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Legacy Audio Focus SE Floorstanding Speaker Review

by April 08, 2013
Legacy Audio Focus SE Loudspeakers

Legacy Audio Focus SE Loudspeakers

  • Product Name: Focus SE Loudspeakers
  • Manufacturer: Legacy Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: April 08, 2013 19:40
  • MSRP: $ 9,650 (basic finish)/pair
  • System Type: 6 driver, 4 way
  • Tweeter: Dual Air Motion Tweeter System- 1" AMT Super Tweeter
  • Midrange: Dual Air Motion Tweeter System- 4" AMT Tweeter
  • Midwoofer: (2) 7" Rohacell reinforced-Silver Graphite, cast frame
  • Subwoofer: (2) 12" spun aluminum diaphragm, rubber surround, total enclosed neo motor, long throw suspension, with cast frame
  • Low Frequency Alignment: Assisted 6th order Butterworth, vented
  • Freq. Response (Hz, +/-2dB): 18-30K
  • Impedance: 4 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: (Room, dB@ 2.83V) 95.4 dB
  • Recommended Amplification: 10 - 500 Watts
  • Crossover: 120, 2.8K, 8K


  • True full-range speaker
  • Wonderful highs
  • Exceptional treble smoothness
  • Detailed midrange


  • Plastic speaker grille pegs


Legacy Audio Focus SE: Build Quality - More than Just Drivers Part 1

Having used or reviewed loudspeakers professionally for over 15 years now, it's always difficult to define just what is it that makes the "ultimate loudspeaker"- a product which compromises nothing and has the technical measurements to impress even the most ardent critic. And when the Legacy Focus SE speakers came in, the debate raged once more in my mind. How influenced should I be by build quality? How much should I allow myself to get excited by the sound of a truly full-range speaker that can play low enough to make a pipe organ sound authentic? Or should I be more impressed and excited about speakers with enough dynamic headroom to handle the delicacy of a five piece jazz ensemble as well as a full orchestra?

Legacy Audio Focus SE Speakers Video Review

Yes. Yes to all, dammit. And, of course, the real trouble begins when you factor in all that happens in between the lines. But I'm getting ahead of myself. And the Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers are not to be rushed...and neither will this review.

The Legacy Focus SE speakers (Focus actually stands for something by the way: "Field Optimized Convergent Source"-apparently the "U" wasn't important enough to get its own word) arrived shortly after I had gotten to spend some time with a pair of Titus 8T speakers from Status Acoustics (the same folks who design speakers for RBH Sound, but shhhhh, they don't think anyone knows!) I had also spent considerable time with Jim Salk's new Soundscape 8 tower speakers at the 2012 Audioholics Get Together event in Tarpon Springs. The Soundscape 8's feature a RAAL ribbon tweeter and Accuton midrange that give it a very airy and transparent personality. Needless to say, I was loaded for bear in terms of my expectations and what I was hoping for with these 25th Anniversary speakers.

Build Quality—It's More Than Just Drivers

Now the Legacy Focus SE is nothing like either of these speakers. But that's not the point. What I'm discovering is that each manufacturer is carving out niches in how their products appeal to the discerning listener and, more importantly, how they appeal to each person's decidedly differing tastes. Take the Focus SE's...Legacy put six drivers into each of the meticulously crafted cabinets (more on that later). It's a 4-way design, with crossovers at 8 kHz, 2.8 kHz and 120 Hz. That last one is an assisted 6th order Butterworth that sends the low frequencies to the dual 12" woofers.

When you're able to put a couple of 12" drivers into a cabinet you must be doing something either incredibly awesome or incredibly overreaching. With the Focus SE speakers it's decidedly the former. The long throw subwoofers, for that's what they truly are, feature a spun aluminum diaphragm and a totally enclosed neodymium motor with cast frame. You would never use a sub with this system and you would never miss it.

dual 12

Working our way up the speaker you next encounter the mids. And it's here that I was really pleased with these speakers. The twinned 7" drivers utilize Rohacell to reinforce the silver graphite cones. Rohacell shows up as a super stiff and lightweight material in sports cars, aviation and wind turbines. High end hockey sticks are using this material. It's really hitting the market hard and for good reason: light and stiff is the name of the game when it comes to loudspeaker cones. Of course stiffness and weight are graded on a scale, and so the game is always afoot, with plastics, kevlar, aluminum and beryllium making a showing in various manufacturers' products. In either case, Legacy has chosen this route and it appears to be working well for the design.

