French manufacturer Focal is known mostly for its venerable floorstanding and bookshelf speakers, but recent efforts outside of this realm have proven praiseworthy, as well. Now Focal has decided to dance in the increasingly popular and crowded soundbar realm with the Dimension, which costs $1,599 with subwoofer or $1,399 without. Expensive for a soundbar, you say. In terms of price-to-performance ratio, it's actually not, as I'll try to demonstrate in this review.
The Dimension is a 450-watt, 5.1-channel solution, including dedicated center, left, right, and surround channels, with the ".1" referencing the optional subwoofer. The drivers are four-inch and full-range; each is powered by a dedicated 75-watt amp, and the Dimension features a sixth amp for the optional passive subwoofer. In terms of connectivity, it features one HDMI 1.4 input and one HDMI 1.4 ARC-capable output. ARC is especially important in the smart TV age, as it allows audio to pass from the TV back to the soundbar. The HDMI jacks support 1080p, 3D, and multichannel audio (DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1), but 4K pass-through is not supported. Rounding out the inputs are an optical digital input and a mini-stereo jack. Bluetooth aptX is also supported via an adapter that Focal includes with the Dimension.
Aesthetically speaking, the Dimension is an attractive if nondescript design, featuring an ultra-rigid black aluminum enclosure with side-firing bass ports. The lack of plastic is welcome in general and especially welcome at this price point. The bar measures a fairly svelte 4.5 inches high by 45.6 wide by 4.25 deep and weighs 12 pounds.
The matching Dimension subwoofer, which is designed to snuggle right up behind the soundbar in a horizontal configuration if the soundbar is table- or stand-mounted, measures basically the same in height and width, but it's 12.3 inches deep and weighs 31 pounds. Focal wisely chose a passive design, thereby eliminating the need for an additional power cord. That said, if you'd rather bring your own powered sub to the party, you're good to go, as the soundbar is designed to accommodate both options.
The quickest way to set up this bad boy is to table-mount it, which is how Focal designed it to be used--especially if you opt for the subwoofer. However, there is also the option of wall-mounting the soundbar, and the necessary hardware is included to do so; if you go that route, you'll likely be able to install it yourself.
Either way, you'll likely encounter some setup frustration, as I did. For starters, the space within the recessed cavity of the Dimension where the connections are located is incredibly cramped, especially if you're using it as a video switcher (running two HDMI cables through it). The issue is exacerbated if you're also connecting the Bluetooth dongle.
Moving to the subwoofer, if you'd like to use the speaker cable that Focal includes in the package, then you have no choice but to mount the sub behind the soundbar, as the speaker cable is too short for any other configuration. Further complicating a distant install of the sub is the fact that the binding posts on the soundbar are maddeningly tiny and will only accept the thinnest of speaker wire. In my living room, the depth of the shelf that sits below my TV is only five inches, so I really had no choice but to place the sub elsewhere. While I was able to use some existing speaker wire, I actually had to shear some of the copper from it in order to get it to fit in the Dimension's binding posts--not fun. It was that or head to RadioShack, which to me is akin to being hit in the head with a mallet. There was also the challenge of trying to hide all of the assorted cabling, as well as the Bluetooth dongle.
I tested the Dimension system a bit in this configuration in my living room, but ultimately I moved it to my listening room for critical listening. In this location, I was able to set the soundbar on a table just below my projection screen, with the subwoofer placed where Focal designed it to be: right behind the soundbar.
All of that said, the connections themselves are as they should be on a soundbar: simple and straightforward, eschewing the need for myriad components and the requisite cabling. My sources included an Oppo BDP-93 player, a cable box, and my iPhone connected via Bluetooth.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...