27/03/2009 Grand Utopia EM: are they value at $269,000 a pair?

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Posted by Len | 5 Comments on Grand Utopia EM: are they value at $269,000 a pair?

guem_rouge_salonsmall

Every so often a product comes along that simply transcends price. Recently we were privileged to receive the first pair of Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers to land in Australia.

French company Focal have had a meteoric rise over the last decade, morphing from a manufacturer of speaker drivers for other companies to one of the largest, and most admired specialist speaker manufacturers in the world. While they cover the entire spectrum of the market, from the small Dome sub-sat speaker system to speakers of considerable expense, it has always been their flagship models that have created to most interest, even if it is just for the sake of the art itself.

The Grand Utopia EM is such a speaker. This is not a traditional offering, they are crammed with new technology, and they stand 2 meters high, weigh 260 kg (each) and cost $269,000 the pair.

Value? I guess this depends on you point of view.

Firstly in the forty years I have been in this industry I have heard many high-end high quality speakers and the first observation is that just because a loudspeaker is expensive (or big) does not mean that it is going to sound good. The Grand Utopia EM is simply the finest speaker that I have ever heard, by a considerable margin. And this is written prior to them being properly run-in (speakers do need time to achieve their full potential, in this case an astounding 1,000 hours.)

Secondly, as with previous flagship models from Focal, the technology utilised quickly seeps down into less expensive offerings. We have already received the baby of the Utopia range, the Diablo, a more affordable $17,000/pr bookshelf speaker, where the influences of its larger sibling are obvious.

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The Grand Utopia is much more than an exercise in building a large, expensive loudspeaker. It is an opportunity to demonstrate what is possible, given the expertise and seemingly unlimited budget from a company like Focal. This is an exercise in pushing the boundaries of the technology, about setting benchmarks and goals. It will also be a revelation for many, given that almost an entire generation has been bought up listening to compressed music through poor quality earbuds.

We have these currently set up in our main listening room, if you have the opportunity drop in and ask to have a listen. You will be impressed!

5 Comments

Brad Barter says...

Len,
I listened to the previous generation Grand Utopia Be in your main room on a number of occasions. While the quality of the sound was impressive in its accuracy, full range, and dynamics, it tended to sound a little closed in and polite, to my ear. ‘Claustrophobic’ was the impresison that came to mind, even though your room isn’t particularly small. I’ve also read similar comments in hi-fi publications.

It might just be my sonic preference, but I thought that the big B&Ws (800, 802) produced a sound that was more emotive, more palpable.

Do you think that the new Grands have overcome this trait, or do they still demand that they are placed in massive listening rooms?

Posted on April 13, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Robert Beerworth says...

Len, What a great blog… and what a great set of speakers!

Posted on May 7, 2009 at 6:35 pm

jes says...

I can no wait to head down to Sydney just so these can grace every sensation.. They are as beautiful to look at as they are to touch as they are to listen to.

Simply art, simply perfection.

Posted on May 8, 2009 at 1:10 am

Rod says...

To be honest I don’t feel there is much in the way of ‘value’ in any monetary terms in audio equipment that is priced in the five figures and higher. Manufacturers of these expensive products I see as one of two types, the ‘patrons’ and the ‘prisers’. The patrons build these delights with an “art for arts sake” ethos, selling them just helps them to design and build more art. The prisers really just want to relieve you of your hard earned. Or maybe I’m just a diehard cynic?

Posted on July 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Len says...

As one who has grown up in this industry I must agree that there is considerable truth in Rod’s observation. While I have heard speakers that cost more than the Grand Utopia which don’t sound close in terms of musical reproduction, this still only makes the question of ‘value’ one of relativity.
Either way with this product it is obvious that Focal falls into the ‘patron’ category.

Posted on July 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

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