Focal Electra 1028BE Floorstanding Speakers – Review

After hearing and reviewing the Focal Diablo Utopia, I was quite curios to take the Electra series for a spin and here we are. After hearing a pair of Electra 1028BE, I couldn’t resist and bought them for myself.

I’ve had them for a few months already and I absolutely love them. This review will mainly be about Focal Electra 1028BE, but you can also find a small comparison to 1038be.

Presentation

When I first laid my eyes on these speakers I was impressed with the level of finish and polish they presented . They certainly are  a pleasure to the eyes.

It’s safe to say that they stand very well in the design/build quality departments.

There is one thing that I don’t like and I must punctuate here. Each speakers has 4 drivers: 2 bass drivers, on midrange driver and a tweeter. Each of them has a separate protection grill. It’s not that easy to remove all of them and put them back.

Let’s ignore that for a bit. The bass/midrange grills are sturdy and have a steady grip when mounted.

The tweeter however is magnetic and the grip isn’t very strong. Actually, you have to be very careful when you remove/mount them, because it might flip in your hand and touch the beryllium tweeter which seems to be thick metal, but is actually thinner than a sheet of paper and is very fragile.

Not to say that if you touch the grill by mistake it can easily fall off . Focal should have payed more attention to this detail, especially at this price.

Specs and Technology

Focal is known for making their own drivers and the Electra Series is famous for the inverted dome beryllium tweeter and for the 3rd generation W cone midrange and bass drivers.

The beryllium tweeter has a very extended frequency range and can reach 40 kHz. Well some of you may ask if this matters. What I can tell you for sure, is that the treble is just lovely: smooth, sparkly, very detailed and extended. Some say that because it has a wider frequency range, the first part that really matters(<22 kHz) is cleaner and better presented.

I’ve also read a very interesting study which states that higher frequencies do affect the brain. This is called the hypersonic effect and their conclusion is:

In conclusion, our findings that showed an increase in alpha-EEG potentials, activation of deep-seated brain structures, a correlation between alpha-EEG and rCBF in the thalamus, and a subjective preference toward FRS, give strong evidence supporting the existence of a previously unrecognized response to high-frequency sound beyond the audible range that might be distinct from more usual auditory phenomena.

Not that I am backing any of those theories, but what I can tell you for sure, the treble is indeed awesome.

Focal Electra 1028BE - 1038BE - Review (3)

Let’s get back to the topic though. Focal manages to achieve these high frequencies because of the extremely light and rigid beryllium material which has a 2.5 times lower density that titanium and 3 times its rigidity.

The back of the tweeter is placed into a damped chamber called IAL (Infinite Acoustic Loading) which optimises the crossover.

The bass and midrange drivers are W sandwich cones consisting woven glass tissue on both sides of a very thin foam core making them more rigid and stiffer than other widely used cone materials.

 

Specs:

Type: Three-way bass-reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Driver Units: Two 16.5cm ‘W’ sandwich woofers
One 16.5cm ‘W’ sandwich midrange
One 27mm pure beryllium IAL inverted dome tweeter
Sensitivity: 91dB
Impedance: 8 Ohms, (3.5 Ohms minimum)
Bandwidth: 34Hz – 40kHz ± 3dB
Crossover frequency: 350Hz / 2.2kHz
Recommended amplifier power: 40-300 W
Dimensions (HxWxD): 1110×264x350mm
Weight: 33kg
Finishes: Basalt, Champagne, Slate Grey

electra1028be

Listening Impressions and Tests

The tests were performed with   MSB Analog DAC with quad usb + custom lps,  Audio Gd Master 10Focal Electra 1028BE.

Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I’ve been impressed by the first notes of these songs on electra 1028be. The chords were stunning, reaching emotional low frequencies, showing very good extension, control and very clean bass response. The plucks of the guitars are also sparkly and very detailed . They vibrate with excellent transient response and energy. The voice is equally astonishing, showing excellent textures and details as well.

