REVEL CON­CERTA2 M16 LOUD­SPEAK­ERS

Loud­speak­ers

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS - Hugh Dou­glas

If you’re af­ter a small pair of high-per­for­mance loud­speak­ers that punch well above their weight, these would be an ex­cel­lent choice!

One of the trick­i­est on­go­ing prob­lems for any speaker de­signer is not so much get­ting the speak­ers they de­sign to sound good— though that can be pretty tricky!—as mak­ing sure that they don’t sound so good that they can­ni­balise the sales of higher-priced mod­els in the com­pany’s own speaker range.

That’s cer­tainly a prob­lem that Revel Con­certa2 M16’s de­signer Mark Glazer would have faced when he was up­dat­ing the orig­i­nal Con­certa Se­ries to Con­certa2 sta­tus, be­cause he wouldn’t have wanted to take sales away from the sim­i­lar—but higher-priced—Revel Per­forma3 M105s. Yet at the same time it was also his job to make the Con­certa2 M16s bet­ter-sound­ing, bet­ter-per­form­ing speak­ers than sim­i­larly-priced mod­els from Revel’s com­peti­tors of which, at this pop­u­lar and af­ford­able price point, it must be said that there are a good many… and then some!

I was in­trigued to see how he’d man­aged, as I am sure you will be too, so read on, and you’ll find out how well he fared!

The equip­menT

The 25mm alu­minium dome tweeter in the Con­certa2 M16 has a wave guide that has a large gen­tly bend­ing ra­dius at its exit and an acous­tic lens in front of its dome. The wave­guide is to help with di­rec­tiv­ity, so the tweeter’s dis­per­sion pat­tern is more closely matched to that of the bass/midrange driver, but in the Con­certa2 M16 de­sign it also gives an in­crease in out­put at the crossover fre­quency. The acous­tic lens gives the tweeter’s high-fre­quency re­sponse a lit­tle more level and ex­ten­sion. Tweet­ers with hard domes some­times have res­o­nances in their pass­band, but Revel has avoided this by de­sign­ing the tweeter so there’s a large cav­ity, vented around its perime­ter, be­hind the mag­netic assem­bly, and a highly com­pli­ant di­aphragm sur­round. These two de­sign tricks drop the res­o­nance fre­quency down an oc­tave, so it’s lower than the crossover fre­quency and thus out of the pass-band. To be pre­cise with the fre­quen­cies, that of the res­o­nance is 800Hz and that of the crossover is 2,100Hz.

The 165mm bass/midrange driver in the Con­certa2 M16 has an MMC (Mi­cro-Ce­ramic Com­pos­ite) cone in which a layer of alu­minium has been coated on both sides with a ce­ramic ma­te­rial with a very high Young’s Mod­u­lus. This ‘sand­wich’ con­struc­tion re­sults in a very stiff cone but one that’s in­ter­nally damped due to the dif­fer­ences in the speed of sound through the dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. Revel claims that in a cone of this size, the MCC ma­te­rial de­liv­ers su­pe­rior per­for­mance to or­di­nary metal, pa­per and aramid fi­bre (Kevlar) cones. Although Revel rates the Con­certa2 M16’s cone with a di­am­e­ter of 165mm, the mov­ing di­am­e­ter is only 142mm and the di­am­e­ter of the cone is just 122mm. The Thiele/Small di­am­e­ter, which is the im­por­tant one, is 133mm, giv­ing an ef­fec­tive cone area (Sd) of 140cm². Be­cause the Revel Con­certa2 M16 is a bass-re­flex de­sign, it has a port (not ob­vi­ous in the pho­to­graph be­cause it’s on the rear panel).

Look care­fully at this port and you’ll see that it’s not a ‘stan­dard’ port, be­cause it’s made us­ing what Revel calls a ‘Con­stant Pres­sure Gra­di­ent De­sign’ where the in­ner wall of the port is con­toured so that the pres­sure gra­di­ent, or the change in pres­sure along the lon­gi­tu­di­nal axis of the port, re­mains con­stant along its length. This de­sign re­duces the chance of any un­wanted noise from air move­ment through the port, im­proves air­flow through the port (ef­fec­tively in­creas­ing its out­put) and re­duces dis­tor­tion. Es­sen­tially, in­stead of the port be­ing a tube with a con­stant di­am­e­ter and a small round­ing at either end, like most bass re­flex ports, the port is only tubu­lar at its cen­tre, with the di­am­e­ter of the port in­creas­ing quite dra­mat­i­cally as it ap­proaches either end be­fore fin­ish­ing with a small round­ing at either end. Revel’s par­ent com­pany, Har­man In­ter­na­tional In­dus­tries (though Har­man is it­self now owned by Sam­sung) was granted a US patent on this de­sign.

