounds. Astute readers will notice that this is only five inches taller than the F228Be, but almost three inches deeper. The modest height increase was managed by moving the bass-reflex port from the front of the cabinet. The triple eight-inch woofers need significantly more air than a pair of them, so the cabinet has some extra depth and a pair of rear-firing ports instead of a single port.
Harman's Jim Garrett aptly notes the ports are reminiscent of dual exhaust of a muscle car. The drivers themselves are also different than the eight-inch woofers in the F228Bes. The "B curve," the curve that shows the force factor related to the driver's movement in both directions, is more symmetrically balanced with the F328Be's woofer than the F228Be's. Additionally, using three separate woofers keeps the voice coils cooler, reducing compression.
While the addition of a third woofer is the most visible difference, the F328Be's new tweeter is the bigger story, and most will probably find it to make a bigger difference. It's a one-inch Beryllium dome tweeter with large ceramic magnets like the rest of the PerformaBe lineup, but the similarity ends there. The tweeter in the F328Be is an all-new design found only in the F328Be at this time. When I asked the Revel engineers about the new tweeter, I was provided with far too much information to include here, but I'll do my best to summarize it. I was told about an acoustically damped, vented pole piece that lowers mechanical resonance frequency and increases bandwidth, and an inductance modulation ring that reduces distortion as compared to the prior Beryllium tweeter.
So, what does this mean? In short, the new tweeter is more dynamic with less distortion than the same sized Beryllium tweeter in the rest of the lineup. This new tweeter is combined with a sixth-generation, ceramic-coated, cast-aluminum Acoustic Lens waveguide engineered to integrate the tweeter's directivity with the directivity of the midrange driver. Dispersion is decreased at lower frequencies and increased at higher frequencies. The new tweeter also has a phase plug that helps dispersion above 8kHz. Revel states that in comparison to the company's highly acclaimed Ultima 2, the F328Be's tweeter is much smoother. I was intrigued by this statement, as the PerformaBE series lacks the sculpted baffle of the Ultima 2 and has to overcome that design limitation.
The 5.25-inch midrange is the only driver that is carried over from other models in the PerformaBe lineup. The midrange and the eight-inch driver woofers incorporate Revel's Deep Ceramic Composite ("DCC") diaphragm, which provides a constrained layer damping system designed to push cone breakup modes outside of the passband, allowing the driver to maintain ideal pistonic motion throughout its range. The DCC cones are coupled with an improved motor structure for greater efficiency, dynamic range, and power-handling with reduced distortion and compression.
The F328Be's stated frequency range of 26Hz to 40kHz (-6dB) (-3dB at 35Hz) appears to be very conservative, especially when compared to ratings of other Revel speakers. I inquired about this and was told that Revel is using a different measurement system than with earlier series speakers and that the anechoic chamber was recalibrated fairly recently to provide more accurate results. The F328Be's nominal impedance is specified at 8 ohms, and sensitivity is stated at 91 dB/w/m.
The pair of F328Bes arrived in road cases that housed traditional cardboard boxes similar to those used for other Revel speakers. While these cases may be hard to store, they provide extra protection during shipping and look pretty cool.
The F328Bes were very forgiving with regard to both components and room positioning. I found the them easy to drive, working well with the few different amplifiers. I did not have any low-power tube amps in-house during my time with the Revels, but all of the moderate- to high-powered solid-state units worked fine. My relatively symmetrical room also made for easy positioning. I thought the rear-firing ports may have posed a challenge with the front wall, but I was mistaken.
Their final position was with their backs 25 inches from the front wall and approximately 90 inches apart, flanking my 100-inch projection screen. Like the rest of the PerformaBe lineup, the F328Bes were forgiving when it came to toe-in, and I ended up pointing them to a spot slightly behind my listening position. As with the F328Be, I installed IsoAcoustics' GAIA II feet (Crutchfield and Amazon), but had the front feet a little lower than the rears to slightly aim the tweeter down to my listening height. I might as well note here that I also listened with the stock spikes, but found that on my second-story wood-framed floor they reduced energy transmission to the floor.
The F328Bes were evaluated in both my reference stereo system as well as in a multichannel configuration. Starting with the stereo system, I used a single pair of Kimber Select speaker cables with Kimber Select jumpers to connect to a pair of McIntosh MC501 monoblocks being driven by a McIntosh C500 preamplifier. The F328Be's dual binding posts are utilitarian in nature but functional, and come with shorting straps if you prefer to use them instead of jumpers or bi wiring.
