Focal needs no introduction to regular HomeTheaterReview.com readers. This venerable audio company arguably produces one of the broadest product lines of any manufacturer. From car, home, and professional audio to headphones, subwoofers, and custom installation products, Focal designs its products in France with all of the high-end products made in a local factories at the highest level of performance, and fit-and-finish.
As you may know, Focal started out as a manufacturer of drivers long before designing complete speaker systems, so it makes sense that the company designs and manufactures its own products, implementing proprietary technologies, methods, and innovative materials.
Under review here is the Focal Kanta No. 2 ($9,999/pair), a newer addition to the Focal family. Given its name, and Focal's traditional numbering structure, one can only assume more Kanta models are coming. Following Focal's Sopra build out, it's pretty safe to assume the Kanta will expand with a No. 1 bookshelf, a No. 3 floor-stander, and maybe even a center channel and surround speakers.
With so many models in the Focal line up, it's reasonable to ask what the purpose of the Kanta line is. The answer is simple: trickle-down technology from Focal's ultra high-end Utopia Line, as was the case with Sopra series, but at a lower price point. When comparing the Kanta No. 2 with the other lines, it appears to stand next to the existing Electra line. While the Electra line has been successful for 12 years, it does not benefit from some of the current Focal technologies.
The Kanta No. 2 is a three-way bass reflex floor-standing speaker with front and rear ports, which Focal refers to as Power Flow. It stands at approximately 44 inches tall, and 12.5 inches wide, with a depth of 18 inches, making it just a few inches smaller in every dimension, yet a full 45 pounds lighter, compared to the Sopra No. 2.
As for the technologies that Kanta inherits from higher up the line, they include Focal Time (time aligned speaker cabinet), Neutral Inductance Circuit motors (NIC), Tuned Mass Dampening (TMD) suspension, and 100 percent Beryllium tweeters. The Kanta uses a bent baffle and cabinet shape that reclines the two bass drivers and tweeter while pushing forward the midrange driver to keep all frequencies in phase. This design enables the passive crossover network to do less work by eliminating the need to filter for time delays. Neutral Inductance Circuit motors in both the midrange and bass drivers stabilize the magnetic field, which purports to improve definition and dynamic range while lowering distortion, which are all good things as relates to speaker design.
Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) suspension is used in the midrange driver, where two tubular rings on the suspension control resonance to hinder reverberation of the cone, which improves detail in both midrange and bass frequencies while lowering distortion. The driver setup of the Kanta should be of interest, since it's Focal's first application of combining Flax cone drivers with a 100 percent Beryllium inverted dome tweeter.
The use of Flax for the creation of a cone driver is a Focal innovation now in use for just a few years. It is a three-layer design using sheets of glass to sandwich the Flax fiber. The Kanta's 6.5-inch single midrange and dual 6.5-inch bass drivers benefit from the inherent strength and low weight of the Flax design. The Utopia and Sopra line use a W cone driver, which is handmade, requiring approximately 45 minutes to fabricate, whereas a Flax driver uses an automated machine process that is accurate and fast.
The Beryllium tweeter in the Kanta is referred to as the IAL3, and incorporates Infinite Acoustic Loading (IAL) and Infinite Horn Loading (IHL), two technologies that absorb distortion-causing backpressure while increasing treble definition. The speaker baffle on the Kanta No. 2 has to be one of the most prominent that I have ever seen. It exceeds the speaker cabinet in every dimension and is made from a material different than the main cabinet, referred to as High-Density Polymer (HDP). It is 70 percent denser and 15 percent more ridged than Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), while having 25 percent more damping characteristics. Focal claims that the speaker's one- piece baffle eliminates all sound diffraction. Additionally, this molded baffle is less expensive to manufacture compared to an MDF baffle, creating a benefit not only in effectiveness, but expense as well.
The Hook Up
Unpacking the Kantas was a breeze. Opening the correct side of the packaging allowed me to keep the speakers vertical during the entire process. The Kanta No. 2 comes preinstalled with an outrigger stand that Focal refers to as a Zamac base, which extends beyond the dimensions of the cabinet on all four corners. Spikes are included, along with metal cups to protect hard floor surfaces.
Focal went out of its way with the selection of color and finish combinations available on the Kanta. The main cabinet comes in either a high gloss black lacquer or matte walnut veneer, with four distinct baffle colors for each. Both cabinet finishes share the same style black glass top. With the high gloss black cabinet, the baffle colors maintain a high gloss finish in yellow, white, blue, or black. Likewise, the matte walnut veneer cabinet offers baffle colors that are of a matte finish in taupe, blue, ivory, or grey. These trendy baffle color combinations are viewable on the Focal website. My review sample came in the walnut cabinet and taupe baffle combination, and what a striking combination this turned out to be. Online photos of this combination do not reflect the stunning in-person appearance. It is a tone-on-tone design play, with the flax cone drivers appearing as earthy palm leaves, flowing organically with the walnut cabinet, while blending nicely with the taupe baffle, creating a custom trifecta appearance. If Tommy Bahama made a speaker, it would look like this. The fabric magnetic speaker grills are of a closely matching color to the taupe baffle.
Not unusual for Focal, the fit-and-finish is unrivaled. The woodwork and color finish are exacting and meticulous. However, the artistry does not stop there. The midrange and bass drivers have a brushed metal trim ring, which hides their mounting screws and sits nicely onto the baffle. Interesting to note, their top-of-the-line Utopia product has no such trim.
The tweeter intentionally uses two visible fasteners, which lends to the overall look, and are of a stainless steel appearance, which blends tastefully with a domed metal mesh cover of the same finish. The walnut veneer quality is brilliant as it wraps around the back of the cabinet without seams, revealing a single set of speaker connections.
I installed the Kanta No. 2 in my dedicated theater room, which measures 14.5 feet wide and 13 feet deep. The Ceiling has an "A" frame pitch, with a height that starts at approximately nine feet and peaks at 10 feet.
For the initial break-in and music auditioning, I connected the Kanta to a Rotel RC1590 preamplifier and an RB1590 amp. Using Wireworld Eclipse 8 balanced interconnects and speaker cable, I connected the Kantas to the Rotel stack. An Apple MacBook Pro was used to stream Tidal's HiFi service.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...