Focal XS Book review

Focal brings hi-fi sound to the desktop Tested at £300

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A potent-sounding speaker, which brings hi-fi listening to your desktop


  • +

    Sensational scale and presence for a desktop speaker

  • +

    detailed, dynamic sound

  • +

    good stereo image


  • -

    Could be too big for some desktops

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

If you spend a lot of time in front of a laptop or desktop computer, chances are you'll want a little background music.

But your average computer's built-in speakers sound about as endearing as a flu-ridden X-Factor reject. Your best bet to improve this is to invest in a pair of desktop speakers.

Focal is better known for its dedicated hi-fi speakers, but you'd probably think that such an established manufacturer would have all the right tools, and speaker parts, for the job. And you'd be right.

Big for a desktop speaker
The XS Books are decent-sized speakers. Much taller and larger than the likes of B&W's MM-1s, the XS Books are about as big as we'd like a desktop speaker to be.

They're built with traditional materials: a 19mm aluminium dome tweeter is employed alongside a 10cm polyglass mid/bass driver.

There's even a vented bass-reflex port to help improve bass performance, while a 20W per channel amplifier in the right speaker completes the internal specification.

You can connect external sources via either the 3.5mm input or the pair of phono connections - the relevant cables are also supplied in the box.

A dial on one speaker doubles as a power switch and volume control. There's no remote control.

Speakers don't hold back
The speakers are perfectly at home with classical music. When dealt John Williams' score to the recent TinTin film, the speakers sound spritely and dramatic. Instruments are positioned well, within a concise soundstage.

They give no impression that they're holding back, nor do they sound as if they're on the very limit and having to work overly hard.

Swap to the spritely Animal by Neon Trees and the expressive, nature of their delivery is brought to the fore. The track bounces along tunefully without hesitation.

The sheer sense of scale and weight produced by the Focals is a real advantage over other desktop speakers at this price, some of which are a compromised due to construction or size. It'll be interesting to see how they stack up against close rivals.

See all our speaker Best Buys

Follow on Twitter

Join on Facebook

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test