Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.
Focal may be best known for ultra-high-end headphones and speakers. But fortunately, we're seeing the company branch out more and more into very affordable offerings that benefit, to varying degrees, from the technology developed for the company's flagships. One such offering is the Chora line, which includes the Chora 806 two-way bookshelf speaker ($990/pair) reviewed here, as well as multiple tower speakers, center and surround speakers, and a subwoofer.
The Chora 806 features Focal's signature TNF inverted one-inch dome tweeter, which is said to reduce directivity, providing more even off-axis response. The tweeter is slightly recessed from the front baffle, creating a waveguide that further helps control dispersion. Of course, the Chora 806's tweeter is not made out of Beryllium. Not at this price point. But the Aluminum-Magnesium blend employed in the Chora tweeter is still a nice touch at for a speaker in this budget range. The suspension design is derived from the Utopia tweeter and uses Poron, a memory foam-like material that is also derived from the Utopia line. The design is said to reduce distortion in the sensitive 2kHz-to-3kHz range.
The Chora 806's 6.5-inch midbass driver is made of Focal's proprietary Slatefiber, a material unveiled by the company in 2019. In researching Slatefiber, I learned that it uses a combination of non-woven carbon fibers and thermoplastic polymer. Focal advises that Slatefiber provides a balanced combination of rigidity, damping, and lightness designed to increase acoustic performance.
The drivers are housed in a front-ported cabinet that measures 8.25 inches wide, 16.97 inches high, and 10.63 inches deep, with a weight of 16.2 pounds. The two-tone cabinets come in black, dark-wood, or light-wood matte finishes. My light-wood review samples had a cream-colored front baffle with a magnetically attached grill for the midbass driver. A permanently attached perforated metal grill protects the tweeter. The vinyl wrap on the cabinet is well done, with good fit and finish. The Chora 806's frequency response is stated as 58 Hz to 28 kHz +/- 3dB, with sensitivity of 89 dB, one watt/one meter.
When deciding which of my audio systems to evaluate the Chora 806 with, I considered that it was a compact, attractive, and worthy of a quality source and amplification. I selected the Naim Uniti Atom all-in-one music player (reviewed here). I used Austere cabling and power conditioning, which worked well even though I was not able to use my banana plugs with the Choras due to the plastic plugs in the binding posts. From my discussions with my colleague Dennis Burger, I knew these plugs would be difficult to remove, and I did not want to risk damaging a loaner set of speakers.
The Naim has multiple streaming services built in, but I used Tidal exclusively for my critical listening. With "Money for Nothing" from Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms (Tidal, Warner Brothers), the vocals were reproduced with natural, well-balanced ease at moderate volumes due to the neutral midrange. The soundstage was extended horizontally past the outer edges of the speakers, with the individual instruments readily discernable along the plane of the speakers. The strings and cymbals were a bit forward, but not harsh unless I cranked the volume. To be sure it was not the amplifier, I tried a more powerful McIntosh with the same results. The drums were punchy and clean, with no blurring or overhang, but didn't have the weight or low-end extension of a larger speaker. While you'll likely find the bass more than satisfying for a desktop application or small office sound system, if you want to get the most from the speakers, I recommend adding a sub. I employed a pair of SVS SB-2000 Pro subwoofers and was able to get them well integrated. Focal would likely suggest its $1,290 Sub 600P, which was designed to complement the Chora line. Thankfully, the low-frequency extension of the Chora 806 means it will integrate well with just about any sub.
There is a multitude of bookshelf or stand mounted speakers in the same general price range as the Focal Chora 806. I have not heard the Polk L100s ($1199/pair, reviewed here) myself but have heard from colleagues that they, like the Choras, have a clean and neutral midrange. Their frequency response is similar, but the Polks achieve this with a slightly shorter cabinet.
The Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 ($599/pair) is front ported like the Chora, and while it looks like a two-way speaker, it is actually a three-way, with a one-inch dome tweeter inside a four-inch midrange driver over a 5.25-inch midbass driver. This setup provides a bit more low-frequency extension than the Polk or Focal.
I have enjoyed my time with the Focal Chora 806 speakers. My family has enjoyed listening to music during many meals and evenings around the dining table as the speakers were setup in the adjacent room facing the dining room. This gave me the opportunity to spend a good deal of time in informal listening sessions in addition to my more formal and critical sessions. The Chora 806 did a great job with the midrange, allowing a wide range of vocals to be reproduced with well-balanced clarity. While I found the treble to be a bit forward, some of my friends said they enjoyed the "sparkle" on cymbals or the edge on some stringed instruments. The bass was detailed and musical as far as it went, but it lost weight as it reached its limits. If you want to listen to more bass-heavy music, I would suggest the addition of a subwoofer, especially if the 806s are to be employed in a larger room.
The Chora 806's price ($990 per pair) is very reasonable, especially when one considers the quality of construction (not to mention that they're made in France, which is nearly unheard of at this price).
Incidentally, as I was wrapping up this review, I heard from my contact at Focal, advising me that a special bundle was being introduced, consisting of a Naim Uniti Atom ($3290), two Focal Chora 806s ($990), and a pair of NAC A5 speaker cables ($500), as well as an extended five-year warranty, for $3,290. This represents a savings of $1,490. At this price, this system is a no-brainer if you are in the market for a new, compact stereo system.
• For more info visit the Focal website
• Check out our review of the Focal Chora 826 three-way floorstanding loudspeaker
• Be sure to read our reviews of the Naim Uniti Nova and the Naim Uniti Atom