Celebrate forty years of French speaker innovation with a well-dressed special edition monitor
Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.
Focal celebrated 40 years of manufacturing cones, cabinets and components for the home/car hi-fi and pro studio markets in 2019. At the October AES conference in NYC, Focal released a limited edition run of its popular Solo6 Be studio monitor, all decked out with custom stamped leatherette side panels and a new metal grille cover to protect its famous Beryllium tweeter.
Focal SM Series
There are three product lines in the Focal professional division: The entry-level Alpha series (reviewed December 2014), the stylish Shape series (reviewed November 2017 and September 2018) and the top-tier SM line.
RECORDING has explored the SM series in past issues. We looked at the Twin6 Be in July of 2008, the Trio6 Be in October 2015, and the flagship Trio11 Be in June 2019. This is our first look at the smallest member of the family.
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First introduced in 2003, the Solo6 Be is the one and only two-way model in the SM series. The MDF cabinet measures 13″ tall, 9.4″ wide and 11.4″ deep and weighs 24.2 lbs. The stock model comes with the classy cherry-stained wood veneer side panels found across the SM range. The black leatherette 40th Anniversary logo-stamped side panels of the limited edition model look similar to the wrap found on high-end boutique guitar amplifiers. Only 800 pairs were produced; 100 of these are available for the US market.
Tweeter, woofer and bass port
The 6.5″ LF driver features a W sandwich composite cone made up of two thin layers of woven glass fiber, sandwiched together onto a structural foam core. It’s equal parts rigid, homogenous, and highly flexible—translate that as fast and accurate. For low-end projection, the Solo6 Be makes use of a large 1/2” laminar bass port.
The ‘Be’ in the name is the element number for Beryllium—the primary material in the famous 1″ Focal inverted dome tweeter. As mentioned, the 40th Anniversary model adds a protective grille over the thin and highly magnetic tweeter. This grille will now be a permanent fixture of all Solo6 Be models moving forward.
Power and specs
The Solo6 Be features a bi-amp design: 100W RMS of Class AB power for the tweeter, and a 150W amp for the woofer; this one uses BASH® technology to achieve Class AB sound quality with Class D efficiency.
The Solo6 Be has a 113 dB@1m peak SPL. Its frequency response is 40Hz (@3dB) up to 40kHz.
Rear adjustments include a +4dBu or -10dBv input sensitivity switch, and a pair of contour controls offering +/- 3dB for high frequencies and +/-6dB for low frequencies. Input is a single standard female XLR socket.
I’m a Focal monitor user, and I’ve reviewed models in each of the three Focal pro lines, so I’m well acquainted with the Focal sound. I mixed on the Trio6 Be for years before making a move to the Trio11 Be.
One of my goals this past year has been to upgrade my home office/edit suite to be cross-compatible with my main studio. I’ve been searching for monitors critical enough for editing and mixing, yet enjoyable for casual music listening.
My home office is an untreated 9′ x 11′ space with a sloping ceiling. This means I need appropriately sized monitors that work well up close. Since I know the sound of my three-way Focal monitors so well, I was hoping that the Solo6 Be would achieve a familial similarity.
To get familiar with the Solo6 Be, I spent time mixing on them alongside the Trio11 Be pair in my main room. Since they share a tweeter, they do have a similar top end signature. By contrast, the Solo6 Be is a touch less forward in the upper midrange than the Trio11 Be, which has a dedicated 5″ midrange driver to lean on, and of course, there’s no way a 6.5″ woofer will rattle a room like a 10″ does. The surprise is that the Solo6 Be held its own in this larger, treated mix space. Where similar-sized monitors get swallowed up in this environment or break up when pushed, I was very impressed by the headroom, fullness and sheer level the Solo6 Be was able to put out with no sacrifice of clarity. The low end was tight and full, and never sounded hyped or pushed. The soundstage is natural and open—Focal has really dialed in its Beryllium tweeters to the point where they are accurate and appropriately detailed with zero fatigue after daylong mix sessions.
Moving over to my home space coincided with the start of my sheltering in place. The Solo6 Be monitors were quickly pressed into service for remote mixing sessions, personal song crafting, and obsessive music listening. I once again enjoyed high headroom, tonal consistency across the listening level range, and fullness balanced with clarity. For extremely loud listening, I attenuated the low end to compensate for proximity to my rear wall.
Solos and shapes
Set up alongside a pair of Focal Shape 6.5 monitors highlighted the sonic differences inherent in each line. As per my 2017 review, the Shape 65 offers a very even, non-hyped ‘real world’ listening experience, and as it was then, when I compared the Shape to the Trio6 Be, they sounded “nothing alike from top to bottom.” The forward, even tone of the Shape 65 is a lovely sound, but the Solo6 Be is in a different league (at twice the price). Where the Shape 65 presents sound front and center with great upper-midrange clarity, the soundstage of the Solo6 Be is wider, a tick more hi-fi, and dare I say, presents with just the right amount of polish. The side-radiator design of the Shape 65 offers a low end extension that you can feel, whereas the Solo6 Be has a tighter low end—more punch than thump.
I’ve been pleased with the sound and translation of the Solo6 Be—even more pleased as I move between rooms. In the world of no-compromise professional studio monitors, the Focal Solo6 Be continues to represent an excellent balance of pro studio sonics and high fidelity listening, and all in a surprisingly compact footprint. It speaks volumes when a speaker model can remain both in production and popular for seventeen years. If you want the cool and extra-special anniversary touch, grab a pair now—the price is the same, but supplies are quite limited.
Price: $1499 (each)
More from: focal.com