Focal SM9 Unique Features
- Combines both a 2-way and 3-way monitor system in one enclosure (two distinct monitor designs in one)
- 11″ passive bass radiator offers consistent bass response at all SPL levels and eliminates bass port noise
- Inverted beryllium tweeter provides five-octave frequency range (1kHz-40kHz)
- “W” sandwiched composite cones allow precise control linearity
- 30Hz – 40kHz ultra wide frequency range (in 3-way mode)
- Six EQ controls for room optimization plus a direct mode that bypasses EQ electronics
- Selectable input sensitivity; -4dBu or –10dBV operation
Focal SM9: Two Monitors in One
One of the less-guarded secrets of mix translation is to listen to your mix on different sets of monitors as you work. Of course, with near- or mid-field monitors, you can only have one set of monitors placed in the optimal position in relation to your control room’s acoustic makeup. In essence, with secondary reference monitors in a less-than-optimal position, you’re fighting room acoustics rather than hearing how your mix actually translates to another system. Focal Professional solves this problem with its flagship studio reference monitor, the SM9.
The Focal SM9 combines both a 2-way monitor and a 3-way monitor in one box, so when you switch between monitoring systems, the SM9 is always in the optimal position. Two-way mode is purposely band-limited from 90Hz to 20kHz, allowing you to hear what your mix would sound like on a bass-challenged system, as well as offering a means to zero in on the midrange for vocal and instrument balance, as well as EQ tweaking. Midrange is a difficult range to balance and EQ in context of all the other frequency information in program material. The SM9’s 2-way mode makes it easy for you focus in on the midrange. A side-panel button aptly labeled, FOCUS, activates 2-way mode. In 2-way configuration, the midrange woofer and tweeter are internally isolated from the bass driver to avoid unwanted energy transfer between the midrange woofer and the bass speaker. The SM9’s 2-way mode provides a linear response from 90Hz to 20kHz
The Focal SM9 studio monitor’s dual design not only gives you the ability to mix and master with the highest sound quality, but also check mix-transfer quality on systems with limited frequency response, such TV sets, computers, cars, iPod docks or any multimedia system.
Control the Bass and Everything Else Falls Into Place
A well-known fact among professional mixers that control of the lower frequencies makes the difference between a lackluster mix and a mix that pops. The Focal SM9 offers precision control of bass frequencies thanks to extensive rear-panel EQ and a unique 11″ bass radiator (a passive speaker cone that works in concert with the 8″ woofer). The radiator is a purely passive speaker cone (no magnet) that shares the same “W” sandwich technology (see below) as the SM9’s 8″ mid-woofer.
In order to extend bass response, the passive cone resonates in sympathy with the 8″ woofer. It functions much like a ported-cabinet design, but without the downside of ported designs at high SPL; what RPSE refers to as, “port-noise complaint” (a “huffing” noise due to high-pressure air currents pushed through the ports). As an added benefit, the radiator maintains a balanced tonal response at all SPL levels. Regardless of volume, consistency of sound is assured, since the bass radiator varies with the air pressure inside the cabinet, thus allowing for changes in speaker excursion. You get a tight and well-defined bass that’s always under your control.
The Focal SM9’s rear panel plays host to a comprehensive set of six EQ controls. They include a high-pass filter [full range, 45Hz, 60Hz, 90Hz (-6dB)]; low frequency shelf [30Hz-250Hz in 0.5dB steps (±3dB)]; low-frequency EQ [50Hz 0.5dB steps (±3dB)]; mid-frequency EQ [1kHz in 0.5dB steps (±3dB)]; high-frequency shelf [4.5kHz-40kHz at 0.5dB (±3dB)]; and a low mid-range parametric EQ to help reduce console reflections [160Hz in 0.5dB steps (±3dB)]. The rear panel also features a sensitivity control for +4dBu or –10dBV operation, along with an electronically balanced XLR input. On the side panel, along with the FOCUS switch and standby/on buttons, a direct-mode switch bypasses the EQ circuitry except for the high-pass filter.
