Enthusiast's Review A/B Focal Sopra 2 and Electra 1028be (II)

I thought I would share my simple thoughts after listening to A/B of the Sopra 2 and the 1028be.

Room: 20x30 (not sure of ceiling height, but at least 15. It was a purpose-built listening room with normal treatment (primary side reflection, F corners, F center, ceiling was dropped-type with bass-trapping panels. I would say the room was still somewhat lively with an area rug over marble.
About 10.5" apart, 10.2" to listening, 4.5 from sides, 6 from front wall.
-The pre-amp and amp were both Boulder (amp = 600w/ch). Not sure of the models
-Turntable was Basis with a "slightly bass-heaving stylist." not sure of the model, but told it was about $60K all in.
-Audiquest cables. Again not sure of the line. Told they were $13K

Vinyl- Jeff Buckley, Grace (Hallelujah; Lover, You Should’ve Come Over); Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms (Money for Nothing; Brothers in Arms)
CD- Dianna Krall (Temptation); Eva Cassidy (Fever); Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman.

Believe it or not, I listed to just these few tracks, fiddling with toe in, for nearly 4 hours.

Full disclosure; I like the Focal sound. I prefer to have detail, image, and soundstage. I’m willing to give up being listening to poor recordings (for extended periods) to get/have the resolution and aforementioned attributes.

*Both speakers well broken in with over 200hours.

More full range. More resolving - for better or worse. The bass seemed to extend a bit lower than the 1028s, which you would expect. The highs also seemed to be more forward and evident. With any amount of toe-in the highs were to forward and just too much. Anytime a simple or tambourine hit, it was not hitting on the soundstage, but directly from the tweeter. However, when set to almost zero toe in, the highs calmed down nicely and became more (still not fully) placed on the stage. I greatly preferred the lesser-zero toe-in. Still the speakers didn’t completely disappear. The surprising thing to me was that the imaging - the center weightiness of the vocals - didn’t suffer at little-to-zero toe in. The bass was extended, but a little bit fruity or full to me. It didn’t seem very natural. Overall, a great speaker, but I’ve heard much better at the 14k price tag. Mids and vocals, both male and female seemed very close, with the slight edge to the Sopras. Vocals sounded very natural to me. The speaker still carries the Focal sound.

1028BE (II)
Obviously not as full sounding. Very resolving, but not as critical as the Sopras. The bass seemed a bit more reserved, but snappier, more punchy, more natural and real - Especially on Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing. The 1028s seemed to be more forgiving on toe in, although I still set them to only a few degrees of toe in. They didn’t seem to beam as much on the treble and the speakers seemed to disappear a bit easier (as far as toe in/placement). As I said, the 1028s are not a full sounding, but somehow I didn’t feel like it was a lesser sound, just different, especially in the bass. To me, you give up a bit of resolution in the 1028s. I think the treble is just slightly less weighted, less prominent in the 1028s. To me, that was a good thing. Overall, the 1028s are fun. Perhaps less resolving and less critical, but fun-put-a-smile-on-your-face. There is still plenty of detail to listen critically and connect to the emotion from the artist.

Bottom line: I’d pay slightly more for the Sopras, but only very slightly. I’ll be buying the 1028s. If you have the 1028s, I don’t think the Sopras are worth the upgrade/money.

Excellent review- jo1mtb.
Good review! I've never heard the 1028BE 2s. I had an opportunity to listen to the Sopra 2s and came to the same conclusion as you...with all the talk about how great they are, I thought I was crazy! That being said, our opinions doesn't invalidate someone loving the Sopra 2s.
Last weekend and then this weekend a friend asked me to tag along to listen to the Sopra 2's at 2 different dealers. The first weekend the sound was horrendous images were larger than life, no focus, very bright and hard sounding and no weight thru the midrange. We thought it was the room for sure. So yesterday we took another ride to a different dealer and listened again and while they sounded much better (images were now the correct size) they still had a bright and hard sound and no weight thru the midrange. Yes we played with placement but still nothing either of us could live with. We had high hopes. My friends search continues.
Thanks for the replies and support.  Correct, this is just my experience, preference, and opinion. Any other opinion is equally valid.  I thought I'd post just in case others don't have the luxury of A/B long-listening session with these.  

where were you guys (location) ?
Thanks! for sharing your demo experience.
Listened to the Sopra 2's. Tried to like them. Preferred the Sopra 1's, and bought Revel Studio 2's after all that- 
Didn't listen to the Sopra 1s.

