At the forefront of professional studio monitors stands the venerable French manufacturer, Focal. Renowned for its speakers’ fidelity, Focal monitors grace the most esteemed studios and lounges across the music industry.
Yet, while the professional line of Focal speakers would cost upwards of several thousand dollars, the Alpha Evo line emerges as a gateway for those seeking to embrace professional-grade Focal technology without breaking the bank.
The Alpha Evo line includes the smaller Alpha 50 Evo, Alpha 65 Evo, and the Alpha Twin Evo, which features a 2.5 configuration with side-by-side 6.5″ drivers. Amongst the Alpha series line reigns the flagship second-generation Focal Alpha 80 Evo – a two-way, bi-amped 8-inch monitor that promises to redefine the boundaries of audio excellence.
In this immersive Focal Alpha 80 Evo review, we’ll examine its intricate design, masterful construction, and enigmatic Slatefiber cone that allows each note to resonate with unmatched clarity and precision.
At a Glance
The Focal Alpha 80 Evo is a powerhouse in professional audio with its sleek design and superior sound quality.
The innovative Slatefiber cone delivers deep, clear sound, and the wide sweet spot adds flexibility to your studio setup. These speakers sound amazing, with an incredibly flat neutral frequency response and impressive sound stage.
At $500 per unit, these monitors compete with higher-priced models several times its price and leave a lasting impression. The Alpha 80 Evos are one of the best studio monitors in audio engineering for accurate monitoring and mesmerizing sound.
Design and Build Quality
Upon first glance, the Focal Alpha 80 Evo captivates with its sleek, contemporary design. Visually, it bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor, the Focal Alpha 80 studio monitor.
However, the similarities are primarily aesthetic, as the performance of the Evo series has been significantly enhanced, a point we will delve into later.
The monitor is visually striking, featuring an eye-catching Slatefiber woofer, a departure from the old polyglass cone of the previous model. This new cone lends a more blueish hue to the woofer, adding a touch of modernity to the overall design.
The front panel has also seen a notable change, with the older model’s two large oval bass ports replaced by a single large laminar port in the Evo series.
The construction quality of the Alpha 80 Evo has a premium feel, with a newly designed cabinet that is robust and enduring. The cabinet is crafted from the same dense MDF board as its predecessor, internally braced and flanked by plastic side panels.
However, the new Evo series introduces a more modern look, particularly with the addition of two triangular cuts on each side panel. These cuts taper towards the tips, like an arrowhead mold, making the Alpha 80 Evo look absolutely sleek.
The debossed FOCAL logo on the side panels has also been enlarged, a strategic branding move that will undoubtedly appeal to music-producing YouTubers using this model.
For those concerned about the safety of the drivers, optional metal grille covers are available, offering protection from children or pets.
Deep, tight, and crystal clear sound
The Focal Alpha 80 Evo studio monitors prove that quality is not always synonymous with a hefty price tag. It delivers a tight, punchy midrange, with a deep and full bass, yet remains well-defined and snappy.
This superior sound quality can be attributed to its innovative Slatefiber cone. Developed by Focal over a span of more than four years, the Slatefiber cone is a composite structure, comprising recycled non-woven carbon fibers and thermoplastic polymer. This unique blend of materials makes the cone extremely lightweight and rigid, improving its transient reaction time, and resulting in better bass and damping.
Furthermore, the new design of the large front internally fluted laminar bass port offers a better low-end extension and less distortion than the previous model that uses a dual port design. You wouldn’t need a subwoofer because of the Alpha 80 Evo’s incredible low-end performance unless you need mixes below 40Hz.
The Alpha 80 Evo also delivers an open and detailed sound in the treble and air frequencies, without being overly brittle or bright. This is made possible by its 1-inch aluminum inverted dome tweeter, strategically seated in an acoustic waveguide that controls dispersion and provides a wide sweet spot. Additionally, the design is less sensitive to diffractions from the cabinet, further enhancing the overall sound quality.
These improved audio attributes do not remove the softness of the Focal sound signature, allowing you to sit through a 12-hour mixing session without any ear fatigue.
Accurate audio with an impressive soundstage
The Focal Alpha 80 Evo speakers are incredible for mixing, providing a flat, neutral frequency response without coloration, and accurately translating finished or unfinished mixes. They unveil details typically associated with more expensive speakers, and present tracks with unvarnished clarity, irrespective of the medium.
They avoid over-emphasizing any element, faithfully revealing what is present and highlighting what is absent. This honesty extends to the quality of the mix, rendering poor mixes noticeably flawed and good mixes delightfully rich.
