Vienna Acoustics vs Revel Studios?

Three years ago, I invested in a system that has given me many hours of listening pleasure. I have Vienna Acoustics Beethoven speakers, a SimAudio I-5 integrated, and an Ultech CD player. At that time, that was about as much as my budget would allow, and I have never regretted buying any part of this system. The only "problem" I am having is that the system lacks "rock out' power. It is perfect for moderate listening, but will occasionally clip or become slightly shrill or unfocused when "cranked."

So now, of course, I'm pondering all kinds of potential remedies. I could simply use the I-5 as a pre-amp and add something like a Bryston 7B ST for extra volume. I could sell the I-5 and go for separates, maybe even try out some tubes, such as the Sonic Frontiers Power 3 set-up (although I have heard that tubes are not necessarily a good match for the 'warm' Vienna speakers). Or I could sell the system and try out the Revel Studios (I think the Salons are probably too big for my living room) with some combination of the above to drive them.

I am not a true audiophile, in the sense that I know an awful lot about this stuff, but I do know that I enjoy good music played on a good system. I don't mind paying for top notch equipment, within reason, but I don't want to fork over 10-12K when a modest adjustment in my current set-up would be almost as good.

So, I appeal to all of you true audiphiles for advice. Please show me the way. Would the Revels be a big step up from the Viennas? Would separates be much better than adding an amp, while using the I-5 as a pre-amp? Any suggestions on possible matches?

I realize the answers are, to some degree, subjective. But I am interested in your feedback and experiences.

Many thanks.
Having listened to both, the Revels are quite a bit better than the Vienna Acoustics. Remember the 3 most important thing to great sound are 1. recording - always use well recorded cds 2. room acoustics - in a bad room great speakers will sound bad 3. speakers - this is probably where the most money should be invested. I can not urge you strongly enough to audition any speakers with your own cds before you drop that kind of coin. Make sure YOU hear a big difference. In my humble opinion, in dropping that kind of money on speakers doesn't bother you Revels are quite a bit better, but you can find better speaker then the Viennas without spending that much money.

I disagree w/the above post. The Beethovens are fantastic speakers, but they need and love power. I did not like them w/a 100-watt tube amp (ARC VT100 Mk III), but loved them w/an Ayre V-3 (available used on this site for about $1600, usually). I would upgrade the amp and stick w/the speakers. They will get better and better the better the amplification is.
I also have the Beethovens with an EAD amp and CD player. What kind of power do you have your system plugged into? I ran a 10guage dedicated line back to a 20amp. breaker and built my own power cords. Big difference!! The bass is much deeper and the highs sound much more real. The Beethovens need to be moved around quite a bit,they are able to produce a huge soundstage.

Do not sell them Beethovens just yet...
Believe me, I am in no hurry to part with the Viennas. I think they simply need more power than my SimAudio integrated (70 wpc) delivers. I do, however, also love the sound of the Sim. What are the drawbacks in using it as a pre-amp and adding an amp in the 250-300 wpc range? Would that give me that extra "kick" that I crave? What would be a good match for the Sim, or should I just bite the bullet and get a good pre-amp? The Sim doesn't have a phono stage, which is further enticement to upgrade to separates.

I do love the Beethovens. But I have to admit that my curiosity about the Revels is killing me. I at least need to find a dealer and give them a listen. Lord save me from my impulses...

