It’s been about four years since we appointed the Focal Sopra No1 as our reference speaker. Initially with a set of AVM M30 mono’s and a Pass Labs XP10 pre-amp. Later that became a Pass Labs XP12 with the Bryston 4B SST3. Fed by a Metrum Acoustics Pavane with Ambre streamer. Why is that Focal Sopra No1 here to stay?
Reviews are usually about new stuff. The latest model from manufacturer X. That’s logical: you want to know what’s available in the market. And we do have a bit of GAS: gear acquisition syndrome…
But the Focal Sopra No1 isn’t new at all. Then why a review? Just because we feel like writing a long-term review. This rather special speaker (we think) deserves that… it is one of the few components that we have not replaced in four years. There must be something special.
Orange is … ?
The appearance is striking, to say the least. The slight ‘bend’ at the tweeter, bright orange lacquer and the glass foot. The Sopra No1 is an eye-catcher. The ‘2’ and ‘3’ as well. Whether it is beautiful is of course a matter of taste. We can appreciate it. Although the fabric font is just ugly. So we’ll leave it off. Anyway: most speakers – no matter how beautiful they are finished – are a bit boring. A cabinet with a nice lacquer. Sometimes a nice leg, but that’s all (except for Sonus Faber of course… those are also works of art). The French designers at Focal have at least tried to make something of it. And we have to say: after four years we are still not tired of looking at this speaker.
Now we have to say that the term ‘bookshelf speaker’ really makes no sense. The Sopra No1 is big… …and heavy. This thing can’t be placed randomly in the living room. The Sopra No1 needs space. Not only does it take up a lot of space: it also needs to breathe to sound good. This speaker can produce some serious bass. Don’t underestimate that. In short: close to the wall is really not going to make it happy.
Bit of a ‘French touch’
The finishing touch is… a little French; quick and dirty so to say. Well… that’s exaggerated. But if you take a good look at it some stuff can be done better. The glass plates don’t fit equally everywhere, for example. As if it’s not perfectly in the middle. And the seams in the cabinet are just visible. Swiss and Germans really do that differently. You’re going to notice things like that in time as well. We don’t mind, but for 9000 euro (!) per set you can expect that the glass plates just fit neatly everywhere.
A word about that glass: although that glass is very nice, it is a finger print catcher. We don’t always dust very neatly (you probably noticed that on the pictures) and yes: you’re going to see that on the Sopras. So: if you want to keep everything nice and clean, you’ll have to get to work. Don’t tap it with a vacuum cleaner either: it scratches quite easily.