Focal is a renowned brand in the hifi world. And that’s not at all surprising when we look at the products that Focal produces. Because what’s important? Quality indeed. It was, is and will remain so. But if Focal puts a speaker on the market and gives it the name No1, that’s a brave name. Although in this case it stands for positioning within the Sopra series (the smallest…). Let’s take a good look at this ‘little’ – not-so-book-shelf: the Focal Sopra No1.
Faraday’s cage. This indicates a cage-shaped construction, which is made of electrically conductive material. The cage ensures that electrical fields cannot penetrate. In practice “the cage” is mainly used to exclude electromagnetic radiation. This would make a space impenetrable to electromagnetic radiation. Probably read this and think, “Nice to know, but I’m reading a piece about a speaker, aren’t I?”
That’s right. However, the Investigation Department has not been idle. We find NIC in the Focal Sopra No1. NIC stands for Neutral Inductance Circuit. Before you suffer from hyperventilation, we will explain to you in understandable Dutch what this means.
A speaker unit has a bobbin on the back. This one’s magnetic. The magnetic forces are an essential part of the speaker unit. Researchers discovered that the intensity and forces vary. And this is due to three influences: the movement of the voice-coil (voice coil), the current flowing through it and the frequency of the signal. Of course, the researchers at Focal wanted to achieve optimal control. In short: they have to tame the magnetic field in order to increase the resolution of the system.
Focal designed a kind of ring based on this Faraday cage (by the way, there are more manufacturers that use a variation of this ring). At the bottom of the line, this ring provides better control over the magnetic fields. Result: less distortion and more dynamics in the sound.
Marketing or technology?
TMD, Tuned Mass Damper. Let’s have a quick look… this is a technique copied from skyscrapers. This technique would ensure that in the event of an earthquake, the buildings would not collapse like a house of cards. Apply it to a speaker and we’ll see a speaker with less distortion in the middle area.
If this isn’t enough technology, Focal will also put IHL, Infinite Horn Loading, in the Focal Sopra No1, just to be sure. If we filter out all the marketing language, we come to the following explanation. The Sopra No1 uses a Beryllium tweeter – of which we are a big fan, by the way. However, a tweeter – almost every tweeter – has a disadvantage. The volume of compressed air behind the tweeter. The compressed air creates a counter-pressure which creates a kind of spring action and causes deformation. Because of this, the tweeter does not come into its own.
By a physical calculation, they have developed a shape in the housing. And an outlet for the distorted air behind the tweeter. This is recognizable by the grille on the back of the housing of many Focal Speakers.
Of course this is all very nice to read, but more importantly, does the speaker really sound that good?