Focal showed a broad spectrum of its full-size speaker systems, but focused its demo room on some of its newest and smallest products, many of which are calculated to appeal to personal/desktop audio enthusiast.
First among the highlighted products was the highly innovative, self-powered Focal Bird 2.1-channel compact audio system with wireless support for Apple iDevices (prices starting at $995). This astonishingly sophisticated little system was recently reviewed in Playback.
Next, the Focal demo room provided a working sample of the soon-to-be-released XS Book self-powered desktop speaker which will be price around $399/pair in initial release form, with a more expensive DAC-equipped model planned to enter the lineup later on.
Finally, in a move that took many show attendees by surprise, Focal showed a mockup of its exquisite new full-size Spirit One headphone, while will arrive later this year and which is the result of a two-year design effort. The design, as can be seen from photos here, exhibits very fine fit and finish with ear cups carried in frames that allow vertical and horizontal swiveling for a more comfortable fit. In turn the ear cup frames are mounted on collapsible arms for a quasi fold-flat form factor. And check out those ultra comfy-looking ear pads!
GoldenEar’s demo room was featuring the firm’s new Aon 3 bookshelf monitor, which essentially migrates some of the technology that originated in the firm’s Triton Two floorstander into a speaker with a smaller form factor and a considerably lower price point.
Actually, there are two new Aon models—the relatively compact Aon 2 ($798/pair) and the Aon 3 ($998/pair). Both speakers feature the superb Heil-type HVFR (high velocity folded ribbon) tweeter originally created for the Triton Two, with the Aon 2 sporting a 6” mid-bass driver and the Aon 3 sporting a 7” mid-bass drivers—with both mid-bass drivers borrowing design elements from the very responsive mid-bass drivers used in the Triton Two. Finally, both the Aon 2 and Aon 3 use dual side-firing passive radiators (6” units in the Aon 2, and 7” units in the Aon 3) to augment bass response.
GoldenEar founder Sandy Gross explained the genesis of the Aon design by saying that a colleague had raved to him about the performance of an exotic, $6000/pair of stand-mount monitors. After hearing the monitors, and reflecting on what he had heard, Gross was convinced that the GoldenEar design team, led by GoldenEar co-founder Don Givogue, could create a product that could meet or beat that level of performance, but at a much lower price. The result is the Aon design.
After hearing a variety of pieces of music on the Aon 3s in the GoldenEar booth, we suspect Gross and company are on to something. As it happens, I visited the GoldenEar booth just after hearing a very expensive floorstanding speaker elsewhere at the show, and I felt the Aon 3 was—on the whole—the better speaker. As in the Triton Two floorstander, a crucial key to the Aon 3’s sound is the remarkably smooth integration it achieves between its HVFR tweeter and the adjoining mid-bass driver (Heil-type drivers can be tricky to integrate with piston-type drivers, but Gross and Givogue have certainly mastered the art). The other aspect of the speak that caught my ear was its surprisingly deep bass extension, which is pretty remarkable considering its compact size (see photo of Sandy Gross holding the Aon 3 in his arms).