It isn't true home theater without the sound system, so after purchasing your new flat screen television, you'll need speakers to complete your home theater system. You could consider floorstanding, bookshelf or in-wall speakers, but there is another choice - the Focal Dome system. Focal is a French loudspeaker manufacturer, known for their unique, stylish speaker designs that are appreciated by music lovers, audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts. The Focal Dome is a satellite-subwoofer system that has excellent sound performance, takes little space and offers multiple placement options.
The Focal Dome system consists of five spherically shaped die-cast aluminum alloy satellite speakers accompanied by a sleek-looking dome-shaped subwoofer. The compact, voguish satellites can be installed on a stand or table, or mounted on a wall or ceiling. The Dome satellites are solid, very well built and virtually disappear in a typical room. The system is available in 2.0, 2.1 or 5.1 channel configurations with a high-gloss lacquer black, white or a brilliant red finish. My review set was a 5.1 channel Focal system in lacquer black.
The two-way satellites are outfitted with a 4" Polyglass mid-bass driver and a 1" inverted aluminum/magnesium dome tweeter. The satellites are mounted on a small pedestal for table, shelf or wall mounting. The pedestal can be removed for placement on optional Focal speaker stands and when mounted on a wall or on the ceiling, the speakers can be adjusted to point towards the listening area.
The Focal Dome subwoofer has an LFE input, volume, adjustable crossover (60 Hz – 170 Hz), a 0-180-degree phase control and auto power on features. It cannot be connected to the speaker level outputs of a receiver or amplifier, so be sure the receiver has an LFE output.
Performance Results - Movies
Don't let the mini-sized Focal Dome speakers fool you. The system is not a performance compromise or reluctant acquiescence to your spouse or resident interior decorator – often one in the same. The Dome system will satisfy your desire for an engaging, enveloping stereo or home theater listening experience without the need for a room-dominating speaker system that collides with the room decor. It integrates discretely into almost any room, delivers surprisingly vigorous performance and makes a nice complement for a flat-screen television or simply as a stereo system.
My first audition was the action-thriller "Taken" (DVD, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), coincidentally filmed in Paris. This suspense-filled action flick is replete with gut-punches, car crashes, gunfire and other sound elements that would tax any speaker system, yet the Focal system handled it as effortlessly as many full-sized speakers I've heard.
Gran Torino (Blu-ray disc, Double Nickel Entertainment) is a humorous, sober and sometimes uncomfortable story about racial discrimination and stereotypes. The story is told mostly with dialog not high-energy action, and the Focal system sounded crisp, clear and intelligible even though some of the dialog is spoken in Hmong, the native language of some of the characters.
Notably, I tested the Focal Dome system with my front projector and a 100" SMX projection screen, a clear mismatch between audio and video, yet the Focal system sounded very robust and could easily trick the eyes and ears.
Performance Results - Stereo Music
One of the advantages of the 4" drivers in the Focal Domes is low mass, which translates into quick, agile transient response, particularly with percussion instruments. The dueling guitars of Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler in "There'll Be Some Changes Made" (Columbia Records) sounded articulate and fast with a snappy attack like a guitar should sound.
Good center imaging and vocal clarity, particularly "Columbus" by Mary Black (Curb Records) was another notable characteristic of the Focal Domes.
The Focal Dome subwoofer provided room-filling bass in my 23' x 16' space, even with its modest 8" woofer, although for larger rooms, two subwoofers might be a better solution.
If you close your eyes while listening to the Focal Dome system, it's easy to imagine you're listening to larger speakers. A moderately powered receiver with 25-100 watts per channel can easily power the system, the satellites take very little space and they can be placed almost anywhere, on a shelf, stand or mounted to the wall or ceiling. Their decorative style is a nice complement for a flat-panel television (even a large projection screen) and they'll provide dynamic sound performance to round out your home theater system. For more information, check out the website
where you'll see the new Focal Grande Utopia EM loudspeaker system, designated one of the best in the world by The Absolute Sound magazine, albeit at $180,000/pair. This makes the Focal Dome system a real value at $2595.00!
SpecificationsFocal Dome Satellites
- Drivers: One 5" Polyglass mid-bass, one 1" aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter
- Frequency response: 80 Hz – 28 kHz
- Sensitivity: 88 dB
- Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
- Crossover frequency: 2500 Hz
- Recommended amp power: 25 – 100 watts
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 6 ¾" x 5 11/16" x 5 5/8"
- Weight: 4.2 lbs. each
Focal Dome Subwoofer
- Driver: 8" Polyflex woofer
- Frequency response: 39 Hz – 170 Hz
- Variable crossover: 60 Hz – 170 Hz
- Amplifier: 100-watt BASH digital amp
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 15 ¾" x 10 7/8" x 10 7/8"
- Weight: 22.2 lbs.
- System price as tested: 5.1 system - $2,595.00
- Contact: Audio Plus Services, 156 Lawrence Paquette Ind Dr., Champlain, NY 12919 800-663-9352, www.audiopluservices.com