Why so underwhelmed by Revel F208 audition???


After much reading my local dealer finally got in a pair of Revel F208 speakers to audition. After playing my usual demo songs I was sorely disappointed with the sound.
They simply had no life. The strings that sparkled on other systems sounded like cardboard (ok, bad description but you get my point). They bass did not move me at all.

Was it because:
1) I wouldn't know good music if it slapped my in the face?
2) I was actually auditioning the electronics more that the speakers?
3) I've become a music snob and only the best will do?
4) They are not properly broken in?
5) The speakers really are cr@p?

After reading that 3 different reviewers use the performa's (f206 or f208) as their reference speakers, it's really hard for me to believe number 5 - that the speakers suck

I've been a severe critic of bad sound and a conosour of fine music my whole life so I hope number 1 isn't true:(

The sound from my main system is breathtakingly beautiful. It consists of a Metrum Hex Dac, Benchmark DAC2 Pre preamp, Bryston 3B Sst2 power amp, PMC 22 speakers flanked by 2 Rythmik F12 Subs. The DAC is very rich and analog sounding and the rest of the system is very transparent. Stunning sound. So I have very high standards to reference these speakers against. Maybe I am just expecting too much from the Revels? So number 3 might be somewhat true???

The F208 speakers where being fed by an arcam CD player and an arcam a39 integrated amp. Perhaps this can not compete with my home system? Is number 2 correct and I am really just auditioning the electronics?

Break in can make a big difference in speakers. Maybe they need hundreds of more hours through them? I need to check on number 4.

Or maybe they really are that bad and everyone who has reviewed them is a big fat liar?

Who has heard these and can make a comment???
earlxtr
it could be a bad match with the amplifier or it may just be under powered

fwiw
Maybe they are good speakers for their price, but just not the type of sound you like. At that price point there are various compromises...
The "class G" design of the Arcam A39, as explained here, is radically different than the designs of most amplifiers having high end aspirations. And despite the high efficiency provided by that kind of design (resulting in reduced size and weight relative to power capability) it doesn't seem encouraging that the A39 weighs a grand total of only 25 pounds. Especially considering that it is a fully integrated amplifier, including even a phono stage as well as preamp and power amp functions. Nor does it seem encouraging that while the impedance of the F208, as shown here, dips below 4 ohms at a number of frequencies, the 240 watt rating of the A39 into 4 ohms is specified on the basis of only one channel being driven (while the 120 watt 8 ohm rating is spec'd for both channels being driven).

Also, the A39's extremely low harmonic distortion rating of 0.001% at 80% power into 8 ohms is suggestive of the possibility that feedback has been applied in, um, a liberal manner in the design, which is also not encouraging with respect to its sonics.

So although a combination of factors may have been involved, given the uncertainties about both the intrinsic sonic characteristics of the amplifier and how good a match it may be for the particular speaker, I doubt that a meaningful conclusion about the speaker can be drawn from this audition.

Regards,
-- Al
You can't judge speakers based on hearing them in different rooms. The room/speaker interface has a huge effect on the overall presentation. Or it might be any of the other things you mentioned.
Thank you for your responses!

I agree with the statements made so far. My first thought when listening to the speakers was that that electronics was the issue. When I left we agreed that I needed to bring down my system to drive these speakers. I've got a 4B SST2 to drive these speakers which should provide plenty of power. See how that goes:))))
How many other pairs of speakers were in the room when you listened.?
I have not heard the F208 but have heard the F206 in 2 different stores. One store had them with the top Parasound Halo Amp & Preamp and I thought they sounded great on all kinds of music. The next store had them with a $1500 Music Hall integrated amp and they didn't sound quite as good but still similar. I preferred them to all other similar priced speakers I compared them to which were B&W CM 9 & 10's, Martin Logan Motion 60XT, Dali, Dynaudio and Ushers.
I ordered a pair in fact.
I would be interested to hear what you think when hooked up to your Bryston amp.
I agree with Almarg. The part that confuses me is the comment about negative feedback. So many designers always say negative feedback is not bad if it is used properly. This goes against my personal experience in which I have always preferred amplifiers without negative feedback. My understanding is that negative feedback is a Band-Aid to correct undesirable effects.
IMHO, I think it was a combination of the wrong electronics and the speakers weren't broken-in yet. These will take several hundred hours to be fully operational and sound good.

