During several recent audio shows, Revel has teased out what I would term a “slow reveal” of elevated-performance versions of its mid-priced Performa3 series. To Revel’s credit, the intro of these new speakers was not accompanied by the “limited” or “signature edition” puffery that normally attends the unveiling of upgraded models. Actually, there wasn’t much in the way of fanfare over their debuts. But clearly these were no longer “stock” Performa3 models; nor were they sufficiently elite to re-certify as Revel Ultima2’s. Naturally, there were the usual gimlet-eyed skeptics, who pointed to the familiar cabinetry and began pondering what could possibly justify the hefty increase in price—it turns out, quite a lot. Welcome to Revel PerformaBe.
The PerformaBe series comprises two models—the $4000 M126Be two-way compact reviewed here, and its floorstanding big brother, the F228Be tower ($10,000). Visually, the clean familiar look has aged well. PerformaBe taps the same smooth, curvilinear lines of the Performa3, but embellishes the top panels with metallic-black painted accents and raised electroform badging. The enclosures have been models of rigidity from the beginning, and thus no changes were required.
But the source of the M126Be magic lies under the surface, with its all-new drivers and crossover network. Copping the leading role is a powerful 1" beryllium-dome tweeter driven by hefty dual 85mm ceramic magnets. Why beryllium? Because it offers up to four-and-a-half times the stiffness and three times the damping of aluminum or titanium tweeter diaphragms. And it does so at only half the weight. Translation: speed, linearity, and extension.
The mid/bass driver is a 6.5" Deep Ceramic Composite (DCC) aluminum-cone woofer. Many will recollect that parent company Harman/Infinity has worked with ceramic composites for some time, but Revel’s Principal Engineer Mark Glazer explained that this cone design is new for the PerformaBe. Glazer added, “Our process uses an intense plasma discharge to fuse a deep ceramic coating on both sides of the aluminum core. The deep ceramic layers sandwiching the aluminum core provide constrained-layer damping that moves break-up modes well outside the passband.”
Complementing the tweeter is a fifth-generation ceramic-coated, cast-aluminum acoustic-lens waveguide. Compared with earlier versions, the waveguide flare has been refined (thank you, computer modeling) to improve directivity-matching to the mid/woofer and, by repositioning the lens, to improve high-frequency linearity. In Revel’s view, this adds up to greater efficiency, less compression, improved dynamic range, reduced distortion, and increased power handling. The high-order crossover networks were also refreshed for this series and utilize film capacitors and air-core inductors in the midrange and tweeter circuits. In the case of the M126Be, the crossover point is at 1.7kHz, a relatively low figure for a two-way compact but consistent with the added output furnished by the tweeter waveguide. PerformaBe series speakers are available in a choice of four high-gloss finishes. Handsome magnetically attached grilles are included, of course.
Turning to sonic performance, to describe the M126Be as merely the pepped-up and spit-polished version of Revel’s nifty two-way M106 does not give this new compact its musical due. Yes, in the broader sense of tonal neutrality Revel has stayed the course. Music reproduction through the M126Be will therefore be familiar to M106 owners. Familiar, but then the differences begin making themselves apparent. Along with the recognizable fireworks and butt-kicking dynamics—Revel staples—is a newly revealed silken refinement that’s rare in this segment. Low-level resolution, timbral realism, and top-end air and speed have improved across the board. Bottom-octave reproduction is a little out of this compact’s weight class, but it rarely puts a foot wrong in the bass octaves that it does cover. And it achieves all this without trading away its midrange vitality and resolution.
In character, the M126Be is a forwardly voiced speaker, with an ever-so-slightly cooler timbral cast. Any sub-par recording looking for a place to hide had better find another speaker. That’s not to say the M126Be manifests an aggressive temperament, but neither is it subtractive or forgiving in the upper frequencies. A well-recorded violin or coloratura soprano will gloriously soar to the heavens. A sub-standard or tipped-up recording will be exposed, warts and all.