This week, we had the honor of reviewing the new Focal Chora 826 speaker: a 3-way, bass-reflex floorstanding model featuring 4 drivers, two of which are assigned to the lows. The Focal Chora speaker range takes over from the Focal Chorus speakers that won over many hi-fi enthusiasts around the world. With their modern and innovative design, the Focal Chora speakers also introduce a new generation of midrange drivers and woofers with Slatefiber cones. The Focal Chora 826 floorstanding speaker rests on a tilted base that plays an important part in the time alignment of the drivers.
Made in France and sold for €1,399 a pair, the Focal Chora 826 speaker is “a remarkable gateway into the world of High Fidelity”, according to the manufacturer. Therefore, we hastily set about installing this fetching pair of speakers in our listening room to try them out.
Focal Chora: the brand
The Focal-JMLab was founded in 1979 in Saint-Étienne by the engineer and hi-fi journalist Jacques Mahul. Right from the very beginning, the company has never stopped innovating. As an icon of the French hi-fi industry with a global reputation, Focal proudly designs its own drivers thanks to modern and efficient production machinery.
Focal has always invested a great deal in research and development. As a result, Focal engineers designed the first inverted dome and fiberglass cone tweeter in 1981. Many new materials have been tested and introduced over the years, including titanium, titanium dioxide, and even Beryllium, which is used for the tweeters of Focal Utopia speakers.
In the mid-80s, Focal developed a Polykevlar sandwich cone named Poly-K for its midrange drivers and woofers. This cone was made up of two layers of aramid fibres placed on either side of a hollow micro-ball structure. This design optimizes the cone’s weight/rigidity/damping ratio, and provides excellent driver responsiveness.
In 2015, Focal made its mark with the Flax cone drivers used in the Focal Aria speaker range. This sandwich cone features a thin layer of linen in between two layers of fiberglass. Natural linen was chosen for its mechanical properties: this hollow fiber combines neutrality and lightness; its low elasticity and high rigidity are similar to that of carbon and Kevlar.
The Chora 826 speaker that we are reviewing here is in keeping with Focal’s previous productions, which are pioneering and immediately captivating, both esthetically and musically. Its drivers feature the manufacturer’s new Slatefiber cone, which is designed and manufactured in France. The speaker’s elegant design and finish continue the brand’s tradition of excellence.
Focal Chora 826: packaging and accessories
Each Focal Chora 826 speaker comes in a large cardboard box. Its extremities are protected by blocks of polystyrene. A fabric speaker grill with a magnetic attachment system is also included, along with a base to attach to the bottom of the speaker (an Allen key is provided). Focal supplies four adjustable decoupling spikes with each base, as well as four rubber feet.
Focal Chora 826: presentation
The Focal Chora 826 floorstanding speaker is the flagship model in the Focal Chora range which also includes the Focal Chora 816 floorstanding speaker and the Focal Chora 806 compact speaker. The French manufacturer has also announced that more models will be released in 2020, dedicated this time to home theater. It is therefore safe to assume that the brand will introduce a Focal Chora center speaker and a pair of Focal Chora surround speakers next year.
Focal Chora 826: look
Our test model featured the Light Wood finish, characterized by a cream-colored matte front panel with a glossy finish around the port and the contour of each driver. The other sides of the speaker’s cabinet are covered by a light wood veneer. Both go together very well, blending classicism with modernity.
The gray fabric speaker grill only covers the midrange driver and two woofers and it is held in place by a magnetic system. The tweeter, however, is protected by a circular steel grill that can’t be removed.
Two other finishes are available across the entire Focal Chora range. The Dark Wood finish features a gray front panel and a dark wood veneer. The front of Black version is glossy while the rest of the cabinet is covered with a matte back coating.
Focal Chora 826: design
The Focal Chora 826 is a 3-way, bass-reflex speaker featuring four drivers: two woofers and a midrange driver with Slatefiber cones that measure 6.5”, along with a 1” tweeter.
The tweeter is a TNF model with an aluminum and magnesium alloy (Al/Mg) inverted dome, similar to that of the speakers in the Focal Aria range.
