Focal Diablo Utopia Speakers – Review
I’ve had many occasions to listen to Focal Speakers and I actually owned a pair of Aria 906 BookShelves for a while. I really liked them and I think they offer great performance for their price. You can read my full review here.
Now, with the courtesy of Jack-Fi, I’ve had the chance to audition and review another pair of bookshelves from Focal, but from the top of the line, the Focal Diablo Utopia.
Introduction and Specs
The first thing that draws attention is their luxurious appearance and their wonderful finish. They really catch your eyes with their design and looks, which indicate premium quality.
Type 2-way, compact bass-reflex loudspeaker
Drivers Power Flower “W” 61/2″ (16.5cm) Woofer
IAL2 pure Beryllium inverted dome 1″
Frequency response (+/- 3dB) 44Hz – 40kHz
Response at – 6dB 40Hz
Sensitivity (2.83V / 1m) 89dB
Nominal impedance 8 Ω
Minimal impedance 4 Ω
Filtering frequencies 2200Hz
Recommended amp power 25 – 200W
Dimensions (H x L x D) 1615/16 x 103/16 x 1613/16″ (431 x 258 x 427mm)
Weight 44lb (20kg)
Diablo Utopia was inspired from Grande Utopia EM. Focal invested a lot of time into making the bass section shine by adding a new patended 16.5 cm Power Flower that has almost no saturation and also has an internal resonator.
Some other interesting facts about their technology:
› tweeter compartment cavity tuned as a resonator
› smooths the bass impedance
› suppresses the typical resonance in the mid-bass of compact loudspeakers
6 1/2″ (16.5cm) Power Flower “W” woofer/midrange driver
› 3rd generation W composite sandwich technology
› new no saturation surround/spider coupling (patent pending)
› Power Flower magnet, maximal power and reduced magnetic leaks
IAL2 pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter
› very large bandwidth from 1 to 40kHz
› IAL2 (Infinite Acoustic Loading): low resonance frequency at 580Hz
› definition, rapidity and transparency of the midrange/treble
OP C filtering
› phase optimal control for a perfect 3D image
› audiophile type components
› WBT connectors
› mechanical phase optimization of the drivers
› driver orientation towards the listener
System used for tests
The tests were performed with Naim NAC-N 272 as DAC, Pre-Amp and Streamer and with the Naim NAP 250 DR power amplifier.
Before getting to the sound quality of the speakers, I must say that I’ve heard the Diablo Utopia in other sound systems and I really enjoyed the Naim NAC-N272 and NAP 250 DR combination. It was a very good match for the speakers and I loved the system as a whole.
Naim NAC-N 272
I’ve found this unit to be a very good and versatile unit as a whole. In this system it was used as streamer, dac, pre-amplifier and it managed to impress me with its sound quality. It also has lots of features that makes it very easy to use and versatile.
- High quality preamplifier including digitally controlled analogue volume control
- UPnP-enabled to allow streaming of audio files at up to 24bit/192kHz resolution from Naim hard disk servers, network-attached storage (NAS) devices or any home computer
- Performance upgradable with XP5 XS, XPS or 555 PS power supply
- Supports a broad range of music formats: WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, AAC, DSF64 and DFF64, Windows Media-formatted files, Ogg Vorbis and MP3
- Six 24bit/192kHz-capable digital inputs (S/PDIF) to support optimum connection to external sources
- Spotify Connect built-in to stream millions of songs from the world’s most popular streaming service
- Native support for TIDAL streaming service with free 90 day trial of lossless HiFi tier
- Bluetooth connectivity with aptX audio codec
- Optional DAB+/DAB/FM radio module
- vTuner 5* full-service internet radio
- Multiroom & Party Mode compatible
- Naim app for iOS and Android
I love Tidal and I did use it with the NAC-N 272 and it worked flawlessly.
Naim NAP 250 DR
This is the first time I’ve heard this amplifier and while I cannot tell for sure how it sounds on its own, as I didn’t hear it in my system separately, I sure liked what I heard and I can extrapolate some good qualities that it brought to the system.
Overall, the sound had a natural and flowing musicality, but also accompanied by good timing, details and transients. The bass was also very deep, controlled and punchy. It also presented a spacious, natural but also holographic soundstage.
I think that the NAP-250 DR deserves a review of its own and I can’t wait to take it for a full spin soon.
Mercedes Sosa – Misa Criola -Kyrie
This was actually the very first song I’ve listened to on this system and it was a wonderful start. Mecerdes’s voice gave me shivers of joy and goosebumps. It flows with ease, musicality and transparency right into your soul. The quire voices were also a pleasure to the ears, being very well placed into a spacious soundstage. The drum gave more gravity to the song with a strong attack, control and weight. The guitars tickled my ears with great tactility and detail. I had the feeling that I had to pay for the tickets to this wonderful concert.
I was floored by this song in the first seconds of the song. The voices are absolutely wonderful. They present such a haunting presence, such vibrant textures, details and weight that they gave me instant goosebumps. I felt Leonard’s voice inside my throat and my chest. It was rugged, full of life and vibrant. The female voices have a wonderful extension and integrate into the scene with great finesse. The drum is wonderful, with great impact and weight.
