Focal Kanta No2 Floorstanding Speaker Review

Who does No2 work for? You it turns out.

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

13

Highly Recommended
Focal Kanta No2 Floorstanding Speaker Review
SRP: £6,999.00

Introduction - What is the Kanta No2?

The Focal Kanta No2 is a three way floorstanding speaker. As the name suggests, it is ‘one up’ from the Kanta No1 standmount; a speaker that impressed me sufficiently when it turned up for review that it remains on hand for test purposes. You can read the review again at your leisure but what makes the Kanta No1 special is that it takes all the things that Focal’s larger speakers were always traditionally good at; incredible detail retrieval, effortless three dimensionality and tonal accuracy, and mixes it with things that the company's smaller speakers were rather better at, the main one of those principally being fun.

The Kanta No2 is more than a bigger Kanta 1 though. It works to slightly different engineering and design principals that have more in common with the bigger floorstanders. It also comes in at a rather healthy £7,000 which means there is the small matter of the Kudos Titan 505 to consider as a rival (and if you want a summary of that review, as far as I’m concerned, it’s close to perfect) and some searching questions to ask about value. Is this another helping of the ‘sweet spot’ of Focal’s product range or does it tip over into being something different again? There’s only one way to find out.

Specification and Design

Focal Kanta No2
Multiple finishes are available but this is how the review pair came 

The driver materials for the Kanta No2 are unchanged from the Kanta No1 so I will avoid rehashing everything again (even though that would give me more scope to write about beryllium which is genuinely something I love doing because it fascinates me). The executive summary is that the Kanta series is a meeting point for Focal driver design practise, combining the ‘flax’ drivers (not entirely made from plant, but using a layer of it in place of the rather more expensive composite that is employed in the Sopra and Utopia ranges. This is combined with the beryllium tweeter employed in the more expensive models.

The Kanta No2 has the same drivers used in its construction as the Kanta No1; namely the aforementioned tweeter and a 6.5 inch flax driver. As you might expect, it differs from the smaller speaker in having more drivers but there is more going on here than simple augmentation. For starters, the two drivers carried over are inverted, with the 6.5in driver being the uppermost in the cabinet, above the tweeter. Focal says that this has effects on the time alignment, especially when combined with the front baffle but it also means that the tweeter is closer to ear height when you are seated in front of the Kanta No2.

The 6.5in driver is now also purely employed for midrange use. It now handles everything between 260Hz and 2.7kHz. What’s interesting about this is that it means that the driver is handling an extra 300Hz at the high frequency end of the spectrum than it is in the Kanta No1 which has a crossover point to the tweeter of 2.4kHz. In short, they might be the same drivers but they aren’t in the same place or doing the same things as they are in the smaller speaker.

Focal Kanta No2
Genuine star quality, insofar as it's made from supernovas.

To fill in below 260Hz, the Kanta No2 is equipped with a pair of 6.5in bass drivers, taking the same feed from the crossover. These drivers are the same size as the midrange and share the same flax cone but they’ve been configured for low frequency work with different dust caps, mounting and suspension arrangements to the midrange variant. They are augmented by a front firing port sat below them and Focal claims a low end response of 35hz at +/- 3dB and 29Hz at +/- 6dB. What’s unusual is that this is not the only port on the Kanta No2. Half way up the rear panel is a second port for the bass chamber. This helps tune the response of the lower chamber and it manages to do this while not seemingly moving a huge amount of air, making positioning a little simpler.

This tuning has some other benefits. Combined with some other tweaks such as Focal’s Neutal Inductance Circuit (NIC) and the generally responsive nature of the company’s drivers, it means that the Kanta No2 is usefully sensitive. There is a fair amount of feedback online that the company’s claimed figures of 91dB and an eight ohm load are not completely borne out in reality but it still translates into a speaker that doesn’t need a huge amount of power to go impressively loud.

