Focal Utopia monitors: Diablo vs. Micro Be

I have a pair of Micro Utopia Be speakers (complemented with a REL Stentor 3 subwoofer) which I drive with an Accuphase combo, i.e. the E-550 amp together with the DP-500 cd player. I like the speakers very much and I was not really thinking of getting rid of them, nor am I feeling the need for a change/upgrade. However, an audiophile friend of mine informed me today than one of his friends is selling a pair of Focal Diablo Utopia 3 speakers for about half the retail price. Since the speakers are less than a year old this seems to be a good bargain.

I am interested to here opinions from anybody who has compare these two speakers. Are the differences so significant to justify a 5K (euros) investment?

Will your friend's friend not make them available for an audition? This way you can decide for yourself.
I would not consider mooving from Micro Be to Diablo as mooving up in Focal stand mountened speakers line. they are too diferent and need to be heard. Diablo has much more details, open midrange and are way much faster- I would not consider it as laidback in any means. if you are looking for polite,laidback sound Micro Be could be so so, but definatley not Diablo.

Diablo however will benefit from subwoofer(up to 45HZ) very much.
Elviukai, could you translate your thoughts into English?
Jkuc. English isn't the first language of every contributor here. It's not too hard, for most of us, to figure out what Elviukai is trying to say.
its fine, I do this sometimes even my native language.It depends on how quick I want to write long sentences without even watching what I had written finaly. But I believe its better to say something related to toppic which can be understood then say something which can be understood easily but not understandable why posted in this toppic :-) sorry if this disturbs You. just tried to help.
I find the direction this thread took so far very funny especially since yesterday night while proof reading the text I wrote I've pushed the submit button instead of the edit button before editing some typos e.g. "interested to here" instead of "interested to hear". (English is not my first language)

Nonetheless, I hope that somebody out there has actually compared these two monitors (preferably in the same room with the same equipment) and can share his/her findings with us.

Thank you in advance.

Maybe I should mention that more than a year ago I have listen the Diablos at a dealer on an all Lyngdorf system. I have liked the audition very much. However, I found it very difficult to judge how much better the Diablos were compared to my Micro Bes. Firstly, the dealer room was definitively better than my room (acoustically), plus the dealer has also dialed in the Lyngdorf room correction system. Secondly, the Lyngdorf house sound was quite different than that of the Musical Fidelity A5 combo I was using back then.

My conclusion back then was that the two speakers had a very similar character. The Diablos seemed a bit faster and also to have a somewhat better control in the low department, however, the improvements were not enough to justify the full retail price (i.e. 9600 euros including the Focal Diablo stands).

Eviukai, obviously my conclusions so far are in disagreement with what you wrote above. Could you please give me more details about the auditions. Also, what do you mean when you say that Diablo will benefit from a subwoofer up to 45 Hz? Do you mean that the Micro Be do not need a subwoofer, or do you mean that the Diablos have nearly perfect output till 45 Hz?

Best wishes
I do not understand why Nvp didnt like my answer(posiblly he hoped that I will answer that there is no diferencies Micro vs Diablo) but anyway. I havent compare micro vs diablo in the same room, but I used the same recordings I am famillar, diference in midrange openess and speed is quite diferent- Diablo has more "imediacy" and micro more reserved and litle bit brighter on top end. (But still i would not consider micro very polite if i compare it to sonus fabers speakers for example)

I would not judge bass in diferent rooms as its almost unpredictable and very much depends on room physic, but i did quick set of nearfield measurements and micro rooled more gently while Diablo have very strong and solid output to 58Hz or so and then goes down very sharply. overal diablo sounds much bigger in soundstage than micro on some record its sounds almost fullrange. I lived with the Diablo for a while- adding sub tuned to 45hz and this combo realy sounds fullrange-with condition if you do not push Diablo power handling. i would advice you to compare theese two in your home and without any Lingdorf corections or what so ever. good luck.
Dear Elviukai,

Firstly, I should thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Secondly, please note that just because I wrote that my impressions were different than yours it does not mean that I do not like what your wrote. To clarify the situation please note that in your 1st post in this thread you have mentioned the Diablo and Micro Be are very different, while in my 3rd post here I have mentioned that after auditioning the Diablos my impressions was that the two speakers have a similar character. Clearly, our two statements are in contradiction, but this is not a bad thing.

On the other hand, I completely agree with you about the immediacy factor of the Diablo speakers compared to the Micros Be. During my audition I have actually told the dealer that the Diablos sound quite a bit like electrostatics. However, even though compare to the MicroBes the Diablos were a bit quicker and created a better and denser stereo image in the dealer room (which of course could be also due to the dealer's better room and due to the Lyngdorf room-correction set-up) the Focal house sound was very evident to me. This is why I've said that the two speakers have similar character. I would call very different speakers Dynaudio C1 vs. MicroBe/Diablo or Sonus Faber vs. MicroBe/Diablo.