I've never really been a fan of the Revel stuff, but I know they can sound very good.
04-15-15: Almarg
The "class G" design of the Arcam A39, as explained here, is radically different than the designs of most amplifiers having high end aspirations.
OMG!!! this technique by Arcam has hit very close to home!!! ;-)
When I auditioned the Bryston Mini T speakers driven by Bryston electronics they sounded fantastic. The Stereofile reviewer said he liked these even more than the Bryston speakers he compared them to. To me, the Bryston speakers sounded a little hyped and I can understand these being more neutral, buy would still expect them to sound very good. I'm expecting my electronics to make a significant difference...
AudioConnectio: There was also a pair of Titan One speakers in the room
Almarg, thank you for your detailed response. Very interesting! Swapping the Arcam for my Bryston gear should be very interesting:)))
The other thing to remember is that your system at home with ample power and 2 subs dialed in is going to sound richer than most anything you compare it to. Arcam always struck me as a fuzzy warm sounding company but I guess not in class G. (I don't know what class G is actually)??
Feedback can lower distortion which is generally considered an undesirable effect. Like so many things the key thing about feedback is how it's used. For instance, if you're night time cruising down Hwy 101, then feedback is havin' fun, havin' fun.
My take is that pairing them with a Bryston amp will only take them further away from musicality......

Shakey
Analogluvr, thanks for your comment. I too tend to generally prefer amplifiers which don't employ negative feedback, in part because it may be an indication that the intrinsic quality of the design is sufficiently good that it doesn't need to employ it. But on the other hand there are certainly some excellent amplifiers which do use light to moderate amounts of feedback, many ARC amps being examples.

My point regarding the A39, though, is that its exceptionally low harmonic distortion spec is strongly suggestive of the use of LARGE amounts of feedback, with all of its potential downsides, perhaps most notably Transient Intermodulation Distortion (which is not normally specified and for which I believe measurement standards do not exist). And it is also suggestive of the possibility that the quality of the design is such that, as you put it, a Band-Aid is necessary.

On another note: Bombaywalla, your comment is intriguing, and prompts me to ask for whatever elaboration you may deem appropriate to provide :-)

Regards,
-- Al
I've never heard f208, but never heard any Revel speaker that has life in sound in any room with any electronics.
worst dollar per sound spent.
Kudos to Al for hitting one out of the park. I believe that Hitachi was the first to implement class G audio products in the late 1970s and subsequently abandoned the idea.

As Rodney Dangerfield said to Sally Kellerman in Back To School, "Call me some time when you have no class."
Earlxtr wrote:............. The Stereofile reviewer said he liked these even more than the Bryston speakers he compared them to.
Can you point me to this reference? I do not recall seeing it.
Shakeydeal: My experience is that Bryston neither adds to takes away from source it is being fed. Use a rich sounding DAC like my Metrum Hex and it sounds rich (fantastic really). Feed it with an analytical DAC like my Benchmark DAC2 and it sounds analytical. Feed it with garbage...well you get my point. To my ears it's super transparent...it all comes down to your source. You obviously have not heard what I've heard or you'd be trying to sell one of your kidneys to get one:)))))))
BTW, I found out that the dealer did no burn in on these speakers whatsoever. He just pulled them out of the box and had me come over to hear them. Definitely part of the problem!!!
Kr4: maybe I misquoted that as the reviewer said that his friend really loved the F208 speakers, but he had not heard them. I assumed that this was relative to the Brystons but may have been inncorrect in that assessment.
Earlxtr wrote: Kr4: maybe I misquoted that as the reviewer said that his friend really loved the F208 speakers, but he had not heard them. I assumed that this was relative to the Brystons but may have been inncorrect in that assessment.
Thanks. Speaking as the reviewer of the Bryston, I was referring to the reviewer of the Revel.
Kr4, The point I was really trying to make is that Revels and Bryston speakers are often compared to each other and they seem very close in comparison based on what I have read. Yet to my ears, the Bryston speaker audition trumped the Revels in every way. It just didn't make sense to me. I expected them to be very close. Of course no break in on the Revels is one considerable factor, IMO.