Great Phoenix area.  
1st location in MA the 2nd location in CT
I auditioned the 1038BE’s and the Sopra No2’s and selected the Sopra’s, have been enjoying them since Mid-September 2015.

My audition of the 1038BE’s was in a larger room (probably around 24x24) powered by a 450wpc amp. They knocked my socks off, how "big" they sounded, and the detail in the upper ranges.

My audition of the Sopra’s was in a smaller room (probably around 12x15, speakers on the short wall), powered by an 80wpc integrated. Though I think any of the Focal’s I’ve auditioned were well suited for a larger room, I felt that the detail in the midrange & highs was better with the Sopra’s, and I could locate individual instruments/voices in the sound stage better with the Sopra’s.

It took me a little bit to get the Sopra’s "dialed in" to my 24x26 "man cave", but minor changes in the positioning seemed to make significant changes to the soundstage and presentation of the midrange. Now that I have it "just right", the Sopra’s put a smile on my face.

I also auditioned the 1028BE’s, but the amp they used at that dealership made the tweeters sound grainy, and after just a few tracks, I was fatigued. I suspect this would have been the case with the Sopra’s as well.
Recently I purchased a pair of Sopra #2's to replace my 1028be2 that I've had for about a year or so.  I listened to them several times at the local dealer using 2 different amplifiers and 2 rooms.  Amp's were Naim and Macintosh.  I won't comment on which amp or room sounded better but I ended up buying a pair in Walnut.

After having the 1028 speakers for a year I managed to get them sounding really good in my room.  They did the 3D, magic disappearing act quite well using a Simaudio 740i amp.  When the Sopra's arrived I basically took them out of the crates and put them in the same spot as the 1028's.  Being that they were cold, they didn't sound very well so I let them play for a few days before I gave them a serious listen.  Their superiority over the 1028 is instantly obvious from the fit&finish of the cabinets to how they are anchored to the floor.  The sound at this stage was not quite as spacious as the others but I definately heard the improvement in bass extension but it was the Midrange that originally sold me on these speakers.  They didn't disappear quite like my other speakers, I could hear some "spitting" of transients from the tweeter giving away it's location in the room.  

At this point they had 40-50 hrs of play time.  Now, as I'm writing this they've still got less than 200hrs. but the tweeter is only now starting to "disappear".  They are just starting to sound the way I expected when I heard them at the Dealer.  I haven't done any adjustments in toe-in, room placement etc.  They're big and heavy and moving them on my carpet is quite difficult so I plan to wait another week or so before I make any changes to their room positioning.  

These speakers are a bit more finicky than the 1028 but based on my experience, don't even make a judgment about the tweeter until they've got some break-in time.  My 1028 be2's didn't settle in until they had around 400hrs.  Give them time and make sure the equipment ahead of the speakers is of comparable quality.

bump, I appreciate the common theme with resolving speakers when it comes down to picking the recording quality to compliment the speakers and I had many brands with 'hot tweeters' that stood out in demo's and sucked at home or cost a fortune in system matching and i've lost thousands attempting to recreate the magic I experienced that day at that shop and not to slam focal, I really like the 1028be, there are other brands out there that have managed to be resolving without being painful, speakers that let you enjoy the average recordings and amaze with the better ones. 
Not sure why this almost one year old post was bumped — but if you heard 1028be at a shop and thought you heard magic, maybe they just actually had them set up properly.   To say that Focal speakers are “painful” is just hilariously ignorant.  

Sopra, Aria, Kanta, and the new Utopia EVOs are not bright speakers at all, unless you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to speaker setup.  The 1028’s can be bright when badly set up, as they are the OLDEST focal speaker in the line (hence why Kanta is replacing them), yet they can still absolutely disappear and sound incredibly laid back if you actually take the time to place them best in the room.  Too many people just repeat things they hear from WAY back in the day (ie. focal speakers are bright) that was somewhat true, but we are talking 10+ years ago.