Focal Cobalt 815 Floorstanding Speakers

Cobalt 815

3-way bass reflex column

User Reviews (18)

Showing 1-10 of 18  
Daniel Copland   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 27, 2003]
Strength:

Accurate, fast, dynamic... Start & stop when needed. Good clarity. Top speakers for the $.

Weakness:

Need to match system properly before buying. Solid State matching is difficult.

Very good finish, when compared to British speakers in the same dollar range. After 6 months of finding the right equipment to match this baby, it is flying smoothly. Sounded bright and thin at first. Took 16 weeks to run in. Cannot be used with SS, esp Musical Fidelity A300, A3.2 etc. Sounds better than lots of $4000 speakers when matched with good tube amps: Graaf, VTL, Copland, even some Taiwanese brew. High is very good, Mid and Bass need valve power. Sounds better when volume is at 11 o'clock. Current system: Clearaudio champion turntable(mc) VTL PR1 preamp Graaf GM100 poweramp Silver anniversary bi amp cables

Similar Products Used: B&W, Bose, Infinity
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Mike   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 24, 2000]
Strength:

Powerful, good looking with S2 optional base, bi-wireable, finish with real wood.

Weakness:

Need careful positioning, boomy t'il they're broken'in.

These speakers produce great sense of space, deep and precise bass, fast and refine sounds. Vocals are rendered with great accuracy. You can play them at very high or very low volume without losing any details. They are easy to drive (very sensitive 91 dB). The Cobalt 815 are a bit forward but i like a sound that is fast and in your face. Perfect for long auditioning session.

Similar Products Used: Paradigm phantom, Mirage FRX series, B&W 602S2, 603S2, JMlab Tantal 515&520, and some Boston Acoustic.
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Jim   Audiophile [May 25, 2000]
Strength:

Imaging, Details, Soundstaging and Transparency

Weakness:

Appearance of bass shyness, very revealing therefore needing careful system match

It took me at least a year to finally get these speakers to perform the way they're supposed to. The imaging, soundstage and details were pretty much a given. However, the tendency to sound bright and edgy on female vocals were disappointing right off the bat (considering how nice these speakers sounded at the showroom). The bass reproduction is perhaps too accurate and refined that you immediately get a sense that the speakers are weak on bass. However, with materials that have true bass and providing quality amplification, the windows do get rattled. The upside to this is the bass come across as musical notes with image (and in the case of midbass, position) rather than just mere low frequencies. Adding a carefully tuned small sub should accentuate the lower notes. This is only needed if the speakers are positioned 4 feet or more from walls. The sibilance from female vocals took a bit of effort to fix. Unless your room is acoustically ideal, most SS amps (Bryston, Krell, Sim Audio, etc) will result in female vocals sibilance. Tubes and perhaps a few SS models will work better. Cables that match well with these speakers are the MIT, Transparent types that adds a touch of smoothness to the sound. The really detailed cables like Kimber KCAG or Nordost may pose a problem.

In summary, once they are set up properly, these speakers sound magnificent. They can be pit against $3-4K speakers and easily hold their own. But I must say getting to that point will take some effort. I would certainly recommend these speakers to the audiophiles who enjoy the continous process of tweaking and improving their system performance. For the casual audio ethusiasts, there are friendlier speakers out there (but the final result may not be as special).

System:
YBA Integre DT amp, Sony ES CDP, MSB Link D/A, MIT 330 CVTerminator II interconnects, MIT 750 CVTerminator II speaker cables, PSB Subsonic sub (for room correction purpose)

Similar Products Used: Totem Forrest, Jamo Concert 8 and Energy Veritas 1.8
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Paul Duzick   Audiophile [Sep 05, 2001]
Strength:

pinpoint imaging, HF extension, very large and deep soundstage

Weakness:

not particularly warm or musical if you like that type of sound, not heavy enough

