Focal Vestia 1
Focal has been on something of a charm offensive at the more affordable end of their model range of late. The Vestia range has been followed onto the market by the Thevas which occupy the price point below them. Logical to a fault, we’ve selected the Vestia 1 to look at as the most affordable of all of the Vestia models because it’s both a good place to start and also as it incorporates the bulk of the refinements of the wider range.
Key among these is a new tweeter. It’s still a metal dome made from a combination of aluminium and magnesium but it has borrowed from experience gained in Focal’s automotive division. The dome has the distinctive ‘M’ shaped profile but now sits more forward in the front baffle than was previously case and has a shallow waveguide around it. Focal says that this new design is lighter and stiffer than was the case before and the new mount and guide helps with the overall dispersion of the sound.
This hands over to a mid bass driver that makes use of the ‘Slatefiber’ material that first appeared in the Focal Chora range. Despite the name, Slatefiber doesn’t actually contain any slate. Instead, it’s made from recycled, unwoven carbon fibre that is compressed into an extremely light and rigid diaphragm. In the Vestia 1, the driver is 165mm across and assisted by a single front bass port. In keeping with other Focal speakers, connection to the outside world is via a single set of terminals; the company doesn’t have any truck with biwiring as a concept and therefore doesn’t support it, an attitude that we have asolutley no problem with!
Both drivers sit in a cabinet that, at a whisker under 38cm tall, is larger than a number of other speakers at this sort of price point. The construction is relatively conventional; Focal uses braced MDF to create what they describe as an ‘ultra rigid’ shape and the Vestia 1 does feel commendably solid, if not quite as sophisticated as some other speakers at a similar price. Something that does need to be mentioned when discussing this though is that the Vestia 1 is built in the EU where many rivals are not. It’s not for us at Sound Advice to make any judgement on this but it will have an effect on what you can achieve at the same price points, particularly as Focal places greater emphasis on their drivers in the overall design of their speakers.
The Vestia 1 might be a new speaker but some attributes it possesses will be instantly familiar to anyone who has listened to Focal models in the last 20 years. This is an accurate, detailed and very direct listening experience. It will faithfully reflect both the contents of the recording and the character of your connected equipment. Focal has been a major player in professional audio for decades and the traits that stand them in good stead there are very much part of the Vestia 1’s playbook too.
This sound has evolved though and it results in a speaker that manages to balance this desire to tell you everything about the recording and the rest of your system with a far more forgiving edge than Focal speakers of old. I don’t think that anyone will ever describe the Vestia 1 as ‘warm’ but there’s a refinement and sweetness to the performance that would have been absent a few years ago. Even with actively poor recordings, the Vestia 1 walks the clever balance of pointing out that things could be a little better without ever making the result sound unlistenable. There are more forgiving options still at the price but the Vestia 1 can keep them honest. That new tweeter seems to be a particular force in this regard, helping the Focal to be altogether more refined when fed a less than perfect diet.
On a more intangible level, this Focal is fun too. It’s not the first fun Focal (try saying that ten times quickly…) but it develops the feeling of engagement and emotional involvement further. The Slatefiber driver isn’t simply a clever use of carbon fibre. It imbues the Vestia 1 with a transient speed and agility that very little else at the price can touch. The partial trade off is that the Vestia 1 isn’t the hardest hitting standmount speaker you can buy but equally it never feels thin or lightweight. This feeling of energy and agility hasn’t been bought at the expense of making the Focal feel relentless or wearing. So long as a modicum of care and attention has gone into partnering them, this is an uncommonly well balanced design.
Focal tends to leave their more exciting finish options for their high end offerings and the Vestia 1 has three relatively sensible finishes to choose from. The black high gloss and dark wood choices need little explaining but the ‘light wood’ is rather interesting. In this finish, the Vestia 1 does indeed have a wood effect on the side cheeks of the cabinet but ‘light’ is in fact ‘white.’ This could have looked dreadful but the contrast from the slatefiber drivers does a good job of ensuring that it winds up looking rather smart.
In the same way that there are a number of Focal calling cards in the sound quality, so there are in terms of setup and general behaviour. The Vestia 1 is not a ‘plonk and play’ device; it will need a little care taken in terms of placement and positioning to get it sounding its best. If you do put the effort in though, it can do a neat trick of vanishing into the soundstage it creates. A feature that is rather more accessible is that this is a very easy speaker to drive. Beyond even the fairly benign posted measurements, the Focal can deliver excellent results on fairly low powered equipment if you need it too.
The Vestia 1 doesn’t re-write the rules of what Focal speakers can do but then, it doesn’t seek to. What it does it harness the things that the company has traditionally done so well and make them more accessible and forgiving while ensuring that the build and industrial design is competitive too. What’s more, if you like what it does, it’s the perfect introduction to the brand as a whole.
Penguin Café Orchestra Penguin Café Orchestra
The Focal’s exceptional tonal realism helps this wonderfully distinctive album sound as lively and engaging as it should, doing justice to the bewildering array of instruments being used on it.
The Heavy Heavy Life and Life Only
In times gone by, older Focal speakers would have taken exception to the faux retro mastering of this and sounded a little thin and uncomfortable. The Vestia 1 simply cracks on with pointing out that it’s an absolute riot to listen to.
Red Rum Club The Hollow of Humdrum
This is a big, boisterous and exciting album and the Vestia 1 absolutely revels in it, doing a very convincing job of recreating the scale and power that is on offer here at the same time as going like the clappers.
If you want detail, tonal realism with a decent helping of fun, the Vestia 1 will deliver in spades while demanding commendably little of the equipment it is partnered with