Focal Micro Utopia BE
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Focal Micro Utopia BE
Focal JM Lab Micro Utopia HIGH END SPEAKER
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The Focal JMlabs Diablo Utopia
by Chris Thomas
I recently realised that I have reviewed no fewer than six Focal speakers for Hi-Fi+ over the years, so I cant hide my general admiration for them. For me the most interesting have always been those designated Be, as that suffix denotes the speakers that use their famous Beryllium tweeter, first seen in the second generation Utopia collection more than six years ago. To my ears this inverse-domed unit not only instantly set a new standard but also made many other speakers sound dull and dated. Initially it was only seen in the flagship Utopia models, but variations were soon available in the more affordable Electra range. The units high frequency extension has never been in doubt, but in more recent versions, Focal has extended its working range downward, further into that territory usually covered in two-way stand mounts by the bass/ mid driver. There was a lucidity and tonal illumination to the balance of those new speaker models; one that I felt sure would soon carry over into a new Utopia range, as and when it appeared. The Micro-Utopia Be has been my personal loudspeaker choice for several years, employed in countless reviews. It is a testament to Focal that, until recently, I hadnt found any other stand-mount speaker that could match its unique balance of attributes. I have heard other superb HF units of course. The ribbon in the Eben C1, the twin-ribbon in the JAS Orsa, Piegas extraordinary magnetostatic mid/hf driver in the TC 10X and the Scanspeak ring radiator in the Wilson Duette are all excellent in themselves, but it is their design implementation that really counts. Both the Wilson and the Eben are so successful because they are superbly integrated with their respective cabinets and with the very different bass/mid drivers they sit above. Fast-forward to summer 2008, thirteen years after the very first Utopia series appeared and the rumours that Focal have been working on the third generation range are confirmed as the Grande EM, Scala and Diablo are announced. Focals design team believe that they have a tremendous advantage over most of their competitors, in that they manufacturer just about the whole loudspeaker in-house. Apart from a drivers chassis and magnets they control every other facet of production, allowing them to start at the top by designing the flagship model and then incorporate what they have learned through their extensive research into the models lower down the range. Having spent a couple of days recently being shown around both the driver manufacturing facility and the separate cabinet workshop, I must say that the whole set-up is enormously impressive. As well as retaining control over all aspects of production, a situation that frees them from reliance on subcontractors, this level of integrated manufacturing also allows them to react quickly and decisively to changes in technology or the market. For example, few manufacturers these days actually build their own cabinets and many high-profile speaker brands out-source the work. Which approach is best depends on the individual business concerned and the technology and materials involved. The investment in machinery required to create the boat-backed, multi-ply cabinets used by B&W (amongst others) would clearly be beyond a single speaker company, the manufacturer in this instance off-setting the cost across multiple markets, products and customers. But more traditional methods dont require such heavy investment, and there is also the cultural aspect to be considered, something that I believe is very important to Focal.
The cabinets are made in the Burgundy region of France, at Bourbon-Lancy in a factory that looks and smells like the studio of an instrument maker, though MDF and interesting veneers are
Reproduced from Hi-Fi+ Magazine, Issue 63 www.hifiplus.com
their materials of choice, as opposed to exotic hardwoods. The whiff of wood, glue and lacquers permeates the various sections of this old artisan shop that started life building fine furniture in 1939. I watched the cabinets for the Diablo take shape and pass through complex cutting, gluing, sealing and sanding stations before finally being ready for painting and final finishing, prior to being shipped two hours south to St Etienne for driver installation. Focals design goal is to ensure that all of the magnets power should drive the cone rather than moving the cabinet. Where the first Utopia range featured lead-lined cabinets to add mass, the second series saw the lead removed in favour of what they call Gamma construction. This aimed at providing enough stiffness to resist internal vibration by using massive cabinet walls. The third generation though, takes these concepts much further. Now the whole structure has been re-thought with the aid of resonance analysis and vibration cartography that shows a three dimensional representation of the cabinets movement under load. Take a closer look at that bass enclosure and you will see that the Diablo has a far more complex, tapering shape than the Micro. Sheer mass though is not the only answer, despite having a 50mm baffle. The cartography data analysis also allowed them to strategically locate internal bracing to keep the cabinet walls as inert as possible without having to resort to panels of absurd thicknesses. The result is a significantly more effective and an altogether more elegant solution. The reflex system survives but has moved and is now a laminar slot port on the front of the cabinet,
beneath the larger driver rather than between it and the tweeter.
