Focal

Based in Saint-Étienne, France, Focal-JMLab was founded by Jacques Mahul in 1979. They manufacture loudspeakers for the home, speaker drivers for the auto industry, headphones and professional monitoring loudspeakers.

Focal was the name under which the innovative drivers were made and JMLab the brand of the built loudspeakers. At some point after the merger with Naim Audio in 2011, all domestic loudspeakers have come to be sold under the ‘Focal’ banner.

The tie up with Naim, where both companies are now separate businesses under the ownership of VerVent Audio Group (VAG), means that great strides have been made to increase the synergy between the electronics and loudspeakers. This is a more complex matter that it might appear, since Naim and Focal products have not always been the most compatible.

A new world has dawned with, first, the Aria series and, now, Sopra being exceptionally well matched to Naim electronics.

The Aria range encompasses, stand-mount, floor-standing, centre and rear speakers. There are a couple of matching sub-woofers too. This was the first Focal range to be designed since the merger with Naim Audio. It shows too.

Across the range, bass is well controlled but, on the floor-standers, definitely powerful. Placement is surprisingly easy and refinement high.

These are unexpectedly easy to drive and great fun too. A Naim Uniti 2 can achieve great things with a pair of 926s. In fact, good as the 906 and 905 stand-mounts are, it’s the 926 that has made the biggest impression on us for its combination of price, size and performance. The floor-standers 926, 936 and 948 are all proper three way designs. The moderately chunky 948 is pictured here.

A ‘proper’ three way speaker, where the midrange is covered by its own dedicated driver, has some serious advantages and the Aria floor-standers demonstrate this principle admirably.

 

 

The latest range, Sopra, sits above the Electra be series, itself one notch up on Aria, and draws heavily from the top-of-the-tree Utopia range. To our ears, it sounds like neither. The range encompases the No.1 stand-mount along with Nos.2 and 3 floor-standers.

These are striking designs and certainly suit the colours on offer. Being dead boring, we went for the monochrome versions.

Sonically, and as it laboured elsewhere, these are very Naim-compatible, hardly surprising, given that they were developed with these electronics. They are not limited to working with Naim kit, though.

To fully appreciate them, you will need to book a demonstration.

Actual products here

We could talk for days about Hi-Fi: 01394 672464 / 5 enq@signals.uk.com
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