The Performa series is the middle of the three lines from Revel, part of the high-end division of Harman known as the luxury Audio Group which also manufactures JBL synthesis, lexicon, and, of course, Mark Levinson. Now in its third generation, the Performa3 series includes compact and floorstanding models plus multichannel-specific loudspeakers— that is, center and surround channels. This review considers the meat and potatoes of the Performa3 collection, the mid-sized $3500 F206 floorstander and its stand-mounted cousin, the $2000 M106 (see sidebar).
I have twice toured Harman’s extensive R&D facility in Northridge, a community in the north valley region of Los Angeles. I’m familiar with the depth of research and analysis, the rigorous product testing, and the extensive listening that goes on there. Product changes are made after great deliberation, and at a pace that suggests little regard for the hiccups of market trends. Thus models like the Ultima Salon2—the Revel flagship—and the earlier Performa F52 (a personal favorite, see my review in Issue 162) have been perennials on TAs’ Editor’s Choice list. However, even the most successful products need a reboot from time to time and Revel’s latest represents a significant evolution of a proven loudspeaker line.
Visually the look of Performa3 is, indeed, more in tune with to- day’s market. Gone are the square profile and sharp corners of the past. In their place is a softer, more curvaceous enclosure narrowing from the front baffle to the rear panel—a look that bears distinct similarities to Ultima2. Anchoring the enclosure is a flared plinth stabilized by heavy adjustable spiked footers. The Performa3’s curved enclosures are inherently stiffer than the box shapes they re- place and are formed with contiguous wood layers and modified internal bracing patterns to address the non-parallel-walled construction. The loudspeaker grilles attach magnetically and the enclosures are finished in high-gloss piano black or white or American walnut. Everyone who encountered them in my listening room remarked on the superb finish quality of the Indonesian-manufactured line.
For the record, the F206 is a three-way floorstander in a bass- reflex configuration fitted with a front-firing port. The drivers include a pair of 6.5" woofers and a single 5.25" midrange transducer, both of which employ ribbed-aluminum diaphragms with cast-aluminum baskets. They also feature copper Faraday rings that stabilize the flux field during operation, assuring lower harmonic distortion even at high listening volumes. Crossover points are 275Hz and 2.15kHz. The aluminum dome tweeter has been fashioned around a newly designed motor and dome assembly. But the attention-getter is the tweeter’s integrated and visually arresting acoustic-lens waveguide, based, in Revel’s words, on a “breakthrough mathematical approach.” Veteran Product Development Manager Kevin Voecks commented that “the primary point of using a waveguide is to match the dispersion of the tweeter with that of the midrange (or woofer, in a two-way system) over the crossover range.
The corresponding challenge is to avoid reducing the tweeter’s dispersion above the crossover region.” Voecks added that this design actually achieves the hoped for result of “increasing the dispersion of the tweeter above the crossover region while simultaneously decreasing the dispersion in the crossover region.” Revel followers will recall that power-response performance (as in total radiated sound— the overall combination of on-axis and off-axis response) has long been a focus of Revel engineering.
One thing is certain, it doesn’t take a “golden ear” to be smitten by the prodigious strengths of the F206. In fact, it doesn’t even take five minutes. The speaker has charisma pure and simple— and by that I mean it offers such an enthusiastic outpouring of musicality, dynamic energy, and imaging precision that it simply commands its audience’s attention.
The F206 is a paradigm of balance—one that doesn’t campaign for a specific sonic criterion to the exclusion of others. Tonally there are no broad flat spots or nasty peaks. Rather, it presents a united front built upon low-frequency dynamic reserves, excellent slam and midrange dynamic presence, and a treble range that’s eloquent yet mercifully without the needle of tweeter localization. To some this essentially neutral tonal profile may convey a little bit of the unblinking eye of a studio control monitor. Frankly, compared to the alternative, I consider that a more-than-laudable goal. However, the F206 is better than that; its openness in the treble and general tonal warmth keep accusations of “analytical” at bay. Still, few artifacts or colorations from other elements in the system chain escape the F206’s gaze.