a place of ideal perfection.
Using this word to name your product line is a huge undertaking. It's not something you can put on any old driver and expect it to be as fitting as it should be. I'm not sure if Focal has exactly pulled off the "ideal perfection" in a subwoofer. They have gotten pretty damn close though.
Build quality: Being as I bought this driver used I had a pretty clear picture of how this driver would last. For a Driver retailing for upwards of $1500 American dollars the finish seemed a little thin and easy to scratch or destroy. The motor is chrome plated but easily chipped and scratched, the gold lettering on the motor has been holding up well, the screws in the motor have tarnished over time I noticed. These things are really only cosmetic issues, and as far as I know could have been caused by neglect and abuse. Comparing this subwoofer to a medium more easily understood as a comparison of quality and prestige, I would have to say this subwoofer would feel at home in the trunk of a Bentley or Rolls Royce. That is of course if you could get past the atrocity of adding subwoofers to such a car. The cone on this driver is composite in nature with a honeycomb core. This makes it especially rigid while not weighing as much as full composite/resin based cones. The dustcap is light weight and thin but not so thin to crack or dent easily. The surround is a smaller width half roll design comprised of rubber. The frame is the usual cast aluminum looks to be strong and is wide open to stop reflections back up at the cone. The spider, from what I can tell, is single layered and decently soft.
The sound: Full, natural, fast, and clear. I have no complaints on how this driver reproduces sound. It doesn't necessarily sound punchy or get in your face at all. That's not to say that it's soft and laid back either. This subwoofer doesn't play in the back by the sub box nor on the windshield, This driver plays from your chest and radiates outward. The sub has impact but is not crunchy nor abusive while doing so. The closest thing I can think to describe it is, even with as much of a huge statement this is, an actual kick drum in an open environment.
Testing environment: I recently sold all of my good equipment in an attempt to go back to a full sq style install as I am more accustomed to in the first place. I usually have some kicker KX series amps in reserve to put in while between installs. So for all the testing I have done the sub has been seeing 200rms from a kx400.1 at 4ohms. The enclosure is .75 walled and baffled tapered transmission line with a one to half ratio taper. The alignment is sub up line opening to the driver's side terminating 5" away from the wheel well.
The Sound: I've been listening to this driver in my car for long enough to be able to tell what it's about and its strength and falls. I have played as many different types of songs and sounds through it as I had access to. Right before writing this review I took 5 songs to listen to and give myself a refresher.
Grendel - Timewave zero.
This song was used for the electrical and false bass it has throughout the song. It's real punchy and tight while still having a mechanical sound to it. The Utopia handled this easily. No odd noises no faltering in tempo and most importantly no slop or mechanical issues.
Heaven Shall Burn - Endzeit.
I needed a song with fast double kicks and a somewhat changing drum line. I didn't want a song that just kicked at the same pace through the entire song. This song and driver combination confused me at first. It sounded off like the sub was playing double what it should have been, then I realized what the issue was. My sub was actually keeping up faster and more precise than my 6.5's were even with the delay caused by its location. This sub was actually playing a tenth,or less, of a second quicker than the much smaller midbass drivers. I was very impressed by how well this sub can change direction and even with only one driver it plays all of the notes and all of the kick drum beats.
Wolfsheim - and I
This song has three distinct frequencies, at the same amplitude, in the opening that also repeat through the song but slightly less defined as more is played over the top of them I used this song to test how well this sub can hold out notes and cope with lower frequency response. For a sub with such little movement in the cone this thing is very impressive on the low end. It doesn't drop off at all in my situation. It played all three notes the same. I have never had a subwoofer pass this test so easily before. The enclosure is mapped out to play flatly, but changes in the properties of the sub while playing always seem to interfere with the "paper perfect" method, and tweaks usually have to be done. That isn't the case with this sub.
Katie Melua -Crawling Up a Hill.
This song has a very natural bass line in the song. Very similar to older country songs such as Johny Cash. It's pretty clear real instruments were used to create this song. As surprising as it may seem after reading what I have already typed about this sub..... zero issues with this type of music. It will play the line when needed and disappears completely when needed. It plays what is in the song at the amplitude it should with no added color or faults.
The Offspring - Hit That.
This song has a pretty unique bass line to it. It isn't exactly one amplitude through each note it sort of "wobbles" Now my Sundown subs had huge issues with this song. They didn't shift their focus nearly fast enough. These were also the fastest previous subwoofers in my car. The focal Can do this without even breaking a sweat. It doesn't even seem to care what I throw at.
Conclusion: This is by far the best subwoofer I have used in my own personal car. It has no issues reproducing anything it is asked to. It is actually very loud for a sq based subwoofer, but only when asked to be. It has zero issues becoming transparent and laying low in the background. It has been so long since I had a subwoofer able to do this that I have to really listen to the bass of the song to know my subwoofer is still playing and it's not just my midbass speakers. I think if I didn't know the limits of my midbass so well I wouldn't be able to tell without visually seeing the movement of the subwoofer.
Is it worthy of the name "utopia"? Probably not, I don't think such a thing can or ever will exist, it does have a pretty damn good chance at being the closest thing to it I have ever heard though. Is it worth the $1500 price tag? TO many people on this forum, probably not. This sub will only be worth it to the people that can/will give it the proper install and power requirements it deserves. I will add more to this review after I can meet the power requirements it deserves. Something in the 400-500 watts rms range with well under .5% thd.
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