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  • 26 Australian

    ON TEST

    The Focal Chorus 706 reviewed here is the current 2013/14 model that won a Gold Medal (Diapason DOr) from French classical music magazine Diapason [www.diapason-mag.fr/]

    The equipmenTDesigned for stand-mounting or bookshelf applications, the two-way bass reflex Focal Chorus 706 was specifically designed to perform at its best in rooms with dimensions of up to 20m according to Focals data. The problem is that this description assumes a standard ceiling height, and I have no idea of what that might be in France. Here in Aus-tralia, the minimum ceiling height (therefore the one most often used at least in modern buildings) is 2.4 metres, which would give a room volume of 48m3, assuming a room size of 45 metres. While I think Focal is to be applauded for specifying room sizes, it would

    French manufacturer Focal has been in business for 35 years, though for many of those years it was known as JM-Lab, during which period it

    simply manufactured drivers, which it sold to high-end speaker manufacturers around the world. It changed its name to Focal late last century and kept this name even following a merger with UK electronics manufacturer Naim Audio in 2011. Despite this merger, the two companies operate completely autono-mously, Naim from Salisbury, in the UK, and Focal from Saint Etienne, in France.

    If the 706 model number sounds familiar, thats because it is. The same three numbers have been used for several Focal models and several models when the company was JM-Lab. I only say this because this re-use of model numbers might make it a little confusing if you search for information on this model on the Internet.

    be better if the company specified room vol-umes, as that specification could be applied anywhere in the world.

    The tweeter is not mounted convention-ally, as you can see from the photographs accompanying this review. But then neither is the tweeter conventional! It uses Focals trademark inverted dome, as well as the companys newest Poron suspension system. The Poron suspension supports a 25mm composite aluminium/magnesium dome. This tweeter is new on the 2013 version of the Chorus 706 and is known in-house at Focal as a TNV2 type. Its protected by a re-movable metal mesh grille and, even though inverted domes are far more mechanically robust than conventional dome tweeters, Id recommend leaving the grille in place at all times. If youre familiar with Focals products, you might find it strange that the tweeter has a protective grille at all, since on this

    Loudspeakers

    Focal Chorus 706

  • 27avhub.com.au

    Focal Chorus 706 Loudspeakers ON TEST

    Interestingly, although the dustcap is soft rubber, its actually extraordinarily rigid in the direction of cone movement, so it will improve output without coupling the cone. Very clever Focal! (Its so clever that when you get a demo, ask the hi-fi dealer if you can poke first the top of the dustcap, which youll find rigid, then the side of the dustcap, which youll find will deform easily, even though its the same material. I loved it.)

    The front-firing bass reflex port is flared both where it exits the baffle and inside the cabinet, where the air exhausts. This shows how committed Focal is to sound quality, because many companies cut their manufac-turing costs by not flaring the internal part of the port, on the basis that no-one will ever know. (Well, they wont until that sharp edge betrays itself by causing whistles at some frequencies.) Focals port wont whistle. The port itself is 140mm long and has an internal diameter of 50mm. Because its front-mounted, you will be able to push the 706 right up close against a rear wall if you need to something you cant do if a speaker has a rear-firing reflex port.

    Inside the cabinet (though I would not recommend you open your speakers) youll find extensive cross-bracing, a copious quan-tity of 50mm black acoustic sheeting and a very nicely-made crossover network that uses Focal-branded cermet resistors (2 of), Focal branded capacitors (two bipolars and a metal-lized polypropylene) along with three induc-tors (two ferrite-cored and one air-cored), all of which were properly cross-mounted so there could be no interaction between them. The nominal crossover frequency is 3kHz (up from 2.6kHz on pre-2013 versions). Focal specifies the nominal impedance of this iteration of the Chorus 706 as being 8, but at the same time advises that the impedance does drop as low as 3.6, so you should make sure your amplifier is capable of driving 4 loads.