The Focal Slatefiber cone is one of the key features of the Focal Chora range. Its slate-like appearance comes from the materials used. This composite sandwich cone is made of two different materials: thermoplastic polymer and recycled non-woven carbon fibers.
According to Focal, this design combines all of the characteristics that make a good driver: damping, rigidity, and lightness. With this innovative and unique cone, the French manufacturer guarantees a rich and balanced sound in the midrange, with little coloration and a lot of energy.
Note that the dust cap doesn’t have the same shape on the midrange driver and the woofers. It is very domed on the midrange driver to eliminate interference and thereby reduce distortion in this frequency range that our ear is the most sensitive to. The woofers’ dust caps are less domed and are very rigid to enhance the definition and impact of the lows.
The Focal Chora 826 floorstanding speaker comes with a base that needs to be screwed on.
The base can then rest on either non-slip feet or adjustable decoupling spikes (both are included).
The Focal Chora 826’s base has the particularity of sloping downwards slightly at the rear. The manufacturer states that this optimizes the time alignment of the different drivers, which in turn improves the sound image. It is therefore important to take care when assembling the speaker: the Focal logo on the base must be behind the speaker, and not in front as one might initially expect.
Focal Chora 826: key specifications
3-way, bass-reflex floorstanding speaker.
- 2 x Slatefiber woofers (6.5”)
- 1 x Slatefiber midrange driver (6.5”)
- 1 x TNF Al/Mg inverted dome tweeter (1”)
- Crossover frequency: 270Hz – 2700Hz
- Sensitivity (2.83V/1m): 91dB
- Frequency response (± 3dB): 48Hz – 28kHz
- Low frequency point (-6dB): 39kHz
- Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
- Minimal impedance: 2.9 ohms
- Recommended amplifier power: 40/250W
- Speaker dimensions (WxDxH): 30.3 x 38.8 x 105.3cm
- Net weight (with grill): 21.15kg
- Packaging dimensions (WxDxH): 113 x 34 x 48cm
- Net weight (with packaging): 24kg
Focal Chora 826: listening conditions
We connected the Focal Chora 826 speakers to the Atoll IN200 Signature stereo hi-fi amplifier (2×200 watts/4 ohms) using NorStone W250 cables. We combined the Atoll amplifier with the Pioneer UDP-LX500 UHD 4K Blu-ray player to play CDs (NorStone Jura RCA cable). We also used the D-Stream WR100-D wireless audio streamer to listen to music via Deezer and Qobuz.
To optimize the sound image, we placed the speakers approximately 2.5 meters apart and oriented them slightly towards the listening position.
First, we listened to CDs of Millie Jackson’s album Still Caught Up (1975) and The In Sound From Way Out by the Beastie Boys (1996). We then played our review playlist on Deezer and Qobuz.
Focal Chora 826: listening impressions
For this review, we received a pair of Focal Chora 826 speakers that were brand new and weren’t broken-in. Despite this, their sound signature immediately won us over. Note that a break-in period of around 100 hours is necessary before the lows reach their maximum potential.
The first few seconds of Millie Jackson’s album revealed the speaker’s ability to create a spacious soundstage. Its different elements were precisely distributed, and the vocals enjoyed a nice height and were impeccably centered. The time spent on adjusting the phase and time alignment of the drivers really paid off here. The Beastie Boys’ album allowed us to measure the Focal Chora 826 speaker’s dynamic qualities. The Slatefiber cone drivers were responsive and kept pace, no matter the tempo or the volume.
We continued to listen to music using Deezer an Qobuz via the D-Stream WR100-D wireless audio streamer. On the track “Preach” by Maverick Sabre (album When I Wake Up), the Focal Chora 826 demonstrated subtlety, with an excellent sense of detail: we were able to perceive the singer’s every breath, as well as the end of each whispered word. The differences in intensity in the singer’s voice were also very well reproduced. The spatialization of the soundstage was remarkable, with impressive width and height.
Our listening session continued with “Never Undo” by Morcheeba (album Blaze Away). We found that the Focal Chora 826 was equally comfortable with electronic music. Although it didn’t dive to abyssal depths, the lows were solid and dynamic with a lot of intensity. Skye Edwards’ full-bodied voice opened up in front of the listener in a very credible way.