Legacy Audio Focus SE: Build Quality - More than Just Drivers Part 2

Working our way up the speaker you next encounter the mids. And it's here that I was really pleased with these speakers. The twinned 7" drivers utilize Rohacell to reinforce the silver graphite cones. Rohacell shows up as a super stiff and lightweight material in sports cars, aviation and wind turbines. High end hockey sticks are using this material. It's really hitting the market hard and for good reason: light and stiff is the name of the game when it comes to loudspeaker cones. Of course stiffness and weight are graded on a scale, and so the game is always afoot, with plastics, kevlar, aluminum and beryllium making a showing in various manufacturers' products. In either case, Legacy has chosen this route and it appears to be working well for the design.

The Legacy seems to have two of everything and they don't stop at the tweeter. In fact, this is where the real magic occurs. The dual Air Motion Tweeters (or transducers) are a technology invented back in 1972 but used sparingly and mostly by high-end speaker companies due to how carefully they must be implemented. Legacy used a 4" AMT tweeter to handle frequencies from 2.8 kHz to 8 kHz and a 1" AMT super tweeter to carry the air (everything above 8kHz). If you aren't familiar with AMT, it's basically a folded diaphragm that moves back and forth almost like an accordion. It's super quick, however, and it's low mass but wide surface area enables it to accurately reproduce frequencies far beyond the lower range of more conventional tweeters. There are only a handful of companies working with AMT drivers and it takes a lot of design and know-how to pull it off well. For example, Legacy folded a full 16 square inches of Kapton into the 4" long x 1" wide AMT tweeter chamber!

AMT air motion tweeters

Which brings me full circle back to the Legacy Focus SE (Silver Edition) speakers themselves. At around $9,650/pair they really need to be heard to be understood. You're not going to see measurements on these speakers and learn anything significant that you couldn't already presume. These speakers are not designed to some bland spec—they're voiced to the ears of chief designer, Bill Dudleston and they take the already well-regarded Focus speakers and customize them like a West Coast Chopper...except without all the glitz and cheese, and for a lot less money. When you talk about high end speakers like the Focus SE's, you're talking about something that is designed specifically to fill a need or to satisfy an itch for a product at a particular price point that can convey a sound that only the designer realized was lacking. Those of you who will be fortunate enough to listen to a pair may never know what was missing, but you'll most certainly be showered with the sonic benefits of the resulting solution nonetheless.

Legacy veneer up closeAnd the whole package is wrapped in a stunning enclosure that is part geometric marvel, part monolithic beauty. The towers really are imposing. After all, they house every one of those drivers on the front baffle. Our review sample came in a beautiful Rosewood finish whose baffle cuts inward from the bottom with an extruded trapezoidal pattern that belies its thickness (about 1" on the face). It's a nice way to break up what is still a rather large cabinet and give it some style. The top is pitched backwards ever so slightly so that invited guests won't be apt to set their drinks on it (seriously, though, if your guests put drinks on any of your speakers you really need some new friends). The grills also custom designed, though for the price I can't for the life of me figure out why they didn't utilize magnets or something a bit more fancy than breakable plastic pins. Everything else in the package is just stunningly beautiful.

Standard Finishes (included in $9,650 price):

  • Standard Natural Cherry

  • Standard Black Oak

  • Medium Oak

  • Walnut

Premium Finishes (add $800/pair)

  • Rosewood
  • Black Pearl

Exotic Finishes (add $1,250/pair)

  • Curly Maple

  • Exotic Birdseye Maple

  • Exotic Olive Ash Burl

Legacy Audio Finishes2

On the back you have a ginormous pair of bi-wirable, bi-ampable binding posts that can handle bare wire, pins or banana connectors, but spade lugs will have to be oversized (5/16") in order to work. Legacy makes some very nice cables that go well aesthetically with these speakers but they aren't inexpensive. Better than that, though, Legacy's user manual gives consumers a basic lessen in cable physics. It’s a good read, and I loved the frankness of it. Next to the binding posts you'll find two switches. These are trim toggles for decreasing either the Treble (10kHz shelf) by -2dB or the Bass (60Hz) by -2dB. one advantage of the Bass toggle is that is also raises the impedance response of the speaker slightly in the event you a powering it with a less powerful amplifier or receiver.

