Focal’s new MTM speaker offers remarkable bang for your buck!
When Hugh Robjohns reviewed the Focal Alpha 65 Evo in SOS September 2021, he was mighty impressed with its performance. The subject of this review is the 65 Evo’s grown‑up sibling, the Alpha Twin Evo — and when I say grown‑up, I’m not joking. The Twin Evo is pretty substantial for a nearfield monitor, and in the context of its still near entry‑level price, it appears to be a generous chunk of monitoring for the money.
Monitors of the Mid/Tweeter/Mid (MTM) driver format, like the Twin Evo, are sometimes able to be installed in either landscape or portrait orientation, but the Alpha Twin Evo is designed for landscape orientation only. So if the Twin Evo seems the monitor for you, make sure there’s enough space on your monitor shelf for a sensible installation. I’ll explain the reasons for this limitation a little further on.
The Twin Evo’s front panel carries twin 16.5cm bass/mid drivers, a 25mm tweeter, and healthily dimensioned slot‑style reflex ports beneath each bass/mid driver. Said bass/mid drivers are the same units as found in the Alpha 65 Evo and feature Focal’s proprietary ‘Slatefiber’ diaphragm material. Slatefiber is a composite material, exclusive to Focal, that comprises non‑woven carbon fibres in a thermoplastic polymer substrate. Focal claim that the carbon fibres add rigidity, whilst their being non‑woven introduces a damping effect. The resulting diaphragm, say, Focal is extremely stiff and light, but also well damped.
Focal have long been proponents of using stiff, light materials rather than soft fabrics for tweeter diaphragms, even to the point of employing beryllium for their higher‑end monitors. The Twin Evo tweeter dome is aluminium rather than beryllium, but that still falls into the stiff and light category. As has become a signature feature for Focal, the dome is inverted, having a concave rather than convex shape. Focal claim inherently better directivity and improved coupling between the diaphragm and its voice coil as positives for the inverted‑dome architecture. Ask manufacturers of conventionally arranged dome tweeters, however, and they’ll likely raise an eyebrow or two. My feeling is that there’s rather more to designing a good tweeter than whether it’s an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’. Both can work equally well. Another interesting aspect of the Twin Evo tweeter is its waveguide. It features upper and lower intrusions on its very gently flared overall profile. The intrusions probably serve to modify the vertical dispersion of the tweeter somewhat.
The Twin Evo uses some attractively profiled plastic moulded components attached to the side panels and front panel of its MDF cabinet to prevent rectangular black box sameness becoming too strong. The front‑panel moulding also incorporates the reflex ports. I like the aesthetic style of the plastic mouldings, though the rebel in me would have dearly loved to see them finished in an alternative, contrasting colour. Even a grey would have helped relieve the unremitting blackness.
The Twin Evo ships with optional perforated metal grilles for each driver; the grilles clip into place in slots engineered into the driver chassis. I mostly used the monitors without grilles fitted but I suspect I’d be tempted to keep the exposed and delicate tweeter domes protected if I were the proud owner of a pair. As part of my FuzzMeasure analysis, I measured the frequency response with and without grilles fitted and found them to be reasonably innocuous. The only notable change with the grilles fitted was about 1dB gain on axis between 5.5kHz and 8kHz.
Back on the subject of the Twin Evo’s plastic side mouldings, one of the perennial manufacturing problems of attaching such items to a wooden construction is tolerancing. Plastic parts are typically manufactured much more accurately to their intended dimensions than wooden cabinets, which can often vary in their major dimensions by, say, ±0.5mm or even more. That’s apparent on the Twin Evo from the alignment of the plastic side panels to the cabinet — they don’t quite line up at the top, with one of the pair of review monitors having a worse mis‑match than the other. However, considering the entry‑level price of the Twin Evo, I’m perhaps being too fussy. Something else cabinet‑wise that I’m often fussy about is internal bracing and cabinet panel resonance, and I’m pleased to report that the Twin Evo is blessed with some significant internal bracing. It will serve to keep the cabinet panels much quieter than they otherwise would be — and they’re big cabinet panels so this is an important feature.
The rear panel of the Twin Evo carries the usual array of connection, amplification and configuration features. The Twin Evo has a fully analogue signal path, so its input connections comprise just balanced XLR and TRS sockets, along with an unbalanced RCA phono option. Amplifier power comprises 50 Watts for each bass/mid driver and 30 Watts for the tweeter. Configuration facilities include a switch to select alternative input sensitivities (0dB and +6dB), a switch to engage or disengage an auto‑standby feature, EQ knobs offering ±6dB LF adjustment and ±3dB HF adjustment...