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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Even though this was a somewhat informal speaker shootout, we were still very careful about putting in many more controls than what speaker shoppers would typically encounter “in the wild,” hopping from store to store to audition speakers. Ideally we would perform a controlled "double blind" test like we did with our more formal comparison between the Salon2 and M2 speakers back in 2017. While we have the ability to do completely double blind comparisons, we chose to do our test sighted this time since we felt it would be more representative of the kind of test “real people” could actually undertake at home, or even in a showroom with a cooperative dealer. While not perfect, the intent here was to at least demonstrate the steps even a casual consumer could take to eliminate many of the variables that render most speaker comparisons useless.

First, and perhaps most importantly, we made sure that the speakers being compared were level matched to within .5 dB so they were the same relative volume. This is critical, since if one speaker plays louder than the other, the louder speaker will tend to be judged as "sounding better".

We don't have the hydraulic speaker mover from Harman's Multi-Channel Listening Lab so we set the speakers side by side to minimize variations due to room placement. Making sure the speakers were precisely level matched and compared side by side and in mono eliminated MANY of the variables that plague other speaker comparisons. We also only limited comparisons to two speakers at a time to minimize spatial variations.

For listening we used tracks from Harman's test playlist as well as some personal choices all mixed down to mono. There is about 40 years of research which shows mono listening tests as the most revealing of differences in speaker sound. For the mono sessions, stereo tracks were mixed down to mono within Roon, and sound was output through a professional Focusrite external soundcard, which allowed us to precisely match output levels (the same sound interface John uses for mixing films and music). This was in turn connected to a JBL Synthesis SDA7200 amplifier, at 200 watts x 7. Level measurements were taken in REW using a calibrated UMIK1 microphone. Once we had finished our mono listening tests we switched to stereo with many of the same tracks, using the same components just described. Not surprisingly, our preferences stayed the same mono vs. stereo. At times listeners did not know which speaker was being played, other times they could call out and request a specific speaker on a track.

We used a wide variety of music tracks and genres - rock, electronica, jazz, rap, hip-hop, classical, acoustic guitar and piano, lots of female vocals, even a few film scores (female vocals are particularly good to determine how well the tweeter is blended with the midrange driver, which is typically controlled by the quality of the crossover and waveguide). We also included the original Harman music test loops we used during our famous 2017 shootout. It has been found that a large variety of different musical and recording styles need to be used to get a fair assessment of speaker performance, as recording quality / technique can vary wildly.



REVEL F208 vs. JBL HDI-3800 – the Revel F208 serves as kind of a benchmark in all of our speaker comparisons as it’s probably one of Revel's best-selling speakers and represents tremendous bang for the buck. At Harman they often refer to it as the “giant killer,” as it has gone up against speakers many times its price in double blind listening tests and won every time. It’s an extraordinarily neutral speaker almost completely free of resonances.

The new JBL HDI3800 tower speaker is at exactly the same price point, but features a variation on the D2 compression driver and High Definition Imaging (HDI) waveguide originally developed for the JBL M2 Master Reference Monitor. Like the F208, it measures extremely well and has the same neutral sound target. When compared side by side, it was interesting that our listener preferences kind of ping-ponged between the two speakers. The HDI 3800 had a more focused, direct sound – very similar to what we heard from the JBL M2 during our M2 vs. Salon2 listening test. The Revel had a broader, more open sound – spacious sounding even in mono, while the JBL was tighter and more focused.

Again, like what we heard during the M2 vs. Salon2 shootout, preference was largely dependent on the recording we were listening to, with overall preferences ever so slightly leaning toward the F208. Close mic’d instruments and percussion sounded more realistic on the JBL, most other material sounded more open and pleasing on the Revel. We played the Led Zeppelin song “Moby Dick” during both the mono and stereo listening sessions, and the “thwack” of the percussion during the drum solo sounded more immediate and life-like on the JBL. The close mic’d tenor sax on Jen Chapin’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” track sounded like the sax was in the room with us. On other, more conventional pop, jazz and orchestral recordings, the JBL tended to sound a little “boxy” and constrained in width and depth compared to the Revel.

Preference here was recording and application dependent. For people who listen to a lot of classic rock, electronic music and some forms of jazz, the JBL is going to be a terrific choice. We think it will do extremely well with movies as well, since the extra dynamics from the horn driver and more localized sound field will be of substantial benefit in terms of placing sounds in specific locations around the room, and in reproducing the kind of chest-thumping impact you get with a compression driver (think gunshots and explosions with visceral impact). These are quite efficient speakers, and are able to play very loud without any hint of strain.

