HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



February
2010

Reviewed by
Colin Smith
REVIEWERS' CHOICE


Revel
Concerta M10 / C10 / M8 / B120
Home-Theater Speaker System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: Concerta M10 main speaker
Price: $500 USD each
Dimensions: 23"H x 4.25"W x 4.5"D
Weight: 6.75 pounds each

Model: Concerta C10 center speaker
Price: $500 USD
Dimensions: 23"W x 4.25"H x 4.5"D
Weight: 6.75 pounds

Model: Concerta M8 surround speaker
Price: $250 USD each
Dimensions: 11.625"H x 4.25"W x 4.5"D
Weight: 3.5 pounds each

Model: Concerta B120 subwoofer
Price: $999 USD
Dimensions: 17.75"H x 14.25"W x 14"D
Weight: 51 pounds


Description (cont'd)

Model: TX-1 wireless transmitter
Price: $120 USD

System price: $4118 USD (with two subwoofers).

Warranty: Five years parts and labor.

Features

  • Micro Ceramic Composite (MCC) drivers
  • Stand- (optional) or wall-mount design
  • Aluminum enclosures
  • Magnetically shielded
  • Phase switch, variable crossover, output level control (B120)
  • 12" long-throw woofer (B120)
  • 250W amplifier (manufacturer rated; B120)

Historically, I’ve not been much of a home-theater guy -- I’ve had a grudge against HT components going back to the days of Dolby Surround. Like a lot of people, I was giddy to try the new surround sound -- speakers in the back! -- and when I did, I was massively unimpressed. If all a person wanted was some echo coming from behind, the early DS was just fine. But I expected a whole lot more, not least because of the hype that accompanied this new sound format into the marketplace.

Dolby Pro Logic was a different story. Adding a center channel was a game changer, but its arrival really only fixed a huge flaw in the original Dolby Surround: its tendency to make dialogue darn near unintelligible. Nonetheless, when Dolby Digital arrived in the mid-1990s, I was fully prepared to be wowed -- but it didn’t seem to offer much more than Pro Logic performance at a much higher price. Sure, it sounded great in movie theaters, but at home it was so-so. What a bummer! My hope and faith had been shattered too many times to bear any more, and I resolved to forget about multichannel sound. Who needed it, when a great stereo setup can sound just as good?

Many a year passed, and I began to fall under the influence of one Howard Kneller: audiophile, SoundStage! Network reviewer, lover of British sports cars, and proponent of multichannel audio. When someone so firmly believes in a technology as Howard does in multichannel audio, it’s difficult to withstand his incessant positivity toward it, and within a few years Howard had convinced me to give surround another shot.

I bought a Marantz SR8400 A/V receiver. In its day, the SR8400 was highly regarded for both its two-channel and multichannel capabilities. The high-end surround format of Dolby Digital Surround EX was one of the few good things to emerge from the mess that was Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, and the Marantz was the first receiver I’d owned to come equipped with it, as well as with DTS sound. The Marantz was educational: it proved to me that surround had made great leaps forward, and ignited a curiosity in me about the new high-definition sound formats accompanying HD DVD and Blu-ray. Thus began my quest to find a great home-theater speaker system. Enter the Revel Concerta setup reviewed here ($4118 with two subwoofers).

Concerta M10 tower speaker

In a 5.1-channel speaker array, the Revel Concerta M10 ($500 each) serves the front left and right channels. Like its siblings, the Concerta M8 surround and Concerta C10 center, the M10 has a black-anodized enclosure of machined aluminum, with half-oval cross section, that’s as solid as -- and, at only 6.75 pounds, not a whole lot heavier than -- a paperweight. The five-driver M10 has a pair each of 3" woofers and 3" midrange drivers above and below a central 1" tweeter. Although the drivers appear to have metal cones, they are in fact made of what Revel calls Micro Ceramic Composite (MCC), a very light material made by coating both sides of an aluminum core with a proprietary ceramic material said to add stiffness and strength. Of course, drivers this small aren’t intended to cover the full range of sound, and so the M10’s claimed frequency response is 110Hz-21kHz, 3dB. To help the tidy M10 -- it measures only 23"H x 4.25"W x 4.5"D -- reach even that low, Revel mounts the drivers on a ported baffle of dense plastic that has a molded-in waveguide for the tweeter. The single-piece aluminum enclosure that makes up the remainder of the cabinet (save for the plastic endcaps) is a statement in simple elegance and as acoustically dead as a Tolstoy novel.

Around back are a pair of gold-plated binding posts that, to meet silly EU safety guidelines, have removable plastic plugs where bananas normally go. I guess I have more faith in EU citizens to know the difference between a wall electrical socket and a speaker’s binding posts, but I digress. The Concerta M10 has a claimed sensitivity of 89dB/W/m and a 2.5-way high-order crossover with points at 400Hz and 2.2kHz.

