Revel Ultima2 Studio2 Surround Speaker System Page 3
There really isn't much to say about the Ultima2 midrange. It's simply there. As for coloration, I hear none. While that doesn't mean that there's no further improvement to be made, it does mean that it could take another major upgrade in transducer designs before we hear any problems in this one—assuming there are any.
The system blended beautifully with the B15 subwoofer, crossed over at 80Hz. In that configuration the main channel speakers, while they can't take credit for the superior LF performance of the Revel sub, do take honors for a remarkably good mid and upper bass performance. This is the part of any review that is more dependent on the room/speaker interface than any other, but in my room the bass region was naturally full-bodied but without bloat, and as tight as it needs to be to do justice to any sort of program material—drums of all sorts, organ, double bass. . .and exploding asteroids.
Combine these qualities with good soundstage depth and excellent imaging (my room actually produces a very good to excellent image with most well-designed speakers) and you have performance that will be hard to beat.
On two-channel music, with the B15 subwoofer operating below 80Hz, the system had me shuffling through recordings I hadn't listened to in years—always a good sign. Given good recordings, vocals—which are extremely important in my listening hierarchy—never disappointed; male or female, close-mic'd or more naturally laid back. Instrumental music sparkled. Mokave's Afrique, (Audioquest Music AQ1024 DVD) had superb imaging, fine depth, powerful percussion, and a top end that would be hard to beat.
The three different organs, in three different locations, on The Mighty Wurlitzer (New World Records NW 227-2, a 1977 CD likely now out of print) came vividly to life, with their individual voices and characteristics and distinctive environments. And the savage percussion—much of it likely sampled—that that dominates Bear McCreary's soundtrack music for Season One of Battlestar Galactica sprang to life (La-La Land Records—really—LLLCD 1032).
But it was film soundtracks with full video and multichannel audio that dominated my listening to this system. With all five speakers, including the subwoofer, cranked to play back soundtracks at full-bodied but not absurd levels, the Ultima2 system never disappointed me.
Starting with more subtle and refined soundtracks, Immortal Beloved (Blu-ray) may be a poor biography of Beethoven, but its audio (in lossless Dolby TrueHD) is compelling. You know you're in for a treat when the film opens with a darkened screen and the sound of an orchestra warming up. It's startlingly realistic on the Ultima2 system, not only across a well-defined front soundstage enhanced by a convincing sense of depth, but also in the enveloping ambience of the concert hall. And these qualities continue throughout the film. The dialogue is also pristine, but it's the music that's the prize package here. (Note as well that the stunning video on this disc is also of reference quality.)
Staying with soundtracks that feature music, the closing concert scenes on Music and Lyrics (Blu-ray, but plain vanilla Dolby Digital—though as with most HD discs, presumably recorded at a higher bit-rate than DD on conventional DVDs) combine rock and pop ballads, and a variety of effects, including the ambience of a large, indoor arena, to make for an offbeat but great demo scene on the Revels.
But I don't want to leave you with the impression that the Ultima2 system isn't also great on high-octane movie soundtracks. The audio on Hellboy (Blu-ray, uncompressed PCM) is an action-movie soundtrack tour-de-force. The opening scene in a heavy downpour with the rain falling all around, the subsequent explosions and rifle fire as the US army troops engage the Nazis to stop "tube guy" Rasputin from his dastardly plan (don't ask, you have to see it to appreciate the description!), the incredibly powerful bass, and the ambience among the ruins where the young Hellboy is first discovered, all combine to make a convincing argument for the Revel Ultima Studio2 system's ability to handle anything I could throw at it—and make it sound totally convincing.
One of the things the audio neophyte expects to hear when he or she auditions a new speaker system, especially one as high-priced as the Revel Ultima2, is a spectacular presentation. That's especially true in the home theater realm, where the ability to play very loud is often equated with price and quality.
The more experienced audiophile knows better. Yes, a larger, more expensive speaker should be able to play louder, without distress, than a cheaper one. And the Revel Ultima2s certainly will do that. But the most important quality of a good speaker is how natural and at ease it sounds on all sorts of program material. Like any experienced performer, great speakers make the difficult seem easy. Subtle details are just there; the only ones that jump out at you are those that are recorded that way. The bass is extended, the midbass full but not artificially rich-sounding, the midrange free of coloration, and the highs clearly extended and airy but, again, only obvious when the program material calls for it. The Revels are all of that, and more.
As is always true with speakers, there will be personal preferences involved in the selection. But if you're in the market for a state-of-the-art system, and price isn't a serious consideration, you can add this one to your audition list now. It's definitely got what it takes for great sound from any good source: two-channel music, multichannel music, or the full monty of the most dynamic, challenging soundtracks.
State-of-the-art sound on movies and music
Subtle but useful contour and level adjustments
Three-band parametric equalization on B15a subwoofer
Not much else