Focal Alpha 80 Monitor Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by purr1n, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    I think there's a lot of truth to this. There's a marked difference between (1) Kanta and the lines below and (2) Sopra and the Utopia lines above. Focal discontinued (last year) the Electra "Be II" line (models that ends in an 8), and they're a great value at used/closeout prices. This line utilized the inverted Be tweeter and the W-cone woofers that the Utopia and (now) Sopra lines do. Pre-Kanta and -Sopra, the hifi line used to jump from the Electra Be to the Utopia line. Now Focal has filled the space previously occupied by the Electra Be line with the Kanta line (cheaper due to flax drivers; around the same price as Electra Be was) and the Sopra line (Be + W-cone; basically double the price of the Electra Be now with the recent price hikes). The Solo6 Be also uses the inverted Be tweeter and W-cone woofer, though from what I can gather the Be tweeter on the Solo6 is 1" while the hifi line starting with the Electra Be II series uses a 1.25" Be tweeter.

    I didn't like the Kanta No. 2 much on either of the two demos I had with it (Naim and McIntosh gear), but really liked the Focal Electra 1028 Be (Luxman integrated).
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Of course. I do run JBLs. They are so far ahead with their latest monitor waveguide / horn designs.

    Na, the negative effects of non-ideal step response are vastly overrated. It's the decay of the drivers and their different distortion characteristics that play a far bigger role in lack of cohesion. That's been my experience at least - keep in mind that the small JBLs and Dynaudio have shit for step response, yet they sound much more cohesive from lows to highs.

    That 8" woofer is being asked to play from just below 40Hz right up to the tweeter at 3kHz. Steep slope means just that much more reproducing of higher frequencies right up to the XO point. That's just too much for a single fairly large driver designed to be placed in a small box to cover.

    Ferrofluid damping helps too. I am assuming the tweeter in the Focal Alpha 80 would be fluid damped for pro use, but unsure.
     
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  3. RobS

    RobS RobS? More like RobDiarrhea.

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    Treble breakup, spikes, distortion and non-linearity are aspects of metallic tweeters. The beryllium-copper dome tweeter in my previous studio monitors while had the clarity and timbre, exuded a sharpness (though not quite AMT sharp) and slight ring to them that I couldn't live with long term. The Dynaudio soft-dome tweeters are sonic bliss in contrast and seem to have more lower level information. Maybe a pure beryllium tweeter is even better at that, I've never heard one.

    @Hrodulf horizontal looks similar to the Neumann KH420, another speaker that gets similar results with the help from waveguides. (Arrangement of the drivers affect the vertical results)

    [​IMG]


    It's too bad current JBL prioritizes flat frequency response and even off-axis response. They don't care to measure impulse or phase response, group delay, bandwidth or resonance. I considered the JBL 4367, the woofer they use in it is totally insane but they apply the Harman target response curve and crossovers have like 40 different elements to achieve it.
     
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  4. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Yep they don’t have the ridiculous ringing like Focal tweeters but still have the IMD from the hard breakup. Focal’s better beryllium tweeters (They vary) have the ringing tuned well (they tune them to sound smeared and less offensive) and break up really high. This shifts the imd from midrange to air band. So no disgusting metallic midrange timbre of a Genelec or Amphion but more overall “grind/etch) that they then smear over. It’s lofi, just like a lot of Focal woofers, but the the better some Focal units I’ve heard make it smooth like a much more detailed version of their one warm headphone I heard. But their QC on this is poor. You can get woofers with massive distortion or tweeters with weirder ringing. Boutique drivers. Compare them to Amphion, and while Amphions have a great deal of color and tonal voicing, and the woofer rings like a bell but they are clearer because they don’t try to mask any of it. I’m not a big fan of either but the Amphions are more way more reactive and way less sensitive to placement despite still sounding grossly wrong.

    I prefer the JBL, Radian, and big Tannoy style compression drivers to metal domes too but I find they lack detail compared to domes. Tannoy upper mids are harmonically excited by the Metal breakup and the coax imd but hey they sound good sometimes. The expensive ones with the super tweeters before they were bought by Behringer were REALLY GOOD.

    The Neumann fabric damped titanium Peerless is very tame but has the metallic color. It sounds even more damped than most soft domes but isn’t as clean. It’s weird.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    They've always prioritized overall power response (even on and off-axis frequency response, more horizontal than vertical) and distortion.

    That's because they don't matter as much as dweebs who examine graphs think they do (bandwidth is a part of FR). JBL does pay attention to cabinet resonance - in their own way while keeping costs in check. Excess group delay and phase non-linearities are a consequence of mutli-way designs and intentional decisions to do things like extend the bass response via ports or run the drivers where they like to be run (crossovers).

    One can do sealed single-driver and try to run that full-range if you are super worried about group delay and phase response. But at what price? Good mids and everything else shitty?


