Greg Handy developed a passion for audio in his early teens when he worked as an installer of car audio systems. This experience taught him about passive and active crossovers, subwoofers, and challenged acoustics, as well as how to troubleshoot persistent bugbears like ground loops and noise.
From there, his interests grew to home audio and home theater systems. Once he bought his own home, he began installing sound systems and theater systems in different rooms, spending much time and money along the way. It wasn't long before he began doing the same for friends and family, then sharing his passion for AV with the HomeTheaterReview.com audience.
Before we get too deep into this review, some history is in order. Around this time last year, I installed and reviewed a complete 7.2.4-channel Focal custom-integrated surround system. While the review focused on the upper-end 300IWLCR, a variety of Focal 100 series products were used for the surround, surround back, and height channels. In particular, the 100IW6 ($349.00) served as my surround back channels.
Fast-forward to today, and I recently augmented my system with an Apple TV 4K, mostly due to its support for Atmos via Netflix, which other top-tier streamers lack for the time being. Upon installation of the new streamer, I watched the Netflix original 6 Underground and noticed a significant increase in surround activity overall. While some of this improved performance was due to the surround back channels now being engaged, I suspect some of this effect was probably due to a slightly hyperactive soundtrack. Nonetheless, the Focal 100IW6 in-wall speaker came alive, prompting me to take a deeper dive into this little speaker to see what makes it tick.
The 100IW6 includes a one-inch inverted dome aluminum tweeter that extends to 23 kHz and a 6.5-inch poly-glass midrange driver that plays down to 60 Hz. The speaker is rated at 89dB sensitivity and the manufacturer states it can be driven by as little as 25 watts per channel.
Designed in France, it is not surprising that the 100IW6 has smart aesthetic, with excellent fit and finish and a quality feel to the entire structure. Additionally, the low-profile frameless and paintable grill is attached magnetically, contributing to the swanky look overall. Add to that their relatively compact size of just twelve-by-eight inches and their performance overall is simply astonishing. But are they good enough to be used as left and right main channels for music?
To answer that question, I reconfigured the wiring of my system and located a chair facing the surround back channels for some two-channel listening. In this setup, an Anthem AVM60 processor connects to a Krell Theater 7 amplifier, which powers the two 100IW6 speakers. Two SVS SB3000 subwoofers provided low-frequency support.
The first thing I noticed about using the 100IW6 speakers in a stereo configuration is that even with them spaced ten feet apart (remember, they're positioned for rear surround), imaging was respectable from the time I pushed play on my first selection. To push performance even higher, I took advantage of the speaker's pivoting tweeters by experimenting with various amounts of "toe-in." In the end, imaging dramatically improved by canting the tweeters inward nearly to their maximum rotation (20 degrees) toward the center of the room.
For example, on Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," before tweeter adjustment the image was acceptable but lacked some depth and cohesiveness. After tweeter tweaking, vocals became more focused, with added localization of the bass guitar on the left, electric guitar on the right, and percussion and background vocals behind the Freddie Mercury's lead vocals, which created depth. Upper frequencies were crisp, with midrange instrumentation and vocals showing some heft in the mid-bass.
Admittedly, I'm starting to regret the fact that I never tinkered with tweeter pivoting when the speakers were simply employed as part of my Atmos setup. I figured a forward position was appropriate. But repositioning them is so easy, I can see now that some fine-tuning, even as surround back channels, may improve performance depending on the room and location of the speakers.
At one point during my stereo listening, I disengaged the subwoofers to see how the 100IW6 would handle the deeper end of the sound spectrum on their own. Surprisingly, they hold their own, far more than what their specs might suggest. Needless to say, though, the overall tonal balance improved greatly by setting the crossover point to 80 Hz and adding some sub support.
Comparison and Competition
Klipsch's R-2650-W II ($219) is of similar size and specifications, with a one-inch silk dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch mid-bass driver. Magnetic grills are also part of the package, although the overall focus of the Klipsch seems to be more on outdoor installations, especially given its weatherized components. At about the same price and with roughly comparable specifications (aside from sensitivity), the Klipsch may be viable alternative if you're shopping around in this price range.
Revel's W263 ($175 per pair) is another in-wall speaker with a similar driver makeup and specification. The Revel's sensitivity rating is a little lower than the Focal's at 88dB, but the manufacturer suggests as low as 10 watts of amplifier power is needed to effectively drive the speaker. Other features include a magnetic grill with no bezel, creating a low profile similar to the Focal.
Definitive Technology's DT6.5LCR is also very similar in driver complement and materials, proving that this product category is highly competitive. There is no shortage of small in-wall speakers to choose from, but especially if you're building an in-room speaker system with in-wall support for surrounds or heights, the Definitive Technology may be the right pick for you.
The Focal100IW6 is an attractive and affordable in-wall speaker option. First and foremost, it sounds great, and its performance is all the more astonishing given its compact size. The aimable tweeter and toggle-based driver attenuation or boost simply add to the installation flexibility of what would be a fantastic speaker even without those features. As I mentioned, there is a lot of competition in this category. But if you're on a budget and want a custom in-wall installation, the Focal 100IW6 should be on your list for consideration. You will not be disappointed.
• Visit the Focal website for more product information.
• Check out our In-wall and Architectural Speaker category page to read similar reviews.
• Focal 300IWLCR6 Three-Way In-Wall Loudspeakers Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.