Focal Professional’s Innovative Technology for Superior Sound
It’s been said that if you’re not manufacturing your own LF and HF drivers, then you’re simply in the packing industry, not speaker manufacture. Focal Professional employs several proprietary and patented technologies to ensure world-class performance.
Inverted Dome Tweeter
Two of the most difficult things to hear in a mix are compression and reverb tails. Focal’s innovative inverted dome tweeter offers unparalleled dynamics, enabling very precise control of compression, while its outstanding spatial precision facilitates accurate assessment of reverb tails and stereo imaging.
It accomplishes this by mechanical coupling of voice coil and dome. The voice coil is fixed mid-height on the dome and uniformly moves the entire surface of the cone. The positive dome is only joined at its edge for a flexible surface. The inverted dome directly radiates into the air with maximum efficiency, which results in an extremely precise soundstage. The dome’s response curve is far more linear than that of any positive dome, thus providing better dispersion and very low directivity.
Long, fatigue-free mixing or mastering sessions require very low distortion in the high frequencies. To accomplish this, two years of Focal research produced the world’s first pure beryllium, inverted-dome tweeter. Capable of covering five full octaves (1kHz to 40kHz) due to its incredible rigidity, Beryllium appears to be the ultimate material for a tweeter dome.
Why did Focal strive for a frequency response up to 40kHz if the human ear can only hear up to 20kHz? Extensive research has shown that if you extend frequency response well beyond the range of human hearing, phase shift is significantly reduced in the audible spectrum. This reduced phase shift greatly improves the reproduction of high-frequency information, which yields greater realism and localization in-band. Instruments maintain their spatial integrity yet blend better harmonically.
Since the linearity of a speaker’s response curve is mainly a function of three often opposing parameters: lightness, rigidity, and damping, it follows that a material that combines these three parameters in a positive manner must be found—and find it Focal did. Only one material does the trick: beryllium. Beryllium is seven times more rigid than titanium or aluminum, both of which are well known for their rigidity. However, beryllium offers sound-wave propagation that’s three times faster than titanium, and two-and-one-half times faster than aluminum. This capacity to reproduce high frequencies with unmatched speed and transparency yields an unprecedented price/performance ratio. Additionally, Focal’s TB872 beryllium tweeter delivers outstanding dynamic response, thanks to its amazing magnetic field strength (2.1 teslas).
This decisive advance in tweeter technology has put Focal Professional monitors in the enviable position of dominating the field of new high-resolution audio formats.
Focal “W” Composite Sandwich Cone
Like the beryllium tweeter, the “W” composite sandwich cone optimizes the speaker’s frequency response curve, thanks to total control of the three aforementioned contradictory characteristics: lightness, rigidity, and damping. Focal has been developing composite sandwich technology for more than 15 years, and finally perfected it with the “W” (Glass/Foam/Glass) composite sandwich cone. The “W” cone provides precision optimization of its frequency response by fine-tuning mass, rigidity, and damping characteristic. The balance between these three fundamental parameters forms the basis of Focal speakers’ outstanding sound quality and neutrality.
High-performance, Tailor-made Amplification
The SM9 uses low-distortion, Class AB power stages for low frequency (400W), midrange (100W), and high-frequency (100W) channels. Focal designed these high-quality amplifiers to maintain the integrity of dynamics in low-level audio signals, ensuring total transparency.
About Focal Professional
Since 1979, Focal-JMlab has been a world leader in high-end acoustic loudspeakers. While maintaining production in France for over 30 years, Focal has never deviated from its core values of innovation, tradition, and designs reflecting “luxury “à la française.” Focal strives to be the world’s best in everything they create, and their award-winning lines of professional studio monitors reflect that philosophy.
“Focal: the Spirit of Sound.”