• The Little Bird satellite speaker feature a 4-inch Polyflex mid/bass driver and a small (diameter not specified) aluminum dome tweeter, both housed in a rounded, almost dome-shaped molded thermoplastic enclosure. The Little Bird provides a sealed, not ducted, enclosure. Claimed low frequency response extends down to a respectable 89Hz.
• Just for the record, the larger Bird satellite, should you choose to go that route, is essentially a larger version of the Little Bird, but with a 5-inch Polyflex mid-bass driver. The Super Bird is somewhat differently configured, however, with a significantly larger elliptical enclosure that features a 5-inch mid-bass driver, a centrally positioned tweeter, plus a 5-inch passive radiator for deeper bass extension and better power handling.
• Bird satellites ship with two sets of stands—one a tulip-shaped pedestal stand and the other a stand featuring three splayed feet and a slender stalk on which the speaker enclosure is mounted (the latter looks for all the world like the feet of a bird—hence the Bird name). Either way, the stands allow the speakers to be tilted up and down or swiveled from left to right, and then locked in position, and both stand design are cleverly design so they can be used for tabletop or wall-mount applications. Optional floor stands are also available.
• The slim Power Bird module incorporates a 6-inch paper cone woofer in a ducted port enclosure, with low frequency extension to between 42 – 35Hz. Rear panel controls allow users to set the absolute phase of the sub (with 0 or 180 degree settings) and to adjust subwoofer output levels.
• The Power Bird includes a built-in three-channel amplifier that delivers 1 x 80 Wpc for the woofer and 2 x 35 Wpc to drive the Bird satellites.
• The Power Bird provides three stereo analog inputs (two via sets of RCA jacks, one via a 3.5mm mini-jack), a digital audio input (which provides both coaxial and Toslink jacks, where one or the other can be chosen for the digital input). Completing the picture is a wireless input based on 2.4 GHz Kleer technology.
• The Bird system ships with a Kleer iTransmitter for use with Apple devices, though a Kleer-USB dongle will be offered as an extra-cost option. (Note: the Kleer-USB dongle should become available at some point in September, 2011.). An optional tabletop iDock transmitter will also be offered.
• One small caveat: In practice, Focal’s Kleer-technology wireless modules are very easy to use, but the small set-up guide that comes them leaves much to be desired (it is unnecessarily confusing). Fortunately, the expert product support team at Audio Plus Services (Focal’s US distributor) can help get users sorted out almost immediately, should problems arise.
• By design the Power Bird can either be placed flat on a table or shelf or stood upright—typically with the flat bottom of its chassis against a wall surface with its control panel facing upward. Alternatively, the Power Bird can be hung directly on a wall. To support these options, the Power Bird comes with a beefy wall-mount bracket, a mesh grille that partially covers over its rear-panel and with a special decal that flips its control markings and product logo upside down, so they can still be read properly when the unit is placed flat side toward a wall.
• An elegant remote control provides on/off, input selection, volume control, and—for some Apple devices—menu and playback controls.
The Focal Bird system strikes me as an absolutely brilliant exercise in the fine and subtle art of compromise, so that the net effect of the sound you hear is far greater than the sum of its parts.
As with any good audio system, the heart of the Bird system’s sound lives in the midrange, which exudes appropriate natural richness and warmth, plus a very good measure of transient speed and resolution. Highs, in turn, are reasonably well extended, though perhaps just slightly rolled off, and are exceedingly smooth—qualities that turn out to be essential to the system’s overall performance. Bass, as I’ve suggested above, is surprisingly deep and tuneful, and beautifully integrated with the Little Bird satellites.
Where many small satellites manage to sound shrill (owing to aggressive tweeters that seem prone to transient overshoot) or to sound thin, compressed and lifeless (owing to midrange drivers that sound overly coarse and unrefined, or that lack appropriate dynamic range and/or low-end extension), the Bird satellites consistently sound engaging, full-bodied, and vibrant. What is more, they never, ever draw attention to themselves in distracting ways—not even when you listen to them at close range (as would be the case in, say, desktop audio applications, though the system is perfectly capable of filling small-to-mid-size rooms with sound).