Focal Twin6 Be
Reviewed by Glenn Bucci
Focal Professional is a French company that manufactures three lines of monitors that fall in different price categories: The high end SM 11, mid line SM 6, and their good but more affordable CMS line. Focal Professional has two factories in France with over 200 employees. One factory makes the beautiful cabinets and the other manufactures over 200,000 drivers a year. It is refreshing to see a company that manufactures in their country and do not send all their product to Southeast Asia for manufacturing. The Focal Twin6 Be's along with the smaller Solo 6 and Sub 6 are part of the SM6 line. This line is categorized as a reference analog series that was created for studios in search of monitors that reveal all information in the audio spectrum without any masking effect.
Focal has interesting designs in their monitors that make them quite special. The first is their inverted dome tweeter. With the positive dome only being joined at its edge, the inverted dome allows it to be inactive beyond 16 kHz for a flexible surface. Its design also allows the response curve to be more linear.
Tweeters have been made of several materials over the years. They were first made of small paper cones like the midrange drivers and woofers. They then started to make them out of silk and thinly coating them with polymer. Aluminum is another material used for tweeters that has an atomic number 13 with a mass chart of 26.98. Titanium which is also used is number 21 with a mass chart of 47.86. Why the chemistry lesson you ask, well Beryllium's a number is 4 with an atomic mass is 9.01. What this means is if you make a tweeter dome out of beryllium at the same thickness as an aluminum dome, it is going to be three times lighter in weight. That means less harmonic distortion since there is less inertia. The bad points about working with Beryllium are its expensive and toxic. However I was told it's only dangerous if inhaled. So the Beryllium in the tweeters is safe unless they are torn or otherwise damaged. Focal put nice protective cover on the tweeters when shipped.
Focal uses BASH technology for the amplification. This technology is a patented high efficiency power amplifier circuit that takes the best of Class D and Class AB and created a new class of its own. The BASH amplifier has its load directly connect to a power amplifier. This gives an advantage in both linear frequency's response and EMI performance. Their "W" cone design uses polyglass cones for the woofers. What they do is apply molten glass microballs on cellulose pulp cones. This process Focal claims is an excellent paper damping with glass rigidity that they claim exceeds a single skin of Kevlar and is almost ten times superior to one of polypropylene.
Type of monitor: The Focal Twin6 Be's is an active monitor designed for near field or midfield applications. It has an attractive red veneered top and bottom panels, while the rest of the 19 mm MDF box is finished in black. The power LED is above the Focal logo. The bass loading has two ports at the sides of the baffles. I have to admit that these monitors look very appealing to the eye. I had several people comment on them without me bringing them to their attention. Each twin 6.5 drivers has its own 150 watt BASH amplifier, and the inverse tweeter that a 100 watt class AB amplifier. The SPL is 115db, which I found loud enough for most situations. Though the two drivers are identical, one handles 40Hz to 300 Hz, while the second driver handles the frequencies from 40 Hz to 2.5k. Even though they both handle the low end, they don't share the low end equally. If the did, the mid/low woofer would not allow you to hear the wonderful mid range as they do. The frequency response on these monitors is from 40Hz - 40 kHz. Though we can't hear frequencies past 20 kHz, Focal and other companies claim tweeters that go in the higher range affect the frequencies in our hearing range. By restricting the mid range to only one of the two drivers, it offers more midrange detail than many two-way systems. In addition by having smaller bass drivers (6.5" compared to 8" or 10") the drivers can move faster than larger drivers for improved micro dynamic upper bass detail. All of the controls are on the rear panel, which includes the power switch, a knob to control the high frequency (5 kHz) and low frequency (150 Hz). Since their release, some mentioned a concern about the toggle switches in the back, which could get damaged in transit. Focal has since put a protective brackets on toggles to help protect them for impact. These controls are helpful to contour the sound to your taste. How much acoustic treatment in the room will also affect the sound of the monitors. There is also a switch that allows you to choose which woofer will handle the bass/mid. You need to make sure that both monitors choose the same woofer (either the inside or outside woofer). Each monitor weights 30lb so stable stands are needed.
I had the opportunity to compare them to my Tannoy Precision 8D's, the Focal Solo 6's, and JBL LSR6328's. Before I tested these monitors, it was recommended by many for a 60 - 90 hours break in period. Without a long break in period, the tweeters could sound harsh many had said on the forums. What needs to settle in is the rubber suspension on the speakers. To help break them in, I opened up Cubase in my studio and created a loop of two songs that had good bass and high end. I then played the songs at a moderate level in my studio 60 hours.
