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Focal 300 Series In-Wall Speakers Review

by October 29, 2019
Focal 300 Series architectural loudspeakers

Focal 300 Series architectural loudspeakers

  • Product Name: 300 Series IWLCR6 IW6 ICW8
  • Manufacturer: Focal
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: October 29, 2019 20:00
  • MSRP: $ 799 each (IW6 LCR), $499 each (IW 6), $499 each (ICW 8)


  • 3-way design
  • Home theater or stereo application:
    • installs vertically as left- and right-channel speakers
    • installs horizontally as a center channel with midrange plate pivoting 90°
  • 1" aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter
    • three-position tweeter level control cuts or boosts high-frequency output
  • 4" woven flax fiber midrange with rubber surround
    • three-position midrange level control cuts or boosts mid-bass frequencies
  • dual 6-1/2" woven flax fiber woofers with rubber surround
  • frequency response: 40-28,000 Hz
  • sensitivity: 92 dB
  • impedance: 8 ohms
  • cutout dimensions: 7-1/2"W x 22-1/2"H
  • overall dimensions: 8-5/8"W x 23-3/4"H
  • mounting depth: 4"
  • weight: 12.4 lbs.
  • warranty: 5 years

IW 6

  • 1" aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter
    • tweeter pivots 360° to direct high frequencies toward you
    • three-position tweeter level control cuts or boosts high-frequency output
  • 6-1/2" woven flax fiber woofer with rubber surround
    • three-position woofer level control cuts or boosts mid-bass frequencies
  • humidity-resistant design (not recommended for direct exposure to water)
  • frequency response: 55-28,000 Hz
  • sensitivity: 90 dB
  • impedance: 8 ohms
  • cutout dimensions: 7-1/2"W x 11-1/2"H
  • overall dimensions: 8-5/8"W x 12-3/4"H
  • mounting depth: 3-3/4"
  • weight: 4.9 lbs.
  • warranty: 5 years


  • 1" aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter
    • tweeter pivots 360° to direct high frequencies toward you
    • three-position tweeter level control cuts or boosts high-frequency output to ideally suit your room's acoustics
  • 8" woven flax fiber woofer with rubber surround
  • frequency response: 48-28,000 Hz (±3 dB)
  • recommended amplifier power: 25-150 watts
  • sensitivity: 90 dB
  • impedance: 8 ohms
  • includes square and round paintable magnetic grilles
  • speaker cutout diameter: 10-7/16"
  • overall diameter: 11-13/16"
  • mounting depth: 4-3/4"
  • weight: 7.1 lbs.


  • Tool-less design makes installation a literal snap, speeding up installation times significantly.
  • Super-easy to pull out speakers and adjust horizontal or vertical alignment.
  • Paintable, magnetic, bezel-free grilles.
  • Adjustable tweeter/midrange section on the IWLCR6 for horizontal or vertical orientation.
  • In-ceiling speakers come with both circular and rectangular magnetic grilles.


  • Requires more horizontal spacing than speakers with traditional dogears, requiring installers to be more careful about between-stud placement.
  • Tool-less clamping system can be confusing to use for the first time.
  • Adding the included acoustically transparent cloth slightly darkens the overall color shade of the grille.


Focal 300 Series In-Wall Speakers  Introduction

While I’ve lost count of the number of architectural speakers I’ve installed over the years, I haven’t lost my disdain for dogears—those rotating plastic clips that have been the mainstay for mounting in-wall and in-ceiling speakers for longer than I can remember. I know I’m not alone.

Dogears are time-consuming to tighten. Tighten them too much and they'll bend or break. The odds of that rise when you try to use a power tool to speed up an installation. And don’t even mention the times you may need loosen or tighten the dog ears to make micro adjustments to the speakers for perfect placement. If you’re an enthusiast, dogears make you spend more time on the installation. If you’re a custom installer, time is money.

There is a better way. Storied French speaker manufacturer, Focal, is looking to turn the custom installer market on end with their 300 series of architectural speakers. The 300 series speakers forego screw-tightened dogears and introduce a new clamping mechanism that makes installation and adjustments a literal snap. Best of all? It’s a true, tool-less design. No screw drivers or power tools needed.

