Focal 1037BE; All-Rounders Extraordinaire!


Happy Thanksgiving fellow music/gear lovers! I seldom post on A'gon's forums, but when I run across a piece of gear or music that others should know about, I take a minute to share. For anyone looking for true full-range "all-rounders," try to locate a pair of the Focal 1037BE. Outstanding.

A prologue: My speaker odyssey has included (in no particular order) Audio Physic Scorpios (perhaps the best bang-for-the-buck around); Meadowlark Shearwater "Hot Rods" (oh Meadowlark, why did you have to leave us so soon...); Apogee Duetta II, Mk II Sigs (unbelievable within parameters); Yamaha NS 1000M ('nuff said); Wilson Benesch Trinity (find a pair and buy them if you can!); Von Schwikert VR-4 (the speaker that put Albert on the map, and for good reason!); Dynaudio X36; Dali Epicon 2 (overrated but good); AAD 2003 (a Phil Jones masterpiece; a true sleeper); KEF 104/4 (not a fan of the KEF sound), and Paradigm Studio 100 (yawn...), just to name a few.

The Focal 1037BE are perhaps the best all-rounders I have ever heard for under $35K or so, and I have heard a lot. That's a great deal of praise, and in some ways hard to support. I would say that perhaps the best speaker, dollar for dollar, bang for the buck, that I have ever heard goes to the Audio Physic Scorpio. What a "disappearing act" the Scorpios do! That said, the 1037BE disappear within a hair of the Scorpios, and are significantly more dynamic. Likewise, it is difficult to beat a well-wrought full-range driver, such as a well-integrated Lowther or the phenomenal 6.8" driver in the Wilson Benesch (used across most of their product range). Midrange is seldom that sweet and true, but once again, the 1037BE captures almost all of this midrange purity and adds a low end that is just as true. Then there is the immediacy and "startle factor" of the electrostatics and planars, such as the better ML, Magnepan and Apogee. While these speakers are memorable for their realism, the Focal again approach that level of "immediacy," while offering soundstaging and imaging that the "thin speakers" can't quite match.

I've got to say, I'm hard pressed to find anything in my price range that does so many things so well. Stereophile and AS did fine articles about them, but you never know where the review ends and the marketing begins. In this instance, I actually don't think that the 1037s haven't received enough audiophile press. While they are a bit pricey at $12,000.00, they really do offer everything you could ask for the price. Excellent fit'n'finish, 112 lbs. worth of cabinetry, and a seamlessness that is tough to find in multi-way, multi-driver "box" speakers. The integration of the 1037's 5 drivers that Focal has achieved is downright extraordinary. The Beryllium tweeters are all that the press has hyped them up to be; tremendous extension without being "bright" or shrill in the way that the famed NS1000 could sometimes be. The low frequencies are superbly rendered, with absolutely no "bloat" or overhand AT ALL. Among the best low-ends you'll find for less than the cost of a small house. The midrange is very good, while not outstanding. I suppose if the 1037BE had a world-beating midrange as well, they would be next-to-perfect. That speaker I have yet to find.

I had to share this wonderful transducer find. I'm not sure why Focal "downgraded" with the 1038BE, which appears identical from the exterior, but which doesn't quite match the 1037BE's performance. As Focal dropped the price the 1038BE $2K, I'm guessing (but do not know) that they utilized less-pricey crossover components than used in the 1037.

In sum, from one audio geek to another, these speakers stand out in a crowd of really good $5-$25,000.00 speakers. Hunt down a pair and enjoy!!

klipschking
While I'm glad you enjoy your Focal's, the one thing I've never seen them do is spend much on the crossover. I have seen them do all sorts of tricks in the crossovers, but spend much? Nope.


Agreed. Focal have done a great job - one of my all time favourites! I find the bass response a bit resonant or leaning towards one note  bass - somewhat like the Watt Puppies and other Wilsons. However the success of this style design with listeners is undeniable.
Erik: Can’t say much about the crossovers Focal employs; I’ve never seen them nor a schematic for them. I can attest (as has everyone who has reviewed them) that Focal has done a remarkable job of integrating the drivers into a seamless presentation. Truly rare in a multi-way!
@klipschking In the end that's all that matters!

My point was, if you hear a difference in a Focal speaker it's probably not due to part spend in the crossover. :) They're all quite frugal.

Best,

Erik
I have been resisting my lust for a pair of 1037be's.  They do come up on occasion on AG, but so far, I have not pulled the trigger.  I fell pretty hard for the Focal sound when I first decided to put a system together after demoing other brands within my price range ( Paradigm, PSB, B&W, NHT etc).  In a year, I cycled through several models in the Chorus line, finally ending up with a pair of 836V's and an SW800 subwoofer..  I love my current setup, but wonder what incremental ( or exponential?) benefit comes from another upgrade to the Electra's.  

Candidly, most reviews praise the replacement 1038be speakers.  Why do you see them as having moved backwards? 
BTW - what equipment do you have these paired with?
@sjtm - how would you characterize the Focal sound? More specifically, how would compare them to B&W's 800 series?

