Focal Professional Solo6 Be
Input: 1 XLR per speaker
Dimensions (H x W x D): 13 x 9-7/16 x 11-7/16" (330 x 240 x 290mm)
Weight: 24.2lb (11kg)/each
Availability: online and through authorized dealers
Why not? I mean, if you were me, wouldn't you? In an exchange with Bruce Brown, Owner and Engineer at Puget Sound Studios (see our Q&A), Bruce mentioned that he was using the Focal Solo6 Be monitors (as well as the Twin6 and Sub6 in a 5.1 array) in his recording studio. And that information stuck in my head and poked at me when I recently thought about desktop speakers to review. And I thought why not? Rated at 40Hz - 40kHz with a 150W rms, BASH® amp for the midbass/bass driver and a 100W rms class A/B amp for the treble, these bad boys max out at 113dB SPL (peak @ 1m). So yea, they work really well as nearfield desktop earth movers.
The Solo6 Be utilize the Focal TB871 Beryllium inverted dome tweeter and a 6-1/2" (16.5cm) Focal "W" composite sandwich cone speaker for the mid/woofer. As I mentioned up front, these are rated at 40Hz - 40kHz and driven by over 200 bi-amplified Watts per side. So I'd say a subwoofer is not required, just some restraint with very tempting volume levels. The 24 pound+ veneered MDF cabinets are finished off with dark red natural side panels, a black body, and some brushed and sparkly metal accents around the drivers. The slotted port is front mounted so you can place the Solo6 Bes up close to the back wall which is a good thing seeing as they're nearly a foot deep.
But why Beryllium? I wondered the same thing so I went to the Focal website:
Focal, after two years of research and development, produced a world first: a pure Beryllium inverted dome, able to cover more than five octaves (1000Hz – 40kHz). You may ask yourself why do we strive for an extended response at 40kHz, if the human ear can only hear up to 20kHz? If you can extend frequency response, you will improve the perception of transients and other micro details. As well, the linearity of the speaker’s response curve is mainly a function of three opposite parameters: lightness, rigidity and damping.
To this day, only one material permits a joining of these parameters: Beryllium. For domes with identical masses, Beryllium is seven times more rigid than Titanium or Aluminum, the latter two well known for their rigidity. This results in a sound wave propagation three times faster than Titanium and two and a half times faster than Aluminum. In the end, the linearity of the frequency response curve, the acoustic transparency and the impulse response of the Beryllium tweeter are maximized and offer near-perfect sound.
The Solo6 Bes sport a single XLR input per side and there are three user-adjustable level settings: Input sensitivity (+4dBu and -10dBV), HF contour (continuous adjustment of high frequency level above 5kHz within a ±3dB range), and LF contour (continuous adjustment of low frequency level below 150Hz within a ±6dB range). There's a green power indicator up front, a power switch around back and the Solo6s ship with a speaker grille covering the tweeters for shipping purposes only. Those beryllium tweeters prefer to run naked. I did not mention a volume control because there isn't one.
I used the Solo6 Bes with my loaner Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC/Preamp (see review) using its volume control and 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 a Furutech FireBird-96 cable and I used Audirvana Plus in Playlist mode for playback.
I Feel The Sky Tumbling' Down
Perhaps counter-intuitively, bigger speakers can sound more relaxed than small speakers. They make music-making sound effortless. This effortlessness comes across in the feel of the overall presentation which in a word sounds natural and spacious. Your brain does not have to fill in many blanks or interpret fundamentals from second order harmonics. You get the whole note. So any music that relies on bass, like the tempestuous new Locust release titled You'll Be Safe Forever released on Editions Mego sounds completely authoritative and present. Hand-in-hand with near full-range performance is a speaker's ability to handle dynamic swings with real authority which the Solo6 Bes manage without breaking even a hint of a sweat. Again, think effortless and natural which translates into shock-ability in terms of dynamic swings. Something like Aroo from King Midas Sound sounds positively stunningly wicked through the Solo6 Bes.
Yet, the Solo6s are also capable of delicacy and subtlety along with bombast and eruptive power. This was apparent with the DSD download of Penderecki's Violin Concerto, Horn Concerto from Channel Classics where every nuance of this magisterial performance is presented with stunning authority. And the Solo6s are dead quiet when they're supposed to be where sounds emerge from utter silence. With a nearfield monitor this capable of reproducing music's ebb and flow along with its punch and power, the listening experience becomes completely engrossing and physically engaging. You feel the music as much as hear it and that is a thrilling experience.
I'm not talking simply about the Solo6's ability to play loud, which they do really well, rather the overall scale of music presented is life-like. The sound picture portrayed feels as large as life. You may think that the difference between a 4" driver and a 6.5" driver is only 2.5 inches but what you'd be missing in terms of overall size speaks volumes. A 6.5" driver can move a heck of a lot more air and the physicality of this difference is significant, especially in the nearfield where it can also be intoxicating.
But all of this effort would hardly be worth the trouble if voices, including instrumental, electronic, and human, are not also conveyed in a convincing manner. Here, the Solo6's shine as brightly and I found their ability to deliver color and texture to be captivating. The Focal Solo6 Bes present your music in a natural light where everything that's meant to be exposed is there for all to hear. But I'm not suggesting the Solo6's are bright-sounding or fatiguing in any way whatsoever. Coupled with their dramatic sense of scale, effortless way with dynamic swings, and heart-pounding physicality that reaches down into the nether regions with ease, we're talking about impactful music delivery and some heavily engrossing music listening. I've not had such an expansive (or expensive) sound take up residence on my desk and the experience is addictive. It is something I will miss.
I suppose you can have too big when it comes to speakers, especially speakers that will live within the confines of a desktop. But if you can fit the Focal Solo6 Be and you're serious about enjoying listening to music on your desktop, you'll want to consider these monitors. Of course the Focal Solo6 Bes also represent a significant investment in nearfield listening especially seeing as you'll want to pair them with an equally engaging DAC and one that includes a decent volume control since the Solo6s do not include one. The Mytek DAC, due to its size and performance, makes a great partner.
For some, especially those who spend a lot of time staring into a computer screen, the desktop is the new listening frontier and with a speaker like the Focal Solo6 Be, you can have the lion's share of what your music has to offer all within arm's reach. Just be prepared to be completely distracted by music.