    Around the back of the cabinet is a single set of speaker terminals: ribbed rubber-coated silver types that are not only colour-coded but have (+) and () symbols moulded into the plastic alongside them. These are very easy to tighten and the posts are not only hollowed for banana plugs, but have holes for pins or wire (plus you could also use spades). Excellent

    Focal chorus 706Loudspeakers

    Brand: FocalModel: Chorus 706category: standmount LoudspeakersrrP: $899 (Walnut) $999 (Black Gloss)Warranty: Five YearsDistributor: audio Marketing pty Ltdaddress: unit 14L. 175 Lower Gibbes st artarmon NsW 2067

    (02) 9882 3877 info@ audiomarketing.com.au www.audiomarketing.com.au

    readers interested in a full technical appraisal of the performance of the Focal Chorus 706 standmount/Bookshelf Loudspeakers should continue on and read the LaBoraTorY reporT published on page 30. readers should note that the results mentioned in the report, tabulated in performance charts and/

    or displayed using graphs and/or photographs should be construed as applying only to the specific sample tested.

    Lab Report on page 30

    superb highs Midrange Imaging

    single terminals

    LaB reporT

    latest implementation of the 706 design, the tweeter is additionally protected by a grille, whereas on some earlier models, the grille covered only the bass driver, leaving the tweeter exposed above the grille. Presum-ably the grille has additional acoustic func-tions, such as aiding dispersion, or to modify the frequency response (or, perhaps, its just additional protection for when youre not using the grille, about which more later on in this review.) Speaking of this grille, I like it a whole lot better than the V-shaped grille that was previously used. To my eyes it looks neater and much cleaner and its also, as Fo-cal puts it, more integrated. By this I mean that Focal has cleverly extended the two sides of the speaker so they protrude out from the

    front baffle the exact same distance as the grilles depth, so that when you attach the grille, you get an almost-perfectly seamless transition from the front of the grille to the edge of the speaker cabinet. (And, by the way, the fit was perfect!)

    The bass/midrange driver is a 165mm polyglass-coned unit with an extremely soft rubber dustcap protecting the voice-coil assembly from the ingress of dust and dirt particles. However, when Focal says 165mm, because Focal actually manufactures the driver it uses in its speakers, it uses the typical manufacturing convention of specifying the distance between the mounting holes as the driver diameter. In fact the overall dimen-sion of the bass/midrange driver used in the 706 is 180mm. However, the most important dimension is the Thiele/Small diameter, because its this one that the designer uses to tune the speakers, the cabinet volume, the port size/location and so on. In the case of the Chorus 706, that diameter is 133mm, giving a cone area (Sd) of around 140cm.

    design. A plate just above the terminals not only carries an individual serial number for each speaker, but a gentle reminder that Focal speakers are Made in France which they are in their entiretyfor which I can vouch having visited the (very impressive) factory in Saint Etienne (near the city of Lyon) where Focals speakers are created by a small team of dedicated French artisans, almost by hand.

    Although my sample speakers were fin-ished in walnut ($899 RRP per pair), you can

    The Focal Chorus 706 reviewed here is the current (2013) model that won a Gold Medal (Diapason DOr) from a French classical music magazine

  • 28 Australian

    ON TEST Focal Chorus 706 Loudspeakers

    rect levels and with all harmonics perfectly rendered. The precision of the decay of notes left hanging showed that the drivers are beau-tifully engineered, because the fading was exactly as in real life. Listen carefully towards the close of Funeral Blues, for example, where Gould strikes a key, then leaves it depressed, so the sound decays. Outstanding perfor-mance from the Chorus 706s.

    Next up was yet another Move recording, A Little French Cello, with Zoe Knighton and Amir Farid (piano). I nearly always start with Nadia Boulangers Trios Pices, not simply because I like it so much and its a great test of a speakers midrange, but also for sentimental reasons. Listen to this and won-der that Nadia gave up composing when her much more talented younger sister, Lili, the first woman to win the Prix de Rome (for Faust et Hlne) died at the age of 24. Look up at the sky and think of her: she has an asteroid named after her: 1181 Lilith.

    For a complete change of pace, it was Hunters and Collectors up next: or rather, the songs of Hunters and Collectors, re-imagined by a star-studded line-up including Missy Higgins, Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, Birds of Toyko, Something for Kate and others. On This Morning (Matt Corby and Missy Higgins), listen to the complete evenness of the sound across the upper bass and into the midrange, plus the solid bass foundation. Great sound. Also listen to the percussion on When the Rivers Run Dry, particularly the way theres absolutely no overhang from that bass/midrange driver: its fast, crisp and dynamic. The ability of the 706s to create a