Revel M20 and B15 Review - Long

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Craig Morris, Mar 12, 2002.

  1. Craig Morris

    Craig Morris Stunt Coordinator

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    It's been almost a month since I received my M20's and B15, so I thought I would give you a review of what I'm hearing so far.

    I'll also add some comments about the PSB Alpha Intros that I'm now using as my Center and Rear speakers.

    You may remember that I originally used the 80Hz crossover in my Marantz SR-18. The following comments do NOT refer to that connection option.

    The SR-18 sounds best in Direct mode, which bypasses all internal crossovers and tone controls. The only thing the SR-18 does is D/A conversion (it's D/A's are superior to the old Sony ES CD player I use as a transport) and amplification.

    I have y-connectors on the pre-amp outputs, one set returning to the main-in for the left and right channels, and the extra set driving the B15 through left and right line-level connection. The B15's low pass is set at 80Hz, 24dB/octave.

    Using the Low Frequency Optimizer test disc and computer software, I measured the sub's output from 20Hz to 100Hz. The measurements from your Radio Shack sound meter are input on your home computer and the software corrects your readings for measurement errors, and then spits out a picture of the sub's control panel with the recommended settings for the B15's built-in equalizer. All very easy, and very cool.

    Once this is done, you should have the flattest response that the sub is capable of in THAT position. Revel does recommend that you re-do the testing from several different positions to find the best one. I only have one spot for a sub, so I only did the measurements once. Although I plan on recalibrating in a month or so when the sub is fully broken in.

    Now, on to the sound. I have never heard better sound in my system. Period. The M20's are VERY revealing. In fact, I can imagine some people might find them too revealing. Personally, I was looking for a very analytical speaker.

    I can hear the saliva in singers' mouths, I can hear cord changes on acoustic guitar, I can hear piano pedals, I can hear Ray Brown mumbling along as he plucks his Bass... you hear EVERYTHING in a recording...

    I have the M20's toed-in to point directly at me, and yet the soundstage extends well to the sides, beyond the boundaries of the speakers. The imaging is very precise. Both laterally, and depth-wise. I've never heard the front to back placement of instruments to this extent before. When listening to Coldplay's Parachutes, the acoustic guitar on track 6 was left of center, and hanging in the air in front of the lead singer's voice... even in front of the M20's it seemed! Very cool.

    It's interesting to note that before I hooked the sub up, I was using the M20's on their own, and several people assumed I had the subwoofer on. They are rated for in-room response to 46Hz, and it feels even lower. They really could pressurize my small room (10x15) on their own. Of course things are even better with the sub.

    Now for the B15. I've obviously never heard deep, accurate, musical bass before. I feel like I have a whole new rack of cd's. Radiohead's Karma Police has a kick-ass bass line that my OM-6's obviously were not doing justice to (despite being rated to -3dB at 18Hz, at least on paper...) Kent's Isola (the best rock album of the last 5 years IMHO) has always had incredible bass, but now it doesn't rumble like it did on my OM-6's. What I thought was a rolling synth bassline is now individual notes, or individual sustained bass tones. I never knew I could hear actual notes down that low.

    Despite the fact that my focus has moved away from HT towards 2-channel, I still enjoy a good DVD. The B15 excels at movies as well. Although again, some scenes that rumbled on my OM-6's now seem to have perceptively LESS bass because they aren't as rumbly... probably because the B15's in-room response is flatter, and the B15 has less distortion. But, when there is supposed to be bass... WOW! This sub definitely hits harder and lower than the OM-6's ever did... and it should, since it retails for more than the pair of Mirages.

    I am now using a pair of PSB Alpha Intro LR's for my rear channels, and the Intro CLR for my center. My father has been using the same speakers for over a year in his HT, so I was familiar with their sound. I have always been amazed at the rear soundfield these tiny direct radiators produce. I used to joke that my dad's rear soundfield was better than mine at 1/3 the price. (I was formerly using OM-R2's). I am definitely not as critical of movie soundtracks as I am with 2 channel music, but the rear soundfield sounds far more detailed now... and I don't feel like I've given up any spaciousness, despite the loss of bipolar radiation. Also, these tiny speakers play plenty loud in my small room.

