Revel F228BE Floorstanding Loudspeakers Review
Mark Gusew thinks this big American floorstanding speaker is a force to be reckoned with…
3-Way Dual 8” Floorstanding Loudspeaker
AUD $18,995 RRP
United States-based loudspeaker specialist Revel has been making loudspeakers since 1997. It now has an extensive portfolio of products, made primarily for home use and also for Lincoln cars. Being part of the Harman International Industries group, it has a considerable amount of resources available to it, so you would expect something seriously special – especially at the not inconsiderable price of $18,995 per pair.
Certainly in the flesh, the F228BE looks and feels very impressive. It’s a large floorstanding loudspeaker, so a pair of these is a pretty substantial thing to have in your listening room. There’s a choice of four finishes, all of them in high gloss – black, white, walnut and metallic silver – and the drivers themselves are finished in white. If you don’t like the look of the white drivers, they can be hidden behind the magnetically attached grills, finished with black cloth. My review pair in walnut look and feel expensive, with their tops decorated with a domed top panel that’s finished with a classy speckled metallic black paint.
It is a three-way design, with a front-firing bass reflex port located underneath the dual 200mm woofers. These use a rigid cast frame and feature the company’s so-called Deep Ceramic Composite (DCC) cones, which sport a special ceramic coating applied via plasma discharge to both sides of the aluminium cone. The same material is used for the 130mm midrange driver. It has the benefits of stiffening and damping the cone, greatly reducing resonance, the manufacturer says.
The tweeter is also special, being a 25mm pure beryllium dome design. This is a very light but strong metal and approximately half the weight of aluminium or titanium, yet up to four and a half times stiffer. This allows it to smoothly extend to 40kHz without breakup. Beryllium is a rare earth metal, hence costly to work with, so don’t expect it on most loudspeakers on sale – but it’s the key standout feature of Revel’s PerformaBe series.
Also of note is the acoustic lens waveguide used at the front of the tweeter. Its shape and size are based on mathematical modelling so that it accurately matches the tweeter’s dispersion to that of the midrange driver, the company says. It is now the fifth generation of waveguide to be used on Revel’s tweeter. As with any well-engineered loudspeaker, the crossover has received a lot of attention too. Crossover points are at 260Hz and 2.1kHz, and Revel uses high-grade film capacitors and air-core inductors. The goal was to reduce distortion and have a large dynamic range with a wide dispersion area.
The large (1,182.5x341.8x375.3mm, HxWxD) and heavy (37.2kg) enclosure has a flat front baffle where the drivers are located but is curved everywhere else. This said to make the cabinet inherently stiffer than conventional rectangular designs. The internal walls are made from 25mm thick panels and are well braced, ensuring that the enclosure itself doesn’t add unwanted colouration to the sound, and the knuckle rap test tells me that this enclosure is very stiff and has uniform resonance along the sides. It’s quite impressive just how solid, substantial and well-designed it is in real life, and that high gloss finish is nothing short of magnificent.
The input plate at the rear of the loudspeaker features dual gold-plated binding posts for bi-wire or bi-amplified applications. The binding posts are solid, easy to tighten and are nicely spaced apart. They come with what looks like brass shorting straps, and I quickly removed them and used bi-wire Wireworld Mini Eclipse 8 speaker cables to attach to all four posts, as well as experimenting with some Cardas spade jumper links. The company claims a frequency response of 27Hz to 44kHz at -6dB, a recommended amplifier power of between 50 and 350W, a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, and a healthy sensitivity of 90dB (2.83V@1m).
I positioned the Revels in my usual place for loudspeakers in my main listening room, and they sounded fine from the off. I did end up changing their locations slightly, and had them only 25cm from the front wall, thanks to the front port, and at least 1.2m from the sidewalls, with a large TV and cabinet in-between. They were both toed in a couple of centimetres, but this is not critical. Amplification used was the Cambridge Audio Edge A, and Mark Levinson ML5802 integrated amplifiers, fed by a Cary Audio DMS-600 network audio layer.
The F228Be is a true full-range loudspeaker capable of delivering a highly dynamic musical experience, with scale and presence that is not possible to obtain from smaller loudspeakers, yet with plenty of detail and very good tonality.
I use the Tellurium Q System Disc for giving my system a bit of a tune-up from time to time, and as I have listened to it many times and with many different components, I have got an acute sense of its balance. Listening to the Refresher track of the CD produced an even tonality, with very good and clear treble extension as well as tight, deep, growling bass, with fine definition and no boom, overhang or distress even when played loud. This is pretty much how this loudspeaker sounds with all programme material.
For example, John Williams’ Across the Stars is an album of iconic movie themes that’s really well recorded and is available via Tidal with an original 96kHz sample rate and MQA. The album features violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and immediately the tone of her violin and playing spoke volumes about the nature of the Revel’s sweet beryllium tweeter. Tonally it was not shy or smoothed off, but instead had a fine balance that included the right amount of bite and edge – just like a real violin – along with copious amounts of air, detail, extension, focus and coherence. It was never harsh or irritating, and I found that I could listen to the system for hours without fatigue. The individual instruments were nicely separated from each other and sounded highly realistic.
With the tweeter positioned approximately 110cm from the floor, it is higher than ear height from my seat, so the soundstage felt slightly elevated, which I prefer to it being sunken. It duly filled the listening room with a tall, almost holographic picture of the recording stage. Even for a large floorstander, it served up serious amounts of scale and magnitude, making for a big and commanding sound. Listening to Rey’s Theme from the same album, instruments were allowed to be as small or as large as they should. Indeed when they were large, it had gravitas and presence that proved really exciting to listen to. The initial violin riff has a delicate reverb and is forward in the soundstage until the rest of the orchestra starts playing, filling the entire room with clean, uncluttered sound. As the volume increases, this loudspeaker didn’t get harsher or indeed show any artificial dynamic compression. It’s quite clear that it enjoys being played loud…
Listening to Looped by Kiasmos playing their self-titled album is a good example of the tight bass control of the F228Be. Although a bass reflex loudspeaker, there’s little of the mid-bass hump that’s typical of this type of cabinet loading. The track has a lot of bass energy thumping around, yet the Revel managed to keep things quite dry and without added bloom, overhang or drama. Indeed it proved a highly balanced bass with the accuracy and tunefulness of some sealed enclosure designs. Some might even find this speaker just a little bass-shy because it certainly hasn’t been designed to boom. I thought the balance was just right in my room.
The 2015 remaster of Van Halen’s Jump plays with virtually no bass content, sounding thin and unbalanced to my ears. The song is great but the recording – like many eighties tracks – is not. This big floorstander didn’t add any bottom end that wasn’t already there to start with, nor did it smooth over excessively bright recordings. For example, Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child has decent low-end extension that makes the track exciting, but the top end has too much energy. The F228Be was quite matter of fact about it, playing it unreconstructed and raw. This is an asset when the recording is good, but not all are of course. Young Dumb & Broke by Khalid sounded much cleaner and with great low bass reach, a finely balanced midrange and soaring highs.
This is a seriously capable loudspeaker, and so it should be at this price. The Revel F228Be is very sure in itself, and it’s almost as if it challenges the listener to find ever more challenging source material. Great recordings are rewarded with a huge sonic soundscape with three-dimensional imagery, dynamic slam and incredible finesse and detail. Despite being expensive, I believe it’s actually rather good value for money then – you’d need to spend a good deal more to obtain relatively modest incremental gains. This big floorstander will please discerning buyers that demand realistic presence along with accuracy and musicality.
For more information, visit Revel Speakers.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.