Focal Chora 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker system review

hcchighreccomendFocal elevates its Chora range of home cinema speakers with built-in Atmos drivers. Steve Withers indulges in some immersion therapy

Focal's recently launched Chora range offers plenty of home cinema options, but with the addition of the new 826-D floorstander the company has taken its performance to another level… literally.

The reason for this sonic elevation (and the model number's suffix) is the Dolby Atmos-certified reflective speaker incorporated into the floorstander – a first for the French manufacturer. This full-range upward-firing driver is located in the top (natch), adding a vertical dimension to the soundstage and allowing for Dolby Atmos (and DTS:X) object-based immersion.

Atmos wizardry aside, the 826-D is identical to the existing flagship floorstander in the Chora series, with a design that boasts plenty of Gallic flair. Focal has taken aesthetic cues from its high-end Kanta range, with a bolt-on plinth that not only provides support but also tilts the speaker for improved time alignment. There's a distinctive two-tone look, and the option of light wood, dark wood or black finishes. But whichever you choose, the price is £1,700 a pair.


You get a lot for your hard-earned readies: a 1in aluminium/magnesium inverted-dome tweeter (behind a perforated protective cover), a 6.5in Slatefiber midrange driver and two 6.5in Slatefiber woofers in a three-way configuration, with crossovers at 270Hz and 2,700Hz. There's a magnetic fabric grille to cover the midrange and woofers, and a bass port near the bottom, resulting in a claimed frequency reach down to 48Hz.

The Dolby Atmos speaker is a 5in full-range coaxial driver with Slatefiber cone and Al/Mg tweeter. This is housed in a directional baffle designed to fire sounds upwards, off the ceiling and down towards the listener – creating the illusion of overhead channels. This driver also gets a magnetic fabric grille that matches the one on the front, and there are two sets of high-quality binding posts at the rear – one for each speaker.

The rest of the Chora lineup includes the non-Atmos 826 and 816 floorstanders, and 806 bookshelf speaker. For home cinema setups there's also the CC800 centre speaker (£500), which uses dual 6.5in Slatefiber midbass units either side of its tweeter. The centre speaker comes with a base for tilting, and offers the same choice of finishes as the rest of the range. Oddly, it's supplied with separate round grilles for each midbass.

Finally there's the SR800 surround speaker (£400 each), which you can use for side or back channels. This slim, wall-mounted model comes with a bracket for quick and easy installation, and has a more austere matte black finish that's intended to blend seamlessly into darkened movie dens. It uses the same 6.5in Slatefiber midrange and Al/Mg tweeter as the other speakers in the lineup.

At this point you might be thinking, 'What the hell is Slatefiber?' Well, according to Focal it's a composite cone material combining thermoplastic polymer with recycled non-woven carbon fibres, and provides the optimal balance between damping, rigidity and lightness. So now you know.

The system reviewed here uses a pair of 826-Ds, a CC800, and a pair of SR800s. The floorstanders deliver a decent bass response, but a SUB 1000F (£1,100) shoulders the heavy lifting at the low-end. This sealed unit is one of Focal's larger subs, claiming to drop below 24Hz thanks to a forward-firing 12in Flax woofer with dual magnet system and 1,000W of BASH amplification. Note that it's not a Chora-specific model, and is only available in a (gorgeous, two-tone) black finish.

While the front three speakers might be aimed at home cinemas, they'll fit easily into most spaces thanks to their immaculate finish, and are so glam you might consider removing the grilles.

The Sound Of Music
To kick things off I popped on the 4K disc of La La Land with its jazzy Dolby Atmos track, and this Chora system revealed an effortless musicality that perfectly embodied the film's opening number set on a gridlocked Los Angeles freeway. The front three speakers produced a dynamic and expansive soundstage, with some impressively wide dispersion from the floorstanders, and clear and focused dialogue from the centre.