The W-sandwich driver was one of the key elements of the original Utopia line. This laminate cone is based around a foam core, of varying thickness according to application, and ultrathin glass coats layered front and rear, from one to three deep. In this way Focal can shape the response curves of the drivers and choose the damping levels, whether it is to be used as a midrange or bass driver. The new Utopia range still employ this construction but, critically, the cone edge is now precision laser cut with the exact edge profile required, before being glued to the roll surround. This is a key factor in improving driver performance and consistency, as the accuracy of this join is absolutely crucial to the drivers behaviour and Focal are extremely keen to point
out the huge performance gains this expensive procedure has bought about. The arrangement of Power Flower magnets on the rear of the Diablos 165mm woofer remain, but these have also been modified, along with the chassis, spider and voicecoil, aimed at reducing magnetic leakage and increasing driver efficiency. The Electra Be range was the first time Focal introduced the IAL (Infinite Acoustic Loading) tweeter. The objective was to operate the driver loaded in a tuned cavity. For the IAL 2nd generation, installed throughout the new Utopia line, the concept has been further developed. This necessitated opening the rear of the tweeter by redesigning the whole magnetic assembly and shifting it from the back to the sides of the unit. The inverted Beryllium dome enabled them to maintain an extremely low moving mass (Beryllium is two and a half times lighter and seven times more rigid than Titanium for the same mass) and push the response down to achieve both low frequency extension and reduce the resonant frequency. By operating the rear of the driver into free air Focals approach seems to be conceptually similar
to Eben, who went to enormous lengths to remove the magnet system and general superstructure from the rear of their bass/mid driver, to startling effect. The lack of reflected energy and thermal compression are just as obvious here. The Neodymium magnet arrangement is now a fivesection encased design, looking rather like a jet engine, extending lengthways backward from the dome circumference. The dome size itself has increased slightly to 27mm and the new Poron surround is also considered by Focal to be vital to the units stellar performance. The range now covered by the tweeter is from 2.2kHz to 40 kHz and this means that the critical area between 2 and 5kHz is now handled by an ultra responsive light dome rather than a bigger, midrange driver and therein lies one of the key reasons why the Diablo does what it does to such startling effect. The tweeter sits in its own enclosure with the same profile as the bass cabinet, the cavity behind the unit tuned to act as a Helmholtz Resonator at the resonant frequency of the tweeter itself, thus damping the impedance peak. Damping this resonance with the Helmholtz reduces distortion considerably and its effect is felt throughout the bandwidth. The build quality and finish is exemplary. The Diablo bolts directly onto the steel top-plate of what is unquestionably the best stand that Focal have ever supplied. Its solid 40mm MDF base mirrors the shape of the speaker cabinet as does the sandfilled aluminium pedestal and the angle of the speakers time-aligned baffle is continued through the rake of the stand. If you have a wooden floor I would suggest that you use the heavy-duty spikes provided, with floor protectors, as the alternative of rubber inserts softens the speakers remarkable leading edge clarity. When it comes to positioning,
room layout will obviously be a consideration, but generally the advice must be to operate them in as much free air as space affords to allow them room to breathe and certainly keep them as far from sidewalls as possible. Like all high quality speakers, the Diablo puts a magnifying glass to the rest of the system that comes before it and believe me, this particular speaker throws things into pin sharp focus as it is as revealing as a stand mount gets. It cant really be looked upon as a Micro Utopia Be replacement as about the only thing they share is the single pair of WBT connectors. Cabinet, drivers, crossover, stand and price are all way too different to make any comparison meaningful. But the Micro can certainly serve as a point of reference. System requirements are simple because the Diablo has so much potential that it will respond to the very best your audio electronics have to offer. There is no performance wall to come up against. If you have a large room and want more bandwidth and scale, then look at the Scala. If you have a massive room with bottomless pockets to match, then the Grande has to be on your list, but for small to mid-sized rooms the Diablo is a perfect fit. The system requirements though are essentially the same. I have always been intrigued by ultra high quality electronics and cables driving the simple purity of the best two-way stand-mount speakers and the Diablo fits that particular bill perfectly. So, I
used two systems. First I employed a Burmester CD 001 CD player and a Vitus SS-010 integrated 25 Watt, Class A amplifier with a full loom of Vitus cables. The second and more expensive was an Esoteric P-03/D-03 SACD player and DAC feeding either an Ayre KX-R or a Lyra Connoisseur 4.2L SE line stage, driving a pair of Ayre MX-R mono-bloc power amplifiers. All the electronics, for both systems, were sat on a Stillpoints ESS rack with Level-3 shelving, including both Thor and Quantum Qx4 power conditioners, while this time the cabling was Nordost Valhalla mains leads and Odin interconnects and speaker cables. The Vitus system is a beautifully integrated, free-flowing set-up that is subtle, sweet and open in nature. It is a real music-lovers system (with less boxes). The second set up is certainly a no-compromise, musically powerful, super highresolution package, but the Diablo has all the potential to make an entirely viable system. This Utopia is absolutely not one of those speakers where you should consider what is the least in accompanying electronics that you can get away with. Its not that it is particularly difficult to drive. It just cries out for and deserves real quality. Get it wrong and it will sound tilted toward the treble because that tweeter installation will provide a forensic examination of everything that goes before it. As a long term Micro UtopiaBe user, I was very aware of their particular qualities when I sat to listen to the
Diablo for the first time. I know their strengths and weaknesses as well as any speaker, but it only took about 30 seconds for me to realise just how different the new baby Utopia is. Through the bass, the feeling of control and fluid movement combines with a speed and pitch clarity that is infectious. Where the Micro was growing vague and soft around the edges, the Diablo is sharply focussed with more efficient use of bass energy and that opens the ear to a world of expression and technique. There is no bunching or sense that articulation begins to suffer as the frequency drops. It has power and weight, but it is supremely agile and never holds the flow and musical progression back. Like all good speakers the Diablo only shows you its real bass extension when the music calls for it and it is often surprising just how low it can reach. Focal have been cute too, I think, by not trying to extract the last ounce of bass from that cabinet. It doesnt have that compressive punch that can fool you into overestimating a speakers true ability, but it is still taut and at ease under rigorous pressure. With a solo upright acoustic bass or a couple of bowed cellos to deal with, it is clean, explicit and tonally superb. Whether the strings are being picked or bowed, the Diablo is comfortable. This is of course, in no small way, a reflection of the system electronics
but the message is that if you give it some serious low frequency work to do, it will show you just how much grip it really has. You can hear that the cabinet is not storing energy when you ask it to show you the transient power of a kick-drum or the intricacies of a slapped bass riff. Even so, I can still imagine some people complaining that there isnt enough bass, so Ill disagree before they even say it and suggest that they improve the signal quality and listen again. I was struck by how beautifully balanced and poised the music remained up through the broad mid-band. But the thing that really grabs you (and never lets go) is just how bright the instruments are. When I use the term bright, I dont mean it in any way detrimentally or as a comment on the speakers overall balance. That new tweeters influence is really being felt here and it increases driver coherence enormously. I spend a lot of my time around real instruments, played by people who know their way around them and I understand just how much high frequency information they produce. Even an electric bass guitar has a brightness and energy about it that comes from the playing action and pickups. Most audio systems have a tendency to damp and mute everything that passes through and resolve them as loose representations of instruments that you could never really mistake for reality, if you know just how raw
Running-in and a reader health warning
The rather striking pair of red Diablos you see in the photographs were not the actual pair I reviewed. Due to schedules, logistics and RGs (thankful) insistence that I was supplied with a fully run-in speaker, I used a black pair for the listening. These, as I understand it, had been soundly and continuously thrashed for some considerable time, so they would be ready to go when I first plugged them in. As you see from the review, I loved them. But then I took delivery of the red ones and heard just how bad a pair of brand new Diablos can really sound. The difference between the two versions was simply staggering. So, on no account audition a pair of these speakers that have not already had extensive use, because if you do then you will certainly wonder what all the fuss is about and that would be a real shame.
