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Focal speakers

Martin Logan Neolith

Click an image to enlarge.

6 November 2019 - With the change of the seasons comes possible changes in loudspeakers. The second set of replacement panels lasted only seven months before displaying signs of near death…

A HUGE thank you to everybody who responded to my ‘Joy & Pain’ diary of MartinLogan ESL issues (MartinLogan Owner Scenario Owner Experience 1) earlier in the year. The response from owners as well as other speaker manufacturers was interesting and varied. MartinLogan definitely have loyal fans, who it appears do not want to read, or hear a bad word against MartinLogan ESL’s . All MartinLogan owners have one thing in common ‘We love the natural open sound quality of the MartinLogan ESL’. However, many of us have encountered similar breakdown issues, but at least some owners have received a better quality of service ‘generally’ outside of the UK. I am hoping the change of distribution & support network to PMC will mean we all receive a high quality service if (and when) we encounter issues.

After contacting MartnLogan to inform them of the recent panel failure, Scott Gribble (MartinLogan Service Manager) advised he would organise for a ‘third set of replacement panels to be manufactured, he confirmed the wait time of around 8 – 12 weeks. Unfortunately, I have lost confidence in the panel reliability. It is now time for me to seriously look for another pair of loudspeakers. Obviously, this will be a difficult journey. The longlist began with the following;

Golden Ear Triton 2 / 3 (£4000) Magico, JansZen Valentina zA2.1 Floorstander (£8000), Magico (£Expensive)
Focal Aria 926 (£1800), Focal Kanta No2 (£7000) Focal Sopra N2 (£10000) & the Dali Rubicon 6 (£2999)

After further investigation I quickly established the Golden Ear Triton range would not suit my needs and the Magico range (though lauded) were way out of my reach (just as is a date with Jennifer Lopez). I was able to listen to a pair of the beautifully designed JansZen Valentina ZA2.1 ESL’s, earlier in the year, however, it was very difficult to judge the full capability of this speaker due to the limited ‘streaming only’ set-up in the owners’ home. . I was intrigued by the initial ‘hint’ of a natural and open sound created by the JansZen’s and may attempt to further explore the possibility of listening with my own set-up?

Though I was never overly impressed with any Focal loudspeaker at the h-fi shows I attended to date, I felt impelled to lend them another ear (or two) due to the many recommendations from trusted viewers. At this point it is important to stress that I always recommend a home demo of any hi-fi component (for many reasons). Particular component choice such as amplification interconnects, source and room characteristics obviously play a major factor on outcome, but I felt I could at least get a flavour of any speaker characteristic (if any) from a showroom demo situation before making the next home demo step. My favoured source is vinyl, so I set-out with various well played jazz, classical and up-tempo albums ready to spin. We are all aware our ears, taste and expectations are different, therefore, the intention of the below brief noted experiences are not meant as an individual ‘loudspeaker critique’. (I will save such energy for the final loudspeaker choice). I have however previously mentioned ‘the natural open sound quality of the MartinLogan ESL’, so, with this in mind, you should get an idea of the type of experience I am hoping to achieve!

Focal Kanta No2



I was able to set up a demo of the Focal Aria 926 and Focal Kanta No2 models at a local hi-fi chain in South London. Unfortunately, I was still unimpressed with either model so did not feel impelled to progress to exploring the higher priced Sopra N2.



Dali Rubicon No2


Slightly dejected, thankfully, I only had to walk a few metres across the road to my next arranged demo. Though the outlet only had the Dali Rubicon 5 in stock and the salesman could not set up the only turntable in the store (Technics SL1210) due to a damaged cartridge, at least I could again get just a flavour of the Dali award winning design via TIDAL streaming. Now, this short demo proved the Dali design was a ‘clear room filling experience’ worthy of further exploration.



Further exploration has now led me to include the below speakers to the shortlist.
Dali Rubicon 6, Epicon 6 and Audiovector Q & R range


Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.
November – December 2019


Use the link below to read the “MartinLogan Scenario Owner Experience 1”...

MartinLogan Scenario Owner Experience (click to go to this page)

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