When Dolby Atmos for the home was first introduced, options were limited and the cost of entry was high. You needed and expensive AVR and very few options when it came to speakers with Atmos-enabled capability built-in. Now, the cost of entry for an Atmos-enabled system is lower and the choice of systems is much wider. With its new Sib Evo 5.1.2 speaker system ($1299), French speaker maker Focal offers up a complete, affordable home theater speaker system in one box. The company chose CE Week 2017 in NYC to announce its newest offering, and right now I’m headed to the show.
While Focal is demoing its system at CE Week, I already have insights into its performance. Focal was kind enough to send a 5.1.2 Sib Evo system for me to check out before its official introduction, so rather than report on what I hear at the show, I can now share how they performed in my home.. So, without further ado, here’s the first look at this new, compact, high-performance 5.1.2 3D immersive audio speaker system.
This is a complete 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker system comprised of five satellites and a sub. All five speakers are 2-way designs with a 5″ woofer and 0.75″ dome tweeter. Two of the speakers are larger than the rest, these have integrated up-firing 3″ full-range drivers for Atmos.
The frequency response of the speakers is specified at 65 Hz to 25 kHz for the front channels (-6 dB at 60 Hz) and 90 Hz to 20 kHz for the Atmos channels (-6 dB at 75 Hz). These are 6 ohm speakers that handle up to 200 watts of power with 90 dB sensitivity. The compact, curved enclosures have integrated soft rubber feet. The kit also comes with two wall brackets for mounting the surround speakers.
Focal’s Atmos-enabled system comes with a compact subwoofer, the Cub Evo. It offer 35 Hz to 150 Hz response (-6 dB is 30 Hz) and sports what the manual says is an 8″ driver. I took a ruler to it and in reality it’s 8″ if you include the rubber surround and the lip of the basket. It’s approximately a 6″ sub if you measure the cone conventionally.
Today (July 12, 2017) is the day Focal officially announced this system. I’ve only had a few hours to play with it, but so far I’m pleased with this elevated take on a Dolby Atmos-enabled home theater in a box. As I type this, I am on a train headed to CE Week where I’ll meet up with Focal and discuss my first impressions, which I’ve shared here.
What’s obvious is Focal’s expertise in speakers has resulted in a system that looks and sounds very good for the price, is easy on the eye, fits into tight spaces, and plays louder than you’d expect given its size. What’s more, it delivers what I’d call the “signature” Focal sound, which is forward and includes lots of treble detail.
The subwoofer is a tiny little thing, at least compared to the subs I’m used to. Given its size and the system’s cost, it does a good job. But, it’s impossible to build a compact ported sub that also digs deep. So, Focal concentrates on bass from 35 Hz on up. The bass it creates is clean and tight, it’s just not covering the bottom-most octave. These days, premium soundbars are coming with subs of equal capability.
I get that someone planning to buy a kit like this is probably trying to save space as well as money, and likely is looking to keep things simple. On the plus side, Focal’s Cub Evo appeared to be immune to chuffing, and I never heard it distort. However, the Sib Evo satellite speakers are quite capable, and they pair well with more powerful subwoofer systems. The tried out the Sib Evos with dual JL Audio F112s and I can testify that the switch transformed it into something that kicked a lot more ass. Anyhow, enough about the sub.
As far as Atmos systems go, Focal’s Sib Evo system keeps things simple, compact, and stylish. Crucially, after running Audyssey on the SR7010 AVR I used to run the system, I liked what I heard. Room correction took away a bit of the bright edge that I’ve always associated with Focal. The result was neutral, dynamic, clear, detailed, and engaging.
Quick and dirty measurements showed performance that closely mirrored published specs. And the all-important Atmos-enabled speakers are well designed, the Sib Evo’s enclosure provides a deep waveguide for the full-range driver that focuses the sound so it bounces off the ceiling.
I was particularly impressed with how well these speakers image. I configured the AVR for 2.1.2 operation and listened to the Atmos-enabled Sib Evos on their own. The result was a totally transparent soundstage where the speakers completely disappeared and every sound was precisely defined in terms of location and dimension. In hearing this system, I was quickly reminded that Focal makes both high-end audiophile gear and studio monitors.
There’s plenty that still needs to be covered, like watching a movie or two, and taking some more measurements. I’ve only had a few hours to play with it. Ultimately, I’ll update this post and make it into a full review. But first… CE Week!
I heard a demo of the 5.1.2 Sib Evo system—identical to the one I am reviewing here—at CE Week. The Atmos height effect is very clear and effective, but while watching a clip from Everest, the sub either clipped or bottomed out. It reinforces my feeling that the satellites outperform the sub. But, I did confirm that Focal was thinking about customers who want as compact a system as possible when they put it together. The story here is not that the sub is too small, it’s that the satellites are very capable.