    They need some massaging and like a lot of their current higher-end offerings, are a bit bassy and way too much if close to a wall. The highs should be good and there is an HF trim if the upper mids and highs are too Sean Olive'd. An LF trim should have been offered on it. The bass (and upper mids / lower highs) is a bit of a departure from their 70s and 80s designs, e.g. 44xx and 46xx. Once upon a time, their marketing people used to be promoted from their engineer ranks and the guys with the golden ears who would bitch about a decibel here or there. I'm sure they are now staffed with bassheads.
     
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  6. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    JBL 305p has terrible imaging in real world pro use despite what that graph says. There is no precision and it’s an LCR blob with the center way too big and no precision at all inside the center. Drum kits sound very wrong and there is no precise image of the kit in between the overheads. Get raw multi tracks of a drum kit and try to pan the close mics to the overheads on it or any other JBL wave guide. You’ll find it much more difficult than on any non computer modeled waveguide monitor with semi coherent phase and driver integration.

    also more phase coherent speakers behave better in less treated rooms than out of phase speakers when crazy directivity controlling waveguides. @Parker always emphasizes this. This is why ATCs and His own sound Smith monarchs outperform so many other speakers in mediocre rooms. Amphions and Questeds too despite their peculiarities. The reflections are more in phase. Compare them to Genelecs in real world use. Genelecs always have weird issues.
     
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  7. SineDave

    SineDave Friend

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    I had to adjust the HF trim down by -1.5 dB, and add 1dB to bass to get a balanced presentation. I also found that even a 1/2" of toe-in adjustment could make them sound either harsh or veiled. I've only had the pair for 5 days - but I have to say that dialing them in made a big difference.

    I'm using IsoAcoustics stands, and the room is moderately treated (GIK absorbers with diffusion panels inside).
     
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  8. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Agreed. For pro use, the only 8” woofer two ways to ever outperform smaller woofers in two-way designswere the HS8 (no throw like a 70s Japanese poly woofer) and the Quested 8” with custom, extra doped versions of the best mid bass to midrange woofers in the world (Volt) crossed over to a slightly oversized, 1 1/8” Morell soft dome. For everything else not cheap resonating crap, the 6-7” woofer crossed over to a 1” dome is superior, just like hifi.

    everything else 8” had disgusting midrange suckout
     
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  9. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Maybe. I do agree that one can have a speaker with a less-than-ideal step response and it can sound good. I mean, most speakers aren't designed with step response correction in mind. At the same time single full-range driver speakers are coveted for their sound and a step/impulse-coherent speakers attempts to emulate their response. It's also true that most time-coherent speakers have sacrificed something to get a degree of time coherence and the trade-offs might not have been worthwhile. Having listened to the same speaker with time-coherent and regular filtering, I always preferred the former.

    This sucks. I'd never let a 8" driver do anything above 1.8kHz. Unless it's some magical Japanese cone made from pressed monk toilet paper with negative mms.

    This is what's going in my next pair of speakers. Should be pretty kickass.

    Maybe there's something else going on that does The Bad. We'd have to tear off the waveguide and try the tweeter out on a flat plate.
     
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  10. Riotvan

    Riotvan Got lost for three weeks at Delft City Hall

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    Well going on memory since I’ve sold them 6-7 years ago. There was something off with the woofer to tweeter crossover, graininess, distortion or uneven fr at that point. Can’t be sure though but it bugged me. I did treat the side reflections but had no bass traps, stands were from Liedtke metaldesign, they are no joke and are very sturdy.

    My Quested’s were much easier to deal with. But as i said perhaps things would be different this time, maybe you’re on to something with the toe in though. However i did own them for almost seven years, inexperienced as i might have been i’m sure i tried a couple of things.
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I've never heard a horn or anything with a waveguide that images as well as a tweeter on a flat faceplate with appropriate precautions (narrow baffle, rounded corners, diffraction surface, etc.). It's all give and take. JBL gets imaging in the movie theatres by cheating: using five cinema grade speakers behind the screen: L LM M RM R.

    16-ohm compression drivers help in the detail and nuance department. Same reasons why the 300-ohm Sennheiser headphones sound better in this way compared to the 150-ohm Sennheiser headphone.
     
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  12. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Sure, and I've never seen a dome tweeter which can do 120dB for hours at 900Hz. Horns offer some interesting options, but fidelity wise they'll always play catch-up do TOTL domes/ribbons. It also doesn't make things easier that there aren't any complete math models for horn acoustics, so you're always gambling a little. In shows horn speakers make me wince 90% of the time.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Depends upon which aspects of "fidelity" and if we are actually comparing to TOTL compression drivers: TAD, GOTO, heck maybe the Radian stuff with the 16-ohm Be diaphragms. None of the TOTL cd is cheap and I've yet to hear one in my house. Soon.
     
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