On the second day of the Focal North America new products event John-Philippe Fontaine, who has a background as a sound engineer, gave us a tour of three of Focal North America’s newest entry level home theater systems. We were invited into a room containing a Focal Sib & Co system and a Focal Dome Flax 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos system with their newest speakers. We also got to demo their Focal EASYA wireless speaker with Apt-X streaming support.
Focal Sib & Co 5.1 Speaker System
We started with the Focal Sib & Co speakers. SIB stands for “Small is Beautiful”, and the line was launched over 10 years ago. Focal is now on their third iteration of the SIB speakers, which focuses on providing strong bass and clean detail—all in a compact system. The retail price on the Focal Sib (sold individually) is $149. The larger Focal Sib XL is $269. The Sib is a 2-way bass reflex system with a 5″ polyflex woofer and a 1/2-inch aluminum tweeter. The cabinet is made of a stiff ABS with some vibration reduction built into the design. Frequency response is around 75Hz to 20kHz and you get a respectable 90 dB SPL sensitivity, so you don’t need a ton of power to drive them.
The Focal Sib XL uses two 5″ poly flex mid-bass drivers (still a 2-way design) to deliver more output and a with a bit more reach (67Hz on the low end). Both speakers are designed to be neutral and not color the sound.
The Focal Cub 3 subwoofer has a 150W BASH amplifier which powers its 8-inch woofer and uses an “Aero” bass port that is designed to reduce port chuffing.
The system, which is also sold in a kit for $799 with 5 Sibs and a Cub 3 (as the Sib&Co 5.1) can be placed on stands, mounted on-wall, or even located within or on furniture. The Focal Sib XL has an on-wall tuning switch that compensates for on-wall placement, and mounting is simplified through the use of Polyfix 2-piece wall mounts. It can also be mounted on a stand or in a horizontal orientation for use as a center channel speaker. The remaining mount allows it to be placed on top of furniture.
We got to demo the Sib&Co 5.1 system, playing back a scene from the Ed Norton version of The Hulk movie, as well as some clips from a RedBull racing demo and a Julio Iglesias music video. A couple takeaways from the demo:
- You can really crank this system up load without distortion
- Bass was clean, but not terribly punchy-something I’ll take over “boomy” any day of the week.
- Highs were clean and crisp, but not harsh or overbearing.
The system was remarkably capable in the difficult mid-bass region.
Focal Dôme Speakers
Next up was the Focal Dôme system which Focal bills as a “high end miniature” system. The Dôme is a sealed 2-way system with a high-gloss die-cast aluminum enclosure that comes in black, white, or red. It has a 4-inch fiberglass and resin-coated paper driver coupled to a 1-inch Chorus V inverted aluminum magnesium (Al/Mg) dome tweeter. These speakers are very efficient as well, producing lots of volume with very little amplifier power.
Focal calls this speaker its “Sonic Spotlight” and indeed that’s what it looks like. The Dôme subwoofer has an 8-inch driver with a 100W BASH amplifier, and it looks like a bit like the top of a gigantic shiny black pill.
The price point on these speakers is $1,699 for a 5.1 system. A Dôme Flax model offers a new cone material for the woofer (invented by Focal in 2013) which features lower mass for better woofer acceleration. Flax is basically linen, a natural fiber grown and made in France. It’s also a super rigid material when sandwiched between glass resin, and it’s well-damped. The make-up of the Focal Dôme driver is similar to their traditional drivers, with a fiberglass and resin layer on top and bottom—but the middle 0.4mm cellulose layer is replaced by flax. Since the use of flax takes a lot more production time to manufacture, the Focal Dôme Flax 5.1 system will run $1,999 and is available in Black and White (not Red). Stands will run you about $359. The Focal Dôme Flax system comes with the Sub Air wireless subwoofer only (an upgrade from the pill-shaped model). These speakers are fully table, wall, and ceiling placeable.
We got to listen to the Focal 5.1 Dôme Flax Atmos system with two additional in-ceiling Focal 300 ICW4 speakers (pending for US distribution). The wireless 2.4 GHz Sub Air uses a 110W BASH amplifier to drive its 8-inch woofer, and it’s the kind of sub that can fit under a couch (or even be wall-mounted). Its port is tuned to 40Hz which gives it a good amount of bottom end fill. Currently you can only run a single Sub Air per system, but Focal is taking a look at that for future multiple-subwoofer possibilities. It uses a small dongle as a transmitter that attaches to your surround receiver or AV processor‘s subwoofer preamp output.
Focal EASYA Wireless Speakers
The Focal EASYA wireless speaker (pronounced “ease-ya”) is a “classic hi-fi” speaker that’s really a good looking product with the same inverted aluminum magnesium tweeter that has a poron suspension that shouldn’t change over time—it’s like memory foam, but for metal). It’s also wireless, so while you need to connect it to power, you don’t have any speaker cables. The wireless hub transmits to the speakers (up to 2), and it can receive audio from your smart device directly via AptX Bluetooth (for near-lossless quality). It also has RCA inputs, an analogue 3.5mm input, and optical & Coax S/PDIF for more input options. There’s even USB for connecting it to a Mac or PC. Another cool thing about the speakers is that they have integrated bottom-mounted LED status lights to let you know when they’re connected (Red is dead, white is right—made that up myself).
The actual EASYA tower speakers are a 2.5-way design with two 5″ midbass drivers and the aforementioned tweeter. The complete system sells for $2,799.
Listening to them, the EASYA towers certainly put out a lot of bass, and they played loudly in the medium sized conference room we were in. These speakers have lots of potential, and it will be cool to see how consumer begin implementing wireless speakers into their homes—making use of space that presented a difficult or impossible connectivity problem for traditional speaker cables.