Focal, which used to be known as JMLab, is France's leading hi-fi speaker system manufacturer and is proud of the fact that it continues to make even its less costly Chorus range products in France.
This £389 Chorus 706V has been around the block since it was launched amongst no fewer than ten Chorus stereo pairs in 2006. We reviewed it very favourably a year ago, when it cost £20 less, but thought it was due for a re-test, in order to provide continuity and context for the more recent arrivals.
Ten Chorus models in total might seem like overkill, though in fact they're split into two groups of five – the less costly Chorus 700s and the more elaborate Chorus 800s. Although it costs much the same as the others in this test group, the 706V is one step up from the smallest (the 705V) and it proved a very worthwhile step too, sonically speaking.
All the panels are finished in a rather dull Amati vinyl woodprint. However, they are a substantial 20-25mm thick and the side panels are tapered, so that the internal faces are not parallel and, therefore, the frequency focusing of internal standing waves and the consequent boxiness is reduced.
The cone driver has a 165mm cast-alloy frame and a 120mm diameter Polyglass cone (made of paper coated with glass 'microsphere' damping). Focal's familiar inverted-dome tweeter has a 25mm alloy diaphragm, driven by a rather smaller voice coil.
It's mounted in a rigid L-shaped cast chassis at the top edge of the enclosure, unobstructed by a visually rather striking V-shaped grille; a small optional protective mesh is supplied. A front port provides bass reflex loading and signal is applied via a single terminal pair.
An edge above
Positioning is important here. The 706V likes some assistance from a nearby wall, but can get to sound too heavy if placed too close. Having got the positioning right, the speaker really starts to punch out of its class. It's still an inexpensive speaker at heart, but within its modest performance envelope it does very little wrong and many things rather well.
The overall tonal balance is very well-judged and essentially neutral, while the fact that its main driver and box are significantly larger and give it a real head start in terms of dynamic expression and vigour, as well as a greater comfort zone when the volume is turned up.
Voices have good integrity and coherence, with no unpleasant forwardness or 'shouty' tendencies and there's little evidence of unwelcome time-smear. The bass is agile, communicating rhythms and tonal subtleties rather well, as well as the intentions of the musicians.
The top end is sweet, delicate and airy – never unnecessarily drawing attention to itself, yet delivering plenty of fine detail.
Although it's not our normal policy to return to models that have previously been reviewed, as a one-off, the exercise is interesting and it's encouraging that the 706V has very much repeated its earlier success this time around.