Focal 300 Series Install Instructional Video

The clamping mechanism differs slightly between the in-wall speakers and in-ceiling speakers. The in-wall models have large, spring-loaded plastic arms that clamp the speaker on the left and right side. The mechanism is super-simple to use. Simply lock the clamps in place and once the speaker goes into the Sheetrock, the spring activates, clamping the speaker in position. If you need to pull it out or adjust the speaker's horizontal or vertical alignment, there are nylon straps on the top and bottom face of the speaker. Simply pull on the top and then the bottom band and bingo, the speaker will come out without any hassle.

The in-ceiling speakers have a two-part mounting mechanism. The first is the mounting frame, that comes with spring-loaded arms similar to the in-wall speakers to clamp the frame to the ceiling. Once you mount the frame, you place and then turn the speaker into its final locking position. Icons on the speaker and mounting frame let you know when you have the speaker locked in place.


Focal Easy Quick Instructional Video

Focal's design is incredibly simple to use. However, I will caution even the veteran installer: Read the instructions carefully, then watch Focal's instructional videos on installing the 300 series speakers. If you don't, I guarantee that it will throw even seasoned professional for a loop. I suggest you get a piece of throwaway Sheetrock or use a plywood template to test out the clamping mechanism before you mount it for real. Once you've actually used the clamping mechanism for yourself, you're off to the races and won't need to look back.


If you’re looking at architectural speakers, then aesthetics matter. The Focals will certainly pass the WAF-factor. The Focal 300 series feature bezel-free, magnetic grilles. The grilles are paintable so you can match them to your wall or ceiling color. If you’re a hard core DIY guy, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions on how to thin the paint so you get proper coverage without clogging up the grille.

Font Focal 300 series with and without transparent cloth

Here is an example of the Focal IW6 LCR without and with the transparent cloth inserted into the grille.

I found that in the black acoustic cloth darkened the grille shade.

This shot was taken after the magnetic grilles were painted to match the wall color.

Focal includes a black acoustic cloth with each speaker to hide the drivers’ visibility through the grille. The acoustic cloth has a tacky side you affix to the inside of the magnetic speaker grille. I wish that Focal had included a white colored acoustic cloth instead (like some other manufacturers do). I didn't like using the black cloth with color matching applications. For example, when I painted the 300 IW6 LCR to match my wall color, adding the acoustic cloth caused the grille to take on a far darker (and therefore more noticeable) color when viewed head-on. Removing the cloth (thereby making the drivers more visible) alleviated some of that issue. In my opinion, Focal should offer a white version with the speakers or make it available for purchase.

Models in Focal's 300 Series

Every 300 series model is designed and made in France. The 300 series features aluminum/magnesium tweeters and flax cone drivers throughout the product line. The spring-loaded binding posts will accept 16-gauge wiring. The 300 series sits right below Focal's reference Utopia line. Alas, Focal's superb Beryllium tweeters are reserved for the flagship Utopia architectural line.

Focal sent me a complete 7.0.4 setup comprised of seven in-wall and four in-ceiling 300 series speakers for a hands-on review. Read on to see why I fell in love with Focal's 300 Series.

Speaker lineup

Focal 300 IW6LCRFocal’s 300 series consists of two in-wall and four in-ceiling models. Every model has an impedance of 8 ohms and the sensitivity ranges from 88-92 dB. Every model is very easy to drive—perfect for a zone amp or an AVR-powered home theater. Focal doesn’t make an in-wall subwoofer for the series. As a side note, Audioholics contributor Steve Feinstein, who has an extensive background in speaker design had an exchange about this point. Steve made the comment that if an in-wall sub is not installed correctly, the system is actually worse off than if there was no sub at all. A small sub put in the corner of the room, out of sight with room correction applied generally works well for an in-wall and in-ceiling system without ruining the aesthetics. That being said, I strongly recommend pairing the 300 series with a subwoofer to elevate the system's overall performance. Here's a breakdown:

