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Revel Ultima2 Salon2 Floorstanding Loudspeakers

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$21,998.00
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REVSALON2
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  • Product Description

    The Revel Ultima2 Series Loudspeakers exemplify subtle elegance with their smooth, rounded shapes, easily blending into a wide variety of décors. Offering an elegant, designer-friendly appearance and unparalleled sound quality, the Revel Salon2 is the highest expression of Revel technology and performance in loudspeaker design and achieves previously unmatched performance. Its sophisticated design even extends to the cast aluminum input and control panel, which is hidden from view yet easily accessible. The smoked access panel continues the elegant shape of the cabinet, even when viewed from the side or rear. The Salon2 is as delightful for the discriminating eye as is satisfying for the refined ear.

    Main Features

    • Curvilinear Single Piece Enclosure with 9 Layers of Laminated MDF
    • Narrow Sonically Optimized, 2 ½" Thick Baffle that Virtually Eliminates Diffraction Effects
    • Easily Removable, Magnetically Attached Grilles
    • Pure Beryllium Dome Tweeter with 3rd Generation Waveguide Technology
    • Titanium Cone Woofer and Midrange with Inverted-dome Designs

    Revel Ultima2 Loudspeaker Series Brochure
    Salon2 Owner's Manual

    Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeaker

    Back in March 1998, Revel's Ultima Salon1 floorstanding loudspeaker generated quite a stir at Stereophile (Vol.22 No.3). Our reviewers were impressed by its seven designed-from-scratch drive-units, its ultramodern enclosure with curved rosewood side panels, exposed front tweeter and midrange, rear-facing reflex port and tweeter, and a flying grille over the mid-woofer and woofers. In the December issue (Vol.22 No.12), the Ultima Salon1 ($16,000/pair) was named Stereophile's "Joint Speaker of 1999" for its "big bass, timbral accuracy, low distortion, dynamics, lack of compression, and best fit'n'finish."

    Not everyone shared this enthusiasm, finding the Salon1's Bauhaus aesthetic too industrial-looking. The speaker's 240-lb shipping weight, 51" height, and 30" depth also presented distinct challenges in placement and décor. Evidently, Revel listened—the Ultima Salon2 is slimmer, taller, and lighter.

     


    What's the Same
    The Salon1 and Salon2 are both tall, heavy, floorstanding, four-way, ported dynamic loudspeakers bristling with Revel-designed drivers: a 1" dome tweeter, a 4" inverted titanium-dome midrange unit, a 6.5" midwoofer, and three 8" woofers. Their enclosures are constructed from 45mm-thick, nine-layer MDF molded into a gracefully curved form. Then, instead of the flat front panel and mitered sides of a typical box speaker, a thick, curved front baffle designed to minimize cabinet resonances is attached.

    For each Salon, the goal was the same: achieve an off-axis response that closely matches the on-axis response. To this end, both speakers have: steep, fourth-order (24dB/octave) crossover slopes to prevent the distortions that occur when drivers work outside their optimal ranges; small midrange drivers; a relatively low tweeter crossover frequency; crossover components matched to within 0.5dB of the original reference prototype; and curved front baffles to minimize diffraction effects.

     


    What's New
    To create the Salon2, Revel put the Salon1 on a diet, morphing it into a slim, oval column that's 2.3" taller, 3" narrower, 7" shallower, and 72 lbs lighter than its predecessor. Gone are the Salon1's heavy side panels of rosewood veneer, separate head baffle, rear reflex port, and rear tweeter. Instead, the rear of the Salon2 is a smooth curve. The speaker-terminal panel is now covered by a door of smoked plastic. The curved front baffle is black, and the recessed drivers are now free of external mounting hardware. A new, magnet-fastened, black grille covers all six drivers.

    The Salon2's Revel-designed midrange drive-units use titanium diaphragms, this material chosen for its greater tensile strength. Dual motor pole-pieces are placed between two inverted and opposing neodymium magnets centered inside each voice-coil, to increase magnetic performance; smaller magnet/motor structures provide more usable internal speaker volume; new aluminum flux-stabilization rings further minimize flux modulation to reduce second-harmonic distortion; oversized voice-coils—2" for the woofer, 1.5" for the midrange—maximize output and minimize dynamic compression; and vent holes have been cut through the motor's pole and shield cup to remove trapped heat from inside the woofer's motor and reduce air noise inside the voice-coil.

