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Focal Dome Flax Speaker Review

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 158 84.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 17 9.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 4 2.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 7 3.8%

  • Total voters
    186

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests and measurements of the Focal Dome Flax home theater lifestyle speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $689 by itself or $4,000 as part of a 5.1 package with a subwoofer.
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Review.jpg

The Dome is extremely attractive especially in this white color. Everything but the cover for the bottom is made out of metal and the dome rotates from facing up to about 20 degrees relative to horizontal (as seen). Wiring is on the bottom and I was pleasantly surprised that it accepted pretty thick wire (screw terminal). Alas, routing that cable out caused the cover to not fully close.

For testing I left the grill on assuming that is how anyone buying this speaker would use it. I propped the speaker forward so that the speaker was almost vertical (probably still slanted back 5 to 10 degrees). In other words, the measurements are more or less the on-axis response. If you use it at other angles, look at the responses for those. My measurements show that performance suffers good bit that way.

Focal Dome Flax Speaker Measurements
As usual, we start with our anechoic response:

Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Frequency Response Measurement.png

I saw that rather severe variation from flat response in room and was hoping it wouldn't show up in anechoic measurements but it did. Directivity is very good though so in theory, you could EQ the error out. Here is our near-field response if you want to guess as to the issues there:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker near-field Frequency Response Measurem...png


The elevated treble response seems to be caused by the woofer energy not being attenuated above crossover region.

Early window is as bad as on-axis courtesy of good directivity:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker early window Frequency Response Measur...png


Resulting in pretty uneven predicted in-room response:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker predicted in-room Frequency Response M...png


The little woofer really struggles in such a small enclosure, producing lots of distortion. So much so that I limited the testing to 90 dBSPL:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Relative THD Distortion Measurement.png


I will show you the absolute distortion levels but note that these measurements are not very representative when frequency response is not flat:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker THD Distortion Measurement.png


As already mentioned, directivity is very good:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Horizontal beamwidth Measurement.png

Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Horizontal directivity Measurement.png


Even vertical is decent for a non-coaxial speaker:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Vertical directivity Measurement.png


Impedance drops pretty low:

Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Impedance and phase Response Measurement.png


Waterfall shows a couple of clear resonances:
Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker CSD Waterfall Measurement.png


Finally, here is the step response:

Focal Dome Flax Home Theater Lifestyle Surround Speaker Step Response Measurement.png


Focal Dome Flax Speaker Listening Tests
Quick impression is not bad but you can immediately hear the forward nature of the treble. So I started to design a few filters evening out the response from 1 to 3 kHz. And putting in a shelving filter for high frequencies. The sound was now more balanced with the bass response coming to the front. But that is where problems started. The bass is just ugly here. The enclosure resonates and vibrates like crazy with each note resulting in buzzy sound. And here, we are talking about upper bass. Lower bass response is just not there resulting in faint, tubby notes. In some sense no EQ was better as the higher frequencies dominated the sound rather than the so inaccurate bass.

Conclusions
There are incredible design constraints here to have a high-output tiny speaker made to look nice. One's hopes go up though when a top tier speaker company produces a product for this category and prices it quite high as to indicate the laws of physics were cheated. Alas, they were not. Sure, this is probably better than a $100 plastic computer speaker. But it doesn't rise to a level that I call good enough high fidelity. Get this speaker because you think it looks good, not because you have any dreams of it producing great sound.

I can't recommend the Focal Dome Flax speaker.

1693353178470.jpeg


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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Thanks @amirm for another great review.
 
I use the older version as surround and atmos speakers cause they're very convenient and good enough for this purpose in an appartement but I wouldn't use them as mains for sure ! Got five pieces used for 250 it was a great deal but 600+ a pair for those is wayyy overpriced I don't get how Focal is getting away with that and get sales.
 
but 600+ a pair for those is wayyy overpriced I don't get how Focal is getting away with that and get sales.
They are $689 *each*!
 
No replacement for displacement (and area) seems to be a very valid motto for loudspeakers. I guess with a bit of DSP the midrange anomalies could be corrected but part of me thinks that they're there to compensate for all the distortion products that are going to be splatted into that void by the non-linearities below 1kHz. It would be interesting to hear a sound sample of this speaker being pushed a bit to see what the effect of this scoop and distortion combined would be (I doubt it would be pleasant).

Then again, Neumann seem to have managed making small speakers with pretty decent distortion.
 
lifestyle speaker
That was the moment I was very close to skip the rest but there is this character defect of mine: I am somewhat curious all the time.
But there was no surprise to come.
SCORE: 1.1
At least it is not a negative score. And the score does not even take into account all those nice extra vibrations, resonances and buzz.
 
Coincidentally I had a look at these last week.

But after seeing this I quickly dropped the idea.

 
I planned to use these as surround/atmos speakers to complement my Focal Sopra LRC channels. Since these are subpar, is there an alternative set of speakers I can use for that purpose?
 
They should've called the speaker Focal Marketing Fluff or smthng
Fluff is our new material coming straight from our marketing team etc.
 
Almost $700 per speaker? Clearly these are intended for a the 5.1 satellite setup or the like. But there are many $700 5.1 subs and sat systems that are likely better than this and cost less than just one speaker. And some of those are wireless.

It’s not like these are that elegant or cool looking. We are not in BandO realms of slickness here.

give me a set of kef eggs or old mirage Omni sats.

Heck, I’ll take a used Bose acoustimass set for less than $200 on eBay over these for home theater.

Or even a Set of sonos boxes…they are not accurate in any way but at least their eq curve is designed to create the illusion of sounding bigger and fuller than they actually are. The good sonos Sub is 700, plus 200-350 each the sats, all linked wirelessly and you got 5.1 for $1700 to $2500…

For the 4k price you could get an in wall/ceiling 5.1 or 5.1.2 speaker system installed, wires run and everything using good speakers and even a decent sub.


There can’t be any meaningfully large market for these…

Boggles my brain.
 
I planned to use these as surround/atmos speakers to complement my Focal Sopra LRC channels. Since these are subpar, is there an alternative set of speakers I can use for that purpose?
Depends on form factor etc. I presume you want wall mounted but do you need them flat, lifestye styled etc.

If you are taking tiny sats they will have limitations. But good ones should be better balanced than these. Try the kef sats I guess. or revel if they carry what you are looking for.

Better yet, sell the sopra set and get a matching set of revels.

you really do not need to worry about using the same brand for the surround. Especially for atmos or surrounds for films. And unless you have 5 of exactly the same speakers, not the same brand or model line but the exact same model of speaker, or extremely close too it (such as KEF Q350 fronts and center and KEF Q150 surrounds) my experience is that surround music will never be even somewhat timbre matched anyway.
 
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I use the older version as surround and atmos speakers cause they're very convenient and good enough for this purpose in an appartement but I wouldn't use them as mains for sure ! Got five pieces used for 250 it was a great deal but 600+ a pair for those is wayyy overpriced I don't get how Focal is getting away with that and get sales.
I see tons of their lifestyle speakers models being sold new at super clearance prices like you mention authorized dealer websites with full warranties. Either the list price is “aspirational” ( fiction) branding or they keep screwing up their product design and market analysis.

Their inexpensive lines like the chorus seem like decent value to performance. But above that Focal goes looney, gets steely discounted all the time and doesn’t resell.
 
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