On “Baby I’m a Fool (Live in London)” by Melody Gardot (album Live in Europe), the Focal Chora 826 managed to communicate a lot of emotion by respecting the softness and subtlety of the artist’s voice. During the applause, the depth and width of stage were clearly perceptible.
With “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” by Chris Isaak (album Best of Chris Isaak/U-S Version), the musical style was completely different but the Focal Chora 826 was just as precise and effective. The saturated guitars were well restituted, the bassline and drums were very convincing, and the spatialization was still enjoyable.
- Spatialization: the soundstage was spacious and had great height. Each of the different sound elements were precisely distributed. The spatial distribution of the different elements was precise. The music had room to breathe.
- Highs: definition, clarity and smoothness were all present with the TNF aluminum-magnesium tweeter. There was no sibilance to deplore, nor any harshness. The highs helped brighten the sound message, without ever being excessive.
- Mids: precision, definition and a sense of detail are the advantages of the new Focal Slatefiber cone. The vocals were nuanced and textured.
- Lows: the two 6.5” woofers managed to handle everything the amp threw at them. The bass was lively and also proved to be nuanced. They should be even more generous after being broken-in.
Focal Chora 826: compared to…
Focal Chorus 826V: the Chorus 826 appealed with its transparency, its spaciousness, its dynamic lows and substantial mids, but could sometimes be too bright on tracks rich in high frequencies. The Chora 826 has the same qualities as its predecessor: balance, energy, spatialization and rich tones. The lows, however, didn’t seem to be as deep, whereas the high frequencies seemed to be more effectively handled.
Focal Aria 926: the Aria 926 uses the same acoustic design as the Chora 826, but features midrange and bass drivers with Flax natural linen fiber cones and a down-firing port. Overall, the two speakers share the same general balance and openness. The mids are a bit more velvety and sensual with the Aria, but the Chora still provides a lot of emotion. The Aria’s lows are also a little more expressive.
Q Acoustics Concept 40: the Q Acoustics speaker is in the same price range as the Focal Chora and combines convincing spatialization and dynamics. Although deep and energetic, the lows cannot compete with Focal Chora 826, due to the Concept 40’s smaller drivers. The highs of the Q Acoustics speaker are remarkably smooth, but the Chora’s are richer.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Emma: the Jean-Marie Reynaud Emma speaker’s acoustic transmission line provides the low frequencies with an excellent transient response. The lows are snappier and more responsive than with the Chora. The Emma’s midrange is soft, rich and textured, qualities that are shared by the Focal speaker. However, the highs are slightly more subdued with the JMR Emma. The Chora’s performance in this frequency range is better.
Focal Chora 826: conclusion
The Focal Chora 826 speakers have plenty of convincing characteristics, starting with their dual material and two-tone design which is directly inspired by the Focal Kanta speakers. This design, which cleverly combines classicism (wood veneer cabinet and matte finish) and modernity (matte colored or glossy black front) means the speakers can be easily integrated, in either a minimalist interior or in a living room with classic or even vintage decor.
The design of the Focal Chora 826 speaker isn’t groundbreaking, as it adopts the same 3-way acoustic configuration with four drivers that is used in many of the French brand’s speakers. The main innovation is the Focal Slatefiber cone sported by the midrange driver and woofers of this floorstanding speaker. Other than their appearance which resembles granite and slate, these cones bring energy and realism to the restitution. The lows are expressive and nuanced, the mids are rich and textured, the detailed highs are aerial but never tire the listener. As a whole, the sound is well defined and very balanced, without any coloration. The spatialization is extraordinary, with amazing width, pleasant depth and height.
The Focal Chora 826 is comfortable with all frequency ranges, and will perform with ease in a 30 to 40m² room, or an even larger space, when paired with an amplifier delivering at least 40 to 50 watts per channel.
What we liked:
- The design
- The rich and balanced sound
- The spatialization
- The energy, regardless of the volume
What we would have liked:
- For the lows to have been deeper
- More color choices