Published on March 17th, 2014 | by Greg0
Focal XS Book Wireless Speakers Step Beyond Wireless
Yesterday, we checked out a two-in-one system that combined portable wireless with a larger stationary system. And we mentioned that it can be hard for manufacturers to find new territory to cover when it comes to speaker systems, now that docks have gone the way of the 30-pin connector. Many people already have an Airplay system, or a Sonos setup, or a home theater system, so it can take something pretty compelling to push it’s way into a crowded field.
Focal’s XS Book Wireless isn’t afraid of the challenge. You might not have heard of the brand before- they are an audiophile brand with serious history that has recently started entering the broader consumer market with some competitive products. We checked out the Focal Spirit headphones last year, and were impressed with their build quality and bold audio chops. And the XS Book Wireless follow in the path of some of our favorite higher-end bookshelf and desktop computer speakers like the Audioengine A2+ or the Monitor Airstream WS100s, but go beyond as well, being perfectly capable of sitting alongside your television, or bringing some amazing range and operatic treble to the place you’re probably watching and listening to more and more content- your laptop or PC. They are a category killer in some ways, breaking the barriers between the living room and the bedroom and the office, happy in just about any mid-size room.
We’ve been testing them out with our Macbook Air running Netflix and Hulu, connected to desktops running games like Company of Heroes 2 and Diablo III, and comparing them head to head with other speakers and systems. The results are pretty simple. If you have the space, want Bluetooth wireless for occasional mobile connection, and appreciate great audio with no subwoofer needed, then you should do your ears a favor and listen to the Focal XS Book Wireless speakers. They utilize the apt-X Bluetooth implementation, a protocol that allows for much higher quality wireless streaming, if your device supports it (though any device with Bluetooth will also work normally). And they sound best, as do almost every set of speakers, when wired via the RCA or 3.5 mm auxiliary input. Powered by a 20W-per-channel amp, the 19mm aluminium dome tweeters and 10cm polyglass mid/bass drivers look great when covered or unveiled. Slightly angled up, they’re narrow for desk use, but quite high- a bit imposing in fact in most places and compared to most computer speakers.
The key word is grand: their physical stature matches their audio signature, with initial impressions that left listeners with their eyebrows raised. Volume, sure, but also power- depth and vibrato and a very full, rounded sound that doesn’t do much to mask imperfections with many digital files and calls out for higher bitrate, FLAC versions. Most pop music and some rock ends up sounding a bit flat and a little hollow, but through on jazz or classical or opera and it’s like having a concert hall on your desk. Bass, though, has less power than we wanted to hear- the pings of a cymbal are fantastic and sharp, but the thrums of a deep bass are a bit less so. They feel well-built, a premium product, with a little flash in the curved design and plenty of weight. That said, they are also quite pricey- and for this price tag, if you don’t need or plan to use the wireless capabilities, you can probably find slightly better bass. As a combo wireless system and desktop/bookshelf/apartment media center system, they leave little to be desired though. The Focal XS Book Wireless offer detail and a great soundstage, and are available now for around $399 online and in stores.