If you consider yourself an audiophile, you're likely familiar with Focal. If you're an astute audiophile, then you're definitely familiar with Focal. Based in France, Focal has been making many affordable and a few not as affordable (think: Grand Utopias) reference-grade speakers for more than 30 years. If you read audio magazines, you've likely seen their speakers on "Gear of the Year" lists. While this was my first in-home experience with Focal speakers - I've previously been impressed with show and friend demos - I seriously doubt it will be my last.
Fresh on the heels of Focal's successful launch of their 826 W Anniversary edition speaker, Focal launched their new 800 W Prestige Series; the 836W is the flagship in the series and retails for $4,999 per pair.
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• Look for an amp to drive the Chorus 836W in our Amplifier Review section.
• Find a sub to pair with the Chorus 836W in our Subwoofer Review section.
The 836W Prestige is a three-way bass reflex design, featuring two front-firing ports and one down-firing port. The drivers consist of three six-and-a-half-inch Sandwich W woofers, one six-and-a-half-inch Sandwich W midrange driver and a one-inch aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter. While most Focal speakers use beryllium tweeters, the 836W features an aluminum/magnesium combination that is said to enhance rigidity, while also providing greater damping. The woofers and midrange drivers feature W cones, which incorporate spun glass on either side of their foam cores. According to Focal, this extra effort is made to enhance rigidity, reduce overall mass, and improve dampening characteristics. Frequency response is 40Hz - 28kHz (+/- 3dB) and sensitivity is rated at 92dB, which means you don't need 500-watt monoblock amps to drive them. In fact, my Integra DTA-70.1, which is rated at 150 watts per channel, had no problem driving them. The 836Ws are fairly imposing at just over 45 inches tall by 11.1 inches wide by 14.8 inches deep. They also weigh a stout 66 pounds each and definitely make a statement in a listening room, especially my review samples, which came with Imperial Red (as Focal calls it) on either side. They're also available in black, but why not punch things up a bit?
The aluminum base is sturdy, aesthetically pleasing and also designed to provide plenty of space between it and the speaker's down-firing port.
I'll start this portion by saying that, given their price point, the packaging of the Focals left a bit to be desired, but they are good enough to get the speakers from point A to point B. Once you get these suckers out of the box, let me tell you that they are are aesthetically stunning. From the dramatic shape of the grille, which wisely leaves the tweeter exposed, to the gorgeous red panels on the side, they're a sight to behold and quite compelling conversation pieces.
After securing each of the speakers' aluminum bases, I connected them to my current reference system, which consists of the spectacular Cary Cinema 12 processor, which I recently reviewed, an Integra DTA-70.1 multi-channel amp, an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, a Cambridge Audio DacMagic, a MacBook Pro and a Music Fidelity V-Link USB to S/PDIF converter. For playback software, I used Stephen Booth's Decibel, a solid audio upgrade over iTunes that will only set you back $33. All of the cabling came courtesy of WireWorld.
After roughly 24 hours of break-in and some experimentation with placement (a couple of feet to either side of my projection screen with slight toe-in), it was time for some critical listening.
Read about the performance of the Focal Chorus 836W loudspeakers on Page 2.