Focal Kanta No3 Loudspeaker Page 2

The outrigger feet on which the speakers sit not only spread the load for greater stability, but also have the effect of appearing to lighten the speakers visually and reduce their bulk – no mean task when the Kanta No3s weigh 46kg apiece. Focal amusingly quotes that mass 'with front grille', as if that makes all the difference!

sqnote Popular Culture
It didn't take long to form an opinion of the sound. Having some time ago come to the view that the Kanta range is the sweet spot of the Focal lineup – though there's something to be said for the £2599 Aria 948 speakers driven in anger, as they're a riot [HFN Aug '15]. I immediately realised that the Kanta No3 stands apart from the two smaller models. Head and shoulders above them, one might say.

Sure, a pair of £9000 speakers ought to sound rather good, but there's an easy-going rightness about the No3's sound that's not always a given, even at this price level or above. From the first few tracks played, it was obvious that the characterful nature of some of Focal's other speakers is entirely absent from the biggest Kanta, replaced by an air of culture and control achieved without stinting on the drama or all the clever hi-fi stuff.

These are speakers fully able to sweep you away with a driving rock track or a symphony orchestra at full chat, with a powerful yet tight and tuneful bass, and a totally involving view of the music. But then they're also just as capable at tickover levels, playing music with consummate smoothness while still drawing you in.

That driver layout has clear benefits when it comes to soundstaging and focus, as is clear when playing Rachel Podger's sparklingly elemental 'Four Seasons' with Brecon Baroque [Channel Classics CCSA40318; DSD]. This takes a familiar series of works and manages to find new insights and new passion in the depiction of the changes throughout the year. While keeping Podger's virtuoso performance firmly centre-stage, as it should be, the speakers also conjure up a wonderfully lifelike image of the ensemble, and the recorded acoustic.


Switching to Bach, in the hands of the great Jacques Loussier Trio, the 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' [from The Best Of Play Bach, DSD64 from Telarc SACD-63590] shows that the beauty of the speakers is in their subtlety and speed, bringing out layers of detail and keeping the bass and drums crisply rhythmical and well-weighted without ever subsuming Loussier's piano.

That same glorious tonality and insight is also much in evidence on, of all things, Queen's 'Millionaire's Waltz' from A Day At The Races [Island UIGY-9514]. John Deacon's (often overlooked) bass is deft and tuneful and Brian May's guitar at turns gentle and plaintive until it's unleashed into slashing and shimmering screams, while all the weight of Roger Taylor's big kit is much in evidence to dramatic effect.

Slinky Sounds
Other vaguely contemporaneous rock tracks flowed out from the Kanta No3 loudspeakers as my enjoyment of what they could do grew. The driving rhythm section of Genesis surged through the title track from Abacab [Virgin CBRCD 102], with all those keyboard stabs swirling and jangling through the mix. Meanwhile, the slow burn of Steely Dan's 'Babylon Sisters' [from Gaucho; MCA 0602498605103] was wide open and slinky, with a lovely focus on the instruments and the backing vocals in particular.

This big, focused and layered sound was also very well-suited to the lush production values of a spot of yacht rock – well actually, perhaps the ur-yacht track, Toto's 'Africa' from Toto IV [CBS 450088 2]. Forget the noticeable whiff of cheese and give up on trying to work out what on earth the lyrics are banging on about. Through the Kanta No3 the smiles begin with that opening percussion, grow with the great thump of bass, and continue throughout the taut gutsy sound, the synth fills beautifully clear, as are the vocals and those lyrics. Oh well, you can't win them all!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
OK, so speakers over 1.2m tall aren't ever going to vanish into the room, and Focal's choice of finishes, and that 'floating' support, mean the Kanta No3 is always going to be a talking point. But these floorstanders are even more about go than show, providing a glorious fluidity of music-making, detail and focus, and sense of sheer power when required. It all comes together to make this a very special choice.

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