Description

Focal Alpha 80 is an active two-way speaker, with a tweeter, an 8” woofer and a front bass reflex. The amp has a power of 140 W RMS (100 W for the woofer and 40 W for the tweeter). Each speaker weighs almost 13 kg. The frequency response is linear (+/- 3 dB)  from 35 Hz to 22 KHz.

Two Focal Alpha 80 speakers, rear and front

The rear connectors accept both balanced XLR inputs and unbalanced RCA inputs. The rear side presents the classic on/off switch. There are also two pots which allow to adjust high and low frequencies with two shelves. The bass shelf has an excursion of +/- 6 dB, the high one of +/- 3 dB. These pots can be useful to compensate some frequency unbalances caused by the room acoustic.

Another very interesting feature is that these speakers enter in the standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity; if you do not feed them with any sound for 30 minutes, they enter in standby.

These speakers are suitable for the classic nearfield placement, but they can also be used as midfield speakers, with a distance of 2-3 meters from the listener.

Focal Alpha 80 in the mastering stage

Focal Alpha 80 are appropriate for audio mastering, for many reasons.

The high RMS power allows to avoid the compression effect caused when the power amp is used at its maximum capabilities. The volume pot is never full clockwise (nor at 60%), even when very low output (like – 20 LUFS) tracks are played.

Another reason why these speakers work well for audio mastering is the frequency response. The main goal of a mastering studio is reproducing in a correct and flat way the entire audible frequencies spectrum. Focal Alpha 80 monitors accomplish this goal in very musical way.

The frequency response is flat from 35 to 22.000 Hz, so that adding a sub becomes almost useless. This is an important advantage, because of the problems that subs addition can bring to the stereo image and phase coherence. Low frequencies extend very in low and are tight, precise and clear. A simple test tone can show the bass extension of these units.

The sound definition is excellent even in mid and high frequencies, without any problematic peak and dip. These hi-fi characteristics allow the mastering engineer to precisely spot the potential problems and flaws in the tracks; this is a crucial aspect in audio mastering.

Nearfield and midfield position

It is interesting to try these speakers both in nearfield and in midfield position. Focal Alpha 80 behave very well in both cases. When I use them in the nearfield position, I put them upside down to have the tweeters on the same height of my ears. This is important to correctly listen to the high frequencies, because of their directionality. This placement allows to hear the sound in a very detailed way, spotting every sonic detail, but losing a little of the “big picture”.

With midfield position, the tonal response remains almost the same, if the room acoustic is good. On the other hand, the detail level decreases, while the big picture perception improves; there is a better perception of the overall sound in its entirety. Another interesting aspect is the narrowing of the stereo image when the distance from the speakers increases. Experimenting these solutions with Focal Alpha 80 leads always to great results, if the room acoustic is good.

Conclusions

In summary, these speakers are suitable for audio mastering. I suggest them to those mastering studios looking for nearfield or midfield speakers with a linear, full range, powerful and accurate sound.