All four drivers are placed in an extended version of the same high density polymer baffle that all members of the Kanta family uses. The drivers are affixed to this baffle which is then mated with the rest of the cabinet. The greater height of the No2 shows a design trait that is more visible in the Sopra and Utopia models where the baffle angles gently back from its base to the point where the tweeter is mounted, before angling forwards for the midrange driver. This is to ensure time alignment - the principle by which different frequencies, travelling at slightly different speeds, hit the ear at the same point.

Focal Kanta No2
The feet come pre fitted and ensure the speaker is very stable.

The entire speaker rests on an extended leg and spike arrangement that manages to ensure that the Kanta is usefully stable and easy to level even on an uneven floor. This metal assembly is pre fitted to the Kanta which makes setup a little easier at the cost of extraction from the box being a little more involved. I’ve personally wasted enough time over the years affixing feet and spikes to speakers to think the trade-off is worth it but your mileage may vary.

Opinions are definitely going to vary on the appearance of the Kanta No2. The review sample of the Kanta No1 partnered the wood effect cabinet with a dark grey baffle which is a combination I’ve grown to rather like. The No2 sample keeps the wood but elects to match it with a ‘Gauloise Blue’ baffle instead. On a speaker that stands well over a metre tall, the effect is not subtle and if your décor is trad, it’ll be fairly jarring. I have to say I quite like it though. The nature of how Focal designs speakers means that they can never truly be discrete furniture and wearing a bright colour, the Kanta No2 becomes - honestly no pun intended - a focal point to a room. If you switch to a black cabinet, the front baffle becomes a gloss finish which I think looks better still but the effect is still a good one.

It is helped by the overall levels of built being extremely good too. Everything on the Kanta No2 is built to at least the standard you’d expect and generally better. I find it hard to make a final call on this because review items show up here with no monetary investment on my part but I cannot see many people having a serious hit of buyer’s remorse when they unbox a pair of these having spent seven grand on them. They’re very clearly the result of careful production processes and exceptional material choices. They make an interesting counterpoint to the identically priced Kudos Titan 505 which, I feel is a more attractive piece of industrial design but cannot match the detailing and overall attention to detail of the Kanta No2.

Focal Kanta No2
Jug not included
 

The nature of how Focal designs speakers means that they can never truly be discrete furniture and wearing a bright colour, the Kanta No2 becomes- honestly no pun intended- a focal point to a room.

How was the Kanta No2 tested?

The Focal was used with a Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 and Mscaler combination connected to an SOtM sMS200 Neo streamer running as a Roon Endpoint from a Roon Nucleus server and an LG 55B7 OLED TV. An analogue front end of Rega Planar 10 turntable and Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage was also employed. These outputted to a Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated amp. Material used has included FLAC, AIFF, DSD, Tidal and Qobuz, along with on demand TV services and some vinyl.

More: Audio Formats - What It All Means

Sound Quality 

Focal Kanta No2
Ports front and rear

While I acclimatise to a product, I often let the Roon randomiser do its thing and on this occasion, it allowed the Kanta No2 to demonstrate a fairly clear reason to be early on. The track was the splendidly random (and sweary) Dog in the Piano by Indian Ropeman, one of key acts from the glorious Big Beat years. In the hands of the Kanta No2 is also has simply phenomenal bass. The low notes are a huge, visceral shove to the chest that is enormous fun. You don’t need to have a big speaker for decent bass but it certainly helps.

Of course, you can achieve a similar effect for a lot less than seven grand so it is as well that this is simply a facet of what the Focal can do. This tremendous low end urgency is part of a wider ability to create scale that marks the Kanta No2 out as something a little special. The reason for this is because this is not a side effect of volume or big sounding recordings. Take the opening of The Trinity Sessions by The Cowboy Junkies, a solo unaccompanied rendition of Mining for Gold. Played on the Kanta No2, the scale of Margo Timmins, the vocalist, is never overblown. She’s a normal sized woman with a magnificent voice. The sense of the venue around her though is palpable and vast. Regardless of what I’ve asked the Kanta No2 to play - be it Underworld on the rampage in their live album or Trent Reznor unplugged at his piano - the Kanta No2 finds the space and recreates it.

