The Focal Spectral 40th and Sibilance

To Diego Estan,

I am curious about the Focal Spectral 40th speakers, and I am considering buying them. But I have not heard them, just read about them.

What I have read is that the speaker has a vintage sound, with warm treble without any harshness at all, and a punchy and thick bass.

In your review, I read that you described the treble with some sibilance (harshness?). Do you really mean it? These speakers should be totally different from other high-end speakers, that often sound “correct” in their sound, and that is not good on bad recordings. I listen to many bad recordings, like ’80s hard rock.

A. B.

Thank you for reading my review of the Focal Spectral 40th loudspeakers. As I mentioned in my review, I only found the Spectral 40ths to exhibit slight sibilance on a couple of tracks that I listened to. I would say that through the treble range (2kHz to 20kHz), the speaker is near-neutral sounding, ever so slightly leaning towards bright -- but I wouldn’t call it bright. On the other hand, it is not warm sounding, either. Instead, I think the speaker has been voiced just right. In fact, it’s worth reiterating that, overall, the Spectral 40ths were the best-sounding speakers I’d ever heard in my room, with a tonal balance that I absolutely loved.

What I heard in my room was corroborated with both my in-room measurements and our anechoic measurements at the NRC anechoic chamber. My in-room measurements showed a near-flat response from 2kHz to 16kHz, with perhaps a 0.5db to 1dB upward tilt. Many listeners (myself included) find a slight downward tilt between 1dB and 2dB to be perfect. Also, I listened with my default 18 degrees of toe-in (0 degrees is pointed straight ahead, 30 degrees is pointed right at me). By playing with toe-in, you can adjust the amount of energy in the treble to a level you find to be perfect, while still maintaining adequate focus with respect to imaging.

If you take a look at our NRC measurements, you’ll see the slight upward tilt in the treble on axis and 15-degrees off axis, as well as in the Listening Window plot; however, at 30 degrees off axis, there is a significant reduction in response between 2kHz and 20kHz. It’s important to note that 30-degrees off axis would represent the direct sound at the listening position with no toe-in, assuming the speakers and listening position form an equilateral triangle.

Obviously, anechoic measurements do not always translate directly to in-room response, but they matched up well with mine. If you do find the Spectral 40ths to be slightly too bright with 30 degrees or even 15 degrees of toe in, reducing toe-in should reduce any brightness even more.

I continue to highly recommend the Focal Spectral 40th speakers -- I had a hard time letting them go. I hope that helped. . . . Diego Estan