- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 09 September 2013
Design and Setup of the Revel Performa 3 M105 Bookshelf Speakers
Revel has developed a competitive edge in the speaker marketplace in a number of ways. One of these revolves around Revel's substantial investment in research and development. Their approach starts with a listening room that is properly equipped for meaningful double blind listening tests.
They can closely match levels and positions between different speaker pairs under test in this special facility. The room is rigged with a mechanical system that can quickly switch out pairs of speakers. This makes speaker placement a constant, non-variable parameter in the double blind tests. This system works so fast that the speakers can be switched before the listeners' audio memory fades.
Revel also has three different anechoic chambers for controlled objective measurements. Between the special listening room and the anechoic testing chambers, Revel has been able to do their own research that correlates objective measurements against listener preferences. Revel has pinpointed a hierarchy of relevant design parameters through this iterative process.
I was a bit surprised to read some of the results of their research – results that were not altogether intuitive to me. One example is that frequency response deviations are more apparent when they occur over a broader range of frequencies (low Q) than when there is a tight spike in the response curve (high Q). I'd have thought this would work the other way around. This example serves to support the inherent value of double blind listening tests and linking them to objective measurements.
The main point of my discussion here is that Revel has found speaker/room interactions are a major factor in perceived speaker performance. This has led Revel to develop a breakthrough measurement process for evaluating their speakers. Room interactions involve direct sound, first reflections and the reverberant soundfield. The Revel process involves listening window tests (direct sound), first reflection tests and then a 70-point anechoic measurement process that is used to derive the reverberant soundfield in a typical listening room. Revel calls this their "Spin-o-Rama" testing regimen. The results are used to anticipate the response characteristics of speakers in a typical listening room.
This research was put into effect to develop the all new Performa3 line. Revel promotes the Performa3 line by saying the Performa3's offer an "Ultima2 Heritage at Attainable Prices".
The Performa3 tweeter is a proprietary 1" Aluminum dome designed by the Ultima2 design team. This driver is set in a newly designed Acoustic Lens Tweeter Waveguide. This waveguide restricts the tweeter's dispersion through the crossover region while increasing dispersion at higher frequencies. This is done to provide a better blend with the main driver so the first reflections in the room will be coherent to the source. An additional plus is that the trim around this wave guide makes the Performa3 speakers look alluringly curvy when the grilles are off.
The main driver in the M105's is a 5-1/4" aluminum ribbed cone with a cast aluminum basket. This makes for a very small speaker by Revel's standards. But that is OK, because they set out to make a "bookshelf" speaker that would actually fit on a bookshelf. That is why the M105's are "small" and come with port plugs to plug the rear ports. Plugging the ports provides just the right amount of bass attenuation to offset boundary gain due to shelf placement. They really do think of everything at Revel.
Revel incorporated other new and proven features in the design of the Performa3's – things such as high power-handling drivers that exhibit little dynamic compression or audible cone breakup, ribbed aluminum cones (rigid), separate tweeter enclosures and sophisticated high-order crossovers to maintain consistent response in and around the crossover points.
The Performa3 cabinets have real wood finishes. My review units were in a striking gloss white finish. They are also available in piano black or high gloss walnut.
The M105's came in three boxes. That's because Revel included a pair of matching stands in the third box. This would mean some assembly required. No worries though as I only needed to sink 9 screws per speaker. Six of these screws hold the stands together (three each for the top and bottom plates). The other three screws clamp the speaker cabinet to the stand. Revel's custom stands have always gone together like this and with the speaker bolted to the stand, you get the most robust coupling possible. The stands come with heavy duty spiked inserts for the feet.
I placed the M105's about 10' apart and 10' from the primary listening position. I told them in so they were firing directly at the seating position. I placed my SVS SB 13 Ultra sub in the left front corner of my room. I used this sub for movies only as discussed in the In Use section below.
The M105's sounded nice right out of the box. I still broke them in for more than 100 hours before starting my serious evaluation sessions.