Right now the FOCAL Chora 806 speakers and 806 Stands are on are on promotion at 20% off.
- FOCAL Chora 806s–$399.20 each or $798.40 pair
- FOCAL 806 Stands–$231.20 pair
We’ve been on a grand tour through the high-end stables of the FOCAL/Naim warehouse over the last three years. Surely the FOCAL Chora 806 ($990 USD) wouldn’t prove to be the last. Stepping first into the head-fi market, the FOCAL Stellia left Nan Pincus and Dave McNair dazzled by their definition. Then the undoubtedly high-end FOCAL Utopia confirmed our suspicions, while it was FOCAL Kanta No. 2 loudspeakers that demanded Grover Neville step back and reassess the entirety of FOCAL as a brand. Would the same be said for me when confronting the entry-level priced offering? Let’s find out.
Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook
If you’ve ever been a hi-fi writer, or worked in the hi-fi industry, lifting heavy boxes and crates is the norm. Expecting no deviation from the status quo, I hoisted the FOCAL Chora 806 (in its cardboard shipping container) nearly over my neighbors fence when taking it from the hands of our local UPS driver. “This must be a single speaker” I said, but no—confirming with the delivery driver, it was just to be the single large box and a flat-pack container which held the Chora 806 Stands.
Typically I’m against anything in hi-fi that is lightweight (aside from headphones). Something about the unnecessary heft that is common with hi-fi gear, to me, screams quality and craftsmanship. As Boris “The Blade” Yurinov would say about the Smith & Wesson 681: “Weight is a sign of reliability. If it doesn’t work, you can always hit him with it.”
Build of the FOCAL Chora 806
Despite the pocket friendly pricing, the FOCAL Chora collection of loudspeakers are actually not the entry-level representation of FOCAL technology. The Chora label stands above the more affordable Chorus 700 and Chorus 600 series of loudspeakers. The Chora speakers differentiate themselves from those lesser-than by the implementation of a unique FOCAL Slatefiber woofer, but more on that later.
During the unboxing of the FOCAL Chora 806, I came across that lightweight-ness of each speaker once more, but not without taking notice of how striking these Chora line finishes are. Yes, this is an affordable loudspeaker at under $1K a pair, but the seams of this review sample’s faux dark wood veneer did impress, and the splash of slate blue on the front fascia did well to add aesthetic drama to what is, without doubt, an almost mid-century modern inspired design.
The FOCAL Chora 806’s are larger (or taller) than normal bookshelf loudspeakers. For this review, a pair of Chora 806 Stands ($290 USD) were provided and thankfully so. The stands bolt directly to the 806, themselves being just a little over 21.5″ (55cm) tall, which put the 806 speakers at the ideal listening height and rake angle.
The rake angle I mentioned (tilted back) is an important thing to take note here, as without it a true vertical pair of 806s will seem less cohesive between mid-woofer and tweeter, and likely lose their spectacular imaging and time alignment. For some users considering the 806 specially for bookshelf placement, these speakers might require some clever solutions. Other stands were tried, but none fared as well as the stands from FOCAL. For the rest of the review, I used the provided Chora 806 Stands exclusively.
FOCAL Chora 806, Made-in-France
The FOCAL Chora 806 is lovingly made-in-France, and the only two-way loudspeaker in the Chora collection. It borrows its 6.5″ (16.5cm) FOCAL Slatefiber woofer from two upstream floorstanding loudspeakers: the Chora 816, and Chora 826 flagship. Unlike each of the three-way floorstanders, which have dedicated bass drivers, the 6.5″ Slatefiber mid-woofer in the Chora 806 handles all frequencies bass and midrange before handing-off to the FOCAL TNF tweeter.
