The Focal Sopra 2s I had in my last home were so sexy that the buyer made me include them in the sale of the home. Don’t write them off as a mere conversation piece, though. I would compare their performance to much pricier speakers such as the Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond S4 and Wilson’s current Sasha DAW (the modern equivalent of their legendary WATT Puppy),both of which are priced in the mid-$30,000 range. Focal are very likely the most technically advanced speakers made in France. Do they bring the performance and value to the table for music lovers in the rest of the world? Let’s find out.
What Makes the Focal Sopra No. 2 Loudspeakers Special?
- The build quality of the speakers is second to none. Internally, there are bracing technologies that create an incredibly strong and rigid internal structure. The frames of these speakers are simply amazing.
- Focal’s made-in-France drivers are legendary for their performance and quality. Their 6.5-inch “W” cone midrange driver is mounted at the top and angled a little towards the listener. The Focal Sopra No. 2s have a pair of similar seven-inch drivers lower in the floorstanding cabinet that can get pretty low but are more notably “fast” sounding or responsive, to use a slightly more mainstream term. Focal’s tweeter is where the company made its bones a generation ago (if not longer) and today their IHL Beryllium tweeter is lively but never harsh sounding. I mean never, and I have abused them playing them far too loud and listening to many a poor-quality recording.
- The stock external finishes on the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers are simply gorgeous—perhaps as pretty as any speaker made in the world today. There are now light oak and painted (think: high end automotive paint) options. There are darker colors. White was my chosen option and they looked so, so slick. Black. Blue. They’ve got a lot of colors and, like many other speakers in their category, Focal will also paint them any color you like as long as you are talking about the Utopia line of speakers
- The fact that the speakers sit on a “plinth” or platform make them even more valuable, as I’ve got a new little guy crawling around and I’d really rather he didn’t pull a pair of heavy speakers down on his head. The Sopra No. 2s are rock solid when installed despite their prodigious weight.
- The hardware on the speakers is nicely polished and downright drool-worthy. You just can’t find a more put-together, elegant speaker at any price. All of the little parts, be it the feet, the speaker connectors, and even the Focal emblem on the front of the speakers are installed and presented in a way that screams First Class.
- The grills on the Focal Sopra No. 2 perfectly integrate a sunken circle and oval to cover the drivers. This is just yet another touch of elegance.
- The Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers are easy to drive with a sensitivity of 91 dB. I owned an earlier pair of Focal Diablo Utopias (gorgeous bookshelf speakers on rock-solid stands) and these big towers are even easier to drive. I paired the old Focals with a Pass Labs XA 30.5 (now it is the XA 30.8) which is one of Nelson’s Class-A amps that sounds like (some of us think better than) tubes but draws a ton of power from the wall to make such a luscious sound. Past that 30-Watt mark, the amp goes into a more traditional Class-AB mode and puts out upwards of 200 watts more of power for peaks. Rest assured, that you can power Focal Sopra No. 2s with any amp that you like. You don’t have to break the bank on one, or you could be fully justified going with a world class amp. The choice is yours.
- While I am presenting the Focal Sopra No. 2 in an audiophile venue, they simply rock in a home theater setup. I had them in a 13.2, object-based surround system with a matching Focal center speaker and they crushed movie soundtracks. Netflix just bought the brand-new movie theater in the “village” of my part of Los Angeles after COVID-19 business model issues. Before the pandemic, movie tickets were $28 each and you could get (for quite a price, I might add) a rack of lamb or a “few fingers” of Macallan 18 delivered to your reclining leather chair that had a newly-cleaned, accompanying casimire blanket. You wanna know what? My Focal theater sonically thrashed the large-format JBL system in that cost-no-object theater. (And Macallan 18 is cheaper at home.)
Why Should You Care About the Focal Sopra No. 2 Speakers?
If you are looking for the type of speaker that will make you forget about buying your next loudspeaker upgrade, then you’ve endeavored upon the right transducers. There are bigger speakers, including ones from Focal like the Sopra No. 3s. There are more exotic speakers that you can see at any audiophile consumer show worldwide. There are certainly more expensive speakers, but there might not be a better overall performing speaker than Focal Sopra No. 2s. You need to know what they sound like even if you have to sell blood (don’t knock it, you might get a free doughnut and some extra audio cash) for years to come in order to own a pair. Focal Sopra No. 2 are speakers that you need to seek out for a demo be it at a dealer or at a regional audiophile show.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Focal Sopra No. 2
- The form factor of the Focal Sopra No. 2 is decisively modern, which suits my eye perfectly but might not fit into a truly traditional interior as easily. I give Focal a lot of credit for making their speakers in more varied and designer finishes. There are more traditional wood finishes and subtler, Midwest-friendly looks too. And don’t forget you can go custom and make the Focal speakers feel at home—no matter what the décor again as long as we are talking about the Utopia line.
- You don’t “need” a subwoofer with these speakers, since they boast a frequency response of 34Hz to 40kHz and useful bass extension down to 28Hz. But they do still benefit from adding a sub. Taking some of the low-frequency duties away from the tower speakers makes them easier to position, and lets you put your bass-makers where they’ll best energize the room.
Listening to the Focal Sopra No. 2 Floorstanding Speakers…
“Rio” from Duran Duran’s most critically acclaimed 1982 album was a blast to listen to on the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers (CD Resolution AIFF 1440). John Taylor’s bassline is all over the place in this well-crafted, Miami Vice-level ’80s pop classic and the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers just laugh at the challenge. Even at concert-loud SPLs, the superior Focal tweeters never give up the ghost and get bright.
On Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” from the CD Original Musicquarium Disc 2 (again at 1440 AIFF Compact Disc resolution) you got a better sense of how the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers image and create a believable musical presentation. The bouncy bassline again sounds great on this classic Stevie Wonder track, but it is the little things, like the tightness of how the snare sounded or how the funky little guitar chops resolve themselves, that make the difference. The Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers handle detail like few other speakers. Spend $80,000 or $100,000 plus and you might not get better sound, just a speaker that might play a little louder or go a bit deeper. But then again, I go real deep with a 13.5-inch monster sub for well under $2,000.
A new 2023 Ferrari Purosangue drives better on premium high-octane fuel and so do the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers. A good example of that is the title track from most recent Foo Fighters record, Medicine at Midnight (CD quality 1440 AIFF). The rich backup vocals layered beautifully in this solid, modern rock and roll track in a nearly intoxicating way when listening to the Focal Sopra No. 2s. The amount of space that is presented on the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers on this new-school mix will leave you transfixed.
Just like you can pour a handle of cheap bottle of vodka or a few gallons of spent French fry grease into your 1981 300 SD “Turbo Diesel” Mercedes and it will drive you clear across the state over 40 years since leaving the factory, the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers also shine on older, lesser recordings. One that caught my attention in a recent listening session was “Sara Smile” from Hall & Oates’ Greatest Rock’n Soul Part 1 (AIFF 1440 CD resolution). This Philly-soul track has a lot of space and a warm analog sound. The vibes ring through beautifully on the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers even considering the age of the recording. The all-important strings sound lush and engaging (perhaps not the way you will hear on a modern, all-digital track using the best recording equipment today) on the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers. Anything goes well with these speakers; I don’t care what your musical tastes are.
- Read Bob Barrett’s review of the $7,450 per pair Bowers & Wilkins Signature S2 Speakers on FutureAudiophile.com
- Check out Jerry Del Colliano’s review of the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Speakers from FutureAudiophile.com
Does The Focal Sopra No. 2 Loudspeakers Have Any Resale Value?
They sure as hell do have resale value. The guy who bought my house made their inclusion an actual contingency of the sale of my home. Focal also has over 600 dealers in North America and aggressively markets their brand, supports their dealers, and builds an incredibly high-quality product that is often less expensive at retail than others that the Focal speakers compete with. All of these factors make them a pretty safe audiophile investment.
Who Is the Competition For The Focal Sopra No. 2 Loudspeakers?
Wilson Audio’s Sasha DAW is the one of the best comparisons in the audiophile market today. Priced at a whopping $37,900 today, this was the basic form factor of speaker that I sold dozens of early in my life in the mid-1990s, when they cost $12,300 per pair. Today’s speakers from Wilson in the “WATT Puppy” style no longer use Focal tweeters, but do come in gorgeous, painted-in-Utah custom finishes. They are also pretty easy to drive but maybe not as much as in the old days. The Wilson Audio Sasha DAW speakers also have a modern aesthetic like Focals. All Wilson Audio speakers benefit from dense, amazingly non-resonant cabinets. They don’t suck. I know because I’ve owned five pairs of them. They just cost nearly twice the price of the Focal Sopra No. 2.
Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4 Speakers ($38,000 per pair) in terms of build quality remind me as much of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner as a loudspeaker. Andy Kerr and his team in the U.K. just rock out on each and every detail, resulting in both audiophile respect and a pro audio legacy that lands Bowers & Wilkins speakers into places like Skywalker Ranch or Abbey Road Studios. 801 D4s are bad-ass. They are a little more sonically conservative, but you sure as hell aren’t missing anything with these speakers pointed at your head. They are a little more challenging to drive than Focals. The Bowers come in gorgeous stock finishes and at the 800 level, they also can be custom painted or finished like Focals, Wilson Audio speakers, MartinLogans, and many others.
There are many worthy players in the space. Magico makes a finely crafted speaker with a great cabinet and a wonderful sound. Former Bowers & Wilkins designer Lawrence Dickey’s new Vivid Audio, is a more new-school player with very aggressive industrial design, a killer cabinet, and pretty good prices. A sleeper in the mix here could be from Tekton Design. If you are looking to save even more money and can sacrifice some of the fit and finish stuff, their Pendragon speakers at $2,190 per pair can be custom finished, are super-easy to drive, and are a personal favorite.
Final Thoughts on the Focal Sopra No. 2 Speakers…
I change high-end audio speakers often as a matter of client relations as a publisher in the audiophile business. Right now, I have some killer Revel 228 BE floorstanding speakers that are about $10,000 a pair in my media room, and I love them. I also have the itch to write a check for another pair of Focal Sopra No. 2s in a gorgeous and glamorous color. Consider the Focal Sopra No. 2 speakers to be very possibly an end game. Yes, there is a larger (thicker looking to my eye) Sopra No. 3 for a bit more money, and my dear friend and former writer Ken Taraszka has them finished in white down in Florida and he loves them and uses them without a sub, which fits his floor plan better. Either way, it is just hard to lose with the Focal Sopra line. They are easy to drive. They are even easier on the eyes. Comparably, they are easy on your pocketbook compared to say Wilson Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, and others. There’s just nothing not to like about the Focal Sopra No. 2 loudspeakers.