To paraphrase the famous TV commercial about a trusted brand, “When Revel talks, I listen.” Revel, a brand from the Harman Luxury Group, is a company that takes its speaker designs very seriously. Its models are released for the long haul, not willy-nilly, and updated if—and only if—the R&D and performance rewards actually merit a change. Having taken this approach, Revel and the team led by Acoustics Technologies Manager Kevin Voecks have sustained a noteworthy track record for the brand’s model-to-model musical and technical chops. One most recent example is the impressive mid-priced Performa3 that I track-tested in Issue 234. Revel’s latest series revamp is the Concerta2—and it might be even more impressive. Representing the company’s value line of loudspeakers, the collection includes a pair of towers, the F36 and F35, the C25 center, and the S16 surround alongside the sole stand-mounted compact, the $900-per-pair M16, the subject of this review.
Visually the line has been refreshed and refined with smartly contoured enclosures, high-gloss finishes, and elegant design accents. There are no visible front baffle screws and hardware; the grilles are magnetically affixed. The flush-mounted drivers seamless fit into the front baffle. Similarly well finished is the spotless back panel that houses the rear port, along with a nicely inset board for the single-wire speaker terminals. Informed by Performa3 technology, upgrades and advances include the one-inch aluminum tweeter with an integral phase ring that is mated to a new, fourth-generation Acoustic Lens Waveguide. This apparently simple device optimizes the blend between the tweeter and woofers and improves off-axis performance over a wider listening area. The 6.5" mid/bass driver features an aluminum cone that minimizes distortion by improving rigidity without increasing mass. These improvements are designed to achieve the goal of ideal pistonic behavior across the frequency spectrum—the Holy Grail for cone transducers.
From my earliest impressions to my final fare thee-well, the M16 extolled classic Revel virtues: sonics that were striking in dynamic freedom, a neutral midband, good overall speed, and excellent inter-driver coherence—characteristics that unite to generate a tonal ripeness and image scaling that belie the M16’s stature. There’s a level of refinement and lack of artifice in the M16’s performance that helped express the tenderness and longing of Alison Krauss’ “You’re Just A Country Boy” within the intimacy of a live small-venue performance. Similarly, there was the distinctive metronomic strumming of a lone acoustic guitar during Rosanne Cash’s “If I Was A Man” that (when the volume was dialed in just so) was eerily present in my listening room.
Revel doesn’t design wallflowers that sonically shrink into the background, and the M16 followed suit with a certain forward swagger. Its midrange was tonally quite even but with an overlay of richness that was enhanced by the breadth of its nicely extended midbass, a difficult region for small monitors. Treble frequencies were also extended and detailed but did not possess quite the lightness, air, and bloom of the more sophisticated Performa3 tweeter. Still the M16’s overall character came down on the warmer side of the tonal fence and steered clear of the lean, brittle signature of many small monitors.
Nor was this speaker a “special effects” product that tried to capture the ear with false tweeter detail or recessive midrange energy in an effort to enhance depth and dimensionality. I noted a minor boost in the sibilance range that added some juice to the lower treble harmonics of brass and wind instruments, but it was more a benign enhancement than an off-putting distraction. Transients were nicely portrayed—quick but not overly etched or prickly, and invariably coupled to the reality of a live performance.
The M16’s low-frequency response floored me. It extended with confidence well into the midbass region of 50Hz or so. Allowing for room gain in my small listening space, there was easily perceivable output into the forty-cycle range. I could discern a little rise in the midbass region in my room setup that attached some big-speaker chestiness to baritone sax, acoustic bass, and male vocals but also shaded inner detail a smidge. However, the M16’s pitch stability and dynamic energy provided a steady and heavy anchor to pop rhythm sections. These same attributes—which were plainly demonstrated during Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and “Gold Dust Woman”—will also appeal to rock music aficionados. Port noise, however, was very well controlled with virtually no overhang. And the cabinet imparted little in the way of colorations or the absorption of transient energy that can tend to slow or soften the snap of a performance.
As the transducers neared their limits, bass resonances and natural sustain and decay were a little beyond the M16s’ reach; nonetheless, this level and quality of extension in a fifteen-inch compact created an illusion of orchestral weight, scale, and hall ambience that was hugely rewarding in a sub-thousand dollar speaker (even if it didn’t quite fool you into believing you sprung for Revel’s world-class Salon2 flagship).
How does the M16 compare with the M106, its upscale Performa3 sibling ($2000/pr.)? Quite well, actually. If you auditioned them side-by-side the sonic family resemblance would be obvious. Both exhibit the enveloping soundstage and foundational weight, the verve and energy of a midrange in sparkling balance.