Let’s talk about materials here for a moment. The FOCAL Slatefiber cone used in the mid-woofer of the FOCAL Chora 806 (and Alpha Evo professional monitors) was researched and developed over a four year period of secrecy, while the news of its existence was not released to the public until 2019. This special FOCAL Slatefiber mid-woofer features a composite cone comprised of recycled non-woven carbon fibres and thermoplastic polymer—FOCAL is the first brand in the audio field to use recycled carbon fibers in its speaker drivers. This composition of materials (and orientation pattern) was chosen for its lighter weight, rigidity, and damping abilities. The FOCAL Slatefiber cone is manufactured by FOCAL at their workshops in Saint-Etienne, France.
As for the inverted dome tweeter, that’s a technology that goes hand-in-hand with FOCAL as long as I can remember. Its main advantage, apart from its low directivity, lies in its use of a small diameter coil (think faster and lightweight) directly affixed to the crest of a rigid metal dome. The FOCAL TNF tweeter features an aluminum/magnesium alloy metal for its inverted dome design. The suspension between the dome and its bracket uses Poron, a fine pitch open cell urethane foam produced by the Rogers Corporation. This suspension method is directly derived from the flagship series Utopia Beryllium tweeter. The materials used (and their implementation) the FOCAL TNF tweeter were chosen specifically for their unique spatial characteristics and low directivity.
Sound of the FOCAL Chora 806
My listening preferences favor that of a tight center image, and the FOCAL Chora 806 did amazingly well to deliver pinpoint placement of vocals and instruments across the soundstage without any need for toe-in. The only thing specific to dial in was nailing the ideal placement for bass and that was more than easy with the 806s front firing ports, especially as with some genres I felt the speakers needed a little more boundary reinforcement to help the low end.
The FOCAL Chora 806 made their case with the aforementioned soundstaging width and precise imaging. These are some of the best imaging speakers I’ve had in my listening space during my time with Part-Time Audiophile. That’s their special gift, and there’s no running away from it. If there’s one thing about these speakers that will convey what audiophiles are always going on about, it’s this level of detailed imaging.
That said, the outright tuning of the crossover and drivers is one that at first had me troubled. Without proper break-in, the FOCAL Chora 806 left me wanting more in the bass, and though after time the bass did extend itself in both frequency depth and amplitude, it never quite reached as low as I would like with more mature and refined genres. Wait a minute… let me gather some reality in my bowl and chow down. We’re talking about a sub-$1K speaker here, and if it weren’t so damn good at presenting images, would I be as nitpicky about the bass extension? Probably not. Did I enjoy these speakers endlessly with grins at times from ear-to-ear? Yes.
Moving on, it’s what the FOCAL Chora 806 does with the midrange and treble that make them shine. Smoother than I expected, the FOCAL TNF inverted dome tweeter did a lot of things brilliantly, especially considering the unit price tag and that this entire speaker was designed, manufactured, and assembled in France—by French people, making French wages.
The Chora 806’s gloriously taught and agile Slatefiber cone mid-woofer might have stolen the show from the tweeter, if not shared the spotlight with its tight driver integration. Though at times the tuning of the midrange could bark and bite with the presence of energetic mid and upper-mid frequencies, but I felt that no real sin was committed as the rest of the sonic package delivered like Amazon in December.
All songs used in my review period listening sessions can be found in our Part-Time Audiophile (War Room) playlist on Qobuz, linked here.
Paténipat by Charlotte Adigéry
Off the single release of the same name, Paténipat. From Belgian-Caribbean artist Charlotte Adigéry and collaborator/partner Bolis Pupul a song to get the FOCAL Chora 806 woofers flexing at their best. Small noisemakers come and go, floating in space around an extra wide image. Then Adigéry’s voice rushes into the center, almost placed like the voice of a god, bigger than life and moving forward of the speakers at time. Yes, this is electronic dance music, but it’s French—which makes it better. There’s not a lot of moving parts to this composition, but what’s there is indicative of the Chora 806’s ability to convey dynamics and vocal presence where it blossoms, in space.