    The Salon2 has a tweeter with a beryllium dome, which has a low density but a high stiffness. These qualities push the tweeter dome's first breakup mode above 50kHz—twice as high as that of the Salon1's aluminum-dome tweeter—with usable frequency response up past 40kHz. A unique pin at the back of the tweeter's rear cavity helps break up standing waves, while a copper cap on the tweeter's pole-piece reduces inductance modulation and the corresponding harmonic distortion.

    The tweeter is mounted in a shallow 4" by 5.5" waveguide, formed in the front baffle, that matches the tweeter's directivity to that of the midrange's at the crossover frequency. It also adds 3–7dB more gain around and above the crossover region, and reduces the tweeter's directivity above 9kHz. Because all of this increases the tweeter's output by 2dB, Revel decided that the Salon1's rear tweeter would not be needed in the Salon2.

    The Salon2's woofers use aluminum cones rather than the Salon1's mica/carbon-filled copolymer cones, and are reflex-aligned with a hyperbolic, downward-firing, 16" by 4" port with an asymmetrical flare rate, to eliminate "chuffing" noise when the speaker is driven at high levels. The tunnel's tapered shape "behaves as if it is longer than a straight ducted port," according to Revel.

    The use of separate filter boards for each of the crossover's four frequency ranges is said to prevent distortion-causing magnetic interference. Connections soldered point-to-point and large, air-core inductors are used on each board. The two pairs of heavy, gold-plated binding posts are mounted in a cast-aluminum panel set into a shallow depression cut into the Salon2's curved back. The hollowed-out posts accommodate spade lugs as well as speaker-cable plug adapters. Dual pairs of posts mean that the Salon2 can be driven by two stereo amplifiers (ie, biamplified) or with double speaker cables (ie, biwired). The owner's manual clearly explains these setups. If the owner prefers a more conventional arrangement of one stereo power amp and two pairs of speaker cables, two accessory jumper straps (supplied) connect the posts of the upper and lower drivers.

    The Salon2's terminal panel is covered by a door of smoked plastic to maintain the enclosure's curved exterior. This door is too small and light to generate sonic disturbance when the speaker is playing, but the channel at the door's bottom proved too narrow for my speaker cables. As a result, I had to leave the door open.

    The Salon2's terminal panel has two rotary controls for adjusting Tweeter Level and Low-Frequency Compensation. The Tweeter Level control offers five positions: 0, and ±0.5 and ±1.0dB. The Low-Frequency Compensation control has three settings: Contour produces a small (–1.5dB) but audible bass cut from 30 to 50Hz, to deal with standing-wave effects in the room; Boundary reduces the bass response by 5dB from 30 to 50Hz, to compensate for placing the speaker very close to a wall or building it into some sort of enclosure; Normal is for the optimum free-space placement.

    Like the Salon1, the Salon2 is of superb quality in its fit'n'finish. Although a speaker binding post on one of my review samples arrived loose, designer Kevin Voecks assured me that it could be fixed in the field without the owner having to ship the speaker back to the factory. Each Salon2 is shipped with four combination metal spikes/glides, which screw into the cabinet bottom and are secured with a metal locking ring set off by a felt washer, to protect the speaker's finish. Because my hardwood floors are finished, I didn't use these. I found the Salon2's gold-plated hardware and connections to be sturdy and easily accessible; they should last a lifetime.


    Setup
    I left the Ultima Salon2's grilles on for all the listening. I first placed the speakers in the positions where my Quad ESL-989s work best: 3' out from the sidewall, 3' from the front wall, and facing the full length of my listening room. This location lent some chestiness to Richard Lehnert's voice on Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2). Setting the Salon's Low-Frequency Compensation to Contour didn't improve the situation, while the Boundary setting just thinned out the middle tones of his voice. Moving the Salon2s farther out into the room—80" from the front wall, 50" from the sidewalls, 58" apart, and 90" from my listening chair—helped Richard's voice sound more natural and clean (footnote 1). This allowed me to leave the speakers' bass tone controls in their Normal position for most of my listening sessions.