the real thing actually sounds. This is where the Diablo absolutely excels. That tweeter reaches down into areas where big, damped cones usually operate and shows how it should be done, simply by articulating the voices, speed, delicacy and tonal character of each instrument more accurately. Its life, subtlety and textural range are remarkable and makes the bitter, squeezed astringency of many other hf units sound like sucking a lemon through a tennis racket. So, everything sounds brighter and crisper and this has repercussions in terms of pure note control. Leading edge articulation is fantastic. From the high impact of the first energy input, there is no compression and no sense that the speaker is muting the development at that single point in time and it carries on right through the note and into the longest and purest decay that I have heard. But it is also a speaker with remarkable density and the glowing luminescence it throws onto the instruments is not
remotely thin or diluted as a result. The difference this makes to the stability of piano alone is enormous. It has a quite striking transparency in its presentation and a sense that you can reach out and touch the music and is equally at home on simple recordings as it is on the most complex of multi-track mixes. Closely miked vocals can sound spellbindingly real, as does the range of colourful harmonics that you hear in cymbals. Its as if you can see the whole thing from front to back shimmering with metallic energy, like the cymbal itself is operating in free air in front of you and this high frequency dynamic detailing is so clear and uncompressed that when a drummer is really working the top end of his kit you have complete focus on every explosive, resonating element with no smearing, or harshness. A drummer friend even told me he could identify different makes of cymbal through the Diablo. As I mentioned before, this speaker has a sense of reality that is extremely rare and it is also loose and supple when it comes to rhythm. Any time signature is opened up with superb control and this gives insights into phrasing and timing within that framework that is the equal of any speaker I have heard. The way they are totally responsive to rhythmic emphasis and ultra sensitive to pushes where the tempo gets an accentuation of the beat means that their portrayal of
the subtleties of movement within a piece is also totally addictive. The Diablo creates a soundstage that is so broad and deep that you can practically walk in and look around, reflecting the their transparency and seethrough character. This is not a conservatively voiced speaker. When you are listening in the near-field, as I do, the mid-band and high-end is a little forward, but I wouldnt change a decibel of it because its intimacy, immediacy and stunning clarity draw you deeper and deeper, delivering a very close physical relationship to the musicians and their performance. With this tweeter installation in their armoury it would have been so easy for Focal to have come up with a speaker, full of resolution and micro detail, that was in some way clinical or even academic to listen to, but they havent. What they have made is unquestionably one of the great high-end stand mount speakers available today. Some will think it is the best, but I have heard some of the competition and they too are very good, underlining just how meaningless the notion of best really is. There are always considerations of personal taste and system electronics, individual demands and circumstances. I love listening to music through the Diablo because its musical potential is virtually unlimited. It works equally well with
all musical styles and genres and I believe that, at its price, it is a bit of a steal. Achieving all of these things means that it is certainly demanding when it comes to matching electronics and it will absolutely reward the sort of care taken in system building and installation that RG and I have been writing about for a while now. But the payback is pure musical involvement and enjoyment and there is no substitute for that, regardless of cost.
Type: Two-way, stand-mount reflex-loaded speaker Drivers: 1x 165mmW Cone Power Flower Woofer 1x 27mm IAL 2 inverted Beryllium dome Tweeter Bandwidth: Sensitivity: 44Hz-40kHz 3dB 89dB
Nominal impedance: 8 Ohms Minimal impedance: 4 Ohms Crossover Frequency: 2.2kHz Dimensions (WxHxD): 258 x 431x 427mm Weight: 20kg
Lacquered Finishes: Warm Grey, Piano Black, Imperial Red Price: 7899 including stands
Distributor: Focal UK Tel: Net: www.focal-uk.com
Manufacturer: Focal JMlabs Net: www.focal-fr.com
G R A N D E
N O V A
A L T O
D I V A
Due to constant technological advances, Focal-JMlab reserves its right to modify specifications without notice. Images may not conform exactly to specific product.
U T O P I A
B e r y l l i u m
M I C R O
C E N T E R
Focal-JMlab - BP 374 - 108, rue de lAvenir - 42353 La Talaudire cedex - France Te l. 0 - Fa x 4 - w w w. f o c a l - f r. c o m Focal-JMlab 2004
JMlab, Utopia, W sandwich, OPC crossover, Gamma Structure, Focus Time, Focus Ring, Power Flower Be Tweeter are registred trademarks of Focal-JMlab
Focal-JMlab - SC/AB 040305/1 - Photos Studio 36 - Saint-Etienne
G R A N D E U TO P I A B E RY L L I U M : A W O R L D R E F E R E N C E
Winner Golden Sound and Grand Prix awards Best Sound of the year S t e r e o S o u n d m a g a z i n e , J A PA N.
A remarkable tour de force Hifi News magazine, UK.
The finest loudspeaker on the planet? Possibly > Jacques MAHUL - Founder of Focal-JMlab Stereophile magazine, USA.