What should be ob­vi­ous from our pho­to­graph is that the side walls of the Revel Con­certa2 M16 are curved. This is a well­known tech­nique for re­duc­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of stand­ing waves and res­o­nances in­side the cabi­net. It also en­ables the front baf­fle to be nar­rower than it would oth­er­wise be, which im­proves dis­per­sion and re­duces un­wanted baf­fle re­flec­tions. Revel achieves these curves by us­ing the even bet­ter-known wood­work­ing tech­nique called ‘kerf cut­ting’, kerf bend­ing or just plain old ‘kerf­ing’, where dozens of chan­nels are cut into the MDF that’s used to form the cabi­net walls, which al­lows an oth­er­wise flat piece of wood to be bent. (Look in­side an acous­tic gui­tar through the sound hole and you’re very likely to see an ex­am­ple of kerf bend­ing.) Whereas many man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t bother dress­ing the side of the MDF that’s been kerfed, Revel does: It adds an­other piece of wood that’s thin enough to fol­low the curve, be­cause it says that do­ing this adds strength to the fin­ished cabi­net. Fur­ther strength is pro­vided by in­ter­nal brac­ing.

The speaker ter­mi­nals on the rear of the cabi­net (two gold-plated multi-way types) are con­tained on a small plas­tic fit­ting that’s just small enough to make it fid­dly to try to tighten the posts us­ing your fin­gers. Whereas many man­u­fac­tur­ers of two-way de­signs mount the crossover net­work on the rear of the speaker ter­mi­nal plate, the Con­certa2 M16’s crossover net­work is ‘way too big to do that, so Revel has fixed it to the in­side of the base of the speaker. The nine-el­e­ment, high-or­der net­work is com­prised of four in­duc­tors, one of which is air-cored, and three of which are cross-mounted so there can be no in­ter­ac­tion be­tween them, while the two that are par­al­lel are at op­po­site ends of the PCB (far apart enough for there to be no mag­netic in­ter­ac­tion be­tween them). The cir­cuit is com­pleted by three ca­pac­i­tors (two bipo­lar elec­trolytic and one met­allised polyester) and two cer­met re­sis­tors (one five-watt, one ten-watt), all of which are mounted on a sin­gle PCB. This net­work in­cludes com­pen­sa­tion for the free-space to half-space ‘bump’ that can oc­cur in book­shelf speak­ers at low fre­quen­cies. The ex­te­rior of the cabi­net of our Revel Con­cert2 M16 was fin­ished in high-gloss pi­ano black paint, but you can also have a high-gloss white painted fin­ish. Each cabi­net mea­sures 375×219×274mm (HWD) and weighs 7.3kg.

In Use and LIs­ten­Ing ses­sIons

Although, due to their size, they’re usu­ally clas­si­fied as ‘book­shelf’ loud­speak­ers, all so-called ‘book­shelf’ speak­ers will de­liver bet­ter per­for­mance when placed on stands, so ‘stand-mount’ is prob­a­bly the bet­ter term to de­scribe them. The prob­lem is that the money you spend on stands would prob­a­bly pro­duce bet­ter re­turns if in­vested it in the speak­ers them­selves, so that as­sum­ing you have ex­actly the same amount to spend, you’d be bet­ter ad­vised to pur­chase a more ex­pen­sive pair of floor-stand­ing loud­speak­ers than a pair of lower-cost speak­ers plus a pair of stands. That said, if you only have a fi­nite amount to spend, but you need some sound straight away, you could buy a pair of stand-mount speak­ers with the money from one year’s tax re­turn and use them on book­shelves for a year then use the money from the fol­low­ing year’s tax re­turn to buy a pair of stands. Of course I haven’t fac­tored in the part­ner ac­cep­tance fac­tor here at all, and there’s no doubt that a small pair of stand­mount speak­ers on nice slim stands looks far more ‘pre­sentable’ in a nicely-fur­nished room than a pair of floor-standers.

For this re­view I did use the Revel Con­certa2 M16s on stands, where they per­formed the best, but for the record they also spent a brief time on book­shelves in my home of­fice, either side of my com­puter, and my ex­pe­ri­ence was such that if you’d pre­fer to use the Con­certa2 M16s on book­shelves (or any other sur­face), they’ll re­turn ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing sound… per­haps not quite as good as if you’d mounted them on stands, but close… very close.