The Revel, on the other hand, is more of an “all-rounder” in that everything sounded good through it, but it lacked the "immediacy" of the JBL. In our reference showroom, we can quickly switch back and forth between the JBL SCL2 in-walls (very similar to the JBL M2 and HDI series in design) and the Revel Salon2s, and we often find ourselves switching back and forth between them depending on the particular recording being listening to. For people who want to feel like they’ve actually been shot during a gun battle in a movie, the JBL is going to be hard to beat. For people who pay more attention to the music score (which generally tends to be orchestral), the Revel is a great choice.


REVEL F208 vs. REVEL F226Be – this was an eye opener. The Revel F208 sounds so good it is often difficult to imagine another speaker sounding much better. However, the F226Be improved upon the sound of the F208 in every aspect except pure bass extension (and even there it was closer than expected, considering that the F208 has two 8” woofers vs. the dual 6” woofers on the F226Be). Vocals and instruments both were clearer and more distinct on the F226Be, with that goose-bump inducing sense or air and space that you get with a true audiophile speaker. One of the tracks that really stood out was Sara Bareilles’ rendition of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” from her “Brave Enough Live at the Variety Playhouse” album. The vocal was incredibly pure and uncolored, truly goose-bump inducing. Compared to the F208, it was just “purer” and more distinct, with an astounding naturalness that emotionally moved us.

Percussion had more of a “snap” and immediacy as well with the F226Be. So, as good as the F208 is, we feel that it has genuinely been bested by the new Be series. The dynamics are better, the treble and midrange more refined. Compared to the F226Be, the F208 sounded a bit muddled in the midrange and treble frequencies. To be fair, this was not a “night and day” difference, but a difference that was clearly there to be heard. Dave’s comment was that it seemed to strike a balance between the lushness of the Revel F208 and the dynamic intensity and impact of the HDi3800 -- a sort of "best of both worlds".

Interestingly, that is how we often describe the difference between the entry level Concerta2 F36 and the step up Performa3 F206 – a difference in refinement that can be heard in the dynamics and separation between instruments and vocals. Like the F206 and F208 are step-ups from the F35 and F36, the BE series offers a similar step-up in refinement over the standard F208 and F206.

From speaking with the engineers at Revel, the differences between the standard Performa3 models and the new Be models are most likely attributable to the improved motors in the drivers themselves, plus the further refinements in waveguide technology Harman has made over the years. What’s interesting is that the new Be flagship, the F328Be, -- which should start shipping again in August – refines the waveguide and motor systems to an even greater degree. We are getting a demo pair soon!


REVEL F226Be vs. JBL L100 Classic – this was a fun comparison. Since the L100 Classic design was restricted to being placed in a cabinet originally designed in the 1970's, but that did not seem to affect the sound quality. It turns out the L100 Classic is an excellent speaker and held its own quite well against the Revel. The L100 plays loud, can have a bit of an aggressive sound, and has a cool retro look. On certain tracks it was apparent that the L100 Classic was a bit “forward” in presentation, and if the recording had a lot of energy in the 2000 – 3000 Hz range, it could sound a bit harsh on the L100. Once again, however, this was largely recording dependent. Kris Deering was playing some rap and hip hop tracks that had a lot of energy in that area. Without the F226Be there as a reference, though, I am not sure how “harsh” it would have seemed to the typical listener. As we did not get to the L100 until rather late in the listening session we didn’t have a lot of time to play with it, however, they brought a smile to the face of everyone listening to them. One should note, the L100 has "tone controls" (HF and MF level controls) on board that allow the user to change the frequency response to be more neutral. This was pointed out to us when Chris Hagen (the design engineer) gave a presentation at Harman last year.

Here are Kris Deering's thoughts on the shoot-out:

During my visit I attended an informal speaker comparison between the Revel Performa F208 (a speaker I’ve heard in quite a few fantastic setups), the PerformaBe F226Be, and the brand new JBL HDi-3800 which I had only seen at CEDIA last year, but didn’t have the chance to take a listen. The TSR guys did a great job level matching each speaker in a single speaker mono comparison and it was interesting hearing the differences the various speaker designs bring to the table.The F208’s continued their streak of fantastic reproduction of female vocals, airy highs and tight bass performance, while I felt the F226Be’s took things a bit further sounding noticeably tighter in focus and delivering a palpable sense of being there when and where the recording took place. I was also blown away by how capable the F226’s dual 6-inch driver’s where with some of the selections that gave them a brutal workout in the bass region. Of all the speakers compared in the session, these were the winners for me. The new JBL HDi towers were also impressive with fantastic low-end presence and detail. If your music tastes steered toward rock and electronica, these would be the speakers I would lean toward. Impressive dynamics, but a touch less air took away from some of the vocals in the higher quality recordings we heard. In the end, all of these speakers delivered the goods with aplomb. I’d honestly be happy with any of them in a dedicated 2-channel setup.