Thanks for the input, everyone.
Sorry Steve, but I disagree with you too. I think the Vienna's are great. They are a much more musical speaker than the Revel's IMHO. The Revel's are good too, but I would find them fatiging over time. Chris my recommendation would to keep the Beethoven's & switch over to tubes to really hear them sing. The other advantage of the Vienna's is they don't need a lot of power to drive them, which leave you with may options in tube amps.
I too have the Beethovens and IMHO, if you use them with a quality tube preamp, they really sound great. As far as amps go, I drove mine with a Classe CA-200 which was very nice but now use a Sonic Frontiers Power 2. It's 100 watts of tube power and can honestly say I don't feel the need for more. I also use a REL Stata III to fill in the bottom end and am very happy with this combo. Good Luck!
I've had Revel Studios for over a year, and they have never sounded fatiging, even listening for hours at a time.
Most of what i see is right....I own the V-A and an Ayre V3. It's an incredible match! I've compared the Revels as well....if you like the V-A, the Revels WILL be fatiging to you. The difference is the tweeter! Come on people, the tweets are even remotely close! The Revel is far more extended (just my hurts my ears, maybe not yours, but it does mine).

If you like the V-A, the Revel will be to "metallic" sounding.

But as far as what you should change out....have you consisdered the CD player? The Ultech was "good for the money" but your system is being held back by that.
I gotta chime in here. Keep the speakers and replace the cdp and amp. Both are going to make a bigger improvement than replacing the speakers. Don't know what your budget is, but if you like the overall sound of the SimAudio, you should strongly consider going to the W-5 amp, which will be a giant improvement in impact and much less strained at high levels. Sim's cdp is also a big step up from the Ultech. The Bryston 7's are also an excellent choice, maybe even a little better than the W-5 but much bulkier as well.
I think you have an amazing set of speakers in the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven's. It would be unfair to comment on the Revels since I have never heard them before.

I can say that I have spend numerous hours in front of the Beethoven's doing critical listening with my own CD's and found them to be exceptional speakers. Midrange was extremely impressive on these and the bass was more powerful than you would expect from a speaker of it's size.

The source equipment used was a VTL ST-85 tube amplifier and the preamp was SS. I cannot recall the brand of preamp, but the CD player was a Naim.

My listening took place in a room about 14 x 18 and it was fairly well damped. Speakers were about 2 to 3 feet from the back walls and about 7 to 8 feet apart.

I thought the combination of the VTL and beethovens was excellent. It could drive these to surprising levels. The only change I would make is to remove some of the damping materials in the room. I thought the high frequencies were getting absorbed. However, this will most likely not be the problem with your average home listening room.

The beethoven is a 4ohn speaker so I can only imagine that is has a fairly flat impedance curve that does not dip below 4 ohms to be driven with such authority.

I disagree that you need more power. The relationship between power and output levels is logarithmic. It takes double the power to get a 3db increase in volume levels. To the human ear, anything under 3db will go unnoticed. So if you have a 100 watt amp and go to 200, you may get 3db. If you go to 400 you may get another 3db. The reason I say this is that often measurements are skewed in spec sheets and don't reflect real world performance. Also, room size and damping items such as furniture, will absorb some of the sound. Don't waste your money and your electricity bill on a super powerful amp; Unless you live in a cold climate and need additional heat to heat the room up so that it's cozy warm. Remember also that just because you have all this additional power does not mean you are using it. Your amp has capacitors, rather large ones if its SS, and they store power for just that reason.

So what would be the point in having all that power in storage if you had such a big amp? Its because transistors are not very linear. They require huge amounts of storage reserve and negative feedback to make them behave linear. A tube amplifier, provided it is properly designed, is much more linear to begin with. It does not require negative feedback to correct for such problems. Excessive negative feedback robs you of some of your dynamics.

I would recommend that you explore tubes. This is such a musical speaker and I think what you are experiencing will be resolved with Tubes. Try and go with a model that uses little or perferably zero negative feedback. You may also need to replace your preamp as I understand not all tube amplifiers mate well with SS preamps. Most do but you should make sure just to be on the safe side. Its all about synergy.

Just my belief and I am sure someone else will disagree with me on that.
It appears that many people love the Viennas as much as I do. It also appears that I need to consider not only different amplication, but a different source as well. I am intrigued by the thought of trying out tubes and would appreciate suggestions on possible good matches with the Beethovens. Ayre? Sonic Frontiers? What about the pre-amp?Or is there an SS combo (such as Pass) that approximates the "tube sound"? Also, any thoughts on a CD upgrade in the $1-2K range? Meridian, perhaps? I'd love to try the Sim Moon Eclipse, but can't quite feature spending $3K for it. Please offer up suggestions on a significant upgrade from the Ultech.

