Revel Performa F228Be Speaker Review
By Stephen Hornbrook on
The F228Be is Revel’s latest speaker model that does not replace the F208, but rather fills the gap between the $5,000/pair F208 and the $16,000/pair Studio2. The new F228Be speakers ring in at $10,000 for the pair, and at the top of their feature list is an all-new beryllium tweeter.
I have been a content owner of Revel F208’s for many years now and jumped at the opportunity to check out their latest creation. Superficially speaking, the F228Be does not look like a new speaker. Revel engineers decided to reuse the fully tested and already proven cabinet design of the F208. Other than the core cabinet design, everything else is new, including the crossover, low and mid-range drivers, and of course that beryllium tweeter. The available cabinet finishes are gloss black, white, walnut and metallic silver. I was sent a pair of the white and the speakers look wonderful. The top accent piece is coated in a brilliant black that sparkles with metallic bits. Gone from the F228Be is the boundary and tweeter controls that are present on the older F208 model. The F208 has an impeccable build quality and that remains with the F228Be. At 82 pounds, they feel extremely solid and well braced.
I got the chance to speak with Harman’s (the parent company of Revel) Acoustic Technologies Manager Kevin Voecks and asked him about the new speaker design. I was curious, for such a beautiful new speaker, with the latest technologies, why the same old MDF based cabinets? Well, it turns out, MDF is an excellent material for building speaker cabinets. It’s cheap, easy to work with and leads to a virtually resonance-free design. Kevin spoke highly of the new 5th-generation ceramic-coated, cast-aluminum Acoustic Lens waveguide and its ability to seamlessly integrate with the midrange driver. That 5.25-inch midrange driver has been updated with a larger Deep Ceramic Composite (DCC) diaphragm, bigger voice coil, and ceramic motor structure.
Another topic of discussion was the choice to go with an expensive beryllium tweeter. Beryllium is a rare earth metal that is expensive to mine and process. The material provides for a light and extremely rigid cone, allowing for fast movement without deformation. The cone is driven by large 85mm dual ceramic magnets. In the end though, a speaker could be made out of a delicious waffle cone if it sounded great and on the plus side, it would smell lovely. So while the new F228Be speaker has a solid spec sheet, what really matters is how these changes translate in terms of sound quality.
Revel F228Be Listening Tests
For A-B testing, I dialed in my main speaker locations and marked them off with tape. I listened to the same song on one model, then swapped them out, repeating several times to pick out the differences.
First up is a jazz classic by John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things”. There are definite similarities between the F208 and F228Be, and why shouldn’t there be? The F208 is a fantastic speaker! What I notice is a similar overall soundstage and presentation of the musicians across the stage. Elvis Jones on drums and Steve Davis on bass sound very similar on each of the Revels, though I do detect a tad more extension in the F228Be. The imaging on the F228Be is more precise. Instruments are dialed in to their own space, perhaps due to the improved acoustic lens waveguide. Then there is the overall “liveliness” of the sound. This is where I find myself fawning over the F228Be. They are more dynamic, with peak transients popping off the acoustic stage. McCoy Tyner’s piano solo loses a bit of life on the F208.
Next up, I found the SACD of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue to present a similar difference in liveliness. “So What” feels like I am in a jazz club with the F228Be. The tonality of the F228Be is on point with no noticeable coloring to the alto and tenor saxophones or Miles’ trumpet. Those instruments sound like I remember them, way back when I used to play the trombone.
On the track “We Bought a Zoo” by Icelandic musician Jónsi, the best way to describe the difference between the F208 and F228Be is a veil being lifted. It’s a similar feeling to having dirty glasses. Your eyes adjust and get used to the blurry smudges until you don’t really notice them until you wash them. And then it is a whole new level of clarity. My ears would adjust to the F208’s performance and enjoy it. It’s not until I switch in the F228Be that I hear what I am missing. The low-end reach and upper-bass clarity of the F228Be is easily noticed here. The voice of Jónsi along with the accompanying piano never sound congested, thanks to those Deep Ceramic Composite midrange drivers. The new crossover components pair them seamlessly with the bountiful treble detail offered by the Beryllium tweeter for rock-solid imaging.
