Review: Hales Design Group Revelation 3 Speaker

Category: Speakers

It is indeed unfortunate that the speaker company that Paul Hales founded, known as Hales Design Group is no longer active. For while Hales Design Group was in business they produced some of the finest speakers the high end community was priviliged to hear and admire.

This review deals with the Revelation Model Three speaker, that took the audio world by storm in the very late nineties. And was a Class A rated by several audio journals of the day.

The Revelation Three was a no holds barred designed to offer world class loudspeaker that was affordable to almost anyone in high end. Priced at $2,195.00 per pair and offered in many different finishes.

The driver complement was from Vifa for the tweeter and midrange and a ten inch woofer of Paul Hales designed and appears to have been made by Peerless. And to add internal wiring from Cardas and uses Cardas binding posts for connecting speaker cable of your choice.

And if that was not enough, the cabinent is a work of art in and of itself. These enclosures are finely crafted and assembled with craftsmanship that I thought was long gone. These are no lightweights as each completed speaker tips my scales at a hefty 96 pounds.

And to top off the presentation is one of the most in depth owners manuals I have ever seen for speakers. Most owner manuals for speakers are nothing more than a four page booklet. Not here Paul Hales supplied a 36 page in depth owners manual, that covers wide ranging topics on his speakers. Written in layman terms and easily understood by anyone dealing in high end loudspeakers. Very impressive to say the least.

Listed below is a sampling of the music used for this evaluation.

LP Playback:

Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)
Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia CS 8192)
Paul Desmond - Self Titled (Artist House AH - 2)
Ahmad Jamal - But Not For Me - (Argo LPS 628)
Bill Evans - At The Montreux Jazz Festival - (Verve V6-8762)
Bill Evans - At Montreux II - (CTI 6004)
Sunken Cathedral - American Gramophone - (AG 361)
No Bass Hit - Concord Jazz Label - (CJ-97)
Oscar Peterson - Night Train - (Verve V-6 8538)
Gerry Mulligan Reunion Chet Baket - (Pacific Jazz ST 90061)
First Takes - Jazz - (Reference Recording RR6)
Jazz At The Pawnshop - (Proprius 7778-79)
Church Windows - Respighi - Reference Recording RR 15
The Name Is Makowitz - (Sheffield Lab - Lab 21)
Tchaikovsky - Symphony 4 - (Telarc 10047)
Red Norvo Quintet - Forward Look - (Reference Recording RR 8)
Blazing Redheads - (Reference Recording RR 26)
Chicago Pro Musica - Stravinsky - (Reference Recording RR 17)
Berloiz- Symphony Fantastique - (Reference Recording RR 11)
Gershwin - Rhapsody In Blue - (Telarc DG 10058)

CD Playback:

Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Private Investigations Best Of Dire Straits (HDCD) - Dire Straits (Warner Bros 49891-2)
Straight Up - Bob James Trio (Warner Bros 945956-2)
Land Of Giants - McCoy Tyner (Telarc 83576)
New York Reunion - McCoy Tyner (Chesky 5173324)
Gladiator Motion Picture Soundtrack(Decca 2894670942)
Copland - Appalachian Spring (Telarc CD 80078)
Frederick Fennell - Holst Suites (Telarc 80038)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Telarc 80041)
John Williams - American Journey (Sony 89364)
Bizet - Carmen (Telarc 80048)
Live At Sweet Basil - McCoy Tyner Trio (Evidence ECD 22106-2)

Of course during the time spent with the Revelation 3 speakers much more music was listen to than what appears above, but nonetheless it gives a representative sample of the genres put to the Revelation 3 speakers.

If there was ever a speaker for all seasons so to speak, it is the Revelation 3. Regardless of the program material put to them, the playback is very musical, with a layering in of the instruments and voice that is difficult to find at any price point. My reference speakers for years has been the Alon Model 1. Which is one of high ends great speaker designs with its open baffle design. The Alons strong suit is jazz and classical, its only weakness is rock music. These speakers could not be further apart in their approach to bring music to life. Comparing the Alons to the Revelation 3 is as vast as night is to day. So I dare not go there. However with that being said both the Alon and Revelation 3 are joy in their own right and in the right system may be your forever speaker.

The Revelation Three uses 24dB/octave (fourth-order) crossover filters, which means that its drivers cannot be time-aligned. The choice of ,crossover slope remains a controversial topic among speaker designers. Those favoring 6dB/octave (first-order) slopes-eg, Dunlavy, Thiel, and Vandersteen-argue that the use of any other crossover configuration results in impaired accuracy of imaging and soundstaging. But now, having spent some time listening to the Revelation Threes, I'm not so sure. These speakers certainly do not lack soundstage depth or width, and the images within the soundstage are clearly defined.

