Focal XS review

The XS is very good, but with tighter bass control it could be a class-leading system Tested at £400

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The XS is very good, but with tighter bass control the Focal XS could be a class-leading system


  • +

    Good looks

  • +

    extensive spec

  • +

    fast, detailed performance


  • -

    Bottom end can struggle to keep up with the rest of the frequency information

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.

No doubt about it, the Focal XS certainly looks the part on your desktop. The two satellite speakers are slim and elegant and the subwoofer, while slightly less visually appealing, can of course be hidden under the desk.

In specification terms, too, the XS promises plenty. The sub houses 2x30W of power for the speakers and 70W for itself; one speaker incorporates an iPod dock, 3.5mm input and mini-USB socket; and digital-to-analogue conversion is handled by Burr-Brown components. When computer and iPod are attached, a 'sync' button offers iTunes synchronisation.

Playing an Apple Lossless file of PJ Harvey & John Parish's Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen via the iPod dock, the XS sounds rapid and well controlled. The highest frequencies wouldn't benefit from being any harder, but they're substantial with fine tonal variety.

Laptop audio also impresses
The story is much the same when listening via a laptop. The XS sounds much more agreeable when receiving information from a computer via USB – the Focal DACs are far superior to those in any laptop we've heard. Again, the speed and attack of sound is occasionally thrilling.

The subwoofer, though, sounds a bit portly and a lethargic – it's not short of punch or depth, but the lack of rigour where trailing edges of bass notes are concerned means it can sound estranged from the rest of the system.

A little more low-end discipline and the Focal XS could win an unreserved recommendation – as it stands, try before you buy.

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