Have you now heard the Revel speakers? Do you think the Revels rival the Brystons?
After reading some positive reviews about the Revels, I was underwhelmed when I auditioned the F208. They were being driven by an NAD Master Series amp.

I ended up buying a pair of Harbeth SHL5+, which I found to be far more musical and enjoyable. The Harbeth were driven by a Pass Int 150 for their audition.
So don't get one.
I concur Earlxtr-

I was severely disappointed w/ both Revel and Aerial demoes over the years. After reading so much positive reviews in the usual Audio rags- I did/do not understand all of the "fluff". My reference loudspeaker is THIEL. IME, these models do everything right- consider an audition soon.
Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
Owning the F208, the first two things to review is the bass and treble compensation switched. With varying rooms and speaker placement within in the room, they aid in helping the speaker work a bit better in many situations.

The Arcam in question certainly has me quite curios on how they achieve a class A operation output of 20W until it switches over. My own Pass X250.5 used to power the Revel's hit about 15wpc before going A/B, and are far heftier and run decently warm from the get go. The Arcam appears very light for running that many watts in class A, which often requires plenty of heat dissipation.

As for the F208 sound, its a very good speaker and does greatly benefit from proper setup. If you like a speaker that has a very forward sound, they may not be best suited to your preferences. While certainly not reticent, it plays a balance that is just slightly stepped back than some. To me, its a little more livable and doesn't really ever get fatiguing. On the other hand, other speakers I have owned and listened to have offered more immediate vocal performances with well recorded material. Few loudspeakers will be better all around and a large part has to do with how a recording was mastered. Its very important to use your own music to evaluate and take your time and get a sense of what they do with them differently.

During my experiments, they offer the best balance when directly pointed at the listening spot and like most speakers, prefer some distance to surrounding objects and walls.
Thank you for your responses!!!

I do still believe that these are a good speaker...I've simply read too much posative stuff about them to just give up on them. Once my dealer has broken them in I will go back with my electronics and try them...and I expect a completely different result.

I once demo'd some ATC speakers using ATC amplification and they sounded wonderful. Then the dealer replaced the ATC preamp with one from another brand (sim audio I believe) and the sound was completely wrecked. I then realized how much the electronics can affect a very transparent speaker.
Mmeysarosh: The settings on the speaker where all set to normal during the demo.
i'll add, probably gratuitously, two points:
1. you should listen to whatever almarg tells you, as he is always right
2. i haven't heard the f208s but have heard the the 206s, f52s and f30 (which i still own) with a variety of amps and concur that as a brand they're very, very mercurial--depending on the amp they can sound like a completely different speaker, particularly insofar as low end response is concerned. I useta think they needed a lot of juice because of their low sensitivity, but actually got great results with a modest 125w parasound. in any case, i think the above posters are correct in positing that you'll get better, or certainly different results with another amp.
The Arcam in question certainly has me quite curios on how they achieve a class A operation output of 20W until it switches over. My own Pass X250.5 used to power the Revel's hit about 15wpc before going A/B, and are far heftier and run decently warm from the get go. The Arcam appears very light for running that many watts in class A, which often requires plenty of heat dissipation.
There's no reason that the Class-G ARCAM cannot output 20W/ch in pure class-A & then switch over to class-AB. It's more a question of how much output current delivery does the ARCAM have compared to your Pass X250.5. The ARCAM looks like a traditional class-AB design. From the size of the chassis & the heat sinks size it appears that the power transformer used is modest so one cannot expect high current delivery like the Pass X250.5 & that is one difference.
The other difference is that the class-G ARCAM probably runs nominally at a lower DC power rail. Unlike the the Pass X250.5 that runs at its max DC power rail voltage thereby dissipating more heat while idling. This the efficiency that ARCAM is talking about in their literature on their A39 product page. They call in the higher power rail only when the program material is playing & when the program material requires it. So, if the ARCAM is running off a lower supply rail then the heat dissipation will be much less than the Pass X250.5.