Dawn & Hawkes – Lightning Strikes

I just love how these manage immerse you so well into the music. The guitars are so well articulated, but also musical, in a very pleasant tickling manner, while the voices are just out of this world, showing exemplary depth, extension and texture. Everything is so natural, so musical that I just lost myself in the song.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest

The instruments are just a pleasure to listen to, as they have incredible textures, details and extension. They are lifelike, bringing you very close to the real deal. You can also hear subtle cues and sounds from the orchestra, showing great detail.

Zdob si Zdub – Hardcore Moldovenesc

The drums have an incredible kick but also excellent control and very good extension. It’s like they draw you towards and outwards the speakers due to the incredible control. The guitars have a very addictive zzzzing attached to them, an energy and sparkle that vibrate with life and energy.

The voice reaches inside you because of the very strong presence and textures. When the song becomes crowded, the 1028be, handles the passage with ease and doesn’t mix  sound layers at all.

Pink Martini – Sympathique

The voice on this song is mesmerising, and the old “effect” that was applied on this song is rendered with excellence by the focal 1028be and transposes you in time. Everything is impressing on this song, from the sparkly and very detailed guitars to the crystal clear piano notes and the trumpet that flows directly into your soul.

Noon – Close to you

When the voices started, I just melted on the couch. It’s so intimate, so well textured that it’s more than the singer being in the same room with you, it’s like whispering directly into your ear. You can almost feel the breath and this is also available for the flute.

Carmen: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”

If you close your eyes you are in the opera. The excellent dynamic range on electra 1028be are very well proven on this song and it shows that they can be very subtle and detailed on lower volume notes but also on higher ones, also handling the passage from one to another in an impressive, explosive manner.

Yo-Yo Ma – Inspired by Bach: The Cello Suites

The cello is  breath taking. You can feel it inside your body and you can hear the full instrument with housing and everything. The textures on every note are very natural and detailed. You can also hear the artist breathing throughout the song.

ACDC – Thunderstruck 

The Electra 1028BE impressed me from the very first seconds of these songs with the very detailed electric guitars and the quire which were so real, with such well separated and well contoured voices that you can distinguish them and feel their individual breaths. The drums start with very strong kick and energy alongside the unique rock voice of the singer which shows excellent texture and energy. Actually the whole song is emanating and transmitting energy, rock energy that is! Rock on!

Focal Electra 1028BE - 1038BE - Review (5)

Summary

Bass

The bass is the best one I’ve ever had in my house until now. It hits hard, with superb control and very good extension. Another thing I just love about it is that it is incredibly clean and lacks any kind of distorsion. Now, I’ve heard the bigger Focals, the 1038BE and the ones from Utopia series, and I know it can be even better, especially in the extension area, but the 1028BE are very good in this department as well. The bass is also very natural and you can feel the housing of the drums, the cellos or other instruments that reach these frequencies.

Midrange

The 1028BE is certainly in its natural element on the midrange as it is one of their very strong points. They show very good details, presence and natural tonality in this area. One of the best I’ve heard. It just draws you inside your music. It just flows with musicality and rich textures, taking you on a the road to audio nirvana.

Treble

If you get a good system match, the treble is not harsh at all and you can get it to sound smooth, very detailed and extended. I know that I’ve used these words on many occasions and I do feel that I must explain myself more here. The treble can be sweet, but not because it is lacking in sparkle or detail, but because of the flowing quality it shows, making it smooth but detailed, extended and sparkly in the same time.

Details

These speakers are certainly quite detailed and they manage to get you more into the scene, showing subtle sound cues from the song, things that you could have missed before. They are not as detailed as the speaker from Utopia series, but still very good in this area as well.

Transients

The transients are excellent on these speakers. They are fast, with strong impact and very clean, detailed and natural decay. Actually, I must emphasize on the natural part. You know when a drum is hit, the instruments vibrates a little more until the sounds dissipates. I feel that Electra 1028 catches this moment with very good precision leading to a flowing and natural sound signature.

