Speakers: Focal SM 9


Focal makes some of the finest hi-fi and studio monitor speakers on earth, and the SM 9 is their enormous flagship. I compared a lot of different makes and models for the studio's full-size speakers (we only have near-field and mid-field speakers, maybe one day I'll write about why), including larger models by ADAM Audio and Genelec, two other serious names in the industry. In the end, there are a few clear reasons why I chose the Focals, and why I'm impressed by them every day.

The thing that defines the SM 9 is how little it sounds like a typical studio monitor. There's no porting; it's a sealed-cab design like an NS-10. And there's no mid-range scoop like Rokits or Genelecs. Bass is confident without being boosted, a character that will be appreciated by anyone not accustomed to head-rattling EDM or Hip-Hop.

Despite its immense technical leaps, the SM 9 is in many ways similar to Yamaha's classic NS-10. The same kind of focus in preserving transient quality and eliminating resonance goes into the SM 9's component designs as went into the NS-10, although the three-way speakers and passive woofer on the SM 9 takes the approach to a proper full-frequency conclusion.