I once demo'd some ATC speakers using ATC amplification and they sounded wonderful. Then the dealer replaced the ATC preamp with one from another brand (sim audio I believe) and the sound was completely wrecked. I then realized how much the electronics can affect a very transparent speaker.
Earlxtr
good observation but the wrong conclusion.
IMO, that ATC speaker is a bad design since it is so sensitive to the electronics. A well-designed speaker should not be & if it is then there's something going on with its impedance. In such a case the manuf can make some electronics that can exactly compensate for that varying impedance such that the overall sound from the amp+speaker is satisfactory but if you remove the compensating electronics, as you did, the varying impedance is back & destroys the music playback. So, the user gets limited by what electronics one can use. This should not be the case.
This ATC speaker seems like a high-Q design - just a little off the peak & you fall down sharply into the depths of mediocre playback. Bad news!
Earlxtr wrote: Of course no break in on the Revels is one considerable factor, IMO.
I doubt it but that reflects my bias on that topic.

Have you now heard the Revel speakers? Do you think the Revels rival the Brystons?
I have heard the Revels only at show demos and would not dare to make a comparison based on that.
The OP could have saved him self an awful lot of time if he'd botherd to ask the dealer if the speakers were broken..
Bombaywalla: I did not say the sensitivity to electronics was a good thing or a bad thing... I was making the point that electronics can have a significant affect on the sound of a very revealing speaker, which even you concure with by your response. Weather that's goid or bad is a whole other discussion.
Erikminer: if I would have loved them, then break in time would not have mattered. Since I didn't, I started hunting for reasons.

Kr4: I once bought my mother a pair of Yamaha powered monitors for her Yamaha P250 keyboard. Overall I liked the sound but the high end irritated my ears a bit. A some months latter when I returned, all the irritation was gone and only a very sweet top end remained. Either the speakers got broken in or my hearing deteriated to the point where I could no longer hear that high any more:)))))))
I recently heard the F208 and another much more expensive model, 20K+ CDN and thought both were on the dull side.
Thought the F206 were great with Cyrus gear so brought 'em home for a demo......awful.
Bass was OK, enough of it but I've heard tighter.
The treble had me running for the volume control, hate to say it but my first thought was "metal tweeters strike again"
OK, I just took a FLYING LEAP OF FAITH and bought a new (warranty replacement) pair of F208 speakers for the price of the F206. If buying speakers without listening to them is a cardinal sin, what do you call buying speakers that you listened to and didn't like??? To some this might seem like utter insanity but I have read so much about this speaker that I am willing to take the risk and am very confident I will love them.

I have since read several forum posts that state that these speakers need 300+ hours of break in to hit their sweet spot and that they do sound like crap right out of the box.

Also, my most trusted review site is not very complimentary to the Arcam A39 and I believe my METRUM->BENCHMARK->BRYSTON setup will make a world of difference.

Worst case is I sell them at not a huge loss...but if that happens I'm going to get my internet disconnected and never believe anything I read ever again!!! :)))))))
The_rang: what electronics did you feed them with at home?
Hi Earlxtr ..... Congratulations on buying the F-208's ! I've been extremely happy with my Revel F-12's for almost three years now, and am loving the total presentation of these speakers. For a long time, I was the proud owner of Vandersteen 1C's, and when I was considering speakers with greater dynamic range and fuller bass, a well respected Rogue Audio dealer (I have the Cronus integrated) recommended Revel as a beautiful match to the Rogue electronics. He was absolutely correct ! ..... Revel and Rogue Audio is a sublime combination. You may want to consider seeing how you like a Rogue Audio amp with your new F-208's.

Anyway, now that you made your purchase, sit back, relax, and enjoy your favorite music ! Properly set up and properly driven, Revel speakers are wonderful !
Did OP indicate what else was in the underwhelming system?

Speakers make no sound by themselves.

Also there is always possibility of something in the system not working properly or up to spec.

Or the sound might just be significantly different than what OP is used to and likes hence judged not good.

