Focal Maestro Utopia Speaker

Just because a product isn't the company's most expensive doesn't mean it can't perform exceedingly well. Take, for example, the Maestro Utopia, which occupies the middle of Focal's Utopia III lineup.

Focal calls the Maestro a "3.5-way" design, with two 11-inch woofers that function slightly differently—the lower one uses a 50mm voice coil and Focal's Magnetic Damping System (said to adapt the bass to the room) in a ported enclosure, while the upper one has a 40mm voice coil and no MDS in a semi-sealed enclosure.

Both woofers and the 6.5-inch, ported midrange driver at the top of the speaker have cones made from Focal's W material, which consists of one layer of foam sandwiched between layers of glass, yielding a cone that is ultra light and rigid with high internal damping to avoid coloration. This composite material is called W because the outer layers are glass (verre in French, and two "v"s form a "w").

The 1-inch inverted dome tweeter is made of beryllium, which is 2.5 times lighter than titanium and seven times as rigid. Behind the diaphragm is a tuned cavity, which Focal calls IAL2 (Infinite Acoustic Loading), dropping the resonance frequency to 528Hz and thus providing a huge safety margin below the tweeter's operating range of 2.2 to 40kHz.

Each driver is ensconced in its own separate enclosure, and the angle of the tweeter and midrange sections can be adjusted to aim at the listening position. The enclosures are made as rigid as possible with careful internal bracing and thick, heavy walls to avoid unwanted mechanical vibrations.

The result of all this innovative technology is an overall frequency response from 25Hz to 40kHz (±3dB; -6dB at 21Hz) and a sensitivity of 93dB/W/m. And the cost? $50,000/pair, just over a quarter as much as its flagship cousin, the Grande Utopia EM (profiled here).

As John Atkinson concluded in his review for Stereophile, "There are loudspeakers that thrust their virtues forward at you. By contrast, the Focal Maestro Utopia III invites the listener into what it has to offer. Its balance is a little warm in the upper bass in absolute terms, and a touch mellow in the top octave, but the Maestro Utopia is otherwise an intensely musical-sounding loudspeaker, with smooth, uncolored mids, tight, controlled lows, stable, well-defined soundstaging, and superb dynamic-range capability. However, it demands to be used with amplifiers unfazed by its wicked load impedance in the upper bass. The Classé monoblocks proved a superb match, and I imagine the Musical Fidelity Titan that resides in Michael Fremer's man cave would also work a treat with these speakers.

With that caveat...I give the beautifully finished and engineered Focal Maestro Utopia III my highest recommendation."