I have a confession: I almost missed this one as I stumbled upon it after seeing Steven Stone in the hallway waiting to get in and someone said, “free breakfast!”. Music to a journalist’s ears. Then I saw the crowd inside the first floor room (Cottonwood) and realized I had stumbled into a big press announcement from French high-end audio firm and driver manufacturer, Focal. The team from both France and their North American representation Audio Plus Services were on hand to unveil the new Kanta loudspeaker at $10K per pair US. The Kanta is a genuine high-end speaker but smaller in height and stature and elegant in design in a way meant to target Millennials and others that want a speaker they can place in a modern living room and not only not embarrass the spouse but perhaps even make a design statement. It is a gorgeous speaker. Remember the old Alpine race cars? Well they have the Kanta in a glorious “Galoise Blue”, a beautiful shade of light blue. That would be my choice.
After some breakfast and coffee, Daniel Jacques started off the technical discussion. There is a lot to cover here so I will just list the highlights. I was impressed by the technology deployed and how everything they did with the resulting technical charts. I can only imagine a measurement guy like Brent Butterworth was in the back smiling at the evidence-supported advances. These medium-sized speakers pack in a lot of technology including:
- A new Beryllium tweeter with the latest IAL technology. The new tech optimizes airflow behind the dome to absorb any unwanted reflections.
- Lower measured tweeter distortion, even at high SPLs. The distortion chart showed notably less distortion at the low end and into the midrange.
- Driver materials are now using eco-friendly “ecotextiles” that leverage lightness and damping in the midrange but rigidity as needed in the woofer.
- A “Tuned Mass Driver”, a unique rubber driver surround, that offers more clean recovery in the important 1-3k midrange. This damps the resonance of the surround and also reduces distortion. A cool simulated GIF was displayed that showed the shorter travel length of the surround. Later we would hear the fine quality of this speaker’s midrange.
- A “Neutral Inductance Circuit” which uses a Faraday ring at the base of the pole piece, ensuring a stable magnetic field no matter what the position of the bass driver is…and again lower distortion.
- Cabinet materials now have improved high density polymers which are better than MDF with 70% more density, 15% more rigidity, and 25% more damping. They seemed pretty inert with the “knuckle test”.
- Bass ports are seamless and have a direct front port for solid bass and impact and a rear firing port for deep bass and large image.
- Colors: Yellow, Galoise Blue, Black, and White. All were on display and looked stunning although my love of racing tilts me toward the blue.
Also at the press conference, they unveiled a new Focal headphone called the Clear. It was a whitish/gray leather and aluminum look keeping in line with its Utopia and Elear lineage. This over-the-ear design has a 55 ohm impedance with a 40mm aluminum/magnesium M-shaped dome. A nice touch is the inclusion of three cords including the newly popular XLR.
Finally, we were invited to hear some Kanta 2s upstairs in the tower being driven by a stack of Naim electronics playing demo files off a USB stick. Nicolas Debard from Focal and John Bevier from Audio Plus did the honors.
We started with a classical track that really highlighted the ability of this speaker to do the layering of an orchestra justice. Next a more modern bass track really highlighted the quality of the woofer and cabinet. Bass was rich and taut. So far, so good. Then we heard piano and vocal tracks that showed off the fine liquid mids of the Kanta. Highs were equally clear. This is an impressive speaker with strong technology underpinnings. Best of all, their look is well above their price point. As with most well-designed speakers, these sound bigger than they look. Which is proof I suppose of their twin goals of design AND performance. Well done Focal. Well done indeed.