Focal Aria 5.1 loudspeaker system Page 2

Unlike the centre and floorstander models, which can be bought in gloss back and darker Noyer wood finishes if you don't dig the Prime Walnut look of our package, the SR 900 is only available in black.

Mortal Danger
I started listening with something quintessentially cinematic in the form of Mortal Engines on Blu-ray, from the people who brought you Gandalf, Gollum and 'who knew New Zealand looked like that?' It's kind of Chorlton and The Wheelies (Google it), scaled up so that entire cities roll about what's left of the post-apocalyptic countryside on giant tank tracks – both gloriously silly and weirdly thrilling. It sets out its stall during the opening 15 minutes (Chapter 1) where mega traction city 'London', replete with Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral, chases, captures and eventually eats a desperately fleeing small Bavarian mining town. Even if you can't gag a giggle, it's stupendous spectacle and the Dolby TrueHD soundmix gives it the lot, relentlessly lobbing the dirty throb of massive diesel engines firing up, the visceral crunch of incalculable tonnage savaging parched earth, and the cacophonous clang of colliding heavy metal at the listener in overwhelming waves. I predict it will become an AV show demo staple and if it doesn't make you jump, your speaker setup simply isn't doing the business.

With my Denon AVR-X4300H's volume wound high, not only does the burly Focal Aria combo deliver the soundmix's juiced-up dynamic jolts with full force, it does so within an extraordinarily huge and spacious soundstage that dissolves boundaries and effectively makes the walls of my room disappear. In other ways, the Mortal Engines sequence in question is less about panning, steering and placement than frequency extremes, tonal textures and dynamic contrasts, all areas where the Arias excel. But if home cinema is all about impact, immersion and taking you there, chalk it up as an unqualified 'flying colours' moment for the massed Arias and a very game, fast, tight and well-disciplined 1000 F sub.

Yes, in league with the clear and resolute CC 900 centre speaker, it lends the voice of Thanos – Avengers: Infinity War on Blu-ray – the mass and menace it warrants, but it doesn't obscure the tremendously nuanced delivery of actor Josh Brolin with any spilled over boom or bloom, which points to excellent precision and integration.


Furthermore, when the LFE track demands – and here I'm talking about the far more potent Aquaman on Blu-ray – the 1000 F's fast Flax cone really starts to move some air, brilliantly conveying what always seems to be the extra weight carried by under-water ballistics.

Transparency And Speed
Sharper focus and precision is needed to do justice to the numerous furiously paced set-pieces that furnish Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Blu-ray). Again, the Focals' transparency, speed and ability to resolve fine detail in a natural, unforced fashion are equal to the task.

The vicious slugfest in the toilet (Chapter 4), where Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill try to duff up someone clearly better at fighting than they are, is a telling workout for the speakers, too, wince-inducing Foley effects zapping around the reverberant, surprisingly spacious WC like a vigorously whacked squash ball. The Arias neither blur the detail nor labour the action. Once again, and with a rather disturbing sense of realism over exaggeration for effect (even if that's been deliberately sprinkled into the mix), you're in the blood-spattered thick of it.

So what of the Focal Arias' musical chops? Exceptional. Van Morrison's latest album, The Prophet Speaks, is all shades of bluesy bliss, beautifully recorded and with Van the Man in typically fine voice. In stereo or one of my receiver's less obviously processed surround modes, the sound is revealing and rich with a firm grasp of tempo and rhythm. But, most importantly, the music ebbs and flows with a lucidity that's easy to relax into and enjoy. The sense of space and deft textural shading are a joy and, again, the finely-graded palette of tonal colours and the sumptuous yet deep and supple bass the Aria 926 floorstanders and 1000 F sub conjure up between them contribute to a zero-fatigue listening experience.

Match Point
It's rare to find a 5.1 surround package at the price that sounds as suavely on top of its game as this one – as at home with decibel-dense blockbusters as stripped-back acoustic ensembles. There really is very little Focal's Aria array can't do to a high standard, but what perhaps stands out above all else is a natural, spacious presentation that isn't tripping over itself to impress and, in so doing, manages to impress all the more.

HCC Verdict

Focal Aria 5.1

Price: £4,000

We say: It's very much a case of vive la difference with this more affordable 5.1 system from Focal, its Flax drivers delivering the soundstage capabilities of a pricier setup.

Performance: 5/5
Features: 4.5/5
Design: 5/5
Overall: 5/5


Focal Aria 926
Drive units: 1 x 1in aluminium/magnesium inverted dome tweeter; 2 x 6.5in Flax cone bass drivers; 1 x 6.5in Flax cone midrange driver
Enclosure: Twin ported
Frequency response (CLAIMED): 45Hz-28kHz
Sensitivity (CLAIMED): 91.5dB
Power handling (CLAIMED): 40W-250W
Dimensions: 294(w) x 1,035(h) x 371(d)mm
Weight: 17.8kg

Focal Aria CC 900
Drive units: 1 x 1in aluminium/magnesium inverted dome tweeter; 1 x 6.5in Flax cone midbass driver
Enclosure: Twin ported
Frequency response (CLAIMED): 57Hz-28kHz
Sensitivity (CLAIMED): 91dB
Power handling (CLAIMED): 40W-200W
Dimensions: 533(w) x 200(h) x 245(d)mm
Weight: 10.5kg

Focal Aria SR 900
Drive units: 2 x 1in aluminium/magnesium inverted dome tweeters; 2 x 5in Flax cone midbass drivers
Enclosure: Sealed, bipole Frequency response (CLAIMED): 85Hz-28kHz
Sensitivity (CLAIMED): 90dB
Power handling (CLAIMED): 25W-120W
Dimensions: 150(w) x 253(h) x 252(d)mm
Weight: 5.6kg

Focal Sub 1000 F (subwoofer)
Drive units: 1 x 12in Flax cone bass driver
Enclosure: Sealed
Frequency response (CLAIMED): 24Hz-200Hz
Onboard power (CLAIMED): 1,000W Class D BASH amp
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 400(w) x 420(h) x 420(d)mm
Weight: 21.5kg

Features: Stereo line-level input; LFE input; 0/180-degree phase switch; variable crossover; auto on/off