Focal’s revised Alpha‑series speakers offer serious studio monitoring at an entry‑level price.
Building on the success of their original Alpha nearfield active monitor range (reviewed in January 2015, www.soundonsound.com/reviews/focal-alpha-65), French manufacturers Focal have recently revisited and updated that design, adding the Evo suffix to help identify the newer models. The original Alpha range proved extremely popular as the company’s entry‑level monitor series for home and project studios, but the new Evo series has enabled Focal to introduce a new, more modern look and style to the monitors, as well as to include some new technologies and revised features.
The new Alpha Evo range currently comprises two models: the 50 Evo and 65 Evo, these equating closely to the specs of the original Alpha 50 and 65 models. (At the time of writing there is no replacement for the larger Alpha 80 model.) I was supplied with a pair of 65 Evos for this review, but I’ll include technical details for the 50 Evo where the two models differ.
The most obvious visual difference between the original and Evo models is a trio of unusual and striking angled notches carved into the cabinet’s bolt‑on side panels, along with the Focal name. The lowest of these notches cuts right through to the front baffle at the port edges, too. These styling changes are quite bold and so may be a Marmite (a ‘love it or hate it’) thing but, personally, I quite liked their distinctiveness, and they certainly help to make the Evo monitors instantly recognisable.
Another obvious difference is that the cabinet baffle has radiused edges to help reduce diffraction from the baffle fringes and thus improve stereo imaging. Also, the port is now a single wide slot rather than the dual‑outlet arrangement of the original, this new design borrowing from the port aperture of the company’s SM6 models (Solo6BE, Twin6 BE, Trio6 BE, etc). The single large horizontal slot is claimed to ensure a laminar air flow and, although not visible, the inner end of the port tube is flared too, both aspects helping to reduce turbulence noise and resonances.
The cabinet itself is constructed from 15mm MDF, just as before, but with improved and extended internal bracing arrangements to make it stiffer and more inert than the previous design. As with the original Alphas, the cabinet is still finished in black vinyl and paint, with the 65 Evo measuring 339 x 261 x 289 mm and weighing 7.6kg, with a low‑frequency turnover specified at 40Hz. (Dimensions for the 50 Evo are 310 x 228 x 239 mm, while it weighs a shade under 6kg and gets down to 45Hz.)
One more striking feature of the new Evo models is the slightly blue tinge to the bass‑mid driver. Like it’s forebear, the 65 Evo model uses a 6.5‑inch (165mm) driver (the 50 Evo has 5‑inch or 130mm unit) constructed with Focal’s own ‘SlateFibre’ cone material. This composite fabric was first introduced in the company’s Chora hi‑fi brand speakers in 2019 and it is manufactured from non‑woven recycled carbon fibres in a thermoplastic polymer. The result is claimed to be much stiffer and better damped than the ‘PolyGlass’ material used in the original Alpha’s bass/mid drivers, and Focal say this new material contributes substantially to the sound signature of its Evo monitors.
The tweeter in both Evo models is the same 25mm inverted‑dome aluminium tweeter as employed in the earlier Alpha models, although it has been slightly enhanced in the Evo range by the addition of an integrated acoustic waveguide to help control dispersion. Focal are unusual amongst monitor speaker manufacturers in their use of bespoke hard‑dome tweeters, but the company argue that metal domes inherently suffer less deformation distortions than soft‑dome designs, and thus generate less distortion. A downside of this approach is a potential for self‑resonance issues, which...