So to conclude Elviukai, am I right to assume that going the Diablo route will give me a sound closer to that of electrostatics?


Hi Paul there is nothing to thank for, you are always welcome. The best advice you can hear there is- go for audiotion in home.If this is not posible I will try to direct to some basic thing you may expect, alsi this may help other Audiogon members as well.
Diferencies. The problem is that in High-end audio there is no strict line betwwen big and small diferencies. One man's small is another man's huge. There is people who claim/hear huge diferencies between two furutech sockets made from the same material. I hear only subtile (if any) diferencies on things like this. Diablo still have Focal school sound- fast,transparent and very detailed and sometimes(with wrong recording or equipment) agressive. But I wouldnt call it sucessor to Micro Be-they are quite diferent. Its not like say.. watt puppy 7vs 8 sonic diferencies(where diferencies between these two I hear difers only in tonality, not primary speaker signature) I heard Diablo with some diferent gear(with my CD records) in 3 diferent places-

1)in my home they sounded best with pass labs xa amplification/Sonic frontiers DAC and Zendo cables- sound was balanced- no forward or laidback, quite "thick"(="fat") with lot of "bloom" in midrange and agressive only in very bad records.Bass tighness, details and "air around intruments" was not best from what diablo is capable but system had some musicality and involvement in sound which hapens rare on focal utopia speakers(IMHO).

2)at dealer show -with very expensive top of the line Ayre/esoteric/ and all nordost valhall'as cabling.(~200 000EUR) - dynamic, transparent ,fast and VERY detailed sound, resoliuton was very good. There can be heard some harshness on trasients on some claiscal works but nothing to worry about too much.

3)at friend's home with mid-to top Ayre /esoteric combo but also with Nordost Valhala cabling (again more expensive than speakers itself) inspite room acoustic problem and speaker placement(far from ideal) system sounded very good , maybe with slight excesive lower midrange which added some "liquidity" and "sweetness" to sound.

Some basic Diablo signature I noticed in all enviroments-

1)Big soundstage both in height and witdh- diablo sounds "bigger" than some floortanders and bigger than Micro for sure.
2) Detailed, open and fast midrange
3)very top end(15-18khz) lacked some energy in big clasical works. this was less noticebale with Nordost Valhalas and Zendo cables(zendo are not so fast as nordost but also transparent while smoother in mids) I would not consider this as flaw as its depends on mucic and speakers you are comparing. The same Sonus faber Auditor M have tons of "air" and are perhaps more enjoyable on clasical works like wind bands but unnatural in vocals(where Diablo is very natural and life-like)

Micro Be have the same tonality in this region ,if you like it, Diablo would not be problem as well. I felt Micro Be is more "right" speaker , while Diablo being slight "off" in exact tonal balance buts Diablo timbre is more enjoyable and "more interesting" to listener- less boring, more exciting.

drawback with Diablo IMHO is that being monitor it does not provide what small speakers should-
1) does not work with small(=cheap) components- I played with cheaper(with is small enoght to place in my bedroom where Diablo was instaled) amplification and I could not live hearing how much music I am missing. Diablo deserve amplification,sources and even cables which is more expensive than itself.
2) require some space from back walls and sounds best when took out of side/back walls quite much.
3) not so cheap (but not so expensive as magico Mini II either)

I did not understand what you mean by saying "Diablo sounded like electrostats" however. The only thing which comes to mind than diablo could smoothly extended in high frequencies and highs are not discract from whole image (like quad's do) and have some speed as well.

hope this helps
Instead of spending thousands for an speaker change, I suggest you consider a $150-$200 cap upgrade for the tweeters.

The stock Solen PPA found inside the Micro Be is a $1.5 cap that's nothing compared to the better ones out there like Jensen, Mundorf, or V-Cap. That cap is in the signal path of everything above 2.5kHz.

Swapping the caps is not invasive. Any solder-competent tech with a torx screw can do it in 10 minutes or less.
I have heard that the Diablo is an easier load for an amplifier than the Be - gentler impedance curve. Can any of you guys who heard the Diablos comment on this? I have a relatively robust 25W/Ch Tube Integrated and would like to know if it's even realistic to consider the Diablo.

Hi guys,

Sorry for the late reply.