I never auditioned the B&W 800 series  - out of my price range. ( I paid $1200 for my 836V's and $400 for the SW800 sub).  On the first listen at my local audio shop, they set up the smallest bookshelfs (knowing my budget).  These were the 706v.  They were so much more musical and lifelike in the midrange and upper end compared to even the 2 way floorstanders  by PSB and Paradigm that I compared them to side by side, which sounded much drier.  I then tried a 2 1/2 way floorstander (716v) which just built on the musicality but with a bit more bottom end..  I bought these. 

Most agree that Focal's are not for those who want super bass but prefer fast and precise sound reproduction.  That is my preference.  But when a fellow I met on Audiogon ( I first bought a pair of 816V's and then bought his turntable) told me he had a friend with a pair of 836V's for sale, I jumped.  These have downward as well as forward firing bass ports, plus 3- 6.5" woofers producing clean bass down to 40hz (33hz @+-6db).  They sounded fast and clean with even better bass, the cabinets are beautifully made and the fact that the ports were not rear firing made placement a bit easier (I do not have the room to have my speakers more than a couple of feet from the rear wall).  And they were CHEAP!

I still sought a bit more bass response, so when a sub came up for sale that matched (exact same cabinets = better WAF), I grabbed it. This sub goes down to 32hz @3db and 27 hz at 6DB  - not as low as some but it was pretty CHEAP!

 At about the same time I upgraded my integrated to a gently used Marantz PM-11S3 which doubles its output from 100wpc @8ohm to 200wpc @4 ohm ( although magazine tests show these are greatly understated figures - reporting as much as 169w/285w in 8/4 ohms).  Even though the Focals are very efficient (92db), the resolution at low listening levels seemed to improve and , when I have the house to myself and crank the volume, the combination is pretty amazing.

So I am satisfied  ( for now).  But, in a perfect world, I would at least bring home a pair of 1037be's and see if the exponential cost resulted in a comparable increase in SQ and listening pleasure.  My guess is it would be a close call compared to what I have now.

SJTM: I don't know what to attribute my (subjective) impression that the 1038BE is a bit less "special" than the 1037BE. I think Focal added a second bass port to the 1038BE, and perhaps that interfered with the "seamlessness" and cohesion that has me so enamored with the 1037BE. When I formed my opinion, I also noticed that Focal had dropped the price 2K, so I made an assumption that they must have scrimped on something. A total assumption/deduction on my part however.

I've heard most of the Focal line, except for the upper end Utopia. The 1037BE sounds very much like the old Diva Utopia BE, and also very similar to the larger Sopra (although the new Sopra is drop-dead gorgeous). I think you'll find the difference between the 1037BE (or 1038BE) more exponential than incremental, and I don't say that lightly because $$ definitely does not always = better sound. 

  I notice a pair of 1037BE just sold on A'gon. The listing was for $5500 but not sure what they sold for. There is another on now for $6500 I think. That seems a bit high given how rapidly loudspeakers depreciate across the board. Maybe he (she??) will take less? Good luck and enjoy the hobby!

I've owned several pairs of Focal's over the years, pleased with all of them, including the last pair which were the 1037 BE's.  The most transparent and analytical speaker line I've ever heard or owned.  
The Berylium tweeter is arguably the best there is IMO.  I could not get the bass out of them I was looking for in a tower speaker w/o Subs but in the right room with the right gear not sure you could go wrong...  

SJTM: My associated equipment is as follows:

Balanced Audio Technology VK500 amp

PS Audio PCA2 preamp with PS Audio HCPS outboard power supply

Cary Audio 303/300 tubed CD player

Rega P9 turntable with RB1000 arm and Apheta II MC cartridge

Musical Surroundings Nova II MC phono preamp

PS Audio PowerPlant Premiere AC Line Conditioner

Customized RBH subs with RBH 400 outboard amp

Musical Fidelity Eclipse tuner

Also, as I mentioned before, if you want to step outside the Focal line jump on a pair of Audio Physic Scorpios if you can find them. A bit less expensive used than the Focal 1037BE but also superb.


Klipschking - looks like an awesome setup.  I almost went wit a BAT integrated for sale in my area, but it went before I acted.  I am a newbie at this stuff, and still in the woods when it comes to the tube vs SS approach to systems.

I notice you have also supplemented your speakers with subs.  Are you running two subs? 1 vs 2 is another area that seems widely debated on this forum. I have a single sub, but have it pretty dialed in to fill in the bottom end but still disappear into the soundstage.
I prefer Focal to B&W - better mid range on the Focal. Both generally suffer from resonant ported bass because that is what sells and sales are more important than precision to these highly succesful companies. B&W mid range is not quite on par with many of the best.
Interesting.  Thanks for sharing!

I wonder if the same applies to the rest of the line (ie., could the 1007 be better than the 1008)?
The one note flabby bass can be fixed by replacing the under-gauged woofer inductor with a decent one and the electrolytic cap in the same part of the circuit with a film cap. It's not the amount of bass that's the Achilles heel of the Focals. It's the accuracy/quality.