    After some experimentation, I set the Tweeter Level to flat ("0"). At 48" from the floor, the Salon2's tweeter is higher than the 38" my ears are from the floor when I sit down. Even so, the Salon2's treble balance with pink noise didn't change during the "sit down, stand up" test. Final adjustments included phase checks, low-frequency warble test tones, comparative nearfield (8') and farfield (16') listening, and positioning the speakers for optimal soundstaging and imaging using the pink-noise tracks from Editor's Choice.

    I drove the Salon2s with various solid-state amplifiers, including a Mark Levinson No.334 (125Wpc into 8 ohms), a Krell FPB-600c (600Wpc into 8 ohms), and Bryston 28B-SST monoblocks (1300W into 8 ohms). The ML No.334 demonstrated impressive dynamics, playing huge deep-bass transients from synthesizer music, sustained organ-pedal chords, and bass-drum notes at high volumes. The Krell FPB-600c seemed to have limitless deep-bass extension. And the Bryston 28B-SSTs drove the Salon2s to 105dB peak levels (at 8') with no evidence of distorting.

     


    Sound
    I expect good deep bass from a floorstanding, full-range loudspeaker, and the Salon2 did not disappoint. It reached down to 17Hz with no more than ±3dB variation from its output at 100Hz, with no sign of doubling (ie, no second-harmonic distortion). This was the deepest bass I've ever gotten in my listening room from a full-range floorstander. (See fig.8 in JA's "Measurements" sidebar.)

    I confirmed the Salon2's deep-bass extension by listening to the low-frequency warble tones on Editor's Choice, which were clearly audible and pitch-perfect down to the 25Hz 1/3-octave band. I felt some useful output as low as 20Hz, and so did my house—the baseboard radiator panels at the other end of the room began to dance and rattle. The chromatic-scale half-step sinewaves on track 19 were reproduced cleanly and evenly, particularly the 130.8Hz note, which falls near the crossover of the Salon2's midbass and woofers.

    To confirm this superb low-bass extension, I turned to music. Organ recordings were enhanced and clarified by the Salon2's deep-bass extension. The speaker's three woofers produced a solid 32Hz tone that reproduced the low pedal C that ends Herbert Howell's Master Tallis's Testament, from the Pipes Rhode Island collection (CD, Riago 101 (footnote 2)). Additionally, the Salon2 made it easier than ever before to follow bass lines. Whether it was Tal Wilkenfeld's intricate and tuneful electric-bass line on "Truth Be Told," from her Transformation (CD, Goldelux Productions TAL001-2), downloaded from iTunes and played via WiFi from my Slim Devices Squeezebox; or Jerome Harris's careful bass work weaving in and out of his quintet's performance of "The Mooche," from Rendezvous (CD, Stereophile STPH013-2), I heard none of the tendency to blur bass notes that I've heard from other speakers. The Ultima Salon2 played percussion and/or piano and/or brass with full impact while retaining complete clarity of the softer bass lines.

    The fortissimo bass-drum strokes heard in the second movement of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, in the recording by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (SACD, Deutsche Grammophon 000718236), burst into my listening room as sudden, well-defined thuds with cleanly defined leading edges and sudden, explosive power. These bass-drum strokes seemed to spring forth from the floor, even though the clean deep-bass pitch was actually too low to be directional. The Salon2s' downward-firing ports must have activated my wooden floor, which added to the drum note's power, slam, solidity, and weight. However, there were no lingering overtones, no overhang, and no disturbance of the midrange or treble sounds. Nor did the Salon2s' woofers evince any compression during the sustained bass notes of "First Haunting/The Swordfight," from James Horner's score for Casper (CD, MCA MCAD-11240).