  • 300 IW6 LCR: The IW6 LCR is the flagship of the 300 series speakers. This is a hefty three-way in-wall loudspeaker intended to perform left, center and right channel duties. The IW6 LCR weighs in at a hefty 12.4-pounds. It sports a 1-inch aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter, 4-inch woven flax fiber midrange with rubber surround, and dual 6-1/2-inch woven flax fiber woofers with rubber surrounds. The IW6 LCR features a 3-position high frequency and midrange frequency control to cut or boost those respective frequencies. Moving the control from its neutral position to the left will reduce the frequency response and to the right will increase it.  On the IW6 LCR, the the mid level switch impacts 600hz <-> 2.5khz  +/-1dB and the HF switch effects 2.5kHz <-> 16kHz   +/- 4dB. The rated frequency is 40kHz to 28Hz with a sensitivity of 92dB. The mid-treble and tweeter plate rotates 90 degrees for horizontal installation as a center channel speaker or to accommodate installation challenges requiring horizontal left and right speakers. To rotate the center plate, you remove the hex screws, turn the plate, and then put the screws back in. The process takes only a few minutes and is incredibly simple to do. The speaker's baffle has a small graphic that shows you the proper orientation of the center plate, which is midrange driver above the tweeter as shown in the photo below in my installation.
  • Focal 300 series IW6LCR horizontal arrangement

    The Focal 300 Series IW6LCR 's midrange plate rotates 90 degrees so you can install the speaker horizontally to serve as a center channel speaker.

  • 300 IW6: This speaker features a 1-inch aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter. A unique feature of the IW6 vs the IW6 LCR is that the tweeter pivots 360-degrees so you can direct high frequencies towards or away from the listening position. The mid switch impacts 500hz <-> 2.5khz   +/-1.5dB  and the HF switch effects 2.5kHz <-> 16kHz +/-2.5dB. The pivoting tweeter makes this speaker a good option for surround speaker duty. You can, of course, also use it for LCR (left, center, right) channel duties too. The rated frequency response is 55Hz to 28kHz (±3 dB) with a sensitivity of 90 dB.
  • Focal 300 series ICW8 with Grille300 ICW8: This 7.1-pound in-ceiling speaker features a pivoting tweeter and 8-inch woofer with a rated frequency of 48Hz to 28kHz (±3 dB) and a sensitivity of 90 dB. A tweeter-level control cuts or boosts the high frequency >3.5kHz  +1.5dB /- 2dB. All in-ceiling speakers in the 300 series feature round and square bezel-free magnetic grilles in the box.
  • 300 ICW6: Similar to the ICW8, the ICW6 sports a 6 1/2-inch woofer and pivoting tweeter with the same three-position tweeter control at >3kHz  +/- 3dB. The rated frequency response is 65Hz to 28kHz (±3 dB)  and a sensitivity of 89 dB.
  • 300 ICW4: The ICW4 is the smallest and most basic of the in-ceiling speaker models. The ICW4 has the pivoting and rotating tweeter with the inverted dome sitting just above the 4-inch woofer. It lacks the three-position tweeter control of the other models. The rated frequency response is 80Hz to 28kHz with a sensitivity of 88dB.

No matter what your installation wants or challenges, Focal has designed a model for each scenario. In case you're wondering, Focal makes mounting brackets for new construction applications for the 300 series speakers. There is also a fire-rated back-box to help you need code requirements with in-ceiling speaker installations. The back-box provides sufficient air volume so as not to interfere with the speaker’s low frequency performance.

Focal 300 series speakers HF and MF level control

Many of the 300 series speakers have HF and Mid level controls so you can fine-tune the speaker's sound to your environment.

My review setup consisted of three IW6 LCR for the front speakers, four IW6 for the side and rear surround speakers and four ICW8 to complete a Dolby Atmos and DTS:X setup.


I'll reiterate my earlier observation. Even if you're a seasoned installer, make sure you watch Focal's tutorial video on using the clamping mechanism for both the in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and if possible, do a test run on some scrap Sheetrock or plywood. I'll also caution that you should make sure that your studs and ceiling joists are indeed 16-inches apart. If your house or apartment has studs that aren't according to code and less than 16-inches apart, you might not have enough room for the clamping mechanism to hold. Measure twice and cut once. If you don't give yourself enough room either to the left or right side of the cutout, the clamps won't have enough room to extend and lock in place. You need more room for the clamping mechanism to work than you do for traditional dogears.

Focal 300 series rear

Rear view of the Focal IW6 LCR speaker

Focal 300 series with Kimber Cable

The Focal's push-spring binding posts accepted heavy-gauge cabling.

Installing the 300 series in my living room was a breeze. I used Kimbercable KWIK 12 cabling for the front left, center, and right speakers and KWIK 16 for the surround speakers.

