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Focal Aria K2 936 Floorstanding Speaker Measurements and Conclusion

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 936 outdoor testing

The Focal Aria K2 936 speakers were measured in free-air at a height of 4 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, with the microphone raised to an 8’ elevation that was level with and aimed at the tweeter center. The measurements were gated at 9 milliseconds. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 400 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 200 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

 936 3D waterfall response

 

 936 2D waterfall response

This is another very good showing from Focal with a terrific on-axis response and good off-axis correspondence.

The above graphs depict the K2 936’s direct-axis and horizontal dispersion out to a 90-degree angle in five-degree increments. Information on how to interpret these graphs can be read in our loudspeaker measurement article. This is another very good showing from Focal with a terrific on-axis response and good off-axis correspondence. The response shown here stays within a 4dB window, making this a nicely neutral speaker on-axis. As we go off-axis, we do get into a slight directivity mismatch between the tweeter and the midrange where we can see the tweeter broaden the dispersion a bit above 2.5kHz, but that only starts to occur at a fairly far off-axis angle, and it isn’t a severe directivity mismatch. We do see the tweeter begin to narrow its dispersion sharply above 10kHz, as is typical of many dome tweeters, but that won’t have a very major effect on the sound since there isn’t much program material with significant content up to that band.

936 individual horizontal responses 

The above graph zooms in on some of the individual responses measured on the horizontal axis. We are taking a closer look at these to see what specific angles hold the most neutral response. The most neutral response actually comes from the range of 10 degrees to 20-degrees on the horizontal axis rather than the on-axis angle, so this speaker would ideally be angled with a mild toe-in to face inward but not so much as to directly face the listener, at least for those interested in being met with the most accurate direct sound. Moving out 10 degrees further than that, whether to the on-axis response or 30-degree angle still yields a good response although not quite as flat across the entire frequency range. This speaker should sound tonally balanced over a wide listening area, but the listening position at the 15-degree angle is probably what perfectionists should be aiming for in the placement and positioning of these speakers.

936 POLAR MAP 

The above polar map shows the same information in the preceding graphs but depicts it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, polar maps use color to portray amplitude, and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s dispersion behavior more easily. More information about interpreting this graph can be read in our loudspeaker measurement article.

The above graph tells us that the K2 936 has a fairly wide dispersion and can be listened to out to a 60-degree angle off-axis without losing much energy aside from upper treble above 10kHz. We also get a better look at how the tweeter puffs out its dispersion a bit compared to the midrange driver, but I don’t think it is significant enough to add any major coloration to the sound for an in-room response. Those who don’t want to miss out on any upper treble above 10kHz should be listening within a 20-degree angle of the tweeter’s direct aim. Overall, while this dispersion pattern is not absolutely perfect, it is very good.

936 vertical responses 

The above graph is a sampling of some of the vertical angle responses at and around the on-axis angle. Negative degrees indicate angles below the tweeter, positive angles indicate angles above the tweeter, and zero degrees is level with the tweeter. As would be expected, the height level with the tweeter produces the evenest response overall. Unfortunately, at a 44” height, the tweeter is mounted a bit high in the K2 936, and the least even response here occurs at a lower angle, ten degrees below the tweeter. Given the tweeter height, it is very possible that many people could be listening at this suboptimal angle if they have low-slung seating or are listening at a closer distance, perhaps within ten feet or so. In the product data sheet, Focal advises a 10-12’ listening distance, but that is the only mention I see of a listening distance in Focal’s literature, and that is not listed in the user manual. Something Focal might have done to alleviate this is to swap the positions of the midrange driver and tweeter. That would have brought the tweeter down to a height that more people usually listen. However, as we saw in the individual horizontal responses graph, the responses do flatten out past 10 degrees on the horizontal axis, so all of these responses likely become smoother as we move off-axis a bit. Nonetheless, this speaker benefits from a good distance between the listener or seating that elevates the listener’s ear height to the tweeter’s 44” height.   

936 low frequency response 

The above graph shows the K2 936’s low-frequency response captured using ground-plane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground at a 2-meter distance in a wide-open area). As can be seen in this measurement, the K2 936 holds a flat response down to 70Hz where it begins a shallow roll-off that doesn’t become a full-blown 24dB/octave slope that ports normally have until 50Hz. Many times we see underdamped ports in tower speakers so that deep bass is not as high in level as the mid-bass, because manufacturers try to compensate for the inevitable room gain which will give a boost to deep bass. However, if that is what is being attempted here, it is happening only to a mild degree, where the deeper-tuned front ports provide some additional deep bass reinforcement, but not at a strong level. I would expect this speaker to have bass in-room down to maybe 40Hz but probably not a whole lot below that point.   