Marantz's AV8805 AV Preamplifier ($4,499 at Crutchfield, Check price at Amazon) acts as the centerpiece of my multichannel system, and amplification for the five base-level channels is provided by a Krell TAS Amplifier. Revel Performa3 C208 filled center-channel duties, as review samples of the newly released C426Be center speaker were not yet available. Keep your eyes open for a review of the C426Be in the future.
An Oppo UDP-203 and a Roku Ultra are my primary multichannel sources. During the course of my listening sessions, I installed acoustic panels in my room, but those will be the subject of discussion in a future article.
Once I had the F328Bes set up in the room, I started debating what music from my F226Be and F228Be reviews I should use for an apples-to-apples comparison. After I started listening, though, that careful deliberation went right out the window. I simply didn't want to stop and ended up listening to all the tracks from those reviews and many more.
I'll start with one of those additional tracks I listened to, "Walking on the Moon" by Infected Mushroom (Tidal), an electronica track with myriad sound effects, each of which was precisely placed in a three-dimensional soundstage into which the speakers completely disappeared. This track – not sure if I can call it a song – has deep, powerful, synthesized bass. Is it realistic? I have no idea; everything is super-processed and in no way resembles any sort of real instrument. But I can tell you it pressurized my room with no signs of strain or distortion up to volumes that were well above comfortable listening levels. The few voices that were not heavily processed sounded fine, but not being familiar with the artist I have no idea if they were conveyed accurately.
Malia Boris Blank's "Magnetic Lies" from the album Convergence (Tidal) also has deep, synthesized bass that was quick, powerful and taught, but also has female vocals that I have heard on many systems, giving me a better point of reference to the speaker's fidelity. I found the Revels' reproduction of Malia's voice to be natural, with no sibilance at any volume, but perhaps the most impressive thing is that the delivery of her vocals remained composed even while the speakers delivered dynamic deep bass.
Laura Marling's "Soothing" from Semper Femina (Tidal Hi-Fi) and "Variations" from Submotion Orchestra's album Kites (Tidal Hi-Fi) both feature female vocals that the F328Bes reproduced very similarly to the F226Be (as opposed to the F228Be) in that the specific space of each image was better, with tight, defined mid-bass. The reproduction of the guitar was very similar across all three speakers, but the overall soundstage with the F328Bes was larger than either the F226Be or F228Be.
Sticking with female vocals, please indulge me citing two over-referenced audiophile recordings. Rebecca Pidgeon's "Spanish Harlem" from The Raven (CD, Chesky Records) provided razor-sharp imaging for each instrument. The F328Bes completely disappeared, and the vocals sounded like they were coming from just behind the plane of the speakers. The bass guitar was portrayed with a careful balance of the F226Be's precision and the F228Be's weight.
With "Bird on a Wire" from Jennifer Warnes' album Famous Blue Raincoat (CD, Private Music), the F328Bes delivered more nuanced detail and low-frequency energy than the F228Bes. The drums are particularly well-recorded on this piece, and on the other end of the spectrum there is plenty of action from the triangle, cowbells, and cymbals. The treble on the F328Be seemed to be a touch less forward than that of the F228Be while being nonetheless more detailed.
Staying with metallic instruments for another track, I listened to Earl Hines' version of "Birdland" (CD, RealTime Records). My son plays a low brass instrument, so I paid particular attention to the tuba, which was convincingly reproduced. The dynamics and timbre were spot-on. The piano-playing on this album is something I could listen to all day, since in addition to being enjoyable music it is incredibly well-recorded. All of this is not wasted on the F328Be, which reproduced each instrument with the proper scale, dynamics, and timbre.
Borrowing another track from my F228Be review, I listened to the Living Stereo recording of Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 with Charles Munch leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra (88kHz/24-bit FLAC, RCA Living Stereo). The F328Bes provided a slightly larger soundstage for this piece than did the F228Bes but also delivered more detail in the layering and positioning of individual instruments. The biggest differences in individual instruments were additional detail in the higher notes of the violins via the F328Bes. The second area was the authority of the organ. It was powerful on the F228Bes, but the F328Bes reproduced the organ with more authority and control. In my room the lower organ notes were palpable without any sense of bloat.
One last two-channel track worth mentioning is Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" from Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (Tidal). I grew up listening to Harry Belafonte with my parents and enjoy listening to this album. As with the tracks mentioned previously, the F328Bes disappeared into a wide soundstage. The conga drums were slightly outside the right speaker, with Belafonte's vocals centered and slightly behind the speakers. The backup singers were farther back and off to the side. All were in precise spaces, and not wandering around the soundstage.