Legacy biwiring

Biwiring the Focus SE speakers with Kimber Kable 8VS wires

Legacy Audio Focus SE: Equipment Setup and the Listening Room

This is a scenario where the equipment behind the scenes lends a significant influence to the sound signature of the speakers and the overall enjoyment of the system. You're not going to want to power a system like the Focus SE's with an A/V receiver—even a higher-end one. It's not that the Legacy's aren't efficient enough to produce sound (they're rated at 95.4 dB@ 2.83V/1m, though that's an in-room measurement so it may be overstated compared to other speakers spec'd using the IEC method), but when you're dealing with the quality of drivers contained in those cabinets, you're going to want something with a ton of headroom to get the most out of them. We went with a pair of Emotiva XPA-1 monoblock amplifiers. For the preamp we used the new Emotiva XSP-1. The pairing resulted in a fully differential system that was balanced from input to output.

gear legacy Focus SE

A Sanus Euro Series AV Stand houses all of the equipment used for this review...and then some

I left the toggles mentioned earlier in their default positions and bi-wired the Focus SE's with two pairs of Kimber Kable 8VS cables. The company helped me with the selection and suggested a configuration with both spades and bananas on one side and just bananas on the other. This gave me a lot of flexibility in my wiring options. I have to admit, however, that part of the reason I bi-wired these speakers was because I was using the aforementioned XPA-1 mono block amplifiers. Emotiva mounted the positive and negative speaker terminals a full 13" apart! Bi-wiring allowed me to connect both of the negative terminals and both of the positive terminals of the amp in pairs.

trim controls

For sources I chose the well-regarded Oppo BDP-95 for SACD, DVD-Audio and Blu-ray and a Logitech Transporter for my computer-sourced FLAC files. Everything I utilized was plugged into the Emotiva XSP-1 two-channel preamp using XLR cables from Blue Jeans and sent onward through a fully differential balanced system.

Is this the only setup that would bring the Legacy Audio Focus SE's to life? Absolutely not. I can think of several other products that would have done the system justice, though I wasn't able to test out other configurations for this review. The Classé CP-800 processor and a CA-2300 would have been perfect. Or Pass Labs' XP-10 with an X150.5 stereo amplifier. In either case, the Emotiva's were on-hand and, as we would have expected, they did fantastic work. We just wish we could have racked up another Sanus Euro Series AV rack and done some A-B comparison testing. I'm certain that would have opened up the floodgates of possibility even further.

For positioning, I toed in the loudspeakers moderately and was seated in more or less a far field listening position about 13 feet away from the Focus speakers. At this distance the speakers have some room to image properly and, according to Legacy, they are really designed and optimized for a longer throw than your typical small tower or even bookshelf speaker. I did move them around a tiny bit in my setup phase, but after doing so, quickly realized that it was mostly to taste and there was no way to communicate what I had done in a way that would be helpful to others. Just make sure you give yourself ample space, and my recommendation is to try and keep the Legacy speakers away from side walls.

Legacy Audio Focus SE: Listening Tests & Evaluation

A review is nothing without listening tests, and so it begins. I have to say, though, I didn't just listen little bit. What I've written here represents a scant 1% of the time I've spent listening to these speakers. This is a case where I don't have to listen—I want to. The Focus SE's have a lot going for them, but above all they are simply wonderful on the ears. Without spoiling the review further, I'll let you read my thoughts on some selected pieces.

BD: Albert lee - Tearing it up

Get it at AIX Records

albert lee BDThis is yet another great AIX Records album featuring some intense but rockin' guitar work and the voice of Albert Lee. The band has a sort of Eagles flavor-at least on some of the tracks, like "Hangin' On". Randle Currie's pedal steel guitar sounded great on these towers, particularly with respect to how much energy was produced by the mid-tweeter combination that didn't seem edgy or forward in the least. This track has come across as being a tad harsh on some speakers that claim stiffer cone materials but didn't properly voice the system to compensate.

