Revel Salons - Do they really sound like this?

I've been entertaining the idea of a speaker change lately. Not that I'm unhappy with my system. I just thought I might try something new for a change. Lots of people rave about the Revels so I went to my local dealer to hear the Salons. Associated equipment were 2 Levinson 436 monos, the latest Hovland preamp, and the new Ayre cd player. Transparent reference cables throughout. This audition turned out to be a big letdown. Im not trying to bash the speakers, I'm just looking for a little insight. The room was about 35X20. The speakers were set up parallel with the long wall. They were about 10ft in from the back wall and 5ft from the sidewalls with no toe-in. I was sitting back about 8ft centered perfectly and there were large acoustic panels on every wall across the room spaced about 2 ft apart. There were no defined images, the sound seemed to come from all over the room. The mid and high frequencies were very laid back which was non-fatiguing but to such an extreme that it was almost lifeless. I couldn't make out details on music that I was familiar with, it was almost as if there was a veil over the sound, and the bass wasn't that great either. Im thinking for 17 large, there must be something wrong with the setup. I use Dunlavys with Pass gear and the imaging is pinpoint. I can hear a vocalist take a breath. I can even hear Daina Kralls lips come apart before she starts to sing. I figured I would try and explain what I wasn't hearing to the sales rep so he could mabye change something and he looks at me and says, "Have you had your ears checked recently." I was absolutely floored. I did bite my tongue however and left quietly with a poor opinion of the salesman and the speakers. I came home and thought I might ask the fellow goners their opinion of the Revel Salons.
I've heard the Salons set up properly and they were sterile and unimpressive in my session as well. Your experience seems even worse than what i had heard and I'd guess that they were setup out of phase. Telltale signs: no bass, images were unnaturally diffuse. That salesperson sounds like he's the one needing the hearing aid!
I heard the Salons run by a pair of big B.A.T. amps at Sound Concept in Rochester,N.Y.
I thought they sounded very good but for the cost,I should have been blown away.I wasnt.
We have to remember though,audio demo rooms in many cases, are not as well tweaked as our own rooms.I have also found, many dealers seem afraid to crank it.
The only time I have been blown away with a demo ( and I've had many) was listening to Pink Floyd through Thiel 2.4's/Thiel sub/Krell/Theta in the incredible Thiel demo room.
This set up probably cost less than the Salon,B.A.T.system, but it was no contest.
So,was it the system or the room? I say both.
Shari had the pedal to the metal that day,that helps too!!
I was not sure if I was going to respond as I do not know alot about the technical part of Hi-Fi. I have the Revel Salons connected to a Classe Omega Amp using MIT Oracle speaker cables. I am also using a Audio Research REF II pre-amp, a Theta Jade Transport, an Genesis Gen V DAC & Digital
Lens w/2 PS Audio P 300's. I find the sound to be "GREAT", but I did notice alot of difference when I listened to them at 2 different places. I dont know alot about the equipment you stated but to say that the Salon's were lifeless just knocks me over. I have always liked a speaker that was considered "forward" such as Thiel (I had the 2.3's,the MCS 1's,the CS6 and the 7's)and I consider the Salons to be one of the best speakers at there price range. If at all possable I would try to listen to them somewhere else if possable. I know this is not alot of help, but I have heard alot of speakers one time and thought them poor and then I listened to them again in a different set up and it was nite and day. I dont work for Revel but If you decide to go with them drop me a line. I bought mine at a Very Good Price!
Good Luck!
When you have better gear, you get better results. You have much better gear and the results speak for themselves. Trust your ears. They've gotten you this far. Much further than hype and reviews will get you.
First I'd like to say it sounds like you have a very nice setup at home with the Pass and Dunlavys that would be the envy of many, and I'd love to hear it.
I own Salons with 436 amps and am continually amazed by the sound. Each time I upgrade my equipment I find new levels of information. One thing I've noticed though (and I believe this is the reason some people come away from auditioning the Salons unimpressed)is that the Salons are like chameleons taking on the characteristics of the setup, recording, and associated equipment perhaps more so than other speakers I've auditioned. I can't fault the amps, but one of my suspects in your case are the Transparent cables. I've audtioned them several times using their Reference series digitals, power cords, speaker cables, and interconnects, with both SOTA Krell gear and Levinson and came away with many of the caveats you described. I've found both Synergistic and the Chris Ven Haus cables to be a much better match with my gear.
I've also found that one has to be very careful with the acoustics in the room. I've spent hours tweaking my room with Auralex and Room Lenses.
The 436s like lots of AC current and won't sound their best without a direct dedicated line to each amp. Something that I don't believe many dealers supply.
As for the Hoveland and Ayre equipment, I can't comment on the sound quality, as I've never auditioned it but it does have a good reputation and is definitely admirable. Perhaps it was not the best choice for this setup, althougth you would think the dealer would know which in store components would make a system like that shine.
Several of my friends and I have found that as you attempt to get the best out of high end equipment, you have to spend hour of time audtioning, tweaking, and finding out what conditions this caliber equipment wants to sound the best. It is easy to just make the connections, crank the system up, and be prepared to be blown away. But with equipment of this caliber (and I would include your home system) to get the sound SOTA equipment can provide can take hours of effort.
I agree with vinylphile. $17k should and will get you a lot of speaker. There's oodles out there. Keep looking/listening. peace, warren
I have the studios and also demo'd the salons. What you describe is not consist with the incredible sound stage I experience. However in demoing the revels at the various locations on occasion I did replicate the experince of cmpromo.
His description could be caused by many factors. In one setting
the studios were set up with Levinson 336s and it sounded muddy and uninspiring. I asked the guy at the store what the problem was and he admitted that both the speakers and amps were new with very little breakin time. This is critical. With my set up
it took a considerable period to properly breakin my amps and I hated them until that magic moment. The speakers also require a certain breakin. Also the room acoustics interconnects ect. also contribute. Unfortunately dealers don't always do justice to the equipment. I love the revels and find them similar to thiels with more mid range and a warmer soundstage.
Hi Cmpromo:

