Focal Grand Utopia 111 EM loudspeaker
This is not a traditional offering, these loudspeakers are crammed with new technology, and they stand 2m high, weigh 260kg (each) and cost $269,000 for the pair.
Focal have had a meteoric rise over the last decade, morphing from being a manufacturer of speaker drivers for other companies to one of the largest, and most admired specialist speaker manufacturers in the world. While their range of loudspeakers covers the entire spectrum of the market, from the small Dome sub-sat speaker system to speakers of considerable expense, it has always been their flagship models that have created to most interest, even if it is just for the sake of the art itself.
Each Grand Utopia has introduced new technology, and this model is no exception with advancements such as Adjustable Focus Time. This allows you to tilt the section of the cabinet holding the top speakers handle towards the listener via a small crank, depending on your listening position. However the biggest innovation is the replacement of the conventional magnet on the 15” bass driver with an electro-magnetic (EM) motor. This allows the magnet force to become endless – or flexible. The electro-magnet power supply is external of the speaker cabinet, and can be adjusted, allowing you to tailor the bass according to room conditions, and to listening preferences. This gives the listener unprecedented control of the bass, keeping control of the speaker/listening room coupling.
The Grand Utopia 111 EM represents what can be achieved given the expertise and the unlimited budget of a manufacturer like Focal. They are immensely imposing, both in stature and in performance.
Len Wallis states, “In the 40 years I have been in this industry I have heard many high-end high quality speakers and the first observation is that just because a loudspeaker is expensive (or big) does not mean that it is going to perform well.
“But the Grand Utopia EM is simply the finest speaker that I have ever heard, by a considerable margin.
“There is no disputing that this is an expensive loudspeaker, but this is not about the money. This is a statement of what is achievable given the appropriate budget. The popularity of Home Theatre means that many of us have forgotten what quality music reproduction sound like. There is also a generation of consumers who have been raised on compressed music played on portable MP3 players. They have had little exposure to what performance levels are achievable.
“For many listening to this speaker is a revelation and an education. More importantly, as with previous flagship models from Focal, the technology used quickly seeps down into less expensive offerings. We have already received the baby of the Utopia 111 range, the Diablo, a more affordable $17,000/pr bookshelf speaker, where the influences of its larger sibling are obvious.”