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Albums auditioned during this review: Black Sabbath, 13, Vertigo/Universal MusicLLC (Japan) UICN-1034/5, 2 x SHM-CD (2013); Daft Punk, Random Access Memories, Columbia Records/Sony Music Japan SICP-3817, CD (2013); Depeche Mode, Soothe My Soul, Columbia/ Sony Music/RiTonis, ProXLCDr/P.0006, SP CD-R (2013); Diorama, Child Of Entertainment, Accession Records, A 119, SP CD (2010); Frank Sinatra, Songs For Swingin’ Lovers!, Capitol/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 538, Gold-CD (1956/1990)...

...Grabek, 8, Polskie Radio PRCD 1372, CD; John Coltrane, Coltrane, Impulse!, 589 567-2, 'Deluxe Edition', 2 x CD (1962/2002); Jorgos Skolias & Bogdan Hołownia, …tales, 8Merch, NSA-V001, "Limited Edition, No. 0001/2000", CD (2004/2012); Miles Davis, In A Silent Way, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD-2088, “Special Limited Edition, No. 1311”, SACD/CD (1969/2012).

My method of auditioning and evaluating audio products compares the individual components, speakers, cables and accessories of my reference system against the product under review. The better my reference point, the greater the certainty that sonic alterations brought on by the newly auditioned component will be identified. The basic assumption here is of a reference system that's linear and neutral to modify the sound as little as possible.

Equally important is another assumption – that the reviewer likes the sound of the reference system. To some extent this modifies the first assumption as it introduces to the test method a subjective element. We all like something different in the end. I talked about this with a number of fellow journalists. Everyone agreed. The real trick is not in recognizing the differences between reviewed and reference product but balancing personal likes with objective reasons. This combines knowledge and experience gained over years of listening to hundreds even thousands of products under controlled conditions and with the same procedure. It simply so happens that the first impression is almost always based on personal preferences. It is only during subsequent data processing that such biased observations are neutralized.

That is why what we hear right after swapping speakers is so important. For me it is twice important to daily recalibrate my hearing to the reference system. Before the test I first listen to pre-selected tracks on the complete reference system and only then proceed to do an A/B comparison of each individual track. Changing out the powerful Harbeth references with their 300mm woofers for the slender Revels, I so did not expect the latter to retain the same scale and drama. I eventually verified that to make out differences but throughout the entire review I vividly kept in mind the moment I first heard "God Is Dead?" from Black Sabbath’s latest album 13.

What drew my attention was the sound’s scale and breath. Low slow guitars and drums in the intro followed by the wall of sound unfurled freely without any sense of damping or stifling. It was evident right from the start that the Revel sound was clear and selective. The location of instruments within the soundstage resembled that of the Harbeths to a large extent though the F206’s focus on the first plane was quite obvious to dominate over the layers farther back. Stage rear was quite far away and venue acoustics were undiminished even though deeper planes pulled to the front. This can and often does end up badly as all of a sudden various sounds end up on one plane to mash up as a glob. Add hyper selectivity and the sound easily gets too bright, almost aggressive.