This track also shows excellent detail in the guitars and vocals. Nonetheless, neither the guitar nor Feist’s voice sound quite as rich as they would live—there is a bit of a pinched or processed element to the midrange, though without any hints of harshness or stridency.
On “Stay” from Forget About It [Rounder/UMGD] by Alison Krauss, the opening track can have a lovely delicacy to the guitar and vocals, which the XS Book handles rather nicely. The cymbals are also smooth and clear, if slightly rounded. But when the bass and drums kick in after the intro, the bottom octave is simply missing and some punch is lost. Some of the body of the Dobro also seems thinned out—but, again, you might only sense this by comparison with live sound or a much bigger wide-range speaker system.
On “The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)” from the disc The Hazards of Love [Capitol] by The Decembrists, the voice is very clear, and the instrumental separation in the rather thick mix is excellent—guitars, voice and keyboards can be followed easily. At the same time the dynamics are somewhat compressed because the low frequency instruments lack the depth and drive one can hear on some other systems with deeper bass.
The Focal XS Book delivers clear midrange and smooth treble with freedom from stridency—a quality that is all too rare in desktop speakers systems. Upper bass from the XS Book is similarly clear, though deep bass restrictions typical of small speakers limit its dynamic reach in an absolute sense.