Focal Shape 65 by MaestroBeats
What to expect from Focal’s Shape 65 Studio Monitors
Focal’s latest near-field monitor offerings comes in a variety of options. The Shape 40 features a 1” aluminum-magnesium inverted dome tweeter and a 4” flax sandwich cone woofer. The Shape 65 also shares the 1” tweeter but with a 6.5” woofer instead. The more recent Shape Twin comes with two 5” woofers (top one 40Hz - 2.5Hz, bottom 40Hz - 180Hz) and the same 1” tweeter. It has a beautiful classic furniture-looking natural walnut veneer cabinet that looks more of a bookshelf speaker than a studio monitor. This series of monitors comes dual passive radiators mounted in both sides of each. The Shape 65 and Shape 40 has both XLR and RCA inputs, a high-pass filter and adjustable bass, treble and crossover controls with two Class A/B amplifiers and the Shape Twin share the same concept except for three Class A/B amplifiers instead of two. There are screw holes for wall and ceiling mounting. There are also 4 rubberized adjustable feet for decoupling from desks and stands alike nearly eliminating the need for optional Auralex Mopads, even though I did place some Isoacoustics Iso-Pucks underneath thanks to Simon Cote of Audio Plus Services with astonishingly noticeable results. These may not be the Focal SM series or the Trio series but these are not entry level monitors by a long shot.
They’re great sounding and the mixes from these translate well. This discredits the old myth that you have to employ a terrible sounding speaker such as the Yamaha NS-10’s to achieve a great mix. The Shape series is a great cost-effective option for bedroom engineers, producers and musicians in need of quality monitoring, mixing and listening. When listening to them fresh out-of-the-box they’re not impressive but once I burned them in for a few days, they really started to shine. My Yamaha’s HS 8’s didn’t stand a chance afterwards. The highs are very crisp, clear and neutral, the mid was very well rounded and present but the low-end from these little speaker are amazing and caught me totally off guard. I believe the fact that they’re not ported but instead uses passive radiators causes the bass to be more accurate, tight, warm and pleasant. Their tweeter and flax cone woofer technology definitely will grab your attention sonically.
I did a few A/B comparisons with the Shape 65 against a few well respected monitors in it’s range like the Yamaha’s HS 8’s and the Genelec 8040’s (both modified by Daniel Feldstein formerly of Black Lion Audio) just to name a few. In a blind listening test session with a few of my comrades (AD McGee engineer at Trap Execs Studios, Daniel Feldstein technician of Danieldialatone Inc. formerly of Black Lion Audio and Dan Tosi producer/engineer of Tosmosis Productions) we all agreed that the Focal’s stood out due to its ability to reveal the imperfections in a mix. The Focal’s however didn’t outshine the modified Yamaha’s and Genelec’s in the stereo imagining department. In the early 90’s when Hip-Hop albums were filled with substandard engineering, the Focal’s revealed what we thought at that time was musical heaven. It revealed where compression was needed especially in the sub/low-end and that the highs were harsh in the mix of these albums (EX: Black Moon - Enter Da Stage, Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu Tang and other early 1990’s Hip-Hop classics). It also brought out the instruments and panning in other great albums from that era (EX:A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders and OutKast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik) that I couldn’t hear in a few other monitors. In my opinion, this is phenomenal for a speaker this size and price range.
One of my complaints were the energy saving cutoff feature that’s automatically enabled when there’s nothing audible through the speakers. It’s a good thought but unnecessary and annoying in my opinion. I have read that there is a way to disable this feature though I haven’t attempted it yet. There’s also no control over the volume of this speaker other than your audio interface. If you’re referencing between two or more pair then you’ll need to match the volume of the other monitors to the fixed volume of the Shape 65’s. My last issue was that the stereo imaging didn’t stand up to the modded set of HS-8’s, KRK Rockit 5’s and Genelec 8040’s but in all fairness the op-amps, capacitors and wire were internally upgraded so this may or may not be a fair assessment.
My conclusion is that you’ll be hard pressed to purchase monitors in this price range ($899 each) with the features, sound and abilities of these monitors. I called Warren of Zen Pro Audio about his opinion of these since he sells a modded Yamaha HS 8 pair that rival some of the best monitors on the market and he even stated that they were better overall than his version of the HS-8. Yamaha HS series are excellent entry level monitors and reference option but won’t hold a candle to Focal’s of any series. If you’re looking for a speaker that translates into great mixes, these are the monitors for you especially in a small studio or home set-up.