Using Focal's included templates, it was easy to mark and cut out the Sheetrock or plywood (more on that below). Then all that was needed was to activate the clamping mechanism, push the speakers into the cutout and bingo! Snap, snap, and the installation was done in seconds. The instances where I wanted to fine-tune the speaker alignment, I appreciated being able to hold the nylon strap and move the speaker in-wall without any problems whatsoever. At various points, I put the speakers in place and took them out again about a dozen times to see if there was any impact on either the Sheetrock or the speakers. There wasn't.

Now, as with any project involving cutting into your walls or pulling cabling, we always recommend hiring a professional installer if possible to conform to local codes.. I ran into a few logistical challenges that I think are worth relating:

In order to center the IW6LCR under my TV, it would have involved cutting away studs in the wall. Because the wall was load-bearing there would have been additional construction work involved. I didn't want that hassle and opted instead to build out a plywood enclosure for the IW6LCR.

Focal IW6LCR installation

View of the front left and right Focal 300 IW6 LCRs being installed.

The second challenge involved the left surround speaker. Because that wall is an outside wall with insulation, etc., I didn't have enough depth for the IW6. I therefore chose to build a plywood enclosure for that speaker too.

The third item I'll call an "almost" challenge. When we cut out the Sheetrock for the front left speaker, there was an electrical box in the same bay. It didn't come up in our pre-cutout wall scans. Thankfully the box was far above the speaker's cutout. However should there be any electrical box or low voltage box directly behind your cutout, you won't have enough depth to install the speaker. I'll also mention that if you do happen to have a box in the same bay, you'll likely experience some sound bleed through on the box. I suggest you consider using some acoustical putty. I purchased ATS Acoustics Putty Pads for the installation.

The fourth challenge I had was properly mounting the in-ceiling speakers. My ceiling is a double-layer of sheet rock with metal wiring between the two layers. On top of the sheet rock layers there are 1/4-inch wooden strips that run across so that the ceiling is perfectly flat. Aside from the difficulties of just cutting through the sheet rock itself, the wooden strips made it impossible for the mounting mechanism to clamp. Dogears would have had the same issue. We had to cut away portions of the wooden strips to allow the clamps to extend fully and lock into place.

Focal 300 series cutout

For any architectural speaker installation, cut a small hole within the template to see if you have any obstacles or surprises in the wall or ceiling.

Focal 300 series IW6LCR snap in

With the IW6 LCR's clamping mechanism put into its active position, all we needed to do was push the speaker into the wall, where it "snapped" into place.

The reason why I want to point out these items is that it's really rare that you'll have an installation that goes flawlessly. I have to say, once I dealt with the logistical issues, it was incredibly refreshing to be able to just snap the speaker into place!

Is there a downside to the tool-less design?

I’m sure you’re wondering, “Is there a downside?” Yes, there is a potential downside to be aware of. The clamps are a double-edge sword. While they make installation a breeze, should you break one, you can’t easily replace it like you can a dog ear. Therefore, I cannot recommend in strong enough terms (again) that you should watch Focal’s tutorials and test out the mechanism so you clearly understand how it works. Should you happen to break a clamp, it will likely take some time to get it replaced.

Secondly, if you are installing in-ceiling speakers, make sure you don’t make the in-ceiling cutout too small. If you force the housing mechanism, it will become difficult to lock in the speaker actual speaker.

Focal 300 series prior to sanp in 

Push in the bottom and then the top part of the speaker to get it to lock into place.

Focal IW6LCR installed no grille

Once installed, the speaker is solidly in place. To move or pull out the speaker, simply grab and pull on the top and bottom nylon straps.

Third, you do need more additional room to either side of the speakers for the spring-loaded locking arms than your typical dogears.

Finally, if you do get a broken locking mechanism you may have some delay getting a replacement. There’s a big difference between stocking a two-cent dog ear vs. a proprietary locking arm.

Focal 300 series pull strap

Tug on the pull strap to remove the speakers easily.

Focal 300 Series Listening Tests and Conclusion


Below are five-position, averaged measurements (red) using Anthem's ARC Genesis along with the corrected curve (green) against the target curve (black) of some of the ear-level and height level speakers. Room gain was set +3dB at 200Hz which is why you'll see that slight hump in the target curve at the lower frequencies. Front LCR were IW6 LCR, side and rear surround were IW6. Height speakers were ICW8. As you can see in the measurements, the room had an impact on the measurement of each individual speaker.