The Alpha 80 Evo speakers demonstrate exceptional sound imaging and an expansive sound stage when properly set up with room acoustic treatment. If you close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a music studio with a live band, you can almost locate the position of each instrument in the space around you.
Unlike other speakers with an extremely tight phantom center that forces you to stay fixated in one spot, the Focal Alpha 80 Evo speakers cut you some slack with a wider sweet spot. You can even have others listening from behind you without significantly reducing sound quality.
Despite not being high-powered, the Alpha 80 Evo monitors have plenty of headroom for mixing. They operate flawlessly at high and low volumes, providing clear sound reproduction without any breakup.
They are also more power efficient than the previous Alpha 80 model, being able to output almost the same sound pressure levels with 25W less power (115W instead of 140W).
Compared to other studio monitors
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Focal Alpha 80 Evo is for amateurs just because it belongs to the entry-level studio monitors in Focal’s lineup and is relatively affordable. This monitor stands its ground, even compared to Focal’s professional line of reference monitors.
It is capable of filling a music studio with sound and maintaining a commendable low-end, even when compared to the Focal Trio11 Be, a professional 10-inch studio monitor that is nearly ten times its price.
Even against the Focal Trio 6 Be, a professional 8-inch studio monitor six times its price, the Alpha 80 Evo demonstrates a surprising similarity in sound quality.
While it is approximately $100 more expensive than the Yamaha HS8 per unit, it offers superior sound quality, particularly as the Yamaha HS8 tends to sound rather harsh in the upper frequencies.
The Focal Alpha 80 Evo features a variety of rear panel controls and connections that cater to the needs of any professional or home studio setup. Starting with the controls, it offers a low-frequency shelving knob that allows users to adjust the output of the low frequencies. This is particularly useful if the monitors are placed close to a wall, as it can minimize unwanted low-frequency build-up by reducing it down to -6dB.
In addition to the bass control, there is also a high-frequency shelving knob that enables users to adjust the output of the high frequencies. This control can compensate for any harshness in the top end, especially in bright-sounding studio environments.
The Focal Alpha 80 Evo also includes a Sensitivity Switch that allows you to boost the volume levels by +6dB without risking any saturation in the output stage of the converter or sound card. This feature comes in handy when you do not have a good-quality audio interface, or you’re connecting the Alpha 80 Evo directly from your computer, and the incoming signal level is too weak to give a clear and audible sound.
As for the connections, the Focal Alpha 80 Evo offers an XLR balanced input jack, which is the primary choice of connection. However, it also provides a 1/4-inch TRS input and an unbalanced RCA Input as additional connectivity options. It’s important to note that the Focal Alpha 80 Evo does not come with cables, so these must be purchased separately.
There is also a switch to enable ‘auto standby mode‘ that turns the speakers off after 15 minutes of inactivity and switches back on when audio is being played.
The rear panel also comes with wall-mounting inserts to give you more options for speaker placement.
In conclusion, the Focal Alpha 80 Evo is an enigmatic gem, hidden amongst the pro speakers. It redefines the boundaries of audio excellence, leaving a lasting mark on your auditory senses.
While the Alpha 80 Evo is more expensive than other entry-level 8-inch monitors, such as the Yamaha HS8, KRK Rokit 8 G4, and the Kali Audio LP-8, it is a worthwhile investment. The exclusive technology and premium materials come at a price, but the sound quality is second to none, even when compared to professional monitors several times its price.
Whether you’re a seasoned music producer or just starting, these monitors offer an excellent entry point into the Focal ecosystem. They provide plenty of value and cater to analytical music consumers and those seeking professional sound engineering.
- Power Configuration: Bi-amped
- LF Driver Size: 8″ woofer
- LF Driver Type: Slatefiber cone
- HF Driver Size: 1″ tweeter
- HF Driver Type: Aluminum inverted dome
- Total Power: 115W Class D
- LF Driver Power Amp: 80W
- HF Driver Power Amp: 35W
- Frequency Response: 38Hz-22kHz
- Maximum Peak SPL: 106 dB SPL @ 1m
- Input Types: 1 x XLR, 1 x RCA, 1 x 1/4″ TRS
- Weight: 21.6 lbs (9.8 Kg)
- Proprietary 8″ Slatefiber cone woofer for a tight bass
- Large front-firing laminar port
- Connect up to 3 audio sources
- Automatic standby mode after 15 minutes
- Metal protection grilles for drivers
- Inserts for wall and ceiling fastening
Focal Alpha 80 Evo