Fo­cal

Kanta N°2 Loud­speak­ers

NOVO - - Review -

Since 1979, Fo­cal has been de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing high-fidelity au­dio prod­ucts. The French com­pany, based in Saint-Éti­enne, pro­duces a full slew of prod­ucts, in­clud­ing home loud­speak­ers, car speaker au­dio, stu­dio mon­i­tors and over the last few years, head­phones. All Fo­cal prod­ucts are de­signed in-house, in France, while their high-end prod­ucts are man­u­fac­tured there, as well. Take a look at any Fo­cal high-end prod­uct and you will find the three words… ‘Made In France’ proudly dis­played, as a pledge of qual­ity in both de­sign and work­man­ship.

DE­SIGN & FEA­TURES

The Fo­cal Kanta loud­speaker range is the com­pany’s new­est line, launched by Fo­cal in Oc­to­ber 2017 with a sin­gle model; the Kanta N°2. The Fo­cal Kanta N°2 is a mid-tower loud­speaker that by it­self, would suit a wide range of ap­pli­ca­tions; how­ever, a sin­gle model line was not what Fo­cal in­tended. This past Septem­ber 2018 Fo­cal re­leased three more mod­els within the Kanta loud­speaker range: the Kanta N°1 stand­mount, N°3 full-size floor stand­ing and the Kanta Cen­ter. This four model Kanta range is po­si­tioned just above Fo­cal’s long-lived Elec­tra 1000 Be 2 range and just be­low their Fo­cal So­pra range. It’s clear that the days of the Fo­cal Elec­tra range are num­bered, though you’ll still find it on the Fo­cal web­site, it’s no longer listed in their 2018 Clas­sic Col­lec­tion brochure. I per­son­ally know the Elec­tra range well as an owner of the Fo­cal 1008 Be stand­mount speaker.

The Kanta range is a spe­cial line of speak­ers from Fo­cal, as not only does it in­cor­po­rate trickle-down tech­nolo­gies from the flag­ship Utopia and So­pra loud­speaker ranges but it also in­tro­duces three all-new tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, cur­rently unique to the Kanta range. 1. The Kanta loud­speak­ers are the first-ever Fo­cal loud­speak­ers to pair a Flax “F” Sand­wich Cone with a pure Beryl­lium (Be) tweeter; 2. all Kanta loud­speak­ers have an all-new one-piece moulded High Den­sity Poly­mer (HDP) baf­fle and; 3. the Kanta range is the first to use Fo­cal’s next gen­er­a­tion IAL3 Be tweeter.

Fo­cal in­tro­duced their Flax “F” Sand­wich Cones in 2013. The F Cones are man­u­fac­tured in France from high-qual­ity flax fibers, sand­wiched be­tween lay­ers of glass. Why flax? Fo­cal spent years to find just the right al­ter­na­tive ma­te­rial for their cones. In com­par­i­son to other nat­u­ral fibers… like pa­per, flax pro­vides lower coloura­tion, greater midrange rich­ness and tighter bass. As well, since France is the largest Eu­ro­pean pro­ducer of flax and French flax is also con­sid­ered to be the best in the world, it’s a per­fect high qual­ity ma­te­rial for their speaker cones. In con­trast, the W Cones used in the Elec­tra, So­pra and Utopia ranges use a pro­pri­etary foam in­ner core, rather than flax. This foam is pe­tro­leum based and hence, has been sus­cep­ti­ble to price volatil­ity and re­cent steep in­creases in oil prices. In ad­di­tion, the W cones re­quire hand-assem­bly, whereas the new flax F

Cones are ma­chine as­sem­bled, mak­ing them much more suited to very com­pet­i­tively priced loud­speaker ranges, like the Kanta. Pair­ing the flax F Cones with the pure 100% Beryl­lium (Be) tweeter is claimed to em­body the Kanta range with added warmth and mu­si­cal­ity.

The one-piece moulded HDP speaker baf­fle on the Kanta N°2 was de­signed to pro­vide acous­tic soft­ness and warmth. The new HDP ma­te­rial is 70% denser, 15% more rigid and of­fers 25% more damp­ing than MDF, while sup­pos­edly elim­i­nat­ing any sound dif­frac­tion. This baf­fle also in­cor­po­rates Fo­cal’s Power Flow tech­nol­ogy that uses a front and rear vent to limit bass com­pres­sion.

This IAL3 tweeter brings to­gether the IAL (In­fi­nite Acous­tic Load­ing) and IHL (In­fi­nite Horn Load­ing) fea­tures, from the So­pra range. This de­sign pro­vides op­ti­mal ab­sorp­tion of waves, al­low­ing a lower tweeter fre­quency, while re­duc­ing dis­tor­tion and in­creas­ing clar­ity.

