Revel Concerta2 CES 2015 Review

The luxury audio industry has suffered the same public perception problem for decades: only audiophiles understand them. No wonder, when speakers cost as much as an economy car, people are easily turned away. Fortunately, the last few years have seen some luxury audio brands utilizing a principle the luxury auto industry figured out long ago: offer an accessible entry point into a luxury brand to attract new customers, then convert them into fans for life. Revel, one of the most well-regarded names in loudspeakers, is doing just that with the Concerta2 series.

Revel’s speakers have always fascinated me. As a budding audio enthusiast – with big aspirations ultimately betrayed by a college student’s budget – I was forced to admire Revel from a distance. I used to drool over pictures of the original Revel Salon speakers in stereo andhome theater rags the way most guys I knew geeked out over the McLaren F1 in sports car magazines – hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Imagine my elation, then, when I finally got to hear for myself the sound that I had only been able to read about before. A family friend (a neurosurgeon, no less) had purchased a pair of Revel Salon Ultima2, and was driving them with a pair of Krell Monoblock amplifiers. I was completely blown away by what I heard – Revel’s speakers were everything I had dreamed they would be.

I estimate my friend’s total system cost to have been around $110,000, a hefty figure that I’m sure regularly dropped jaws, but one that audiophiles for whom cost is no object will gladly pay to get the very best. Not everyone is so fortunate, however. Like me, there are many who want a taste of that luxury and an opportunity to aspire for even greater things later in life. That’s where the Concerta2 loudspeaker series comes in.

The setup

I heard the Concerta2 speakers in Harman International’s Luxury Audio showcase at CES 2015. The demonstration took place in a temporary “room” assembled within a hotel ballroom – the sort of space, I imagine, that gives speaker engineers nightmares. Still, the room was remarkably quiet and comfortable, and if it was having any deleterious effects on the sound quality, they weren’t easy to pick out.

Revel Concerta2 series 1

 

(Digital Trends | Rich Shibley)

The Concerta2 were arranged in a 5.1 configuration, with the full-size F36 positioned as the front left and right speakers, a C25 center channel, two M16 bookshelf monitors as surrounds, and a B10 powered subwoofer holding down the low frequency effects. The system was driven by a JBL Synthesis surround processor and 7-channel amplifier.

The speakers and the man behind them

Demonstrating the system was none other than Revel’s chief speaker designer, Kevin Voecks. Voecks’ pride in his latest creation was uncontainable, and I think I understand why: Having created some of the world’s most revered speakers where cost had little influence on the design process, Voecks had been presented with a challenge to bring to listeners the best possible sound he could, at a price segment Revel had never dared to test before – and as far as I could tell, he believed he had succeeded.

Revel Concerta2 series 25

 

(Digital Trends | Rich Shibley)

The Concerta2 speakers are made with high-rigidity MDF cabinets featuring clean corners up front and a slight, rounded taper toward the rear. All speakers are available in gloss piano black finish or gloss white. The F36 floor standers – which stole the demonstration for me – sport a 1-inch aluminum tweeter and three 6.5-inch woofers. The towers also feature a 2.5-way crossover design wherein the top-most woofer handles the upper midrange, with the lower midrange and bass frequencies tackled by the remaining two woofers.

The demo

Voecks kindly accommodated my request for specific song selections in his pre-arranged catalog (which was fairly extensive for a trade show), and treated me to a couple of choice numbers where vocals took center stage. The F36 towers sounded rich and delicious, for lack of a better description. There was a distinct “flavor” to the speakers’ sound that made me want to feast upon it for hours on end. The warmth and intimacy of the midrange was immediately detectable, and the treble response was smooth and inviting, yet rife with detail. Moreover, there was a potent poignancy to the midbass that came off as effortless. Some might attribute this to the amplifier’s prodigious power reserves, but something tells me the Concerta2 series was built to perform with much more commonplace amplification.

Revel Concerta2 series 23

 

(Digital Trends | Rich Shibley)

After a deeply satisfying music listening experience and a rousing home theater demonstration (in which I heard Oblivion as I’ve never heard it before) I was convinced Voecks had succeeded as well. But at what cost?

Hook, line, and sinker

I was shocked to find out that Revel, the same company that makes the $22,000/pair Ultima2, has priced the F36 Concerta2 at just $2,000/pair. At that price, not only do the Concerta2 F36 punch well above their weight, but they stand to make audiophiles and fans out of casual passersby who might otherwise turn a nose up at a luxury brand, because once one has heard really remarkable sound, it is nearly impossible to forget. As any audio enthusiast will tell you, there’s no cure for the audiophile bug, and the Concerta2 series will bite you but good.



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— Caleb Denison —