Revel’s drivers have always been a core element in their designs and that’s one thing that doesn’t change at the bottom end of the range. The aluminium dome tweeter employs both an acoustic lens and a broad wave-guide to extend its high-frequencies and match its dispersion to the deep-anodised aluminium cone of the 133mm mid/bass driver. Those details are far from incidental, as they contribute directly to what makes the F35 not just unusual but also really rather special for the price. There might be other speakers that cost about the same and look pretty much the same but none that I’ve come across that can match the even, seamless integration and low-colouration that set these Revels apart from the crowd. About the only nit to pick here is the combination rubber feet/spike inserts: This speaker sounds good pretty much wherever you stand it, but it really responds to careful placement and that includes tuning attitude – something that the existing spikes seriously impede. Please Revel, make it an either/or option so that the spikes can be seated properly and torqued down.
Where so many compact floorstanders these days seem to strive for the biggest (and boomiest) bass they can generate from limited volume, the F35 comes at the problem from the other end, offering all of the clean, integrated delicacy and uncluttered detail of a great stand-mount – but underpinned by carefully executed bass extension that adds scale, weight, presence, and dimensionality without slowing progress, slurring rhythms, or adding an asteroid belt of colouration artefacts to obscure the view through the vital mid-bass. In truth, the Revels don’t go that low, but what matters is that they go low enough: low enough to add convincing body to vocals and warmth and complexity to instrumental harmonics, low enough to add shape to phrasing and pace to rhythmic surges: in short, low enough to satisfy but not so low as to get into trouble. Listen to Birdy’s brilliant cover of ‘Skinny Love’ [Birdy, Atlantic] and the F35s deliver both the distinctive character of her voice and the body and intent behind it, as well as a convincing sense of the scale, weight, and sonority of the piano. But what really impresses is the relationship between voice and instrument, the precocious teenager accompanying herself to impressive effect. Throw in studio effects and a band on a track like ‘1901’ and the F35s manage the increase in complexity, dynamic range, and space without fuss or confusion. You get full benefit from the deft production, full value from the arrangement. This ability to grow with the music, to do the intimate and delicate as easily as the more layered and energetic is a mark of the Revel’s well-behaved cabinet and low-colouration, its ability to deal with more energy, and more information without blurring or confusing proceedings. It also bodes well for future upgrades.
I started by listening to the F35s with an Arcam FMJ-A19, just the sort of moderately priced integrated amp you’d most likely find paired with a speaker of this type and price. But it wasn’t long before I’d graduated to an Icon Audio Stereo 60 tube integrated, an upshift the speakers embraced with remarkable enthusiasm. As good as they’d sounded with the little Arcam, offer them a richer diet and they lap it up, coming back for seconds. It had me wondering just how far you can push what is in reality one step up from a budget speaker. The answer is much, much further than you might think: Gryphon Diablo 300? No problem – bring it on. Getting just a little ridiculous, I started reaching for higher and higher end partnering pieces and if, hand on heart, I can’t say that the F35s delivered full value from the ARC Ref 10 line-stage and Berning QZs, nor can I complain about the results. This is an amazingly capable loudspeaker, its performance built on the core virtues of integration and low mechanical signature. Put more in and more comes out; it’s as simple as that. Sure, it never reaches right the way down, but it has more than enough bandwidth to deliver convincing performance on all but the biggest orchestral works in moderate sized rooms. More importantly, it doesn’t overdo or hype its low-frequencies, which is the key to its astonishing ability to grow with the partnering electronics.