Focal Electra 1028 Be Speaker System Page 3
And that beryllium tweeter? It’s up there with the best in the business. The top end combined crystal clarity with an easy naturalness that most speakers shoot for and miss. The Focals’ highs were so pristine that they clearly revealed the Integra processor’s slight loss of high-frequency transparency when it switches from Direct (with no subwoofer crossovers engaged by its processing) to Stereo (which dials in the high- and low-pass filters). The Electras’ top end wasn’t particularly forgiving of overly bright source material, but the speakers didn’t exaggerate its flaws, either.
My in-room-response measurements indicate relatively smooth system response at the prime listening position (about 10 feet from the plane of the speakers). There were some minor bass irregularities, but these are common in the room responses of nearly all speakers, regardless of price. There was a slight saddle dip in the 1028 Be’s response (2 to 3 dB relative to 1.2 kHz) centered around 2.5 kHz, a return to the 1.2-kHz level by 5 kHz, and a typical listening-position rolloff above 10 kHz. The bass without the sub was strong to 40 Hz but dropped off rapidly below that point (the sub extended the response to below 25 Hz). The CC 1008 Be had a more pronounced emphasis between 80 and 160 Hz, likely encouraged by its near-floor location and consistent with the listening observations (see HT Labs Measures).
Some speakers shine on music but less so on films. More often, speakers ace movie playback but leave something to be desired when it comes to music. The Focal Electras were…um…electrifying on both music and movies. Interestingly, though, they exhibited a slightly different complexion on soundtracks than their crisp, highly detailed, and just slightly lean quality on music. On movies, they were more full-bodied and richly balanced, with an immense, deep, and enveloping soundstage. But when high-frequency detail was present, there was no mistaking it, whether it brought with it the delicacy of the best Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on Blu-ray Disc or the edginess typical of many lossy audio tracks on DVD.
Initially, the CC 1008 Be center sounded a little too warm and rich, particularly on male dialogue. This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this issue; the center speaker’s unavoidable, near-floor location below the screen in my setup makes it difficult to avoid. To compensate, I raised the crossover frequency to the center channel and reduced the center-channel tone control. This minimized the problem but didn’t eliminate it completely. Not all AVRs or surround processors offer these options. Audyssey room EQ is also possible with my Integra surround processor (and most new surround processors and A/V receivers), but I avoid using EQ in speaker reviews.
Many people consider Deep Impact (Blu-ray Disc, Dolby TrueHD) to be the best of the big-rock-from-space-destroys-earth, film-at-11 movies. There’s plenty to like in this film’s soundtrack, and the Electras didn’t let me down on any of it. The bass was room shaking if a bit less gutsy and foundation-threatening than the Revel B15 subwoofer that’s a frequent resident in my system. The soundstage was rich and full-bodied, the surrounds never sounded out of balance with the rest of the system, and the superb dynamics never turned edgy or fizzy at any volume suitable for human consumption.
While we’re still in outer space, the pilot episode of the recent Battlestar Galactica (Blu-ray Disc, DTS-HD Master Audio) television series sounded better here than it ever has either in its broadcast or DVD incarnations. The pounding bass of the battles, not to mention the superb, percussion-heavy music score, were all of near-feature-film quality, which the Electras made abundantly clear.
The same was true for the music on The Phantom of the Opera (Blu-ray Disc, but oddly only ordinary Dolby Digital) and the immense dynamic punch of the opening scenes of Bolt. Even the postapocalyptic downer, The Road, was made tolerable by the way the Focals handled the quietly delicate details that fill its superbly subtle soundtrack.
The sound of the Focal Electra 1028 Be speaker system is one I won’t easily forget. No speaker system I’ve had in my current listening room (10 years and counting) has produced a more consistently enjoyable performance on both music and movies, and few have equaled it. I would never recommend that anyone buy speakers sound unheard, particularly a system that sells for five figures. But if you’re shopping in this price range, ou need to hear this one.