One big ad­van­tage of small speak­ers on stands is that they’re re­ally easy to move back and for­wards, so if you want the midrange to be as ac­cu­rate as pos­si­ble and the stereo imag­ing to be at its best, and you don’t mind miss­ing out on a bit of deep bass, you can move the speak­ers out into the room a lit­tle, fur­ther away from rear and side walls. And when you’d pre­fer to max­imise your bass re­sponse, you can move the speak­ers closer to a rear wall. Of course pos­si­bly a bet­ter way to max­imise your bass re­sponse would be to add a sub­woofer, in which case the best match for the Con­certa2 M16s would be a Revel B10.

Of­ten when I first con­nect a pair of speak­ers for re­view one par­tic­u­lar as­pect of their per­for­mance will be­come im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous right from the very first track I play, but in the case of the Revel Con­certa2 M16s, two as­pects of their per­for­mance im­me­di­ately grabbed my at­ten­tion. The first was the in­cred­i­ble plau­si­bil­ity of the sound-stage they pre­sented: The per­form­ers just ‘ap­peared’ in a three-di­men­sional space be­fore me, and one

In the case of the Revel Con­certa2 M16s, two as­pects of their per­for­mance im­me­di­ately grabbed my at­ten­tion

that was not con­strained to the bound­aries of the speak­ers’ phys­i­cal lo­ca­tions in the room—I could hear in­stru­ments fur­ther to the left and right of those po­si­tions, and the stage had depth as well, with sounds ap­pear­ing to come from the speak­ers’ plane and some ap­pear­ing to come from be­hind it. Within the stage, the imag­ing was pin-point, with per­form­ers firmly an­chored in po­si­tion, whether it was stage cen­tre, or off­set to stage left or stage right. Yes, I have pre­vi­ously heard loud­speak­ers that have de­liv­ered this high level of imag­ing, but none that have been sell­ing at the price Revel is ask­ing for its Con­certa2 M16s.

The sec­ond fo­cus of my at­ten­tion was the clar­ity and re­al­ity of the midrange sound. As the late, great, Gor­don Holt once noted, if you can’t get the midrange right, you needn’t bother get­ting any­thing else right. (OK, he ac­tu­ally said ‘ if the midrange is not right then noth­ing else mat­ters’, but I like my mis­quote rather bet­ter.) Holt was def­i­nitely a sub­jec­tivist, but even the ob­jec­tivists take the same line, with no less an author­ity than loud­speaker re­searcher Floyd E. Toole say­ing: ‘ fre­quency re­sponse is the sin­gle most im­por­tant as­pect of the per­for­mance of any au­dio de­vice. If it is wrong, noth­ing else mat­ters.’ Toole went on to say that get­ting the fre­quency re­sponse right was only the first step in any speaker de­sign project, and that it was also nec­es­sary to get other fac­tors cor­rect, no­tably di­rec­tiv­ity, but that’s a story that’s ‘way too long for this re­view. Sig­nif­i­cantly Floyd E. Toole, Mark Glazer and Kevin Voecks all worked for Har­man at the same time, so you’d as­sume they were all singing from the same song­book…)

But back to the midrange, and more on the clar­ity and re­al­ity of it. Play­ing my favourite Lorde al­bum, ‘Melo­drama’, al­ways start­ing at the very first track ( Green Light) and work­ing through to the clos­ing Per­fect Places (and then, usu­ally, start­ing play all over again) and the Revel Con­cer­ta2s just re­newed my en­thu­si­asm for her work. First, there’s the un­mis­tak­able sound of her voice it­self.

Then there’s that un­der­ly­ing pi­ano, chordal at first, with the sound of each sus­tained chord dy­ing away with a beau­ti­fully au­then­tic ‘stringi­ness’ be­fore be­ing re­placed by an­other, then when her voice gets lay­ered, with the re­peated dy­ing fall of ‘liar, liar, liar’, then as the kick drum sets the rhythm for the track to de­velop to the full cho­rus… the Revel Con­cer­ta2s just en­cour­aged me to lis­ten fully into the mix, gain­ing in ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the mu­si­cian­ship with ev­ery pass­ing sec­ond. This is the type of per­for­mance that de­fines the word ‘mu­si­cal­ity’.

