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Music Matters 11: McIntosh, Focal, Transparent

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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.

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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.

 

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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).

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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).

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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.

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4 Comments on Music Matters 11: McIntosh, Focal, Transparent

  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. Jeffrey Knorr // March 15, 2016 at 10:11 AM //

    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.

  3. And what were the names of the other tracks!

  4. *than

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