For this review, Revel also sent along a pair of 24" floor stands ($250 each), which, in addition to the speaker’s included 4" and 8" tabletop stands and U-type wall bracket, gave me a lot of placement flexibility. The stands are the same shape as the speaker, and also made of aluminum. Oddly, though, the stands I received didn’t entirely match the M10s, and were really more dark gray than black. Also strange was that the speakers’ vertically oriented aluminum grain didn’t follow through to the stands, which had a smooth, flat finish. These are minor quibbles; in a darkened theater, no one will notice or care.

Concerta C10 center speaker

Revel says that the C10 ($500) is "A sonic duplicate of the M10, but intended for horizontal installation [and] configured for the special demands of the center channel in movie soundtracks." Indeed, the C10 looks identical to the M10, and its specifications also indicate that it is the very same speaker. The main differences between the C10 and M10 seem to be the placement and orientation of the binding posts (the C10’s are centered on the cabinet and oriented horizontally), and the inclusion with the C10 of a rubber stand that can be used if the speaker is placed on a cabinet or shelf.

Concerta M8 surround speaker

As its model number implies, the M8 ($250 each) is a smaller version of the M10, with two 3" mid-woofers and a 1" tweeter, both of the same type used in the M10, but in the classic MTM D’Appolito-type configuration. At 11.625"H x 4.25"W x 4.5"D, the M8 is about half the height of the M10 but of identical width and depth. The M8 weighs only 3.5 pounds, but, like the M10 and C10, feels very solid. The M8’s frequency response is the same as the M10’s and, at 88dB/W/m, the M8 is nearly as sensitive as its bigger brother. The simpler M8 has a single-point crossover at 2.2kHz, and because it’s shorter than the M10, the M8’s two ports are located together at the bottom of the cabinet. Unlike the M10, the M8 includes two wall-only mounts: a U-bracket that attaches to both ends of the speaker, and a small L-bracket that mounts to the bottom of the speaker and the wall behind it.

Concerta B120 subwoofer

The B120 subwoofer ($999) is entirely straightforward in appearance and operation, with one major exception. But first, the specs. The B120 uses a 12" MCC driver with a 1.5" excursion and a 2" copper voice-coil on a Kapton bobbin, all of which are said to contribute to high power handling and low distortion. The B120’s internally braced enclosure of MDF measures 17.75"H x 14.25"W x 14"D. Inside, a 250W RMS amplifier delivers full power at a claimed 0.1% THD. The woofer is mounted on the enclosure’s front panel; on the rear are the inputs and the phase and bandpass selectors. The B120 weighs a sturdy 51 pounds; like its aluminum-enclosed cousins, it feels sturdy and solid.

What sets the B120 apart is its ability to use the optional wireless TX-1 transmitter ($120), which Revel included with the pair of B120s it sent. The TX-1 allows the B120 to be set up anywhere in the room (so long as the speaker is within reach of a power outlet). It takes the place of the subwoofer interconnect and, just like such a cable, plugs into a sub-out jack on a receiver or disc player. When activated, the TX-1 transmits the sub signal to a receiver built into the B120, and in every other respect works like a conventional cable, meaning that it will wake the sub from a power-saving slumber when signal is detected. The TX-1 is nifty technology and was a huge hit with my cable-loathing wife, who wonders why everything can’t be wireless.

Setup

The Concerta system arrived in a lot of boxes: one for each M10, one for the pair of M8s, another for the C10, one for each B120, and a couple more for the M10 stands. Buyers of the system will feel they’ve got their money’s worth, if only for the amount of cardboard they’ll put out for recycling. Setup was straightforward and easy, and involved little more than removing the bottom cap of each M10 with a wrench (included) to prepare it for mounting to the floormount stands. This was accomplished by inserting the bottom of each M10 into the stand, then fastening down speaker to stand with a long bolt inserted through the bottom of the stand. Perceptive readers might wonder if tightening the bolt from the bottom while trying to prevent the M10 from falling off its stand was awkward. Yes, it was. Nevertheless, I was able to perform the task without once dropping the speakers. But to be on the safe side, it would be best to have another pair of hands.

As mentioned, there was nothing more to setting up the TX-1 than hooking it up to a sub-out jack and plugging in its included power supply. The TX-1 can transmit on one of two channels; as long as it and the B120 sub are set to the same channel (in both cases by using a toggle on the rear panel of each), low bass will be forthcoming. As for the B120 subs, I put one in the front of my 16’L x 14’W x 10’H room, beside and just in front of the right-channel M10, and the other along the same wall in the back of the room, near the corner to the right of my listening position. The stand-mounted M10s were placed close to the rear wall and 18" from the outside perimeter of the wall-mounted plasma TV, with the M10s’ tweeters at a point about a third of the way up the screen. The C10 was centered about 16" below the screen on its included rubber mat, which allows the speaker to be aimed up or down. The M8s were placed on some shelves at about ear height 18" out and 2’ above the listening position. As previously mentioned, all of these speakers can be wall-mounted save the B120, but as they weren’t staying with me forever, I decided to not punch holes in my walls. That’ll come later.