Of course it all depends. No easy answer. If really interested, best thing would be to do repeat demos and account for as many factors as possible each time. Or just chalk it up to not ones cup of tea and move on. There are many fish in the sea and different strokes for different folks, you know all the old cliches that get tossed around all the time because they are so true.
I now have my new F208 speakers facing each other in a closet with blankets over them breaking in. Of course I only feed them the highest quality music such as Saleh, Academey of ancent music, Carrie Underwood and let's not forget the god of rock, Van Halen:))))) it's going to be about three to 4 weeks before they come out of the closet for a listen.
I just listened to my F12's to break them in, they sounded much better after only 50 hours of break in time and even better after 100 hours, I never auditioned the F208's so don't no how they sound, I would think they should sound better than my F12's, I have a pair of Infinity IRS Epsilons ($16,000.00 in 1995) that I can compare them with, no they do not sound as good as the Epsilons but for their price the F12's sound very good, can't wait to see what you think of the F208's as I was thinking of getting a pair.
Make sure to do a bunch of the breaking in at normal listening levels...
Any speakers -even cheap ones, can sound 'great' under the right conditions. I have heard many demos where I was underwhelmed by the speakers. It's often the room. Also, I think we all get used to (conditioned) a certain sound and when we hear something different, unless it is noticeably a lot better, we compare it to what we are used to (for example, as another poster mentioned above, the system we have may have great bass because it has a subwoofer. If a small speaker is auditioned, it's hard to evaluate it solely on the freq's it reproduces when you're used to hearing full range). And then as everyone above states, there are so many other variables that could affect the sound. The worst speaker I ever heard that I "knew" was better was a Vienna Acoustics Baby Beethoven. It sounded thin and terrible, and I know it was the room. One of the best I ever heard - and I mention all of this because I think some speakers are less room AND equipment fussy, was the Harbeth SHL5. I ended up owning a pair and they always sounded good, no matter where I put them or what they were paired with. So, my point and opinion is, all speakers can sound good, and some of them need more attention than others. None are really bad. The problem comes when you buy a great speaker that needs a ton of power (or whatever) - B&Ws and Aerials are examples - and you don't have the right match, for whatever reason.
I have the F208's running at listening levels, except for at night when when I feed them low level choral music so I can sleep. The Stereophile reviewer says they need 500 hours to reach their optimal sound quality, which is around 3 weeks.

I also ordered Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone for my first listening session. Apparently that's a tradition with any new pair of Revel speakers:))) I'll also pull over some of the jewels from my main system (Metum Hex and Benchmark Pre -> 4BSST2) so I have optimal electronics to feed them with. I'm not expecting miracles but I hope they get close to the gorgeus sound of the PMC22/Rythmik combo.
Earlxtr: I have a Modwright KWI200 integrated. In retrospect the Revels weren't terrible, but they were definitely too bright for me. The KEF R700 I tried around the same time had smoother treble IMO
Just for completeness I want to say that these Revel 208's are the most amazing speakers I have ever heard. After 3 weeks of listening I just can't pull myself away from them. The top to bottom crystal clarity is so addicting that a pair of f206's will end up replacing my PMC's in my main system.

The poor demo in no way represented these excellent speakers. I believe that the factors that made the f208's sound so bad in that initial audition was a combination of issues

1. They where located in more of a large hallway then a listening room.
2. They had no break in time whatsoever.
3. The electronics that feed them was not great IMO.
4. I'm very picky about sound quality.

After having owned them for 6 weeks now (3 weeks break in) I am simply smitten by them. They make the majority of my music sound amazingly good, They can also make a bright, edgy and thin recording sound really bad...but that's what transparency does. They do require decent electronics to sound good. Maybe not the best hard rock or headbanger speaker but make most of my lighter rock to classical sound fantastic. Read my review on this site called 'Revel f208 review by Earl'.
I auditioned a pair of f 32's along  with f 208's and they were being driven by a relatively cheap Anthem 225I and I spent the afternoon enjoying good music. The salesman told me the Revels were power hungry speakers and I was really surprised how well a $1995. integrated  drove them. now comparing the two F-32 were good speakers that could easily pull me into the music but the sound was still coming from different drivers that weren't perfectly integrated, things like "wow powerful bass" or doesn't her voice sound incredible". The f 208's make music, they need gobs of power but I just sat there trying to hear anything they did exceptional, like, 'excellent midrange, or feel the bass, but all I got was music with an open soundstage. I love them. My reference are Kef 105/3, 107/2, beethoven mk2, revel f 52.
 component matching is the holy grail and getting it right is trial and error if you don't have your own shop to mix and match.