What is the Focal Aria 906?
One brand that has featured in this category before is Focal. Be under no illusions that I regard Focal as one of the most innovative, bold and respected speaker brands on the planet. They have consistently pushed the limits of what can be done with driver materials and cabinet design and the Utopia range can stake a legitimate claim to being one of the finest speaker ranges on sale today. Despite this, I don’t covert them in the way I do some other speakers. They are awesomely capable but the joy quotient is less immediately obvious. That isn’t to say that Focal can’t do joy - the Spirit Classic headphone I reviewed recently is talented but also sounds fun too.
The Aria 906 you see here, is the newest offering from Focal and rather less expensive than the Utopias. It keeps all of the Focal design points - and indeed offers some new ones too. More importantly than that, I’ve been sent the Aria with the promise that this is a speaker that has a sense of fun to it as well as the technical excellence and sheer competence that Focal are renowned for. Tis the season to be jolly - is it the one to be joyful too?
Focal Aria 906 Design
Having tested the visually very similar Chorus 807 earlier this year, the differences in the flesh are subtle but apparent on closer inspection. The Aria is heavier and the cabinet feels more inert than its little brother. Internally, the 906 makes use of non-parallel surfaces and different thicknesses of high density board to create the least resonant and most inert enclosure possible. The drivers are kept in separate chambers which are again separated by a non-parallel divider. The result is a substantial and impressive cabinet.
Fit and finish is excellent. The gloss finish of the review samples makes for a very handsome speaker and the build quality is up to the standard that we’ve come to expect from the Focal factory. The finish is immaculate and everything feels solid and well thought out. The 906 is a relatively large standmount and looks a little odd on some normal height stands. Focal has thought this through and a dedicated stand is available for the 906 if you wish.
Focal Aria 906 Setup
Focal Aria 906 Sound Quality
If you can humour the 906 and place them to their liking, all the things that Focal is good at can be found here. The 906 is capable of resolving detail that other speakers simply cannot find and manages to do this without losing sight of the performance as a whole. Indeed, the other area they excel in is the creation of a soundstage that extends perceptibly beyond the speakers and has quite extraordinary space and depth to it. Even connected to the SUPERNAIT 2 - a world away from Naim amps of old but still not an amp I associate with truly holographic presentation, the Focal delivers a performance you can all but walk around in.
It is also possessed of some Focal trademarks that can be less desirable though. The 906 is a very revealing loudspeaker and it generally avoids sounding harsh while it does so but it will make it abundantly clear if a recording has some quality issues. The 24/96kHz recording of Mark Knopfler’s Privateering is absolutely sumptuous but something like the magnificent but flawed War Stories by UNKLE is left showing the limits to its dynamic range and slightly hot mixing. You can legitimately argue that this is the price of accuracy but the Focal is more merciless than a number of other speakers in this regard. Switching to the softer Audio Analogue amp does alleviate this slightly but also shaves off some of the fine detail that the Naim is able to find. As is often the case with revealing products, the 906 is less concerned about compression as it is the original recording. A 320kbps MP3 of a decent recording like The Hidden Orchestra’s Archipelago is happier than the 24/96kHz version of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
The 906 also manages to distract from this because it does have a joy factor that I’ve not really experienced with a Focal speaker before. Beyond the accuracy and control, there is a sense of life and excitement to the performance that makes the 906 a very easy speaker to listen to long term. Exactly what has changed is hard to put a finger on because the 906 hasn’t obviously lost any of the qualities that make it a Focal but it seems happier to let the music happen (recording quality permitting) and get out of the way. With the White Lies’ latest effort Big TV played on vinyl, the Focal pounds along and lets the performance speak for itself rather than providing a slightly clinical analysis. More than any other product from St Ettienne I’ve listened to, the 906 encourages you to listen to ‘just one more track’ even though, it’s 1 in the morning / you’ll be late for work / you’re going to miss your favourite TV show - delete as appropriate. It isn’t simply a function of up-tempo material either. The slower musings of BB King in One Kind Favour are just as gripping and the Focal manages to be equally capable across all the genres I threw at it.
- Detailed, expansive and enjoyable performance
- Beautifully built
- Handsome design
- Demanding in terms of placement
- Won't flatter poor recordings
- Doesn't have prodigious bass
Focal Aria 906 Loudspeaker Review
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