Similarly, the XS Book has some unevenness in its midrange frequency response, but this mostly consists of a few frequencies that are de-emphasized. Again, the missing information isn’t pushed into your consciousness. Finally, we would say that the XS Book is a trifle soft in the treble region, but again this characteristic lends a warmth and subtlety to the proceedings rather than shouting “error, error.”
With these comments in mind, the gratifying overall result is that the XS Book is consistently enjoyable and listenable. Music detail is well presented, but without sounding exaggerated. The soundstage is nicely presented between the speakers, although the image is down near desktop level (a common occurrence with short speakers). Note, however, that Focal does offer optional “booster stands” for the XS Book, which may help with perceived image height. On dynamic recordings the XS Book never sounds harsh or aggressive, though it can sound a little restrained and certainly isn’t ideal for a steady diet of power music if you most value the impact and drive this kind of material is meant to provide. But with that said, we’d nevertheless prefer the listenability of the XS Book for enjoying power pop music as compared to some of the splashier but less subtle desktop speaker systems we’ve heard.
On “The Bad In Each Other” from Feist’s Metals [Cherrytree/Interscope], the track opens with a pounding kick drum. This shows several interesting aspects of the XS Book. First, the drum is clear and the skin sound is very well defined. At the same time, the drum appears clearly positioned in space between the speakers in an almost spooky fashion. But, the deep frequency wave off the drum is mostly missing here, so this track doesn’t have the foundational power that it ordinarily does when played, say, through a full-sized floorstanding speaker. Still, if you haven’t heard this on a full-range system, you wouldn’t necessarily miss the lowest-frequency aspects of the drum sound that much, because the loss is a purely subtractive one.