“Any color, so long as it’s black.” That was the choice famously offered by Henry Ford to buyers of his Model T. Some makers of loudspeakers, notably GoldenEar Technology, follow the same dictum.
Not Focal. The Kanta No.2 ($9999/pair) is available with a cabinet finished in High Black Lacquer or Walnut veneer, with baffles finished in a variety of colors, including High Glass Carrara White and Gauloise Blue. The review samples had black cabinets and white baffles, which made me think of the two-tone cars that were the rage in the 1950s and ’60sand which may be coming back (footnote 1). My choice would be all black, but chacun à son goût! The baffles are very substantial, and specific cabinet/baffle combinations are factory-installed. (I’m told that at one point in the development of the Kanta line they considered allowing the consumer to change the baffle, but it was judged to be too impractical.)
The Kanta No.2’s magnetically attached grilles cover the midrange and bass drivers, and are easily removablewhich I did, after ascertaining that the speakers sounded better without the grilles. The metal screen protecting the beryllium tweeter is not removable.
Focal’s mix’n’match approach to the Kanta No.2’s cabinet and baffle finishes is only a minor part of the speaker’s design. Located in Ste. Etienne, France, in a 188,000-square-foot facility occupied by 230 employees, Focal is very much an R&D-oriented company, and 100% of its high-end products, including this one, are made there. The design of the Kanta No.2 is said to be a continuation of the innovations introduced in Focal’s Utopia Evo and Sopra speakers, the most important goal presumably being the reduction of distortion. The new IAL 3 tweeter used in the Kanta No.2, made of pure beryllium (see sidebar, “Beryllium”), features Infinite Acoustic Loading (IAL) and Infinite Horn Loading (IHL), both technologies intended to reduce unwanted resonances. The 6.5″ midrange drive-unit and the two 6.5″ woofers all have cones made of a 0.4mm-thick layer of flax, the plant used in the production of linen and other textiles, sandwiched between 0.04mm-thick layers of glass fiber. The midrange includes Focal’s Tuned Mass Damping (TMD)a pair of tubular rings built into the cone surroundand all three lower-frequency drivers are equipped with Focal’s Neutral Inductance Circuit (NIC), to stabilize the magnetic field. Focal’s “marriage of materials” between flax-and-glasssandwich cones and a pure-beryllium inverted dome is the world’s first such nuptial, they claim.
Focal has paid a lot of attention to the design of the Kanta’s cabinet. The baffle is molded of a high-density polymer (HDP) 70% more dense and 15% more rigid than the more commonly used MDF, and that produces 25% higher damping. Rapping a knuckle on the baffle revealed a very solid, well-damped structure. The baffle’s edges are rounded, to reduce diffraction. The cabinet itself is made of a molded wood product also for greater rigidity. The speaker’s glass top panel adds a touch of elegance.
The Kanta No.2 has one port in front and one in back, in a design Focal refers to as Power Flow. The speaker has only a single pair of terminals, so biwiring is outwhich was fine with me.
The owner’s manual suggests positioning the Kanta No.2s symmetrically, not too close to a room corner or wall, and ideally so that they and the listening position describe an equilateral triangle. Focal doesn’t define “not too close,” but otherwise this describes my usual listening setup, with the speakers along the long wall of my listening room (16′ long by 14′ wide by 7.5′ high), toed-in to almost fully face that position. With the Focals in about the same positions I’d placed the Wilson Audio Specialties Sabrinas and the Monitor Audio Platinum PL300 IIs, with some tweaking of toe-in, I was able to get a good focus of aural images on the soundstage. The top-to-bottom tonal balance was smooth, with no obvious peaks or dips in the frequency response.
The Kanta No.2s are provided with bases made of Zomac, an alloy of zinc and aluminum, that include spikes that can be extended by turning knurled knobs, similar to the method used by Monitor Audioa convenient design that permits the precise control of leveling. I first listened to the Focals with the spikes retracted, extending them only when I felt the speakers were in their final positions, and protecting my wood floor with metal discs. Listening to the sort of bass-heavy music that’s expected to reveal the effects of spikes, I compared the Focals’ sound with and without spikes, going back and forth several times. The spikes certainly made an audible difference, but I wasn’t sure it was an improvement. With spikes, the bass was a little tighter but also a bit subduedwhich may be another way of saying “tighter.” But see my discussion below of the effects of IsoAcoustics’ Gaia isolation devices for speakers.
Driven by PS Audio M700 monoblock power amplifiers as I played Reference Recordings’ Tutti! Orchestral Sampler (CD, RR-906), the Kanta No.2s filled my room with big, bold, exciting soundafter sufficient break-in, that is.
Footnote 1: Peter Sigal, “Two-Tone Cars Are Back in Vogue.” Automotive News, October 21, 2017.
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