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A trio of Focal Subs goes boom!


Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.

French-based Focal has a 40+ year history in every arena of speaker technology: headphones, car stereos, home hi-fi and studio monitoring. This month we look at all three of the company’s current studio-focused subwoofer offerings: the Sub6, Sub One and the massive Sub12

Focal Sub6

The Sub6 (Be) has been the Focal subwoofer for the better part of a decade. The Sub6 has long paired well with other Focal models (and other speakers) from the Solo6 to the Twin6 Be and beyond in 2.1 and surround setups—on page 28, recording artist Crowder points out his use of dual Sub6 models to bolster his Trio6 Be monitors.

Size and Style

The Sub6 is a midsize, squarish, rear-ported subwoofer with an 11″ Focal “W” composite cone woofer. Like most SM6 series models, it is made of black textured MDF with beautiful dark red wood sides. It also features a removable protective grill cover (never a bad idea for something that resides at foot level).

Features and Controls

The Sub6 is designed to live “in-line” with your main stereo monitors, or it can work stand-alone in an LFE multichannel setup. The Sub6 offers balanced XLR, balanced stereo I/O and a single balanced XLR LFE input.

Controls include a two-position defeatable hi-pass at 75 and 100 Hz that, when used in-line, removes frequencies below that setting from your mains and lets the subwoofer handle them. Lo-pass (50–150 Hz) tells the subwoofer how high it should reach into the low-end. Level attenuates the sub volume from 0 to -24dB, and Phase (0–180), along with a polarity invert switch that allows you to adjust the phase when necessary to compensate for placement in your room.

Last is a master Mute that takes the sub out of the chain and returns your main speakers to full range. There is also a 1/4” input that, in conjunction with a third-party latching-foot switch, also bypasses the sub.

Focal Sub One

The Focal Sub One was released earlier this year. While the words Alpha and EVO appear nowhere in its name, its price, appearance and woofer composition hint at their relationship.

Size and Style

The Sub One stands out with its unconventional design. Rather than a cube-style single driver box, the Sub One is tall and narrow and employs a pair of 8” Slatefiber cone speakers (with removable metal EVO-style grills). Each speaker is positioned on opposing sides of the box, while a pair of 3″ round bass ports adorn the front. This design makes the Sub One a perfect fit close to walls and tight spaces. This is in contrast to the rear-ported Sub6 that ideally needs a minimum of 6–8″ of breathing room from a wall.

Focal Sub12

The Sub12 is the newest member of the Focal family and was launched at the June 2022 NAMM. The Sub12 is designed to add low-end support to the Focal Trio6 Be and Trio11 Be models in 2.1 and full-scale Dolby Atmos setups.

Size and Style

The Sub12 can best be described as Big AF—no, this thing is just about as Big As a dorm room Fridge. Nicely its classic dark wood sides are fitted with carrying handles, never mind that it weighs shy of 130 lbs.

The Sub12 is a front-ported design with a 13″ composite “W” cone driver.

Features and Controls

The controls and options on the Sub12 offer some well-chosen additions. Its high-pass is expanded with settings of full range, 45, 60 and 90 Hz. Its low-pass covers a range of 50–150 Hz, while its Level, Phase, Polarity flip and Auto-Standby are the same as the Sub One. The Sub12 also offers a -10 / +4dB input Sensitivity switch.

In addition to the stereo, LFE and bypass I/O, the Sub12 adds 1/4” I/O to support the Focus mode found on the Trio and ST6 models—similar to 2.1 Bypass.

At Home

My initial use of the Sub6 and Sub One was in my home office listening space, coupled with my Focal Solo6 40th Anniversary edition speaker (reviewed August 2020). The Sub One fit perfectly under my desk, about an inch from the rear wall between my monitors, whereas the Sub6 needed to be placed alongside my desk to allow for proper depth from the wall.