I own Salons and also ran Dunlavy SC-III's for five years.

My "evolution" with Salons should be interesting to you. I first heard the speakers at Lyric in Manhattan, and thought that they were dull and lifeless. They were being run with all-Levinson Reference gear (33H monos, 32 preamp, and the 31.5(6?) transport and top processor), and I chalked it up mostly to the Levinson front end, which I have never cared for. Several years later, I again heard them at Lyric, this time run with the 436 monos, but with a variety of other non-Levinson gear. This time, they sounded extraordinary -- on Freddie Freeloader, I could hear the echo of Coltrane's sax move 3/4ths of the way across Columbia's huge E. 31st studio where that session was recorded. Everything sounded incredibly right and I bought the speakers. I use them with tube monos and a good analog rig that really makes them sing.

As for criticisms, the Salons fall down a bit in coherence in comparison to more expensive speakers that feature better crossovers (Kharma, Avalon). I can't say that I hear crossover points and they ARE coherent, but there are better speakers in this regard. My other criticism is that they are only of average efficiency (87 db.), which requires them to be used with amps having horsepower.

In comparison to the Dunlavys, they are not a time-coherent design and I have never quite captured the holographic intimacy that the Dunlavys provide in the sweetspot. The Salons are much more transparent and detailed, however, have a much larger sweetspot (they sound really good off-axis), and are overall much better at conveying the impression of real instruments and performers being in my listening room. In short, to my ears, the Salons are clearly superior.

The above contributor may have a point about the Salon system you heard having been accidentally hooked up out of phase (that would explain the deadness and lack of detail). And having the speakers ten feet off the front wall is odd, as they need much closer proximity to the front wall in order to get proper bass reinforcement from the rear-firing port (that would explain the poor bass).

One final comment -- the Salons are very neutral as speakers go and will give you the sound of whatever electronics they are being driven by.

PS - I have a friend who also went from Dunlavys (big SC-V's) to Salons, and I'll let him know about this thread.
I accompanied a friend to a dealer demo of either the Salons or the Studios -- can't remember which -- with Levinson electronics and Meridian digital gear. We couldn't leave the room fast enough. They sounded as you described. I figured it must have been the setup at fault -- roughly $60K worth of gear couldn't sound that bad.

But then, I'm a tube guy.
Dear Cmpromo:

I neglected to mention that there seems to be some concensus in the threads that the Salons pair really well with Pass amplification (one thread in particular suggests that the Classe Omega and Pass mono amps are really, really good matches).

I also note that my friend who went from SC-V's to Salons uses Transparent cabling with great success (albeit with very different electronics than what you demo`d Salons with).

Good luck.
Sounds like a poorly set up system (was it even warmed up before you got there?) and a mismatch of components to me. Not an unusal set of circumstances in an audio store. Once you get your gear to a certain point, and properly set up, it is hard to hear an improvement in a store demo unless someone has gone to a lot of trouble to "do things right".

Your home system seems pretty competent, so in store rigs are going to have trouble measuring up. And, some of the gear in the setup may not be to your taste - example, if you like your Pass equipment, Levinson may not suit your ears.

