At CES 2017 attendees touring Samsung’s gargantuan booth were treated to an unusual sight. Right in the middle of it all was what could be called an Island of Harman that included Revel speakers and Mark Levinson electronics. Meanwhile, over at the Hard Rock Café, Harman’s expansive CES exhibit was in full effect. That’s where I encountered both the Mark Levinson No. 515 turntable and the Revel Performa3 F208Be speaker system.
By keeping its CES exhibit off-site, Harman has control over the audio environment—unlike exhibitors at the Las Vegas Convention Center or The Venetian. This demo was a treat because it occurred in a nearly silent room and without interruptions.
The Mark Levinson stack used for this demo included the new No. 534 dual monaural amp ($20,000), the No. 519 audio player ($17,000), a No. 523 preamp ($15,000), and the No. 515 turntable ($10,000). That’s a pricey system, but for the sake of this post all that matters is it did its job flawlessly and allowed the Revel F208Be speakers to shine.
The extended listening session started off with “Little Things” by India Arie, playing from vinyl on the No. 515 turntable. The funky groove, breathy chorus, and clear recording of Arie’s voice gave convincing testament to the treble prowess of the F208Be’s beryllium tweeter.
“Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis from Kind of Blue offers more than enough information to judge a speaker system’s capacity for verisimilitudinous audio reproduction. In this case, the realism of the piano and the snap of the snares and the sizzle of the cymbals plus the main event—sweet trumpet sounds by Miles—was such that it was simultaneously a relaxing and engaging listen.
“88 Basie Street” by Count Basie Orchestra is a lush recording that offered more evidence that the system can ace horns and piano and bass and drums and really bring the listener deep into a recording of live instruments.
Next up was the somber but beautiful “Ramirez: Kyrie” from Ariel Ramírez’s Misa Criolla. It’s religious mass music with a choir and female vocals plus rhythm that evokes an ecclesiastic mood. The F208Be’s had no issue turning it out with an appropriately deep and encompassing soundstage.
I was saved from religious music induced slumber by Marcus Miller’s “Cousin John,” a track that features a great live feel with lots of expertly recorded virtuoso bass guitar playing and floating flutes and quick, delicate drum work. This system brought it all to the table for an audiophile feast.
We wrapped up the Revel/Levinson listening with an audio demo classic, the one-two punch of “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. There aren’t many tracks that I’ve listened to at least annually for three and a half decades but these two are among them, if only for the sake of nostalgia and irony. Back in the day I worked at a movie theater that showed The Wall and Rocky Horror as midnight shows on weekends, so I’ve really had my fill.
Anyhow, the Mark Levinson and Revel system made the best use of what Pink Floyd had to offer, the room rocked, and I left the session with a big smile on my face.