Uniqueness symbolizes the Utopia Be range of loudspeakers. Unique by their technological achievements. The Beryllium tweeter of course, but also the numerous innovations and refinements they encompass: W cone sandwich, magnet systems (Focus Ring, Power Flower, Multiferrite), cabinetry (Focus Time, Gamma Structure) and crossover (OPC). Unique in quality of materials and craftsmanship. The aerospace materials used in the composite W cones, the finest lacquers from the automobile industry, the careful selection of the real woods, the 14 coats of varnish each layer hand sanded to perfection. Unique in the harmony of function and form they embody. A blend of super high technology, luxurious materials and elegant form to bring the ultimate stereo or multichannel experience to your home. In short, uniqueness born from our obsession for attention to detail This Utopia Be range of loudspeakers is the result of 25 years of research and development, brilliantly orchestrated by Jacques Mahul, driven by a passion for the accurate reproduction of music. 25 years of continual investment in novel industrial solutions to gain complete control of the whole manufacturing process. From the forming of the pure Be metal dome to the final finishing of the cabinetwork, every element is under the total control of our French workshops. Its the ultimate in freedom of development - every detail can be examined, adjusted, tuned, evaluated and finalized with the utmost control and efficiency. This applies not only to each individual component, but also the whole. Each loudspeaker in the Utopia Be range has undergone a thorough technical research, followed by countless hours of listening and evaluation to achieve total enchantment. It is our great pleasure to share our Spirit of Sound with you. Beyond this, the Utopia Be range that you will discover over the following pages was a unique human adventure for the team at Focal-JMlab. Enthusiasm and passion are the most powerful driving forces Here they have been greeted by praise from the most renowned international audio critics, beginning with the Grande Utopia Be in 2003, recognizing the arrival of a new landmark in the history of sound reproduction.
The Grande Utopia Be the best speaker of the World! A u d i o , G E R M A N Y.
A new and fascinating sound universe Re v u e d u S o n , F R A N C E.
> Grard CHRTIEN - Managing Director
> Structure of the Utopia Beryllium tweeter
Focal-JMlabs acknowledged expertise in the field of loudspeaker design is largely based upon the companys development of the inverted dome tweeter: a major innovation refined and improved throughout the past twenty years. Famed for offering superb directivity and exceptional dynamic behavior, the Utopia Beryllium Line now takes the inverted dome concept on to an altogether higher plane by introducing the first dome made of pure Beryllium (Be). Such a significant technological advance is due to the metals exceptional properties: Beryllium is 2.5 times lighter than Titanium yet 3 times more rigid and propagates sound 3 times faster. Witch means that for a dome of identical mass, a beryllium version is 7 times more rigid than one made of titanium.
These three fundamental characteristics allow the new Utopia Beryllium Tweeter to offer performance that was previously considered impossible. Beryllium allows a single driver to accurately reproduce frequencies over five octaves from 1kHz to more than 40kHz, thereby answering the demands made by new formats such as SACD and DVD-A without the compromises associated with simply adding an additional super-tweeter. Using just one driver to accurately reproduce all of the high frequencies results in a perfect impulse response, but without creating phase problems, to ensure the total coherence of the loudspeaker - something no other technology or solution can currently guarantee. The use of Beryllium is a direct consequence of its exceptional properties, but is also due to the limitations of traditional materials.
In fact, the benefits of Beryllium proved so significant to Focal-JMlab that the company was compelled to try and overcome the enormous challenge of developing a new manufacturing process to form pure Beryllium domes. After years of intense research the company has successfully found a solution and a patent has been filed. Such an enormous undertaking is unusual in the world of sound reproduction, but it is proof of Focal-JMlabs philosophy: true progress can only be made when design and manufacturing are controlled directly, without compromise.
When only the best will do
The precision machined Aluminum fascia allows a precise flush-fitting of the tweeter to guarantee a reflection free response.
Utopia Beryllium tweeter
Real size view
Stainless steel machine screws are used throughout the Utopia Be Line.
Utopia Beryllium tweeter measurments
> Comparison of Beryllium with Titanium and Aluminum. Beryllium is the lightest, stiffest and has the highest velocity of sound.
> Frequency response extends over five octaves from 1kHz to more than 40kHz. A factor determining how a single tweeter succeeds in offering a broad band while avoiding the phase problems caused by an additional super-tweeter.
> The impulse response clearly shows the exceptional characteristics of the Utopia Beryllium Tweeter - a clean and fast initial transient response is perfectly damped for a detailled sound free of coloration.
Pole piece Neodymium Focus Ring
Samarium Cobalt principal magnet
> A central Samarium Cobalt magnet is surrounded by Neodymium Focus Rings.
Addressing the limitations of the magnet
The exceptional performance of the Beryllium Tweeter demanded new technical solutions to be found in other areas. In addition, the more extreme requirements created by modern recording technology also have to be taken into account. The very high energy levels that can be developed impose new demands in terms of power and temperature handling and in particular impose limitations on the use of Neodymium magnets. Although Neodymium does not have a very low Curie value, the material can not be used in situations where very high, localised temperatures are generated without the risk of irreversibly demagnetizing the magnetic circuit. Focal-JMlabs new Focus Ring technology innovates by adopting a rare earth magnet of Samarium Cobalt which has a much higher Curie value. To further increase the output of the Samarium Cobalt, a peripheral ring of Neodymium is used to concentrate the magnetic field within the gap. By combining the characteristics of the two materials a considerable magnetic field of 2 teslas is generated, while also guaranteeing an increase in reliability and a consistent performance even under the most extreme conditions.
Magnetic material Neodymium Nd Fe B
Curie Temp. 319 C 450 C 810 C
> The very high Curie point of Samarium Cobalt compared to Neodymium makes it possible to preserve a comfortable safety margin against any risk of demagnetization.
Samarium Cobalt Sm Co
> The Power Flower structure matches shaped plates to a Multiferrite magnetic circuit and guarantees the maximum performance of the driver thanks to a significant reduction in magnetic losses.
