Midrange and treble response is immediate and immaculate. The new Revel projects a broad, relaxing listening sweet-spot that doesn’t insist on a headlock (with shoulder harness) to enjoy music. Some may recall that beryllium tweeters of a “certain age” weren’t always easy to live with (they were fast and extended but could sound brittle and bleached). Revel’s design is airy and open and wellbehaved. Particularly welcome is a near total lack of driver localization; the tweeter integrates with its mid/bass partner with a precision that is point-source-like. These characteristics, plus its estimable micro-dynamic composure, make the M126Be a vocal lover’s dream with both male and female singers. A tough recording for a small speaker is the romantic velvet baritone of Dean Martin singing “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You” from Dream with Dean; yet his voice is reproduced with a presence and chesty resonance that compacts of this size often fail to capture. Another example is the excellent reproduction of the weight and rich overtones from the baritone and bass backup singers that anchor Chris Jones’ “No Sanctuary.”
Dynamically, the M126Be has near-imperturbable midrange output so that even under punishing conditions it retains its tonal voice. Transients are fast but not forced or needling. When I listened to trumpet player Clark Terry, his horn’s attack was crisp and focused but not steely or shrill. And during Lew Soloff’s trumpet solo on “Autumn Leaves,” there was appreciable bloom, even if traces of dynamic compression seeped in at high output levels. The M126Be is a loudspeaker that will make you think it has no limits. It does, of course, but few will want to test them.
The low-end response from this bass-reflex design was quick with little indication of nefarious port artifacts. Ray Brown’s acoustic bass on Soular Energy, for example, was richly defined in both pitch and grip. Befitting the speaker’s small footprint and two-way config, the bottom octave was a bit beyond the Revel’s reach. Thus, Janne Mertanen’s piano soundboard didn’t fully open up with sustained resonance. And don’t expect to measure the diameter of a bass drum during Winds of War and Peace or the chest size of bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, either. Still, there was perceivable output into the 50Hz range, and some satisfying glimmers of activity below that. More importantly the M126Be revealed a vast vocabulary of mid- and upper-bass expressiveness. Even though the M126Be can’t quite get to the resonant bottom of a baritone sax’s bell during the Jen Chapin cut “It Don’t Mean Nothin’,” the timbral distinctions that define the character of instruments in this range were rewarding in their complexity. Similarly, during Neil Young’s “Old Man,” the kickdrum had appreciable weight and texture. Truly a recording of a bygone era, I wouldn’t doubt that the front drum skin had been removed in order to stuff a thick blanket inside for damping. This is a good moment to note that, although the M126Be is relatively easy to drive at 86dB sensitivity, the wider performance envelope of its drivers means the speaker craves superior and substantial amplification to show its best, especially in low-end control and treble transparency. Beryllium tweeters expect no less.
Parenthetically, it’s always a good tip to experiment with distance from the wall behind a speaker. Small compacts crave room reinforcement to fill in low-frequency soft spots. Also, while the M126 is satisfying on its own terms, I did get an opportunity to play it with the superb GoldenEar Technology SuperSub X. Given the Revel’s already honest midbass, dynamics, and output, this sub proved to be a terrific 2.1-channel pairing, with seamless integration.
Checking boxes of individual sonic criteria is one thing, but it’s the immersion and scale of soundstage presentation, linked with image specificity, that are the M126Be’s most impressive virtues and make it the speaker it is. Most compacts excel at image detail—are born with it—but often this is the result of an overly bright tweeter, iffy inter-driver coherence, or just a light tonal balance. That’s not the effect I got listening and living with the Revel. Rather, the M126Be is more about a continuous musical embroidery of naturally scaled images within an ambient sound space. This is exactly what I got as I listened to Diana Krall’s “I’ll See You in My Dreams”—there was the sense of sitting-in with the band, feeling the wash of ambience energizing the space, the excellent upper-bass pitch definition, and the bouncy steel-string guitar solo that breaks from the speaker within its own acoustic pocket.
Small speakers tend to play “small,” but the Revel creates a stage filled with musical images of credible scale and scope. While explaining the reason for this effect can be dicey, clearly the transducer upgrades and new profile of the waveguide are factors, as is Revel’s long-standing philosophy of designing speakers with smooth in-room power response and good on- and off-axis behavior.
Sometimes I think Revel is far too humble and just doesn’t toot its own horn enough. And yes, there is a significant bump in price between the Performa3 M106 and the Performa M126Be. However, if you are willing to open your wallet a bit wider, the sonic rewards span all criteria, and are especially audible in resolution and transparency. Quicker, better balanced, with enhanced output and grander limits, the Performa M126Be is one of the most rewardingly musical small speakers I’ve yet reviewed.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way bass-reflex
Frequency response: 54Hz–44kHz
Driver complement: 1" tweeter, 6.5" mid/bass
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 15.2" x 8.3" x 10.3"
Weight: 22 lbs.
HARMAN INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRIES
8500 Balboa Blvd.
Northridge, CA 91329