There’s a saying in French, “Joie de vivre,” that is used sometimes here in the States. It means “joy of living,” which signifies a full (and healthy) enjoyment of anything you do in life.
After using several pairs of headphones and speakers from the French brand Focal (pronounced “Fo-Kal”), I have to believe their designers in Saint Etienne, France incorporate a certain “Joie de vivre” in their work.
That’s because Focal’s products always have a certain liveliness (in presentation and sound) that brings a smile to my face, and the product I’m checking out today is no different.
That would be the Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers, which are the most affordable speakers in Focal’s most affordable speaker line. At $998 (on sale for $798 as of this writing), I wouldn’t necessarily consider them cheap.
But considering they come from Focal, a company known for luxurious speakers (that cost several thousand dollars), it’s cool to think you can get some of that cache for under 1k.
While they are an entry-level offering in the Focal lineup, the Chora 806’s still incorporate a lot of Focal’s signature technology. For starters, there’s the acclaimed 1” inverted dome tweeter, made from aluminum and magnesium, known for its smooth treble. That’s coupled with a poron (similar to memory foam) tweeter suspension pulled from their flagship Utopia speakers for precision control.
The Chora 806 also utilizes a newly developed 6-1/2″ Slatefiber mid/bass woofer, which incorporates recycled carbon fibers for remarkable lightness and stiffness, which, as we all know, is the holy grail for speaker drivers. This is basically the secret sauce of the Chora line, providing enhanced dampening. This should, in theory, result in excellent control over the midrange and bass.
This speaker is a two-way, bass-reflex design housed in a sharply angled rectangle enclosure, which is wrapped in a high-quality two-tone vinyl wrap. You can choose between three color schemes, Light Wood, Dark Wood, and Black, each with a contrasting color on the baffle.
It’s a design that oozes French Flair, with a bit of gloss on the tweeter waveguide, as well as the woofer trim and front-facing port. There’s also a chrome Focal logo featured prominently on the top of the speaker, an element that matches the logo on the optional speaker stands ($298/pr).
Overall, it’s a good-looking speaker that’s solidly built and well-braced. There are no gaps in construction, and a quick rap on the side of the cabinet elicits a brief “thunk” instead of a loud “knock,” which is a good thing.
Around the rear of the cabinet, there’s a single set of basic five-way binding posts. They’re nothing to write home about, but they do the job. At this price point, I would’ve liked to see an option for bi-wiring or bi-amping, but it’s not the end of the world.
- 1″ TNF aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter
- 6-1/2″ Slatefiber woofer
- bass-reflex design (front-firing)
- freq response: 58-28,000 Hz (±3dB)
- nominal impedance: 8 ohms
- sensitivity: 89 dB
- recommended amp power: 25-120 watts
- 8-5/16″W x 17″H x 10-11/16″D
Listening To The Chora 806
For my setup, I put the Chora 806’s on metal stands about three feet in from the front wall. They were also about three feet from the side walls, and as per the manual, I toed them in, pointing directly at the listening position. As a result, they basically formed an equilateral triangle with each other and the listening chair.
Just an FYI…as previously mentioned, Focal makes a stand specifically for these speakers, but I didn’t receive them for testing. Those stands supposedly tilt the 806’s back slightly for better time alignment between the drivers.
Usually, when I think of Focal, I think of remarkable clarity and powerful dynamics with lots of vibrancy. With the Chora 806s, I got much of what I expected, as they produced a fast, open, detailed sound with lots of transparency.
Additionally, the Chora 806’s had the smoothest and most refined top end I’ve heard on a speaker costing less than a thousand dollars, something which made them a real pleasure to listen to.
Furthermore, the midrange was also very open and natural, not shouty at any point, which allowed these speakers to project a clean dimensionality and depth on busy passages. Listening to the album “Muddy Waters: The Montreux Years (Live)”, I was entranced at how nimble these speakers were, pulling out all the instrumental and vocal parts with ease.
The only thing that tipped me off regarding the affordability of this speaker was a slight bit of congestion on male vocals, a quirk I could definitely live with in light of the 806’s myriad talents.
For such a compact speaker, there was a fair amount of power and punch, but it showed up more when playing the 806s loudly. At lower volumes, the bass dynamics seemed a little soft, somewhat blunting the head-nodding rhythm of the song “I’m Ready”.
This underlined the need for an amp with a little bit of gusto, and I found the Cambridge Audio EVO 150 (150w per channel) more than up to the task, providing full dynamics with a good amount of headroom.
As far as soundstage and imaging go, I found the width to be average, just reaching outside the speaker boundaries, but the depth was remarkable. I loved how the Chora’s delicately recreated the recording space, gently placing the focused images across the stage with excellent separation.
The Wrap Up
To sum things up, the Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers have a beautifully nuanced sound with lots of detail and balance, which makes them a joy to listen to. While the soundstage isn’t very wide, it’s remarkably deep, and the imaging is exceptionally focused. I really liked the laid-back perspective that let the music wash over my listening chair in a natural manner.
In addition, the build quality is good for the price point, and the design will blend well with just about any decor. If I had any criticism regarding these speakers, it would be a slight lack of bass dynamics at lower volumes, but with all the good things the Chora 806’s do, that’s a bit of a nitpick.
If you’re looking for a refined bookshelf speaker under $1000 to put in a small to medium-sized room, the Chora 806 should definitely be on your audition list. Highly Recommended!
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.