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Focal Chora 806 Loudspeaker: Review

Are the Focal Chora 806 one of the best loudspeakers available below $1,000? If you’re on a budget, these need to be on your list.

Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers on stands in darkwood finish

Have you had regrets about a product after sending it back? I feel that way about the Focal Chora 806 Loudspeakers and probably need to buy myself a pair before the end of 2022; one never knows where they are going to be long-term and my bedroom system could certainly use something that screams French to lift the Canadian coldness that exists.

Was that a dig against my homeland? Indeed it was.

Not that the Jersey Shore is a cultural hotbed either, but it is far more interesting than the drab Canadian concrete jungle where I was raised.

Part of my European DNA includes over 130 years of French ancestry; most were murdered by the Nazis but those that survived provided me with the opportunity to experience Paris and the south of France more than a few times.

Three Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers in darkwood, lightwood and black finishes on shelf

My sister married a Sephardic Jew from Paris and he has brought more than a few wonderful customs and eccentricities to our family. French culture is an acquired taste, but Paris is a remarkable city when the weather is warm, the cafes are full, and the world isn’t in such a bad state. The French can be frustrating and somewhat self-centered, but they do make lovely things and they care about beauty.

That aspect of the French is what makes their audio components decidedly different.

Every nation has its own way of doing things and that mentality or culture influences the products that it manufactures. That certainly applies to a lot of the audio equipment that exists today. Focal is a giant in the world of loudspeaker design and one of the best-known brands produced in France; the familial connection to Naim Audio only solidifies its global market presence and increases the number of places where consumers can listen to a product like the Focal Chora 806 bookshelf loudspeaker.

We paid a visit to the new Focal Powered by Naim Houston location and found the concept intriguing.

Focal powered by Naim Headphone Station
Focal and Naim Headphone Listening Station, Houston, Texas

The French-British connection is an interesting one because the cultural differences are quite large in some areas.

Fortunately, the Naim-Focal marriage has produced a lot of world-class sounding products so far. 

Focal is part of a growing French family of high-end audio manufacturers which includes brands like Devialet, Triangle, Jadis, YBA, Metronome, Lavardin, Audiomeca, and others.

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French audio equipment has a particular aesthetic that I rather like; the industrial design isn’t overly busy with too many knobs and buttons (Devialet and Lavardin) and the loudspeaker design is clean and modern looking without too much unnecessary adornment. 

If anything, the finishes offered by Focal on its more expensive loudspeakers make me scared to touch them out of fear of damaging the cabinet. They look and feel very expensive. Like finely crafted furniture. 

The stuff that your parents forbade you from touching as a kid because “you break, you buy.”

Le diable est dans les détails

The Chora 806 are part of larger group of affordable loudspeakers from Focal that have instant appeal; they are well made, modern and clean looking, and the sound quality does not suck. 

Did I just write that? 

I did. I’ve wanted to write that in a review for over 23 years and held back out of the knowledge that it would be considered crude. 

Under the current circumstances that we find ourselves, I’m going to be somewhat French. 

Because it’s in my blood. 

Focal makes excellent loudspeakers. 

Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers on stands in lightwood finish
Focal Chora 806 on stands in Light Wood Finish

There is also a growing trend with bookshelf loudspeakers that I rather like that involves making them as full range sounding as possible without the need for a full-sized floor standing enclosure.

People have these crazy things called children. Who touch things they shouldn’t because they are positioned in such a way that invites touching.

Sous la capuche…

The Chora 806 are front-ported two-way bookshelf loudspeakers that can be set-up close to the wall on a media unit or credenza if that reality applies to you and your room. 

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Can they disappear in the room if you position them on the optional 21” (which is on the short side for stands) tilted stands? 

Yes. 

Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers in lightwood finish profile and rear views
Focal Chora 806 Rear and Profile View on Tilted Stands

For the most part, they create a wall of sound that is positioned slightly forward of the baffle.

Do they vanish like a pair of planar or electrostatic loudspeakers? 

Not so much. 

It’s a more grounded experience with spatial outlines that are clearly defined and with the knowledge that the music is coming out of a box. 

The cabinet is a sturdy affair that feels extremely inert (17 pounds each) and is 16” H x 8” W x 10” D. 

Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers in darkwood finish with and without grilles
Focal Chora 806 in Dark Wood Finish

The satin-finish wood-grain veneer looks very sleek (Black, Dark Wood, Light Wood) and Focal gets top marks for front baffles that visually compliment the choice of veneers. The Blue-Gray front baffle on the Dark Wood (walnut) version makes them the focal point of any room where they are set-up. Leave the speaker grilles (which only cover the 6.5-inch woofer) in the box. 

The Chora 806 are rated at 89dB (8 ohms) which is rather efficient for a bookshelf loudspeaker, but they do dip down to 4.6 ohms so I would take the sensitivity rating with the knowledge that they do benefit from some power. 

Focal suggests 25-120 watts as a range of power when considering choice of amplifier but my listening experience determined that something like the Naim Uniti Atom that puts out 40 watts is the right way to go as a starting point; even though there is a considerable difference between the price of the two products.

But what about the drivers? 

Focal built its reputation with its Beryllium tweeters; it is one of the most expensive materials to work with and the “house” sound that has entranced a lot of customers and members of the press over the years has focused on that aspect of the designs. Because of the cost, the Chora line-up utilizes a 1” Aluminum/Magnesium inverted dome tweeter instead and my ears tell me that it was a wise choice.

