Nestled in the French countryside is the headquarters of one of the world’s leading companies in Hi-Fi audio. Focal, who is celebrating 40 years of business this year, still hand makes cabinets for their extremely high-end Hi-Fi speakers in France rather than outsourcing them. Focal has been gaining traction with their headphone products since 2012, but the heritage of world-class audio has made them a legend with audiophiles. Check out the video for a look inside their facilities.
I was asked to go out to Focal’s headquarters for their 40 year anniversary event. Being relatively new to the Focal brand, I didn’t really know what to expect and was blown away by the handcrafted aspect of their incredible speakers. Focal’s line-up ranges from the $70 Spark earbuds to $230,000 Grand Utopia Hi-Fi speaker systems and everything in between – including car audio, home theater, and studio reference monitors.
Saint Etienne, a manufacturing town one hour outside Lyon, is the hometown for Focal. What started in the back of a family business is now spread out over an impressive campus. Here at Focal’s headquarters is where much of the final assembly happens for their high end speakers as well as their headphone line. Touring the facilities here, you’ll see a few different setups showcasing the different audio lines and workers making cones from a wide variety of materials.
Focal 40th Anniversary: Video
At the main HQ in Saint Etienne, machine presses covering a wide line of materials from flax and aluminum to beryllium are used to assemble speakers and headphones alike, such as the Utopia. The process involves extreme temperatures and protective suits to handle the components at certain stages.
Made in France
Two hours north, in Bourbon-Lancy, is where they fabricate the enclosures for the high-end speakers. Wood comes in blocks of MDF and HDF from a local French sustainable wood supplier and through saws, 3-axis and 5-axis CNC machines is cut down into the necessary shapes. Here is where you see the start of the monstrous Grand Utopia hi-fi speaker cabinets.
When Focal bought the fabrication company, it was being operated out of a three-story building in the heart of Bourbon-Lancy. Focal considered moving operation to their headquarters in St. Etienne, but decided it would be best to keep the knowledge that has been developed in Bourbon Lacy on the production line. That kind of dedication to craftsmanship speaks volumes in today’s manufacturing world.
Focal worked with the town of Bourbon-Lacy to renovate and improve a facility to match their needs. This was in the interest of both Focal and Bourbon Lacy to keep their facility there, so both parties worked together to make it happen.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures in the manufacturing factory because of new products that have not been announced. But it was impressive to see the humble beginnings of these incredible speakers that are hand made by craftsmen and women in a small town in the French countryside.
Focal did send me some fabrication footage they had after the event. Be sure to check out the video and take a look behind the scenes at how the $230,000 Grand Utopia Evo is made.
Checking out the equipment
Back in St. Etienne, we got to experience some of their line first hand at the headquarter’s showroom. Through the different showroom stations we listened to their headphone line, home theater systems, and Hi-Fi audio via the Grand Utopia Evo.
Focal also has a few cars from different manufacturers with the automotive audio line built in. There are a few European brands that allow buyers to option up for factory-installed Focal audio systems, but Focal also sells kits to install aftermarket.
Grand Utopia Evo: The top of the line
Let’s take a look at their top of the line speaker set – the Grand Utopia Evo. These majestic towers sit at 6-feet tall and weigh 500-lbs. Just their presence, even without even playing music, is inspiring. But when they start pumping out audio – it is the most pure listening experience I’ve ever enjoyed. It sounded and felt like the performers were in the room directly in front of us. Grand Utopia Evo really is in a class all of its own and are just as much pieces of art as they are the penultimate in hi-fi audio.
A global pioneer in audio for 40 years
With so many audio products getting made as cheaply as possible to maximize profit, it’s refreshing and inspiring to see a company like Focal who has a dedication to high quality audio and often takes the more difficult route to make sure their products are being made in a responsible way. Focal has been a global pioneer in audio for 40 years and it will be exciting to see what they come up with next.
If you want to learn more about Focal’s products, Check out our reviews of the Sphear Wireless and Sib Evo 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos. The dedication to high fidelity audio across their entire product catalog is worth taking a look at.
Focal has also released a few special edition 40th anniversary products to commemorate their milestone.
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