And, as someone has already mentioned, your ears have already told you that something wasn't right. Try and see if you can arrange a home demo for the Revels, that will give you a better feel for the speakers. Or they simply might not be right for you. In that case, you can just continue to enjoy your Dunlavys (good speakers in their own right), or maybe check out the Wilson Sophia, and/or the Verity Parsifal Encore - also very good speakers in the same approximate price bracket.
i auditioned salons with a levison reference set up using all transparent reference xl cables and while it sounded good there is no way i would trade my dunlavy/vtl set up (wired with harmonic tech) for it other than to make a quick profit and then go back to dunlavy and VTL. way more air with my set up and imaging to die for. Keep what ya got would be my suggestion
Cmpromo -

I am the friend to whom "Raquel" referred in his/her post (he's confused). I sold my Dunlavy SC-Vs about 15 months ago and bought a pair of Salons that I am currently running with CAT JL-1 Limited Edition monoblocks. I have been very pleased with the upgrade in sound quality I achieved as a result. The Salons bettered the performance of the Dunlavys in a number of areas:

1. Transparency - The Salons exhibit more detail and provide a more transparent view into the soundstage.

2. Treble response - The front and rear firing tweeters in the Salons provide substantially more treble energy than did the silk dome tweeters on my SC-Vs. To my ears, I found the resulting sound to be more "right" and true to the live experience with, for example, the shimmer on well recorded jazz cymbals.

3. Bass response - The Salons provide more and better bass extension. The Salons literally measure perfectly flat at 20Hz in my room (with the help of a small boost from a room node). The low bass response of the Salons is flat in its own right down to about 25Hz if my memory serves me.

The soundstaging of the Salons is very good. It certainly equaled the soundstaging capabilities of my SC-Vs. As mentioned in the threads above, the Salons are exceptionally revealing of the nuances and inner details of the music. As a result, when paired with the right electronics, you will have no problem hearing all the intimate details of the Diana Krall recording you mentioned. At the same time, any weaknesses in source electronics will be unflatteringly displayed. The Salons are exceptionally accurate and revealing of every element of their source signal.

There was definitely something wrong with the break-in, warm-up and/or set-up of the system you heard. I agree with an earlier post that the diffuse presentation and lack of soundstage sounds like the system was wired out of phase. The lack of treble energy you experienced is a mystery. If anything, some people find the Salons to be too bright (especially if paired with the wrong solid state amps). They are certainly not shelved down in their treble response. Also, the Salon's bass is very impressive, and it should have struck you that way.

If I remember correctly, Anthony Cordesman ran his Salons with big Pass amps. So I suspect the Salons would pair well with your Pass electronics.

One final note: I am currently using Transparent cables in my system. As a result, I can tell you that there is no inherent synergy issue between the Transparents and the Salons. What I do not know is how the Transparents pair with Levinson electronics and whether a synergy problem was introduced with that combination. (I doubt it.)

You should give these speakers another chance. Despite the large price tag, they are a very good value.

FYI, I am a hobbyist. I have no affiliation with Revel or any audio industry players.
Have you been to that dealer before and are you aware of their set up and demo capabilities? Unfortunately there are lots of dealers who do not take the time to carefully set up and match their systems. I would blame your less than impressive demo on poor speaker placement and an excessively treated room (veiled, lifeless, laid back). Or, and this could very well be the case, your current system is just that much better!
It sounds to me one side has the phase reversed. I would check the speaker cable connections.
In a room of those dimensions and with the described setup and listening position, toe-in is mandatory. You are sitting off axis and too much HF energy is being absorbed by the sidewall treatment. I have heard them toed-in severely, a la Blumlein, from a listening distance of 6ft and the imaging was excellent.

Borrow them and/or try another demo setup.

Chris, Chris, Chris,

Trust your ears. Your Dunlavys beat the fool out of the Revel Salons. I've heard the Revels with Levinson monoblocks and they sound like a decent PA system. If they cost about $5,000, they'd be pretty good. At whatever the current retail price is, they're a joke. That's what happens when you know the right people in the audio rag industry and get several favorable reviews. The price has skyrocketed to the point of being ridiculous -- especially considering the quality of the drivers, crossover, cabinet work and, most importantly, the sound. Stick with your Dunlavys!
I have the Salons, driven by Jeff Rowland Model 12 amps, and a Meridian 800 series front end. The cabling is Silversmith Audio. The sound is excellent in all respects. The first time I heard the Salons, the dealer had them hooked up to Levinson gear. He then switched to the Rowland electronics, and they became a much more involving speaker.