If you could not tell by now, the F328Bes impressed me with their handling of music. So much so that when I transitioned to my multichannel evaluation, I started with the musical Hamilton (Disney+). Based on my two-channel listening, I expected the vocals and instruments to be realistically reproduced, and I was not disappointed. As the actors walked across the stage, I could hear a slight change in the timbre between the F328Bes and the C208 center. I'm told that the C426Be center channel is designed to be a perfect match with the PerformaBe towers. Verification of that claim, however, will have to wait until review samples are available.
In order to make the most of our COVID-19 forced staycation, my family and I have been watching a lot of movies, including the newly remastered Jack Ryan films.
Clear and Present Danger from the Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection (UHD Blu-ray) is one of the movies that we were able to watch through the F328Bes, and I was not surprised that they handled the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack with ease, even with the speakers set to Large in the Marantz AV8805 and receiving a full range signal. The gunfights and explosions did not cause any audible stress for the Revels, despite relatively loud listening volumes.
Sonic the Hedgehog (UHD Blu-ray) has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack with clear, clean dialogue and lots of distinctive sound effects. When Sonic runs, for example, sound slows down for him while staying at normal speed for everyone else, an effect that's conveyed by the sound mix. The clarity of the F328Be kept the mix from getting sloppy or indistinct. The significant bass from the F328Bes during one of the film's most intense scenes also seamlessly integrated with my subwoofers.
My biggest complaint with the F328Be remains the cabinet. While it functions just fine, it's the same cabinet as the non-Be series speakers and falls behind the competition in the finish of the touch points. I also noticed that I could feel more vibration from the side panels of the F328Be when playing bass-heavy music at louder volumes than I could with the Magico A3.
The internal bracing of the cabinets is designed to shift the resonant frequencies up to a point where the cabinet is not an efficient transducer, though, and I did not notice any cabinet coloration during my listening. But all things being equal, less cabinet vibration is better. I cannot help but wonder if there would be an audible improvement in performance with a more inert cabinet.
Revel's own highly regarded Salon2 should probably be considered the F328Be's stiffest competition. Despite the Salon2 being significantly more expensive ($22,000/pair) and having the benefit of its distinctive sculpted baffle, there are many similarities in performance.
The Paradigm Persona 5F, a larger floorstanding speaker, is also an obvious competitor, as they are similarly priced ($17,000/pair) and rely on a Beryllium tweeter (and also has a Beryllium midrange driver). The Persona has a more forward tweeter, which could be good or bad depending on your room, but it is something to consider either way.
Likewise, the Focal Sopra N°2 at $13,995/pair and Sopra N°3 at $23,990/pair also feature Beryllium tweeters, with the No. 3 being closer in bass capabilities to the F328Be. I have not had the opportunity for extended listening sessions with either speaker, but my brief experiences with them were favorable. The Paradigm and Focal speakers have a more modern appearance than the Revels, with the curved baffle of the Focal being a bit more eye-catching. Whether this is good or bad will depend on your taste and décor, but it could be a deciding factor for some.
See the HomeTheaterReview.com floorstanding speaker page for the latest reviews of competitive speakers.
I found listening to the Revel F328Be helped me relax and connect with the music, which is perhaps the highest praise I can give any loudspeaker. The speakers disappear into a large soundstage and are capable of resolving details at low volumes but don't lose their composure with dynamic music at higher volumes.
The transition between the tweeter and midrange was noticeably more coherent than the already excellent F226Be and F228Be and more seamless from a wider variety of listening positions. I suspect this also assisted in providing clear and distinct positioning of specific instruments. The treble on the F328Be seems ever so slightly softer than that of the F228Be and F226Be – closer to that of the Magico A3 in overall balance in the treble region. As with the rest of PerformaBe line, the F328Bes have a more forward midrange than the A3, but I found the A3's imaging to be slightly sharper. The F328Be creates a bigger soundstage in both width and depth with large pieces such as orchestral performances, but the A3 still has a slight edge in resolution.
Bottom line, though: when listening to the Revel F328Bes, they simply got out of the way and let me enjoy a cohesive, well-balanced, dynamic and three-dimensional presentation at a variety of listening levels. There are other speakers that provide more resolution or extension at either end of the frequency spectrum, but you would be hard pressed to find a speaker that provides a more balanced, coherent, and nuanced presentation, especially at this price point.
• Visit the Revel website for more product information.
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• Revel PerformaBe Series F228Be Floorstanding Speaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.