Focal Sopra, Kanta, Aria

I’m confused. I’ve been in the market to replace my B&W 802D speakers. I’ve had them for 10 years and finally cannot take the brightness of them anymore. I’ve replaced amps, preamps, cables, sources, and yet the fundamental brightness is there, fatiguing me after only 1-hour of listening.

I auditioned the Focal Sopra 3 which I am told are not as bright and more musical. LIstened to them a few times, and honestly felt that they were also on the bright side similar to the B&W’s.

Another time I listened to the Focal Kanta 3 speaker. Like the Sopra it also has the Beryllium tweeter. Yet the one time I listened to these, they didn’t seem as bright.

Anyway, recently a friend of mine was in the process of moving, and I stored his Focal Aria 936 speakers at my home. I decided to hook them up to my electronics in my listening room just out of curiosity.

What I found were loudspeakers that were not bright (non beryllium tweeter), a warmer sound, probably due to a better mid-bass then the big 802’s. The extreme resolution was not there, and the midrange seemed congested at times. Yet, I found I could listen and enjoy these speakers for hours at a time. Bad recordings sounded good, and great recordings sounded, well, good also. Speaker placement made minimal difference.

My questions is at what is the sweet spot for Focal speakers. The point where they sound wonderful with extended listening, vs the point where they become a finicky pain in the ass to live with (aka 802D).

I was expecting to spend around an equal amount of money as the 802’s as a starting point, now I’m not so sure if I need to.

Thanks in advance for everyone’s input…


Have you auditioned the new version of your 802s, the B&W 802 D4? You may be very surprised. In a good way

Why restrict yourself to Focal?  You can very likely find something you like better for less money elsewhere.  Why not start with Sonus Faber and Vandersteen?

I have auditioned both the 802D3 and recently the D4. Honestly, the 802D3 I felt was the worst of the series. I felt like I was listening to each of the drivers separately and not as on speaker. The D4 seem to have fixed that issue, but it does seem like each new release is brighter than the previous version. I know it is their house sound, but they have this hyper resolution nowadays.

I'm kindof restricting myself to Focal at this point. I tried listening to the KEF Blades, but could only find them at Best Buy setup terribly with some teenager annoyed that I wanted to listen to more than one song on them.

I never liked Vanderstteens, felt they were too layed back in their sound.

I have heard some Sonus Faber that I've liked, but they were above my budget.



What are the electronics you’re using with your B&Ws?

Any acoustic treatment in the room? Speaker positioning optimized?
If this isn’t taken care of expect to be in the same situation you’re in now with any revealing/high resolution system, Focal included.

classe cam-200 monoblocks, bryston bp26 preamp, mark levinson 5101 cd player, speaker fidled with many times, 4 feet from front wall, 5 feet from side walls.

Exactly what i was thinking, at what point does Focal begin to make revealing/hish resolution speakers.


Look at the Focal 948, since the 936 has your ear.

It's a little bigger footprint than the 936, more punch with a little more refined presentation.

@onehorsepony Kanta is the starting point.

Is your room treated? Speaker placement will only get you so far. At a minimum take care of first reflection points.


@audphile1 +1


OP: I realize we all hear differently and prefer different sound. However, I can’t possibly understand how one can describe B&W 802 D4 as “bright”. Very odd

let me ask... how would you describe the B&W sound? How would , in your words, describe the sound of the 802D (1st gen) diamonds. I'm still learning on putting words to define some of the sounds

I have never owned the 802D. That’s like four generations ago. I own the 803 D3, for about three years now, and they are definitely not bright to me. See my profile for my current gear. Definitely “sparkles” in spades, but not bright. I like sparkling sound. My room is fully treated though, and measured for proper placement, although that’s not a deal breaker.


I listened to the D4 series at my dealer. Several times. And I have listen to a large range of speakers over the years, at dealers’ and friends’ and many audio shows. If I were to ever be swapping my speakers, it will still be the B&W. Likely the 802 this time around.


