Focal Utopia Micro BE setup help

Hello all,

I'd like some suggestions on tweaking my Micro BE monitors. The problem I am having is that the imaging is vague. Voices that should come from the dead center come from the general center area but are not at all "point in space" imaging that I am used to.

My room is 11x12. Speakers are on stands 1.5' away from sides and 2' from front wall. I am using a Cary SLI-80 for amplification.

Aside from this imaging issue, I continue to be very impressed by the Focals. Great speakers that have very many positives.
Are you toeing them in towards you the listener or are they firing straight out. My 1007Be's improved immensely when I toed then in towards me. Basically making me the focal point or the intersecting point. I am using the same amplifier and the results are excellent with the 1007Be's.
Make sure the speakers are in phase.
Definitely sounds like a phase issue. You should get a strong center image, even with no toe-in, unless the speakers are like 15' apart.
+1 on the phase thing. That's where I would start.

Is this a recent issue? Did you change something in the system?

I also agree with checking phase first. Its a very common mistake when setting up an audio system. Just reverse the speaker cables on 1 of your speakers and then listen to vocals that normally have a center image. You will know immediately if thats your problem.
Thanks for all the phase tips. They are indeed wired correctly. The center image is a real center image, it just does not have that "point in space" definition. It might be the nature of the speakers. I have them toed in so that they cross just at my face. I have had some scary razor sharp imaging speakers before (SF Cremona Auditor M, PSB Imagine B) but the Focals have a different approach. The sound field is very deep (front to back) so I may just be missing a flatter, 2d type of image where everything is easy to locate like on a map.

Thanks for the tips. Michael
Going by the info you list in your post, I don't understand why you're not very good imaging. Your speakers should image at least as well as the other speakers you list. I was almost certain that you had a phase issue. The only other things I can think of is experimenting with speaker placement and trying a different output impedance (if you haven't already). On your amp I think you can pick between 4 and 8 ohms. I would make to try them both. Not only that, you may want to check that one channel is set for 8 ohms and the other 4 ohms.
Yes, I have checked the ohm setting. Also I have tried other amps. I think it is just getting used to the speakers. The Focals have a presence and balance that no other speakers I have have. I think I might just be looking for attributes of other speakers in the Focals. The imaging is there but it is not as black and white as other speakers. However, I can listen to them for HOURS without fatigue or boredom. They are always interesting.
If you are unsure then simply wire the speakers deliberately out of phase with one speaker having the + and - swapped. Listen to a mono recording and see if the sound is all over the room.
Hi Michael,

I had the MicroBes in my system for 3-4 years so hopefully I could help.

You are perfectly right when you say that they do not give that pin-point
image other speakers give, e.g. the Dynaudio C1 speakers, which are much
more narrower than the Microbes, have beaten them in this department by a
mile (in two different rooms actually). This is the price paid by the MicroBes
for not being a narrow design. However, the MicroBes are not bad at stereo
imaging. IMO they are certainly above average. They just required a more
careful set-up. That is, you have to make sure that your head is exactly
between the two speakers and that the speakers are orientates (angled)
symmetrically with respect to your head. To achieve this, I use a thread/string
that I fix in in the middle (most upper part) of my listening chair (with tape or
with a needle). With this thread I measure the distances from my chair to two
different corners of the same speakers, then I adjust the other speaker so that
the equivalent distances are identical between the two speakers. This should
give you a good stereo image (assuming that your speakers are positioned
more or less symmetrically in your room).

After you have positioned the speakers symmetrically, play a song where the
voice of the singer is exactly in the middle of the two speakers (e.g. Norah
Jones track 10 from the album "come away with me"), and move your chair (on
the median line) closer or farther away from the speakers while listening for
the localization and focus of the voice. In the two rooms where I have used
the Micro Bes, it was not necessary to toe-in the speakers much in order to
obtain a good stereo image. That is, for a given toe-in I have always obtained
a better stereo image when moving my chair closer to the speakers.

Be aware that to obtain a stereo image comparable (but certainly not better)
to the one thrown by the Dynaudio C1 speakers, I had to pay attention to
millimeters when positioning the Micro Bes.

Keep us posted.
Hello Paul,

Thank you for your detailed comments. I have read your thread comparing the C1 MKI/II to the BEs and found it to be very informative regarding the nature of the BE tweeter. I think you really nailed it when you mentioned that the BE tweeter puts out a tremendous amount of energy into the room without being fatiguing. This is exactly my experience as well. They are highly articulate but non-fatiguing which I never knew could be a combination until I heard the BEs.

When I got them, I was impressed but not overly. It took me a while to understand the Focal BE sound. Now that I do, I enjoy the speakers very much - especially for films / dialogue. They offer insight into my recordings that I have not heard through my other speakers. Classical / rap is also amazing through them. As you can see my taste is all over the map.

Regarding positioning, I have them about 8' (2.5m) apart. I sit about 3m back. I have them toed in so they are looking directly at me. I do not see the sides of the speakers at all - just the front. I am getting central voices, very clearly, but they are unlike other speakers in that the center image is quite large and deep - also being so large, the center image can overlap with sounds placed to the left or right. I will try your string technique. When you toed them, what angles did you use?

Another note on their sound - the soundstage is massive - mich larger than any other speaker I have had. Sound comes from much farther than I would expect it to and is very deep as well. Now, if I can get the imaging to lock up a bit more, these will be hard to ever get rid of!

Hi Michael, it seems I misunderstood your post (sorry for the long previous post then). So, you get a good/decent stereo image, just not pin-point image.

My opinion is that your speakers are toe in way too much. I too have started like you with the speakers "looking" at me. But after I hear what the C1 can do, I start experimenting and I ended up with the Micro Bes having almost no toe in. This gave a much better spatial localization and physical size of the instruments.

Also, as mentioned in my previous post the stereo image got alway better when getting closer to the speakers. Currently, your speaker and you listening chair make an acute isosceles triangle, move you chair closer to the speaker so they will make an obtuse isosceles triangle.

It might be worth it to both bring the speakers in a little closer together and also sit a bit closer. From your description, it sounds like the rear wall is right behind your listening position and you could be getting more reflections bouncing back at you with the Focals.
I use the Utopia series Be speakers as well. In my experience, they image and stage better in narrower rooms by firing straight ahead without toe-in. i've experimented a lot with positioning, and I'm finding that the Cardas method of speaker placement is working best for me.
All these tips have been very helpful. I have gone from toe-in crossing at my nose (45 degrees) to just about a 10 degree toe-in. It has improved the imaging. As mentioned, I am getting a center image, I am just not getting the uncanny "point in space" imaging I have experienced from other smaller monitors - particularly the PSB Imagine B and the Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor M. However, the strengths of the Utopia Micro BEs lay in their ability to magnify the sound. I feel very close to the recording.

I have noticed that they are very sensitive to where I sit. By moving slightly to the left/right from the sweet spot, the center image seems to move in accordance. I love this hobby.
Okay, after a long time I finally found my issue. A little silly but I thought I'd post it. I've been running the Focals through an Arcam AVR600. The Arcam contains processing that compensates for speaker distances. I noticed that I had the "distance from speaker" settings AN INCH off. I played around with the setting and changing the distance on the Arcam to equidistant solidified my soundfield and produced the center image I was lacking. While the Arcam was only off by 1 inch, my spoiled ears knew there was something odd.