I queued up some Pink Floyd to hear “Wish You Were Here” and found myself transfixed by the acoustic guitar. When I hear someone playing an acoustic with steel strings in front of me I can feel the metallic twang. There’s an immediate transient spike as a guitar string is plucked that can grab your ear. It’s a sharpness that is often either lost or over exaggerated in a speaker. On the Revel F228Be, it is present and intoxicating. Being able to recreate that sound and feeling is one of the many checkboxes to great speaker design.
With the 24-bit recording of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, the F228Be sounds hauntingly good. On “Decks Dark” Thom’s voice is often drowned out by the aggressive bass line, but not here. Vocals are clear and salient. The added detail of the F228Be allows for tighter bass and a more textured, nuanced sound. Moving on to “Daydreaming”, the performance feels more intimate as the music fills the room. There’s a string motif towards the end that just pops out at you, ripping through the soundstage as the bow runs across the strings. Without a doubt, Radiohead sounds great via the F208, but played back on the F228Be it just sounds… well, right. That sense of clarity and pinpoint accuracy remains true regardless of listening levels. I feel myself being dropped into the music during “True Love Waits” when listening to the F228Be. While the song sounded quite good on the old F208, the performance was limited to a front plane of music. There was no fooling my brain that I was listening to a couple of pair of speakers as the midrange sounded a bit muddled and lacking a sense of depth. Now those glossy white monoliths, on the other hand, pull the listener in deep, to an intimate musical space that all us audiophiles yearn for.
John Williams score for E.T. features some grandiose strings and bombastic brass, along with delicate woodwinds. The dynamic passages of “Far from Home” are well handled via the Revel F228Be. The orchestral stage feels big yet each oboist and flutist feel properly represented. On “The Beginning of a Friendship” the story is told via harp. Much like with the strum of steel guitar strings, the beryllium tweeters are doing their job here as I can feel each pluck of the harp. If you imagine the physical action of plucking a stringed instrument, this force creates a very short peak transient followed by a slow decay as the string resonates. The job of a speaker’s driver is to replicate this. For me, the proof that the beryllium tweeter is doing its job is in the sound. The “feel” of the harpist plucking the instrument is the recreation of that transient via a fast and rigid tweeter.
Revel F228Be Conclusions
Many expect a speaker to sound twice as good if it costs twice as much as another speaker. However, in practice that’s not how most things work. A car that costs twice as much isn’t necessarily twice as fast. I might spend twice as much on a meal yet it doesn’t taste twice as good as a cheaper one. The auditory differences between the F208 and the F228Be are not significant, but it’s the little details presented by the new F228Be that makes music come alive. Vocals are more present, instruments more tactile and spaces more defined. It has been a while since I have played with different amps and preamps in my system, but the level of detail provided by the F228Be makes me want to bring in some new amps to see how they affect the sound. Given the price gap between the F208 and Studio2, the F228Be makes perfect sense in the Revel lineup. Their ability to resolve musical detail with dimension and accuracy is the best I’ve heard at home. In all aspects, they are an upgrade over the F208, taking everything they do well and doing it better. The Revel F228Be is a fantastic sounding and beautiful looking reference quality speaker. If you are looking for a lifelong pair of speakers to enjoy your favorite music on, then the Revel F228Be should definitely ‘Be’ on your list. They are most certainly on mine.
Excellent imaging. Tonality on point. Plenty of low-end punch for music. Terrific build quality.
Though a good deal given the competition, I seldom meet anyone willing to spend 10 grand on speakers. Although they have several beautiful finishes that I believe would work for most, those looking for a particular aesthetic might have to look elsewhere.
The F228Be is an excellent addition to the Revel speaker lineup that fills the gap between the F208 and Studio2. Immersive, articulate sound brings music to life.
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