If you’ve not heard of Acoustic Insight before, that could be because the brand used to be called Aurousal; a name I thought quite amusing, but which also apparently attracted some criticism. I suspect I’m going to find it rather harder to remember Acoustic Insight, even though in this case the name actually seems quite appropriate.
Although it’s based on the Aurousal VS floorstanding model that I reviewed for another magazine nearly five years ago, the FocalStage is actually a substantially revised design because it uses two examples of the latest Eikona variation on the theme of Ted Jordan’s timeless full-range metal cone driver. It also apparently incorporates some cabinet modifications in order to improve the mechanico-acoustic performance of the enclosure.
It’s certainly a good looking and well finished loudspeaker, though perhaps inevitably the price has increased significantly over the five years – the original VS cost £1,650, and the FocalStage is now £2,250. As before, the standard model comes in regular high quality real wood veneers, while the high gloss ‘piano’ black version that was supplied for the review carries a £200 premium.The enclosure itself is built from 20mm panels with additional internal bracing reinforcement. An optional lozenge-shape grille is available for those who prefer drivers to be hidden. It comes fitted with a matching chamfered plinth which not only improves the aesthetics substantially but also accommodates the well founded if rather blunt spikes, that slightly extend the footprint and hence stability. With care, these can be adjusted to provide a slight backward tilt, to help orient the axis of the twin drivers towards the listeners. (One consequence of using twin main drivers is that they act as a line source for frequencies whose wavelength is less than the space between them, so that their midband output tends to become focused in a horizontal plane, reducing floor and ceiling reflections and improving image focus.)
The enclosure is said to load the main drive units by a: “mass (port) loaded quarter wavelength straight transmission line”. (Reference is made to the work of Dr Martin J. King – see www.quarter-wave.com.) There are numerous variations on this general theme, and all show a broadly similar impedance trace to that of the simple reflex, with two bass peaks either side of the ‘tuned’ port. In this instance the port is tuned to a sensibly low 33Hz, and the low frequency zone looks very well damped.Acoustic Insight calls this a ‘one and a half way’ design, because the two Jordan drivers operate full range and are connected in parallel, so that they act somewhat like a line rather than a point source (at least towards higher frequencies). A simple 19mm dome tweeter is also fitted, fed via a small potentiometer next to the terminals. This is really only active at very high frequencies (above 10kHz), and its primary purpose is primarily to increase the dispersion of the very highest frequencies. However, it does contribute usefully to the total output and was therefore used on its maximum setting throughout the tests.The biggest changes are the modifications to those main drive units, which are substantially different from their predecessors. The frame size is slightly larger, allowing for a wider surround and greater excursion, which should increase power handling and better handle the significant low frequency excursion usually found with vinyl disc replay. The central section is now a fixed polepiece extension.