Focal Sopra, Kanta, Aria

I’m confused. I’ve been in the market to replace my B&W 802D speakers. I’ve had them for 10 years and finally cannot take the brightness of them anymore. I’ve replaced amps, preamps, cables, sources, and yet the fundamental brightness is there, fatiguing me after only 1-hour of listening.

I auditioned the Focal Sopra 3 which I am told are not as bright and more musical. LIstened to them a few times, and honestly felt that they were also on the bright side similar to the B&W’s.

Another time I listened to the Focal Kanta 3 speaker. Like the Sopra it also has the Beryllium tweeter. Yet the one time I listened to these, they didn’t seem as bright.

Anyway, recently a friend of mine was in the process of moving, and I stored his Focal Aria 936 speakers at my home. I decided to hook them up to my electronics in my listening room just out of curiosity.

What I found were loudspeakers that were not bright (non beryllium tweeter), a warmer sound, probably due to a better mid-bass then the big 802’s. The extreme resolution was not there, and the midrange seemed congested at times. Yet, I found I could listen and enjoy these speakers for hours at a time. Bad recordings sounded good, and great recordings sounded, well, good also. Speaker placement made minimal difference.

My questions is at what is the sweet spot for Focal speakers. The point where they sound wonderful with extended listening, vs the point where they become a finicky pain in the ass to live with (aka 802D).

I was expecting to spend around an equal amount of money as the 802’s as a starting point, now I’m not so sure if I need to.

Thanks in advance for everyone’s input…


How broken in were the Sopra speakers you heard? I ask because I put some Utopia component speakers in my car a few months ago. Although they sounded good out of the box it definitely took some hours on them to balance out and lose a slight harshness at high volumes. They sound awesome now. 

Also owned some Aria 906 for a while and they were pretty great speakers for the price. I like my Focal 836w better by quite a bit. There is a good YouTube video comparing the Aria 936 to the 826W. Although it’s a YouTube video I think it does a good job of showing the general character of the speakers. I strongly prefer the Chorus 826w but the Arias are clearly more relaxed at the expense of detail and dynamics relatively. 

Never heard a Focal I didn’t like and my next upgrade will likely be some Sopra or Utopias of some sort if I runs across a deal. 

Tried connecting a Cambridge Audio integrated amp up to my 802d's, Rated at 100wpc, wow what a difference. Not saying good/bad, but what a contrast. my Bryston BP-26 is bright and light on bass, where the Cambridge Audio is not bright at all, with a huge amount of bass.

Question: what is causing such a difference?

So you swapped Bryston preamp and your amps for a Cambridge integrated? And how did you determine it’s the Bryston that’s causing the brightness?

from what others are saying in the forum, that the Bryston BP-26 is a bright sounding preamp, and that the Classe CAM-200's are neutral sounding monoblocks?


what are your thoughts?

That would be an assumption. But a good start if a different brand integrated made a positive change. Worth pursuing. See if that Cambridge has preamp out and use it as a preamp to drive your classe. Check what that does. That will add a variable though - your interconnects. Something you had eliminated by going the integrated route.  
Also, can you borrow something more on the level of your speakers as far as an integrated or separates?
I had great experience with Pass X250.5 amp and Audio Research tube preamps driving my N803s.