With very compact systems like the Dôme, the emphasis tends to be on quality more than quantity, and once optimized, the Focals were able to deliver fine sound within their dynamic limitations. The tweeter in particular sounded exceptionally smooth and relaxed, providing a clean, transparent window on any music performance. On the title track from Chris Thomas King's Red Mud, the contrast in timbres between King's Dobro, the drums, and the maracas was vividly defined, while the plunging bass line nicely anchored the sound.
The surround mix of "Amoreena" from Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection SACD sounded solid, with John's vocal anchored firmly front and center. But this disc highlighted the Focal system's dynamic limits: The presentation lacked some of the snap and kick I'm accustomed to hearing with my much larger PSB Synchrony rig. Bass was tuneful and clear, although the very lowest octave was missing in action. With five identical satellites, the channel-to-channel timbral match was, of course, excellent, allowing the system to generate an impressively seamless sound field.
As long as you're not expecting plaster-cracking volume levels and dynamics, the Dôme system works surprisingly well with movies. We all like to use huge explosions and shoot-'em-ups to test the limits of our home theater, but in truth movie sound is mostly about dialogue clarity and subtle surround effects - areas where the Dôme excels.
Even when the going got loud, such as the plane-crash scene in Flight of the Phoenix (2004), the Dôme system never distorted or sounded like it was reaching its limits. On the contrary, the sound remained clear and immersive, just minus some of the wallop and thunder of a bigger setup. Dialogue clarity was a strong point, with voices sounding smooth and natural. And the constant surround effect of sand hitting the plane in the crash scene put me right in the center of the action.
People who want invisible speakers will often choose in-wall models, but I would argue that a high-quality free-standing system like Focal's Dôme can deliver better results in a more flexible - and, for the most part, unobtrusive - package. With the Dôme, Focal's expertise in developing both drivers and complete speakers has allowed the company to create a system that maximizes performance while working within the limitations of small satellite speakers. If physical size weren't a factor, I expect you could find a speaker package that packs a bigger punch for the same money - but then again, your better half might not let it through the door.
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