This week we?re reviewing the Focal Chorus 605 and Focal Chorus 615 speakers, on exclusive loan to us by Focal. Direct descendants of the Focal Chorus 700 range, these speakers are the manufacturer?s entry-level models.
Made in France
One of the assets offered by the speakers in the Focal Chorus 600 range is that they are made in France and not in some far corner of the world. This is an advantage not only because it is pretty rare these days, but also because the Chorus 600 are Focal’s entry-level speakers, which means that the brand must offer a product which is properly designed, manufactured and finished. This includes having a unique look to call its own, in addition to standout technical characteristics. For example, Focal has opted for non-parallel side panels in order to optimize the reflections of the soundwave inside the cabinet and thereby minimize disturbance to the midbass driver?s diaphragm. In addition, the speaker cabinets are robust, with thick walls to reduce parasitic vibrations. In fact, the Focal Chorus 605 and Focal Chorus 615 have an MDF structure (composed of compressed and glued sawdust) with a thickness of up to an inch (25 mm) in some places. This may not sound like a remarkable feat, but for a speaker priced at less than ?300, it’s surprising indeed.
A celebrated name in hi-fi, Focal has developed a number of proprietary technologies for its drivers and electronic filters. The French brand might not hold patents for the shape of its ports, but it has been busy developing even more useful technologies. For example, the Focal Chorus 605 and Focal Chorus 615 both feature Polyglass midbass drivers. In practice, cellulose fiber – in other words, paper – is enhanced with glass microbeads to produce the material for the diaphragm. The goal is to optimize performance in the lows by increasing the diaphragm?s rigidity. Stiffer than Kevlar, the Polyglass composite also handles mids really well, with less peaking in the frequency response. The same Polyglass drivers can be found in other speakers in the Focal line-up, for example, the Focal Alpha monitors. In fact, although the word ?Polyglass? isn’t mentioned, this technology is used much higher up in the range – and the same geometric and electromagnetic fine-tuning is at work.
Another technology which testifies to Focal’s expertise is showcased by the tweeter of the Focal Chorus 605 and Focal Chorus 615 speakers. The inverted dome tweeter, composed of aluminum and magnesium, has already demonstrated its efficiency as part of a number of the brand’s more expensive speakers. The inverted dome offers the advantage of diffusing sound in a minimally directive manner and thus widening the soundstage. The speaker?s poron surround, inherited from the Focal Utopia range, gives the dome a resonant frequency which is far removed from the cut-off frequency of the Chorus speakers? 2-way crossover filter. This is an advantage because the impact of the filter on its cut-off frequency – notably in terms of phase rotation – is greater if this frequency is too close to the tweeter?s resonant frequency. In short, Focal has done all it can to ensure that the tweeter offers a smooth and precise restitution.
Focal Chorus 605: presentation
The Focal Chorus 605 compact speaker is a two-way model featuring a bass-reflex port. It is equipped with two drivers, including one 5? driver with a Polyglass diaphragm and one 1? inverted dome tweeter. The speaker has a frequency response of 65 Hz – 28 kHz +/- 3 db. These numbers are convincing (in the lows) given the compact size of the speaker. The electronic filter?s cut-off frequency is set at 3 kHz for a sensitivity rating of 91dB/1W/1m. The Focal Chorus 605 has a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms, with the lowest impedance of only 3 Ohms being obtained in the bass register. In other words, an amplifier will need to provide a decent amount of power to keep the bass tight at high volume.
Focal Chorus 615: in numbers
The Focal Chorus floorstanding speaker is a 2.5-way model which also features a bass-reflex port. It has the same drivers as the 605, with the most notable difference being the addition of two bass drivers loaded in a much larger volume of air. The bandwidth is thus extended in the lows – down to 52 Hz – which, as can be imagined, is accompanied by a substantial increase in sensitivity. The filter is more complex, with the first bass driver?s cut-off frequency set at 300 Hz, while the second bass driver handles frequencies up to 3 kHz. Above this, the tweeter steps in to handle frequencies up to 28 kHz. The technique of filtering two identical bass drivers differently allows one of them (the one which is cut low) to offer a more efficient restitution of lows.
Focal Chorus 605 and 615: design
As can be expected, the two speakers are very similar. Slim and not very deep, both are designed for discreet integration. While clip-on acoustic cloth grills are provided, the tweeter is also protected by a small, non-removable metal grill. Each speaker has a round, flared, front-firing bass-reflex port. The floorstanding model’s port is wide in order to reduce air flow noise at high volume. The speaker terminals are designed to connect a single amplifier, can easily accept a cross-section of 4 mm2 (and certainly 6 mm2), are compatible with banana plugs and are equipped with a secure torque system. Lastly, the speakers sport a black, wood-effect vinyl finish and, once the grill is removed, the fixation holes and the driver screws are visible.
