Focal Chorus Home Theater Speaker System

Ah, la belle France! Les vins! Les fromages! La cuisine! Les ... high-end loudspeakers?

Well, yeah, actually. In addition to wine, cheese, and food, France grows some rather delectable sounds, in no small part thanks to Focal (and sister-firm JM Labs), a fast-growing concern headquartered in Saint-Étienne, not too far from Lyon. Focal's founder cut his teeth at Audax, a longtime French driver-maker, and indeed, Focal too produces drivers as well as finished loudspeakers. So it's no surprise that the firm injects much of its own transducer technologies throughout its designs.

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This Focal Chorus home theater speaker system highlights a new line from quite a broad Focal family, which includes the Utopia lineup of Mercedes-priced models (and not small Mercedeses, either). The more modestly priced Choruses were conceived with home theater in mind as much as music playback and incorporate key Focal technologies such as a magnesium-aluminum tweeter diaphragm shaped as an inverted dome, a geometry Focal lists as "exclusive to Focal" (though Win Burhoe deployed many thousands of non-metallic inverted-dome tweeters in EPI speakers in the mid-1970s). The unusually handsome Chorus cabinets eschew parallel internal surfaces and use thicker wood-composite than is usual. Our samples up front were clothed in a gorgeous tiger-grained "ebony" vinyl of a very high standard; I like real wood, too, but given my housekeeping skills, I'm probably better off this way.

SETUP Focal's Chorus 826V towers and SW800V sub include very nice cast-metal bases with adjustable spikes (caps included for the hardwood-floor set). All five speakers have good-grade multi-way metal input terminals, so hookup was easy. The SW800V includes the usual sub level and crossover controls and a full set of both line- and speaker-level inputs and outputs, but since I used my pre/pro's crossover as usual, I simply connected the SW800V's "LFE" input, bypassing its internal crossover. Focal's manuals urge break-in of their speakers, so I played the full suite over 3 nights and a morning, using a CD of mixed music and pink noise on repeat, at about 10 dB below reference level. To activate all five units, I used my preamp's all-channels stereo mode. (My dog is now used to the speaker-break-in routine, but he still doesn't like it much.)