Athens 2013: Focal, Naim

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By Dr. Panagiotis Karavitis

Focal had a massive presence in the Athens AV show this year, with a couple of dedicated rooms to the company’s products. I say “company’s” and not “companies” because, for those who missed the news, Focal merged with Naim under a common management a couple of years back.

Many called this a blasphemy, but they should listen to a Naim/Focal system before speaking. One too many times I have experienced an inadequate sound coming by the big Utopia speakers because of electronics/speaker mismatch.

Not the case this year. The superbly finished red Scala Utopia V2 sounded as few others in the show. Naim provided both amplification (NAC 252 pre amp with 555 Discrete Regulated PS, NAP 300 power amplifier) and source under the form of NDX music streamer again with 555 DR power supply. The streamer was controlled by iPad with a user-friendly interface but a photographer un-friendly screen (did my best). Legendary speaker cable NAC A5 and Nordost Valhalla V2 completed the rig.

Listening to Diana Krall’s sensual voice in “The girl in the other room” I realized two things. One, the system was truly realistic in its presentation and, two, it was now perfectly obvious what had captured Elvis Costello (fine, maybe her beauty had something to do with it, too).

But big systems must be tested with big scale classic music in order to show off or show their limits. Took the iPad in my hands and found my favorite take of Brahms “Eine Deutche Requiem” (Schwarzkopf-Dieskau-Klepmerer/ EMI). In the 6x4x3 meters room the Scala Utopias literally rocked the walls and even without acoustic treatment the sound was balanced, coherent and extremely detailed without being harsh in the upper octaves. Yes, Naim and Focal are doing an excellent job together.

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