After hitting the global headlines with its superb UTOPIA range, French brand FOCAL is back in the spotlight with the more affordable SOPRA series.
The high-end 2-way FOCAL SOPRA 1 speakers come with their own dedicated stands (these stands are optional, but essential!).
From the moment you set eyes on them, it’s plain to see that Focal has spared no expense. The SOPRA 1 speakers are impressively large Hi-Fi speakers! They are far larger than most speakers in their category, and its 19 kilos give you a good idea of the care and effort that has gone into the production of the cabinet.
The lacquered finish is gorgeous, no matter which colour you choose: white, red, black or orange. A wood finish is also available.
On top of the FOCAL SOPRA 1 speaker is a striking black glass plate, and the module is located underneath this. This module is made from matte black polyurethane that is extremely hard and inert. It houses the famous 27mm beryllium tweeter, which has now become a Focal trademark. It is special because it works a little like a flat baffle. Sound waves from the rear of the tweeter are damped by an IHL system, passing through a superb stainless steel grill that varies in shape. Acoustically speaking, this system is completely separate from the rest of the speaker. Underneath the treble module is the chamber that houses the mid/bass driver. This uses bass reflex loading system, with a rear-firing laminar port.
The Focal Sopra 1 has a 16.5cm ‘W’ membrane with dedicated TMD suspension. It uses a high-powered magnetic NIC circuit, where the dimensions, materials and positioning of a Faraday ring have been optimised to ensure that the magnetic field is not affected by the position of the coil, depending on the intensity and frequency of the current passing through it. The Focal R&D team claims that this is the best speaker they’ve created yet. And that’s putting it mildly! Most of this technology can also be found in the brand’s Utopia range, which served as inspiration for the SOPRA 1 speakers. The filtering system uses only the best coils and capacitors on the market. Also worth a special mention is the meticulously designed internal wiring, which uses cables made by a respected European manufacturer that is renowned for its high-end creations.
The terminal only accepts mono wiring, which is probably just as well. But it boasts excellent production quality, and its oval shape ensures optimal clamping of stripped cables and fork connectors. Naturally, banana plug contact is also flawless.
We should also talk about the stands provided for these SOPRA 1 speakers (optional)! It’s worth mentioning because although they’re optional, we think they’re pretty essential. You can find out more about the SOPRA 1 speaker stand in the technical specifications.
It is relatively simple to set up and doesn't require any special precautions to be taken. The FOCAL SOPRA 1 speaker has been designed for rooms of around 20-30m², but can also deliver good performances in larger spaces. We achieved impressive results in a room over 45m², for example! Depending on the size of the room and the material of the wall behind it, we would recommend positioning these speakers between 30 and 80cm away from the wall.
The SOPRA 1 is a highly versatile speaker in terms of amplification. All it needs to work well is to be paired with high quality electronics. When combined with a 35W tube amp or 70W transistor amp, the Sopra 1 speakers sing out effortlessly. We gave them a serious listen after a break-in period of 50 hours.
The overall sound quality is particularly neutral. These Hi-Fi speakers truly are monitor speakers, in a good way! It brings out the details and nuance in each and every recording, without over-emphasising any register over another. The treble is wonderful! It is informative and dynamic, without ever tipping over into aggressiveness, and gives the music a singularly impressive sense of space and openness. These speakers deliver excellent stereo effect on high quality recordings, with the music flowing freely outside the confines of their lateral fields. We were pleasantly surprised to be able to locate certain sounds almost a metre to the right of the right-hand speaker, and the same applies to the left. Vocals sound incredible, boasting remarkable presence and realism as well as exemplary placement – no matter where you are in the room, the singer is always in the centre. And all this with a mono signal, which is a tell-tale sign of studio standard speakers. We’d also like to highlight the holographic aspect of the sound quality, which gives incredible dimension to live recordings and orchestral music in particular. The bass is a real achievement for a speaker of this size. It is able to reproduce double bass with astonishing, near perfect realism. For example, the double bass solo on ‘Companion’ by Patricia Barber puts many a more ambitious 3-way speaker to shame! The tightness and articulation of this register should also be mentioned.. Overall, the reproduction emphasises substance and presence at the same time as precision and realism. The Focal Sopra 1 speakers are among our top 3 or 4 favourite monitor speakers – but the others on our list are at least twice their price!
The Sopra range is the first one that the French manufacturer has launched since its acquisition of British brand NAIM AUDIO. And its high quality appears to be evidence that this partnership has been a fruitful one so far, and bodes well for the future! Focal’s Sopra speakers are crème de la crème high-end speakers. They are, we suspect, the only ones on the market to have been produced entirely in France, and can definitely compete with the best overseas models.
We think they're an industry benchmark, so much so that we use them regularly in our product tests. When we love something, we’re not afraid to say it!
LB Award ***** - 2016
AUDIO - 2016
STEREO + ***** - 2016 Franck
Type: 2-Way bookshelf speaker
Frequency response at -3 dB: 45hz – 40 KHz
Frequency response at -6 dB: 41hz – 40 KHz
Gain factor: 89 dB
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Min. impedance: 3.9 ohms
Filtering frequency: 2,200 Hz
Midrange/Woofer: 1 x 'W' 16.5 cm driver with 'TMD' suspension,
Tweeter: 1 x pure beryllium inverted dome 27 mm
Recommended amp power: 25-150 W
Dimensions: 425 x 279 x 396 mm
Weight of pair: 38 kg