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Review: Revel Concerta2 surround set – thoughtfully designed speakers

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In the US you don't have to explain the name Revel to surround lovers, because their speakers are very high on the wish lists there. Understandable, because the speakers are extremely well designed and universally tuned. The leaner Concerta2s that we review in this review offer it all – and all at a reasonable price.

Review Revel Concerta2

In this test we view a setup made up of Concerta2 speakers from the American Revel. In the case of “American”, those who think of dull, bass loudspeakers that are designed to display the battle scenes from Transformer films at maximum volume levels are completely wrong in this case. The usual cliches – large, heavy, woolly in sound and functionally finished – that are often associated with American-made loudspeakers are not at all correct with these Revels. What is correct is that the Concerta2s are indeed speakers designed for use in a home theater. But unlike certain American brands, they do not give up all sophistication and musicality. They are even speakers that pursue a certain purity and are technically well thought out. Their slim construction, beautiful finish and a reasonable price have really brought this Revels along. Expectations are therefore high about this Concerta2 5.1 set-up, which bears a total price of around 4,300 euros in the tested configuration.

  • Revel Concerta2 F35: 999 euros
  • Revel Concerta2 M16: 599 euros [19659008] Revel Concerta2 C25: 599 euro
  • Revel Concerta2 B10: 599 euro

Who is Revel?

Revel is a part of Harman Luxury, the Harman department group in which five high-end brands are united. In addition to Revel, this includes JBL Synthesis (not to be confused with the “regular” JBL), Lexicon, Mark Levinson and (since 2017) Arcam. To make the picture completely up-to-date: the entire Harman group has been owned by Samsung since 2016. The brands of Harman Luxury, however, retain their own identity and seem to remain separate from the Korean superpower in terms of development and products. That seems to be different for the mainstream Harman brands, such as AKG, because in the mainstream corner of Harman there is nevertheless more cross-pollination with Samsung. For example, Samsung tablets with AKG sound and Samsung soundbars that have been taken care of by Harman Kardon appear.

Anyway, you can't see anything at the Revels that indicates a change in direction in terms of design or philosophy. The brand is very loyal to itself and the Concerta2 speakers do their own thing. Revel is also distributed in our region by Reference Sounds, which also has Lexicon, JBL Synthesis and Mark Levinson in its portfolio.

As a reviewer, we are always intrigued by loudspeaker brands that rely heavily on science and engineering. Emotion and passion also play an important role in the design of a speaker, of course, but if you build a surround setup that accurately reflects a surround field, you work best with predictable, linear and well-muted speakers. These are the speakers that we think you can best adjust with the calibration software on your receiver.

And so we come to Revel. It will surprise the readers who only know Harman because of their colorful JBL Bluetooth speakers or the HK soundbars made of trendy fabrics, but the group has been investing a great deal in (basic) research on acoustics and psychoacoustics for a long time. The Harman curve, a continuous attempt to discover the ideal sound for headphones, is a good example of this. Within the Harman group with its strong focus on engineering, Revel is perhaps taking an even more extreme position. It is not an old brand, barely 25 years old. It was established to build speakers using the latest measuring instruments and insights. Science is the foundation of Revel, nicely summarized in the slogan “obsessed with accuracy.” Very soon after its establishment, for example, Revel built an extensive test facility to thoroughly measure its speaker designs. If you want to know more about a Revel speaker, then a well-founded white paper is available that explains everything down to the last detail – from housing to crossover design. Not everyone will want to read that heavy fare, but it is nice if a manufacturer is willing to explain to those individuals who really want to know why certain choices were made. In short, we expect little coloration from the Concerta2s and speakers whose drivers are perfectly matched. Would that be right?

Easy to control

The Concerta2 family is not brand new, but that is not so bad in itself. The speakers don't look dated in any way. The M16, F35, C25 and B10 that we are viewing here form almost the entire Concerta2 series. You still have the larger F36 floor stand and the S16 wall speaker, but we have not looked at them. Somewhat regrettable, because the S16 in particular seems to us to be a practical alternative to bookshelf speakers for the surround or surround back channels.