Tonality

This is another very strong area of Electra 1028BE. One of the most natural speakers I’ve ever heard. Instrument, or voice, you name it, it will sound very natural and lifelike, as you were near it.

Transparent/Clean Sounding

While I’ve heard better in this department (Piega), the Electra 1028BE are still top notch when it comes to transparency. And while I’ve heard cleaner sounding speakers, Focal manages to pull of a very important equilibrium with musicality and natural tonality.

Vocals

The voices on these speakers are very organic, natural and well textures. You can feel the voices, the breaths of the singers.

Soundstage and Layering

These speakers can handle crowded spaces in a natural and relaxed manner. I’ve never heard them struggle. Everything is very well positioned, each layer has it’s own location and lots of air to breath in.

Musicality

Some of the features from above combine into this one, offering a very musical and joyful experience. The music flows even when the guitars byte with strong transients. You can listen to them for hours, without getting bored, impressing you on every song, but also without getting tired.

Small Comparison with Focal Electra 1038 

I am writing this here because I cannot do another review specially for 1038 because they have very similar qualities. Is it worth the price difference to buy the bigger brother? If you have the space, it does. If you think that you will have better bass on 1038, you will be right, but this is not the only improvement they bring. Indeed the bass is deeper and more impressive, reaching lower frequencies.

I’ve listened to some classical music that had a pipe organ in the orchestra. I must say that the Electra 1038 was more impressive here compared to 1028, and not by a little, reaching some frequencies that made you feel the orchestra with the pipe organ in front of you, increasing the level of realism of the song. Besides this improvement, the speaker has a bigger housing, leading to bigger sound with better soundstage and even more realistic/lifelike than 1028.

Focal Electra 1028BE - 1038BE - Review (1)

Conclusions

I had these speakers for a few months now. While they might not have the WOW factor that gets your attention in a show room for example, I absolutely fell in love with them after a few days.

I’ve noticed that they have some qualities quite hard to find in other speakers. They really have something special, a combination and equilibrium of qualities that sometimes keeps me on the couch for hours not being able to get up. When I said they didn’t have a wow factor, I was referring to the fact that I didn’t notice them to do some stuff better than other. When this happens, and that one stuff is done very well, it’s easy to catch your attention and make you say “WOW”.

No, the Electra 1028 excels at everything almost equally. If you concentrate on each and every one, you will notice that it does an excellent job with all of them.

I can listen to anything with these speakers and be very impressed with them. From classical music and rock, everything sounds exceptional. Maybe, if you are a bass head, you might like the 1038 better, but the Electra 1028 stands quite well in this department as well.

On classical music I just loose myself into the orchestra, due to the very well textured and natural sounding instruments, spacious soundstage and details. The violins, cellos and other instruments sound extremely lifelike. I didn’t hear a better representation yet, except the more expensive speakers from Focal.

On rock I just love the drums with their impact, control and natural decay, the electric guitars that are vibrating with energy or classical guitar plucks that make you feel the whole instrument into your hands.

And when it comes to vocals, these speakers will make you believe that the singer is your friend and he’s performing for you in your house.

What else can I say? I just love them. Do I recommend them? Wholeheartedly! Can’t wait to hear the new  Sopra Series. Reviews coming soon! Stay tuned!

Pros

  • Excellent bass response
  • Excellent emotional and musical midrange
  • Excellent extended, smooth and natural treble
  • Excellent transients with strong attack and natural decay
  • Superb vocals
  • Very musical and enjoying sound signature
  • Very natural tonality
  • Very Good details
  • Good transparency/clean sound
  • Excellent looks, build quality and design
  • I think that the price/performance ratio is quite good

Cons

  • Not a fan of the removable grills system they chose, especially the ones from the tweeters which look quite cheap and aren’t very protective