The search for ultimate performance leads to novel solutions
While the acoustic engineering of loudspeakers is often compared to alchemy - producing magic from an extraordinarily subtle application of infinite parameters and know-how the Utopia Be Line sets new standards of performance thanks to its major technological innovations. The new 61/2 (165mm) mid-range driver is one such example of Focal-JMlabs search for perfection, because by specifying a cone capable of accurately reproducing a frequency range from 250 to 2500Hz, the company is seeking to create an exceptional driver. The composite structure of the W membrane is Focal-JMlabs solution in offering a combination of lightness, high rigidity and damping without equal. It is a driver so close to the ideal that the phase plug that is usually required to control dispersion problems can be removed and replaced by a large aluminum focus plug. However, it is also a driver that requires extremely high manufacturing tolerances and mechanical optimization with regards to the associated motor assembly, including the Multiferrite array - a solution pioneered by Focal-JMlab 20 years ago. In the Utopia Be line, the Multiferrite assembly has been further refined into a new configuration called Power Flower which is designed to guarantee that the new W cone reaches its full potential. The Power Flower technology makes it possible to reproduce the full performance of one very large and powerful magnet, but without the considerable magnetic losses that can be created when attempting to produce and bond a large diameter ferrite and thick plates. The flower shape of the plates marries perfectly to the reduced area of the six magnets to eliminate projecting edges and surface irregularities. These irregularities could produce unacceptable losses, especially when the aim is to produce a driver with exceptional qualities.
composite membrane technology
TheWcone was already a leading innovation: yet we have improved it further
Having introduced the concept of composite membrane drivers, Focal-JMlab are launching a new refined version of the technology in the Grande Utopia Beryllium, despite the fact that the original formulation launched in 1995 still outclasses all alternative solutions. The discussion of the relative merits of different cone materials could go on into eternity. However, there are three key fundamental characteristics that have a direct effect on outright sound fidelity and realism: the rigidity of the cone, its weight and damping. Higher rigidity guarantees reduced rates of distortion because the behavior of the cone remains that of a perfect piston. The lighter the cones weight the more ideal its dynamic performance and cones with high internal damping give a more natural and uncolored sound. Almost uniquely, the design of cone W is capable of reconciling these three normally contradictory demands. The concept is based on a structural foam normally used in the aerospace industry and which has exceptional characteristics (weight/rigidity ratio, constant tolerances and high internal damping). The foam is then bonded to tissues glass layers whose fibrous nature also ensures an uncolored sound reproduction. The composite nature of the structure allows Focal-JMlab to optimize the characteristics of each driver for the frequency band in which it will operate. By adjusting the thickness of the foam, or the number of glass layers, the weight, rigidity and damping can all be altered independently or in combination. Focal-JMlab believe that this accurate mechanical control of the behavior of the membrane is essential to its superb performance and allows the optimization of the driver at the source as a opposed to the alternative of adding electrical filtering. This flexibility sets the material apart and also in the case of the cone W woofer used in the Utopia Be Line reaches a record index of rigidity, at least 20 times more rigid than other materials. But Focal-JMlab realises that numbers are only part of the story and the science of dynamics needs to partner total transparency and neutrality to ensure that the expression and emotion of the music are also conveyed. The optimization of the cone W concept ensures that the Focal-JMlab drivers can be matched to ensure a remarkable performance consistency across the full frequency range. The structure of cone W answers all of the demands placed on a speaker cone to ensure absolute realistic sound reproduction.
> For an equal mass and diameter, the indices of rigidity for the W cone woofer outclass all other commonly used materials.
> The hand-made manufacturing of the W cone.
> W cone uses a high tech structural foam covered by glass tissues. By varying the layers of glass tissue and the thickness of foam it is possible to modulate the characteristics of the membrane avoiding the need to use corrective filtering elements.
W sandwich cone of foam and woven glass tissue for rigidity and low mass.
Voice coil edge wound with flat copper ribbon on a Kapton former.
The sandwich W cone of the woofer is highly optimized over its range, in particular in terms of rigidity. This high rigidity allows the membrane to behave as a true piston reducing distortion to an absolute minimum. This membrane is powered by a Multiferrite magnet system which has a highly stable magnetic field and also decompresses the air under the dust-cap. The result; exceptional dynamics free from compression even at high levels, ultra low distortion and deep firm bass.
Individually machined parts for the highest precision. Low carbon steel for maximum magnetic charge.
Butyl rubber surround for a long life and consistent performance.
A massive die-cast aluminum chassis - mechanical vibration is kept to a minimum.
Twelve magnets for maximum magnetic force and ideal ventilation.
U S F O C
T I M E
> The Focus Time design is curved to follow the principle that all drivers should be an equal distance from the listener.
Fonction dictates form
The striking form of the Utopia Be Line has not just been dictated by athestic considerations. It is the result of many years of research into what represents the ideal form for a loudspeaker. Theoretically, the perfect loudspeaker would be able to reproduce the full range of audio frequencies from a single point. However, Focal-JMlabs performance parameters for the Utopia Be Line are to reproduce an extended bandwidth, which represents an impossible target for a single driver. The only possible solution is to divide the frequency range between an array of drivers each dedicated to a specified frequency band and carefully arranged to simulate a single emissive point. It is commonly accepted that it is essential that all the frequencies emitted by each loudspeaker arrive simultaneously at the listeners ear. If the high, medium or low register arrives in advance of one or the other, the coherence of the overall sound will be inevitably corrupted. The concept takes on more significance when considering the operation of the OPC filter, which has been optimized assuming that this alignment ideal will be achieved. Focus Time is Focal-JMlabs solution and aligns all of the drivers on a virtual circle, the centre of which corresponds to the distance and height of the listeners ear and ensures that all frequencies - low, medium and high - arrive simultaneously. Critically the tweeter is placed in the center of the array to guarantee that it is directly on axis with the listeners ear. Focus Time thus brings a real solution despite the many constraints imposed when attempting to reach a theoretical ideal. The sounds image is always reproduced with exemplary stability whatever the amplitude of the signal.
> On a traditional enclosure, the loudspeakers are placed in the same plane. The distances between the listener and the emission points for the high, mid and low register are not equal leading to time distortion and poor sound coherence.
