An attractively slim, elegant and effective addition to focal-jmlab’s beryllium tweeter-equiped flagship range.
Last year, the Diva Utopia Be was a new entry into Focal’s revised Utopia range. It fills the gap between the standmount Micro and rather more beefy Mezzo, providing a technically innovative floorstander that wouldn’t overwhelm a living room.
The Diva Utopia Be has the same baffle width as a Micro Utopia but features a full-size cabinet with side-firing bass drivers to provide low frequency extension and gravitas. So, while this may appear to be a Micro with bass drivers attached, the presence of those drivers means that the midrange is a different unit – after all, it no longer has to
try and extend down beyond the 180Hz crossover point. From there the two 210mm drivers take over and carry the range down to a furniture-shaking 30Hz.
The reason for the ‘Be’ suffix is the beryllium tweeter, which has a massive 40 kHz high-frequency extension and the perfect characteristics for the job of reproducing treble. It is superior in every way to both aluminum and titanium, with lower density and greater rigidity for a given mass. Interestingly, B&W has also taken up the high-tech tweeter gauntlet with its 800 Series and followed suit by producing a taller version of the 803, which has a diamond tweeter but more conventionally placed bass units.
Each category of drive unit in this speaker – midrange, treble and combined bass drivers – has its own enclosure within the Diva cabinet. You can’t see through the gaps as you can on the Grande Utopia Be but the divisions are still there.
This is a remarkably clean and revealing loudspeaker that displays less perceived distortion than the vast majority of coned speakers we’ve heard. It’s hard to describe a lack of something but very easy to enjoy it – lesser speakers sound coarse by comparison. Imagine sanding a piece of wood – most decent speakers might give you a 250-grit type of finish, but these up the ante to 1000 or higher.
It’s a fine presentation that reveals all of the smaller sounds that make up the whole; the notes’ harmonics and decay make the overall sound that much richer. As a result piano tones have a shimmer but are solid and powerful as well, while brushed drum strokes have a realism that’s uncanny.
The bass is very effective. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine how conventionally mounted drivers would improve on this without something very similar for direct comparison. Low frequencies are deep, full and rich yet they time as nimbly as the rest of the speaker – which is well. Very well in fact. This is an extremely insightful loudspeaker, which means you can hear precisely what bands were up to in the studio when they put together multilayered tracks – the different treatments and effects used are startlingly apparent.
The Divas’ response to the signal they are sent is as clear and precise as you could ask for. If an album usually sounds lush and spacious it continues to do so, but with extra resolve. It’s an efficient speaker and does dynamics well – even normally compressed-sounding albums open up and deliver their full, explosive impact.
Dynamics, as much as bass, is the area in which the Diva really puts its sibling, the Micro, in the shade. You might be able to add the low frequencies to a pair of Micros with judicious use of subwoofers but you’d never get the freedom of dynamic expression on offer here. The ease with which they reproduce dense jazz rock is highly gratifying and great drum work has a sound that’s akin to sonic gymnastics – the energy is addictive. The bass is good enough to warrant the description ‘visceral’, perhaps not as much as a great active speaker, but more so than any other slim-line floorstander we’ve heard.
This is an exceptional loudspeaker and if you value the cubic volume of your living room highly enough, it makes a very convincing argument for the slim, elegant approach. We could happily take them home… and our partners would love them too!
Focal-JMlab Diva Utopia Be | $19,995 | speakers |