I want to talk about the Revel sound system. But first, let’s go back in time. Road trips are in my DNA going back to the earliest years of my life. For holidays, we road tripped through Canada going to and from where I was raised in VT, to where my mother’s family lived in MI. What’s more road trip appropriate than making sure you have the perfect playlist? For me, very little.
I am being compensated for this post by A Girls Guide to Cars. Photos, words and opinions are my own unless noted. Revel is an American manufacturer and distributor of high-end luxury audio loudspeakers owned by Harman International Industries, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics which I have done work for before.
All the best road trips in my life, I remember based on what I was listening to. I can still conjure the exact feelings I had when, as a teenager on a chorus road trip through the Midwest, I discovered the bittersweet symphony of ‘Jagged Little Pill‘. The scenery is burnt into my memory, out the bus window as Alanis Morissette sang,
“Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles.”
When I first had the chance to escape home with friends who could drive before I could, and then after I could drive, it was music that was always the accompaniment to however long or short a drive we had. Turn up the sound, be lost in the melody or the lyrics, sing along. Drive away from our broken homes.
And as I drove back and forth during breaks from college with my best friends, it was Radiohead that accompanied the plains of Arkansas and Tennessee. That Thunderbird had the first really good sound system I ever experienced. It made me realize a sound system could be as important as the music.
So why a post about the Revel Sound System?
With road trips on a record number of travelers minds in 2020, and my own experience with road trips being so synonymous with great music delivered well; I was honored to be given the gift of an Aviator to drive around for a week so I could test the Revel sound system. I test drove, specifically, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label AWD Chalet theme with Revel Ultima 3D 28 speaker package. Exterior in Burgundy Velvet Met Tinted. Interior in Cashmere and Black Leather and faux-wood trim. 119″ Wheelbase. Twin-turbocharged 3L V6, 10-speed auto transmission.
I was amused to be driving an Aviator since my former travel blog is called ‘Aviators and a Camera‘. Kind of felt meant to be!
Testing the Revel Sound System
Now I didn’t do the best job of capturing the experience in order to relay it to you in multimedia form. I think this video does a better job than I could have. It is hosted by a Revel employee. This is Revel’s page with videos detailing the sound system. This was also my first time reviewing a car where the focus was on something best experienced in person.
Most of the images in this post were taken as I was stopped; or in the hours I had my partner drive the car just before it was picked up, so that I could do so safely.
Here are some press photos that explain the Revel system from a more technical standpoint.
Quantum Logic Surround Modes – Audience, On Stage and Stereo are meant to simulate just what they sound like they would be. There are almost 30 speakers total.
The driver audio, seemed to me, to be a priority. I saw more speakers tuned to or placed specifically for the driver’s enjoyment. Such as the multiple speakers right above and to the left of the driver in the headliners [shown in my photos below as well as in this diagram]:
Controls for the Aviator and its sounds system are laid out visually in the center console display. Controlling it via that display or via the buttons on or near the steering wheel, felt safe and easy. My partner and I talk a lot about UI since he’s a project manager. The user experience in this car, and specifically for the sound system, is well done. The vehicle pairs with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. I tested both and really enjoyed the UI for both.
Let’s look at the interior through my photos:
From Revel’s website ‘The Art of Luxury Meets the Science of Sound’:
POINT SOURCE ARCHITECTURE maintains the close positioning between tweeters and midranges so that every detail of a song reaches a passenger’s ears at the exact same time and magnitude.
REVEL WAVEGUIDES built into every door to optimize high-frequency dispersion, allowing a seamless blend between the tweeter and midrange speakers.
FIELD BALANCING SHORTING RINGS provide increased clarity so you can hear every subtle detail in a song and reduce distortion to levels well below audibility to the human ear.
So… did I like the Revel Sound System?
I loved it! Sometimes when I arrived to my destination, I’d stay in the car. There I’d sit, continuing to listen. I didn’t want to leave the sanctuary the music was creating around me.
