Focal Chorus Home Theater Speaker System Page 2

The Short Form
Price $4,880 (AS TESTED) / / 800-663-9352
Warm, inviting sound with both high-end sonics and legit home-theater chops.
•Gorgeous, detailed vocals •Superb center-channel match and above-average surrounds •Handsome, dramatic appearance
•Unexceptional subwoofer extension •Main towers may sound a bit full in some rooms
Key Features
826V •($2,295/pair) 1-in inverted-dome tweeter; 6.5-in cone midrange; (2) 6.5-in cone woofers; 41 in high; 57 lb CC 800V •($595) 1-in inverted-dome tweeter; (2) 6.5-in cone midbass; 19.5 in wide; 24 lb SR 800V •($995/pair) (2) 1-in inverted-dome tweeters; (2) 6.5-in cone midbass; 11.5 in high; 12.3 lb SW 800V •($995) 11-in driver; 350-watt RMS amplifier; 18 x 12.8 x 16.8 in; 41.4 lb •Finish: ebony or Moka woodgrain (CC 800V & SR 800V: matte-black)
Test Bench
The 826V towers showed a nearly 4-dB peak from 75 to 150 Hz and a 3-dB floor- bounce notch at 275 Hz. Response above this was ragged, with a 2-dB peak at 600 Hz and a 4.5-dB dip at 2.6 kHz. The CC800V center shares a similar midrange depression and considerable lobing at listening angles wider than 15 degrees. The SW800V sub showed limited bass extension, hitting 112 dB max at 62 Hz but just 89 dB at its 32-Hz lower bass limit. - Tom Nousaine Full Lab Results
I always begin by listening to the main pair in full-range stereo, with no subwoofer. Focal's 826Vs intrigued me with an obviously highly transparent yet warm sound - even a bit too warm, with a slightly over-full thing going on in the upper bass range. It took some experimenting with placement to get a handle on this. As it turned out, in my room, the 826Vs needed to be moved closer to the front wall rather than farther out as I had first tried, perhaps a consequence of their second, hidden, down-firing port. And they needed to be raked forward considerably using their bases' adjustable metal spike/feet - the midrange sweet spot is actually well above the midrange itself. Toe-in proved quite important, too.

MUSIC PERFORMANCE Thus re-situated, the Choruses settled into a still-rich but highly listenable balance with terrifically open, detailed vocals. Voices of virtually all sorts were seductively present, dead-on accurate without a hint of goosed treble or hyped upper-mids. It took top-shelf recordings to show this off to advantage; depressingly, that generally means "audiophile" rather than "commercial" productions. Cueing up a sampler of Chesky Records vocal tracks revealed layers of nuance on every different voice - layers you just never get from mainstream pop discs, or very rarely at best. Certain "chesty" baritone male voices - Livingston Taylor's, for one - still retained a hint of extra warmth or fullness, but this was never unpleasing, while the Focals' dynamic detail and midrange-treble clarity were consistently impressive.

Surround music helped the Focal system shine its brightest in my setup. A DVD-Audio of the Dvorak "New World" Symphony No. 9 ("Wagon Wheels," as jaded orchestra players call it amongst themselves, possibly even affectionately) sounded wholly convincing. The Teldec disc's impressive dynamic range came through unimpeded on the piece's many climaxes, and the Focals' recreation of the recording space - Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, where I've attended several times - was impressive. Balance, depth, detail, transient dynamics, it was all there: great stuff!

MOVIE PERFORMANCE Sometimes even high-end speakers imprint a bit of their own character onto film soundtracks - not a good thing. Movie sound depends on the speakers truly disappearing even more than music does, and the Focal suite did this nicely. The 826Vs' very accurate middle octaves conveyed the detail and nuance of soundtracks excellently. For example, in the dining scenes from Master and Commander, the system delivered all the subtleties of ship noises, wind, water, and weather, simultaneous with clear and natural dialogue front and center and quite believable party-chatter from around the table.