This is tied to some of the same virtues that marked the Kanta No1 out as bit special. Tonally, the Focal is absolutely magnificent. While compiling the playlist for the recent ‘Concert for one’ piece, the Focal delivered those sparse and beautifully recorded tracks in such an utterly compelling way that it took longer than it probably should have done to finally sign off on it. There is very little I’ve tested - even at substantially higher price points - that can take instruments like pianos, stringed instruments and brass and recreate them like the Kanta can.

There are two provisos to this that will matter though. The first is fairly unsurprising but still warrants mention. You cannot have a speaker this uncompromisingly open and revealing and expect it to be wholly forgiving of poor recordings and source equipment. During another Roon random stream, it happened upon Buck Rogers by Feeder and while I’m not going to say the result was unlistenable, it wasn’t terribly fun either. One of the reasons the Kudos Titan 505 casts such a long shadow is that it manages to be uncannily capable at being all things to all people. More so than its little brother, the Kanta No2 has a minimum quality level to really shine. This level isn’t that high - avoid the worst victims of the loudness war and you’re golden - but it’s there.

Focal Kanta No2
Lamp also not included

The second is the Telephasic Workshop effect. This is a track by Boards of Canada that is a quite extraordinary workout for any bass driver. Played on the Kanta No2 it’s good, very good in fact but it lacks some of the invigorating speed of the Kanta No1. I will freely admit to having a bit of a hang up about subjective ‘speed’ (more prosaically, the response of drivers to a complex input and avoiding the ‘overhang’ that any sluggishness in responding to it generates) -  it is why I am a fan of oddball speakers like Eclipse and the Acoustic Energy AE1. Nevertheless, on pure responsiveness, the Titan 505 (and the Kanta No1) marshals a single (isobaric) driver faster than the Kanta No2 marshals two.

I am being hyper critical here; I feel it is appropriate give the asking price of the Focal. I need to be clear that there isn’t much available for the asking price that I’ve tested that does a better job of overcoming those same issues (it is perhaps unfortunate that the one speaker I’ve previously tested at this price point for AVForums does). For vast swathes of my listening, the Kanta No2 has delighted me. That same combination of flax and beryllium that so endeared the Kanta No1 to me still works here too. This is not a speaker to tick over in the background, instead it grabs your attention, pulls you in and has you potter through your collection for hours to see how things sound. In my relatively small lounge, the Kanta No2 treads a near perfect balance of filling the room and loading it with low end without overpowering it. There’s no trace of port noise and unless you commit crimes of speaker placement like jamming them into a corner, they are impressively benign in terms of placement too. They have also been a great partner for TV work. A re-watch of Avengers Assemble on Disney+ didn’t want for any low end impact and the detail extraction was more than good enough for the business of extracting the dialogue from the most congested scenes. It does suggest that a multichannel system making use of the matching centre would be quite a listen too…

 

Tonally, the Focal is absolutely magnificent

Verdict

Pros

  • Spacious and weighty performance
  • Fabulous detail retrieval
  • Well made and finished

Cons

  • Can lack a last fraction of transient speed
  • Quite large
  • Looks a matter of taste (although I like them).

Focal Kanta No2 Floorstanding Speaker Review

The Kanta No2 continues to emphasise my belief that this model range is the sweet spot in the Focal family.  This is unquestionably a ‘Hi-Fi’ product but not one that has gone so far as to only work when you’ve got impeccable Hi-Res at your disposal. This is a big speaker that delivers a big performance that still makes sense in a normal lounge. It’s easy to drive, available in enough finishes that something will likely appeal to most people and there is enough magic to the music it makes that, even at the lofty price point, I can’t see many owners being anything other than delighted with it. The Kanta No2 is a very fine speaker indeed and it comes Highly Recommended as a result.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
9

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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