Focal Professional CMS 40
Input: 1 RCA, 1 XLR (per speaker)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 9-3/8 x 6-1/8 x 6-1/8" (238 x 156 x 155mm)
Weight: 11lb (5.5kg)/each
Availability: online and through authorized dealers
The Focal CMS 40 powered speaker is referred to as a monitor on the company's website. A subtle distinction perhaps but a monitor is meant for monitoring records during production whereas a speaker is meant to be used when the production work is done. So a monitor is a tool for listening whereas a speaker is a tool for enjoyment. Some listeners, like audiophiles, for example, do both and a speaker like the Focal CMS 40 is practically made to order.
The CMS 40 is the smallest speaker in the Focal CMS Series which also includes the CMS 50 and 65 as well the CMS Sub. The CMS 40 is a compact two-way monitor utilizing a 4" Focal woofer with a Polyglass cone and an Aluminum/Magnesium inverted dome Focal tweeter. These drivers are named "Focal" because Focal makes their own drivers. Each CMS 40 driver has its own 25Watt Class A/B amplifier so each pair includes 100W of total output power. Inputs include a pair of RCAs and a pair of XLRs which are mounted on the underside, pointing down, of a recess in the back of the cabinet (see photo).
There's also three, three-position switches around back for adjusting Input Level (+4dBu, 0, -10dBV), Low Frequency Shelving (0-450Hz: Adjustable, 0, -2, +2dB), and High Frequency Shelving (4.5kHz - 20kHz: Adjustable, 0, -2, +2dB). Around front is the on/off switch, volume control (exactly where it belongs), a slotted port, and Focal includes speaker grilles which they recommend you leave off during listening which I did. Also included in the package is a Tweeter Phase Plug which you install by simply pressing it into place after removing the tweeter grille with the included hook.
Setup is simple and straight forward and I decided to use my loaner Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC to take advantage of DSD on my desktop, using its XLR outputs to connect to the Focals using the Kimber Kable Select KS 1126 Balanced interconnects. The Mytek was connected to my iMac via firewire using the Furutech FireBird-96 cable and I used Audirvana Plus in Playlist mode for playback. The Focals also come with two types of round ended spikes; 2 adjustable and 4 fixed. I used a fixed pair for each rear position and the adjustable spikes up front to give the CMS 40's some rear-leaning rake, angling their phase-plugged tweeters at my ears. As usual, the CMS 40s sat atop my plywood stacks.
I find the Focal's black powdered subtly sparkly paint finish perfectly pleasant to look at but this is obviously a question of taste. They are built and finished to a nice quality and their included spikes and slotted front mounted port give them a nice squat bulldog appearance. Woof!
Even though I listen critically, I sometimes enjoy myself simultaneously as was the case with the Focal CMS 40 monitor/speakers from the get go. The CMS 40s have a very nice heft to them which you notice when handling them for setup and also when switching their on/off switch. This heft seems to lend a hand in the CMS 40's bass response as their heavy and dense cabinets appear to be fairly resonant-free imparting a nice clean, clear weight to their bass response which Focal rates down to 60Hz (+/-3dB). Even though I listen very near-field, the drivers meshed perfectly and presented a stable and solid sound image dead-center between the pair and with some care taken with placement, this sound image was more or less reproducing my music damn near inside my head which is one of the beauties of listening in the nearfield, imo.
One common knock I've read about professional monitors is they can have a clinical, almost sterile presentation. With the few monitors I've heard on my desktop including my ADAM A3X's, I have no idea what this means. If anything, I've had some powered desktop speakers here for review that just sounded not so great and they would certainly be of little use as monitors. Surely there's nothing in a speaker's typical specifications that would hint at this sonic feature and I find nothing in the CMS 40's sound that sounds like anything but music. The low and high frequency shelving controls came in handy as I boosted the bass response by 2dB and left the other setting in their center, neutral position.
Compared to my ADAM A3X's (see review), I'd give the Focals the edge in bass response and also having an overall fuller and more impactful presentation. They sound denser and more meaty even though both speaker's low frequency response is claimed to be the same (60Hz). The ADAM's ribbon tweeter, which is rated to 50kHz as compared to the Focal's 28kHz gives them the edge in HF airiness and also a tad more of the ethereal in your head near-headphone presentation when listening in the nearfield. I'd also give the Focals the edge in dynamic slam and they also tempt me more than the ADAM's to play them louder!
If I had to choose between these two monitors, I'd probably lean towards the slightly pricier Focals for their weightier and more physical sound. Then again, I just might miss the ADAM's uncanny disappearing into your ears act, a product of their ribbon tweeters. But lets get back to the Focals and their high frequencies which are extended without a hint of edginess or brightness. Again their bass response is convincingly weighty and their midrange is rich and inviting. They also image like the Dickens and overall are simply a pleasure to listen to music through.
I listened to all manner of music through the CMS 40s and better recordings sounded better than crappy recordings and DSD downloads sounded simply marvelous. There's a clarity to the Focal's presentation throughout the frequency range that compliments music's finer points and something like the delicate and sweet Mi And L'Au from the ripped CD released on Young God Records blossoms with guitar, toy piano, flute, accordion, bowed psaltery, violin, cello (from Julia Kent), and of course Mi and L'Au's lovely loving vocals.
The Focal CMS 40s deliver the sonic goods where it counts and I see them as being a very easy speaker to recommend for people shopping for a pair of monitors or speakers for their desktop in their price range. While not pluming the depths of bass response, I can see living with the bass they do offer as it is tuneful and convincingly hefty. Combined with a very pleasant and natural-sounding amount of detail, resolution, and dynamic slam, the CMS 40s deliver your music so you can inspect it, enjoy it, or both.