Focal Professional Introduces Shape Monitor Series

April 12 2017, 03:00
Surprising visitors at Musikmesse 2017, French manufacturer Focal introduced a completely new monitor series as part of its expanding Focal Professional catalogue. Comprising three progressive sized nearfield monitors - Shape 40, Shape 50 and Shape 65 - the series is placed above the affordable CMS and Alpha series, introducing interesting component and design choices, including passive radiators, in the best tradition of its SM series monitors.

According to Focal, the new Shape nearfield monitor series was designed to meet the needs of sound engineers working in environments with limited space, such has project studios, but still needing a high level of accuracy in reproduction. The series combines a unique cabinet design, with a selection of drivers and electronics that provide the needed settings to compensate for the acoustics of small studios.

These professional tools combine a compact design, extended response in the low end and exclusive technologies to ensure a precise stereo image and transparent sound. The monitors also feature major innovations which are the result of Focal's years of research and development, including the latest generation of Flax cones and a new ‘M’-shaped aluminum-magnesium dome tweeter. As Focal states, "Shape is the perfect representation of our French expertise."

Key features in the loudspeaker design include the dome tweeter with very low directivity for a flexible listening position, and the fact that the cabinet is designed without a port, using a double passive radiator instead, allowing to place the monitors near a wall. The bass response is further enhanced by the new Flax sandwich cone, generating controlled and articulated low frequencies, with a natural and detailed lower mid-range and upper mid-range registers. Of course, the Shape monitors are active designs (two channels, both Class AB) and feature numerous adjustable settings for optimal integration, to complement the very accurate control, even in the very high end.

Finally, mounting mechanisms present on the back and underneath the loudspeaker allow users to place the monitors correctly on a table stand, a microphone stand, the ceiling or a wall, using further optional mounting accessories. With three different sizes/models to choose from, the range will respond to the needs of a wide variety of environments, from fully featured project studios using traditional mixing consoles all the way to small workstation "in-the-box" environments with close distance monitoring.

The Shape 65 model is the largest and the reference of the Shape line. Although it’s dedicated to nearfield monitoring, this monitor enables a wider listening area, expressing its full potential from a listening distance of three feet away (1 metre). Shape 50 is a versatile monitor that can be used from 30″ away (80cm), and it has very extended low end frequency response (50Hz) considering its compact design. Thanks to this design and to the numerous settings, this monitor is ideal for rooms measuring less than 130ft2 (12m2), Focal indicates.

Shape 40 is now the most compact studio monitor in the Focal Professional line, and a perfect solution for close range monitoring. These monitors can be used from 23″ away (60cm), and still have a convincing extended low end frequency response with rooms of less than 107ft2 (10m2). All inputs are XLR balanced and unbalanced RCA 10kOhms with sensitivity compensation. All models feature the now mandatory automatic standby low power mode (< 0.5W), after approximately 30 minutes with no audio signal.

The Shape models in detail
All three models use the same driver arrangement, with the main distinction being the Flax woofer cone size, evolving progressively from 10cm (4") to 13cm (5") and 16.5cm (6.5"), and while the dedicated midrange and low frequency amplification channel also evolves from 25W, 60W, and 80W. This is obviously reflected in the frequency response, evolving from 60Hz (Shape 40), 50Hz (Shape 50) and 40Hz (Shape 65), all the way to 35kHz (+/-3dB) and maximum SPL (musical signal) of 102dB, 106dB, and 109dB SPL (peak @ 1m).

The high frequency channel uses the same 25W, class AB module to feed the 25mm (1") 'M' profile aluminum-magnesium tweeter. Aluminum has the advantage of having very high rigidity, whereas the combination of addition of magnesium increases the damping of the dome. At the same time, the 'M' shape of the inverted dome has two major advantages. Its directivity is even less that of the inverted dome tweeter, allowing for more flexibility in terms of listening position. Mechanically speaking, the 'M' shape gives the dome much more rigidity, while reducing distortion even more. The Poron suspension provides a more linear frequency response curve below 6kHz, improving crossover with the woofer. The magnetic component has also been optimized thanks to a voice coil with a Kapton frame which significantly reduces the Foucault current, and consequently, distortion. Finally, the horn housing the tweeter has been designed to provide equal horizontal and vertical directivity.

The Flax sandwich cones, used for the woofers, are composed of a layer of flax fibres, "sandwiched" between two layers of glass fibres. Glass fibre cones were also used on the 'W' composite sandwich cone of the SM6 and SM9 series, and are revered for their high rigidity considering their light weight. Flax fibres are twice as light as glass fibres as they’re hollow and they also have very low elasticity. This consequently increases the speaker driver’s Young’s modulus when in excursion, an essential property to ensure a piston-like action even in the very low end. Finally, it is 80% composed of cellulose which gives it excellent damping.

According to Focal, this new technology has proven to be a considerable improvement over the Polyglass cone in terms of weight, rigidity and damping. Flax cones are designed and manufactured from french flax fiber (linseed - of the Linaceae family), since France is the main cultivator in Europe of fiber flax. Focal also adds that these organic or ecological textiles are becoming more and more price-competitive, while the industrial process developed to manufacture the "F" cones brought it within reach of more affordable product ranges.

Further considerations in the design of the Focal Shape monitors use most of the company's experience in loudspeaker development, in this case highlighting Neutral Inductance Circuit (NIC) for improved magnetic stability (Faraday ring); and Tuned Mass Damper (TMD), with two patented tubular rings on the surround suspension avoiding deformation of the cone without afflicting the dynamics, improving the transition from the mid bass to to upper midrange register. Also the amp modules benefit from Direct Fet technology to optimize the amplifier’s heat management, helping to reduce the overall temperature of the MOSFET components and allowing for more power in a confined space.

Finally, the double passive radiator is an ingenuous solution to a common issue encountered with nearfield monitors: to combine a compact design, extended frequency response in the low end and a positioning which is comfortable.

Settings include an adjustable high pass filter full range / 80Hz in the Shape 40 model and from 45/60/90Hz on the 50 and 65 models. Bass response to 250Hz is adjustable at +/-6dB, midrange/bass ((160Hz, Q=1) at +/-3dB and high frequencies (4.5 - 35kHz) are adjustable at +/-3dB. All cabinets are MDF with vinyl, real walnut and black painting finishes.
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