Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


A speaker, by necessity, becomes a part of the room in which it’s installed. If that speaker is relegated to a listening room, and if the owner really doesn’t care about the appearance, a well-designed driver complement in a rectangular MDF box will do just fine.

But many people care very much about how prominent, visible items look in their living spaces. A room full of beautiful furniture, expensive antiques, and opulent carpets deserves great sound, but it also demands elegant-looking components.

Focal Naim

Piano-black lacquer is everywhere in audio. It’s great and all—my Estelon YB speakers look ethereal in their black overcoats. But piano black is kind of boring, and fortune rewards the brave.

Before I departed for the Florida International Audio Expo, I received word that Focal would be exhibiting a dramatic pair of speakers in the room hosted by House of Stereo, a dealer based in Jacksonville, Florida. Focal’s Scala Utopia EVO speaker is available in pretty much any finish you can imagine, and probably some you can’t. (How about gold leaf? Or leather?) House of Stereo was displaying a pair in White Ebony, which, without a doubt, is the most dramatic wood veneer I’ve ever seen.

It’s the kind of wood that you can sink into, lose yourself in. Like all of Focal’s Utopia-series speakers, the Scala Utopia EVO looks dramatic in any finish. The angled, sectioned sub-enclosure rakes the speaker back in a manner that makes it look like it’s accelerating. The Utopias are racing speakers.


The Scala Utopia EVO retails for $39,998 per pair (all prices in USD) in standard finishes, but that jumps to $52,998 for natural (Noyer Naturel) or dark walnut (Noyer Foncé). This here White Ebony version is only available by special order and will run you a cool $78,000. That’s a big upcharge, but hey, there are probably not many of these trees left, and Focal may well have to cut down one of the last ones to make your set of speakers.

The Focals were fronted by an all-Naim system comprising the NSS 333 streamer ($10,999), NAC 332 preamplifier ($10,999), and a pair of NAP 350 monoblock power amplifiers ($8499 each) juiced up by matching NPX 300 power supplies ($8999 each).


I got so wrapped up in how these speakers look that I almost overlooked the sound. This system was all about grip, control, and bending the music to its will. I sat in front of this system for over an hour as showgoers came and went, with Chris Shaw, a Focal Naim America product specialist, happily taking requests. We cycled through The Tragically Hip, Astor Piazzolla, Eva Cassidy (Lord help me), and then some Colin Stetson to wash that bland taste out of my mouth. With each track, I was thrilled by the crisp, clear, way in which the Scala Utopia EVOs thrust sonic images out at me. Whip-crack bass, an expressive, controlled midrange, and a clear, unforced treble all combined to present the music with overt power and grace.

Jonathan Gorse, our man in the UK, has the inside track on Naim reviews for SoundStage!, but I think it’s time for me to arrange a review of a pair of speakers in Focal’s Utopia line. I would wager that my review pair probably won’t come wrapped in this juicy veneer, but you never know. Stay tuned to this channel for more news as it develops.

Jason Thorpe
Senior Editor, SoundStage!