> When the drivers are aligned in a curve, they are at an equal distance from the listeners ear, recreating the fundamental advantage of the ideal single point source.
gamma struc ture
Music starts with silence
The mass of an enclosure is very important. It is well known that loudspeakers convert electrical energy into a mechanical force that energises the driver membranes allowing them move air molecules. And to create reference class performance, the energy generated needs to be transmitted directly into driver cones and not lost to movement within the structure. Physics tells us that there is only one way to prevent such losses and it requires the mass of the enclosure to be increased and as close to infinity as possible. The structure of the Utopia Be speakers offers many radical solutions and in particular the use of massive - 2 (50mm) thick - MDF panels. Already rigid and inert, the enclosure also benefits from many internal reinforcements that have been designed to ensure maximum strength but without restricting the movement of air within its interior. In fact, after detailed research the enclosure reinforcements have been designed so that they act as wave guides to prevent the risk of distortion caused by standing wave reflections reaching the rear of the cones. The result is a speaker with an authoritative performance, superb dynamics and a more precise sound representation, free from the parasitic vibrations likely to mask the detail within the reproduced material.
> Panel sizing
> Computer controlled machining
> Real wood veneering
> The hardwood edging is ultra sonically bonded
> Manuel sanding
> Gloss laquering
> Final polishing
The Grande Utopia Be consists of five cabinets each with a 2 (50mm) thick front baffle. Each driver is completely isolated, both physically and mechanically, from the others.
The Utopia Be Line is assembled in a separate dedicated manufacturing unit and under highly controlled conditions. The luxurious finish is the result of exceptional skill from a dedicated team of experienced technicians responsible for the cabinet assembly. All work is conducted under precise lighting conditions (700 lux per square meter) to ensure total quality control and zero defects.
> Grande Utopia Be aluminum crossover panel allows bi-amplification.
The purpose of a filter? To filter, nothing more
The crossover is a key element in the design of a loudspeaker. Its role and its design are very complicated; the quality of a loudspeaker depends on it. Taking the full range signal from the amplifier, the crossover has the task of distributing the correct level, frequency range and frequency contour to each of the drive units in a multiple way loudspeaker. The human ear is most sensitive at upper midrange frequencies, precisely the point where, for other reasons explained below, we need to integrate the midrange and tweeter of a loudspeaker. The size of a midrange driver dictates the frequency after which the dispersion of sound becomes narrow and inaccurate in energy distribution, often referred to as beaming. Without a wide distribution of energy it is impossible to faithfully reproduce the distinct characteristic of an instrument, so it is very important that the tweeter takes over before the dispersion of the midrange driver starts to narrow. Here our inverted dome tweeter offers a unique advantage in that its design allows it to work down to frequencies sufficiently low enough to avoid the effects of midrange beaming. To be able to radiate sound coherently over a wide dispersion angle, the phase relation between each of the drive units in a system must also be carefully aligned. With the phase between each of the drive units perfectly matched, a loudspeaker system is capable of producing a stable wave front of energy and can become truly capable of reproducing a realistic image of a musical instrument. These aforementioned criteria form the basis of OPC technology. However, it would be naive to think that this ideal could be reached simply through an extensive development of crossover technology. It is necessary to have total control over the response and performance of the transducers themselves, as is only possible for a few manufacturers who develop their own drive units. Focal-JMlab develops a specific drive unit for each individual product, taking into consideration the form and size of the cabinet as well as all other acoustical parameters. This translates into a sound that is extremely coherent and with a natural timbre. Imaging is extremely precise and at the same time dispersion wide so that the result can be enjoyed over a wide listening area.
> WBT specially developed binding posts for Focal-JMlab.
Coherence is a question of phase
optimum phase crossover
> A single pair of WBT terminals are provided.
2 500Hz > A bass-mid drive unit will radiate sound in an increasingly directional manner as frequency increases. It becomes more directive.Therefore the crossover should introduce the tweeter before this phenomena starts to take effect.
> Grande Utopia Be frequency response
> Grande Utopia Be impedance
> Grande Utopia Be impulse response
gr ande utopia be
To create the absolute reference loudspeaker; forever a benchmark for others to try and reach
The Grande Utopia represents much more than a speaker. It is a true technical concept and the end result of a single idea: to create the ultimate reference product without limitation, constraint or compromise. The first Grande Utopia of 1995 was originally developed as an experimental vehicle that would be used both to guide all of the companys research and development and to also act as an absolute bench mark for all of Focal-JMLabs future products. In fact a number of technical innovations that are the foundation of todays Focal-JMLab designs were developed for the original Grande Utopia project including: W membrane cones, Focus Time and Gamma construction. The successful realisation of this idea resulted in the Grande Utopia being quickly elevated to the position of World reference loudspeaker, creating a new standard that other manufacturers would have to attempt to match. Launched in 2003, the Grande Utopia Be is effectively a completely new loudspeaker which does not share any common parts with the original version. In fact, each and every element has been carefully reconsidered and optimised. But more was needed: it was necessary for the company to set the development team new goals and challenges. Mastering the exclusive production and implementation of pure Beryllium cones and the creation of Focus Ring and Power Flower magnetic motors are some of the key innovations that resulted and have moved Focal-JMLab one step nearer to perfection. As a true technological work of art, the Grande Utopia Be has once again set the International reference standard: proven by the speaker winning all of the most prestigious global awards.
> The spikes are presented in a miniature wooden box that mimics that of the loudspeakers.
> Four cones with adjustable points provided.
