I love audio. I've been playing live music for almost 15 years, and I love everything about the musical process. And of course, like most of us do... I always have music playing around the house and while working. So I was excited to take a look at Focal's high-end stereo powered speaker set.
Focal has been creating high fidelity loudspeakers for over 30 years, out of their single production site in Saint-Etienne, France. They're a cool company - everything they do from design to production is completed in-house. Not something a lot of companies can say these days.
In the Box
In the box with these speakers are three separate power cables (depending on your country's outlet type), an RCA cable and a 3.5 mm cable, as well as the cable to connect the right speaker to the left. The shielded cables feel like quality, although perhaps not audiophile (no gold tips, etc, here). Each speaker is finished in a brushed aluminum which matches your Mac's look perfectly. The grills are your typical black material, and stripe down the middle of the speakers. The front comes off to check out the actual speaker domes, but the top does not.
On the side of each speaker is written FOCAL XS Book Music System... you know, in case you forget what those large speakers are. The Focal symbol is also attached to each speaker on the grill, near the bottom. The right speaker has a light which comes on behind the grill when the speakers are powered on.
Volume is controlled by a black hard rubber click-wheel on top of the right speaker. The XS Book pair cranks pretty loud, too - in testing I was able to fill up my office to the point where I could hear the music on the other side of the house. The production quality on these speakers is high - clean edges, solid curves, and a minimalist design.
Built for a digital lifestyle, the Focal XS Book setup has two types of input on the back - 3.5 mm and RCA. No fiber optic here - these are meant to be a high-end bookshelf or desktop speaker pair, not a home theater setup. I plugged in my iPhone with the included cable to rock some tunes, and loved the sound.
The back of each speaker has areas for speaker mounts, and the bottom of each speaker has a rubber area which points the speakers slightly up as they stand.
20W per speaker push out a lot of volume here (the box says an SPL max of 96db, although I didn't test that precisely). These speakers push for accurate sound and clarity - you will definitely feel the punchiness of bass, but won't be shaking your walls. Each XS Book speaker features a 10cm polyglass (a Focal staple) woofer and an aluminum tweeter.
I listened to a variety of music through these - Flaming Lips, Jay-Z, Lily Allen, Beatles, Atmosphere, Foster the People. The quality is superb - clear, sharp treble mixes cleanly with punchy, tight bottom end. These could even be used as a mid-range reference monitor - they're that accurate. The mid range was also full, perhaps a little further back than the highs and lows, but that was probably more due to the audio format (iTunes downloaded content) than the speaker.
Playing a movie through the XS Books also gave plenty of volume and crystal clear reproduction of the sound. Don't expect to rumble your walls with these - it's not that type of sound. The low end is present and full - but it's all punch and less thump.
All in all, I was very impressed by these speakers - I'd like to get myself a pair to place on my desk. The Focal XS Book speakers deliver stellar sound from a beautiful design; these guys are serious about design, and great audio craftsmen.
Of course, for that - you pay. $399 at Amazon
seems a fair price for speakers of this quality. And they're well worth it. They've also agreed to give away a pair of these to a ModMyi.com reader - leave a comment on this review with your thoughts, and use the widget below to get entries into the giveaway