I can echo comments from some of the others: check the wiring to make sure everything was in phase; the Salons image best when toed-in toward the listening position (it is surprising the store you were at did not toe them in, given the manual's express recommendation to do so); also, check to see if the rear-firing tweeters were turned on, and if the adjustable tweeters in general were turned down.

I would recommend that you not eliminate the Salons from consideration based on this demonstration. Try listening to them again. Given the condascending attitude of the dealer, you should seek out another place that carries Revel. If you are stuck dealing with the same dealer, see if he/she will let you truck the Salons home. If not, you might try taking your preferred electronics into the store.
"Salons sound like a PA system? I'm outta this thread!"

Hyperbole is all too common as people back their favorites.


Please understand...I don't own Salons. The hyperbole was launched by the guy referring to Salons as a PA system. My point was that THAT was a bit over the top.
The Salons are decent speakers and when set up properly can impress most people -- Even people that have lived with John Dunlavy's creations. You seem happy with the SC-4A speakers. Your comment was you wanted to try something different. What differences are you looking for? We may be better at helping you in that regard. Audiogoners should be able to help you find the sonic flavor that you desire.

The Dunlavy SC4A to Salon change would not be worthwhile in my opinion. You should look a little higher up the speaker food chain to beat the SC-4As. It may be best to stay away from the current Harman Specialty Group entirely. Just my opinion, though. Best Regards,
Thanks for the responses. I see, as usual, opinions run from one extreme to the other. I definitely think the room there was way over treated. I think even John Dunlavy said that you can treat a room so much that it becomes acoustically dead and thats exactly the way they sounded. I do respect the guys who own these speakers and love them, I mean obviously you're not morons. You've got your systems tweaked and you like the sound. My speakers sounded bad until I had them set up properly and im sure the Revels can sound better than what I heard. Wether they would do it for me when properly set up is another story but they sounded so bad yesterday I felt compelled to ask for some feedback. Thanks
I was very interested in Revel's and a dealer pointed me in the direction of Dali Euphonia. I have the MS4, but the larger MS5 may be more what you are interested in. If you have a local dealer, they are likely worth a listen.
danlib1, remember live music comes through a PA system and reproduction of live music is what we strive to reproduce, add to that some PAs sound pretty darn good so don't take the comment so hard
My objection is to the guys who dismiss any of these better speakers as garbage. None of them are. While I may have a preference for the Revels and reasons for that preference, I would not denigrate any of the other suggestions as sounding like a PA or being blown away by the Revels. Such absolutist statements are unfounded.
I usually just make no comment when someone says something so perjorative and unnecessarily negative as to not merit response. However, the remark that the salons sound like a pa system is over the top. Just because I have them doesn't make them so personal to me that it is like attacking a member of the family, but such comments waste everyones time and intelligence. If someone doesn't have constructive input as far as I am concerned they can keep their opinions to themselves. I don't mind if someone says they don't care for a piece of equipment and then document their opinion. I can agree or disagree with substance. On the other hand I doubt whether the engineers at Revel's competitors would have the opinion that these speakers sound like a pa system. These folks may be able to tell you why they think their product is better, but I have talked to many of the people who design other speakers highly thought of on these threads and their comments have almost universally been very complimentary of Revel while still pointing out the belief in the superiority of their product. The bottom line is that these are very high quality speakers with tremendous egineering when set up proplerly with the appropriate equipment will deliver excellent sound.
A lot of audiophiles lack the confidence to use their ears, so they buy on the basis of what they read here and in the audio rags.

The truth is, if you're looking for accuracy, which is not subjective, the Revel Salons fail. They also cost a lot considering their level of performance, and the Salons require monster expensive solid-state amps to come to life. That poses a whole different problem.

As I noted, the Salons started out being priced thousands of dollars less than they cost now. What accounts for that huge price increase? Inflation? No way. Look at the data and do the math. More expensive drivers, crossover components or better cabinet quality? Could be, but I don't think so. They just got some of those dime-a-dozen rave reviews so the price skyrocketed.

I'm not saying the Salons are bad speakers. I'm just saying they sure don't represent great value. The Dunlavy SC-IV/A's that Chris owns are simply better (measurably and audibly) than the Salons at less than half the price. They just don't look as cool.


That you seem to prefer the sound of the Dunlavy SC-IV/A speakers to the sound of the Revel Salons is a matter of personal opinion based on your experiences with whatever electronics you happened to hear paired with these speakers. I lived with the Dunlavy SC-Vs for three years, and I have lived with the Revel Salons for well over a year. They are both excellent speakers. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Price, value and aesthetics aside, I happen to prefer the sound of the Salons.