Played at the high level that this music demands, the music came through loud and clear, the bass providing a solid rhythmic foundation. The Revelation Three's were able to play loud without audible strain, maintaining the clarity of musical textures.

And now for the obligatory specifications:


Description: Three-way, sealed-box, dynamic loudspeaker tuned to 29Hz. Drive-units: 1" aluminum-dome tweeter, 4.5" polypropylene-cone midrange driver, 10" polypropylene-cone woofer.
Crossover: 24dB/octave.
Frequency response: 33Hz-26kHz (-3dB).
In-room bandwidth: 23Hz-26kHz.
Linearity: ±0.75dB.
Sensitivity: 86.5dB (2.83V 11m).
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms.

Dimensions: 40" H by 11" W by 14" D.

Weight: 96 Ibs.

Finishes: sapele, light oak, black.

Price: $2195/pair.

To get the most from the Revelation 3 due to thier 4 ohm load and 86dB efficiency you will need a power amp of at least 125 WRMS per side into an 8 ohm load that will provide at least 200 WRMS into a 4 ohm load and be of high current design. An amp like a Bryston 3B ST would be the least I would use or similar amp. At present these are powered by a PS Audio HCA 2 Class D amp, that puts out 150 WRMS perside into an 8 ohm load and 250 WRMS per side into a 4 ohm load, plus the fact the PS Audio HCA 2 does not sense a reactive load from the speakers, so much for the better. It is almost like the PS Audio HCA 2 was designed with the Revelation 3 in mind.

While somewhat difficult to drive properly, once one has the proper amplification the Revelation 3 is astounding in its musical presentation. Have just listen to Respighi Church Windows on the Reference Recording Label (RR15). One of the more demanding audiophile LP records to playback. Talk about totally immersed in the sonics of the Revelation 3 is a major leaque understatement. This was a front row center,row 12 experience, even my mighty Alon Model 1 speakers did not deliver the low end organ passage with such authority and clarity. In defense of the Alon perhaps an 8 inch woofer versus a 10 inch may well have been the difference, but nonetheless a humbling experience that left me damn near breathless.

After that to try some jazz and that was Jazz At The Pawnshop. Once again the Revelation 3 deliver s solid performance that makes one feel they are there in the room during this performance which was recorded live in a club setting. All the nuances of such a recording were there, the ambiance of the club, the quartet on stage. Clearly one of the best, if not the best playback I have heard of this recording.

How Paul Hales was able to produce a speaker such as the Revelation 3 and retail it for only $2,195.00 remains a mystery to me. For without question the Revelation 3 competes at a far more lofty level than the opening price would suggest. The Hales Revelation easily competes with speakers at two to three time the price of the Revelation 3.

I have a few quibbles with the Hales Revekation 3 speakers. First of all bi-wiring is not possible and in my opinion they should have had the bi-wire capability. Second is these do not have threaded inserts for floor spikes, although I believe later production runs corrected that oversight. I will correct that shortly. Third is the grill covering, which is a total pain to deal with. The grill cloth is attached by means of spline to the front of the baffle, similiar to rescreening a door or a patio enclosures. When these came in, the existing grill cloth needed to be replaced. Why this method was opted for, I have no idea. When one wants to hear them with cloth removed as opposed to cloth on becomes an irritant to deal with. Also not sure why the diagonal bracing is used, but they came that way, so back they went. However with all that carping, the Revelation 3 sound better with the grill cloth in place, but thats my opinion.

Aside from the niggling complaints of the above, I cannot find issues with the Revelation 3 speakers. Paul Hales swung for the fences on this design and he in my opinion succeded far above my expectations and most likely was astounded himself to what these became to be.

As for me the jury is still out if these are keepers. But at this point in time I am impressed beyond any expectations. Previous reviews found in mainstream audio journals, to me did not fully convey the prowess of the Revelation 3. These are extraordinary speakers by any subjective measurement. One could do far worse by not trying the Hales Revelation 3. There are speakers on the market today that just cannot compare to the Revelation 3. Remember poor design costs no more than excellent design and therein lays the problem. When profit and expediency takes over, the end result is quite poor. This cannot be said of the Revelation 3 speakers. Paul Hales put a lot of TLC and R&D into these and it shows that his approach was the correct path to follow.

In my view the audio world needs more gifted people such as Paul Hales. It is my hope in the years to come he will once again surface and bring his gift and talent to the high end community. I know I will be waiting to see what develops.

In the near term, if your looking for a pair of speakers for your system, try and find a pair of Revelation 3, these will not dissappoint. A tour de force from the gifted mind of Paul Hales.

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Click to view my Virtual System

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