Thanks again for all the help. Unfortunately, I do not live in an area where I can easily audition all of this stuff. I must therefore rely on the kindness of strangers. I must say, it worked out great for me when I assembled the system I have now.

My top two picks in cdps in this price range would be Meridian 508.24 and Wadia 830, both of which are excellent and can be had for $2k used. I would highly recommend looking into the BAT preamps and amps, any models, they are all excellent. See Good luck!
I own the Beethovens and I'm very happy with them. Even though they are efficient, at 70 wpc they may be underpowered. Remember that they are 4 ohm speakers, so the 4 ohm amp rating is more important than the 8 ohm rating. I'm not familiar with the Simaudio integrated your using, I don't know if it doubles into 4 ohms (140 wpc?). I prefer solid state amplification, as tubes can sound kinda mushy with these warm speakers. I also drove them with a Classe CA-200 amp with great results. Currently, I using a Threshold T 400, which sounds even better. It is 150 wpc of Class A power. It does 'rock out' when needed. I would say for more power, I'd go with the seperate amp first, still using your Sim as a preamp. A 'warm' sounding amp, that would sound good would be a Sim, Classe, McCormack, Jeff Rowland or Threshold. They are the best smooth solid state designs that come to mind. I would also recommend a front end upgrade. With smooth speakers and amp, you may want a more aggressive cd player, IMO. Try a Proceed CDP or a Arcam FMJ 23. Both those units seem to have more punch or rock better than similarly priced, smoother operators like the BAT or Classe.
Chris: for a cd upgrade in your price range I would suggest the Resolution Audio CD-55 (pay about $1700 used). Athough I like & have owned Meridian, I find the Resolution to be a much more analog sounding source. Plus it's got upsampling...a great feature. For amplification I would suggest the CJ premier 11a (75 watts pentode,)which can be had for around $1750 on the used market. A sleeper killer preamp would be the Joule Electra LA-100, but must be MKIII. You can pick one up used for around the $1500-$1700 range. This combintion has great synergy. I guarantee it will make a night & day differance to what you hearing now. You will immediatly notice more resolution & detail & most of all that that precious indescribable midrange magic. If you can't afford the CJ/Joule combo, look for a good tube integrate .
I have a few general observations about the "Vienna Acoustics sound" versus the "Revel sound" as based upon my experience with my VA Mahlers (so forgive me if what follows is all off-topic).

I run a pair of Mahlers (not Beethovens) with a VAC 70/70 Mark III tube amp with great success. I have also used a Bryston 4B-ST with the Mahlers with great success. VERY MUSICAL. I have only spent a half an hour with the Revel, the big Salons (not Studios) powered by an all-Levinson system. It was very boring and disappointing to me, but this was probably due to the Levinson gear. The Mahlers with tubes behind them are much more musical. That said, the room I have the Mahlers in is too small, so I have some bass bloat, even when running them with the very powerful 4B-ST. The Mahlers, I am told, are only flat in the bass in a big room (cubic feet-wise) with serious amplification and the right speaker cables (Sumiko, the Vienna Acoustics distributor in the U.S., uses Kimber Monacle at shows -- I use Kimber Select 3033).

Don't forget that the Mahlers and Studio are roughly the same price, while the Beethoven is half the price of the Studio.

Good luck.

Thanks for the posts. My living room will not accomodate the Mahlers. I am keeping the Beethovens and will try matching them up with the Bel Canto EVO.2 amp and a tube pre, most likely the Joule Electra LA-150 (I also considered a Rogue, but am intrigued by all I've read about the Joule). I have heard it is a good idea to run the Bel Cantos as monoblocks, so I may get another one later on if I like the one I get now.

