F226Be Speaker Review
One of the most impressive Revel Speakers.
THE HIGH NOTES
- Beautiful Compact Design with Big Sound
- Great Example of Trickle Down Tech
- Neutrality and Imaging That Will Make You Smile
Company & Product Overview
Audio Advice was lucky enough to be part of the birth of the Revel speaker brand back in 1996. The history is pretty interesting so we thought we would reminisce a bit to give you some background on the company. Audio Advice was (and still is) a big proponent of Mark Levinson gear. Madrigal Audio Labs was a group of investors who came together to purchase Mark Levinson. The lead investor in Madrigal was Sandy Berlin, who was also a big music lover. We remember fondly when Sandy visited us to talk about his visions for a better speaker based on scientific principals and designs that would be much more contemporary than anything on the market. Sandy hired Kevin Voecks to be the main designer for Revel.
At the time, Audio Advice was selling Snell loudspeakers which Kevin helped design. He had also taken part in the design of the iconic Mirage M1, an Audio Advice favorite. Kevin has spent a lot of time at Canada’s NRC. This is their national research center where there is a huge amount of audio test gear available for Canadian companies to use in designing speakers. The Mirage speakers came out of the NRC. The NRC also has great setups for blind listening tests.
Audio Advice became one of the first Revel dealers in the country and many of those original speakers are still in use today across the Carolinas. A couple of decades ago, Harman International, started Revel in their huge design center in Northridge, CA. This is where all of the professional JBL speakers are designed you hear at concerts all over the world. Engineering and blind testing are still the main force behind all Revel designs. Today, Mark Glazer, who joined Harman in 1989, is the Principal Engineer for Revel.
Revel has several model series, and today’s review focuses on a new model in the Performa Be or beryllium series, the F226Be. This is a modest-sized floor-standing speaker we previewed at our recent Music Matters. Everyone who listened to it was very impressed by its performance, so we decided to put it through its paces! We had to pack them up and send them on their way after our event so we were very excited when our demos finally arrived.
Revel F226Be Design & Build Quality
The Revel F226Be is a beautiful floor standing speaker that defies the typical rectangular box with a curved cabinet design. Not only does this give it a more elegant appearance, but a curved cabinet is very rigid and reduces internal vibrations. You’ll have a choice of four color options on the F226Be with gloss black or white, walnut, and a stunning automotive type silver finish. We previewed the silver version at Music Matters and everyone loved the finish. It almost makes the speaker disappear into the room.
The Revel F226Be tower speaker is a little over 41” tall, about 10” wide, and 13” deep at the very deepest point. You can tell Revel took some of the F206 in the Performa series as a starting point but upgraded the cabinet, speaker drivers, and crossover, for a completely new speaker. It may look similar, but wow, are the audio differences big!
Like many Revel speakers, the F226Be is a three-way design with dual woofers. The magnetic grill hides the drivers and the front-firing port.
Build quality on Revel speakers is fantastic. With their big investment in automated tooling, they can turn out beautiful cabinets where everything fits perfectly. The dual banana plugs on the back are rock solid. The base of the speaker has threaded plugs for some well-made spikes. Revel even gives you the option of a pointed spike for carpet or a rounded one for hard surfaces, a nice touch we don’t see very often. The F226Be uses some pretty cool driver technology which we cover next.
Revel F226Be Features & Technology
Revel is like a few of our other favorite companies who make some “no holds barred” gear which lets them learn, then filter down those learnings into more affordable products. The Revel Salon 2 is one heck of an amazing speaker, but at 146 pounds each, almost 5 feet tall and $22,000 a pair, not everyone can afford them. But, what they learned in making the Salon 2 has been showing up in their more affordable speakers like the F226Be.
Revel developed the beryllium tweeter for the Ultima series and carries it over to the PerformaBe models. Beryllium is a rare earth metal that is a perfect fit for a high-frequency driver. When you compare it to aluminum or titanium, it is 4 to 5 times stiffer with 3 times better damping, and at about half the weight! You might think a metal dome tweeter would have a harsh sound, as many have displayed this character over the decades. The Revel beryllium tweeter is not only super fast and open but smooth as silk with never a trace of harshness. Part of this is due to the design of the tweeter itself, but Revel has also spent a lot in R&D on the waveguide, which also has a lot to do with its great performance.
In the Ultima series, Revel uses titanium for the midrange and woofers. This very expensive material was too much for a lower cost speaker so Revel started experimenting with different cone materials to come up with something that offered close to the level of performance measurements they had with the drivers in the Ultima. What they came up with is pretty cool.
