Focal-JMlab loudspeaker factory tour review

posted on Monday, 18th June 2018 by David Slater

Trade  Loudspeakers  High-end 

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Premium French loudspeaker manufacturer Focal-JMlab has been designing and selling high-fidelity audio systems since 1979. This Saint-Étienne based company manufactures speakers for the home, speaker drivers for automobiles, headphones and professional monitoring loudspeakers. Few brands are as widely celebrated for their audio quality. So Inside CI jumped at the chance to take a closer look at its operation.

Our factory tour started off with an insight into the manufacturing of the cones. The cone we were seeing produced was a sandwich concept, known as the ‘W’ cone system; it consists of two sheets of glass fibres applied to a structural foam core. Unlike the mono-material cones, the W sandwich cone optimises the frequency response curve by maximising the mass, rigidity and damping. The science behind the design is brilliant.

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It becomes apparent from the start that everybody involved is super passionate about working in this factory. Focal’s industrial strategy concentrates on having full control over the entire production process, from the design and manufacturing of speaker drivers to the assembly of the final product.

Focal-JMlab generates a €53-million annual turnover and employs about 200 people at its facility. Production, research and development, and management departments occupy at the same site. Focal has an impressive range. Its flagship Utopia III Evo models are breathtaking. Since their launch in 2008 ,the Utopia III has become a huge, worldwide success. One of the high points of our factory tour was to audition a pair of these speakers in Focal’s demonstration room. I have to say I was completely blown away by the detail on all the tracks that were played!

Another really good looking and sounding speaker in the range is the Kanta. Focal put in three years of research and design into this model. The speaker is made up from the FLAX cones, and is married to a Beryllium tweeter. Introduced in 2002, Focal’s Beryllium Tweeter was only the second ever manufactured. Yamaha was actually the first, launching a Beryllium tweeter and Beryllium mid-range speaker. In the NS-1000 back in 1974.

Beryllium is seven times more rigid than titanium, and six times more rigid than aluminium, but has the same mass. It enabled Focal to develop a lighter and faster tweeter which provides excellent damping qualities. When associated with the inverted dome concept, the frequency response can be increased to 40 kHz.Ten times more expensive than gold, the room in which the Beryllium is formed into the tweeter is completely dust free. The engineering team dress like somebody out of Alien. Amazingly, the weight of this tweeter is no heavier than a feather.

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2018 will see the launch of two new built-in speaker ranges from Focal. The entry level 100 Series and mid-priced 300 series both come in a wide range of sizes and configurations. We were presented with a demo of the 300 models, and again the tonal clarity of these speakers were amazing.

One other neat feature is how the speaker is fitted into the wall or ceiling. No screwdrivers are needed, just cut the hole and push the enclosure into it the clamps then grip the plasterboard. If you are after the Atmos effect in your living room Focal have launched their second-generation Sib Evo package, this consists of 5 x sats and 1 x subwoofer. The new generation was designed to reproduce both horizontal and vertical waves towards the ceiling. Sib Evo system received the EISA award for the Home Theatre System 2017-2018.
Last stop on our factory tour was a new area that will handle all the high end products.

We had a sneak look at the headphones assembly, with the new Clear headphones. Clear take inspiration from the best of the technologies and developments made for the brand’s Utopia headphones. The focus like all the products produced in this factory is on delivering the best sound experience. Whether you buy into headphones or the top of the range Utopia speakers, you will not be disappointed in build quality and sound reproduction.

We left the Focal site, brimming with enthusiasm for its products. If you ever get a chance to do this factory tour, you too will understand the Focal way.

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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