Focal Chora 826 Loudspeaker Page 2

The powerful indie rock of The Cult's 'She Sells Sanctuary' from their 1985 album Love [Beggars Banquet BBL 65 CD] sounded almost cathedral-like when it came to the size of its recorded acoustic. The track's hard-driving bass and thrashing guitars rang around my room with real energy, there being little sense of dynamic compression even at quite high listening levels. Indeed, one could even say that the sound was artificially large, as if this big floorstander was investing everything played through it with an epic, stadium rock feel.

This fits hand in glove with the speaker's general air of confidence. Give it a simple rock recording, such as The Jam's demo version of 'That's Entertainment' [Compact Snap; Polydor 821 712-2], and even this rather thin and reedy track seemed to put on the pounds and swagger around in a powerful and expressive way. This is partly down to what I suspect is the speaker's careful voicing. There's both a warmish upper bass and a low bass that goes surprisingly deep for a design at this price.

To this you can add a third factor, namely the slightly over-active cabinet, which seems to swell out the bottom end just a touch, adding a feel of physicality to the music. Indeed, whatever programme material you care to play, there's always the sense of some real bass being revealed, underpinning the action further up in the recording like the solid foundations of a multi-storey building.

Body And Soul
Strictly speaking then, its big cabinet confers a bit of bass boom upon the proceedings – yet somehow this doesn't detract from the music. One might even call it a kind of euphonic coloration. Thankfully this isn't excessive and it works well with a crisp, clean treble that not only delivers sparkle up top but has impressive transient speed when it comes to capturing the leading edges of notes.

This can make for a wonderfully tight and energetic rendition of rock music like The Smiths' 'Girl Afraid' [Hatful Of Hollow; Rough Trade Rough CD76]. Again, this is no audiophile recording but the combination of bass body and fast, crisp sting of the tweeter ensures all the energy of this great band at their musical peak is surprisingly well captured.

It's only when you cue-up some well-recorded acoustic jazz, such as The Dave Brubeck Quartet's 'Take Five' [Take Five; Not Now Music NOT3CD053] that you hear the tweeter's limitations. Ride cymbals sound a little scratchy and there's a general lack of finesse, with a loss of airiness despite the 'speed' up top. However, few rival floorstanders do appreciably better in this area.


The midband is certainly decent, if not this speaker's real strength. Vocals, especially female, could sound slightly coarse on occasions, lacking the sheer smoothness when heard via some rival designs. However, while singer Randy Crawford's voice on the classic soul/ jazz of The Crusaders' 'Streetlife' [Streetlife; MCA Records MCD 01815] wasn't as velvety-smooth as I have heard it elsewhere, the track was still well carried and musically communicative, with a good deal of midband detail to jolly things along.

Full House
The 826's handling of electronic music proved quite special, being excellent at animating tracks that some budget floorstanders can render leaden and lifeless. The punchy piano house that is Manix's 'Too Strong For So Long' [Reinforced Records RIVET208] was a joy, the treatment of the rhythm tracks – snares, rim-shots and hi-hat loops – being really rather rousing. The Chora 826 delivered this track with an appropriate restlessness, and I found myself unable to sit still. The track powered along with a purpose one doesn't normally hear from a speaker at this price point, revealing it to be music with real soul.

The Chora 826 seems to have been very cleverly voiced. It's so enjoyable that its foibles don't seem to matter when you're frantically tapping your feet along to your favourite music. Given Focal's design expertise over the years, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
If the mission was to make an affordable floorstanding loudspeaker that would sound compelling in both showrooms and private listening rooms, then Focal has succeeded. The Chora 826 is far from perfect, but its sheer charm makes you want to keep on listening. It's easy to forgive its sins – which are those of omission anyway – ensuring that for buyers on a budget, this offers a lot of sound per pound.

Supplied by: Focal-JMlab UK Ltd, Salisbury
0845 660 2680