Focal vs B&W vs Sonus Faber Speakers with McIntosh Amps

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by wbhendrix, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. wbhendrix

    wbhendrix Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Austin, TX
    I am on the hunt for new speakers and would love some input. My current setup comprises of the following

    Speakers: Martin Logan 60XT
    Pre Amp: McIntosh 2500
    Amp: McIntosh mc452

    I'd like to upgrade my speakers (stay within the 5k-10k range) and to get the most for my money I'm going to buy them second hand. My top two contenders are the Focal 1038BE or Focal Sopra 2. That said, I'm open to B&W or Sonus Faber if I can be swayed. One salesman I've been speaking with is pushing the Focal speakers pretty hard because they make their own drivers and says I'll get the best speaker for my money in this price range.

    The Sopra's look amazing and I'm sure they are better than the 1038BE but how much better? The Sopra 2's are also only 300 watts while the 1038BE's are 400 watts. I know watts aren't everything but I dont want to upgrade from my 400 watt 60XT's and feel like I lost heaps of power and volume when I'm listening at loud levels. Is this concern valid or am I discrediting how good the Sopra's will sound?

    Lastly, up until speaking with the very intelligent salesman, I was looking to B&W 802D2s or Sonus Faber Olympica III. He swears the Focal's will sound better but I have no way of knowing. I know I sound crazy to buy expensive speakers without hearing them but honestly, there is no where near me I can hear any of these speakers so I'm just going to have to make a judgment call and live with it for a few years. I'm ok with that.

    As for my sound preferences.. I like a slightly more detailed sound. I'm not anti-bass but I'm not bass hungry either.

    I listen to all kinds of music but mostly acoustic artists or variations of rock. Some jazz but no classical. Also, my room is 14' wide x 17' long with 9' ceilings.

    I'm asking for opinions, I don't care if you're bias to one brand, I love to hear other's experiences and look forward to any advice you can give. Thank you!
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
  2. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Forum Resident

    My electronics are similar to yours-C2300 preamp and MC452 power amp. For my taste and my listening space, the Focal Sopra 2 have been a great match. I auditioned the Sopras against the Olympica IIIs a couple years ago when I was in the market. I've listened to SF before and I've always liked them and they are incredibly beautiful to look at. But I like a more detailed sound and the Sopras were more my cup of tea. I haven't regretted the purchase at all. Even if you're "only" spending 5 to 10K, ideally you'd get a chance to audition them first. Speakers are always a very personal choice. And to be honest, if I was willing to spend 10K, I'd probably save up a couple thousand more and buy new and have the peace of mind of a warranty, etc. You probably wouldn't have to stretch too much to get the 1038s brand new for your budget if you can talk a dealer down.
    wbhendrix likes this.
  3. ggergm

    ggergm you can't rollerskate in a buffalo herd

    This, in spades.

    Anybody who will be spending $5-10K for speakers can afford to travel to a major city to listen to them, at least for the afternoon.

    The Absolute Sound used to have a caveat attached to their recommended component list: "If you buy according to our recommendations, you deserve exactly what you get." As a guy who ignored that advice and bought a terrible sounding preamp because HP was ecstatic over it for a brief moment in time, I learned my lesson.

    Use this thread to garner ideas and advice @wbhendrix. Read as much as you can. Eliminate pieces you know you won't like. But buying speakers is like buying shoes. You're one only one who knows if they fit.
  4. tmsorosk

    tmsorosk MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Alberta Canada
    If you like the sound of music better than good electronics it's Sonus Faber.
    Helom and Matt Richardson like this.
  5. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    From what I've heard with these brands (albeit, not all with McIntosh), I think SF is the safest choice. Detail can be exciting at first but it can be fatiguing in the long run, and turn mediocre recordings into terrible recordings. I've never been impressed by what Focal offers for the $$$$. The speakers always look far more impressive than they sound. Meanwhile, a very basic looking Revel speaker at half the cost performs better in my experience.

    B&W also make their own drivers. I believe SF makes some of their own as well. Though I never understood why house-made drivers are considered automatically superior to outsourced drivers. Something smells of Upscale Audio there.
  6. McIntosh makes really great speakers that are often overlooked. I have only heard them in all-Mac systems but they have always produced stunning sound. I am sure your McIntosh dealer could get a pair in for an audition.

