Saturday, February 28, 2009

Focal XS speakers

They're a pair of computer speakers that I used at the Apple store today. They're $600 and good enough that I think I will pass up the Klipschs and get these after I am working. By that I mean they are very good. Granted, the Apple store isn't the ultimate testing environment, but it wasn't that busy and they sounded pretty great.
The first song I demoed on them was something orchestral. It was quiet in the store at the time. For maybe 15 seconds there didn't seem to be any sound, or if there was it was being drowned out by something being played elsewhere in the store. Putting my ear up to the speaker revealed that the sound was coming from the speaker. If you ask me, that's a pretty good statement about transparency. I honestly thought that it was coming from somewhere else.
I turned off this orchestral song after a bit though. These speakers have an integrated iPod dock. This is useful, if you ask me. My friends bring over iPods often and these would be nice for when that happens. Plus, the dock connects to your computer so on top of playing the iPod through it, you also use it to sync the iPod. Pretty cool, if you ask me. Anyway, I used the iPod Touch that was docked with it to listen to some songs I'm familiar with via iTunes previews. The Apple store employees don't care how loud you make things, so I did get to turn them up. They didn't sound strained or distorted even when played loud with songs that are generally loud (ie No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand). Testing conditions weren't the best though, so I'm sure I was missing some of what they have to offer. They were hooked up with the Apple TV, so they were spaced kind of far apart around a large television, and they were stuck to the table slightly behind the TV. This drowned out the sound a little.
The cabinets are plastic and resonate a lot, but for whatever reason the sound of cabinet resonance didn't seem to be there. This is just fine.
The sub was on the table though, so I didn't get to really hear that as I should've. It has a 6.5" down-firing driver and a front firing port. It didn't sound strained with the bassiest songs I tried and did sound rather musical instead of making boring thumps like a lot of computer subs. I tried No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand and Raspberry Jam Delta-V by Joe Satriani on them, for example. They both have intricate bass lines (which really make those songs awesome, if you ask me) that came out just fine. I also tried Under The Influence by The Chemical Brothers which is a very bassy song. At a few parts of the song, there is a loud bass sweep that starts deepish and goes deeper. The sub didn't sound strained during any of this.
I don't know if they have an active EQ or not. They did, however, sound like they could have benefitted a little from an EQ adjustment. I would have turned down the treble. I don't know if the iPod Touch I used in the store had any EQ settings or not though, so I can't be sure if that was the speaker's doing or the iPod's. I should have checked.
Next time I go I'll be sure to bring my iPod so I can try more of my own music. Hopefully sometime I'll get to try them in some better testing conditions though, like perhaps a quieter store or another Apple store where they aren't set up inconveniently around a TV. However, they left me very impressed. It's not unlikely that I'll pass up the Klipsch's and get a pair of these.

1 comment:

Derek said...

I haven't heard of Focal making a 2.1 computer system. I've never read anything but positive reviews for any of their products, from their car speakers all the way up to their Utopia Be speakers (somewhere around $100,000 a pair). I'm willing to bet that they would blow the doors off my promedia 2.1s sonically. For $600, they better!

I say go for them.