Take a look at the Focal Easya wireless powered speakers, a feature-packed wireless system that aims to be a catch-all solution to the fragmented way many of us now listen to music.
But does the convenience of a wireless system still come with the caveat that you’re making a sonic sacrifice? With the Easya speakers, Focal says no. Ultimately, we’re not 100 per cent convinced.
The two Focal Easya speakers come with an all-important wireless hub. This connects to your home network, and then to any number of possible music sources.
The level of connectivity covers just about all the possible bases, and it’s easy to get up and running no matter how you want to access your music. There’s no arguing with the features on offer here.
Your music sources can connect via a wired or wireless connection. Take a walk on the wired side and you have analogue connections in the shape of stereo RCA and 3.5mm minijack inputs, while coaxial, optical and mini-USB cover the digital connections.
When it comes to wireless there’s no Apple AirPlay, but there is the more ubiquitous Bluetooth, present here with the superior aptX connection.
The two floor-standing Focal Easya speakers each require mains power, and each has its own amplifier. Set-up takes us seconds: the system is already paired-up so it really is just plug-and-play.
There is a button on the hub to connect to Bluetooth devices, however. Make sure you’ve set one each speaker as either left or right on the rear of each cabinet and you’re in business.
There’s no denying the standard of finish here. As we’ve come to expect from Focal, the company knows how to put together a stylish set of speakers. One slight anomaly is that we could see the cabinets’ internal damping clearly through the front-facing reflex port, which looks a little untidy.
Hey, perhaps we’re just a little OCD about these things but for an £1800 pair of speakers, you shouldn’t need to make excuses.
Available in black or white high gloss finishes, the speakers have an aluminium base that comes complete with a built-in (pretty well-hidden) LED that indicates that you’re powered-up.
The slender MDF cabinets stand just over 90cm tall. Inside, a 25mm aluminium/magnesium inverted dome tweeter, is partnered by a 13cm polyglass mid/bass driver and the same again for the bass driver. The built-in amplifier is rater at 85W and the speakers have a claimed frequency response of 50Hz to 28kHz.
The hub is compact and light enough to tuck away in a corner, though it needs to be within an Ethernet cable length of your router.
It uses 2.4GHz Kleer, “uncompressed, lossless, digital wireless transmission” technology to deal with streaming. (The same tech is also found on the Arcam rCube speaker, and wireless headphones such as the Sennheiser RS 180, amongst others.)
The Hub operates at 16-bit/44.1 kHz, which is the same bit depth and sample rate as CD. Hence the “CD quality” claim. The hub-to-speaker wireless transmission distance should be good for up to 10m “without obstacle”, says Focal.
The Focal Easya speakers come with a small, simple remote control that lets you switch between sources, play/pause and adjust the volume across multiple sources. Connect a device via mini-USB or Bluetooth and you can skip tracks on your phone, say, using the remote (should you so desire).
Using the remote requires a modicum of patience: the system switches source in its own time, which is just about quick enough but we wouldn’t mind it being a bit more responsive, not least as you have to scroll through the inputs in order rather than being able to jump directly to the input you’re after.
The Hub we have is an early model so we’re told to discount the slightly clunky input switch button on the top of the unit itself but we naturally find ourselves predominantly using the remote.
We did also have one crash where the Hub froze and needed the ‘off-and-on’ treatment to spring back in to life but, again, hopefully this is only early teething trouble.
First impressions are good, though the warm glow of quite how easy it is to get up and running might well help on that front. The Easyas’ laid-back presentation is easy to listen to: there’s little by way of rough edges in the treble nor any unduly flappy bass to interrupt your enjoyment.
That said, the relaxed delivery is ultimately the Easya’s undoing – we want more punch, more bass and a little more dynamic excitement when it comes to extended listening.
We fire in some WAV tracks ripped from CDs via our Naim NDS/555ps streamer, and crank the volume using the Focal remote. (This seems to have plenty of levels of volume adjustment judging by the time it takes, but that’s no bad thing.) The Focal Easya speakers are, appropriately, an easy listen.
Prince’s 3121 sounds crisp and clear, with good separation of sounds and no harsh edges. Stereo imaging is solid, as is the wireless transmission.
There’s no denying the convenience; we merrily skip through various tracks, and both analogue and digital inputs, and enjoy what we hear. But this is no ordinary wireless system: this is a system with serious hi-fi aspirations, so it needs to be better than just an easy, enjoyable listen. And that’s where our enthusiasm starts to waver.
There’s nothing massively wrong – yet we can find faults. Drake’s Look What You’ve Done shows some sibilance being introduced in the vocals, with a slightly tizzy sound to vocals, while the bass simply doesn’t kick in with the weight or punch we’re used to.
Switch to Hans Zimmer’s epic Gladiator soundtrack and a layer of drama is shorn from the presentation. Our level of engagement drops a touch along with it, too. The dynamic peaks and troughs don’t stretch as widely as we’d like: it’s all just a little bit safe.
Maya Jane Coles’s Comfort album requires watertight timing to keep the beats driving along, but the Easya system doesn’t always marshal the rhythms to ensure perfect timing.
Streaming from a smartphone or tablet directly, whether locally sourced music or apps such as Spotify, is a handy extra feature, while aptX Bluetooth ensures that compatible phones and tablets such as the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 get the best possible audio quality.
Regardless, it’s convenience over performance. Again, it’s perfectly listenable, but the extra level of compression, especially with 320kbps Spotify tracks, is audible, the speakers taking no sonic prisoners with lower quality files.
Great to look at, easy to set-up and use and packed full of connectivity, the Focal Easya speakers are easy to enjoy – definitely consider adding them to your system.
That said, the limitations of wireless music remain, and sonically you’re not quite getting your money’s worth.
But if you value the convenience, the Easya speakers still have much appeal, not least if you want to play music from multiple analogue, digital and portable sources.
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