    I would also consider Revel speakers as they seem to be favorite with many Mac enthusiasts.

    McIntosh XR100 Floor Standing Speaker
    hi_watt likes this.
  7. wbhendrix

    wbhendrix Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Austin, TX
    Thank you for sharing your experience, makes me lean toward Focal that much more. Curious, what size is your room? Do you listen at loud volumes often? If so, are they pretty loud or does it leave you wanting more?
  8. DaveyF

    DaveyF Forum Resident

    La Jolla, Calif
    FWIW, house of McIntosh owns both Sonus Faber and McIntosh.So, you would be buying a speaker that should be very compatible.
  9. You had better like the “French sound” if you go with Focal speakers! The “French sound”—fast, somewhat bright, and a little lighter on the bass—isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I am a big fan of it (I own Triangle Celius, Titus, Sextan, Aliote, and Sub Espace speakers) but I only run them with tube and warmer sounding solid state amplification. I would not run them with brighter-sounding electronics.

    As far as your comment regarding 300 watt vs 400 watt speakers, wattage is pretty much a meaningless statistic when applied to speakers. Speakers do not generate current so it is really just a suggested range of amplifier power to be used to drive the speakers. If a company states that more wattage is required, it means that the speaker is less efficient, and will need more power to be able to play at louder volumes. Conversely, speakers with a lower wattage requirement are more efficient, and will need less power to be able to play at louder volumes. It doesn’t tell you anything about the sound quality of the speaker. It’s basically just marketing speak to entice people who don’t know what the measurement means.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
  10. Actually, the opposite is true. If a speaker has lower power handling requirements, it means it is more efficient and will play louder at a given volume knob position than a less-efficient speaker.
  11. Frost

    Frost Well-Known Member

    Ive been an electrostat guy for many years but recently went on an exhaustive search for speakers for my best friend. I also spent the weekend at axpona, and am a professional audio engineer of 20 years with hundreds of mastering credits and mixing credits in my career. Now everyones taste differs but we ended up picking a pair of sonus faber sonettos for his budget of $5k. From revels (which were good especially without a sub) to all levels of dynaudio which were a close second in the price class. From the b&w 802 (which I have many hours of listening to) to the kef R series and finally a few days auditioning the new paradigm, I found a personal love of the sonus faber sound. They just sound musical, while being accurate and powerful, while conveying a spooky soundstage. They will be my next speakers for home use should I ever decide to change from the innersound electrostats currently in use. At axpona my two most magical audio experiences were again the sonus faber room (as well as the avante garde room but those arent everyones taste).

    trd, Matt Richardson and Helom like this.
  12. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    With the exception of Jean Marie Reynaud. Which is another brand the OP should consider.
    Scratcha likes this.
  13. nightenrock

    nightenrock Forum Resident

    Love my Kef Blade 2s driven by a MC 452. I’m using a C47 preamp because I like the Swiss Army Knife nature of it. Tempted to try the C 2500 or one like it at some point. You could get lucky and score a used paid of Blade 2s for $10k-ish.
    mds likes this.
  14. Good call. Have to admit, I haven’t heard those. Heck, I haven’t heard JM Reynaud mentioned in a few years.
  15. zonto

    zonto Active Member

    Boston, MA
    I've demoed Focal Kanta No. 2 on some McIntosh stack at the local dealer and wanted to gouge my ears out. When I demoed the same speakers with a Naim integrated, I only wanted to stop listening, but was fine leaving my ears intact.

    I'd suggest not Focal. I really like what I've read about Sonus Faber and would be demoing the same speakers, except they don't have grills and that's a non-starter with a toddler.
    Scratcha likes this.
  16. 4xoddic

    4xoddic Forum Resident

    My ears are intact . . . . YMMV:

    I've been listening & admiring the looks of Focal Electra 1038bes in Dogato Walnut for 2-channel & 7.0 HT for ~ 7 months in an 11' X 19' X 8' room.

    I'm powering them from the preouts of a Yamaha RX-A1050 AVR to a Yamaha P7000s pro amp (700 WPC).

    The room has a 5' X 8' opening to an entryway & hallway. I used to have a Velodyne FSR-15 Subwoofer pointed down that hallway for bass enhancement. I've not been tempted to add the subwoofer back in (documented by Tom Nousaine, RIP, as reaching slightly above the claimed 18 Hz +/- 3dB ).