I used ARC Genesis to calibrate the system for home theater but disabled ARC for two-channel music listening. For home theater/multichannel playback ARC was set to correct only up to 5kHz.

Focal front left ARC measurements

Focal 300 Series ARC Center

Focal 300 series ARC right

Focal 300 series ARC surround left

Focal ARC 300 series surround right

Focal 300 Height Left

Focal 300 Height 1 left

Associated Equipment

I installed the Focal 300 series speakers in a canonical 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X setup. I chose to pair the Focals with an SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofer. Electronics consisted of an Anthem AVM 60 pre-pro, Bechmark AHB2 power amplifiers, Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks, and a Lexicon CX-7. I paired the setup with an Oppo UDP-205, AppleTV 4K, and Roon Nucleus music server delivering 4K/UltraHD Blu-ray, streaming services (Tidal, Netflix), and hi-res music files.

Focal ICW8 in-ceiling installed

The Focal 300 series ICW8 in-ceiling speakers installed. Shown with and without the magnetic grille.

The tweeter pivots 360-degrees and can be positioned towards the listening position.

I tested the Focal setup over a period of about ten months. The amount of material I played on the Focals during that time period is innumerable. 4K/UHD movies, Blu-rays, TV shows, streaming content, and hi-res and streaming music from my Roon server.  Over that time, I rarely got the gnawing feeling I'll get with some review gear—the urge to replace it out with my everyday gear.

Listening Tests: Two Channel Music

The Force Awakens soundtrackIf you are of the opinion that you can't have a superb immersive audio experience with architectural speakers, then the Focals will disabuse you immediately of any such bias. I found the Focals to be outstanding performers with just about any material I threw at them.

The IW6 LCR proved to be an incredibly able performer. I was completely unprepared for the Focals' ability to disappear with two-channel music. Orchestral works emanated from a wide and tall soundstage. Perhaps most shocking to me was the sensation of sound stage depth. I'm all too accustomed to in-wall speakers sometimes having a decidedly forward and flat presentation. Not here.

The Focals delivered the same kind of sensation you'd get putting free-standing speakers three or four feet into your room—though here you get that sensation without sacrificing any intrusion into your living space.

I noted this sensation when playing the 24-bit/192-kHz version John Williams' score of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The string section to the left was layered on tracks like "Rey's Theme." Flutes were delicately rendered with plenty of air. The hi-res version of this album is well mastered with very good dynamic range. A speaker's ability to reproduce dynamics well help convey musical excitement. The Focals did a great job rendering the musical dynamics inherent in tracks like "Main Title and The Attack on the Jakku Village" and "Scherzo for X-Wings." At the same time, the IW6 LCR could slow down, and spin a web of delicate musical artistry on tracks like "Rey's Theme."

La BambaTurning to the O-Zone Percussion Group Jazz Variants, instruments were precisely placed in a deep soundstage. Drums were recessed deep in the background with the sensation of other instruments placed more in the foreground. This was an uncharacteristically free-standing speaker-like experience.

Imaging was downright fantastic too. The IW6LCRs created a stable image on the Indigo Girls "Welcome Me" from Nomads, Indians, Saints. Vocals and instruments were firmly placed in space and time with plenty of air around them. Spinning up superbly recorded music—take any Chesky Records recording, for example—and the Focals sparkled. Listening to City of the Sun's To the Sun and All the Cities in Between or Alexis Cole's Dazzling Blue for example, I completely forgot that I was listening to an architectural speaker.

The Focals proved themselves to be revealing and dynamic too. I immediately noticed the sensation of compressed audio or audio with reduced dynamics. My point being that these are speakers that will enable you to enjoy the potential of any source material that you throw at it. The curse is that the speakers will reveal any wrinkles in your source material—like any top-notch speaker.

In case you're wondering, turning on ARC for two-channel music reduced the Focal's warmth and tightened up the bass.

Focal 300 series ICW8 with magnetic grille

The ICW8 comes with round and square magnetic grilles to match your decor.  The magnetic grilles have a fabric lining to prevent them from sticking to the speaker.


