Revel vs. KEF vs. Vivid Audio

To Doug Schneider,

I’ve recently retired and have decided to make a final speaker purchase. My shortlist is: Revel Salon2 (or maybe the Studio2), KEF Blade Two, or the Vivid Giya G3. I’m totally persuaded by Harman’s research into what makes a speaker sound good (excellent on-axis response and smooth off-axis response, etc.); hence, my interest in the Revels. However, I know you have been impressed with all three of these speakers and so I’d very much appreciate your thoughts on how they directly compare and if one of them is clearly better overall (and ignoring price differences). I will of course endeavor to hear them all, but that is easier said than done. So, in the meantime, I’d be very interested in your view. 

Many thanks in anticipation.
United Kingdom

I am not surprised you’ve been persuaded by Harman’s research, which is really a continuation of Dr. Floyd Toole’s research that began at Canada’s National Research Council in the 1970s and concluded in the 1980s. Toole’s research back then was so groundbreaking, it gave the Canadian loudspeaker makers the knowledge they needed to create loudspeakers that could compete with any in the world, and essentially helped to build the Canadian loudspeaker industry. Because Harman continued on with Toole’s work is the reason why Revel makes some of the best loudspeakers you can buy today, including the Salon2 and Studio2.

However, Harman isn’t the only company that knows how to build great-sounding loudspeakers. KEF was founded in 1961 by Raymond Cooke. From the beginning, Cooke instilled into their culture an adherence to scientific design principles, which included ongoing research. This kind of rigor is still in place there today. Likewise, Vivid Audio’s designer, Laurence Dickie, is well aware of most of the research done on loudspeakers and has done quite a bit on his own. Laurence began learning his trade at B&W when he worked there in the 1980s and 1990s, before cofounding Vivid Audio in 2004. Perhaps not surprisingly, these companies’ design ideas converge. For example, if you look at the speakers KEF and Vivid Audio make, they exhibit quite-flat on-axis response, smooth and well-controlled off-axis response, and very low levels of distortion -- things Toole’s initial research found to be key to good sound, which the designers at Revel feel are vital today. As a result, these speakers exhibit many similarities in the way they measure and sound, so if you like Revel, you will likely also admire these. Still, they’re not exactly the same..

If cost were no object, I’d lean to the Giya G3, because I find that Vivid’s speakers on the whole sound more transparent and spacious than all other speakers on the market today -- music propels from them so freely that it’s almost spooky. I’m not sure if it’s because of their unusual cabinet shapes and/or other factors, but they consistently sound that way. However, priced at $40,000 USD per pair, the G3 is also the most expensive of these three (the Blade Two is $25,000/pair, the Salon2 is $22,000/pair). That said, the other speakers you mention have strengths as well. My suggestion is (as it should be when you’re spending this much money) to listen for yourself and decide, which you obviously already know. Besides, if this is your last set of speakers, it’s most important to get things right for your ears, not mine. . . . Doug Schneider