My story with Focal goes back to the early 2000's. I used to own a pair of fantastic Electra 928's back when they were still marketed as JMLab/Focal. Almost ten years later I bought a pair of used Mini Utopias, which I ended up trading in for a brand new pair of Electra 1028Be. The latter was actually a choice I made for my wife -- she came to the dealer with me for audition and picked 1028's out of the three other candidates.
As most audiophiles, I progressed with time and developed a taste for esoteric brands, denying anything mainstream. I kept digging down to the depth that would bring me "closer to the source". Some audio components that I've become familiar with were so unique that most people won't even know how to pronounce the name of its manufacturer. And that is why my pair of 1028's only lasted for a little over a year. Gradually, my audio system completely transformed, which made me feel right at home in the company of other two-channel dinosaur audiophiles who share my undeniable passion for music and its faithful reproduction.
And then last year Focal rolled out Sopras. I have to admit, my curiosity instantly spiked because of their design resemblance to Utopias. I waited for them to become available and went to a dealer nearby for audition. The dealer had a pair of Sopra 2 set up with some Mac gear, which is a major no-no in my book (but that's a whole new topic), however I thought that it would at least give me an idea. Idea I did get, and it was anything but favorable. Just like the Mac gear, I thought the Sopras were quite mediocre. I specifically brought some of my most treasured ECM recordings with me, and Sopras failed at reproducing the magic captured on those recordings miserably.
That's where I thought my Focal story would end. Only for some reason the Sopras kept coming up on my radar. It's the design, I knew it. After all, it is a gorgeous-looking speaker. I finally came across somebody's post regarding Dan D'Agostino's new monoblock amp introduction event somewhere in Seattle, where they had four different rooms/setups, which included speaker systems and audio components by Wilson Audio, ARC, and Magneplanar. And sure thing, one of them was Sopra 2. The fact alone that Sopras were picked as one of the demo pieces in the event where Mr. D'Agostino himself was present was good enough reason for me to give them another try. But this time I was going to do it right.
I reached out to the dealer again and scheduled the audition, bringing my Boulder integrated with me. I asked for the best interconnects and speaker cable that they had, which ended up being Cardas Clear, hooked them up to the Sopra 2's attractive and very functional binding posts, got comfortable in a chair positioned in sweet spot's epicenter, and pressed play.
Oh my dear God. How can the same pair of speakers sound so different, I can't even start to understand. What I thought I heard this time was the musical truth that I've been searching for. My body started to react in strange ways to the vibrations coming out of Sopras, I couldn't wipe the embarrassing smile off of my face -- that was literally beyond my control. I was only able to press stop to change discs when the track I chose for audition was over. Quite honestly, I think that the dealer himself was blown away. He just sat there without saying a word with his jaw on the floor. I ended up spending about 1.5 hours of playing different tunes, which varied from early 70's rock to modern Jazz, and every single test I threw at Sopras was passed with flying colors and more.
I keep thinking about that day, and I try to relive that mind-blowing experience, but I'm afraid that the only way to really do that is to actually hear Sopras sing again. And even if they become so popular that they start selling them at Walmart - I don't care. I want them.