This week we’re testing the Focal Aria 906 speakers, the second Aria bookshelf speaker, launched by the French brand in 2013. This speaker is your ticket to the Focal range, placed between the Chorus and Utopia series, but is the Focal Aria 906 really a mid-range model’
Focal Aria 906: the “organic” speaker
Before going any further, we should present the Focal Aria range to you. This speaker has been a really innovative inclusion in the French brand’s product catalogue. Launched in 2013, the Aria range (air, melody in Italian) introduced Focal Flax technology, used in the Focal Dome range. Flax is the term for a new generation of medium/bass driver membranes, made using natural linen. While most speaker manufacturers currently use composite membranes, composed of a mixture of carbon, glass fibre and various metals, Focal has chosen a natural material for various reasons. First of all, natural linen has mechanical features, perfectly adapted to sound delivery. Woven linen has excellent solid properties and as the structure of its fibres are naturally irregular, its damping attributes are exceptional.
The rigid structure enables a very good transient phase for the entire sound spectrum, while its damping properties reduce distortion.
In other words, these new Flax membranes encourage excellent musical timing and clear sound clarity.
In addition to these acoustic features, linen is also a good choice in economic terms as it’s both grown and manufactured in France, enabling Focal to keep a tighter rein on its manufacturing costs. That being said, it doesn’t mean that the company is trying to cut back on costs as the use of linen implies a thorough selection process and genuine expertise.
The Flax cone driver in the Focal Aria 906 measures 6.5″ and is in a supplied air volume in accordance with bass-reflex technology. The circular port located on the front panel of the speaker allows you to move it more easily.
Focal Aria 906: new inverted dome tweeter
The Focal Aria 906 speaker features an innovative inverted dome tweeter. While the aluminium and magnesium dome doesn’t really differ that much from the brand’s other models, it uses the latest technology developed for the top-of-the-range Utopia model. The TNV tweeter adopts the Poron suspension of the Utopia Beryllium tweeter. Compared to Focal’s entry-level models, there is a major difference. The Poron suspension allows distortion to be reduced drastically by 2 to 3 kHz and it’s in this frequency range that our ears are the most sensitive. The circular Poron suspension is situated inside the tweeter, just underneath the edge of the dome.
Focal Aria 906: highly optimized passive filter
Focal has developed a particularly sophisticated passive filter, aimed at preserving a linear frequency response in the horizontal sound field. In other words, tone balance varies very slightly if the listener moves to the side of the speakers (listening point). Several listeners sitting side by side will also perceive the same audio message. The sweet spot is therefore vast.
Focal Aria 906: packaging contents
Focal delivers the pair of Aria 906 speakers in one box. Speakers and fabric dust covers are kept separate by a polystyrene insert and cover and are protected by a plastic sleeve. Each tweeter is protected using a solid plastic sheet, held securely in place with glue (which doesn’t dirty the leather on the front panel).
Focal Aria 906: simple design
Focal has played it safe with its conservative design and hasn’t broken away from the Chorus range. The front panel has a leather cover and a thick sheet of black tempered glass at the top of the speaker. As well as giving the speaker an aesthetically appealing appearance, these materials also improve the overall acoustic qualities. The leather on the front panel provides damping properties which are far superior to what you would obtain with a wood-covered front panel as it enables sound waves to flow smoothly (with less distortion).
As for the tempered glass on the top of the speaker, it adds extra weight to the top of the speaker cabinet, again lowering distortion related to the spread of energy throughout the speaker’s MDF structure. The cabinet walls are not parallel in order to avoid any acoustic mishaps. The driver membrane diffuses sound to the front and back. Make sure you check the back return sound wave. Failing this, sound is less clear as the volume level is increased. Let’s get back however to the design of the speaker and the supplied curved fabric dust cover, which is easy to fit thanks to the four magnets.
Focal Aria 906: disappointing figures?
According to its technical specifications, the Focal Aria 906 delivers frequencies between 55 Hz and 28 kHz in a more or less 3 dB range, for a sensitivity value of 89.5 dB per 1 watt (measured at a distance of 1 m from the speaker). At first glance, this seems a fairly disappointing frequency response, considering the size of the speaker and the 6.5″ driver (which, in addition, has a great magnet). You’ve got to listen, however, to the Focal Aria 906 to realise on the one hand that they go down lower than 55 Hz and that bass frequency articulation is exemplary down to approximately 40 Hz.
These are realistic measurements. Focal, with its considerable manufacturing expertise, hasn’t given in to outrageous marketing techniques.
Focal Aria 906: listening configuration
We listened to the Focal Aria 906 speakers paired up with a Marantz PM-6005 amplifier and a Denon Ceol N9. We used Audio Silver HD12 HP and Audioquest Rocket 88 speaker cables. Our sources were a computer with a transit USB optical digital Toslink connection and HD TV , both connected using Audioquest Cinnamon Optical Toslink and Audioquest Vodka Optical Toslink optic cables. We listened to various music programmes (FLAC CD and HD files from a NAS), TV programmes (digital TV) and films (Blu-ray).
Focal Aria 906: listening impressions
Before indulging in any period of extended listening, we gave the Focal Aria 906 time to break in. To do this, just leave the radio on at a low volume. From the very first notes, the Aria’s specific character and strength shine through. The titanium TNV tweeter’s restraint is a welcome feature whilst the Flax driver is consistent from bass to medium. A slight emphasis on the low medium is worth pointing out however ? obviously intended by the manufacturer in order to highlight the Flax driver’s capacity to deliver textured notes in this range. We continued our test by tuning into a classic concert shown on Arte.
Despite the compressed source, the Aria 906 is capable of producing refined notes full of delightful charm and it can arrange various sound patterns (piano, followed by violin, followed by orchestra followed by the sounds of the auditorium).
With the Aria 906, listeners are spoilt for choice. Using the Marantz PM-6005, we rediscover We are Family by Sister Sledge, a typical radio-friendly hit whose mass overkill on the airwaves has made us forget the technical qualities that made it such a successful track. The vocal range of the four Sledge sisters is delivered with a wonderfully smooth texture backed up with a lively rhythm section and bass line. On Naughty Girl by Beyoncé, the bass response is somewhat sensational. The Aria 906 sends all the other similar floor-standing speakers (even those equipped with identical drivers) packing. Our small Monitor Audio Radius 270 column speakers, whilst they are more expressive, cannot rival the Aria in terms of frequency response or articulation. With the Aria 906 you never feel as if you are forcing the sound. Listening with these speakers simply makes you want to pump up the volume. This is exactly what we did when we used them in a home cinema configuration.
If these little Aria speakers stand out for their dialogue delivery, they really reach their full potential with adventure-packed films like Pacific Rim or Godzilla. The fight scenes in Los Angeles are presented with both energy and restraint ? sound is never forced within the first 5 watts delivered by the Marantz PM-6005. The more you push these speakers to the limits, the more they spring to life and the tweeter flies on a high frequency, adding an impressive dynamic.
In short, this Focal Aria 906 can play a wide range of music and unleashes itself for home cinema use. With a suitable amplifier, listening is a real pleasure.
Focal Aria 906 speakers can be used with an all-in-one mid-range amplifier (Denon Ceol N9) but a more powerful, sophisticated model will achieve a superior sound. Their pairing with the Marantz PM-6005 is excellent. Note that when using different speaker cables, we noted that the silver-plated models delivered a signal which showcased the tweeter’s full capacity. We therefore recommend the use of such cables with amplifiers such as the Marantz PM-6005, Rotel RA-11 or NAD C356BEE. For home cinema use, we recommend Yamaha’s RXA range or Pioneer’s LX range.