    The Salon2's midrange and treble showed the greatest differences in direct comparisons with the Salon1. The Salon2 had less emphasis in the presence region, but the pair of them didn't produce as much air and soundstage depth, perhaps due to the removal of the Salon1's rear tweeter. However, the Salon2's midrange and treble showed greater top-to-bottom transparency than the original Salon. While the Salon1 continued to impress with its bass power, speed, and rear-tweeter ambience and air, the Salon2 seemed to be more relaxed and more neutral, with greater overall transparency. Both had deep bass to spare, but the Salon2's response in this region seemed more effortless and smooth, with even less dynamic compression than the Salon1.

    The Salon2's midrange and treble improvements were best heard with piano recordings. I was delighted to hear natural resonances and tonalities that greatly added to my involvement in the music—greater clarity, increased coherence, and more emotional impact, from a variety of piano-music genres. For example, the Salon2 communicated the striking dynamics and controlled power of Variation 1, from Glenn Gould's 1982 recording of J.S. Bach's The Goldberg Variations (CD, CBS Masterworks MK3779), which contrast strongly with the lyrical, deliberate moodiness of Simone Dinnerstein's recent, award-winning recording (CD, Telarc CD-80692). The light, joyous character of Keith Jarrett's piano on his The Carnegie Hall Concert (CD, ECM 1989/90) was strikingly evident. Timbral qualities I heard during a live recital by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes were also heard in his recent recording with the Artemis Quintet of Brahms's Piano Quintet in f (CD, Virgin Classics 395143 2).

    I also heard what Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times called "explosive lyricism, surging power, and incisive attack" from pianist Yundi Li's recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto 2, with Seiji Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic (CD, Deutsche Grammophon 001017502). And I enjoyed the natural balance of bass weight, treble control, and slight reverberation in pianist Robert Silverman's recording of Liszt's Liebestraum.

    Vocal recordings were rendered with outstanding timbral accuracy and stunning realism. The Salon2 captured a smoothness and lyricism in tenor Albert Jordan's version of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You?" on Cantus (CD, Cantus CTS-1207), that I'd never heard before. Harry Connick, Jr.'s rich baritone singing "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," from the When Harry Met Sally . . . soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 45319), was as natural and realistic as I've heard it, with none of the honk, midbass emphasis, or closed-in quality I've heard from lesser speakers.

    The Salon2s delivered a deep, broad, rock-solid image of the soundstage, projecting a solid, three-dimensional image of the full choir, powerful organ, and harp on A Gaelic Prayer, from John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR57-CD)—as well as a sonic image of the choir that hovered suspended, deep offstage, behind the voice of tenor José Carreras on the Kyrie from Ariel Ramirez's Misa Criolla, conducted by José Luis Ocejo (CD, Philips 420 955-2).

    Like the Salon1 before it, the Salon2 had outstanding timbral accuracy that allowed me to hear subtle qualities of male vocalists in choirs, the reediness of wind instruments, and the sounds of drum rims and soundboards. I noticed a series of distinct resonances in the male chorus singing "Lord Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace," from Rutter's Requiem, and the solo bassoon that opens Le Sacre du Printemps was unusually rich, sweet, and captivating.

    The Salon2 demonstrated jaw-dropping dynamics in my listening room. I heard no grain or compression until the amplifier ran out of steam. The Salon2 played synthesizer and bass-drum crescendos so well that I kept cranking up the volume. David Hudson's raw, pulsing, raspy, bass-didgeridoo version of "Rainforest Wonder," from his Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia IA2003 D), and the thudding, sledgehammer-like bass synth in "Assault on Ryan's House," from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2), hit exceptional peak SPLs, but the Salon2 refused to choke. The Stravinsky recording thrilled me, especially when the wind instruments joined the thunderous stomping of strings used as percussion. The Rite's pulsing tempo and surging energy built through Adoration of the Earth, near the end of Part 1, then erupted into the explosive Dance of the Earth. The Salon2 possessed all the power, range, and pitch definition I've heard from the best powered subwoofers. I let up only when the Krell FPB-600c blew my house's circuit breakers.