Anyways, I sense you are set for changing your speaker brand. Which is perfectly fine. Been there, done that, I know the feeling. Good luck with your pursuit and enjoy the process 

I owned N803 for many years and listened to 802D3 several times. B&W has its own sound. Some like it some don’t. But the 800 line of speakers is resolving and dynamic. I would not classify it as bright. There’s some midrange hump that emphasizes the vocals and goes into the presence region. Could be pleasant or fatiguing depending on your set up and room acoustics  

I ran my B&Ws with Pass X250.5 amplifier and ARC LS-25 preamp and that set up sounded amazing. 

With Diamond or Beryllium tweeters, or any high res tweeter, slightly less toe in would help tame the top end but if you don’t have at least some room treatment in critical points, fuhgeddaboudit

The measurements show the 802D4 is bright. I listened to them today on McIntosh 2700 tube pre and 611 amps. I would say they sounded bright. Sounded like the measurements below. Very high resolution and enjoyable but flawed. Great bass, great highs, good mids but sounded like 3 different speakers playing the same song. Came home and listened to the same songs on my Revel 228be with subs and McIntosh 462 and felt the resolution was close (not as good in the bass without subs) with a much more cohesive sound which lead to better imaging and soundstage. Adding in the subs I had better bass too. The highs are much softer on the Revels. Vocals popped on both speakers but were thinner on the 802D4. Maybe take a look at the Revel 328be. They sound a lot like Focals with softer highs. ASR has full measurements in their “review”.  


if you want a speaker that's not bright at all listen to the monitor audio gold G5 series with the AMT tweeter or the platinum series incredible three-dimensional very natural sounding speakers, I never did like BMW or focal I found them both bright.

also change all your cabling to OCC single crystal wire that has been now showing for over 50 years to be the best wire for audio. far better than anything ofc on the market at any price.

A friend of mine has had Kanta 2s for a few years. Every time I've listened to them I found them to be enjoyable. It's not the speaker I would buy, but they are not fatiguing in the least, to my ears. That said, he has grown tired of them and is looking at other options.



@onehorsepony - I think if you don't like the sound of the D2's, you probably won't like the D4's any more. I would not describe the 802 D2s as bright - I owned a pair for a few years. However, they do have a slightly "processed" sound and, if anything, the D4's sound like D2s on steroids i.e. more of the "B&W" sound. But there is a wide selection of speakers in the 802's price range, so I would certainly try to broaden the search beyond Focal. Also, before you make a final decision, it is worth considering listening to an alternative preamp and/or CD player  - just to be sure.


We have Kanta 3s in our family room. They are not too bright. I suspect it is your room that needs some work to dial them in. The Sopras are really nice too. They also look way better than the Kantas IMO. Good luck !


I am going to suggest ATC SCM40’s. Neutral, not bright, but quite revealing. Bonus is that all of the ATC “entry level” speakers are easy to set up, with no port that increases room interactions.

Well I own the Focal Sopra 2's. And I don't find them bright. But, I also have treated my room with ASC tube traps and Stillpoints Apertures. I also have tube mono block amps. And, cabling that works well with my equipment.

So, as the cliché goes, "everything matters", its all part of the whole system.


 Find a used pair of the Electra 1038BE. Way better than the Kanta. Also, maybe try to get a tube pre amp in for a listen.

@winoguy17 is spot on. Owned Aria 936 and never loved them. I sold them off and went to Electra 1028BE and those were the first speakers to amaze me. I now have the Sopra 2's and they took a great deal of time to settle in to get rid of brightness and really do take placement to be spot on. I'm still messing with placement, but I am pretty dang close. They were also still a little bright in my shoebox room with poor acoustic placement, but once I got that right I'm headed in the right direction. I still can't get over the price increases for the Focal lines so if I had to do it again I would probably be looking at other brands. $20k for Sopra's to me is way more overpriced. 



Agreed on the Sopra price increaseS. I was pretty much set to buy a pair of Sopra 2s right before they went from $14,000 to $19,000+, just crazy. I ended up buy Revel instead. They are just as good an way cheaper. I mean revels price went up 10% and Focal went up 40%…. Other international brands like Sonus Faber went up 15%. Focal is price gouging for sure. 

And Sonus Faber is made in Italy. Is French labor worth so much more than Italian labor? I love Focals and own Kantas but the price increases are insane on the Sopra line to the point that I won’t likely be moving up since it costs twice as much to do so.

