Music Matters 11: McIntosh, Focal, Transparent


by Mohammed Samji

Definitive Audio in Seattle, WA.

The Focal room was buzzing with people as I entered. They had generated a ton of interest in the prior session. I walked in to see several folks at the front of room asking questions and scribbling down the names of the playlist tracks.


Further piquing my interest was the introduction by the Focal representative. Focal was kicked off by reminding us that they are 100% made in France in the town of Lyon.  Apparently the town of Lyon has better food then Paris (at least, according to Focal), but in either case good food is a place to win my heart. Focal gets points, and the music hasn’t started yet.

Focal was showcasing the Sopra No. 2 speakers which came out in April 2015.   Along with the pure Beryllium tweeter, it features a “Tuned Mass Driver” (TMD). The TMD is tech around the outside of the driver, where they added two small ridges, in order to add mass and create a more coherent sound from the driver.



Driving the Focal Sopra was a McIntosh Labs stack including: C1100 tube pre-amp, MCT450 CD/SACD Transport, D150 Digital to Analog Converter, MC301 monoblock amplifiers.

Music was provided by via Tidal (CD quality 16bit into the D150 DAC).


This room gets high marks for its choice of music, which demonstrated the capabilities of the system and was also fun. I appreciated some of the nonstandard electronic music they played to showcase the low-end capabilities of the Focal’s that are driven by the McIntosh electronics. I think we all get tired of the same demo tracks we hear over and over. You know the ones I am talking about; the ones we torture our non-audiophile friends with to demonstrate our systems (many of which are now banned in my home).


Josh Clark, Lead designer from Transparent Cable introduced the new Generation 5 cable from Transparent. The first major update since they released the MM2 generation cable 7 years ago.

This room features the Ultra Level Gen 5 cables, and PI8 Power products. The key improvements over the prior MM2 generation are around vibration reduction in the networks and connectors, as well as cable construction. I have had the opportunity to spend significant time with both the prior MM2 generation and the new Gen 5. I feel that the new version takes a leap ahead in dynamics, tonality and noise rejection. We will save some of those details for another day.

I enjoyed the final piece that Josh selected, demonstrating a small jazz club. The trio featuring Arturo O’Farrill on piano alongside drums and bass. I think the track was “Footsteps” from the album Live in Brooklyn. The piano was delicious, the cymbals sizzled and no small detail was lost. It was as if I was sitting right there in a dark and smoky club.


  1. No price given; just like an audiophile.

    One would wish for a law: no naming of price in reviews or from sellers and all lookers receive said equipment for free.

    Laurence Alter

  2. Lyon is hardly a “town”; it’s a major city. Actually, Focal is located in St. Etienne, an hour’s drive from Lyon. I visit the region regularly, cuisine being a major attraction. Oh, and I’ve owned 3 sets of Focal speakers, one currently.

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