In playing the Focals out of the box, the bass was tight and the tweeters sounded a little harsh. After 60 hours of non-stop playing, the bass sounded a little fuller, and the tweeters sounded a little smoother. When I heard the Focals, the Tannoy's in comparison had a stronger forward mid range. I worked the Tannoy EQ settings and reduced the mid's by a -2db, and a little boost on the bass. Though I got them to improve in their sound, the depth of all the instruments was very similar. On the Focals, the instruments were at different depth's which allowed me to hear each instrument more clearly. The Focals gave a more 3 dimensional sound compared to my Tannoy's and better separation of the instruments. The JBL's had a solid full bass, and also had a forward and slightly more aggressive sound. Many like that aggressive sound, but it did not suit my taste. The Focal Solo's had a surprising bass impact for their size. It sweet spot was smaller than the Twins or the Tannoy's, but its definition was easy to work with, and it had the family Focal sound. The Solos have a denser sound compared to the Twins.
These monitors were found to be very quiet and only a little hiss. I also tried placing them vertical with the bass woofer on top. With this position, I found a more solid sound coming at me. In the horizontal position, the sound was more spread out, and more pleasing for my taste.
To really understand how well the monitors are, you need to listen to mixes you have done with them on several sources. I took one song I mixed on the Tannoy's and then listened to the mix on the Focals. The Focals revealed the ride cymbal was a little harsh. I found with only 40 hours on the monitors, the harshness I heard was inaccurate on the different sources I played them back on. After another 20 hours, I found the tweeters to sound a little smoother. They revealed that the ride was a little too loud, and the the snare was a little too loud in the mix. The snare reverb was a little too dry and I increased it a tad. Next was the bass guitar. The Focals revealed too much low frequencies (below (80Hz) was being heard. By working with a HP filter on my Cambridge EQ, I was able to correct it while still having the oomph in the low end. In addition, the guitar sounded a little pointy. A little Waves Ren compressor with a ratio of 2.5 fixed that. I could of used my Portico compressor, but the plug in did what I needed and rather quickly.
The bottom line is the monitors allow me to hear lower frequencies that my Tannoys Precision 8D's never did. The Precision are good monitors in their price range, but they don't compare to the Focal Twins. I am able to control the low end on instruments and 2 bus mixes that was not possible before. I have noticed an improvement when playing mixes on different sources as well. In addition the Twins separate the mid range instruments and voice so you can really focus on a particular track to better Eq or adjust reverb tails. My Tannoys allowed me to hear everything but the sound in the mid's was blended together. The highs sound a little smoother as well with the Twins. Again my mixes sound better with monitors that allow you to hear things with more detail for that fine tuning.
The Focal Twins have proven to be very competent monitors. For my room, I boosted the bass contour to the 1st line past 0. This adds a little more umph to the bass so my mixes sound fuller on playback, and I now mix with the slightly stronger bass in turn sounds great on different sources. I also put the tweeter on -1 which made them more comfortable to my ears.
In using the Focal Sub 6 in my studio, I found it best to use as a second reference with the Twins. It is best to learn how to place the sub in your room, and have acoustic treatment on your walls along with bass traps. Without these things, I would not recommend buying a sub woofer as you will have too many issues with standing waves. What I found very useful was to mix a song with the Twins. Then take a 5 min break and with using a foot swtich, click on the sub and listen to how it sounds....which may give a better indication on how it sounds in a car stereo which normally has exagerated low end. The Sub 6 goes down to 30Hz and offers a clear punchy tone. It is not muddy like some cheaper sub's I have heard. The look and quality is equally high with the Sub 6. Using for playback for clients as well as for mastering purposes would be helpful as well. Yes there are higher end monitors, but I found my mixes come out great on many different sources with the Twins. What else matters then? All the high praise it receives on the forums is warranted. Cons with the Twins; none that I can think of.
Some may prefer not having a mid forward monitor due to your personaly taste. If that is the case, I found the Genelec 8050's to be a good option in the same price catagory. The mid's are more evenly heard with the lows and high's. They also provide a little more depth in your mixes. However when adjusting vocal EQ, etc, the mid forward Twins may allow you to hear things a little better.
When it comes to monitors, the bottom line is, how are your mixes translating on iPods, car, and home stereos? I can say with great confidence that my mixes with the Focal Twins come out great. I don't need a sub to obtain great mixes. However if you have clients that on playback want to hear a impressive bass, or if your mastering music, the Focal Sub 6 with the Twins will do it.
For more info, visit focalprofessional.com
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