As you can see from the name, this family of speakers is a successor to the original Concerts. We do not delve deeper into the differences, because these older Revels are not known to us that way. It is important that Revel explicitly aimed for easier control than before when designing the Concerta2. That is certainly the case with the F35, because with a sensitivity of 90 dB the floor stands do not require a high-end AV receiver to play loudly. The better DACs and power supplies in a premium receiver are of course always included, but in an average living room you can already control the Concerta's with a middle-class device. At a later date you can still consider upgrading to a more expensive receiver.

The C25 center can also be controlled quickly. Revel calls the center speaker the acoustic anchor of a surround setup, a belief that is very noticeable in the setup that we have built for testing (see below).

The Concerta2s are beautiful speakers, finished in a glossy lacquer (black or white) and without visible seams. The drivers are also mounted without visible screws or bolts, which enhances the sleek look of the speakers. We prefer to leave the speaker grilles in the box, but if you want to place them, they snap into place effortlessly thanks to magnetic. The design is quite classic and modest perhaps, but you do feel that you have got value for money.

Technically refined

The tweeter on the Concerta2s are small eye-catchers, mounted in a large waveguide with an oval shape that improves the horizontal appearance and improves integration with the other drivers. That seems to be something typical of Revel, because the higher Performa series also has something similar. At the C25 center, the waveguide is rotated ninety degrees, so that the appearance is stronger in the vertical plane. That is a smart choice. It ensures that dialogues seem to come more out of the screen, which is an important requirement for an I-am-immersed-in-the-film feeling. Even if the distance between left-center-right is not extremely large, this can be a plus because dialogues and effects in the center channel remain more focused and the broad appearance of left and right fits nicely into the center channel.

an acoustic lens itself has been placed; it looks attractive because of its shape, but that is less important. The special shape has a clear function. The lens softens the highest frequencies somewhat (making them sound less bright) and makes the appearance across the frequencies more even and less directional.

With the black glossy lacquer, the Concerta2s are more beautiful to our taste. The M16s that we received were in white, but the lens and the wide rings around the midrange drivers remain in black. We personally find that less attractive than the version that is completely in black.

After the hefty Arendal set that we had in the test room in recent weeks, the lighter Revels come as a relief. . Ok, those Concerts are not mini speakers, but you can still call them compact. Even the 2½-way F35 floor stand is relatively small in size (102 x 21 x 31 cm). They are slim enough to be subtle in the living room. Many slimmer speakers have a wide footprint because they need a wide wide foot to stay stable, but the F35 keeps it on subtle feet at the bottom. That disconnects the speaker from the ground without taking up extra space.

The C25 is a compact center speaker with a closed design, which is easy in terms of placement. The height is not that modest, but the other dimensions are. To us it seems like a good compromise: enough cupboard volume to still deliver the necessary layer, but small enough to stand unobtrusively on a TV unit. It must also be possible to place it in a piece of furniture itself, as long as you do not push it too deeply. The modest height is really an asset. Even with the rubber Pro-ject Damp-it blocks underneath, the C25 stays far below the screen edge of our Samsung test television. We place those damping blocks to disconnect the loudspeaker and also to protect test samples against scratches. The M16 is in proportion a 2-way bookshelf speaker of a normal size. Not too small, not too big. While the F35 has two bass ports at the back, the M16 comes with a single one. When placed very close to a wall or in a cupboard, you may get some noise or woolly hair. But we still got the impression that the Revels are not too difficult in terms of positioning.

Subwoofer with EQ

The foundation of a Concerta2 line is the B10 subwoofer. Quite a few brands allow you to choose from several subs of different sizes, but we get the impression that Revel wants to keep it simple and sober. Although that description does not really fit for the B10. Compared to the other Concerta2 speakers, it's a pretty big thing, with a 10-inch woofer that has a long stroke and a class D amplifier of 800 Watt RMS. It is a powerful thing with the potential to fill large rooms, but we found it surprisingly controlled during testing. It is a mid-range in terms of price, so we are not surprised that there are no advanced items such as an XLR connection or a daisy-chain option.

But the B10 did get something rare and yet very useful with it: a (manual ) parametric equalizer. This allows you to make certain frequencies that are muted by the placement and room characteristics more present. However, it is not so easy to get started with the three controls (ideally you first make a room measurement or simulation), but those who have the time to experiment can do something clever with it. The cream of the crop in subwoofer is of course models that even EQs based on their own measurement – but then you usually talk about subs that cost a lot more. We would recommend that with a better AV receiver with a good room calibration system (such as Dirac) you leave all equalization steps to the software.

