Focal Sopra Number 3 speaker UK launch
I was back at KJ West One in Marylebone last week for the UK launch of the Focal Sopra N°3 speakers. These are the latest speakers from the French audio house and were driven by partner-brand Naim’s, marvellous Statement amplifiers.
This demonstration was the reason why I could not make it for the last Tech Addicts podcast (which is still an awesome thing to listen to – perhaps more so without my dulcet tones).
Now, I don’t usually get to play with the higher end of Hi-Fi very often as most of that stuff gets sent to our partner publication, Hifi Pig. But, I live in London, love music, and am passionate about Hi-Fi, so how could I turn this down?
KJ West One’s Jason Ford introduced our hosts for the evening: Jason Gould, Naim’s UK Marketing Manager, who got us more acquainted with the Focal Sopra N°3 loudspeakers and talked us through all the gear that was supplying the signal. Following Jason, Focal’s Dave Speirs would later take us through the design and development of the Sopras.
OK. Are you ready to get your audio geek glands going?
The source for the demonstration was the £7,000+ Naim NDS Reference flagship streamer which was being fed by two separate power supplies, one for the analogue, and one for the digital sources. Almost as an aside it was mentioned that there were circa £30,000 of cables and interconnects from Vertere being used in the chain. When you compare that with how much the Sopra N°3 speakers cost, the Focals almost sound like a bargain!
From the rather tasty Naim source, the speakers were being driven by the £150k+ Naim Statement. This symphony in black looks every bit as futuristic as its price tag is exclusive, thanks to its wave-form heatsinks and white underlighting. The unit is actually three entities comprising of the NAC S1 preamplifier in the middle being bookended by a pair of NAP S1 mono power amplifiers.
The NACS1 weighs 61.5Kg and the NAP S1s tip the scales at 101 Kilos each.
The reason for using the Naim kit? Well Naim and Focal merged back in 2011 and, since 2014, have been working together under the Vervent Audio banner.
Thankfully, we were then played some music whilst we let all that sink in.
Focal N°3 design
Dave Speirs took centre stage in order to discuss the importance of the rear-firing tweeter drivers in the development of the new Focal Sopra No. 3 speakers.
Behind the new Beryllium tweeter there are no obstructions at all, This ensures that there is an unrestricted flow of air as the tweeter vibrates from the back of the cone, thus ensuring a cleaner delivery. Below is an exploded version of the tweeter showing how we see the rear of the dome as it fires through an unhindered path to the rear of the speaker.
The air, or sound at this stage, exits the rear of the speakers through what is an exponential horn. This is why the central section has that Darth Vader/Cylon Centurion grille. Actually, the more I look at it, the more I see Bender from Futurama!
Focal says that this IHL system (Infinite Horn Loading) reduces distortion by 30% and pushes definition to its maximum. Also, thanks to Focal’s design, this allows the slight arcing of the speakers to enable a better time domain setting so that you receive all the frequencies at the correct moment.
The mid range and bass drivers have also been completely redesigned by Focal.
The mid range cone is held in a uniform and firm plane by a dual ring rubber as part of Focal’s Tuned Mass Damper system. The aim of this is to ensure linear and uniform control.
A new crossover has now been employed across the mid and high range speakers.
Finishing off this driver tour are two 8-inch woofers that takes care of the bass register. These are ported at the bottom of the cabinet which in turn can be tilted to match your listening position through adjusting the spikes.
Because of the clever tweeter’s IHL tech, this has allowed Focal to take full advantage of the cabinet’s capacity, 30% more than the N°2. The Sopra N° 3s have been designed to be compact so, unlike say the Utopia, which was built without size constraints being a factor, these new speakers will easily fit in to most reasonably sized rooms.
Having the downward firing bass port, and that “infinite horn” (Oooer, fnarr, fnarr, etc) means that these speakers are pretty much room ambivalent. You can have them close to a wall or proudly out, front and centre – well, left and right.
I do love how these speakers look. The gloss cabinets that Focal uses are made from walnut HDF and really do feel as good as they look.
The wooden sides are sandwiched by a top and plinth made of glass. This not only adds mass but negates the electromagnetic interference that can be given off of metal feet and bases.
Focal N°3 sound quality
Now, the whole point of this demonstration – what did it all sound like?
As you would hope at this price bracket, the resolution was superb.
There was a great moment which just underlined the Sopra 3’s level of detail, where you could actually here an opera singer turning over the sheet music.
The soundstage was wide and just above centre, according to those in the better seats.
There was some blooming of the bass where the recording had it particularly high in the mix but I am willing to take that as a fault of me being against a back wall and near a corner rather than that of the speakers.
I did stick my head in to the next session for the same track, wine in hand, and the bass was clear and refined.
The overall presentation of the tracks I heard, including what appears to be one of Jason’s favourites, ‘Electrified’ by Boris Blank, was fast and precise.
We were offered to present tracks from our own collections and one guy did step forward. I must get braver as hearing some Tool, Nine Inch Nails, or some Clutch would sound amazing I’m sure. As it is, the Focal N°3 and the Naim kit performed beautifully with opera, electronica, female vocal and acoustic singer songwriter stuff.
Focal Sopra N°3 price and availability
The Focal Sopra N°3 will retail for £15,750 (per pair) and will be available from June 2016 from the likes of KJ West One.
As you can see, they come in a variety of colours as well as a walnut finish but, according to Dave, you can have them in what ever colour you want but it might take a few months, and no doubt a few quid more.
More details about the Sopra N°3 can be found on Focal’s website.
Focal N°3 specifications at a glance
|2 x 81/4″ (21cm) “W” cone woofers with NIC|
61/2″ (16.5cm) “W” cone midrange with NIC
and “TMD” suspension
11/16″ (27mm) pure Beryllium IHL inverted dome tweeter
|Frequency response (+/- 3dB)||33Hz – 40kHz|
|Low frequency point -6dB||26Hz|
|Nominal impedance||8 Ohms|
|Minimum impedance||3.1 Ohms|
|Crossover frequency||250Hz / 2200Hz|
|Recommanded amplifier power||40 – 400W|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||4949?64×1553?64×2327?64″ (1264x402x595mm)|
|Weight (unit)||154.32lbs (70kg)|