Amidst this perfect blend of guitars, male vocals and piano was the gentle decay of Don Heffington's cymbal crashes and the steady hi-hat that he maintained throughout the entire track. What kept me riveted was the cohesiveness of everything. I mean, we're integrating a pair of 12" subs with a pair of 7" mids and essentially an additional two-way air motion transducer system. It shouldn't blend this seamlessly, should it? And yet it did. It blended wonderfully and, despite my best attempts, I simply couldn't discern any breakup or harshness around the crossover regions. If I had to come up with a word to describe what I was hearing it would have to be "true" or "honest". There is a very natural and authentic characteristic to these speakers that brings out the live experience in recorded music.

Albert Lee playing

On "Dimming of the Day", Alexandra Lee's guest vocals were slightly forward in the mix, but with none of the dynamic harshness I've heard when playing this track on speakers with conventional tweeter/mid combinations. It was almost as if the Focus SE's were more tolerant of these punctuated dynamics-a characteristic I found exceptionally desirable at elevated listening levels.

BD: AC Timba Jazz - Neurosis

Get it at AIX Records

AC Timba Jazz Neurosis BDAC Timba Jazz is named for its blending of Afro-Cuban rhythms, Timba, and Contemporary jazz. This album, from AIX Records, features just four tracks, but a full 47 minutes of music. There are no lyrics, so it's sax, piano, bass, congas and drums with no effects boxes, no compression, and no frills. I love every second of it.

The title track features a piano-led rhythmic free-form that, at times, gives way to beautiful sax solos (courtesy of Javier Vergara) and wildly Cuban-influenced congas by Joey De Leon. Since AIX Records produced this high resolution disco with pristine HD video, I was able to watch as I listened. Near the end of the first track I thought Joey was going to lose the congas, his hands moving so fast the limited frame rate of the TV couldn't keep up. On the Focus SE speakers, the congas, which were mic'ed nearfield with four separate condensers, put forth all of the punchy fullness of the strikes, while the fingered rimshots rang generously from the AMT tweeters. There was something about these speakers and percussion. I wanted more. And I knew where to get it.

AC Timba Jazz aerial

Japanese Taiko Drums

Japanese Taiko drums"Explosive" is how I would describe this track. Whereas it decimates smaller speakers and most headphones, the Legacy Audio Focus SEs wouldn't bottom out no matter how hard I drove my reference Emotiva XPA-1 monoblock amplifiers-and I really messed with the gain-staging to try. This track has that deep, resonant tympanic ringing you only get from a solid leather-skinned drum. And some of these drums are over four feet in diameter! Add to that the sheer volume of drums, and the corresponding rimshots and stick work and you're exercising a healthy chunk of the frequency response these speakers can handle.

I was impressed by the dynamic range of the Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers. There's no doubt that they were designed to handle a track like this, which had the dynamics of a symphony orchestra, but the simplicity of a string quartet. Complimenting the deep sub-40Hz bass hits were punctuations of the smaller tsukeshime-daiko drums and rapid strikes of the bachi against each other and the sides of the one-piece taiko shells. Altogether, the presented soundstage was incredibly vast, with reverberations rolling into the room from the mids that almost defied the room acoustics of my listening space, replacing it with its own.

Legacy Audio Focus SE: Conclusion and Recommendations

So where do we go from here? Well, if you listen to a lot of speakers or if you're looking for an upgrade in this price range, then you really need to track down a dealer and give these a listen. At this level you're comparing the Legacy Focus SE's with speakers on the north and south side of $10,000, so it's a big decision—and one that gives you a lot of choices...though not as many as there used to be. High end audio is becoming more and more of a selective group. The selections are getting constrained as the economy squeezes out those who aren’t equipped to weather the storm. While that's certainly weeded out a lot of the amateurs, it's also left consumers with much harder choices on the remaining selections.

Legacy beauty shot

As for the Focus SE in particular, well, the combining of super-deep bass response with delicate and refined mids and upper frequencies really did surprise me—and I think it will surprise you too. The legacy speakers don't sound "flat". That's too unkind of a word and I don't think it's even accurate. They are dynamic but tame. They reach down low, into both your gut and your soul and they lift something out you may not even had realized was there. For me, they just make me want to listen...for hours and hours.

And when it all boils down to it—isn't that the point?

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 QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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