Woofer > 11 (27cm) W-type cone > 21/2 (65mm) coil > 12 x 23/8 (60mm) magnets
Midranges > Two 61/2 (16,5cm) W-type cone > 11/2 (40mm) voice coil > Focus plug > Power Flower magnet system
Port > Rear firing twin circular for woofer
Tweeter > Pure Beryllium inverted dome > 3/4 (20mm) voice coil > Focus Ring magnet system Crossover technology > OPC > WBT binding post terminals > High purity silver plated copper internal wiring > Biamplification possible
> Avant Garde
> Signature Subwoofer > 15 (38cm) W-type cone > 3 (75mm) coil > 12 x 27/8 (72mm) Multiferrite magnet system
Description Low frequency point (-6dB) Frequency response (+/ -3dB) Efficiency (2.8V/1m) Nominal impedance Minimum impedance Crossover frequencies Maximum power handling with music program Recommended amplifier Dimensions (HxWxD) Weight Front covers Accessories
4-way bass reflex floor standing speaker 16Hz 20Hz - 40kHz on reference axis 92dB 50Hz / 250Hz / 2500Hz at 24dB/octave 500W From 50W 681/2x195/8x303/4 (1740x500x780mm) (without cones) 462,5lbs (210kg) Two grilles for subwoofer and woofer Adjustable spikes
Port > Front firing laminar for subwoofer Cabinet > Focus Time construction > Gamma structure
The form factor of the Grande Utopia Be, but concentrates its components into a much smaller enclosure. However, the speaker still enjoys the extraordinary finesse of the pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter and has the two midrange Power Flower drivers arranged in a similar configuration to the larger model.
Concentrated form for the outright reference
The elaborately constructed cabinet again adopts independent enclosures, for each of the drivers, to avoid any form of unwanted interaction. The Nova Utopia represents a reference quality solution for a wide range of rooms.
The Nova Utopia Be follows much of
The junior reference
Closely derived from the Nova, the Alto Utopia Be once again features all of the common technological elements of the Utopia Be range. However, the Alto establishes a more simple technical solution with a single Power Flower mid-range driver and a 11 (27cm) woofer, acting together with exceptional integration. Simple to set-up and an easy load to drive, the Alto Utopia Be is above all a reference quality speaker that is still easy to live with day to day. A fascinating speaker, of pure heritage and design and with an ability to reach the most exceptional musical performance.
nova a lto
Midrange > 61/2 (16,5cm) W-type cone > 11/2 (40mm) voice coil > Focus plug > Power Flower magnet system > Natural Burr Ash > Slate grey metallic lacque Tweeter > Pure Beryllium inverted dome > 3/4 (20mm) voice coil > Focus Ring magnet system
Tweeter > Pure Beryllium inverted dome > 3/4 (20mm) voice coil > Focus Ring magnet system Woofer > 13 (33cm) W-type cone > 3 (75mm) voice coil > 12 x 27/8 (72mm) Multiferrite magnet system Port > Front firing laminar
Crossover technology > OPC > WBT binding post terminals > High purity silver plated copper internal wiring
Woofer > 11(27cm) W-type cone > 11/2 (40mm) voice coil > 55/8 (135mm) magnets
Cabinet > Focus Time construction > Gamma structure
> Gold Burr Ash
> Slate grey metallic lacque
Port > Front firing laminar
3-way bass reflex floor standing speaker 20Hz 25Hz - 40kHz on reference axis 91,5dB 8 3,6 250Hz / 2 500Hz at 24dB/octave 350W From 50W 521/2x171/4x241/2 (1 337x440x621mm) without cones 274,2lbs (124kg) Grille for woofer Adjustable spikes
> Burgundy Burr Ash > Slate grey metallic lacque
3-way bass reflex floor standing speaker 25Hz 30Hz - 40kHz on reference axis 91dB 8 3,2 250Hz / 2 500Hz at 24dB/octave 250W From 30W 471/4x143/4x203/4 (1 208x370x530mm) without cones 166,2lbs (75,5kg) Grille for woofer Adjustable spikes
> Detailed representation of the two 21cm loudspeakers, benefiting from the W cone and push-push technologies.
Midrange > 61/2 (16,5cm) W-type cone > 11/2 (40mm) voice coil > Focus plug > Power Flower magnet system Cabinet > Focus Time construction > Gamma structure Tweeter > Pure Beryllium inverted dome > 3/4 (20mm) voice coil > Focus Ring magnet system Crossover technology > OPC > WBT binding post terminals > High purity silver plated copper internal wiring
and design at the highest level
As the first lifestyle speaker in the Utopia Be range, the Diva is the result of a clear brief: to adapt and transfer all of the technologies of the Utopia Be line-up into in a compact floor-stander, optimised to operate in any size of room. The Diva adopts a mid-high end driver arrangement, closely derived from the two-way compact Micro Utopia Be speaker, including the famous pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter and a 61/2 (165mm) Power Flower mid-range cone, but develops extra deep bass from twin 8 (21cm) W cones - operating in push-push mode - mounted on each side at the base of the speaker. This original solution makes it possible to preserve the natural fluid sound of a narrow column, but without conceding a loss in overall performance. The magic of the beryllium tweeter and the definition and natural sound of the Power Flower mid-range are now delivered together with an exceptionally deep and detailed bass performance for such a compact enclosure. Thanks to this approach, the Diva represents the ideal choice for smaller rooms, allowing outright performance and easy integration to co-exist.
Port > Front firing
Woofers > Two 8 (21cm) W-type cone > 11/2 (40mm) voice coil > 43/4 (120mm) magnets
3-way bass reflex floor standing speaker 30Hz 35Hz - 40kHz on reference axis 90dB 180Hz / 2 500Hz at 24dB/octave 200W From 20W 431/4x95/8x21 (1 100x250x532mm) without cones 105,7lbs (48kg) Two lateral grilles for woofers Adjustable spikes
The Micro Utopia Be is the latest and ultimate incarnation of a long line of high performance co mpact two-way loudspeakers developed at Focal-JMLab. By assembling, in a compact enclosure, the same collection of hi-end technologies - Beryllium tweeter, Focus ring, W cone, Power Flower, OPC, Gamma and Focus Time construction found in the Grande Utopia Be, the Micro Utopia Be can still rightly claim its place as a true member of the Utopia Be family; right down to the same high quality WBT connectors. Designed to be mounted on the dedicated, sand filled and cosmetically matched SMU stand, the Micro Utopia Be has the most appealing and accurate sound thanks to the superb integration of mid-range and tweeter while the warm but detailed bass ensures a performance which is exceptional for such small enclosure.
