Hands On: Focal Solo6 Be Active Monitors
Speakers impress with neutrality and well-controlled lower frequencies.
Over the past couple years, I’ve seen a lot of Audio Plus Services (APS) and its brands. I’m growing more enamored with every product I review.
The company recently sent me a pair of Focal Solo6 Be active monitors ($1,095) to try as a desktop recording tool. Much like with the other APS products I’ve recently tried—the Dream Vision Dream E Projector and Cambridge Audio DAC Magic—I was thoroughly impressed.
These days with a basic PC or Mac, a microphone and a musical instrument, amateur hacks like me can record their ideas with degrees of success that depend on their knowledge and experience levels.
The Solo6 Be is a two-way active monitor that features a ported enclosure that houses a 1-inch Focal TB871 Beryllium inverted dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch Focal W sandwich-cone woofer. Powering these drivers are a 150-watt BASH amp on the woofer and a 100-watt Class A/B amp on the tweeter.
On the speaker’s rear panel there’s an XLR input on the left, recessed gain controls in the upper right corner, a power on/off switch and a detachable power cable connection.
In my system, I hooked the speakers up to an iMac via a PreSonus USB interface and a set of 0.25-inch to XLR cables. Using an Apple computer everything was plug-and-play and it took only a few minutes to set up.
I recorded acoustic guitar tracks using a Taylor 314ce, the vocal prowess of my 4-year-old daughter, my son’s junior drum kit and my Kramer Baretta and Gibson Les Paul guitars through Mesa Boogie, Marshall and Kustom amplifiers.
The first thing installers will notice about the speakers beyond their aesthetics is their power. For my near-field application I dialed the gain down to their lowest settings and found it plenty loud enough.
For most of my recording time I used GarageBand software and the tools within the program, which include things like compression and reverb. I used these features to rein the rawness of my Taylor that was mic’ed with MXL condenser and Shure dynamic mics, as well as my daughter’s vocals, for example.
I thought the speakers’ most impressive elements were their neutrality and well-controlled lower frequencies. Highlighting the speaker’s neutrality was the acoustic song I recorded that featured an Asus2, Cm9, G, D chord progression. These first-position chords feature lots of open ringing strings, and the speakers let these strings ring out with decay over the root notes without sounding bloated, bright or rolled off.
The detail was amazing. At one point I was recording the acoustic tracks and I had forgotten how I had my microphones set up. With digital file’s tracks on, I was able to notice the tonal differences between the inputs. I instantly knew which one was the condenser and which one was the dynamic mic.
Focal Professional wouldn’t like me to say this, but I am going to make note of it anyway: These speakers are designed for recording applications, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for desktop audio. I checked out some iTunes content and I was pleased with the listening experience.
Custom electronics pros going after the home recording market or even step-up desktop audio sales, and consumers looking to enjoy those aspects, should consider the Solo6 Be.
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