Next I need to settle on a new CD player, probably between a Resolution Audio CD-55 or a Meridian 508.24.

I haven't pulled the trigger on any of this yet, so if anyone sees any fatal flaws, I would like to hear from you. I have precious little experience in high end audio, but intend to experiment until I get my system "right." Luckily, I live close enough to Jud Barber to drive down and audition the Joule amps at his house. That ought to be a blast.

I sincerely appreciate everyone's help.
Sounds like a pretty good plan Chris. One note I may throw in is, if your looking in the Meridian 508.24 category for a cd player, I strongly recommend you listen to a BAT VK-D5. On the used market you can get one for about the same price, I like the BAT much better than the Meridian or the Resolution players. IMHO.
I agree with your decision to try different amplification. If that doesn't yield satisfaction then reconsider the Mahler which, for my 200,000 nickels, is a far more musical speaker than the Revel, at about the same price. As to their size, well....where there's a will, there's a way.
A quick word is response to the preceding (Bishopwell's) comment ...

As seems to understand, the Mahler, for all its strengths, MUST be used in a large room or will overload the room with bass. Each speaker has two ten-inch woofers and two woofer ports, not to mention two seven-inch mid/bass drivers (again, that's EACH speaker). My listening room is +/-1,700 sq. ft. and I have some boom, even when I drive it with a powerful solid-state amp with high damping factor that can really control its drivers (a Bryston 4B-ST). If you have a BIG room and good amplification, the speaker's bass is reasonably flat, but make no mistake -- it will sound like hell in a small room.

Best wishes.
Brother Dearing, with all respect if you have a 1700ft2 room and you're having problems with boominess, you either need to work on placement or you need some serious acoustic treatment. I've heard Mahlers perform magnificently in rooms as small as 18X20 and the bass was not overwhelming and certainly not boomy. I do agree that they require amplification that affords excellent damping.

If you want to email me, I can put you in touch with a guy with very fine ears who uses his Mahlers in the room I mentioned above. Possibly he could give you a hand with your bass problems. I assume you've already looked at source issues, cabling, and the like.
Thank you all. As i'm in the market myself, I've enjoyed your insights on two highly thought of speakers. You folks are so civil.

Sncerely, I remain
Dear Bishopwell:

"[R]rooms as small as 18X20" means 2,520 sq. ft., assuming a 7 ft. ceiling, and 2,880 sq. ft. assuming an 8 ft. ceiling.
No....the formula you have provided is CUBIC feet. Square feet is the length of the room times its width and is a measure of the floor surface area. Length times width times height is cubic feet and is a measure of volume.
Hello, chiming in again, I listened to the Mahlers extensively when deciding whether to purchase them or the Beethovens, and the Mahlers were placed on the long side of an average sized rectangle-shaped room, room no bigger than the average living room in a non-mansion. There was no bass bloat or boominess, just not as focused and detailed as I found the Beethovens' bass to be. The Mahlers were being driven by big Levinson monoblocks--333's? the newer ones, anyway. The Beethovens were being shown in a much larger room, probably twice as big, w/Ayre amplification. Ayre V-3, at 100 watts per channel. Again, no boominess or bloat.
I concluded that the Mahlers needed good, big power. And keep them away from the side walls.
Hi Chris, If you stick to what Sc53 (especially the first post) is saying, you are going to be a very happy music lover. I do not have the experience with the Beethovens as Sc53, but I would certainly listen to what Sc53 is saying. The Revel may be a good speaker, maybe even a great speaker, but that ain't the way Iv'e heard em.
BTW, I really enjoy all your posts Sc53.
Thanks for the help, everyone. Here's what I've done so far in my system makeover: kept the Beethovens, bought a First Sound Presence Deluxe pre-amp and a pair of Bel Canto EVO 200.2 amps to mono block. ICs will be Homegrown silver lace. Still must determine speaker cable (leaning toward Coincident) and a CDP (leaning toward EMC1 w/24/192 upgrade, or Audio Aero Capitole, especially if I can get one for less than $6K, or possibly an EVS Millenium DACII with a Theta Pearl transport).

