Once I got the speakers settled into position and the feet installed, I began what turned into a lengthy series of listening sessions. Starting with stereo music, one of the first pieces I listened to was "Variations" by Submotion Orchestra from their album Kites�(Tidal Hi-Fi, Smo Recordings). The synthesized bass was deep and tight, but what caught my attention was the solid positioning of the lead female vocal track. Each of the instruments and voices was in its own distinct space in the soundstage.
Moving to Laura marling's "Soothing" from Semper Femina (Tidal Hi-Fi, Sony Music) the female vocals were again reproduced with a near spooky sense of realism, which was further bolstered by a natural sounding guitar track with a slow pace that let the Revels reproduce the minute details of the individual string plucks.
The speakers were extremely fast, detailed, coherent, and provided well-defined images. The Expressions edged out the F228Bes when it came to low level detail at lower listening volumes, but the Revels provided better defined spatial images and dynamics.
Staying with music from my recent Expression review, I then listened to the Living Stereo recording of Charles Munch leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing Saint-Sa�ns: Symphony No. 3 (176kHz/24-bit AIFF, from HDTracks.com). The F228Bes created a huge soundstage, going well beyond the physical confines of my listening room, and did so without giving up anything when it came to careful layering and positioning of individual instruments.�
I could go on and on about the variety of two channel music that I listened to during my time with the F228Bes, but I also had the opportunity to listen to some multichannel music. "Last Plane Out" from Toy Matinee's self-titled album (DVD-Audio, DTS Entertainment)�has been a long time favorite of mine. The guitars sounded very realistic, with the right amount of bite, the bass guitar had the right amount of weight and lots of detail, making it easy to close my eyes and imagine the band in the room with me.
I listened to a variety of other multichannel music tracks, including Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" from The Game (DVD-Audio, DTS Entertainment) and Imagine Dragons' "I Bet My Life" from Smoke + Mirrors (Blu-ray, DTS-HD), both of which are great tracks to demo a multichannel system. The dynamics of Freddie Mercury's vocals and the ambient spaciousness of the Imagine Dragons track were equally impressive. However, with multichannel music I was able to hear the differences between the F228Bes and the C208. They were very similar in character, but as the sounds panned across the front, I could discern the additional detail and extended open treble of the F228Bes.
The timbre differences between F228Be and C208 combination were much less distracting with movies. The train crash scene from Super 8 (Blu-ray, Paramount Pictures) really let the F228Be's dynamic power delivery and detail shine through as the big crashes, impacts, and explosions were reproduced without compression or strain. Equally impressive was the F228Be's ability to simultaneously reproduce the subtler sonic cues that provide the sense of envelopment and space that puts you in the middle of the action. This capability came as no surprise, as I heard it time and time again as I dove deep into my music catalog, but I was nonetheless happy to confirm that dynamic movies posed no challenge.
Competition and Comparison
The Paradigm Persona 3F, a larger floor-standing speaker, is an obvious competitor, as they are also priced at $10,000 and feature a Beryllium midrange as well as tweeter.
Likewise, the Focal Sopra No. 2�at $14,995 also features Beryllium tweeters. I have not had the chance 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, with the curved baffle of the Focal being a bit more eye-catching. This could be a plus or minus depending on your design criteria, but could be a deciding factor for some. See HomeTheaterReview.com's floorstanding speaker category page for the latest reviews of competitive speakers.
My biggest complaint with the F228Be is the cabinet. It's fine in and of itself, but it is the same cabinet as the F208, and some visual differentiation for a speaker that retails for twice the price would have been a good thing. The even and wide dispersion pattern makes room placement important, as differences in first reflection points were more audible than with speakers with less even dispersion patterns.�
If you are looking to place the F228Be in a multichannel system, the lack of a matching center channel is problematic for now. A PerformaBe series center channel is forthcoming, but no release date has been announced.
During my time with the F228Be, I found myself getting lost in hours-long listening sessions. Roon made it easy for me to find plenty of music to listen to and the Revels made me want to stay and listen. Whether it was the solid bass of an R&B track, the opening riff of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," or a mellow acoustic piece at the end of the day, the F228Bes were cohesive, neutral, fast, and dynamic. I was concerned that the Beryllium tweeters might be bright, but I found them to be open, with an extended top-end.�
During my time with the Revels, I tried several different amplifiers and found that the speakers really benefit from a powerful amplifier that can deliver a lot of current. My McIntosh MC501 monoblocks did a good job, but the Halcro dm38 really brought the F228Bes to life. Likewise, with multichannel audio, you will need a substantial amplifier in order to realize the potential of these speakers. Care must also be taken in their positioning, for while I believe the even and wide dispersion pattern has a lot to do with the F228Be's ability to create a precisely detailed soundstage, the first reflection points should be treated as much as possible to take advantage of this.
Of the speakers I have had in my system, the B&W 800 Series Diamonds were probably the closest to the F228Bes, but the Revels had more energy in the upper midrange/lower treble range, which provided them with more presence than older series of B&W 800 Series Diamonds (although I heard the current generation of the B&Ws also has more energy in this region). All in all, the Revel F228Be is a speaker that can recreate soundstages of any size, place the instruments in the correct spot, and make them sound real. The balance of coherent integration of the drivers, dynamic power delivery, and wide dispersion window work together to make for a performance that does a very good job at reproducing a wide variety of music. I highly recommend that you take a close listen if you are in the market for floorstanding speakers anywhere near this price range.
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