Focal ‘1000 Series’ In-Wall and In-Ceiling Speakers Offer SOTA Performance Unseen
- Product Name: IWLCR Utopia, 1000 IWSUB Utopia, 1000 IWLCR6, 1000 IW6, 1000 ICLCR5, 1000 ICW6, 1000 ICA6
- Manufacturer: Focal
- Review Date: June 02, 2021 08:25
- MSRP: $7,500/each - IWLCR Utopia, $2,800/each - 1000 IWSUB Utopia, $2,700/each - 1000 IWLCR6, $1,800/each - 1000 IW6, $2,200/each - 1000 ICLCR5, $1,100/each - 1000 ICW6, $1,100/each - 1000 ICA6
- First Impression: Gotta Have It!
Focal has launched a new flagship range of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers called the 1000 Series. The lineup comprises seven different models and reportedly represents over three years of research and development from Focal. The 1000 Series is said to combine everything the company has learned from its 20-year presence in the custom integration product market, resulting in “a game-changing range of in-wall and in-ceiling speaker and subwoofer options with unrivaled levels of performance and install flexibility.” Inspired in part by the existing Electra 1000 Be line, the 1000 Series leverages Focal’s most advanced driver technologies to deliver powerful and immersive listening experiences for both music and home theater, according to the company. All seven models are made in France, and all are included in CEDIA designer. While the entire 1000 Series utilizes Focal’s most advanced drivers, including the company’s made-in-house “W” cones and Beryllium tweeters, there are two products within the range that bear the Utopia name, representing the best of the best. More on those later. First let’s look at what makes the whole 1000 Series stand out from the crowd, starting with Focal’s pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter.
Focal is famous for designing and building high-quality drivers, and over the years has developed driver technology for a number of other high-end speaker manufacturers, including the likes of Wilson Audio. Perhaps no driver in the company’s history has garnered as much attention as its pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter, which is used in all seven models in the 1000 Series. Beryllium’s remarkable rigidity makes the material highly suited to the requirements of a tweeter dome. (Focal’s literature says that Beryllium is “the only metal rigid enough to scratch glass.” I’m not sure what conditions would need to be met in order to test that claim, but I can say without a doubt that my keys have had no trouble scratching my iPhone screen.) For some numerical context, consider this: many companies use aluminum (KEF, for example) or titanium (PSB) to build their dome tweeters. Both materials are chosen because they combine high rigidity with low mass. For domes of equal weight, Beryllium is seven times more rigid than titanium or aluminum. According to Focal, this unparalleled rigidity “results in a sound wave propagation three times faster than Titanium and two-and-a-half times faster than Aluminum.” Focal claims that its tweeter’s lightning-fast impulse response, combined with the linearity of the frequency response curve, delivers overall acoustic transparency that can’t be beat. And it can comfortably cover a range of more than five octaves (1000Hz – 40kHz). Focal was actually the second company to build a Beryllium tweeter (Yamaha experimented with the material in the 1970s), but it was the first to perfect it. The material is notoriously difficult to work with, and is toxic while being machined (though the final product is perfectly safe to have in your home). These days, there are plenty of other high-end speaker manufacturers using Beryllium — RBH Sound, Revel, Paradigm, TAD, and Magico come to mind — and all of them owe a debt to Focal for blazing the trail. It is still relatively rare to find in-wall and in-ceiling products that boast Beryllium tweeters.
Of course, tweeters can only do so much. For midrange and bass frequency reproduction, the 1000 Series uses driver cones made from Focal’s patented W material — the same you’d find in the company’s uber-high-end Utopia speakers, some of which push well into the territory of six-figure price-tags. The W cones are made from two layers of woven glass tissue that are sandwiched over a structural foam core. The glass tissue is unique to Focal — a finely-woven material composed of very long fibers bonded on a molecular level with a special resin. The final product is 20 times more rigid than Kevlar, while being both lighter and more compact, resulting in less coloration in the midrange, according to Focal. Compared to drivers made of Kevlar (and other aramid fibers), W drivers reportedly offer a more homogeneous cone structure and superior flex behavior. Focal’s engineers can precisely manipulate the driver’s damping characteristics by adjusting the thickness of the structural foam. At the same time, varying the number of glass tissue sheets used — along with the variable thickness of the central foam — can optimize the cone’s behavior for a particular frequency range. So, while a W midrange cone and a W woofer cone are technically composed of the same materials, they behave differently because they have been built for different tasks. Focal says that the sound of the W cone is “entirely transparent,” with superb phase response and very low distortion. Because the 1000 Series shares these driver technologies with Focal’s best in-room speakers, the user has the option to build a blended system using both traditional speakers and in-wall/in-ceiling speakers to achieve a “seamless sonic combination,” according to Focal.