936 impedance 

The above graph shows the electrical behavior of the Focal Aria K2 936. Focal specifies this speaker to have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, and that seems like a stretch. This is very much a 4-ohm load; in fact, the minima drops well below 4 ohms by my measurement. I would say Focal’s spec is there as reassurance that regular AVRs can handle this load. They probably could, but with a steep phase angle at the minima at around 100Hz, a very heavily used frequency, I wouldn’t want to crank these speakers on any AVR that cheaped out on the amplifier section. These speakers should be used with a stout amplifier, but, at $6.6k per pair, they very likely will be. The dip in the low-frequency ‘saddle’ that is always seen in ported loudspeakers occurs at just under 40Hz which indicates its tuning frequency. The mismatch of the saddle ridges indicates that the resonant frequency of the bass drivers is very different from that of the enclosure, and I would guess that the higher-tuned down-firing port is behind this disparity.

I tested the sensitivity to be 91.9dB for 1 meter at 2.83v which is a very close match for Focal’s 92dB specification. These are fairly sensitive speakers that don’t need huge wattage to get loud. As a large, ported speaker with three 6.5” bass drivers, a 6.5” midrange driver, and a 1” dome tweeter, the K2 936 was bound to be on the sensitive side. They will be able to handle a lot of power too, so these speakers should be able to get pretty loud if supplied with enough power.

Conclusion

936 pair14Before bringing this review to a close, I will briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under consideration, and, as usual, I will start with the weaknesses. The good news about the bad news for the Focal Aria K2 936 is that there isn’t much bad news to report here. This product doesn’t have any serious shortcomings, but there are two situational caveats that buyers should be aware of. One caveat is, as was discussed before, the height of the tweeter means this speaker is not the best choice for those who plan to listen at a relatively close distance. I would recommend listeners stay within a five-degree angle of the tweeter height for this speaker, and with a 44” tweeter height and the average ear height of a seated adult being between thirty to thirty-five inches, that means listeners would want to have about a three-meter distance from the speaker. Of course, a higher seating position will enable the listener to sit closer and still be in an optimal height range for the speaker, but a lower seating position will require one to have a greater distance for an optimal height. The K2 936 will still sound fine at angles not too far outside of five degrees of the tweeter, but it will sound best in that five-degree angle.

Something else to be aware of is that with a 40Hz port tuning frequency, this isn’t the deepest digging tower speaker despite its size. The lowest audible octave for human hearing is widely considered 20Hz-40Hz (although some research indicates that human hearing can perceive significantly deeper frequencies), so users interested in very deep bass will want to add a subwoofer with this speaker. It seems like a speaker this large should be able to dig down to 30Hz or so, but this one does not. Its lack of low-frequency extension does enable it to achieve a relatively high-sensitivity, and good subwoofers can be had these days for not a lot of extra money, so I don’t consider this a serious problem, but it is something that should be noted for anyone who might be expecting the K2 936 to tackle some heavy subterranean bass.

if you want a speaker that can rock hard, the Focal K2 936 are a terrific choice.

With those quibbles out of the way, let’s go over the many strengths of the K2 936s. The first is that the sound quality can be outstanding. They do take some placement tweaking to achieve that sound, but once you have it, it sounds terrific. With the right positioning, you can get a near-ruler flat response with these speakers for a superbly accurate sound. The soundstage can be both precise and expansive, and the speakers had no trouble imaging the intended locations of the sounds. The bass is punchy without being overbearing, and while it won’t do much below 40Hz, that level of extension covers all acoustic music except for some pipe organ recordings, and the vast majority of electronic music as well. The K2 936 speakers have a very good dynamic range, so if you are looking for something that won’t compress the peaks of orchestral crescendoes or you just want a speaker that can rock hard, they are a terrific choice.

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936 outdoorsMany aspects of practical engineering are quite well thought-out. Their low impedance does mean that users will want to run them on amps that are comfortable with 4-ohm loads, but their high sensitivity means that they don’t need a ton of wattage to get loud. The grille is stylish but also practical in that it truly protects the drivers from damage while being easy to remove. The high-torque binding posts make it easy to get a tight squeeze on bare-wire or spade connections; I wish more manufacturers would use binding posts like these. I also appreciate that Focal decided to forego dual binding posts for bi-amping or bi-wiring; bi-amping is not done often enough to be worth the inclusion, and in many instances, it can be misused and end up screwing up the sound. The K2 936 is a tall speaker but the aluminum base firmly plants the floor, and it wouldn’t be knocked over easily. The K2 936s also give the user options for how they want the speakers to contact the floor: rubber pads on the base, spiked metal feet, or soft spike covers. Furthermore, the user can adjust the height of the feet individually.

While styling is very much a matter of individual taste, I do think that the Aria K2 936s look cool. They certainly have a high-performance European automotive flair. They would make a better aesthetic fit in a modernist interior decor than a traditional one. The build quality is also very good, and these speakers have a solid feel befitting their luxury product class. Rapping on the side of the enclosure with your knuckles produces an inert thump instead of a resonant knocking sound. They look and feel like the pricey speakers that they are, and no one who buys these is going to feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth.

