AV Peripherals and Systems Guide
Focal Audio Products - The Birds Come to Roost
The Birds Sings
The French have always had a unique view towards manufacturing and designing products, be it cars, machines or otherwise. Focal, which is a French company as well, is no different when it comes to producing their audio equipment. Primarily known for their high end drivers, commitment to pure tone and high end speakers such as the Grande Utopia, they launched the Bird series of 2.1 and 2.0 speaker systems in Singapore at an event on the 21st of June 2011 held at the Altez Showroom.
Representative from Focal explained the underlying concept on which the new products have been built. Their primary aim was to supply speakers that met the needs of the modern house and was able to handle audio from a variety of different sources such as hi-fi systems, gaming consoles and 'nomad devices' such as smartphones and tablets.
The Power Bird Unit
Described as the 'brain' of the 2.1-channel systems on display, the Power Bird is a serious piece of technology. It is a subwoofer, amplifier and digital to analog converter all rolled into one. The 6.5-inch driver is constructed from a paper and silica mix which helps give it a natural voice. Vents at the front and back ensure that the sound is projected adequately.
Given its form factor and the absence of a resonating chamber or cabinet, you would assume that the low end might suffer. We can report from the demo and hands on at the event that the unit is more than capable of pumping out bass that fills wide open spaces.
The Power Bird is capable of accepting a host of different wired inputs as well as provide wireless playback via Kleer audio technology (superior to the common Bluetooth standard). Also situated at the back was an extremely responsive bass control which helps you adjust the characteristics of the audio. However unlike other amplifier units, extended options for sound balancing are not available. Thankfully, that is not a drawback since the Focal speakers are intended to provide plug and play ease of use.
Little Bird Satellite Speakers
To complete the 2.1-speaker configuration, you can choose from three different sets of satellite speakers. The new speakers hold true to the principles and technology that Focal introduced with its Dome speakers. Each unit is a true two way unit and has a woofer and tweeter combo so as to provide good audio performance across both mid and high-range.
The smallest satellite offering is aptly titled the Little Bird, intended for those looking for a compact design. But it still boasts 4-inch mid-range drivers, which ensure that there is sufficient volume even for large spaces. The aluminum tweeters were the highlight when we tried the speakers out for ourselves at the launch.
Bird Satellite Speakers
If you want the best of both form and function, then the Bird satellite speakers are designed for you. These satellites are medium sized and feature 5.5-inch drivers. All the speakers come packaged with a tripod and cocotte stand so you need not loose sleep on which to choose.
Super Bird Satellite Speakers
If you want the best that the new Focal lineup has to offer, then the Super Bird is the set of satellites for you. With dual 5.5-inch drivers and a passive radiator, not only does the Super Bird handle the crossover frequencies but also help out with the bass performance. Unfortunately the Super Bird was not on display at the event so we are unable to report how it works in conjunction with the Power Bird.
With a keen eye on design, all three satellite speakers have their own crossover profiles and the Power Bird will detect the correct device and adjust its performance as necessary.
iTransmitter and Kleer Technology
Smartphones and Tablets have become the primary devices for music storage and playback, which is something that Focal has accepted and addressed. The iTransmitter that is compatible with iPads and iPhanes, along with a USB dongle version for PCs you can now stream your audio wirelessly to the 2.1-speaker system. What was impressive was the fact that the iTransmitter is the paired device which means that it can be easily be unplugged and passed from one smartphone to another.
The decision to adopt Kleer technology shows Focal’s dedication to providing great sound as it is intended purely for audio steaming. A representative from the French company cited the almost latency free playback and Kleer’s power efficiency as the reasons why they decided to go with the particular protocol.
Even though the Power Bird can be stacked up or wall mounted in a rack configuration, some might not have enough space for a 2.1-speaker system. For this reason the XS Book comes in a handy 2.0 configuration that can be placed on any surface and used. Sound is provided with the help of 4-inch drivers. Behind the grill, a tweeter, woofer and vent is visible and together they handle the spectrum of frequencies needed. Overall audio quality wasn't anywhere as impressive as the Bird series of speaker systems from our trials at the event.
Up till now Focal has devoted its attention to speakers. But with the Spirit One they might be expanding their product range. The first set of headphones from Focal was also present and while specifications were hush hush, we got some time to try the cans out. Sound was clear and the mid-range was extremely impressive. The headband also offered a snug fit while the ear-cups had luxurious padding. Definitely a product to be on the look out for.
Pricing and Availability
|Little Bird + Power Bird 2.1 Speakers||July 2011||SGD1388|
|Bird + Power Bird 2.1 Speakers||July 2011||SGD1588|
|Super Bird + Power Bird 2.1 Speakers||July 2011||SGD1788|
|XS Book||Sept / Oct 2011||EUR299|
|Spirit One||Sept / Oct 2011||EUR199|