I was already stoked with my Focal Alpha 65 powered monitors [Tape Op #104] before their updated replacement model, the Alpha 65 Evos arrived at my door. In my review of the original Alpha 65s (which I ended up buying), I raved about the quality of Focal’s aluminum inverted dome tweeters that offered a natural high end with a wide dispersion / sweet spot. Though this same HF design is continued with the new Alpha 65 Evo, the incorporation of Focal’s Slatefiber recycled carbon woofer cone is what gives the updated model an edge over its predecessor.
Additional features/changes to the original Alpha include the incorporation of a Class D amplifier (instead of Class AB), a disable switch for the standby power mode, removable driver grilles, and rear-chassis inserts for wall fastening (ideal for surround or Atmos setups). In addition to XLR and RCA inputs, Focal has added a TRS input. Like its predecessor, HF and LF shelving controls (+/- 6 dB) and an overall +6 dB Sensitivity switch for level matching are also found on the backplate. Also similar to the original, the Alpha 65 Evo is enclosed in a thick MDF cabinet with hearty side panels and internal braces, but adds rounded corners and a single, large laminar bass reflex port for optimum performance in cramped spaces.
Initially, I was scratching my head at the choice to incorporate a Class D amplifier over Class AB, but Focal says when compared to similar Class ABs in the same price range, The Class D performed better. Class “D” does not mean “digital.” The Alpha Evos are 100% analog (including the crossover). Botom line: The new Alpha 65 Evos sound better to my ears across the frequency spectrum, and when I crank them up loud, the balance between the tweeter and woofer remain constant, without noticable breakup/distortion – these can take some abuse if needed!
Aside from its earthy Slatefiber woofer and single port design, the new monitor looks pretty similar to the old one, but there are differences. While nearly every monitor takes some getting used to, when I set up the new Alpha 65 Evos – boom. They just sounded right immediately. Sure, I needed to break them in for a while, but overall they were as close to perfect for my small project studio as I’ve ever had. The biggest difference in my opinion was in the low end, which was noticeably tighter and better balanced within the overall frequency spectrum. In my review of the original Alpha 65s, I said “The tweeter’s wide dispersion seems to complement the woofer’s sweet spot better than any nearfield monitor I can remember hearing.” I’m hearing an overall improvement with the Alpha 65 Evos in that the tweeters and woofers were working together more harmoniously – I never had to reach for the HF/LF shelving adjustments.
The Alpha Evo’s Slatefiber cone woofer is the story here. After four years of research and development, in 2019 Focal featured this technology in their Chora hi-fi home speakers. It’s a composite of recycled non-woven carbon fibers and thermoplastic polymer. The carbon fibers offer high rigidity, resulting in increased accurate bass response, and the thermoplastic polymer bonds the fibers, which also improves damping. Because carbon fibers are very light in mass, the resulting speaker driver’s sensitivity is also optimized. Focal finishes off the Slatefiber cone for the Alpha Evo with their M profile voice coil membrane. Voilà – much more than just magical papier-mâché, Focal’s Slatefiber technology is a coup d’etat!
So, how did this work out in mixing? I found that compared to their predecessors, and two other much more expensive monitors, the new Alpha 65 Evos are easy to work with in the low end department, minimizing ooze and adding definition with a deeper extension to my ears – the manufacturer rates frequency response at 40 Hz to 22 kHz. Quite happily, I worked for a few weeks without a subwoofer, and with good decoupling from a desktop or stand, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Alpha 65 Evos without a subwoofer for editing suites and project studios, and they sound even better with a sub.
My favorite qualities of the old Alpha 65s were its high end and midrange, which carried through in a familiar way to the new Alpha 65 Evos. Many ported designs allow you to feel the weight of the low end, but I’ve found that they can also lead the listener towards a fundamental low note rather than a true spectrum of the bass frequencies. In my opinion, this is the difference between the old Alpha 65s and the new Evos, making it easier to balance the bass guitar against the kick drum. The Alpha 65 Evo’s low end just breathes more naturally than similar monitor designs.
Yes, the high end is beautiful and non-fatiguing. Yes, the mixing sweet spot is wide. Yes, these monitors sound balanced when placed close to a wall. Yes, my Alpha 65 Evo mixes translate well – we always say that when we like a monitor. So, what’s the difference here? Answer: I got “there” faster. Good monitoring instills confidence. In his latest book, Zen & the Art of Mixing 2021 [Tape Op #142], Mixerman says “Mixing is a game of confidence. If you’re confident, you’ll mix great. If you’re not, you won’t.” I’m getting oodles of confidence from this affordable monitor. Thank you Focal for giving the audio working class a choice instead of a compromise!