Nice integration

For this test we use our fixed test receiver, the Denon AVR-X6300H with the calibration at eight measuring points performed via the MultEQ app from Audyssey. Our sources are the usual Oppo UDP-203, Panasonic DMP-824 and an Xbox One X for video and audio (Roon via the Oppo). After the Audessey measurement and some listening tests with a number of fixed Dolby test tracks, we increase the level of the rear channels, because we think the front surround channels are too dominant. But overall we managed to get a nicely integrated surround field very quickly – a sign that the Concerta2 speakers are well matched. By the way, the oval waveguide on the F35 means that you don't really have to screw in the floorstand, although we did it slightly for our test because the listening distance was not huge. Then it's time to dive into our film collection!

“House of Flying Daggers” is already an old release, but the DTS-HD Master soundtrack on this Chinese wuxia classic remains great. The Echo Game fragment with the beans and the Chinese drums is well known and remains very challenging for all speakers. The beans fly through the room until they touch drumheads, and the vibrations of the membranes on regular TV speakers (or small speakers) quickly become messy and indistinguishable. The accuracy of the Revels is an asset here. The vibrations of the drums sound realistic and can be distinguished. With bad TV speakers or slow separate speakers, this sounds more like a fluctuating sound. The later fight in the woods is also very impressive in terms of surround playback. The scene with the soldiers floating high through the treetops, for example, is very atmospheric, with soft wind noises through the rear speakers and the whoosh sounds moving through the room when the bamboo spears are thrown through the air.

We are particularly impressed by how well the C25 center speaker performs when we look at the 4K version of “The Fifth Element” (Dolby TrueHD). It is a relatively small thing, but not inferior to the F35 floorstands and integrates perfectly with the two large speakers left and right. When the police use their flying vehicles to chase Bruce Willis and his taxi, the front Revel speakers bring the action alive. While the cars weave at high speed between the busy air traffic and the ubiquitous billboards in New York in the year 2263, the effects move very accurately through the room. In this rather absurd film – the costumes of Jean-Paul Gautier are already an experience, just like the many cameos of super models – the craziest atmospheric sound effects appear in the background, and it is nice that the Revels have a very big soundstage view. The many fragments of music, including from Khaled, are also nicely controlled by the mix. It makes watching this crazy movie completely fun again.

The center speaker remains impressive as Winston Churchill rages and thrives in 'Darkest Hour' (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos) while looking for a solution for the British army that stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk and eventually ends up with Operation Dynamo. It is a great acting performance by Gary Oldman, who was also very impressive in “The Fifth Element”. In the WWII film, the soundtrack mainly consists of dialogue, some compelling orchestral music and a lot of incidental sounds (such as radio broadcasts, doors that are slammed shut, people who walk through corridors). It may seem like a film that does not need a surround installation at all, but appearances are deceptive: the intense emotions that the dialogues convey and the music make the experience much more intense in a home theater.

There are some similarities between the Arendal setup that we tested two weeks earlier and this set from Revel. In both cases it was about an accurate, fast speaker arrangement without too much unwanted coloration, and that is of course very lucky. The surprising thing about the Revels? That they are not inferior to the hefty, heavy Norwegians, while they are somewhat lighter and more compact. The Concerta2s are also slightly more distinctive, which means they are also great for listening to music.

Conclusion

The Revel Concerta2 speakers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for speakers for your home theater. But the thorough R&D and scientific approach of the American brand have produced very good speakers with which you can build a very beautiful, impressive surround setup. The strong holders are the C25 center speaker and the B10 subwoofer, both of which play their role so well that they lift the whole set to a high level. These speakers are also very suitable for music, a plus for anyone who wants to fulfill all entertainment needs with one system. In terms of design, they do not stand out enormously, they are not extravagant devices. But the Concerta2s are premium finished with an elegant gloss varnish. The small footprint of the F35 and C25 also makes installation in a smaller living room easier. We actually have little to say about the Revels. They are very nice speakers that present much better than you would first suspect. settings require insight into room properties

Advantages

  • F 35 are compact, dynamic floor stands
  • Floor stands and center integrate excellently
  • O ok suitable for smaller spaces
  • Powerful and subtle subwoofer
  • B bodies at every volume level in balance

Homecinema Magazine
Rating
8.5 10 Jamie Biesemans product

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