The twin 165mm bass drivers have 120mm diameter aluminium/paper/ Kevlar diaphragms, stiffened by oversize central domes. A front port provides reflex loading, and useful two-part foam bungs allow the ports to be re-tuned and damped, or completely blocked. The tweeter has a rather exposed and vulnerable looking 25mm aluminium dome diaphragm, loaded at the rear by an internal tapering tube. Though any three-way crossover is bound to be complex, this one has fewer components than its predecessors, and is fed from twin pairs of terminals. When I first encountered the 683 some months ago, no plinth was supplied or available. Second time around I found a huge, almost square and rather ugly plastic’n’rubber affair inside the box. This undoubtedly meets EEC requirements for ‘knockover’ resistance, and provides effective spike fixing, but was maybe included in protest, as it certainly falls short of the company’s usual design refinement. It definitely provides great stability, but I kept catching my pinkies on the sharp corners, and have the bruises to prove it. The 90dB sensitivity claim seems a shade optimistic, as the mid-band is closer to 88-89dB under far-field averaged conditions, and the amplifier load is rather demanding too. However, the bass goes seriously deep, especially with the ports wide open (32Hz tuning). In my room the hollow foam port lining gave best results.
The frequency response is pretty well ordered, albeit with some lack of energy at the lower end of the midrange driver (300-500Hz), and some presence restraint (2-3kHz). The treble is smooth and also rather restrained.
First impressions were very positive, largely I suspect because the 683 has significantly more and deeper bass than the others gathered here, and delivers this bottomend with enthusiasm and gusto as well as impressive evenness. The top-end brings plenty of air and spaciousness to the party too, while that special FST driver delivers a midrange with low coloration and a notably wide dynamic range.
While this speaker is undoubtedly easy on the ears, a degree of dissatisfaction set in over some lack of overall coherence. The different types of driver used for each of the three ways didn’t quite seem to come together convincingly, and the midrange in particular seemed a little detached and lacking in vigorous expression. The top-end too seemed a trifle obvious, and might have been sweeter, though it did provide the soundstage with an attractive airiness.
The 683 really comes into its own when the volume is wound up high with some heavyweight music playing. It handles power extremely well, the bass provides plenty of impetus to drive the music along, and the overall character avoids becoming aggressive even when the whole system is working hard. It is, however, rather less happy with more delicate material played at modest levels, where the midrange restraint and lack of coherence seems to be a more obvious impediment.
The strength of the 683 is that it represents a very safe choice. It might not be the most immediately communicative speaker around, but the sound it delivers is unlikely to become untidy or offensive, and the bass authority and weight is a welcome plus.
Focal Chorus 807V
After some years heading up the development department at France’s leading driver manufacturer Audax in North West France, at the beginning of the 1980s the urbane Jacques Mahul returned to his family engineering business down in the South East. His home town of St. Etienne is France’s equivalent to Sheffield, the heartland of metal-bashing expertise, and he initially founded Focal as a drive unit specialist, supplying speaker system builders (including Wilson Audio) and the in-car aftermarket with unique and advanced designs.
Some years later Focal decided to make its own complete speaker systems. Initially marketed under the JMlab brand, the company has now reverted to the original Focal name. It grew rapidly into France’s number one hi-fi speaker brand, and quickly became a major player on the international scene. In 2006 Focal decided to make a serious effort to ginger up the somewhat depressed budget sector of the market, by simultaneously launching no fewer than ten stereo pairs (plus AV add-ons) in two separate ranges. The Chorus 700V-series replaced the previous Chorus models while the more costly Chorus 800Vs effectively take the place of the Cobalts, and both ranges come with more interesting styling than is usually encountered in budget price loudspeakers.
The £379/pair 706Vs might well represent the best value for money across the two Chorus ranges; the 806V has a similar driver line-up in a superior construction and finish enclosure for £500/pair, but I’ve not tried them. However, at £629/pair the Chorus 807V is a little larger and heftier than either ‘06V model, and the greater cone area of the bass/mid driver is likely to deliver a rather more authoritative and dynamic sound. While I mourn the fact that the 8inch two-way stand-mount seems close to extinction, I still reckon a 7-incher has an advantage over the more common 6.5-incher. Slightly tapered sides will help spread internal standing waves a little, and the 800V-series enclosures look and feel more substantial than those found in the 700Vs, largely because the front, back, top and base are all finished in a high gloss laminate rather than woodprint vinyl. The crossover networks have superior components too. A distinctive V-shaped grille leaves the tweeter uncovered, though it has its own removable protective mesh cover.