With Mozart, I felt like I was in the middle of the orchestra. So close to the strings that I could reach out and touch a violin. Listening to an acoustic song made it seem the talent was singing only for me, right in the passenger seat. When Juice Newton sang Queen of Hearts, I thought she and I were having a singalong together. Outside my window, the waves crashed as I headed north from Malibu, hair blowing in the breeze. It’s a song that’s meant a lot to me since childhood. I don’t think it’s ever sounded better on any road trip before this one.
Finally it was Bubbles by Yosi Horikawa on Revel’s official playlist on Spotify, that illustrated all the specific elements of the sound system best. I had to stop the car, close my eyes and listen. Enraptured. I always thought he was talented. But I’d never listened to a single one of his compositions on a sound system that helped me to truly appreciate his mastery. And I will never test drive another car without listening to that song to put the system through its paces. Every individual element that went into the creation of the song stood out. From the bouncing ping pong balls to the synth to every individual item he must have used to create the babbling pitter-patter that lulled me into serenity – there was a speaker for that.
Would the sound system influence my purchasing decision?
Yes. Test driving this sound system would put me over the fence if I was hesitant to invest in the 2020 Lincoln Aviator. If I were going to buy a vehicle based solely on sound system alone and no other factors, this would be the first I would consider. The number one on my list. I’ve driven vehicles that on the surface I liked better, or felt more brand loyalty toward out of the gate, that still had great sound systems. None so far in my personal experience, have been as terrific as this one was.
And this was the surprise for me. I figured when I said yes to this assignment, that this was going to be mostly marketing. Even though I had a lot of fun on a Zoom Masterclass with a Revel engineer prior to the vehicle’s delivery, that paired chocolate with various types of music, I was still skeptical. I was after all, trained to think like a journalist first. And I don’t like things simply because I am told I should.
Let’s get a bit more specific and look at the Monroney:
Did I like the car and sound system? Yes.
Did the vehicle handle well? At first it felt larger than I thought it would. I hadn’t driven an SUV in a while. By the end of the first day, I thought it felt smaller handling-wise than other SUVs that I’ve driven. It was comfortable for me on narrow and rural roads. It picked up fast enough for me getting on the highway. I don’t drive slowly [though always safely]!
Is outside noise muted/inside well isolated from outside noise? Yes.
Is it comfortable to drive? This was the first vehicle I’ve ever driven every day for a week [and over 1200 miles] without thinking, “this seat is uncomfortable.” I thought the driver’s seat felt like a high end leather La-Z-Boy. The moroney calls that ‘Perfect Position 30-way Active Motion Seats.’
Did it feel worth the $80,000 MSRP? Yes. Particularly for audiophiles who spend a lot of time in their vehicle and need room.
Does it have safety features? Automatic emergency braking, surround-view camera system, Head-Up Display (HUD), super smart adaptive cruise control [I was blown away by this when stuck in traffic on/off] and blind spot detection, advanced traction with RSC, airbags for drivers and passengers plus a safety canopy, auto high beams, evasive steering assist, perimeter alarm, pre-collision assist with AEB, a tire pressure monitor system and more.
Does it have tech features? All the now-obvious ones and a wireless charging pad.
How’s the fuel economy? Advertised at 17 city, 24 highway. My all time average for a week with the Aviator was 22 per.
This is the Monroney for the vehicle I drove:
If ever there was a dream assignment, made for me to talk about, this felt it.
Lincoln and Revel together want to create a place of sanctuary in their luxury SUVs. And since vehicles are one of the few places one has some control over, for safely escaping from home right now, shouldn’t vehicles be a sanctuary? Where one can enjoy music and podcasts and whatever brings peace, with clarity and a good sound system?
That’s part of my dream. That was the dream fulfilled during my week road tripping up to Sonoma County and back home to Los Angeles in the 2020 Lincoln Aviator.