Andre Rieu – Oh when the saints
The first thing that I observed was a great sense of space and very good holography. I could see all the quire, the position of every singer. The clapping was also very real and gave an even better scenic feeling. The details presented by this system are amazing and offer very life like experience. The dynamics gave life to the song and made me dance along. Wonderful!
Son de la Frontera – Tanguillos de la Frontera
This was one of those moments when you wish to share the experience directly with someone, not try to describe it in words because you just know it won’t be the same. I fell in love with these speakers and this song. The guitars were so vibrant, incredibly tactile, detailed and sparkly that it is just hard to describe into mere words. The attack on every pluck is incredible, but the decay is natural and extended, but fast in the same time. Just perfect!
As you would imagine, the voice is incredible on this song as well. You can hear the voice with the whole body attached to it and also presenting incredible extension and textures. The instruments around are very detailed and have very clear leading edges. This song just flowed with musicality and emotion.
Hell yes! The speed, the energy, the impact…. these speakers have it! As I said before, the Diablo Utopia are very musical and natural, but they are incredible in speed, detail and impact. This song is always an energy shot on the right system, and this is with no doubt one of them. The attack is like a mini explosion. Ok, the bass would use a little more weight, but considering the size of these speakers, it’s excellent! There were sounds that seem to appear from nowhere and to fly all around you in a madly swirl.
This is one of those moments when the music sounds so alive and so real that you start to sing along. I felt like I was back at the wonderful ACDC concert. Everything was alive and real life like. The guitars were incredibly vibrant and extended, the drums had perfect timing and impact, while the voices were just amazing! Ok, the drums would have used a little more weight, but the overall performance was so great that I just don’t care! These speakers can and will rock your shoes off!
Wiener Philharmoniker Johannes Brahms – Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 Andate Moderato
You can find this song in a wonderful album called “50 Great Pieces of Classical Music for Summer” on Tidal. These speakers are excellent on classical music as well. It performed wonderful on all the songs I’ve listened to including this one. It showed a great sense of space and holography. Every instrument was very well placed into space, but it also was vibrant and full of life, even if it was far away in the back of the scene. Adding the very natural tonality and perfect timing, it’s like you are in the actual concert hall.
The bass is unexpectedly good for the size of these speakers. While it would use a little more extension, it’s still very good in this department, especially if you consider their size. When it comes to speed, impact and control, it’s just wonderful.
The midrange is incredible. Every instrument and voice are full of life and vibrant. In one world, it’s alive! One of the very best I’ve ever heard!
The treble is wonderfully extended, presenting sparkle, energy and no harshness. Of course, these are revealing speakers, so it won’t hide flaws found in the recordings. However, I found it to be natural, extended and very pleasant to the ears.
The voices are just wonderful. They have a mesmerizing scenic presence, excellent extension, textures and detail. They often brought me shivers down the spine and goosebumps. One of the best reproduction of voices I’ve ever heard.
Every note has exploding attack but a very fast, natural and extended decay. I don’t know how they did it, but I think that they stand at the base of the magic of these speakers. Excellent balance and performance here as well.
I just cannot get enough of these speakers. Their musicality is just wonderful. I’ve heard this term used in lots of different contexts, but in this one it’s the correct kind of musicality as these speakers are also very technical in the same time. Nothing is pushed forward in your face.
These speakers offer a very natural sound. Everything sounds very close to the real life experience.
The sense of space is great. I can close my eyes and see every instrument in space with great accuracy in location. The soundstage is spacious, very natural & holographical.
Imaging & Instrument Separation
There is a lot of space between the instruments. They have very clear leading edges and this system can handle crowed passages while whistling.
The details on these speakers are amazing. And they don’t sound analytical, they don’t push the details in front, they just come in a very natural and musical way.
Speed, Energy & Dynamics
Everything is vibrant and full of life. Every instrument, every pluck, every chord is alive and vibrant, even though they are sometimes far away in the back. Besides this, the speakers have very good speed and everything combined brings to great PRAT.
You know when something is really good when your brain, unwillingly starts a saving plan to buy it while you seamlessly listen to music.
These speakers will haunt my dreams from now on. I don’t know how they did it, but Focal managed to achieve a very important balance between musicality and technicality. Nothing is pushed forward in an unnatural way with these speakers. Everything from details, transients, dynamics come in a very natural and musical manner.
Focal Diablo Utopia are one of the most impressive speakers I have ever tested and definitely the best bookshelves I’ve heard.
- Very good bass with excellent punch, detail, control and good extension for the size
- Superb midrange
- Excellent and natural treble
- Superb voices, just lovely
- Very good and natural transient response
- Excellent dynamics
- Very musical
- Excellent soundstage
- Excellent imaging and instrument separation
- Very good energy and speed
- Very natural sound signature
- Luxurious design, finish and build quality
- While the bass has very good extension for the size, I still found some occasions where I would have wanted a little more
Nice review. I lust after the higher end Focals too.
Thank you Punit. I managed to get my hands on a pair of Electra 1028 recently. Review coming soon. Excellent speakers!
An interesting comparison with the Dynaudio Confidence C1, which can be considered competition for the Diablo (http://singaporehifi.blogspot.nl/2013/02/dynaudio-confidence-c1-mk-ii-quick.html)
Nice review! So would you recommend a nice high end sub (or two) with theses? Say a couple JL Audio e110s?? I can see these as the natural upgrade path to my current Kanta N1’s…