There are several potential benefits to using in-room speakers for the front left, front right, and center-channel speakers, including the ability to make adjustments to speaker positioning to optimize sound at the listening position. But if your setup requires more visual discretion, the 1000 Series offers a number of customization features to help you achieve sonic perfection without giving up an inch of floorspace. The in-wall speakers in the 1000 Series all include (varying levels of) adjustability in the form of positionable drivers that can be angled toward the listening position. And perhaps most interesting is the scalable subwoofer integration offered by the 1000 Series. The in-wall 1000 IWLCR UTOPIA model can be linked with in-wall subwoofers to become truly a full-range loudspeaker. Depending on the size of the room and the SPL levels desired, the user can pair each wall speaker with up to 6(!) subwoofers while using only one channel of amplification. Alternatively, the subs can be used (alone, or in groups) as pure LFE subwoofers. More on that below. All of the In Ceiling 1000 Series speakers use Focal’s patented “Easy Quick Install” system for tool-free installation, and all include magnetic, ready-to-paint speaker grilles. The in-wall speakers are built into closed-back cabinets that are less than 10cm deep, so they can be installed almost anywhere. Focal says that optional on-wall frames will be available soon, for even greater installation flexibility.
1000 Series Details
To make it easier to digest the details of all seven models of the 1000 Series, we’ll break them up into three sub-categories, starting with the state-of-the-art 1000 Series Utopia models. Then we will look at the remaining in-wall speakers, and finally, the in-ceiling speakers.
IWLCR Utopia ($7,499/each)
The 1000 IWLCR Utopia and 1000 IWSUB Utopia carry the Utopia name, so it’s fair to say that they represent the absolute best performance that Focal can deliver. The IWLCR Utopia is a 3-way closed-back in-wall loudspeaker in d’Appolito configuration. The speaker features Focal’s flagship Beryllium tweeter, plus four 6.5-inch W cone bass drivers, and two 3-inch midrange W cone midrange drivers. The midrange drivers in the IWLCR Utopia are different from those found in other 1000 Series speakers, so they deserve some special attention. As discussed above, all of the midrange drivers (and bass drivers) used in the 1000 Series are made from Focal’s patented W sandwich material. But the actual shape of the midrange drivers in the IWLCR Utopia is the result of yet another R&D endeavor. The patented “M-profile” cone used here is made from a single piece of W sandwich material, with no dust cap. A cross-section of the driver looks like a capital M, hence the name. (Interestingly, this M-profile driver design is also used in Focal’s high-end headphones, such as the recently-announced Celestee.) The M-profile cone geometry further increases the rigidity of the midrange driver, and according to Focal, “perfectly combines the three criteria essential for creating an ideal speaker driver: rigidity, lightness, and damping.” The tweeter and two midrange drivers are mounted on their own plate, which can be adjusted (+/- 15 °) toward the listening position as needed. This helps the IWLCR Utopia to function as a front left, front right, and center-channel speaker. Physical jumpers located on the front baffle allow the user to independently adjust the levels of the tweeter, the midrange drivers, and the bass drivers (+/- 2-3 dB), allowing for better integration into the listening space, depending on room size and room acoustics.There is also a jumper for adjusting the cut-off frequency (80Hz, 100Hz, or 120Hz) when the IWLCR Utopia is being linked to one or more of the matching 1000 IWSUB Utopia subwoofers to create a truly full-range loudspeaker.
1000 IWSUB Utopia ($2,799 each)
The 1000 IWSUB Utopia might be the most fascinating product in the whole 1000 Series lineup. It’s certainly the most versatile. At its core, the 1000 IWSUB Utopia is an in-wall passive subwoofer featuring three 6.5-inch W cone bass drivers (designed exclusively for low frequencies), built into a slim, sealed cabinet. Focal claims that the 1000 IWSUB Utopia is “capable of reproducing incredible levels of powered and controlled bass.” You can, of course, use the IWSUB to reproduce a standalone LFE channel. In fact, you can join up to 4 units together to create a super-sub, using just one amplifier channel — assuming your amp can handle a minimum impedance of 2.2 ohms. There are plenty of amps out there for which this would be no problem. (Parasound’s Halo amps come to mind.) But that’s just the beginning. The 1000 IWSUB Utopia features an impedance selector jumper (8 ohms or 72 ohms), which is the key to its ability to scale to suit even the largest home theater installations. If you want to combine more than 4 units on a single amplifier channel, simply select the 72-ohm position and carry on. The units link together using professional Speakon cabling, which is included in the box. That same cabling can be used to link one or more 1000 IWSUB Utopia units to an in-wall 1000 IWLCR UTOPIA speaker. In this case, we’re not dealing with the LFE channel. Instead, the IWSUB becomes part of the in-wall speaker, increasing its low-frequency extension and SPL-output capabilities. Each in-wall speaker can be paired with as many as six IWSUB units using just one amplifier channel, thanks to that impedance selector. (In the 8-ohm position, the max is four subs per speaker). When paired with several IWSUB units, the already-impressive 1000 IWLCR Utopia becomes capable of delivering crushing SPLs to even the largest theaters imaginable in any mega-mansion. Paired with one or two subs, each speaker is already a powerhouse. This configuration flexibility allows the user (or the installer) to mix and match speakers and subs as needed to suit the space and the performance required, without any additional hardware or cabling. Even the grilles are joined together with a “premium aluminum strip,” so a multi-sub amalgamation can be connected to a speaker and the whole combination will look like a single, cohesive unit.