These speakers need several months to break in and mellow out on the high frequencies. They tend to put out a lot of sibilance on vocals at first because their tweeters are very clear and revealing. Removing the grill or lining the internal baffle of the grill with felt is a good idea until they are fully break in. I really would not recommend these speakers with home theater receivers such as Denon or Yamaha because these speakers lack the warm or musicality to compensate for mid fi gears. I had these speakers for about over a year when I bought some used YBA separates and begin to itch for speakers upgrade. I really thought about getting the Totem Forrest. If the Forrest was priced somewhat less I would have bought them because they are really well rounded performers. The midrange was not as clear and open as compared with other $3000 speakers but perhaps I'm being overcritical due to the fact I listen to a lot of vocals and chamber music. I also consider the Newform Research 645 which features a tall ribbon module married to a Scanspeak carbon fiber driver. A friend has these and I was quite impressed with the almost magical soundstage that they produced. The Newform were very funky looking but they sounded exceptionally good for their $1500 price. They gave me the impression that I was at a live symphonic concert because those ribbon tweeters virtually let you see into the music. Their drawbacks were that they were very sweet spot sensitive and you can't slouch back on your couch too much because that will position your ears below the effective vertical range of the tweeters.

Anyway, both the Forrest and Newform were great speakers but I couldn't justify the upgrade since the Cobalt did most these feats relatively well. I decided to stick with them for awhile and instead added a MSB Link 3 D/A to my Pioneer Elite DVD/CD player. This is when I came to realize that these Cobalt speakers were really great speakers in their own right. They definitely don't give you the bass slam of speakers such as the Paradigm Reference 100 or NHT 3.3. They also don't fill up the whole room up with music or make you think that you were in a nightclub or pop concert. Actually they do the opposite of all that. What they do is separate each musical images and pinpoints vocals and instruments very precisely within a 3-D soundstage. The upper midrange glare that was annoying in the beginning disappeared with the proper equipment and eventual tweeter break in. What you do get is a timbre that is very true to the original sound source. Acoustic guitars with metallic strings have that nice tingling razor sharp reverb, piano notes come thru with just the right touch of speed and hardness, very true to the real thing. Bass and percussion have images and position in addition to just sounding like bass and drums. Of course you also need quality source, pre/amp and cables to get all this. Like most speakers, making sure that they are firmly anchored on their spikes and adding weight on top of them will improve the accurize bass performance and timbre of strings and pianos dramatically.

When I first heard the Cobalt playing at the dealer, I thought they were just awesome speakers. After almost 2 years later, I am very glad I stuck with them and allow them to present their exceptional performances over time and after quality equipment matching.

In order to really appreciate these speakers, I encourage you to spend some time and listen to high end speakers such as ProAc, Thiel, Audio Physic, Verity Audio or Revel. Get a good feel and appreciation for the coherence, attack, pinpoint image placement and timbre accuracy that these speakers offer. Remember their perfomances and then go listen to the Paradigms, NHT, PSB, Energy and whatever other bestsellers you can think of. See what you think. After that, go and listen the Cobalt. You can then either curse me or thank me.

Similar Products Used: energy c8
home audition totem forrest
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Phil Surtees   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 23, 2001]
Strength:

Carity,musicality

Weakness:

Can be harsh with cheap cd players

These stood out from the crowd the first time I heard them.
I went straight home and picked up my amp and went back to make sure all was good....needless to say they shined wi th my musical fidelity B200 so I took them home.
Since getting past the wear in stage they have settled nicely and are even smoother and sweeter than when first auditioned. Had to get rid of my cd walkman and replace it with a marantz cd6000 ose which has made all the difference.
Happy tunes !!

Similar Products Used: B&W,martin,jamo
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
GP   an Audio Enthusiast [Dec 08, 1998]

Basically, a two-and-a-half-way design (two 7" woofers - one driven in low frequencies only). Beautifully made (Cherry veneer); clarity and accuracy were wonderful (female vocals simply shined, likewise did Sax); soundstage very ample (a Houdini of a disappearing act). However, didn't extend quite as low as I would like on pulsating Rock music (40Hz - 23kHz, +/- 3dB), but also, no boominess at all.
Great design philosophy - all components, including drivers (Focal - 2 Big Thumbs Up), are designed and built in-house. If you get a chance, grab a Miles Davis CD and give them a listen. If I didn't just buy a new car, I'd be toting a pair home on my back - one at a time!

By the way, I saved the 5th star for the Electra Line (915/920).

