A feature-rich redesign of a popular French speaker
Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.
In August 2020, I reviewed a special leather-bound edition of the Focal Solo6 Be, celebrating the French company’s 40th anniversary. The Solo6 Be was introduced in 2003 as the smallest member of the Focal SM6 series. Now, 20 years later, Focal brings an updated and expanded version to the table with some great new features and tech. Let’s check out the new Focal Solo6 ST6.
The Same, yet Quite Different
No longer part of the SM6 series (Trio6 Be, Trio11 Be and Sub6). The redesigned Twin6, Solo6 and Sub12 (reviewed November 2022) now belong to a new ST series.
Overall the Solo6 ST6 is an entirely new speaker. A thicker, more rigid MDF cabinet remains, as does the signature dark cherry-stained side panels—now more angular in appearance.
The Solo6 ST6 measures 13.12″ T x 9.75″ W and 11.62″ D and weighs 28.6 lbs—slightly bigger and heavier than the past model.
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The Solo6 ST6 retains the 6.5″ W composite sandwich cone, constructed of two even thinner layers of woven glass fiber pressed together onto a structural foam core. This design is rigid and homogenous but still highly flexible, offering a great blend of sonic accuracy and fast transient response. There is a new and improved paper-pulp dust cap as well.
The forward-firing laminar bass port on the Solo6 ST is 1″ in size—1/2” bigger than the previous incarnation.
The 6.5″ driver is mounted in a newly designed Tuned Mass Damper (TMD). This consists of two tubular rings molded onto the surround. It lessens possible distortion from the speaker and helps maintain sonic consistency with the tweeter.
The high-end is handled by the classic Focal 1″ inverted dome beryllium tweeter known for being very thin and light yet rigid. Here it receives a significant update, seated in a custom-designed surround to improve the dispersion and throw, making for a broader, more natural sweet spot.
Behind this large custom baffle is a new Infinite Acoustic Load (IAL) design. This is essentially a chamber that the tweeter sits in that helps to increase its throw and reduces stray resonance.
The Solo6 ST6 again employs a BASH-based power amp which allows an AB amp to modulate the power supply as needed. The new monitor puts out 130W of power (80W to the woofer and 50W to the tweeter). This is much less than the 250W (150/100W) Solo6 Be model, yet interestingly, the new model puts out about a 4dB hotter signal side-by-side. [Focal notes that it kept the same SPL by improving the drivers and that dividing the power by 2 only reduces the SPL by 3dB].
The Back Panel
On the back panel, in addition to switches for power and auto-standby mode, a +4dBu / -10dBV input sensitivity switch and tone controls for low (250 Hz +/-3dB) and high-frequency (4.5 kHz +/- 3dB) shelf attenuation, there is now also a low-mid peak EQ control (160 Hz +/-3dB) and a high-pass filter (full range, 45, 60, 90 Hz).
A balanced XLR socket handles input. There are also a pair of 1/4” jacks for the new Focus mode. Finally, the Solo6 ST6 includes mounting sockets for mounting the speaker to walls or ceilings.
A new addition to the Solo6 ST6 and the Twin6 ST6 is Focus Mode. We first met Focus mode in my Trio6 Be (October 2015) and Trio11 Be (June 2019) reviews. This is accessed by connecting/chaining a 1/4” latching foot switch to the rear 1/4” I/O.
On the 3-way Trio Be models, Focus mode disengages the bass driver and alters the crossover, thus turning the 3-way speakers into a 2-way model.
On the ST6 models, it bypasses the tweeter and adjusts the crossover, effectively turning the 2-way speaker into a single bandlimited mixcube speaker. If you are using a Focal Sub, you can send the second Focus Out to the subwoofer bypass input, which cuts the subwoofer when Focus Mode is engaged.
Going Solo Again
I am well acquainted with the Focal sound. I mix on a pair of Trio11 Be monitors in my studio, and I use the Solo6 Be in my home office/edit suite along with a Focal Sub 6. Listening to the Solo6 models side-by-side—the Solo6 ST is almost an entirely different monitor.
The original Be is more open and smoother, with a musically pleasant tonality. The ST model has a more forward, detailed presentation in comparison.
The low-end is still full and deceptively deep for a 6.5″ monitor, but is punchier and bolder on the new Solo6 ST. The low-mid range of the original is natural and pleasant, and here again, the word forward comes to mind on the new offering. The high-mid range is perhaps the most similar, but again with just an added hint of thrust on the ST6.
The high-end is where the two models differ the most. The original exhibits a great open, diffuse sound stage, whereas the high-end of the Solo6 ST6 is more focused and clear, like newly cleaned glass. It remains free from harshness, and even at 98dB, I could not get them to break up. Like the earlier model, they retain their tonal balance and feel at low and high-level mixing and listening.
The Solo6 ST6 also pairs fantastically with the Focal Sub6 for a well-balanced 3-way 2.1 system, although in a smaller room, the low-end they deliver is impressive and workable even without a sub.
I reference Focus Mode on the Trio11 every time I mix for a fresh perspective, yet I think the single-speaker Focus Mode of the Solo6 ST6 is even more useful.
I was able to compare it alongside the new Auratone 5C Active Super Cube (see page 10), and tonally they are pretty different, with the Solo6 ST6 Focus Mode offering more low-end and softer highs. Not good, not bad, just different and both incredibly useful for mix-checking.
The balance of punch, tightness and clarity in the new Focal Solo6 ST6 is impressive. These sound even more akin to the Trio11, especially in their high-end presentation. This makes sense as one of their uses will undoubtedly be as part of a fully immersive Focal setup alongside the Trio11 and/or Trio6, where consistency is critical. I heard them in this role at last year’s NAMM show, and the system sounded great.
The new improvements, expanded EQ controls, Focus Mode and the clear forward sound makes the Focal Solo6 ST6 more than just another 6.5″ monitor, but a versatile mix tool.
Frequency Response @-3dB: 40 Hz–40 kHz (110 Hz–10 kHz Focus Mode)
Maximum SPL: 110dB (109.5dB Focus Mode)
Input: 10 kΩ
Bass Amplifier Stage: 80W RMS
Treble Amplifier Stage: 50W RMS
Bass: 6.5″ “W” cone
Treble: 1.5″ Beryllium
Price: $1,599 (each)
More From: focal.com