The syn­co­pa­tion that typ­i­fies the fol­low­ing track, Sober, (my other half nee­dles me that this should be my theme song… and not just be­cause I play it so much) is again per­fectly re­pro­duced by the Con­cer­ta2s: the per­cus­sion sounds are crisp, sharp and im­me­di­ate, the brass sound prop­erly pierc­ing, and the cho­rus vo­cals truly eerie. Wait a few tracks and then turn up the vol­ume on Writer in the Dark as Lorde re­veals the pal­ette of her voice, from pure, to croak, to falsetto to a threat­en­ing bari­tone. Lis­ten­ing to the Con­cer­ta2s, ab­so­lutely all these dif­fer­ent sounds were per­fectly pitched, per­fectly placed… and per­fectly paced. You can also hear the elec­tron­ica per­fectly… and maybe wish it could all have been recorded us­ing real in­stru­ments. Keep­ing with the ‘L’s’, I fol­lowed on with Lon­don Gram­mar, not least be­cause for mine, Han­nah Reid has one of the most glo­ri­ously beau­ti­ful voices in pop­u­lar mu­sic to­day. It’s truly rare to hear a con­tralto these days, and even rarer to hear one in pop with Reid’s range and train­ing.

Lis­ten care­fully to Root­ing For You (from ‘Truth is a Beau­ti­ful Thing’) and you’ll im­me­di­ately hear what I’m rav­ing about, and you’ll be par­tic­u­larly im­pressed if you’re us­ing the Con­cer­ta2s to do so. Con­tinue through to Big Pic­ture and you’ll get a taste of what the Rev­els can of­fer in the bass depart­ment—bass that’s depthy and deep, yet bass with­out over­hang and bass that doesn’t get in the way of sim­i­larly-pitched per­cus­sion. Lis­ten to the way the Con­cer­ta2s de­liver the grad­ual ‘build’ of the track with­out be­ing ob­vi­ous, and with­out any ‘step-like’ ac­tion… just a smooth, al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly in­clined in­crease in level un­til the sparkly fade to black.

The ‘live’ feel the Revel Con­cer­ta2s can de­liver was for me typ­i­fied by the au­then­tic sound of the Afro-Cuban All Stars in full swing. Again there’s the per­fectly paced per­cus­sion but this time you get the sear­ing blast of live brass, and if you don’t swear it’s a real cow­bell that’s snuck it­self into your lis­ten­ing room, I’ll be sur­prised. Af­ter you’ve been lis­ten­ing awhile, be then amazed that de­spite dozens of dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments and mu­si­cal lines, you’re hear­ing ev­ery sin­gle sound… and I mean ev­ery sin­gle sound… with crys­talline clar­ity, as if each one is etched into the air in front of the speak­ers. I was lis­ten­ing to a live per­for­mance, and in ad­di­tion to the clar­ity of the sound, I was amazed by the ac­cu­racy of the sound-stag­ing, so that the mu­si­cians per­fectly po­si­tioned in their places on the stage, and the imag­ing so pre­cise that I could hear the slight dif­fer­ences in the tonal qual­ity of the trum­pet sound as the play­ers swept their in­stru­ments from side to side.

An ex­cel­lent choice if you want a small pair of high-per­for­mance loud­speak­ers that punch well above their weight

As you’d ex­pect, you get the full ben­e­fit of the imag­ing—and the max­i­mum stage depth—when you’re lis­ten­ing in the ‘sweet spot’ (which for the Con­certa2 M16s is rather larger than usual) but even off-axis the imag­ing holds up very well.

Although the stereo imag­ing and the clar­ity and re­al­ity of the midrange sound were the stand-outs for me, the Revel Con­cer­ta2s’ de­liv­ery of the low and high fre­quen­cies came in a very close sec­ond. I was not ex­pect­ing truly deep bass from such a small loud­speaker, yet the Con­cer­ta2s con­founded my ex­pec­ta­tions by de­liv­er­ing sat­is­fy­ingly deep bass that was de­liv­ered with speed and pre­ci­sion and there was no ‘dou­bling’ when I turned up the vol­ume. Bass was cer­tainly suf­fi­ciently ex­tended that I still felt the punch from kick drums and the full en­ergy from the low­est strings on both bass gui­tars and dou­ble-bass.

The tre­ble was ex­tended, so I could clearly hear the shim­mer­ing sound of a del­i­cately brushed cym­bal above the sound of the rest of the kit and the band. I could also hear the ‘air’ of the venue when play­ing live record­ings.

Con­clu­sion

If you’re af­ter a small pair of high-per­for­mance loud­speak­ers that punch well above their weight, the Revel Con­certa2 M16s would be an ex­cel­lent choice.

Read­ers in­ter­ested in a full tech­ni­cal ap­praisal of the per­for­mance of the Revel Con­certa2 M16 loud­speak­ers should con­tinue on and read the LAB­O­RA­TORY RE­PORT pub­lished on the fol­low­ing pages. Read­ers should note that the re­sults men­tioned in the re­port, tab­u­lated in per­for­mance charts and/or dis­played us­ing graphs and/or pho­tographs should be con­strued as ap­ply­ing only to the spe­cific sam­ple tested.

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