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Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers in darkwood finish closeup

The Chora 806 offers a really pleasant balance in the upper frequencies and I doubt too many will find the loudspeaker to be hyperdetailed or bright sounding at all. You get all of the extension and detail that you need and nothing more. 

The 6.5” Slatefiber midbass driver is manufactured from recycled non-woven carbon fibers and it is extremely rigid. The construction aids both the speed and impact of the midrange and bass information. 

Parce que nous avons besoin de belles choses

I spent most of my time with the Chora 806 driving it with the Naim Uniti Atom, NAD C 316BEE, and Cambridge Audio AXA35 integrated amplifiers. All 3 drove the Focal bookshelf loudspeaker to sufficiently loud listening levels in both my home office system and bedroom. Both rooms are on the large side (both are over 400 square feet) and at no time did I feel that the Chora 806 was running out of gas in such large spaces.

I would also recommend the Cambridge Audio CXA61 or Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifiers are solid options with the Chora 806.

Streaming Freddie Hubbard and McCoy Tyner through Qobuz revealed that Focal really knows how to get the most out of a tweeter – regardless of price. Horns can illuminate a lot of issues and the Chora 806 proved to be more than just a capable transducer; it made me listen to one album after another and well past my bedtime that was completely skewed by the pandemic.

The early riser in me is running on the beach at 5 a.m., but that never stopped me from turning on the system around sunrise and enjoying some music while I make my boiled water with lemon and feed the dog.

The past 5 months have been rough on the mental health side; I’ve also lost more than 40 pounds and barely tip the scales now at 200 pounds. Music has been very important to me over the past months.

Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers on stands in black finish
Focal Chora 806 in Black Finish on Tilted Stands

If there was one area where I found the Chora 806 to be weaker, it would be in the lower registers. 

Bass notes lacked some heft as I pushed the loudspeaker harder with Metallica, Kraftwerk, and Tool. 

The Chora 806 put more emphasis on speed and definition which worked fine with jazz, chamber music, and pop – but it didn’t blow my socks off when I cranked heavy metal or demanding electronica. The visceral impact wasn’t quite there below 50 Hz. 

Vocals are well served by the Chora 806; Jason Isbell, Sam Cooke, and Gillian Welch all offer very different styles, and I found the loudspeaker very adept with each of them. The Chora 806 may not deliver the midrange resolution of the Magnepan LRS or openness of the Acoustic Energy AE1, but there was an engagement factor that kept my attention for hours late at night while I worked. 

Those moments when you look up from your screen and connect with some singer on the other end while the rest of the universe is sleeping. 

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Not enough of those moments in 2022 where a lot of evil continues to persist across the globe and I have to worry about my eldest making it to the bomb shelter in Israel and my father who is fighting the brave fight against Parkinson’s.

The Chora 806 reminded me of better days spent in Paris in the 1990s. Record shopping with my brother in-law, exploring the Left Bank, and learning to sit in a café, enjoy a galette, and observe all of the beauty before me.

We could all use more of that right now.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Paolo

    February 7, 2022 at 10:01 am

    Hello Sir.
    thank you again for an excellent review.
    Since these loudspeakers cost a lot less here in Europe (around 560 € /pair) I was wondering how do they play paired with more price-appropriate equipment.
    You mentioned that both the AXA35 and the C316bee had no problem driving these power-wise, but what about sound matching? which of them would be a good partner for a variety of uses and music genres?

    I’m building a system from scratch, so I want something easy and enjoyable to listen to.

    • Ian White

      February 7, 2022 at 12:25 pm

      Paolo,

      The NAD is too neutral for the Focal Chora 806; I think the top end would become tiring after awhile.

      I would go with something a tad warmer like a Cambridge CXA61 which also has more power. Definitely a combination worth auditioning at a dealer.

      I also wonder about trying the Rega Brio with it.

      Best,
      Ian White

  2. Mike

    August 16, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Nice review, I even managed some of my old high school french learned north of Brampton.

    How would you compare the 806 to the Sonus faber Lumina 1?

    Cheers,

    • Ian White

      August 16, 2022 at 9:07 pm

      Mike,

      Bathurst and Eglinton français for me.

      That’s an excellent question.

      The Lumina 1 has a richer sounding midrange for sure and the low end has more impact. The midrange on the SF is excellent.

      The Chora 806 is more open sounding, detailed, and slightly more transparent. The Focal has a livelier treble but that’s the case with all of their speakers.

      I really like the industrial design of the Chora more after time spent with both. It shocks me to say that because I love Italian speakers, but the Chora in blue looks amazing.

      Best,
      Ian White

  3. Mike

    August 17, 2022 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks Ian,
    I tried all winter to find the Lumina in stock and was about ready to get the 806 when a pair of Lumina’s turned up at a used store (story is they were a review pair with Jeff Dorgay and Sonus modified the cross over).
    They match well with a TZero sub, maybe it’s time to expand my speaker collection though.
    Think a tube integrated would tame the treble?

  4. John

    September 1, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Hello Ian

    Thanks for the review! How would you compare the Chora 806 to the JBL L52?

    After much research, I’ve narrowed my options down to those 2 (especially given their similar price).

    • Ian White

      September 4, 2022 at 7:11 pm

      John,

      I have not had the opportunity to hear the JBL yet so it’s impossible for me to comment.

      I do think the Focal are very underrated speakers for the price which is now under $800 USD.

      I would not drive the Focal with anything too dark or warm sounding unless you want an Uber smooth ride. A more neutral sounding amplifier might be a better match long-term.

      Best,

      Ian White

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