Your statement that the Dunlavys are "...simply better (measurably and audibly..." is just one more unfounded absolutist remark.
"The truth is, if you're looking for accuracy, which is not subjective, the Revel Salons fail."

On what non-subjective basis?
If you like the Dunlavy sound you might want to see if you can demo some Green Mountain Audio speakers, since they are designed with the same time-coherent philosophy as the dunlavys. The bigger ones look rather ugly , but by all accounts offer that holographic imaging that you refer to. I own the lowly sub $1000 europas, but in the sweet spot they image (both wide, deep and pinpoint) as well as many much more expensive speakers I've heard. I was really interested in Dunlavys, but then the company folded and so Green Mountain (US made, 1st order crossovers, time and phase aligned) seems like a natural successor to Dunlavy.
Kr4 (and Cincy_bob):

Accuracy in speakers can be measured. It's not some kind of elusive, magical, subjective quality. So there's no opinion involved here. The fact you prefer one type of sound to another is irrelevant to the question of accuracy.

The Revels are not phase- or time-coherent, they cannot reproduce a square wave and I sincerely doubt they boast the kind of flat frequency response of Dunlavys and some of the better (and more accurate) speakers available today.

Regardless, it's great that you love your Salons. As for the price nearly doubling in just a few years, no one has had an explanation for that. But it's certainly a manufacturer's right to charge what some people are willing to pay. Enjoy.
The Salons have not nearly doubled in price. When introduced, they were about $15K a pair. These days, I understand they are about $18K per pair. Of course, you pay a little more for fancier finishes. This price increase is in line with price increases for similarly-priced speakers over the past few years.

The assertions about accuracy are irrelevant. Dunlavy designed speakers to generate a flat response in a lab. The speakers would not generate a flat response in the standard living room. Revel had a fundamentally different design objective: to build a speaker that would produce a relatively accurate response in a real listening environment, for more than one listener. Revel also used more than measuring instruments in its design effort--it used real people, trained to listen like audiophiles. So to criticize Revel for not being as subjectively accurate at Dunlavy is really no criticism at all.

To my ears, the Revels sound great. They sounded better to me than the Dunlavy IVs and Vs I listened to when I made my purchase. I have no quarrel with those who prefer the Dunlavy sound. I do not claim that my ear is more golden than Dunlavy buyers, or that my Revel purchase is any wiser (subjectively speaking, of course) than a Dunlavy purchase.
Actually, only individual parameters of "accuracy in speakers can be measured" with instruments. What I was hoping was that you might have measurements for the Revels that would show significant deviation from a flat response. As for time-coherence, something I am not against btw, B&W have shown that it makes a much less significant contribution to real-world performance.

Nonetheless, I stand by my earlier statement that the flip dismissal of any of the speakers discussed here, including the Dunlavys, is neither objective nor responsible.
Here are Atkinson's measurements of the Salons:

Nearly flat from 20Hz to 20KHz.
This is typical Stereophile drivel. John Atkinson attempts to explain away mediocre results (slight lumpiness, lack of presence-region energy, etc.), saying, "This could be a measurement artifact."

A few years ago, John Dunlavy revealed Stereophile's measurement capabilities for being what they are: extremely flawed. And that frequency response graph doesn't look all that flat to me -- especially in the high frequency portion.

Judge for yourself. This is from Stereophile's measurements section in the review of the Revel Salon, which retailed for $14,400 in 1999:

"However, the high-order crossover means that the Salon cannot be time-coherent, as shown by its step response on the tweeter axis (fig.8). The tweeter output arrives first at the microphone, followed by the outputs of the midrange unit, then the upper woofer, then the three lower woofers. It is arguable whether time coherence is necessary or not. Certainly, LG's very positive reaction to the Revel's resolution of detail and its imaging accuracy was not negatively affected by the speaker's time-domain behavior.

". . . The Salon's waterfall plot (fig.9) was not as clean as I had expected. I suspect that some of the HF hash present in the floor of this graph is due to early reflections of the tweeter's output from the tops of the speaker's side cheeks. There is a hint of delayed energy just below the on-axis notch in the presence region, but this is probably too subtle to introduce any coloration.

". . . Another finely engineered loudspeaker design from Kevin Voecks and his team. — John Atkinson"

Indeed. Are we talking about the same speaker? The main problem, though, is that these speakers just don't sound that great compared to the competition at this price and even one-third the price.