Stepping down in price from the Utopia models, we are left with two remaining in-wall products in the 1000 Series: the 1000 IWLCR6 and the 1000 IW6. These products use drivers and technologies similar to those described above, but scaled down for smaller form-factors and simpler designs. They can be used in conjunction with the Utopia speakers, or on their own in slightly more modest installations.
1000 IWLCR6 ($2,699 each)
The 1000 IWLCR6 is a three-way, sealed-box, in-wall speaker combining a 1-inch Beryllium tweeter with a 3-inch midrange driver, a 6.5-inch woofer, and a 7-inch passive radiator. As its name would suggest, the IWLCR6 can be used as a front left, front right, or center-channel speaker. It’s also a good choice for surround duties when using the 1000 IWLCR Utopia for the front channels. The whole tweeter/midrange assembly can also be rotated 90° when the speaker is being used as a horizontal center-channel speaker. The tweeter’s output level can be manually adjusted (-3dB, 0dB, +3dB), as can the midrange level (-2dB, 0dB, +2dB).
1000 IW6 ($1,799 each)
The 1000 IW6 is a two-way, sealed-box, in-wall speaker with a Beryllium tweeter and a 6.5-inch W cone mid/bass driver. Designed for smaller rooms, the 1000 IW6 can be employed for front channels or surround channels, and features both tweeter angle adjustment and tweeter level adjustment (+/- 3 dB).
Finally, there are three in-ceiling speakers in the 1000 Series: the 1000 ICLCR5, the 1000 ICW6, and the 1000 ICA6. These speakers use the same form-factors as Focal’s less expensive 300 Series in-ceiling speakers. So, if you’re a 300 Series owner with an itch to upgrade, you can do so painlessly (assuming you can’t feel pain in your wallet).
1000 ICLCR5 ($2,199 each)
The 1000 ICLCR5 is a three-way in-ceiling speaker in which the tweeter and midrange driver are angled at 56°, rather than pointing straight down. This configuration allows the speaker to present a sound approximating that of a speaker positioned in front of or behind the listener, rather than above. It can be used in several types of applications, but is especially suited to reproducing surround channels and rear surround channels when there is no back wall (or side walls) to accommodate in-wall speakers. In extreme cases where even in-wall speakers may be considered visually intrusive, five 1000 ICLCR5 speakers can be used to create a full 5-channel surround-sound system housed completely in the ceiling. The ICLCR5 uses a bass reflex cabinet, which helps the speaker deliver “the same performance level everywhere, with optimum frequency response in the bass,” according to Focal. Inside each ICLCR5 you’ll find a Beryllium tweeter, a 4-inch midrange driver, and a pair of 5-inch woofers. The tweeter/midrange unit can be adjusted (+/-30°) to target the listening position, and once again, the output levels of the tweeter and midrange driver can be increased or decreased manually to better suit the room acoustics.
1000 ICW6 ($1,099 each)
The 1000 ICW6 is a compact, two-way in-ceiling speaker capable of “immense musicality and power” despite its small size, according to Focal. It can also be used as an in-wall speaker. In the ICW6, the Beryllium tweeter is coaxially mounted within a 6.5-inch mid/woofer, reportedly resulting in excellent off-axis response. The tweeter can also be level-adjusted (+/- 3dB) and angled toward the listening position (+/- 20°) for optimum results. The ICW6 comes with both square and circular paint-ready magnetic grilles.
1000 ICA6 ($1,099 each)
Lastly, the 1000 ICA6 in-ceiling speaker is very similar to the ICW6, but with the coaxial speaker driver array angled at 35° rather than pointing straight down. During initial installation, the array can be pointed in whatever direction is required to suit the listening position. Focal says that the ICA6 meets Dolby Atmos specifications. Like the ICW6, the ICA6 employs a 6.5-inch mid/woofer and a coaxially mounted Beryllium tweeter which can be positioned and level-adjusted as needed.
Focal now offers the equivalent of its best floorstanding loudspeakers in its Integration collection, strengthening its position as a global audio leader.
— Wendy S. Knowles, Head of PR, Focal Naim America
It’s clear that the seven-strong 1000 Series is diverse enough to satisfy the needs of a wide variety of custom installations, from distributed audio systems for background music, all the way to state-of-the-art home theaters. Focal says that “this new flagship range embodies the essence and savoir-faire of Focal: innovative speaker science, exclusive technology implementation, and exquisite French design and manufacturing.” The use of the company’s best materials and driver technologies allows the 1000 Series products to be mixed and matched not only with each other, but also with Focal’s top-performing speakers from its Utopia and Sopra ranges. The company calls its 1000 Series speakers a “discreet alternative to traditional hi-fi and home cinema set-ups, with no performance compromise.” The Focal 1000 Series are available NOW through authorized dealers.
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