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Equipment Review

November 1998

Hales Revelation One Loudspeakers

by Greg Weaver

The Hales Revelation series of loudspeakers represents the second generation of products from the Hales Design Group. They have been designed with the dual purpose of providing the high-end performance Hales has been known for at more affordable prices and be optimized for home-theater applications too.

The family consists of four models, beginning with the Revelation One, under review here, which houses a 6.5" polypropylene woofer and a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter. The Revelation Two is a 36" tall three-way with an 8" polypropylene woofer, a 4.5" polypropylene midrange and the same tweeter as the One’s. The Revelation Three is a 40"-tall three-way sporting a 10" polypropylene woofer and the same mid and tweet as the Two. To round out the series, there is the Revelation Center, which uses two of the 6.5" drivers used in the One, and the same midrange/tweeter combination as the Two and Three, mounted in a horizontal package to be convenient for video installations.

For surround-sound applications, it is commonly held that all five loudspeakers (left, center, right, left rear and right rear) should be matched in timbre so that they may all speak with one voice. In the Revelation series, all models use the same drivers, crossover topology and tuning in an effort to provide near-perfect timbre matching for every model in the line.

Talk the talk

The Revelation One is 15" tall by 7.5" wide and a surprising 13" deep. It weighs in at 25.5 pounds and has a 1.5" port centered about 4" from the top of the back face of the speaker. The sturdy gold-plated binding posts are situated 2" from the bottom of the rear of the cabinet, and the light-oak-finished speakers I received for review sport the non-removable black signature Hales grilles. The Revelation One is available in a sapele, black or natural cherry finish as well.

The speaker is a bass-reflex design tuned to 42Hz. The crossover network is of the fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley design using air-core inductors and polypropylene capacitors. Rated sensitivity is 86dB (2.83V, 1m). Frequency response is stated as 40Hz-26kHz at 8 ohms, ambitious for a minimonitor.

One thing that obviously has a tremendous impact on the resultant sound of the Revelation One is the story of how the crossovers and drivers are selected. Each candidate crossover, woofer and tweeter is tested against a standard reference and graded. Those tested components are then used in matched sets that are within .25dB of each other. The way Hales  explains it, there is a reference crossover and drivers for the Revelation One on a raw-components test line. Each drive unit is tested against the reference unit and marked with one of three colored tags to indicate if it was right on, .25dB above or .25dB below the reference point. Any units that vary more than the .25dB deviation are not used. This represents extremely conscientious attention to detail not normally found until you hit speakers costing several times that of the little Revelation One.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

My analog front-end is the venerable Linn Sondek LP12 (with my own modifications) fitted with a Magnepan Unitrac 1 carbon-fiber, uni-pivot-tracking arm tipped with the superlative Monster Cable Sigma Genesis 2000 moving-coil cartridge. Ones and zeros are generated by a Pioneer Elite PD-41 stable platter transport and sent via my home-brew "Silver Bit Transfer" to an Audio Alchemy DTI Pro 32, then on to an Audio Alchemy DDE v1.2 via I2S bus. Both of the Audio Alchemy units are powered by the Power Station 2 and all three sport the full Dusty Vawter upgrade treatment.

Both front-ends feed my Threshold FET nine/e preamp, which hands off to the Source Component Electronics Harmonic Recovery System, which then drives either the wonderful Pass Labs Aleph 3 or the Clayton S-40.  All cabling is by Harmonic Technologies. Interconnects are the Truth-Link, loudspeaker cables the Pro-9 Plus biwires, and the power cords the Pro AC11. AC is whipped into shape by the Audio Power Industries Ultra Power Wedge 116 and Ultra Enhancer. Reference speakers are the Von Schweikert Research VR-4 Generation II. Room taming is realized with both Cascade Audio Engineering products and my own home-brew room-taming devices. And of course, lots of Vibrapods, inner tubes and sandbags. I set up the speakers on my sand-filled 24" metal stands as soon as they arrived and spent about an hour working on placement. After an hour or two of fairly casual listening, I put in my "ocean pounding the beach" disc (Environments 1: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore [Atlantic 81674]), hit repeat and let them roll.