I used Supra Ply 3.4/S speaker cable for the left, right, and center Concertas, and DH Labs ST100 for the surrounds. I began this review using my own Marantz SR8400 receiver, but I also wanted to hear the Revels using the latest surround technology. So the Marantz was superseded by NAD’s new T747 A/V receiver (review in the works), which calibrated the speakers to the room with its built-in proprietary digital signal processing (DSP). Video and sound came courtesy of a Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player.

Sound

It’s entirely reasonable to expect that a home-theater speaker system will offer a seamless soundfield across the left, center, and right channels, but that don’t mean it’s gonna happen, and with speakers as small as the Revel Concerta series, it’s best not to get one’s hopes up. Small speakers -- especially those designed for "lifestyle" home-theater systems -- often sound thin and constrained, and have no hope of delivering a believable soundstage. Not in this case -- the first and most lasting impression the Revel Concertas left me with was their uncanny ability to create a seamlessly blended soundfield across the front channels. And I mean seamless as in Did that come from the left speaker or the center?

The first production I wanted to watch and listen to was HBO’s classic miniseries Band of Brothers on Blu-ray. I’ve long been a fan of war movies, and Band of Brothers is probably the best ever made. It’s hard to pick just one or two standout scenes from this multi-hour epic, but the opening scene of chapter 6 of "Carentan" provides a complex, multilayered soundscape that must have been fun to assemble. In the front layer is heard a field briefing being delivered by the company commander to his sergeants, as the quiet conversations of soldiers scattered across the front line mix like eddies in a whirlpool. Then comes the nearby crackle of a field radio and, off in the distance, the cawing of crows.

It was these avian audio devices that really caught my attention -- although they would seem to play a minor role in setting the audio scene, in fact they simply and effectively underlined how big a battlefield lay in front of the soldiers, and how exposed their positions were to enemy fire, all in the seconds before artillery fire erupts and tanks appear on the opposite side of the clearing. They also tell us that the audio engineers who worked on this film were expert at their craft. The effectiveness of this seemingly background audio cue in conveying its message owed a great deal to the excellent tonal clarity of the Revel Concertas.

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was also very impressive through the Revel speaker system. As in the TV series Enterprise, the movie’s sound engineers faced the dilemma of incorporating 1960s-era sound effects -- Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s takes on the sounds of the future -- into a modern film without making them sound corny. As amply illustrated by the Concerta system, they succeeded brilliantly. One of the best effects was also fairly simple: the U.S.S. Enterprise jumping to warp speed. When this occurred, the B120 subwoofers delivered a solid whomp that made real the power and speed depicted onscreen.

The B120 also impressed with music. I watched and listened numerous times to the live bonus DVD that accompanies Seal’s Soul Live (CD/DVD, Warner Bros. 2497924) and nearly forgot that I was listening through a multichannel audio system. I mentioned that the front speakers present a seamless soundfield; that characteristic of oneness carried through to the integration of the B120 subs and the M10 mains, at least when the B120s’ variable crossovers were set to 150Hz. In most cases and with most material, it was often difficult to tell that the ample, tight bass I heard wasn’t coming from the slim M10s, despite the fact that, above 50Hz, I should have been able to localize the bass. As for the "live" feel of Seal’s performance, I don’t tend to like the artificial spaciousness that surround processors add to music, but kudos to Dolby Pro Logic II Music and the Concerta speakers -- I was digging Seal’s groove big time.

One area where I thought the Concertas had a critical weakness turned out to be nothing more than ill attention on my part. At alarmingly frequent intervals, I found that film dialogue dropped off into unintelligibility. The effect was disconcerting; it didn’t jibe at all with the otherwise rich tonality the speakers produced with all other sound programs. Finally, I realized that I’d left the volume up on my Panasonic plasma TV, and its downward-firing speakers were causing cancellations in the C10 center speaker’s output. I muted the TV and the cancellations disappeared -- as did my misgivings. I could now clearly understand the dialogue, which was present and precise.

Conclusion

My historical animosity toward surround processing and home-theater systems has been swept aside by the Revel Concerta speaker system. I wouldn’t have expected that such slim, stylish speakers at these prices could do such a convincing job with movies and music. The Concertas had three qualities that are critical for home-theater speakers: they had impact, were tonally clean and clear, and called no attention to themselves, sonically or physically. At just over $4000 with two subs, the Revel Concertas constitute a terrific value that should be on anyone’s shortlist of speakers to audition before committing to a 5.1-channel home-theater speaker system at anywhere near this price.

Review System
Source -- Sony BDP-350 universal Blu-ray player
Receiver -- NAD T747
Cables -- Supra Ply, DH Labs
Display device -- Panasonic Viera Plasma
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Revel
1718 W. Mishawaka Rd.
Elkhart, IN 46517
USA
Phone: (516) 594-0300

Website: www.revelspeakers.com


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