Listening Tests: Immersive Audio

Dolby Atmos Demo Disc Blu-rayMake no mistake, as good stereo was, the 300 Series was born to deliver immersive audio. I found the Focal 7.1.4 setup to be an incredibly satisfying, high-performance sonic spectacle. 4K/UltraHD Blu-ray Dolby Atmos and DTS:X tracks sparkled. The Focals brought out the best in the more consumer-based Dolby Digital and stereo-styled formats.

To kick off Dolby Atmos tests, I've settled into beginning with the Dolby Atmos Demo Disc (not commercially available). A few tracks in particular will showcase the system's top to bottom and dynamics.The Dolby Atmos Demo Disc has two spectacular tracks to show off an Atmos System: "Nature's Fury" and "Amaze."

Dolby's demo material is a great way to tune and test a Dolby Atmos setup. While Dolby's 4K/UHD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray demo discs aren't commercially available, Dolby offers some demo tracks on its web site that you can download here for Mac and Windows. Simply copy to a USB drive and play the MP4 files on your own system. If you have a pair of headphones, plug them into your computer or smart device and play the YoutTube clip below to experience "Nature's Fury" for yourself.

The Focals did an outstanding job rendering the vast, three-dimensional space of Nature's Fury. put another way, the Focals simply disappeared. As you can see in the YouTube clip below, Nature's Fury starts initially with a three-dimensional sense of space. With a good performing Atmos setup, when this track kicks in, it creates the sensation that your room has disappeared and you're in this massive Holodeck.  That's exactly what happened here. The feeling is uncanny. After establishing the space, a spherical audio object then moves along the virtual spacial grid all around and above you.

The Focal setup created a seamless, timbre-matched immersive audio experience that would absolutely rival some free-standing speaker setups.

The Focal setup did an outstanding job rendering this three-dimensional sensation. Closing my eyes, I could follow the sound object all around and overhead. Timbre matching was perfect all around without any obvious discrepancies in the soundscape. The Focal setup created a seamless, timbre-matched immersive audio experience that would absolutely rival some free-standing speaker setups.

Plug in headphones and listen to this YouTube clip of "Nature's Fury" above to get a sensation of how this Dolby Atmos demo is a great test of a system's immersive audio chops.

This clip is optimized to replicate the Atmos experience through average headphones. It is incredibly similar to the experience you'll get in a free-standing speaker setup, like the Focal 300s.

The Focal 300 series consistently delivered reference-grade immersive audio. "Amaze" opens up with forest sounds, insects, and birds flying overhead followed by torrential rain and earth-rattling thunder. The sensation was amazing as the ICW8 made my ceiling disappear and created the believable illusion of a rain falling down from sky above. A key feature of this demo is when a bird takes flight and circles you counterclockwise and perches above and to the left. The Focals reproduced all these audio objects cleanly. There was no veiled sensation over the audio as you'd experience with lesser-performing systems.

Mission Impossible FalloutImmersive audio glory wasn't confined solely to some perfectly mastered demo track. Mission Impossible Fallout is a non-stop, action packed movie whose reference-grade Dolby Atmos track should be on your short list to wow your friends and family. The Focals unequivocally showed that they could render reference-grade performance from a reference-grade disc. The famous helicopter scene was intense with sound objects whirling from all around. The immersive audio soundscape remained stable throughout.

Avengers Endgame is a superb demo disc. The movie begins with Hawkeye and his family outdoors. The Focals perfectly rendered the sensation of being outdoors accentuated by nuanced insect sounds, an airplane in the distance, and the slight whisper of the wind. When Hawkeye's family disappears following Thanos' snap, all those sounds cascaded in series into an eerie silence with nothing but the wind. Lesser speakers will smudge those sounds. Not here. That refined and heightened experience only comes through high performance speakers like the Focals.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an all-out audio assault. The Dolby Atmos track is highly active. The audio track delivers spine-chilling effect to the on-screen monsters. The initial scene where Godzilla first appears underwater pulsing his intimidation display, the Focals created the eerie sensation of being in this vast, aquatic command center. As Godzilla approaches, his pounding movements and growls echoed all around, creaking the metal shell of the command center. The Focals supported the on-screen imagery brilliantly, creating the eeriest sensation that heightened the tension—and yes, the intimidation—I felt from the scene.