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Bob   an Audio Enthusiast [Jan 05, 1999]

Just bought a pair after comparing them to the PSB Stratus Bronze and a Tannoy speaker (forgot the name) in the same price range.
I also spent a considerable amount of time listening to the Cobalt 807 a d various lower price mini monitors eg Energy C2 DM302 etc... I just kept moving up the foodchain after finding too many obvious things that were lacking (low frequency etc.)

The PSB's got rave reviews from Stereophile. After re-reading the review I can understand how, although I felt the Cobalt blew them away. JMlab is priced a bit higher though.

I found the PSB much to directional and the sound broke down at low volumes. The Stereophile reviewer seemed to have spent hours aligning these speakers. And my listen confirmed this. The sweet spot was very narrow, the sound was fantastic sitting in the chair but broke down walking around the room. The JMlab sound was more open throughout the room instead of just the sweet spot. The high frequencies were very open and they did not attempt to reproduce low frequency information beyond their range. Vocals sounded especially good.. female Jazz artists esp. Also, at lower volume levels the JMlab retained consistent sound, the PSB and Tannoy speakers didnt do as well at lower volumes.

In comparison to the Tannoy, which was a great speaker, just not to my taste, the JM lab sounded more natural with Jazz, Vocals and *not* hard rock. The Tannoy had a specific "sound", but sounded better with harder rock. Less accurate though in the comparison context.

I liked the JMlab, they sounded better, more right, and very accurate. We'll see how they do in my house. I managed to listen to them with the source equipment I own. I highly recommend this as well as listening to a wide range of music (your own).

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
klaus   an Audio Enthusiast [Jul 01, 1999]

the 815 are my choice after lengthy auditioning... those store clerks must be mad at me... all they heard fom me is 'now let's take another amp','hey, and how-bout 820','guys I brought my own cable forget your trash'... just to hear mine 'sorry folks haven't heard Maggies yet'. OK, I heard Maggies, Klipsches, Energies, Tannoys and a few others. I'd love to hear Dynaudios, sorry, no dealer around.
For the price I looked for (under 1500 USD floorstanding) the 815s are one-of-a-kind winner. Mostly this comes from sounstage and voice-by-voice imaging. The tracks I used had very wide piano-to-forte range, and this detail and tonal balance remained stable at all levels. Of course, two 6-inch drivers wouldn't pound, this wasn't my first concern. Om Charlie Haden's Missouri Sky, there was an evident yet acceptable overload at the very low bass strings. But for grand orchestra music - just excellent image, breathing somewhere there in between and beyond (sidewise only, sorry).
By the way, the dealer had for audition two pairs of 815s, one burned-in one just unpacked. Very big difference in midbass handling.

Junior Maggies were just as good in imaging, bass poorer. Tannoy 637 and jmlab Tantals had proper bass yet nowhere near in mids/highs. Energy C-series... total mystery why so much hail about it. B&W P-series - very good but not my sound.

There are a few speakers I'd put above Cobalts. One would be Tannoy Definition 700 and 900 (above 5K), another - JMLab Utopia (5K-50K). But in this price range (USD 1300) - that's as good as it gets. I'd pair them with YBA Interge, may be an overkill but the combination matches magnificiently. 5 stars.



OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Owen   an Audio Enthusiast [Jul 19, 1999]

I have to concur with Bob below (Jan. 99) as I compared the 815 against the PSB Silvers and was much more impressed with the wider soundfield and crisper highs/mids that the Cobalt were capable of. Particularly better at low listening levels (where most of us listen when not entertaining and showing off.) Build quality appears of top calibre for both with the PSB getting the nod on the piano finish but the 815's also looking quite smart in the light cherry veneer. I would appreciate a lighter finish though. Check out behind the grille to see how the grille cloth is attached...yup at least 200 staples, that should hold it on ..I have checked out the Paradigm Studio 60 and 80's, PSB Silveram and still looking but the Frenchies have me lathered up on the 815's.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Toan   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 22, 1999]
Strength:

soundstage.

Weakness:

midrange, lack of bass

The 815 lacks bass and needs a subwoofer to accomodate. Midrange flats and surrounding the sound. Highs roll off.

In my own opinion, 815s is not for music and is for home theater. The 820 is much more musical for $500 more. Planed
to purchase the 815s but disappointed. I am reconsidering the 810/820.

Similar Products Used: Energy C-6, 820.
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
Showing 1-10 of 18  

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