This morning I spent some quality time with my beloved Revel M20's and their big brother, the F30 (tower version with 10" woofer). I've been kicking around the whole "tower vs. bookshelf + sub" idea, and I've decided that I'm going to get a full-range (tower) speaker. So, with that in mind, I spent a good 45 minutes with the F30 and only 15 minutes with the M20. After I was done listening to the Revel's, I spent about 45 minutes with the Martin Logan Ascent's. Oh yes, life is good.
After all of my RT12/RT55/RT800 demos last week I am quite familiar with the limitations of my current speaker system. Listening to the Revel's made last week's demos akin to listening to a clock radio. OK, maybe not that bad, but geez! The speakers are so retardedly clear. I guess the audiophile buzzwords would be "open" and "detailed." I'm not convinced that they were positioned optimally, because the imaging wasn't as it should have been. The center image was just so-so, too. I've heard the M20's do much better in this regard. Even so, the separation between the instruments was excellent. One of the coolest things I notice when moving to higher end speakers is the depth of soundstage you get. Killer. I love the midrange of these speakers. The tweeter is pretty fantastic too, though I do find it ever so slightly bright. The biggest disappointment with these speakers was the 10" woofer. It didn't seem to put out a whole lot. I mean, it was tight, and it had some depth; I was just expecting more slam. The salesman blamed this on the room acoustics. Still, my experience mirrored those of the reviewer from Stereophile, so I'm not totally buying what the salesman said. Overall, this speaker ranks at the top of my list for consideration.
Martin Logan Ascent
These speakers are totally different from the Revel's. They're much more laid back and less in your face. The clarity I observed with the Revel's was even better on the ML's. These speakers are amazingly detailed. You could rear right into and through the recording. On simpler recordings, such as Diana Krall, their presentation was so life-like it was scary. I thought they kind of fell apart when listening to intense orchestral arrangements, though; they seemed to lose their separation and become cloudy. This is also said to happen on rock music, but I didn't notice this with Dave Matthews (but this isn't a good representation of rock, either). The bass was pretty disappointing as well. My biggest complaint with it was the output and depth. I expected more from this 10" woofer. It also wasn't exceptionally tight, but it certainly wasn't bad. What's odd is that when I heard these speakers at Soundex (granted it was only for 5 minutes or so) I thought they had excellent bass output and depth. So, maybe there really was a problem with the room acoustics (or maybe there was a subwoofer on at Soundex, though Dan said he turned it off). Overall I was really impressed with this speaker. On some of the recordings I listened to I was blown away, others not. I'm not convinced that this speaker is a jack of all trades like the Revel, but it certainly does some things exceptionally. More experimentation with this speaker will be required before it can be considered in the running. Still, I like it quite a bit.