Sopra 2 went from 15K to 21K or 30K if you like custom paint. Can’t really rationalize a 40% price increase simply off inflation when they are a vertically integrated company. This appears to not be a cost driven price increase but a "repositioning" to grab margin and comes off as gouging in my opinion.

Next speakers will likely be Sonus Fabers since the wife likes them more anyway.


To op, I've spent time listening to Kanta, Sopra, and Utopia. In my opinion, Kanta walks the line of detailed but smooth with Sopra moving into hyper detail that could be perceived as bright and with Utopia you are there. You might also want to check on Sonus Faber's Olympica line or if budget allows the Serafinos. They are lovely sounding speakers and never bright or harsh. Simply a joy to listen to.

I owned the B&W 803s for many yrs. I switched to Kanta 3s & couldn't be happier.

Three things can help.

First, your choice in amplification is not helping. Those Classe Class D amps were not known for their warmth. if you want to stay with Class D, move to something like AGD and it will improve the situation. I know Classe and B&W were sister companies and voiced together, etc… but I had one of those amps here and I think you might benefit from a switch. Naim is a better match for Focal than Classe ever was for B&W IMO.

Second, with Focal, over toeing the speakers can help. Instead of having the toeing right at you, have it toed so the sweet spot would be about 3’ in front of you. This will help with Sopra and Kanta and might solve your problem.

Third, dampen your room. Over damping will deaden the treble. Curtains, tapestries, etc….


The best alternatives for a more natural sound while not losing anything in terms of detail and image in this price tier, check out Perlisten. The S7t towers. Despite beryllium tweeters, they are not even a little bright. Another alternative is the Wilson Benesch Precision series. I had a customer move from Focal Electras to Wilson Benesch P3.0s and they solved his brightness issue and he said they are better in every way.


full disclosure, I am a dealer for all of these brands except B&W and Classe.


Yeah, if you are sensitive to brightness in speakers, I don't see Focal as your solution.  I've listened to Aria, Kanta, and Sopra and they are all going to be pretty detailed and hot in the treble.  As others have mentioned, I would give a listen to Sonus Faber Olympica or Olympica Nova. I think they are on to something with their DAD tweeter.

You might also check into Audio Solutions out of Lithuania. They are very neutral and the tweeters are not "bright".

Focals do not do well pointed at your head.  They need little to no toe in.

Having said that, I like Monitor Audio and speakers from Fritz better.


 what Erik said. I have very little toe-in on mine. I do not find them to be bright, but rather very revealing of every thing else in the chain. I did change my cabling after I had them for a short while, they do not need silver to shine. I love these things, they just do every thing to my liking, and if you want to rock, they go beautifully loud effortlessly.


Interestingly, we often let the visual impact the aural. Conventional wisdom emerges. 
In my experience for example, tubes look warm, are warm yet do not necessarily sound warm (or warmer).
Tweeter materials don’t necessarily sound a certain way. metal domes are shiny looking but don’t sound “bright.” A speaker’s sound is dependent on far more than tweeter or woofer cone materials. I have some experience with Revel (Voecks designs going back to Snell) and never found them “bright”…I never found my CJ preamps (with Krell SS amps) to be “warm”….

This is worth perusing

Finally, the made in China issue.

I just found out Dynaudio speakers (at least some) are “Made in China.” Some Revel’s are “assembled” in Indonesia (not sure about China). There is a difference between design, engineering, parts manufacture and assembly etc. Regardless, quality control is critical…here, there, or wherever.


What is the sonic signature of your preamp?  I'm thinking that's part of the problem 🤔.  In addition, I'm more of a Sonus Faber fan that tends to on the warmish side instead of hyper or detailed side. 

my bryston bp-26 preamp is supposed to be neutral sounding. also, I don't have class D amplifiers, I have a pair of Classe CAM-200 monoblocks

Sorry...I am a dope.  I was thinking of the Sigma amp line.  My apologies.  Based on the review of those CAM-200 amps in stereophile, amplification is not your issue.  

Try over-toeing or increasing the damping in your room.  Lack of toeing or toeing the speakers out will be less effective.  

