If you follow this blog, you know that music is important to me. I listen to a lot of music, and have varied tastes, ranging from the Grateful Dead to the Durutti Column; from punk to jazz; from classical to rock. I listen a lot at my desk, in my home office, and it’s important that I have a good sound system there.
After recently moving house, I felt it was time to upgrade my speakers. I have a Cambridge Audio system, with a small Scirocco amp, a DacMagic, and small speakers from the same company. Bookshelf speakers are always a compromise; you want good sound, but you don’t want them to be too large, and size trumps sound quality.
Down in the living room, however, I have much better equipment. My speakers are Focal Chorus 806 Vs (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which I bought in France. Focal is a French company known for high-quality speakers that is just starting to get international distribution. When I bought my speakers, I went to a good hi-fi store and listened to several different speakers. I found the Focal Chorus line to be the most neutral of those I heard; I notably hated Bower & Wilkins’ overly bassy speakers. I initially planned to get floorstanding speakers, but decided it wasn’t worth spending that much money on them, and got standmount speakers.
So for my office, I considered a number of options, such as active speakers, but decided that, since I like the Focal Chorus sound, I probably couldn’t go wrong with another set of speakers from the same company. I opted for the slightly smaller 705 V (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which only cost £230 ($400 in the US).
I was not disappointed. When I hooked them up, still using my diminutive Cambridge Audio amp, I started playing András Schiff’s recent Diabelli Variations (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), and they sound just wonderful. The soundstage on these speakers – right out of the box – is amazing for the price. Also, the detail of the piano’s various sounds comes through excellently. They have detailed treble and a generous low end. I had been thinking of adding a sub-woofer to my office system, but now I don’t think I need it. I am tempted to upgrade my amp slightly, but I know it won’t make a big difference. (Though I may want to use this small amp in a different room of my new home; there, I have an excuse now!)
These aren’t small speakers; they are 31 cm high (just over 12 in), and I have them on “stands;” two 34 cm high wooden boxes which each contains two drawers. So the speakers are a bit higher than I’d like, but I’ll find something soon to lower them a bit. (I want the tweeters to be at ear height, and they’re about 6 inches above that point.) Here’s how they look on my desk:
(I shot that photo with my iPhone, and it looks a bit distorted, like it’s a wide-angle lens…)
I’ve written in the past about how I think the best way to listen to music on a computer is not to use desktop speakers, but a full stereo. I stand by this: the quality you get from a real amp and speakers is much better than any desktop speakers you may find (with the exception of active speakers, or studio monitors). It’s often not that much more expensive to get a stereo system for your desktop compared to the price of some computer speakers.
So, I’m quite happy with my new sound. Once I get the right stands, things will be even better. I’m looking forward to some good listening in the future. If you’re looking for speakers, I’d suggest you check out the Focal Chorus line. They’re very neutral, eschewing the high-level bass that many modern speakers produce.