sshifi_recref201009_revel_salon2The Revel Ultima Salon2 retails for $21,998 USD per pair -- more than many people can afford, and more than many others would ever dream of paying for a set of loudspeakers. Given the dour economy, the Salon2’s current "street price" is lower -- but it’s still a lot of cash. But those who can spring for these 53"-tall, 160-pound masterpieces will be rewarded with a level of performance that can’t be matched for less money, and is hard to beat even at multiples of the price. SoundStage! Network publisher Doug Schneider currently uses the Ultima Salon2 as his reference loudspeaker.

The six-driver, four-way Ultima Salon2 is the result of decades of loudspeaker research that began with Dr. Floyd Toole’s work at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), and that was continued at Revel’s parent company, Harman International, where, until his retirement last year, Toole worked following his stint with the NRC. On the Harman staff is a cadre of top designers, and Revel’s design team had access to the parent company’s state-of-the-art design and manufacturing tools and their measurement and listening facilities, the likes of which can be matched by few, if any, other companies. The goal set for the Salon2 was a statement-level speaker that adhered to all the design principles the company deems relevant, based on the research: wide bandwidth, flat frequency response, controlled dispersion, high output capability, low distortion, etc.

The Salon2 is a full-range design, meaning that it provides bass output down to 20Hz and highs that soar past 20kHz. Our own measurements, done at the NRC, reveal that the Salon2 reaches these extremes with ease, and is exceedingly neutral in its reproduction of all the frequencies in between, both on and off axis. That the upper frequencies are free from breakup or resonance is partially attributable to the use of beryllium for the tweeter’s dome, and the distortion in the bass is commendably low. Most audiophiles will feel no need to add a subwoofer -- the Salon2 hits the nether regions of the audioband forcefully and cleanly enough, though those who use them as home-theater speakers might disagree. (Home-theater folks can never seem to get enough bass.)

Whether you listen to it up close or from far away, the Salon2 always exhibits a neutral, cohesive sound that, despite the fairly wide spacing of its drivers, sounds to the ears as if its six drivers are operating as one. Part of that cohesiveness is attributable to the similarity of materials and construction for all its custom-made drivers. Mostly, though, it has to do with the superior design and execution of the crossover, which results in an ideal blending of the drivers’ outputs across the audioband. This can be easily heard in the consistency of the sound even when the listener is positioned well out of the central sweet spot, and clearly seen in frequency-response measurements taken in front of and around the speaker -- nowhere are any of those weird suckouts seen in the graphs of so many other speakers.

But what such measurements don’t reveal are other qualities that set the Salon2 apart and make it a true reference-level component: superior transparency and resolution that better those of any other dynamic speaker Doug Schneider has heard. The Salon2’s sound is astonishingly clear, making it the kind of speaker through which you can hear every part of your music, from the lowest lows to the highest highs, even as it preserves the smallest details and nuances in between. Doug considers the Salon2 to be not only the ideal listening tool, but the ideal reviewing tool as well -- its revealing nature permits the careful evaluation of other components upstream.

If the Salon2 has a downside, it’s this: to get it to perform at its best requires a very powerful amplifier with high-current capability. Solid-state amplification is pretty much mandatory; most tube models shouldn’t even try. Doug Schneider feels that 100Wpc into 8 ohms is the absolute minimum required, but an amp outputting at least 200-300Wpc is needed to get the Revels to play to lifelike levels, something they’re quite capable of. We’ve heard of people using them with amps rated up to 500 or 600Wpc, which isn’t surprising. Feed the Salon2s power and they’ll sing.

Revel’s Ultima Salon2 isn’t cheap, but we know of no loudspeaker priced lower that can match its across-the-board high level of performance, and we know of many priced far higher that can’t match the high fidelity of its sound. The Ultima Salon2 establishes a level of performance that can be used as a benchmark to assess other speakers -- the very definition of a reference component.

Manufacturer contact information:

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