m icro utopia
The simplest expression of what is Utopia Be
Tweeter > Pure Beryllium inverted dome > 3/4 (20mm) voice coil > Focus Ring magnet system Port > Front laminar Cabinet > Focus Time construction > Gamma structure Mid-bass > 61/2 (16,5cm) W-type cone > 11/2 (40mm) voice coil > Focus plug > Power Flower magnet system
2-way bass reflex stand mounting speaker 40Hz 50Hz - 40kHz on reference axis 89dB 2 500Hz at 24dB/octave 100W From 20W 165/8x97/8x15 (425x250x380mm) 38,5lbs (17.5kg) Optional SMU stand (241/2 height)
Rightly considered an essential part of any multi-channel system, the center speaker needs to be exceptional if it is to match the quality of the other speakers in the Utopia Be range. A true three-way model, the Center Utopia Be incorporates a 10 (25cm) bass driver on the top of the enclosure, with two Power Flower mid-range cone W drivers, one mounted on each side of the pure beryllium inverted dome tweeter. The L&R Utopia Be version is specially adapted technically and aesthetically to allow the speaker to be used vertically mounted. It provides an ideal solution
for very high quality Home Cinema or multichannel music systems that require all of the speakers to be of an identical size and type. The Center and L&R Utopia Be has also been designed to be mounted on the dedicated, sand filled SCU stand which positions the speaker at the optimal height.
Crossover technology > OPC > WBT binding post terminals > High purity silver plated copper internal wiring Woofer > 10 (25cm) W-type cone > 2 (50mm) voice coil > 61/4 (160mm) magnets
Tweeter > Pure Beryllium inverted dome > 3/4 (20mm) voice coil > Focus Ring magnet system
Two speakers for multichannel in all dimensions
Port > Rear firing twin circular Cabinet > Focus Time construction > Gamma structure
3-way bass reflex stand-mounted speaker 35Hz 45Hz - 40kHz on reference axis 90dB 8 3,4 250Hz / 2 500Hz at 24 dB/octave 250W From 40W 113/4x275/8x171/2 (300x700x443mm) without cones 85,9lbs (39kg) Top grille for woofer Optional SCU stand (20 height)
L &R L &R L &R L &R Center
> The Sub Utopia Be features an exclusive back TFP port, which ideally controls the air flow within the port.
sub uto pia
Do in the bottom what we have achieved in the top end with Beryllium
Amplifier > 1000W BASH Amplifier > Balanced XLR and Unbalanced RCA connectors > Stereo and Multi channel modes Port > Turbulence Free Port (TFP)
Subwoofer > 16 (40cm) W-type cone > 3 (75mm) voice coil > 18 x 3 (75mm) Multiferrite magnet system
Cabinet > Gamma structure
Description Low frequency point (-6dB) Frequency response (+/ -3dB) Amplifier Line inputs
Active bass-reflex subwoofer 16Hz 20Hz 160Hz BASH 1000W LFE Direct on RCA LFE Direct on XLR (balanced) Stereo on RCA Stereo on XLR (balanced)
Line outputs Active crossover Phase Mode selector Dimensions (HxWxD) Weight Front covers Accessories
LFE Direct on XLR (balanced) Stereo on XLR (balanced) Adjustable from 40 to 160Hz (18dB/octave) Adjustable from 0 to 180 Auto/off/on 193/4x205/8x245/8 (500x530x633mm) 114,6lbs (52kg) Grille for woofer Adjustable spikes
The Sub Utopia Be completes the last link in creating a multichannel or stereo system of the very highest level. The 16 (40cm) W membrane is powered by a gigantic Multiferrite motor adding up to more than 8kg of magnet and delivering considerable energy into a high tech four-layer voice coil. The motor is driven by a high-output 1000 watts BASH technology amplifier. This combination delivers an exceptional output level of 125dB and reaches a real 16Hz in normal domestic rooms. With such very high performance levels, the Sub Utopia Be can faithfully recreate the most demanding movie sound effects with a realistic, punchy delivery guaranteed whatever the dimensions of the listening room. But the design of the Sub Utopia Be is not just about the recreation of impressive numbers. Much attention was paid to dynamic qualities of the low bass reproduction. A new Turbulence Free port (TFP) was also developed to remove the chuffing effect and dynamic compression. The cabinet is in MDF to a thickness of 21/2(65mm). It results in a weight of some 114,6lbs (52kg), and presents the only solution to guaranteeing a vibration free, mechanically-stable and totally inert structure.
XM-444 Acoustic 700 Ever 2220 SP6000 WL-014 B 422X Kenwood A941 HMD-A230 SP100 PPM42S3Q MX-650 Pointer Set-TOP Camaro 1995 MC 405 15215 50-2002 UX-F50CL Europe Streak SC-834 Premier 2 Navigator 2004 TX-32PS12D 6885XL 26LC42 200NI TDS372TW HM1304B TS0GSJ25P BM135H107 AF080C 5100-501 NMW25IX SA1922 02 EX-S3 PRO 8 L700B Siemens SX56 DZ-MV750MA Lenovo T42 BTH01 Classico AE2340 LE32A336j1N MF-FM37s4K ELP-505 LE46A557 SMX-K45 PDP-LX5080D SA-EX320 WF-650 JSI5464E 100 Plus LV2794 Samsung U800 LC 850 PR-100 WG111T Intuos 4 CDX-L250 RT-212 HD4740 EOS 400D KX-TG8322E KDL-40EX403 TX-32PS11FM QW-2737 IC-H16T VM9410 Tamd41 RP 2000 MP1400 AWW14581W DC-X55Z Liveradio 855TVA Kx-tga101 LX-400 QC621K-B CF-21D70 DV-3760S 410R-serials-611000001-thru-803093823 Cyber 9 CDX-444RF HBH-30 RX-7000RBK Supernova 250XL PRO 4400 SCH-U410 3-IN-A WHP 465 XB12SS FS-Y1 Triumph 5000 KDL-46EX505 SSL 10 CS2MX EMP-7800
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