Focal Chorus 605 and 615: which to choose?
Each of these speakers is designed to meet different needs. When used as part of a stereo system, the Focal Chorus 605 is intended for either those looking for a discreet sound which doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on the bass register, or those looking for a discreet design in order to preserve the visual harmony of their living room. For the latter group, adding a subwoofer is necessary to enjoy full-spectrum audio. The Focal Chorus 605 can also handle the front-left and front-right and/or surround channels as part of a home cinema installation, along with the Focal Chorus CC600 center speaker. As for the Focal Chorus 615 speaker, its larger format makes it a good match for anyone looking for a (much) wider soundstage and a genuine presence in the bass register.
Focal Chorus 605 and 615: listening impressions
Our first impression of the Focal Chorus 605 and 615 speakers was lukewarm? that is, until they were broken-in. A bit of patience is required while waiting for these speakers to reveal their true potential; 3 to 4 days of leaving the speakers tuned to an FM radio station will do the trick. Over the course of the break-in period, the drivers? surrounds become more flexible and the speakers? full capacities are revealed. While every speaker should be broken-in, we emphasize the importance of this for the Focal Chorus speakers, as they can sound a bit lackluster for the first few hours.
We used Norstone W250 cables to connect the Focal Chorus 605 and 615 speakers to a Yamaha R-N602 and a Hegel H80 amplifier. We listened to FLAC files in CD and HD quality, which we streamed from a smartphone running Android or played from a flash drive.
Focal Chorus 605: we published a review of the Focal Sib Evo Atmos speakers a few weeks ago, and the Chorus 600 range?s DNA is similar, although it is much more reserved in its restitution of highs. The listening experience is thus more formal than fun, and unless it is pushed, the Focal Chorus 605 delivers a less playful sound. The energy is mainly distributed in the mids, which are dry yet precise. The speaker quickly demonstrates its emphasis on neutrality, and the listener is progressively drawn in by its engaging soundstage. The listener shouldn’t expect to be blown away by enormous sound, as this bookshelf speaker?s strongest skill lies in a controlled restitution of micro-dynamics, to which Focal’s inverted dome tweeter makes a considerable contribution. With the volume turned up, the Focal Chorus 605?s true voice makes itself heard. With a hearty dose of electric current flowing through its circuits, the 605 offers a coherent, controlled and balanced sound which is equally well-suited for rock or jazz tracks, and above all provides a good solution for those looking to bring the experience of a multiplex cinema to the comfort of their home. Due to its compact size, the 605 doesn’t work miracles in the lows, and a subwoofer is a must for those looking for total satisfaction. The Focal Cub Evo subwoofer is an excellent match.
Lows: a bit lacking but sufficiently expressive
Mids: detailed and dynamic
Highs: smooth and serene
Focal Chorus 615: this is the star of the range. Despite its compact size, this speaker managages to create a decidedly extensive and deep soundstage. Extensive because the Focal Chorus 615 knows how to offer a convincing performance in the lows thanks to a well-tuned bass reflex port. While other manufacturers make their 5? drivers extend ? unnecessarily ? down to 40 or 30 Hz, Focal has made its decision clear: a small driver shouldn’t extend too low as this introduces the risk of reduced efficiency. Striking the right balance in the lows is a matter of finding a compromise between tightness and depth, with the goal of elongating the soundstage. Perfecting the filtering of the tweeter, more evident here than on any other Focal speaker, results in a ?deeper? stereo image.
Listening to the Focal Chorus 615 is a pleasant, engaging experience which invites the listener to pinpoint the location of the various sonic elements as they appear between and behind the speakers.
Lows: well-defined and sufficiently low for a subwoofer to be unnecessary.
Mids: as detailed and dynamic as the 605, but with a lot more breadth and excellent spatialization
Highs: smooth and even more serene (without a doubt, the more generous bass comes into play here).
At this price, the Focal Chorus 605 and Focal Chorus 615 speakers qualify as a very wise choice and are a staple for those looking for an efficient stereo system or home theater system. Their overall neutrality allows for long listening sessions and is ideal for movies as it favors detail and spatialization over an avalanche of decibels. These speakers are also available as part of the Focal Chorus 615 Cinéma and Focal Chorus 615 Cinéma 5.1 home cinema systems.