After choosing the 60 Hz crossover point on the Sub One with a similar approximate LP setting, I used some bass-focused songs to find the best sub-volume level and balance in my room, notably “Throw It Away” by Aga Zaryan. The upright bass bloom let me know instantly when a sub was pushed too far. On the Sub6, I dialed in similar settings with the HP at 75 Hz.

I like my subwoofers to form more of a well integrated 3-way speaker setup rather than a 2.1 home theater sub-satellite vibe. Both models performed admirably, with a defined low-end extension that added weight, thump and fullness to my listening experience. Each gave my Solo6 speakers a more open and dimensional sound due to the 6” driver not needing to work as hard. The speakers came across as a touch brighter in the sweet spot, which I dialed back with the high-end controls on the Solo6.

The Sub One offered a more solid, even and punchy extension that was more noticeable compared to the gently deeper, dimensional low-end bloom offered by the Sub6. I have changed my mind multiple times as to which one I prefer.

Overall, I think the Sub6 integrates more transparently with the Solo6 for my taste. At the same time, my experience with the wide-dimensional bass signature of the Alpha Evo models lets me know that the solid Sub One tonality should fit comfortably in that setup like a perfect puzzle piece.

Focal Sub6 in Paul Vnuk Jr.'s studio

In the Studio

In my studio, I mix on a pair of Focal Trio11 Be monitors (reviewed June 2019). These 3-way beasts use a large 10″ bass-driver that Focal labels as a sub. I often wondered what kind of subwoofer would be necessary to take the sound of the Trio11 Be to another level. The Sub12 is the resounding answer.

Setting up the Sub12 in my studio was not an easy task. It is too large and heavy to maneuver behind my desk in between my speakers and will not fit alongside my desk without me doing some much needed reorganization.

For this review, I set it up about 1/3 of the distance from my rear bass-trapped wall. This also allowed me to set up and quickly compare the other two subs in the space.

This thing has low-end for days and, when cranked, rattled the whole darn building. When set appropriately, the Sub12 had a similar effect as the Sub6 / Solo6 combo. With the 10″ drivers of the Trio11 Be working less hard, the overall sound relaxed and became more immersive and dimensional. The low-end was breathtaking in conjunction with the Trio11 Be models. I could see why one or two Sub12 units would nicely form the foundation of a high-end spatial audio array—which I got to experience at the Focal booth at NAMM.

While I tried to employ the other Focal subs in my studio with the Trio11 Be, they offered no audible benefit. They did work well, adding extended lows to my studio’s 6.5″ speakers.

Final Thoughts

Each Focal sub is indeed impressive, with well-chosen features and room-filling low-end. Which one is right for you will come down to room size, placement considerations, the other speakers in use and, of course, cost.

I will wrap this up by saying that I find Sub One and Sub6 beneficial and, better yet, highly enjoyable in my home space. In my professional mix room, I don’t need the Sub12, and I am not sure where it can fit in my space; but after experiencing its defined, low-end clarity and power, I sure do want one!


Price: $999 Sub One; $1,499 Sub6; $2,599 Sub12

More from: focal.com



Speaker Size: 11″

Driver Material: Composite “W” Cone

Frequency Response: 30 Hz–250 Hz

Power: 350W

Max SPL: 116dB (peak at 1m)

Port: Rear

Dimensions: 14.93″ x 13.56″ x 17.31″

Weight: 50.7 lbs.


Sub One

Speaker Size: 8″ (x2)

Driver Material: Slatefiber Cone

Frequency Response: 32 Hz–120 Hz

Power: 200W RMS Class D

Max SPL: 114dB (peak at 1m)

Port: Front (x2)

Dimensions: 16″ x 17″ x 16″

Weight: 40.8 lbs.


Sub 12

Speaker Size: 13″

Driver Material: Composite “W” Cone

Frequency Response: 28 Hz–400 Hz

Power: 600W (1000W Peak)

Max SPL: 124.5dB (peak at 1m)

Port: Front (x2) Front

Dimensions: 23.62″ x 19.12″ x 23.37″

Weight: 127.8 lbs.