OK, we admit it. We considered labeling this section with the title, “Focal Gives CEDIA ‘The Bird’”, but eventually good taste prevailed (hey, this is a family-oriented home theater publication, right?). But this leads to a key question: what exactly is Focal’s Bird system, and what makes it special?
I could tell you the Bird is an affordable sat/sub system, and though that statement would be true (at least in a sense) it would also be misleading. I could also call the Bird an attractively priced, high-end-audio-in-a-box package, but that, too, would miss out on some of the qualities and characteristics that make the Bird system seem so downright magical. So let’s tackle things from the top down.
Focal’s Bird systems (several variations are possible) are all based on small, affordable, very high-quality satellite speakers, all of which leverage technologies and design motifs similar to those found in Focal’s popular Dome 5.1-channel system. The satellites, somewhat whimsically, are known as the Little Birds ($295/pair), the Birds ($450/pair), and the SuperBirds ($595/pair). All Bird-series satellites come the “tulip-type” pedestal stands/wall brackets, and with distinctive Bird tripod-type stands (which look a bit like birds’ feet); optional floorstands are also available.
But things get really interesting when we talk about the system’s slimline, all-in-one source component/amplifier, called the PowerBird. The PowerBird features a 2 x 35 Wpc class A/B amplifier to drive the satellites, a 1 x 70 Wpc class A/B amplifier to drive the subwoofer, and a built-in 24/192-capable DAC. The PowerBird offers three digital and two analog inputs, and comes with a remote. It is also designed to support wireless connections to outboard source components via Kleer wireless technologies. In fact, Focal will offer two types of wireless dongles priced at $100/each: one will be a Kleer/iPod/iPad/iPhone dongle, while the other will be a Kleer/USB dongle. Pretty cool, no?
But wait: there’s more. Where, you might ask, is the Bird system sub? Check this out: the “sub” is actually a built-in element of the PowerBird, which incorporates a downward-firing woofer housed in a compact, reflex-type enclosure that is part of the PowerBird chassis, and whose port exits through what at first appears to be a cooling duct in the PowerBird’s faceplate. From a styling standpoint this is pure genius, because your ears hear a sub, but your eyes don’t see one (they see only the slender chassis of the PowerBird). Bird systems based on two Little Birds and one Powerbird start at $995.
How’s the sound. A brief listen suggested to me that the Bird rig offers a smooth, warm, vibrant sound that is very much in keeping with Focal’s “house sound”—a comment I intend as high praise indeed.
Sandy Gross is an acknowledged legend in the world of high-performance loudspeakers, and with good reason. He helped found Polk Audio, later founded Definitive Technology, and now has gone on to create a third speaker company: GoldenEar Technology. At each step along the way, Mr. Gross’s products have been defined by two key characteristics: unexpectedly generous measures of high-end performance, and equally unexpected affordable prices. Based on the products I saw and heard at CEDIA, let me say that GoldenEar’s products are positioned to push both ends of the envelope harder than ever—reaching toward exceptional performance at surprisingly accessible prices.
GoldenEar’s flagship Triton Two tower-type speakers introduce certain core technologies that are leveraged, to a very high degree, across the entire product family. The Triton Two features a Heil-type tweeter (which GoldenEar calls a “Hihg-Velocity Folded Ribbon” tweeter), a pair of 4.5-inch mid-bass driver that incorporates a multi-vaned phase plug (and is said to achieve high frequency response extending to nearly 20kHz, which is pretty amazing for a mid-bass driver), two oblong 5-inch x 9-inch bass drivers, two oblong flat-panel passive radiators, and a built-in 1200-watt DSP-controlled subwoofer amplifier—all this for an almost shockingly reasonable $2500/pair. The rest of the line includes two pairs of wall or stand-mountable satellite speakers, which are offered both in vertical and horizontal (i.e., center channel) versions, plus two powered subs. It’s a neat, simple, elegant product family that can cover a variety of applications (and customer budgets) with a minimum of SKU’s.