If anyone has a similar system and strong feelings about the "right" CDP for it, I'd appreciate extending the thread for another stitch or two. Obviously, I'm an impressionable young man.

In any case, I am grateful for your suggestions, stuck as I am here in the hinterlands.

Doggone it, audio people are the best darn people there is!
Waltersalas, you area an audiophile of action. We love that about you! Damn the torpedoes, Go with the Capitole. Your system is so good it will only reveal the flaws of anything less.

Sincerely, I remain
Oh, Clueless, bless you, sir! Indeed, I have already contacted the only Capitole dealer listed in the A'Gon search engine, only to be informed that the Capitole is on 'severe back order.' On the other hand, there would appear to be a few decent deals on the EMC1 24/192 floating about.

Question: As a man of action, can I really stand the wait for the Capitole, and for twice the price?

Methinks not.

Of course, if I get the EMC1 and don't like it, or see a deal on the Capitole later, I can always drop back and punt, can't I? Isn't that what audiophiles are supposed to do?

In the meantime, I've got to attend to those dedicated circuits and power cords.

What time is it...oh, man...

I think I'm in love.

God bless you both! Two guys who are having fun instead of telling others to shut up. Refreshing!
Walter: the "punt now pay later plan"... we've all been there....audiophilia at its best! And you know..sometimes I fell my whole life is on "severe back order" wonder I love this madness. The music helps though, doesn't it?

And thanks, good Bishop. There may be some static now and then but we're all on the same wavelength.

Sincerely, I remain
Waltersalas, are you any relation to Walter Salas-Humara, a fantastic singer-songwriter involved with the Silos and the Setters? If so, I worship you. In any event, about your EMC-1 idea, I own the EMC-1, without the upgrade, and think it sounds absolutely fantastic. FWIW, I used this CDP with the Beethovens and the Ayre V-3 for a year before I decided to downsize the Beethovens to ProAc monitors. Absolutely first-rate sound, if you can pick up the EMC-1 w/the upgrade for under $3000, you've got yourself a great bargain. I paid $2800 for the EMC-1 one year ago, but I've never regretted it. I think I will always keep this CDP no matter where the rest of my system goes. You will love it with the Beethovens, and if you see a Capitole later, get both! Now, that's the way I like to punt!! Go for the punt and the field goal at the same time.
Clueless, I'm laughing again at everything you posted this week, esp. the Mark Levinson chapter headings. You really had me going there. I believed those were real! The whole book idea, and the NYT fluff article, makes those chapter titles believable.
And Brulee, thanks for the kind words of confidence.

Bless you, too, Sc53. FYI, I am not really related to Walter (consider my moniker as homage), but I'm a longtime fan of the Silos and all his other projects, and I think he is one of the great, underappreciated songwriters of this era. On top of that, he is an exceptionally nice person. Anyone reading now who has even the slightest interest in roots rock, No Depression, country-rock (Gram Parsons, not the Eagles), or whatever other labels might apply, I implore you to seek out albums by this man, especially the Silos records. Nice to meet another fan, Sc53. And I will almost certainly be trying the EMC-1 upgrade, thank you.

Clueless, thanks for validating my emerging worldview--punt now, pay later. It's like Martin Sheen said in "Wall Street," 'money is only something you need if you don't die tomorrow.'

Bishopwill, this really is a lot of fun, and I do enjoy the good will. Several A'Goners have gone to the trouble of emailing me with lengthy messages containing helpful suggestions and friendly advice, and I have detected nary a note of self-interest in any of it. Unfortunately, I have read some of the posts you are alluding to, and all I can say is that it is, uh, unfortunate. In general, though, I agree with Clueless--good will tends to win out more often than not on these threads.

God bless us every one. And, remember, kids--the Silos rule!