‘Focal Vestia No.1’ may sound like a new fragrance, but in fact it’s the smallest and most affordable model in the French manufacturer’s mid-price Vestia range of loudspeakers. As is the company’s wont, it features some interesting technologies along with some staunchly individualistic design choices – which means it’s a long way from a “me too!” option.
It’s not exactly short of competition from several continents, though – and, as we all know, it takes a bit more than intriguing tech or unusual materials to make a speaker stand out. So do the Vestia No.1 speakers have it where it truly counts?
The Focal Vestia No.1 standmount speakers are on sale now, and in the United Kingdom they’re yours for around £799 per pair. A price of $599 in the United States looks a bit of a bargain at first glance, and then you remember that in America, stereo speakers tend to be priced individually, which means a pair will set you back $1199 or so. In Australia, the going rate is around AU$1749 per pair.
At this sort of money, we’ve recently been quite smitten with the new, 2023 Award-winning Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 (tested £749 / $1100 / AU$1499). All the Focal speakers need to do, then, is rock our world to a similar extent…
The Vestia No.1 is a two-way design, with a bass reflex port facing forward from the bottom of the cabinet. Above it there’s a 16.5cm mid/bass driver that’s made from Focal’s ‘slatefiber’ arrangement of recycled carbon fibre, and you can tell that’s the case because the top of the driver surround says so. At the bottom of the surround are the words ‘FOCAL – Made in France’, which are just as significant in their own way.
At the top of the front baffle there’s a 25mm aluminium/magnesium M-shaped inverted dome ‘TAM’ tweeter inside a urethane waveguide. Focal says the Vestia range represents the first time it’s fitted this tweeter arrangement to a domestic loudspeaker, and that high-frequency response extends to 30Hz. Both are pretty impressive statements.
At the rear of the cabinet, there are single binding posts for bare wire, spade or 4mm banana-plug connections.
As far as construction is concerned, there’s nothing about the way the Vestia No.1 are built to cause any alarms. Braced and ultra-rigid MDF makes up the cabinets, and Focal claims internal resonances are controlled to a class-leading extent. Certainly, these loudspeakers are built and finished to the sort of standard the asking price demands.
Drive units 25mm aluminium/magnesium inverted dome tweeter; 16.5cm ‘slatefiber’ mid/bass
Ported? Yes (front)
Impedance 8 ohms
Dimensions (hwd) 38.7 x 21.9 x 26cm
Finishes x3 (white, dark wood, high-gloss black)
On the outside, though, Focal has attempted to make the No.1 as distinct as possible from any nominal rival – or, at least, as distinct as is realistically possible while still looking recognisably like a standmounted loudspeaker. So the Vestia No.1 are available in three different finishes: white, dark wood or high-gloss black. The first of those finishes is wrapped (front, back, top and bottom) in ‘leather-effect’ vinyl – as seen in our review sample – while the side panels (which stand just slightly proud of the surfaces they meet) are in a species of grained wood-effect material that’s reminiscent of laminate flooring. The alternative finishes both feature black leather-effect wrap over four of their planes, instead of white. Magnetic grilles calm the leather-effect overload, at least a little.
Focal will happily sell you a pair of dedicated stands to support the Vestia No.1 – they’re black, they’re 55cm high, they tilt the speaker in an effort to improve the time-alignment of the sound, and they’re yours for £199 per pair. For the purposes of this test, though, the speakers are positioned on extremely capable (but, admittedly, untilted) Atacama stands that sell for very similar money.
And given a vinyl copy of Stereolab’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup to deal with for starters, the Focal reveal themselves to be a full-scale, burly and quite self-consciously sophisticated listen in no time at all. The company’s claim for low-frequency extension down to 56Hz looks, if anything, like a conservative estimate – the Vestia No.1 dig deep, and punch through bass information with real determination and no little finesse. Detail levels are high, control is unarguable, and there’s more-than-adequate momentum to the sound as a result. Rhythm expression is decent, and bass sounds stay strictly in their lane, with no hint of overhang, and no interference with the midrange activity above.
The midrange itself is similarly detailed, giving the mannered vocals buried deep in the mix proper character and expression. The soundstage the Focal create is as expansive and well-defined as the overall scale of sound they’re capable of generating, and it means singers in the midrange get plenty of space in which to operate. Despite the generous soundstage proportions, though, there’s no sense of remoteness or unwelcome individuality in the way the Vestia No.1 present recordings – instead, there’s unity and commonality.
At the top of the frequency range, that elaborate tweeter arrangement offers crisp, bright levels of attack, with, again, more than enough detail available to ensure you’re getting the complete picture. Integration with the bigger mid/bass driver below is so smooth as to be imperceptible, and the Focal give treble sounds plenty of substance to go along with all that bite.
The Vestia No.1 are pretty adept when it comes to the broad dynamics of the recording, too – they breathe deeply enough to put considerable distance between the quieter, more contemplative moments and the full-band crescendos. And they’re no slouches where the low-key harmonic variations are concerned, either. These are attentive, refined loudspeakers with a stack of pertinent observations to make.
What they’re not, though, is all that much fun. Switch the music up to a Tidal stream of Funkadelic’s Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On and the lack of tolerance the Vestia No.1 have for the borderline chaos of the recording is palpable. By shooting so determinedly for maturity and refinement, Focal has neglected to let these speakers engage on a more basic level, and consequently this recording just isn’t as much fun to listen to as it really should be. We are more entertained when listening through the price-rival B&W 606 S3 speakers, and even more so through the cheaper Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3.
When the Vestia No.1 get hold of it, a portion of the energy and excitement this recording is built on goes astray. A sophisticated presentation is all well and good, of course – but if it comes at the expense of pure musical entertainment then it’s a trade-off you’ll need to think long and hard about your willingness to make.
If a big, refined and impressively detailed sound from a loudspeaker of fairly individual looks seems like your sort of thing, you could do an awful lot worse than investigate the Focal Vestia No.1 speakers – just don’t expect it to let its hair down all that far.
- Sound 4
- Build 4
- Compatibility 5
Read our review of the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3
Also consider the Sonus Faber Lumina 1