 

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Nice. Bet this was fun.
 

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Yeah, wish I could have been there. It's too far for me to drive from Vegas to Colorado Springs. The guys there have all the fun, lol.
Interesting; I "assumed" the Revel F226BE would be more than twice the cost of the Fevel F208.

Not so.

I mean, neither are inexpensive but neither are ridiculous money IMHO.
 

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Nice write-up/shootout!

I couldn't help but notice one of the dustcaps already pushed in on the HDI-3800. :eek:
 

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Nice write-up/shootout!

I couldn't help but notice one of the dustcaps already pushed in on the HDI-3800. :eek:
Man, I hate when that happens. Bet someone darn near had a heart attack.
 

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Nice read...in comparing the two brands....I might have missed this point but these tests weren't conducted blind or otherwise to remove any bias...these are HK products after all....just saying...:D.
 

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Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t the L100’s been listened to on their matching stands?
 

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Were all these test done in Mono?
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Setup info

First, and perhaps most importantly, the speakers being compared were level matched to within .5 dB so they were the same relative volume. This is critical, since if one speaker plays louder than the other, the louder speaker will tend to be judged as "sounding better".

The speakers were set side by side to minimize variations due to room placement. Making sure the speakers were precisely level matched and compared side by side and in mono eliminated MANY of the variables that plague other speaker comparisons.

For listening, we used tracks from Harman's test playlist as well as some personal choices all mixed down to mono. There is about 40 years of research which shows mono listening tests as the most revealing of differences in speaker sound. For the mono sessions, stereo tracks were mixed down to mono within Roon, and sound was output through a professional Focusrite external soundcard, which allowed us to precisely match output levels. This was in turn connected to a JBL Synthesis SDA7200 amplifier (200 watts/ch). Level measurements were taken in REW using a calibrated UMIK1 microphone. Once we had finished our Mono listening tests we switched to stereo with many of the same tracks, using the same components just described.

We used a wide variety of music tracks and genres - rock, electronica, jazz, rap, hip-hop, classical, acoustic guitar and piano, lots of female vocals, even a few film scores (female vocals are particularly good to determine how well the tweeter is blended with the midrange driver, which is typically controlled by the quality of the crossover and waveguide). It has been found that a large variety of different musical and recording styles need to be used to get a fair assessment of speaker performance, as recording quality and technique can vary wildly.
 

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First, and perhaps most importantly, the speakers being compared were level matched to within .5 dB so they were the same relative volume.



How exactly was this done? Pink noise? Band limited or full bandwidth? In room measured with an SPL meter? Or matched at a particular frequency? Or based on anechoic or pseudo-anechoic estimates of sensitivity? Or some other method?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
How exactly was this done? Pink noise? Band limited or full bandwidth? In room measured with an SPL meter? Or matched at a particular frequency? Or based on anechoic or pseudo-anechoic estimates of sensitivity? Or some other method?
"Level measurements were taken in REW using a calibrated UMIK1 microphone."

I'm not sure what the test signal was.
 

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Yeah, sorry, I just read the rest of your post and saw that it was done with REW. I replied to your post before I finished reading it! Sorry. :eek:

I still wonder how they got within 0.5dB with REW and a UMIK1. Is it even that precise in its results? And even if it is, the question about what signal used is still important.


Can you ask them for more info?
 

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Nice shootout! I have the F228Be and feel the same with respect to the F208. The F226Be definitely seem like it wins the best sound quality/value. I read someone else’s post here where there wasn’t much to distinguish the F228Be vs F226Be.

I feel that Revel handicapped the F228Be a bit to not overtake the Studio2. The F328Be appears to be doing just that - seems like a Studio2 replacement considering the same price point.
 

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I received and read the email that was sent out about this session. I was impressed that listeners' impression was that the F226Be did not lag much behind the F208 in bass and bass quality. What also caught my attention was that the F226Be seemed to offer somewhat of a middle ground between the HDI and the F208, in terms of immediacy, clarity, and impact. For someone like me who is 50/50 music and movies, it seems like the Be series may be the way to go. With my age related high frequency hearing loss, I need as much dialog intelligibility as possible. Thoughts?
 
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