What do Timbaland, Steve Aoki and the Abbey Road Studios have in common? No, they’re not making an album together (although that would be a cool collaboration), they are in fact, using one of the world’s craziest-sounding speakers – the Focal SM9.
These monitor speakers aren’t even the crazy big ones that used to dominate top recording studios around the world but these 12.8” x 19.6” x 15.6” speakers does the same if not a better job than their large archaic counterparts.
Hey, if Abbey Road Studios (you know where the Beatles so famously recorded most of their albums) opted to change their speakers to the SM9 and found it good, then you better believe these babies are worth your ear drums.
The guys from Egghead Audiohub in Shangri-La will be carrying the various Focal speakers and they decided to showcase the range starting with the SM9. We were able to test these and suffice to say, we were spoiled beyond imagination.
To start off, the 2 monitor speakers was placed inside an almost 15-18 square feet acoustic listening room. We were about 6-8 feet away from the speakers and when the guys from Egghead Audiohub played some soothing jazz tunes, maaaan, we felt like the singer was literally right in front of us. The sound is so dynamic that even with just 2 speakers it simulates a surround audio feel. It’s crazy!
Bass is deep but not shattering (even when we played good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll tunes), mids are solid and profile is clean. You hear every instrument of every pluck that the musician placed in the recording.
When we moved to Daft Punk’s 2013 masterpiece, Giorgio by Moroder, a tear almost fell. During the last quarter of the song when the disc scratch crescendos with the synthesizers and bass pops, I was literally grabbing on to my seat. It was thaaat good. THIS! This is how music is supposed to be listened to.
Check this short clip we compiled out. (Take note the sound represented here does the FOCAL SM9 injustice as we were just capturing audio from our native camera. No special mics. But listen to how vivid the profile still is.)
The Focal SM9 utilizes 2 monitor speakers in one can. Meaning one case has 2 varying speakers in it. The unit consists of a 3-way and a 2-way monitor which gives you more dynamic range. The SM9 is also equipped with a built-in class AB amplifier which, according to the brochure “which along with the high frequency response curve, ensure great precision and faithful dynamics of low-level audio signals”.
There are more technical nuances that the machine has to offer that still baffles me. For a complete spec sheet, I suggest hitting up their official website.
It follows that if your input is crap, no matter how good your speakers are, you won’t be able to get the full audio immersion that the artist would have wanted you to have. That’s the reason why music aficionados opt for FLAC lossless audio as their file of choice. But what happens when you feed the Focal SM9’s with the lowly mp3 file? Friends, it still comes out exceptionally beautiful.
Direk Juno Oebanda and Focal Philippines-Pro Audio Head Mickey Tang had us listen to Dave Matthew and Tim Reynold’s #41, the acoustic version live at Luther College. The SM9 gave the song such clarity to the point that you can pinpoint where either Dave Matthews of Tim Reynold’s (I think it was Tim) plucked the wrong string. It’s that clear and precise. And yes, it was an mp3 file. A compressed MP3 File!
One of the great things about the SM9 is you can preset it so it can have varying sound profiles. It has a focus button allowing the sound to come in closer for a more intimate experience. This is ideal if you hooked your monster speakers to, say, you’re laptop and you want to listen to tunes while working on it.
So is music the only thing you can do with these monitor speakers? Well, no. But because of the price, the SM9 is usually the choice picks of seasoned musicians and/or producers looking to upgrade or build their recording studio. A speaker would cost around Php 190,000++ per piece! You need at least 2 to be able to enjoy the fullness of the audio quality.
We did ponder on hooking this up on a PS4 and play a couple of Overwatch or DOOM, even. 😀 We’ll let you guys know if that prospect ever materializes. For now, you can check out the Focal range of speakers at Egghead Audiohub in Shangri-La Mall, Ortigas. I believe they’re swapping the SM9’s this week with the more affordable range (which is still quite expensive). For more info, head over to Egghead Audiohub and Focal’s FB Pages.