I was in Cannes, southern France for the summer holiday and managed to make a visit to the official Focal Powered by Naim salon. I had seen it on Naim’s official Instagram many times and was very much interested to see it in person.
I was greeted by a very welcoming Mr. Leo who was in charge of the showroom. I told him that I am a Naim owner and fan and wanted to see and listen to more gear to broaden my horizon and he took me on a tour. The tour took almost 45 minutes and he was very passionate and engaged in his explanation although he knew I was not there as a buying customer. Merci Monsieur Leo.
From the get-go he insisted that this was not a dealership or a retailer but that this showroom is actually owned and run by Naim/Focal which I found quite interesting. He explained to me about the partnership between the two brands and how the first couple of years the speakers and the electronics were not matched ideally but how some redesign was done to make them sing very well.
He put on an Afro/Latin ambience test track for me through ND555/552/500 feeding a pair of Utopia Maestro speakers. The scale and weight of the sound was gorgeous and the soundstage was very wide. The bass was exceptionally tight and fast. I then put on Dire Straight’s Sultans of Swing and enjoyed the sound. It was obviously a system well ahead of my humble setup at home. I will reflect on the sound of this system towards the end of this write up.
We then went to another room, no not a room but rather a cubicle as most of the showroom is open space that is partitioned to simulate different rooms. In that “room” I listened to the NDX2/282/250 driving Sopra-1 standmounts. The sound was obviously lighter but we were not comparing or listening carefully at this point.
We carried on into the home theater where a proper home theater was designed with in wall speakers and a projector screen. The amplification here was through a Focal integrated AV receiver. I would have loved to see the setup use Naim power amps on all channels.
Lastly I was taken upstairs into the “Yacht” section. The whole upper floor was modeled to resemble a luxury yacht to showcase Focal’s marine line and what can be done on such yachts. There was an “open” aft deck with marine grade speakers and then an “Indoors” living space with a Uniti Nova and a pair of Kanta 2 speakers. There were many Naim Uniti and Muso devices scattered around the showroom all playing in sync simulating a multiroom setup.
So what are my thoughts? From a marketing perspective this is a very very unique and smart take on a hifi showroom and obviously targeted to appeal to ladies and gents with way more money in their bank accounts than me. The setup of the speakers and electronics was more geared towards a “Lifestyle” product or setup rather than being focused on ultimate musical performance. All the gear was inside home cabinets and not on Fraim shelving. Speakers were close to back walls for ultimate aesthetics. The walls and rooms were not acoustically treated, allowed to resemble a typical home decor.
As for the Focal speakers being driven by Naim I can say that they play well together. Reflecting on the Maestro Utoipias driven by the 555 system they sounded good. Very good actually. The midrange was slightly blurred and the vocals were not centrally focused but I do believe that this is because the speakers were so close to the back wall. With proper set up I am sure this would be improved.
The only sonic character that I would criticize is the trebble. Although very detailed and extended it sounded a bit brashy or splashy to my ears. With a couple of tracks it wasn’t offensive but if I was in the market for Focal speakers I would insist on a longer listening session to rule out fatigue.
Lastly I want to comment on the aesthetics of the speakers. They are drop dead gorgeous and this is coming from a Sonus Faber owner! The lacquer finish on the woods and the grain of the woods are sooooo beautiful. Being a bit more into modern avantgarde designs I can say that the Focals are among the prettiest speakers out there.
I hope you enjoyed my account of the visit and would love to hear impressions of people who listened to Naim and Focal together.