The Kanta N°2 is a 3-way bass re­flex mid­size floor-stand­ing speaker, which uses a dual (front & rear) Power Flow port de­sign. It mea­sures 44-1/64” x 124-1/64” x 18-25/32” and weighs 77.2 lbs. Power han­dling is 40 to 300 Watts-per-chan­nel, with a sen­si­tiv­ity of 91db and fre­quency re­sponse of 35 Hz to 40 kHz. It pairs a 1-1/16” pure Beryl­lium tweeter with three 6-1/2” flax F-Cones. Form fol­lows func­tion, with the Kanta N°2. It’s un­usual, yet stylis­tic over­sized front baf­fle, is sure to catch at­ten­tion and in­spire con­ver­sa­tion. This baf­fle gen­tly leans rear­ward from the bot­tom up to the tweeter height at which point it leans for­ward. This shape, mim­ick­ing that of the So­pra and Utopia loud­speak­ers, en­sures per­fect time align­ment of the driv­ers, al­low­ing for a sim­pli­fied crossover and the ben­e­fits of greater pu­rity of sig­nal re­pro­duc­tion, driver co­her­ence and spa­tial imag­ing. There are four baf­fle fin­ishes avail­able for each of the two cab­i­net fin­ishes, so lots to mix and match. The re­view sam­ple was in a most at­trac­tive high-gloss Gauloise Blue (baf­fle) with Black High Gloss (cab­i­net). The speaker sits on very sub­stan­tial cast al­loy legs with ro­bust spiked feet. I was thor­oughly im­pressed with the build and fin­ish, which seemed to be in keep­ing with Fo­cal’s higher So­pra and Utopia loud­speaker ranges.

I eval­u­ated the Kanta N°2 in my 13’ x 19’ acous­ti­cally treated lis­ten­ing room. Am­pli­fi­ca­tion was pri­mar­ily by a Brys­ton BP173 pream­pli­fier and 4B3 am­pli­fier, though I did spend some time driv­ing them with my Rega Elex-R in­te­grated. The dig­i­tal source was a MOON by Si­mau­dio 280D DAC / dig­i­tal player, stream­ing mu­sic from my PC and Tidal HiFi; while the ana­log source was a VPI Scout turntable with Dy­navec­tor 10×5 MC car­tridge and Pro-Ject Phonobox II SE stage. Ca­bling was pri­mar­ily Nor­dost Heim­dall 2 and Tyr, with a Nor­dost QB8 powerblock.

PER­FOR­MANCE

Once I fin­ished break­ing in the Kanta N°2 (about 150 hours) the first thing I no­ticed about its sound was an in­her­ent warmth across its fre­quency range, right across and into the tre­ble. It might seem odd to de­scribe the high fre­quen­cies as warm but it is some­thing that goes hand in hand with low dis­tor­tion, highly co­her­ent driv­ers. Now to be sure, the Kanta N°2 is not rolled-off. On the con­trary, I found it to be very ex­tended and open in the high fre­quen­cies. There was also no ap­par­ent lack of tre­ble en­ergy but its high fre­quen­cies were smooth and ab­sent of any sense of thin­ness or lead­ing edge em­pha­sis. This smooth­ness and warmth in the tre­ble gave the Kanta N°2 a sense of ease; most de­sir­able for long lis­ten­ing ses­sions as well as for mu­sic tracks that may them­selves lack smooth­ness… any­one for some Led Zep­pelin?

Since I own the Fo­cal Elec­tra 1008 Be stand­mount speak­ers it made sense to do a lit­tle com­par­ing. As ex­pected, the stand­mount was no match for the Kanta N°2 in the low fre­quen­cies, with the lat­ter de­liv­er­ing more im­pact, full­ness and depth. Com­par­ing the midrange, it was quite ob­vi­ous that the Kanta pos­sessed greater in­ner warmth, de­liv­er­ing vo­cals with more re­al­ism and life. The tre­ble of the Fo­cal Elec­tra 1008 Be was no­tice­ably thin­ner and ap­par­ently crisper, calling out lead­ing edges on notes, while the Kanta N°2’s por­trayed tre­ble de­tail in a less ob­vi­ous man­ner, ex­pos­ing de­tails in­trin­si­cally within the mu­sic. There are those that might avoid metal dome tweet­ers, Beryl­lium in­cluded, favour­ing soft-dome tweet­ers for their slightly softer, slightly warmer and per­haps more or­ganic qual­i­ties. Yet, it is in this very re­gard that the Kanta will sur­prise, and per­haps win over some of these dis­senters. The IAL3 tweeter in the Kanta N°2 com­bines the ac­cu­racy, ex­ten­sion and air of a Beryl­lium tweeter, to­gether with the warmth that wins over many to soft-dome tweet­ers.

