As Focal has just launched its new Aria range, we couldn’t resist testing one of its models. After testing the very good Q Acoustic 2050i, the temptation to test another pair of tower speakers got the better of us. We chose the Focal Aria 926, little brother to the Focal Aria 936. This 3-way model features two bass drivers, one medium driver and one tweeter.
Natural linen membranes
For this new Aria range, Focal has created a series of exclusive bass and medium drivers, called Flax. Eighteen years after the introduction of the W series sandwich structure, the Flax range uses the same principle but incorporates new materials. Bass and medium driver membrane is made up of a sandwich structure ? two sheets of fibreglass on either side of a thin layer of linen. Natural linen was chosen for its mechanical properties as it’s an ideal hollow fibre to combine neutral sound with light weight. Its low elasticity and high solidity are comparable to carbon and Kevlar.
The Focal Aria 926 has light and very solid zamak driver frames (zinc, alminium and magnesium).
Another new feature ? the TNF aluminium/magnesium alloy inverted dome tweeter uses a Poron suspension, a micro-cellular urethane, which allows a threefold division of distortion from 2000 to 3000 Hz in a frequency range to which the ear is very sensitive.
A black matte profiled waveguide allows horizontal and vertical dispersion. The baffle is made using thick MDF panels with internal supports and non-parallel walls, in order to get rid of stationary waves and to lower distortion.
In terms of design, the Aria range represents a major development for Focal with a smooth and more restrained outline. There are no visible screws thanks to the use of brushed metal rings. Front panels have a leather finish as well as a magnetically-fixed fabric cover, while top panels are made from glass. The new Aria range was designed, developed and manufactured in France.
A bit of elbow grease is needed when lifting the packaged Focal Aria 926. Each box weighs 25 kg. It’s better to lift them with someone else but it can be done alone. Each speaker is delivered packaged with a cotton pad covering the lower port.
The speaker base plate is delivered in another box and is shipped with its own attachments (screws, decoupling spikes, rubber pads, Allen wrench).
The driver grille cover is packaged separately. Lastly, the tweeter is protected by a tough plastic film. A set of instructions is included.
A very simple assembly
You just simply have to lay the Focal Aria 926 on its back, either on a couch or on a mat with a cushion underneath to raise the base high enough to be able to attach the base plate. With Focal there is always a sense of detail which you can’t help but like, for example, the leather finish underneath the speaker, which is really not necessary as it can only be seen when attaching the steel base. Even the underside of the base plate bears the French company’s name. The Aria 926 is, to put it simply, amazing to look at when you finally see it in all its glory. A few turns of the Allen wrench to attach the decoupling spikes to the steel base plate and the Aria 926 can finally take place in your living room.
We paired up the Aria 926 with a 2×50 digital amplifier, the NuForce DDA100, connected to the coaxial S/PDIF output of an audiophile network player, the Pioneer N-50 with a NAS Synology DS212j source containing CD and Studio quality FLAC music files. Once again, we used Norstone Silver 150 cables to connect the speakers.
The initial notes played by the Aria speakers, even though they aren’t broken in, don’t leave us in any doubt as regards their transducer capacities and the sophistication of their filtering. The TNF tweeter is striking because of its accuracy and crystal-clear sound. During the initial listening period, it gradually gains its place as the bass and medium drivers start to break in. About 10 hours later, the Focal Aria 926 prove themselves to be demonstrative and slightly corporal. Both ends of the spectrum are delivered with success, but not excessively. The 45 Hz announced at -3 dB is definitely not an exaggeration….on the contrary.
Let’s point out that a pair of 6.5 inches motorised drivers in a correctly tuned bass-reflex enclosure is worth much more than weak drivers generating air flow at 30 Hz ? it goes down very low and very cleanly.
Although we haven’t been able to check this point, it seems that each bass driver was tuned in a volume of clean air with a different tuning frequency and the lower port resonating lower than that at the front.
A few tracks we listened to
L’aigle Noir, Barbara, FLAC 16/44
When Barbara whispers ?de son bec il a touché ma joue?, we literally shudder with pleasure. Her voice is clear, the sound is exemplary ? such detail and restraint. We simply love it.
Gates of Istanbul, Loreena McKennitt, FLAC 16/44
To have the pleasure of listening to the Aria thunder in the bass range, this track is a real gem. The Focal Aria 926 speakers don’t pretend and even at a moderate volume, the floor shakes. They rumble just as much and as strongly as a pair of Klipsch RF-82, but with the added musical dimension and that’s putting it mildly.
Skyfall, Adele, FLAC 16/44
This is the first track we listened to and the clear delivery is immediately perceptible. The singer’s voice can be easily heard and we love the fact that there is a dedicated medium driver. The philharmonic orchestra plays with conviction, making this all in all a very good quality track.
Have you ever loved a woman, Brian Adams, FLAC 16/44
The guitar intro is ethereal and the singer’s voice appears soft in the centre of the sound stage, creating an intimate presence. The drums are gentle but firm and the percussion instruments take their place at the edges of the sound stage.
You’re the one that I want (unplugged), Angus & Julia Stone, FLAC 16/44
We’d never heard it like this before! The sound of the acoustic guitar is palpable – you can almost make out the sound of the hand on the strings as the Aria successfully delivers the variations in intensity. Julia Stone’s voice is simply magnificent with different variations, in other words, it is never linear, which is unfortunately too often the case with most speakers as voices are difficult to relay correctly. The Focal Aria 926 speakers deliver a very detailed and precise low-medium.
Avalon, Roxy Music, FLAC 24/88,2
This is a highly detailed recording. Bryan Ferry’s velvet tones bowl the listener over completely. Often described as a ?complete shambles?, Avalon stands out here. The percussion provides a full sound and the female choir perched high up on the left calmly lights up the recording. The Aria speakers are in total control of their subject here.
Uprising, Muse, FLAC 16/44
We’ve never heard the synthesizer sounding so tacky nor the metal percussion sound so good at the extreme right side of the sound stage. Such control! The live version from the concert in Rome is a real delight. The speakers show superb control as well as a raging force.
How do they rate in a home cinema configuration’
No need for a subwoofer! Unless you want to install them in a huge listening room and make the walls shake, the Focal Aria 926 speakers don’t need an additional subwoofer for home cinema purposes. We compared them to the Q Acoustics 2050i, which they literally crush to bits.
The driver motors are extremely powerful. The energy which pours out makes for real listening pleasure, especially if you like dominant bass.
You definitely get your money’s worth. Watching Man of Steel turns into real pyrotechnics. We can count on the Aria 926 for frequencies below 45 Hz and not necessarily in a room which promotes low frequencies.
The Focal Aria 926 speakers are a real success. Using high quality components, they will appeal to listeners who crave emotion and pleasure. Their full, warm sound is always a hit, regardless of the recording. These speakers will never fail to impress.
They can be used with a modest amplifier, which is what we did, and they’ll still be very impressive. The Focal Aria 926 are, however, much more than this. We recommend the use of medium power integrated amplifiers, such as the Yamaha A-S500, Marantz PM-6005, Rotel RA-12 or Arcam FMJ A19 or bigger models such as the Yamaha A-S2000, Cambridge Audio 851A, Rotel RA-1570, Roksan Caspian M2 INT, Marantz PM-14S1 or even NuForce IA-18.
Read our more recent review of the Focal Aria 906.