But dissecting the performance of the Sopra No. 1 is actually doing it a disservice, and doesn’t even hint at its greatest asset: a tremendous sense of coherence where nothing stands out, or for that matter gets in the way. This is where on a musical level it proved to be quite addictive to listen to, whether pulling you in with a great sense of timing, or engaging one’s emotions with the sheer intimacy of a voice or an instrument. Being relatively small, after careful positioning the music was projected into a well-defined and spacious image, with the speakers all but disappearing with the right recording, and conjuring impressive dynamics from thin air. Under these circumstances, it was easy to find myself playing whole albums rather than individual tracks, and rather than sticking within familiar territory, venturing into music that I might have dismissed previously, which I think is always a healthy indication that the system is getting out of the way.
It seems to me that there is often a gulf between what are generally accepted as the parameters for a ‘good’ loudspeaker and the slightly mysterious factors that go to make a great one. It’s all a bit elusive, despite all the wondrous technology we have. I kind of like the idea that there is still an element of magic (for want of a better expression) in designing a product that should be part of a process that can stir the soul. But maybe Focal has just shattered that illusion; the extensive research they have put into the Sopra has resulted in a loudspeaker that raises the bar in a number of significant areas, but the real achievement is in the applied balance of virtues that allows music to transcend the mechanics of hi-fi reproduction. That’s what makes a good speaker great.
Type: Two-way bass-reflex bookshelf loudspeaker
Speaker drivers: 25mm inverted beryllium dome tweeter, 165mm “W” bass midrange cone driver
Frequency response: 45Hz-40kHz ±3dB
Low frequency point: 41Hz (-6dB)
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Minimum impedance: 3.9 ohms
Crossover frequency: 2.2kHz
Recommended amplifier power: 25-150W
Finishes: Black, White, Red, Orange, and Walnut veneer
Dimensions (H×W×D): 43×28×40cm
Weight: 19kg (stand 18.5kg)
Price: £6,599 per pair
Manufactured by: Focal
Tel: +44(0)845 660 2860