I have decided not to buy the Diablos for two reasons. First, I was not able to do a direct comparison as the seller was living quite far from me (200 Km or so). As I have mentioned in the beginning of this post I like my current system very much and I do not want to change things just for the sake of changing. Second, the guy did not have the boxes of the speakers. This seems unimportant, but I have learn this lesson the hard way, i.e. last year when moving to a new house one of the Be tweeters of my Micros got shredded because one of the boxes was a bit damaged and it did not keep the speaker inside safe. Focal replaced the tweeter immediately (within 2-3 weeks) but it cost me almost 700 euros.

I am still interested in the comparison (and probably I am not the only one), so I hope the post will not stop here.

Best regards,

Hi guys,

I want to thank you all for trying to help me. Here are my answers to the last three contributors to this post:

Elviukai, thanks for taking the time to write such a long post. I associate the sound of electrostatics with quickness and presence in the midrange and highs. Diablo definitively had those characteristics when I've heard them. Nonetheless, even though the Diablos did not sounded quite like panels, their presentation of the music reminded me of electrostatics.

Johnsonwu, thanks for the tip. It is not the first time I hear stories like yours (I have read some of your other posts). Every time I get very angry with these companies and the hifi industry. (Of course, this happens not only in the hifi industry, but every where in today's market economy.) These people have not decency at all. Using 1.5 $ caps in a 5000 euros speaker ... it's not like a single crossover network would require 50 caps so the savings/expenses would be significant.

Phaelon, I do not know whether or not Diablo is a easier load than Micro Be. However, I can tell you that currently I am driving my Micro Be speakers with an Accuphase E-550 class A amplifier. The amp has only 30 Watts per channel into 8 ohms. I can assure you that it has more than enough juice to drive the Micros. I did not even consider the possibility that my amp would not be capable of driving the Diablos. At this level quality is much more important that quantity. Of course, 30 watts (into 8 ohms) are not enough to reproduce the dynamics of a full orchestra but if that would be your goal you would probably not look at 30 watts amps and monitor speakers.

Best wishes,
I now understand your description of ES, yes Diablo have some Bloom in lower mids and tranparent extended hights and its realy one of the fastest speakers out here. However I completely disagre about midrange presence- Diablo have better than electrostatic IMHO. its pin point unlike ES.

Your Accuphase integrated is 60w with Micro Be not 30W. I would cosnider 80-100w and 100-130w optimum(bigger wont hurt either) to reach both speakers maximum spl abilities..
You shouldnt worry about protection of Diablo tweeter BTW, as it have good protective grill(I STRONGLY recomend pick up grile in place when not listening if you have kids, pets or wifer who like to clean around..)
I looked at Your system, its realy nice and simple (uncomplicated) good luck.

Elviukai, according to the Focal documentation the nominal impedance of both Diablo and Micro Be speakers is 8 ohms. As I have mentioned twice in my post my Accuphase outputs 30 watts into 8 ohms loads. The E-550 amp will output 60 watts into 4 ohms loads, however, according to the Focal documentation the lowest impedance of Micro Be is 5 ohms. Thus, unless the information on the Focal manual and site is wrong my amp will not output 60 watts when driving the Micro Be speakers. Into 5 ohms loads the Accuphase E-550 amp will output 48 watts.

Hmm.. my expierence says that specifications on websites is for.. comaparision with other manufacturers, nothing more. and its fine for that purpose (assuming all says the same "true")

OK I checked, the lowest Micro impedanse is 4.2ohms , while rdc is 3.7ohms its definately 4 ohm speaker and your accuphase will deliver more current. Diablo have very similar results, thought its electrical pahse shift and impedance changes is much smoother than Micro. both speakers are easy to drive (this is not Maestro with 3 drivers overlaping with total 1.6ohms!) but theese impedance changes and ~1db more eficienty on Diablo may be considered as better for amp.
Elviukai, will you tell me where you found the Diablo's phase shift and impedance curve. I've been looking without success.
I measured it by myself. I didn't noticed electrical phase measurements but I have a frequency and impedanse measuremets in audiomagazines as well.
Thanks Elviukai, I'm using a robust 25W/Ch. tube integrated with the first generation Mini Utopias. I'm generally happy with the combo but the Mini's have some severe spikes below 100 Hertz. Based on your measurements, do you have an opinion on a change to the Diablos.