Drawn by De La Soul
Off the album And The Anonymous Nobody, Drawn. De La Soul comes in unexpectedly with an avant garde orchestral jazz fusion chorus driven ballad that eschews their hip-hop roots, but only for the first three-quarters of the song. I chose this track in search of imaging and soundstage depth, and was rewarded handsomely for this effort by the FOCAL Chora 806. Piano and bass dance politely around the edges of the soundstage, extending well outside the visual placement of the speaker, while concert band instruments enter the recording deeply recessed into the landscape, but with textures and detail information intact. A trio of voices are given a space that feels like it’s coming from behind the plane of the speakers, later confirmed by the entire composition shifting from jazz modes to traditional hip-hop tropes, with lyricism taking a leap forward at the listener. A lovely display of clever layering and space.
Lauren by Men I Trust
Off the album Men I Trust, Lauren. From a Canadian indie band known for dreamy pop sounds that tackle love and relationships, a song that highlights their musicianship. Jessy Caron (guitar, bass) has a way of recording a more papery sound from his bass guitar than most other artists—which is why I chose this song, to highlight what might present an annoyance with some speaker tunings. Pleasantly gritty as bass guitar should be, we also have a case where the FOCAL Chora 806 drifts into areas of nasal attack, especially at higher volumes. Vocals here are over-processed but in a likeable way for the genre, and likely also given a boost in the 1200Hz region by the 806s crossover tuning. It all still works, but can be a bit much and have me reaching for the volume knob. Down banshee!
The Working Hour by Tears For Fears
Of the album Song From The Big Chair, The Working Hour. There she is, the metal dome tweeter. In an inescapable way, this recording from 1985 brings out what FOCAL is best known for. I don’t mind so much as the presentation of saxophone and cymbal crashes are smoothed over just enough, and the spatial imaging width here keeps the peace. Roland Orzabal’s vocals live in the deepest pockets of the soundstage, almost coming across like a hired backup singer, letting instruments have the edges and take the spotlight. It’s a strange thing here with how well the FOCAL Chora 806 put distance between elements of the recording. I like it.
Security Joan by Donald Fagen
Off the album Morph The Cat, Security Joan. Here’s where I’m reminded of the FOCAL Chora 806’s price tag. But not in the way you might think. I’m thinking of how great a value these speakers are. With this Donald Fagen recording all of the best attributes found in the 806 are put on display, and done so with balance. This album is one of my favourite references because I know it’s so evenly developed and meticulously thought over. Using this album as a reference, if I were to point out what’s wrong with this sub-$1K speaker, it’s that the tweeter is obviously not Beryllium. That’s it.
It’s here where I start to draw comparisons with other speakers packages in the price range, and I have to consider what one is looking for at $1K. I like to think this is an aspirational price point, where one is looking to attain a slice of the audiophile pie. A first speaker? Sure. But also consider someone with high standards and years of high-end audiophile experience looking for a second system. This could be a speaker component to start with in either case, and find yourself satisfied.
Beginners will be inspired with what they find in the FOCAL Chora 806 to possibly welcome the identity of an audiophile, and potentially continue the hunt for more and better found further up the FOCAL product. Seasoned veterans will listen to the 806 and gasp at what’s possible these days for the little outlay, and possibly reconsider previous biases towards the FOCAL brand entirely.
Conclusion — FOCAL Chora 806
The FOCAL Chora 806 makes its case with outstanding imaging and spatial abilities, while still keeping the picture clear and detail rich. While my review period with the 806 was mostly focused around music, the 806 also worked spectacularly as a two-channel theater speaker, the tuning of which kept dialog in good measure.
What FOCAL has done here is borrow several upstream technologies and molded their proprietary high-tech materials to create a capable speaker that is emblematic of almost everything we look for in the audiophile hobby. With seemingly everything in short supply and carrying a higher price tag these days, I come to you with some relief, a true value contender and award winner in the FOCAL Chora 806. Highly recommended.
FOCAL Chora 806 Specs
- Audio by Van Alstine SET 120 Control Amplifier
- Parasound NewClassic 200 Integrated
- Schiit Audio Modius DAC
- Schiit Audio Mani Phonostage
- VPI Industries Cliffwood Turntable
- Grado Green Phono Cartridge
- Cardas Clear Cables