What We Like
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Based out of Saint-Étienne in France, Focal has been designing and manufacturing home audio products, car audio solutions, and equipment for recording studios for over 35 years. Let’s take a look at how one of their latest offerings holds up.
There are very few companies who take total ownership of every single aspect of their own product design and manufacture. Focal is one of them, and a huge part of their success has been down to their demand for minute control over each and every facet of their products. Not only do they design and manufacture their own cabinets in a specialist facility, but the drivers too are entirely developed and produced by Focal. This means that essentially every element of the Alpha 65 has the appearance of deliberate choice.
The cabinets for the Alpha 65 are larger and heavier than they appear to be in pictures. The Alpha range is Focal’s attempt at capturing a slightly more affordable sector of the market, and this is reflected in the choice to construct the majority of the cabinets from MDF which is not a material they use for any of their other ranges. The vinyl finish and paint job are particularly nice, and makes you wonder why more companies don’t try a little harder with their own to avoid the finished product from looking derivative of all the rest that are on offer.
Two front facing bass reflex ports sit at the bottom of the cabinets, and between them a small, unobtrusive Focal logo which lights up when the speakers are powered on. The tweeter sits nicely inside a custom waveguide which is a fairly non traditional shape and adds to the overall form. One especially nice touch is the visibility of all the screws which creates a kind of retro, bolted-on effect.
On the back of the master speaker, you will find all of your inputs and level controls. These include two constantly active XLR and RCA inputs allowing you to connect up to two audio sources. Next, you have two dials which allow you to customize the levels of the bass and treble response respectively. This provides a good deal of flexibility and versatility during playback, and means you can shape the listening experience to accommodate the room placement and speaker configuration which you have opted for.
One nice touch is the inclusion of an automatic standby mode which has a massive reduction on overall power consumption. After 30 minutes without any input signal, the amplifiers will enter standby mode. An LED on the back of the speakers will tell you when this is happening. As soon as input is detected, they turn themselves back on. It’s a simple feature that has wide ranging implications for the overall energy impact of the device.
Focal promises in their description of the Alpha 65s that they have very little directional bias, which means that the sound and listening experience should be close to exactly the same regardless of where you happen to be in the room. Given their design, many speakers have quite a narrow ‘sweet spot’ in which the best possible sound is heard, but not so for the Alpha 65s. Just as they said, the stereo image was rich, full, and worked wherever we listened from.
A common complaint with studio monitors at this price range is that they under deliver in terms of their bass response. Here, we did not find that this was an issue at all. Bass frequencies were nuanced, controlled, and had far more presence than the 6.5” driver would have implied possible. In the mids, the performance was extremely detailed and when listening to orchestral pieces it was possible to pick out individual instruments within a section. You could hear the articulation of the first violin, and it was a sumptuous experience.
Overall, the listening experience is intensely accurate, rich, and well produced.