It is always interesting to visit a factory. To get a good smell at the production facilities. Finding out the philosophy… and see it applied. To feel… experience what the French mean by “hi-fi”. We travel to Focal’s head office in Saint-Étienne, France. Near Lyon. One day later we travel to the cabinet factory in Bourbon-Lancy to enjoy the French cuisine… uh… craft. On-y-va!
Let’s scatter some numbers first. Focal employs about 250 people. Roughly 50 work in the cabinet factory in Bourbon-Lancy. And the remaining 200 work in La La laudière where the units are manufactured and final assembly and shipping takes place.
The reason the cabinet-factory is still two hours away is because of employment. Once, Focal started manufacturing the cabinets there. Now – forty years later – things have gotten a bit out of hand and Focal can’t go back, because so many people have become dependent on the work there. In short: if they decide to move, they leave about 40 families behind who no longer have a job or income… Yeah. You understand.
How many speakers Focal manufactures per day is not entirely clear to us, but it must be are a lot of them; it was a busy day when we walked through the factory. At the time we were filming, mainly Spectral, Sopra and Utopia were manufactured. Shortly before, Kanta went through production. Focal works in badges because it’s much more efficient. After all, turning over a complete production line is quite an ordeal.
Focal has a few clear product lines. At the very top is Utopia. After that Sopra. Then Kanta follows. These three lines have the high-end Beryllium tweeter. The biggest difference between Kanta and Sopra is that Kanta gets the Flax units and Sopra the – more expensive – W-cone drivers. After Kanta come Aria and Chorus. The Aria has the Flax units. Chorus has traditional drivers.
Besides the traditional hi-fi speakers, Focal also has built-in and surface mounted speakers for home theatre use.