I gave a lis­ten to the track “House of the Ris­ing Sun” via Tidal HiFi, from the al­bum Songs of An­ar­chy – Sea­son 1-4. The open­ing vo­cals were rich and large, the rum­ble of the lead singer’s chest re­vealed, just as it should. It was ob­vi­ous that the Kanta N°2 has no trou­ble with ren­der­ing scale, cast­ing the large and omi­nous pres­ence of this track. The thump of the kick drum was pro­duced with a heavy thud, as­sur­ing me of this speaker’s readi­ness to rock. Mov­ing to the Cow­boy Junkies, The Trin­ity Ses­sion, it was ob­vi­ous to me that the Kanta N°2 can dig ad­mirably low. Though it can’t pro­vide the weight on the low­est of au­di­ble fre­quen­cies (20 to 30 Hz) like a sub­woofer or large tower might, it does give you a great sense of what’s go­ing on down deep, right to that 30 Hz thresh­old. When it comes to bass, the Kanta N°2 most cer­tainly de­liv­ers tex­tured, weighty and dy­namic bass, without

any un­de­sired bloat. I rel­ished in the bass rhythms of tracks such as “Am I Wrong”, from 6 String The­ory. Other tracks where the Kanta N°2 demon­strated its pro­fi­ciency with bass were “Some­thing Evil” by the Hot Damns and “Flight of the Cos­mic Hippo” by Béla Fleck.

I was taken aback by how re­al­is­tic the midrange of the Kanta N°2 was with voices, like Lori Cullen’s on the track “Moon River”. The N°2 pro­vides just enough warmth to breathe life into record­ings. It per­forms a lovely bal­anc­ing act be­tween de­tail por­trayal and mu­si­cal­ity; lean­ing just slightly to the warm-side of neu­tral, while also favour­ing mu­si­cal­ity over foren­sic de­tail re­trieval. What you hear with the Kanta N°2 in the midrange is de­tail that con­jures re­al­ism. Speak­ing of re­al­ism, the Kanta N°2 pro­vided me with a spine tin­gling ex­pe­ri­ence when play­ing Cas­san­dra Wil­son’s al­bum ti­tle track “An­other Coun­try”. Here it was ex­cep­tional at re­veal­ing the ac­cu­rate tim­bre of the wood­block strikes, pre­serv­ing the nat­u­ral tone, re­ver­ber­a­tion and sus­tain im­pec­ca­bly.

Sound­stag­ing and imag­ing were also no ob­sta­cles for the Kanta N°2. This, in fact, would be one of its strong points. The speaker is able to cast large sound­stages when called for but shrink to the oc­ca­sion of a jazz trio. Im­ages are clearly laid out, sep­a­rated, and an­chored. Front to back lay­er­ing is also tact­fully ac­com­plished by the N°2. When tracks con­tained wrap­around sound­stages, the Kanta was able to de­liver. There was also a good mea­sure of height or buoy­ancy to im­ages when called for. I took note of the man­ner that the Kanta N°2 pre­sented im­ages. One thing it doesn’t do is spot­light or for that mat­ter, high­light image out­lines; rather, the N°2 de­picts im­ages in three di­men­sions with soft edges. I ap­ply the anal­ogy of plasma vs. LCD here. Po­si­tion the Kanta N°2 well and you will be re­warded with an amaz­ing dis­ap­pear­ing act, the kind of which is usu­ally re­served for only the likes of stand­mount speak­ers.

While the Kanta N°2 is able to de­liver co­pi­ous amounts of mu­si­cal de­tail from record­ings it never leans to the an­a­lyt­i­cal. I would con­sider them to be both an au­dio­phile and a mu­sic lover’s loud­speaker. Play lesser record­ings on them and they draw your at­ten­tion to the best parts within, while avoid­ing un­due at­ten­tion to record­ing weak­nesses. But, play great record­ings on the Kanta N°2 and it will surely blan­ket you in au­ral beauty. The touch of warmth the N°2 pos­sesses also makes it not too de­mand­ing on an­cil­lary equip­ment. Yes, an in­te­grated am­pli­fier will surely do but when you are ready to move up­scale on am­pli­fi­ca­tion, the Kanta will stand up and de­liver more.

The Kanta N°2 has been a wel­come guest at my home since its ar­rival. From its dis­tinc­tive style, ex­cel­lent build and fin­ish, and through to its per­for­mance, the Kanta N°2 has been an ab­so­lute plea­sure to ex­pe­ri­ence. Yes, there is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion in this price cat­e­gory and there are a few other loud­speak­ers at this price point that I could rec­om­mend but the Kanta N°2 carves out its own spot amongst the crowd. In­cor­po­rat­ing the lat­est in Fo­cal in­no­va­tions, Kanta makes the un­ob­tain­able, now ob­tain­able. I’m not ex­actly sure where the name Kanta orig­i­nates. My guess is that it has some­thing to do with the Span­ish word “Canta” that means sing or per­haps from the Filipino word “Kanta” that means song. Ei­ther deriva­tion would be ap­pro­pri­ate but for now, when it comes to the Kanta N°2, I’d like to think of it mean­ing, ‘a loud­speaker that Kanta miss a note’.

Fo­cal www.fo­cal.com

Dis­trib­uted in Canada by Pluri­son www.pluri­son.com 1-866-271-5689

Fo­cal Kanta N°2 Loud­speaker Price: $9,999 USD / pair

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