My old listening room in Maryland was 11' 2" wide by 18' long and 7' 6" tall. Using my past experience with minis (like the Celestion 100 and B&W Matrix 805) in this room, and the results of fiddling with the wonderful power tool for music, Visual Ears v3.2c, I had arrived at a starting point. The position I had settled on had the diminutive and attractive Revelation Ones at 34" from the sidewalls and some 69" from the rear wall. A quick check at the Hales Design Group University site showed that they would recommend a placement of 37" from the side walls (.277 of the width dimension) and either 60" (.45 of the width) or 50" (.353 of the width) from the rear wall. The second rear-wall position is a substitute if the first seems too great.

Few listeners I know, even those like me in the fanatical camp, are willing to bring speakers out any further into the room than is absolutely necessary for the best overall tonal balance and staging performance. The near one-third width dimension (.353 x W) listed at the Hales site is likely to be more suitable than the near one-half width dimension (.450 x W) to people who have to deal with any practical considerations or their wives/significant others. My placement had me within just a few percent of the Hales recommendations and was looking and sounding pretty smooth. While I was pleased with the results, I later moved the speakers toward the side walls an additional 1.5".

Walk the talk

I gotta tell you campers, these little guys rock. Their soundstage is exceptional, even better than one would typically attribute to a minimonitor. On The Turtle Creek Chorale’s "Spaseniye sodelal " (Postcards, [Reference Recordings RR-61]), depth was exquisite, as was width. And the Q-sound effects on Roger Waters’ Amused to Death [Columbia CK 64426] were downright unnerving. Sounds were occurring to my immediate left and right, some seemingly outside the physically boundaries of my room, more behind me and still others moved diagonally through the soundstage. Although the vertical height was somewhat limited, it was more than engaging.

The Revelation Ones are just a bit forward in their presentation, but not disagreeably so. After about an hour and a half, I became accustomed to this slight tendency and was able to ignore it entirely. The low-level resolution was far better than I had expected, though certainly not world class. But hey, what do you want for a cool grand? The Ones didn’t congest very easily and were surprisingly dynamic, even with complex and fairly loud passages. In fact, I have to tell you that they are the most dynamic monitor of their size I've had the pleasure of experiencing. Perfect? No, but very, very good.

Bass performance, while rolling off strongly below 60Hz in my room, will provide enough slam for all but the pipe-organ aficionados and headbangers out there. Well-defined and pitch-true, the bass is taught and fast right down to the point where it gives up. This is an area where Paul Hales and company should be commended. So many companies trade midrange neutrality and midbass articulation for slightly deeper (notice I said deeper, not better) extension. Not so with the little Revelation One, whose middle voice was remarkably truthful and revealing. Well done.

My only real complaints with the Revelation One were both a slight coloration in the lower midrange, seemingly centered around 500Hz, and a bit of a hump in the midbass centered around 100Hz. Both areas seemed just a bit too exaggerated, the 100Hz bump being the most troublesome to me, giving the speakers a bit of a dark balance overall and a slightly nasal sonic flavor. To hear the characterizations to which I refer, listen to the massed male voices on the aforementioned Turtle Creek Chorale’s Postcards. The voices, while placed quite spaciously throughout the soundstage, are just a bit "pinched" in quality. This is a consistent coloration that I heard with all sources, both vinyl and CD. Next try the drum work on John Williams’ soundtrack to Seven Years in Tibet [Mandalay SK 60271] or even on Heart’s Dreamboat Annie [Nautilus NR 3]. While pitch definition is extremely good for a minimonitor, allowing you to hear drumhead tones and the drummer’s touch on them, it is just a bit bloated and larger than natural.

Other than those concerns, the little Revelation One never failed to delight me. Its ability to engage me with the emotive side of the music was both impossible to deny and consistent. Listen to "Freight Train Boogie" from Ben Andrews’ Preachin’ The Blues [Mapleshade MS 56962] or "Rivera Paradise" from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s In Step [Epic OE 45024] if you’d like a hint of the level of involvement to which I am alluding. The ability of the Revelation Ones to sound larger than their size -- with bass quality to match -- was another wonderful constant, as was their aptitude for getting the subtle timing cues just right. This is one engaging set of little boxes. I think I have finally heard the speaker that knocks my old minimonitor standard, the B&W Matrix 805, off its pedestal.

...Greg Weaver
gregw@soundstage.com

Hales Revelation One Loudspeakers
Price: $995 USD per pair

Hales Design Group
16812 Gothard Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Voice: (714) 841-6884
Fax: (714) 841-2427

E-mail: hdgsales@flash.net
Website: www.halesdesigngroup.com

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