Godzilla King of the MonstersThe Focals didn't let the natural echo of the on-screen room blur the intelligibility of the dialogue. Supported by the SVS SB16-Ultra, the system literally shook my room with Godzilla's pulsing heartbeat followed by his classic roar. The SB16-Ultra blended seamlessly with the Focals and proved to me that adding a high performance, reference-grade subwoofer to the setup.

When the planes take off for Antarctica in search of Ghidora, the Argo command ship drops helicopters to land on the base where Ghidora was found suspended in ice. The Focals did an outstanding job creating the sensation of the helicopters moving from the front to the left rear of the soundscape.

Ghidora's first appearance on screen bursting through the ice shelf followed by Godzilla's first clash is all-out audio-candy; the Focals did masterfully delivered the audio track's emotive role.

Every reference-grade system should deliver consistently intelligible dialogue. What good is a speaker system that can pop sounds from all around you if you're constantly thinking "What did he or she say?" The Focal IW6 LCR, set up in a horizontal position, did yeoman's work. The off-axis performance was outstanding. Sitting about 14 feet away, I could move across four positions without any significant impact on dialogue intelligibility. Whether the content was 4K/Ultra HD Blu-ray, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming sources, dialogue intelligibility was never an issue. In fact, they passed what I'll coin as the "In-law test" or ILT. My father-in-law will be the first to point out if he can't make out what's being said on the TV, cranking up the volume. Cable and network news programming, evening game shows, and you name it, he never once complained about the Focals.

avengers Endgame 4K steelbook

The transparency of a high performing speaker ironically comes at a cost. Some of you have probably experienced what I'll call the "high end audio curse." The curse comes when you have a high end, high performance system and then play poorly recorded or overly compressed content and can tell the difference. With lesser systems, where the speaker is the limiting factor, good and poorly recorded audio sounds very similar. That wasn't the case here. The Focals performed like high end speakers sometimes being brutally honest with sub-par audio content. My wife noticed the difference and commented about it when I was playing some cable content. 

I will point out that "Nature's Fury," Avengers Endgame (and all the material I played) showcased that as good as the Focals are, you want to support this system with a high performance subwoofer for optimal performance. When the thunderstorm kicks in, for example, the SVS SB16-Ultra energized the room with a realistic slam of thunder. Sans SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofer, the Focal setup lacked the subterranean, room-shaking bass that this track puts out. Conversely, the SVS SB16-Ultra blended perfectly with the Focal setup. I set the crossover at the THX standard 80Hz in this setup

Observations for maximum performance

The Focal 300 series is a standout performer. If your interested in purchasing models from the 300 series as part of a stereo, surround sound, or immersive audio setup, I'd like to share some observations from my hands-on so you to maximize your experience.

  • First and foremost, a subwoofer is a must to bring out reference-grade performance. Even with architectural and space constraints, it's fairly easy to tuck away a stand-alone subwoofer in the corner of your room and optimize it with EQ or room correction.

  • Secondly, if you can afford to do so, use IW6LCRs throughout your setup. That speaker is a superb performer. The fact that you have the option of horizontal placement gives you lots of flexibility including in-cabinet options.

  • Third, if you're using room correction always double-check the results—be very careful where your AVR crosses over your speakers. I had some issues with the crossover being too high for the IW6. I didn't like the results of how the IW6 blended with the subwoofer until I lowered to 80Hz.


Focal 300 series IC6 LCR installed

Focal's 300 series custom installation speakers are superb performers for a high end, architectural audio setup.

Focal's 300 series architectural speakers sport a true tool-less installation. The clamping design makes installation a literal snap. But such a design means nothing if the speakers don't deliver the sonic goods—and rest assured that the Focals deliver in spades.

If you've been boxed into an aesthetic battlefield and feared that turning to architectural speakers would mean compromising that audio experience you love, then fear not: You can indeed have reference-grade sound from an in-wall speaker. Focal's 300 series architectural speakers are worthy of Focal's legendary brand. For my part, I'll be using the 300 Series as my new reference for an in-wall and in-ceiling system. Highly recommended.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Theo Nicolakis has been reviewing high end audio, video, home theater, headphone, and portable music products for the past 14 years. His reviews have appeared here on Audioholics as well as Techhive.com, PCWorld.com, MacWorld.com, and more. His reviews span high end two-channel and home theater systems, AVRs and immersive audio processors, headphones, DACs, DAPs, music servers, sound bars, and display technologies.

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