If you are committed to replacing the B&Ws, I just wouldn't pick Focal.  It is every bit as bright as B&W.  You need to look at a different brand.  

That's what I noticed with the Sopra 3's. It's as if the Beryllium tweeter and the diamond tweeter are both 'hyper tweeters'. Crystal clear but fatiguing.

After having the Focal 936's in my house for a couple of weeks (non Beryllium  tweeter) i noticed they were not fatiguing after several hours.


my electronics are as follows:

Classe cam-200 monoblocks, bryston bp-26 preamp, mark levinson 5101 cd player.

all xlr audioquest water interconnects

audioquest indigo bi-wire cables (2 cables per speaker)

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IBryston BP-26.

Another point mentioned in another forum, which is more severe in my system is the Bryston BP-26 connected to the Classe CAM-200 via XLR, my volume range is literally from 6 to 7 (clockface speaking)

This is very annoying when trying to adjust the volume on the remote, but is this causing any weird sound issues?

How broken in were the Sopra speakers you heard? I ask because I put some Utopia component speakers in my car a few months ago. Although they sounded good out of the box it definitely took some hours on them to balance out and lose a slight harshness at high volumes. They sound awesome now. 

Also owned some Aria 906 for a while and they were pretty great speakers for the price. I like my Focal 836w better by quite a bit. There is a good YouTube video comparing the Aria 936 to the 826W. Although it’s a YouTube video I think it does a good job of showing the general character of the speakers. I strongly prefer the Chorus 826w but the Arias are clearly more relaxed at the expense of detail and dynamics relatively. 

Never heard a Focal I didn’t like and my next upgrade will likely be some Sopra or Utopias of some sort if I runs across a deal. 

Tried connecting a Cambridge Audio integrated amp up to my 802d's, Rated at 100wpc, wow what a difference. Not saying good/bad, but what a contrast. my Bryston BP-26 is bright and light on bass, where the Cambridge Audio is not bright at all, with a huge amount of bass.

Question: what is causing such a difference?

So you swapped Bryston preamp and your amps for a Cambridge integrated? And how did you determine it’s the Bryston that’s causing the brightness?

from what others are saying in the forum, that the Bryston BP-26 is a bright sounding preamp, and that the Classe CAM-200's are neutral sounding monoblocks?


what are your thoughts?

That would be an assumption. But a good start if a different brand integrated made a positive change. Worth pursuing. See if that Cambridge has preamp out and use it as a preamp to drive your classe. Check what that does. That will add a variable though - your interconnects. Something you had eliminated by going the integrated route.  
Also, can you borrow something more on the level of your speakers as far as an integrated or separates?
I had great experience with Pass X250.5 amp and Audio Research tube preamps driving my N803s.

Which speakers did you buy OP? I am debating between Kanta 2 and F226Be. I desire detail.

Currently have Revel's M105, and they're great but lacking a bit of detail and play it very safe with their neutrality. 

I still haven't chosen a pair of speakers to replace my 802D's. To be honest, I haven't found anything that is enough of a difference to justify the cost.

I did replace my Bryston BP-26 preamp with a PSAudio BHK Preamp and things have calmed down quite a bit. I can truthfully say that the Bryston BP-26 is a bright sounding preamp.

But, I still ultimately listen to the B&W 802D's. No matter what the electronics, they are voiced bright. The diamond tweeter says 'look at me'. Also, I continue to be listening to 3 speakers per cabinet, instead of one full range speaker. Maybe this is a function of 3 different speaker materials used?



I had a Aria 948 almost 5 years. Sold them a year ago . With a feel of relief and just 20% down of initial price. Exceptional look outside, exceptional highs and mids and .. something wrong in the low field. I can't describe exactly what but whit many recordings the lows was mud and "cardboard" sounding . Especially with sampled/ electronic generated stuff. The inside build high grade school job. Glue ,silicon  everywhere, the wading not stuffed but just thrown inside.

The amp was NAD c370, of course I tried bunch of other amps but with the same outcome.

Wouldn't call B&W 802D bright but has a sharp "edge" to some high frequencies. At least every time I've heard them at a friend's place. Go listen to some Joseph Audio Perspectives and then you will know what an extended top end should sound like IMHO