Taking a long view of the performance and size of the Focal Aria K2 936s, they are best for larger rooms. They are a tall and powerful speaker with a high acoustic center. They would be terrific for a two-channel system in a room with an open floor plan. You could also use these to power a dedicated home theater pretty easily, and they would work very well with tiered seating. If you are looking for a high-end speaker for any kind of large room, they are a great choice. I like them, but sadly I only have one room in my home large enough for them to work well. Were I outfitting that room with a permanent set of speakers, the Aria K2 936s would be very high on my list of contenders.

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
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStar
About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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Recent Forum Posts:

audiogod66 posts on August 08, 2022 00:25
mtrot, post: 1567782, member: 57542
Yes, right before covid, there were nice used sets of 936 available for $2700 and I saw a set of 926 for around $1800. It's astounding how much people are asking for them now, which I refuse to pay. Just can't do it.
I can get Focal Aria 926 Gloss Black with Gia11 footers11 for $2k as of the weekend they hadn't been sold. Only trouble for anyone in Australia is the guy through the packaging away ,anyway in Sydney for those keen
mtrot posts on August 07, 2022 23:44
audiogod66, post: 1567779, member: 61876
The whole Aria speaker range basically doubled in price in the last 4 years. They were ok value 2016,2017. But these K2 936 are $8250 in Australia .The build quality for that money is dreadful. A Russian guy takes a deep dive at the 936 Aria and the speaker is junk and this shares the
same cabinet, really cheapest grade dust mdf,screws just screwed into flimsy thin mdf. Crossovers made of the cheapest crap and even using different crossover revisions in a pair ! I have taken apart Jamo 606 and the cabinet quality of Aria 936 is about the same. The Focal drivers are excellent in the K2 but the rest for this kind of money just sucks
Yes, right before covid, there were nice used sets of 936 available for $2700 and I saw a set of 926 for around $1800. It's astounding how much people are asking for them now, which I refuse to pay. Just can't do it.
audiogod66 posts on August 07, 2022 23:33
shadyJ, post: 1567286, member: 20472
57153

Focal’s Aria loudspeaker line has been around for some years now and has received praise from reviewers and owners alike. Sadly, it wasn’t a loudspeaker series that we had close contact with in the form of a review when it was launched. However, when Focal recently revamped the Arias in the limited-edition K2 series, we decided not to miss out on another opportunity to see what Aria speakers could do and asked Focal to send us a pair. Read our full review of Focal's Aria K2 936 speaker to find out what we found!

READ: FOCAL ARIA K2 936 TOWER SPEAKER REVIEW
The whole Aria speaker range basically doubled in price in the last 4 years. They were ok value 2016,2017. But these K2 936 are $8250 in Australia .The build quality for that money is dreadful. A Russian guy takes a deep dive at the 936 Aria and the speaker is junk and this shares the
same cabinet, really cheapest grade dust mdf,screws just screwed into flimsy thin mdf. Crossovers made of the cheapest crap and even using different crossover revisions in a pair ! I have taken apart Jamo 606 and the cabinet quality of Aria 936 is about the same. The Focal drivers are excellent in the K2 but the rest for this kind of money just sucks
TLS Guy posts on August 06, 2022 09:11
luis1090, post: 1567559, member: 64602
I understand what you're saying but it just doesn't make sense to spend $7k on speakers to pair with a receiver. A lot high price tag receivers have 4 ohms power ratings still I wouldn't never use one with speakers like this.

I agree, but people do. But the other issue is that most people now want to go to 20 Hz. So if people are bound and determined to roll speakers off at 60 or 80 Hz to cross to a sub, then what's the point of a low F3, might as well make the speaker more efficient, and make sure it has good power handling above 80 Hz or so. The fact is that most of the frequencies people perceive as bass are actually above sub range. In my view, a lot, and probably most speakers, are deficient in actually powerfully delivering that power range between 80 Hz and certainly 1.5KHz and even 3 to 4 KHz. The worst offenders are so often three ways, with totally inadequate mid range speakers in terms of power handling. There are actually few mids that can handle this range as single units, and most should be used in pairs.
luis1090 posts on August 06, 2022 08:51
TLS Guy, post: 1567467, member: 29650
It is that old saw, that you can have high sensitivity or extended bass, but not both. I don't think it is only the sub issue, I think it is higher spl requirements of home theater, coupled with the poor performance of power amps in receivers, which are far too prone to blow up if pushed hard, especially into lower impedance loads. Every 3db drop in speaker sensitivity doubles the power requirement of the amps. More and more speakers are in fact 4 ohm loads, no matter what the manufacturer says. That is to properly compensate for the baffle step. Most receivers are not designed for four ohm loads, and certainly not at power.
I understand what you're saying but it just doesn't make sense to spend $7k on speakers to pair with a receiver. A lot high price tag receivers have 4 ohms power ratings still I wouldn't never use one with speakers like this.
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