    The Intro CLR is also more than satisfactory. Dialogue is far more intelligible than it was on my OM-C2. While the OM-C2 is the perfect match for the OM-6's, I have always found it to smear dialogue slightly. Is this due to it's omnipolar configuration? Is THX on the right track with it's 'no reflections' limited vertical dispersion theory? I dunno... but dialogue is clearer to me now. Volume again is not a problem... at 9 feet away, this center plays plenty loud. My only criticism would be that the CLR seems a bit shy in the 80-120Hz region, meaning that on it's own, voices don't sound as full as they did on the OM-C2. However, as part of a 5.1 soundfield, I can't say that I've noticed this deficiency... and it certainly hasn't detracted from my enjoyment of movies.

    For me, this switch in my system from a 'flagship' home theater speaker set (the OM's) to a strange combination of more expensive Mains/Sub and cheaper Center and Rears is exactly what my ears needed.

    If you want me to elaborate on anything, just ask.

    Happy Listening,

    Craig.
     
  2. Chris Zell

    Chris Zell Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the detailed review, Craig. I am also very happy so far with my M20s.

    Have you done any measurements on the maximum output capabilities of the B15 at different frequencies? Does it limit inputs that are too high to prevent overdrive? This is the sub I would really like to have, but the wallet's a little thin right now.

    Are you listening strictly to the M20s/B15 when playing 2-channel sources?

    Cheers,

    Chris
     
  3. Craig Morris

    Craig Morris Stunt Coordinator

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    I haven't done any max output measurements... I wouldn't know where to begin, nor would I feel comfortable punishing my new beauty. [​IMG]
    According to the www.audiorevolution.com review, "First off, the output of this 15-inch subwoofer is staggering at 113 dB at 20 Hz and an awe-inspiring 126 dB at 30 Hz."
    I'm not sure I understand your 2nd question about "listening strictly to the M20/B15 when playing 2-channel sources."
    I'm not using any multi-channel DVD-Audio or SACD if that's what you're asking.
    As I said, I am running the M20's full range, and the sub is connected at line-level from my preamp outputs. So the sub is active in Stereo listening, as well as surround for DVD's; basically it's always on. I have my system configured to Large Mains, No Sub.
    /edit
    from Revel's website:
    • Inaudible protection circuit to guard against thermal overload.
    Not sure if that answers your question about a limiter.
     
  4. Chris Zell

    Chris Zell Stunt Coordinator

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    Craig,

    My sentence was poorly worded - sorry. What I meant by listening strictly to the M20/B15 is: Are you listening to 2-channel sources in stereo, or multi-channel (using the centers and surrounds). If so, what are you using to convert to multi-channel - DPLII etc., and how does the conversion to multi sound to you.

    I would think it is not optimum to run the M20s full range. You have a large overlap range where both B15 and M20 have output, and the response may get weird - cancelations, peaks, thick sounding etc. You also are straining the M20s when there is significant content below 50 Hz or so. My experience is that they are even better and more eeffortless sounding when relieved of the low bass. I also think one of the biggest advantages of a satellite/sub setup is that the best placement for the mains is NOT the best placement as far as bass goes. So you place the sub to optimize lower bbass, the mains for the rest, the best of both worlds. Might be worth at least a try to set the M20s to small.

    What frequencies can you choose from when setting to small? I've had good luck with 60Hz, for what it's worth. I think 100 is too high, I'm guessing 50 to 70 is the most likely range. Don't forget to also play with the B15 crossover point. Having the lowpass and highpass set at exactly the same frequency is not necessarily the best. Small changes in freq. can have a surprising effect. I have had excellent luck actually putting the lowpass freq. to the sub a little lower than the highpass to the mains. It seems you are creating a whole that way, but it does not necessarily end up that way when the waves add up at the listening position. Play with the sub phase too.

    Cheers,

    Chris
     
  5. rodneyH

    rodneyH Supporting Actor

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    Craig, congrates on the new system, Revel makes some VERY nice stuff, glad you are happy with them, it sure is nice to hear some much info that you never knew was even there ha??
     
  6. Craig Morris

    Craig Morris Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Chris. Nope, I don't use anything to convert stereo to multi-channel. All my music listening is done in 2 Channel Direct mode which bypasses all crossovers and processing.

    As for using a crossover on the M20's... well, I already determined that the crossover in my Marantz muddles up the sound too much. I could try the Revel high pass filter... but I subscribe to the REL theory of using a sub... where the sub is blended in without filtering the mains.

    In my small room, I never come close to straining the M20's... I don't listen loud enough. Also, the Low Frequency Optimizer software and built in EQ ensure that my phase control is set accurately, and any doubling up of frequency reproduction (of which there was surprisingly little) is tamed with the EQ.
     

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