The Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 home theater speaker system offers an immersive listening experience in an ultra-compact format. With five satellite speakers – two of which feature a vertical channel – and an active subwoofer, this Focal speaker system is a catch.
What would you say to enjoying multi-channel sound with a vertical dimension at home, just like at the movies? Focal has embraced Dolby Atmos, the immersive audio format born in movie theaters and now available on Netflix and Blu-ray discs. To allow users to experience Dolby Atmos (or DTS:X) vertical effects without installing speakers on the ceiling, Focal has taken the two satellite speakers in the Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos Evo system and equipped them with a wideband driver directed upwards. Its role: direct sound towards the ceiling so it can be reflected back down to the listening area. In order to benefit from this “vertical” sound, a home theater receiver equipped with a Dolby Atmos decoder is necessary. This receiver can remix a stereo or multichannel soundtrack and give it a vertical dimension.
The Focal concept
To offer a system compatible with immersive cinema formats, Focal has replaced two of the speakers in the 5.1 Focal Sib Evo system with models featuring an additional vertical channel – hence the name 5.1.2. Both speakers are slightly larger than the others and are fitted with identical drivers, as well as a third driver installed on top of the speaker and facing the ceiling. This 4? (10 cm) driver has a specific response curve which takes into account the attenuation inherent to the sound wave?s reflection off the ceiling. Each of the five Focal Sib Evo speakers features a 5? (13 cm) mid-bass driver with a Polyglass cone and a 3/4? (1.9 cm) fabric dome tweeter. The mid-bass driver is loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure and deliberately tuned to the upper bass register (~65 Hz) in order to increase efficiency and reduce the frequency range which the driver needs to cover, thus improving its transient response. In addition, Focal has opted for high-sensitivity speakers (90dB) with a nominal impedance of 6 Ohms, which ensures compatibility with most home cinema receivers.
A robust subwoofer
Once the proper adjustments are made, the home theater receiver directs lows to the Focal Cub Evo subwoofer. The latter is equipped with an 81/4? (21 cm) high-excursion driver, powered by a 200 Watt high-efficiency amplifier. Fitted with controls for volume, phase, and cut-off frequency, the Focal Cub Evo subwoofer can reproduce low frequencies from 35Hz to 150Hz. It may be switched on manually or automatically, upon reception of an incoming signal from the home theater receiver.
Design and build quality
Focal has chosen a lustrous plastic finish for the seven speakers and a satin vinyl finish for the subwoofer. Each satellite speaker is equipped with a tilting stand with a non-slip rubber base. The speakers? spring clip terminals are compatible with cables with a cross-section of up to 2.5 mm2 once stripped.
We tested the Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos system with the Yamaha MusicCast RX-A870 home theater receiver and NorStone W250 speaker cables. We indicated to the receiver that each speaker was “small” with a high-pass cutoff frequency of 80Hz. Although each speaker can cover frequencies lower than this, we consider that a subwoofer is capable of realistically reproducing frequencies below 80 Hz better than a 5? driver with a smaller enclosure. This also prevents the speakers? resonators from becoming overstimulated while optimizing the drivers? transient response. We set the gain to 6dB for each Atmos channel. As for the subwoofer, we pushed the filter to the max (150Hz) in order to fully benefit from the LFE channel of our films and concerts. Note that two wall brackets are provided for wall mounting in the upper front-facing position.
Focal is the only manufacturer to offer satellite speakers with such “big” drivers. The difference with the competition is striking, and the depth of the soundstage is impressive even at low volume. Since each speaker is equipped with the same drivers, the tonal coherence is irreproachable. Sounds thus retain their integrity as they move around the listening room.
Focal’s signature sound is easily recognizable, an obvious result of careful tuning. It is characterized by a sense of smoothness, in addition to an accurate restitution of lower-midrange and soft, bright highs. All this is very well balanced and places the listener in a cocoon of sound that is conducive to very long listening sessions.
After some adjustments are made in terms of placement and output level, the Focal Cub Evo subwoofer provides credible support for the speakers. Here again, Focal’s fine craftsmanship is at work. The result is convincing, and even physical depending on the action on-screen. Take Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and notably the scene in which the planet Jedha is destroyed, a real challenge for a subwoofer – especially when it has to play the low frequencies of all the speakers in addition to the LFE channel (.1). The balance between the upper bass register and the infra-bass is perfectly satisfactory, and at very high volume, no mechanical noise is perceptible, except that of our sofa vibrating. The Focal Sib Evo speakers remain imperial in all circumstances, distilling an avalanche of micro-details without any hint of harshness. The falling rocks rumbled all around us, plunging us into the heart of the action. The same observation held true with Wonder Woman, when the Amazonian warrior displayed her powers against the German soldiers: the guns slammed and the bullets whistled vigorously, but the Focal Sib Evo took care of our ears. In other words, you do not have to frantically grab the remote control to turn the sound down… on the contrary. The battle against Doomsday in Batman v Superman is just as astounding, again without resorting to caricature.
Listening to concerts is a real pleasure, for example watching Coldplay (2012) and hearing the crowd sing on the rear speakers. On Clocks, we forced the Yamaha receiver?s immersive mode to use the vertical speakers, which added an extra dimension to the listening experience. The Supertramp Live in Paris concert (1979) offered unflagging dynamic mastery. Finally, in a more peaceful register, the Netflix series The Crown offers gratifying vocal accuracy, proof that these speakers are at ease with any type of content.
Focal has made a wise choice with its 5? Polyglass drivers. The richness and openness of the soundstage offered by the Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 system makes it likely to be the best solution for those looking to combine compactness with home cinema or multi-channel hi-fi performance. Compatible with the latest immersive audio formats (Dolby Atmos, DTS:X), this speaker pack shines for its technical qualities. The speakers are absolutely excellent, the subwoofer is outstanding, and listening to even a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a pleasurable experience. The power rating of the associated home theater receiver is of little importance. Highly recommended speakers.