They start out with a light weight aluminum cone. They then use a plasma discharge to coat both sides of the cone with a coarse ceramic coating. The result of this is a three layer material which provides constrained layer damping. We’ve seen turntable manufacturers use the constrained layer damping technique in both tonearms and plinths. When you join two different materials that are of different thicknesses, the result is a material that has very little resonance or breakup. Revel only pushed this far as they knew what could be done from the Ultima.
Revel developed a 5 ¼” midrange driver and a 6 ½” bass driver for the F226Be. They use two of the bass drivers which gives us bass that is very tight and deep and fast as lightning.
All of these great drivers would go to waste with a badly designed crossover and cabinet. Revel uses very high end film capacitors and air core inductors in their crossover. The cabinets are extremely well braced and the curve adds to their rigidity. The sum of all this great technology is one of the best speakers we have ever heard in this size and price range.
Revel F226Be Performance
We connected the F226Be’s up to our reference Mark Levinson stack to see just how well they could perform when fed a great signal. Many of the people who attended Music Matters had commented to us how amazing these little speakers were. We really did not spend much time with them at our event, but after a few cuts, it was very clear to us the F226Be is a giant killer!
If you get a pair of these, you will want to spend some time precisely setting them up. Just like with all tower speakers, you’ll want to find the spot off the wall where they open up, but just as importantly, you really need to make sure you get them positioned exactly the same in terms of distance off the back wall. They throw out such an amazing image, if you get them properly positioned, you’ll have pinpoint imaging that is very deep and extends way outside the speakers. At first we did not have them perfect and had a little bit of smearing of the image, but after we got them dialed in, WOW! On the 90125 Yes Album, the A Capella version of Leave It, was just spectacular in the way all those overdubbed voices fall into a precise point in front of you both inside and outside the speakers.
For those of you new to high performance speakers, one very enjoyable feature of some great speakers is how you can sense the performers in front of you. For this to happen at its best, your ears need to be the same distance from each speaker. In other words, you need to be dead center between them. It usually works best if you are the same distance from them that they are apart or a little more or less in each direction. You can sense a bit of it if you are not centered, but the magic happens when you listen this way. It’s also better if your chair does not extend up behind your ears too. When we refer to imaging and sound being in front of us, we are talking about listening in this type of position.
There are several aspects about these speakers that got us really excited. The deep bass you get from the two 6 ½” drivers is just astounding! We played some cuts we use for electric bass resolution and they sounded just fantastic. The scary part though is how they allow you to pinpoint the exact position of the pluck of the bass string. A lot of speakers can throw out deep bass, but they are not able to provide the resolution for your ears to locate the exact position of the bass instrument in the soundstage. When we first played Dialog Part 1 from Chicago’s 5th album it was super detailed. The F226Be’s continued to do this on every cut we tried. We are pretty sure this is due to the narrow cabinet face coupled with their great driver technology and very inert cabinet.
Revel speakers have always been very neutral with no trace of hardness and that trend continues with the F226Be. The brush of a cymbal will sound like it's floating right there in front of you, but when you have lots of complicated things going on in the music, they never ever get the least bit strained in the top end. This was especially apparent on a Mozart selection we played from a pretty cool group we discovered while lost in Roon, the Trondheim Soloists. The strings were very extended yet extremely detailed with no harshness at all, something that is pretty hard to do. That beryllium tweeter is just super sweet and detailed!
An area where the $22K Revel Salon’s excel is midrange resolution. They allow you to hear all of the emotions in a performer's voice, the emphasis they might be putting into bending a guitar string, or the tiny volume changes in a sax solo that make you feel like you are hearing it live. Even a cut from the 1971 Joni Mitchell album Blue, really drew us into the music. If you have never heard River, pull it in on Tidal or your favorite streaming service and relax. Hopefully, your system will reveal all the nuances in her voice the F226Be’s did for us.
We’ve felt every Revel speaker we have tried in the past was outstanding, but we have to say, this is the most impressed we have ever been with a speaker from Revel or just about any speaker company. These little guys have an elegant appearance with a sound that challenges speakers costing twice as much!
If you have read this far, you probably understand that a true high performance speaker does not come cheap. Sure, $7,000 a pair is by no means inexpensive. We feel if you are considering speakers anywhere in the $5,000-$15,000 range, you should hear these. They may cause you to spend a little more or a lot less, but we can tell you they will put a big smile on your face when you hear them and it will still be there 3-4 hours later!
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Beautiful Compact Design with Big Sound
The F226Be is not only beautiful to look at, especially in the silver finish, but puts out huge, room filling sound.
Great Example of Trickle Down Tech
We love the way Revel uses what they learn in their no holds barred speakers to push the limits in their more affordable models.
Neutrality and Imaging That Will Make You Smile
You can listen to the F226Be for hours on end with not a sense of strain, and wow, properly set up with great gear, they will throw out a big and lifelike soundstage with just amazing bass impact.