    I'm often surprised with the Focal's bass response when watching movies.
  17. 4xoddic

    4xoddic Forum Resident

    SHTV & Focal opinions? As I'd been listening to Focal Profile 908 bookshelf speakers in system 2 for several years, I was intrigued by Focal's beryllium tweeter. When the Sopra 2 was released & Electra 1038bes discounted (I paid $6K for refurbished) I took the leap of faith, but first Googled the Hades on the 1038bes . . . . to little result. I believe there were 2-3 mentions on SHTV. One commonality among all WWW "comments" was:

    When this remark was discussed by actual owners of Focal speakers, it became apparent that some models are extremely sensitive to amplifier matching; that some models have a long burn-in period; that some dealers have dismal showrooms . . . anything but owners with gouged ears.

    Then I came across this review on the previous Focal 1037 be:

    Focal Electra 1037 Be loudspeaker

    Michael Fremer | Jul 15, 2007

    Read more at Focal Electra 1037 Be loudspeaker

    The Electra 1037 Bes remained in my system for almost three months, yet try as I might, I couldn't find a seam in the speaker's frequency balance. I'm certain that, at least in my room, it produced the smoothest, most coherent frequency response of any speaker I've reviewed, and especially of any model that extends down into the 30Hz region. The result was among the most convincing and believable expression of instrumental harmonics I've heard.

    I'm no Michael Fremer, but this is similar to what my ears tell me. As in another relevant thread:

    Scratcha likes this.
  18. Roycer

    Roycer Forum Resident

  19. Roycer likes this.
  20. freesole

    freesole Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    Is that an issue? I wasn't aware - Focal uses beryllium drivers in its top end headphones too. Magico A3's also use these drivers in their speakers.
  21. It’s enough of an issue that Focal includes safety instructions with their speakers and warns purchasers not to dispose of their speakers but to take them to a recycling center.

    Read p. 5 of the manual:

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
  22. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    It's really only a hazard if ingested or inhaled.
    Roycer likes this.
  23. Hudo

    Hudo Well-Known Member

    Dublin, Ireland
    I have 1028be, and can only confirm that Focal can work in a range from good to amazing. It all depends on the rest of the system, but from few speakers I tried only they were able to deliver details and musicality and warmth all in the same time. Last heard Kantas with some fancy Jadis all tube amp, and that was just amazing, I wanted to sell my car that moment!
    SF was always very musical, but for my taste I want much more details (have opinion that only top range SF is good and worth considering)
    For B&W people say it sounds really nice, but I still didn't hear combination where that metal dome tweeter didn't take over the whole sound and become too sterile.

    Also, new focals, Kanta and Sopra range, are suppose to be less demanding on amp power. On Electra, you need at least 200W (I have 400W class-D hypex).
    wbhendrix and 4xoddic like this.
  24. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Forum Resident

    I haven't measured my room in a long time. It's not exactly huge, maybe 15X20? For me, when I want to rock out, my Radioshack meter tells me I hit peaks of 88db or so. And that's only when I play it loud. I'm sure I did irreparable damage to my hearing when I was a younger and I try not to go too crazy on the volume. In no way have I ever been left wanting more in that regard. The Sopras are pretty easy to drive and eventually, I'd like to try a lower powered tube amp to see what it sounds like.

    I'm surprised Austin doesn't have a place to demo other brands like Sonus Faber, Wilson Audio, etc. Again, I love my Focals but as you can see above, not everyone does. I hate to be the guy who swayed you into getting something you end up not liking. I can only reiterate that for me, the McIntosh and SF combo is almost too much of a good thing. It's too laid back and romantic at times. It's a pleasing sound for sure, but if you like a more detailed sound, I do think that Focal or perhaps B&W would be more to your liking. I've read that the BW tend to need more power to drive them, but with an MC452 that shouldn't be a problem. Unless you have a HUGE room and you're playing at seriously high volumes. At any rate, good luck with your search and post what you end up with!
    wbhendrix likes this.
  25. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    So are you all listening to your set ups without inhaling :D ?!
    The fact that they state in the manual that after removing the grills, you should put them back on very carefully would be enough for me to look for something else.

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