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Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Loudspeaker: Review

You don’t need to speak french to hear how good a pair of $990 bookshelf speakers sound.

Focal Chora 806 Bookshelf Speakers on stands in darkwood finish

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.

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.

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.”

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

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 20 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. 

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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. 

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


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. 

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 – do we even have a bedtime anymore during COVID? 

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. 

Not enough of those moments in 2021. 

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 just observe. 

We could all more of that right now.

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