    The Ultima Salon2 remained in complete control, falling silent after each percussion note. Cymbals sounded startlingly clear, utterly transparent, and sweet—as in the opening of "The Mooche," from Jerome Harris's Rendezvous, and Patricia Barber's "Noxus," from Café Blue (SACD, Premonition/Blue Note/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2002). The Salon2s had a spatial precision that I normally associate only with my Quad ESL-989 electrostatic speakers. Nor was the Revel's ability to deliver large, even amounts of sonic power into my listening room done at the expense of the most subtle musical details. After I pointed out, to the usually taciturn John Atkinson, the utter clarity of Jerome Harris's soft bass-guitar line in "The Mooche"—JA had been the recording engineer for Rendezvous—I heard him whisper, "These are very good loudspeakers, Larry." The resolution with which this subdued bass line was being presented struck us both as most impressive, especially coming from 178-lb, floorstanding, full-range, dynamic speakers.

     


    Summary
    While I find the sounds of Revel's Ultima Salon1, the Quad ESL-989, the Burmester B-99, and the Dynaudio Evidence Master to be still among my favorites, the Revel Ultima Salon2 is the best-performing, most natural-sounding full-range loudspeaker I have auditioned in my listening room since I started writing for Stereophile in 1984. The Revel design team has smoothed the Salon1's upper midrange while retaining that award-winning speaker's powerful bass extension, timbral accuracy, and superb dynamics. The result is an open and transparent top end, an utterly neutral and grain-free midrange, and bass that is extended and pitch-perfect. The Ultima Salon2 does all this while sounding completely neutral, with top-to-bottom smoothness, coherence, and remarkable resolution of detail.

    While $22,000/pair is a lot of money, the quality of this loudspeaker equals that of others costing up to three times as much. In the Salon2, Kevin Voecks and his team have produced far more than a cosmetic upgrade of the Salon1. They have created a new reference standard in floorstanding loudspeakers that has earned my strongest recommendation.

     

     



    Footnote 1: The Salon2's manual gives great advice for placing the speakers in the room, suggesting that the buyer move "the loudspeakers further from the front and side listening room walls to improve stereo imaging and sense of spaciousness in the listening room." It also states that "a coffee table between the speakers and the primary listening position will degrade imaging and timbre." For that reason, I moved a marble table from the back of my listening room outside to the patio.

    Footnote 2: John Marks, who played a key role in recording Master Tallis's Testament, reports "that the Low C was a 16-foot pipe playing 32Hz as the fundamental, a 32-foot pipe playing 16Hz as the suboctave support, and at least one 8-foot stop providing harmonics at 64Hz."

    Sidebar 1: Specifications

    Description: Four-way, reflex-loaded, floorstanding loudspeaker. Drive units: 1" (25mm) beryllium-dome tweeter, 4" (102mm) inverted titanium-dome midrange driver, 6.5" (185mm) titanium-cone midbass driver, three 8" (210mm) aluminum-cone woofers. Crossover frequencies: 150Hz, 575Hz, 2.3kHz. Frequency response: 23Hz–45kHz, ±3dB. In-room response relative to target response: ±0.5dB, 29Hz–18kHz. Listening window (on-axis) response: ±1.0dB, 26Hz–20kHz. Low-frequency extension: –3dB at 23Hz, –6dB at 20Hz, –10dB at 17Hz. Sensitivity: 86.4dB SPL/2.83V/m (4 pi anechoic). Impedance: 6 ohms nominal, 3.7 ohms minimum at 90Hz. Recommended power: not given. Controls: Tweeter Level, Low-Frequency Compensation.
    Dimensions: 53.25" (1353mm) H by 14" (356mm) W by 23" (584mm) D. Shipping weight: 178 lbs (80.7kg). Adjustable combination spike/glides add 1.5" (38mm) H.
    Finishes: High-gloss black or mahogany veneer.
    Serial Numbers Of Units Reviewed: 0343, 0344.
    Price: $22,000/pair. Approximate number of dealers: 40.
    Manufacturer: Revel, 3 Oak Park Drive, Bedford, MA 01730-1413. Tel: (781) 280-0300. Fax: (781) 280-0490.

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