I looked at mini utopia impedanse indeed both peaks are more peaky (30 and 35 ohms at 30 and 80hz respectively) than Diablo which have 31ohms and 17 ohmz at 36hz and 78hz respectively. however it would not be major dificulty to amp. I have not heard oldest model of mini utopia, but I believe its still top of the class performer and probbaly way much honest comparing to diablo(it look like more studio monitor to me seing frequency response) but Diablo is so seductive and it feels so good to enjoy it. its the first focal speaker which is enjoyable to me for its character rather than ultra audiophile quality.
Thank you Elviukai. That's extremely helpful. I spent a good year auditioning speakers before choosing the Mini's and I still like them. But when pretty much everything I read proclaims that these third generation Utopias easily blow away the Be's, my interest is peaked. That said, I agree with those that consider it critically important to get the synergy between a speaker and amp right.
I would not consider word "blow away" right here. I still miss that very ultra top end "hotness" that previuos generations before II and III) had.

I believe that main reason for theese claims is that 3rd generation have more relaxed tweeter from all past series which alows speakers to be designed "fast" but also relaxed. The xover changes on focal team probably also is a key- when measuring and listening to utopia III Diablo and Maestro models i see now more "human factor" and less measuring perfection than previuos generations. And I like that. its not that hard to make speaker that measures flat, but its much more hard to "spoil" speaker with special selected on long tuning months dips and peaks which makes speaker sound more involving and still honest and REAL. I have never been a big fan of Hi-fi enginiered speakers in high-end. I that price tag I want as much "human factor" as it posible. Because final receiver is my ears, not microphone. When transmitter type is similar to receiver there is good posibility that speakers will push a tear or few from me in my favourite record :-)

Elviukai, my last answer to you regarding the output of my Accuphase E-550 amp into the Focal Micro Be speakers was too intransigent. Sorry, you seem to be knowledgeable in this regard. Please read further for clarifications.

Of course, the concept of nominal impedance is a vary vague concept that practically tell you nothing about important parameters like the lowest impedance, the frequency where it occurs, phase angle, etc. Not to mention that the impedance of a speaker as seen by an amp also depends on many other parameters, e.g. cables, how loud the speaker is played, room temperature, position of the speaker in the room, etc.

Since you have measured the speaker (I did not) you are probably right that my amp will delivery more like 60 watts when driving my Micro Be speakers. However, at the levels that I listen this is not a problem for my amp, i.e. according to the onboard meters my Accuphase has more than 20 dB of headroom (before clipping). This was actually the point I made in my answer to Phaelon.

You probably read quickly my answer to Phaelon and missed this point. This bother me a bit as this seemed not to be the first inconsistency in your answers (I have read many of your post about the new Focal Utopia line). The most striking example in this regard are your posts about the differences between the 2nd and 3rd Focal Be tweeters. In this thread you write:

"I would not consider word "blow away" right here."

whereas in a different thread. i.e. "Utopia Skala / Alto speakers anyone hear them both", you write:

"Scala is much better.its deisgned by another enginier in Jm Lab the tweeter itself is 3x better than old ones."

hi NVP, you post wasnt intransigent, neither mine(I hope so) Structure of this forum is quite free from science and objective data(its audiophile forum) and inviting to write (and also read) fast.

as for my(I belive other poster) phrase "mind blowing" and that scala better 3 times there is no contraction. its how we imagine this phrase. for me diference in scale reproduction from Diablo vs Micro Be is small but stll significant, diference form Diablo to Maestro is big, diference between Diablo and Grande EM is even more bigger. but there is nothing to "blow" even mind. mind blowing diferencies can be between triangle titus and some custom 2800 pounds line arrays with aditional 800cm2 cone area as subwoofer section, with overall cone size 134 times bigger than triangle. also theese arrays will lilkely "blow" you of your socks in some materials ,which neither Titus or Grande EM will do- they are bot limited in its structure. this diference can be heard and felt by my, my wifer, my wifes grandma, and grandmas kid kids.. and however diferencies in utopia III and previuos utopia generations is noticeable. for me- in midband=which sounds faster and smoother and more integrated. With Alto in some records I just can easily pin point localisation of sound origin- tweeter. And I hate that. With Scala (which is identical in structure and its nature Alto ) speakers starts "dissapear" and midband blends to wholeness and convince listener to performance. at least for me. No metter how clean and transparent speakers sounds-if there is no 3D image they will not convince me in performance. so yes Scala performs three times(300%) better in this respect for me. but nothing to be "blown".
Does anyone know of a qualified technician located in the Chicago area that could re-cap my Micro BE’s as described above by johnsonwu?

No need for a "qualified" technician. Just anyone who has quick hands and hot soldering iron and nylon tie wraps. This is not nearly as difficult as a preamp job. Carefully open the crossover panel from the back with Torx Wrench and you will see how simple it is.
Johnsonwu... Thanks for your encouragement but soldering caps on a crossover is something altogether out of my league. Hopefully someone can refer me to someone who can do this for me.

Thanks again.