Focal Chorus Home Theater Speaker System Page 3

Speaking of which, the CC800V center-channel's sound proved highly intelligible and defined, and it made one of the closest matches in tonal character to the main left/right speakers (as compared with paired-mono from them) that I've heard. Whether or not Focal deliberately voiced the CC800V for this, the resulting timbral consistency is impressive; I found off-axis balance consistency above average as well.

The SR800V surrounds were also closely matched in tone to the main pair and performed very well at their assigned function. These are bipoles, which helps broaden their spread of sound a bit and so slightly diminishes the ear's tendency to localize them. Whatever the tech underpinnings, the full suite worked particularly well at ambience recreation. There's a tough scene in Clear and Present Danger in which distant helicopters quietly circle the sound field. Any tonal inconsistency or heavy directionality within the system shows itself as "jumpy" panning, but the Focals were smooth as glass.

I was a bit less impressed by the SW800V subwoofer, even though it proved a fairly able medium-size woofer. My everyday sub, a sealed single 12-inch that's actually a bit smaller than the Focal (but much more expensive), sounded audibly deeper and cleaner, as well as less peaky over the 40-80 Hz range. Nevertheless, for its kilobuck price the SW800V is a competent woofer, and it includes convenient Boost, Night Mode, and Subsonic (filter) EQ modes. And though it fell short of "reference" performance at the lowest frequencies (my everyday sub was slammier on things like cannon shots in Master and Commander), it had plenty of depth and power to convey cinematic thrills. And it maintained those qualities up to quite high levels, nearly matching my sub in peak level if not in near-infrasonic depth. Nonetheless, the Chorus towers could clearly justify investing in something with more bottom-octave oomph and a bit better definition. (Focal itself makes a couple of larger - albeit substantially more expensive - subs.)

BOTTOM LINE This Focal Chorus home theater speaker system is hard to sum up. The Chorus 826V towers simultaneously sound warm and inviting, yet remarkably uncolored - a paradox, I know. The wholly excellent center speaker and fine surrounds are supported by a good, not great, sub. In short, this system (indeed, any system we recommend) should be heard. Cue up a topflight vocal recording, or a well-produced orchestral or big-band SACD/DVD-A, and you may well fall in love. Let us know where and when, and S&V will bring the wine and cheese.

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