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Newb Focal CMS Setup, Overkill?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I'm a total Hi-Fi newb addicted to music. Looking for a simple, quality setup to listen to all styles of music in a small office room.

But I'm wondering if this setup may be too good for general listening pleasure. I ask because these studio monitors are marketed to professional audio engineers, not general listeners. Do most Hi-Fi gurus prefer studio monitors for listening? One guy said he got fatigued quickly from listening to such high quality studio monitors. Just wondering if this setup is wrong for it's application.


  • MacBook Pro 15"
  • HRT Music Streamer II (not + version)
  • Focal CMS 40 (Pair)

I'm also considering Focal XS Book if they're better suited for general music listening (sexy & compact).


Thanks for any help. I've been going nuts trying to decide on this and just want to enjoy some quality sound.

post #2 of 16

I gave up on "hi-fi" and on passive speakers a long time ago, and have only listened through active monitors for years.  My ears/tastes have adjusted, and now I can barely tolerate the so-called "musicality" of "hi-fi" or home-theater passive speakers.  But I am a bit of a purist so your tolerance and tastes may vary.


My concern with the Focal CMS40s may be that they will lack bass extension due to their small enclosure and driver size, and you may mistaknely associate this lack of bass for the "active monitor" sound.  Just this morning, I listened to my 2.1 system with the subwoofer muted.  After years of hearing bass, I was underwhelmed by how much a subwoofer adds to the sound, despite the fact that the subwoofer reproduces little more than an octave.

Edited by Mauricio - 2/22/12 at 7:07pm
post #3 of 16

I am a big fan of the CMS series and would love to have a pair of 65s on my desk.  That being said, I went with passives and a good amp because of the costs associated with the CMS 65s.  I get bass to the 40s and it is fine for what I do at the desk.  I do not play it really loud and it sounds great especially with a medium cost source like my PC.

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. I realize now that I might need more bass. Not sure if even the CMS 50's will have enough. Wonder if the Focal XS 2.1 would suffice?
post #5 of 16

I have the CMS 50s. For me, a desktop listener who doesn't listen at room-filling volumes (90% of the time, anyway :D) they have enough bass for most applications, although I'd still consider the sub in a way because there's certain things I listen to that are really, stupidly low and the 50's are only rated to 55hz, I think. You don't get the 'feel the bass' effect but you can hear the bass in music - clear, tight, defined. The 50's are less of a jump in size from the 40s than the 65s are from the 50s. I only have the space for the 50's currently and that was pushing it.


The CMS sub is HUGE. Any space saved by the 40s... well, the sub is enormous, and you have to get the placement right.


I'll probably just upgrade eventually to Event Opals when I have more space - 8" woofers vs the 5" I have now. They go to 35hz and most club PAs only go down to 40hz so for music I doubt I'll be missing anything.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

I think I'll go with the XS 2.1 as I read a review where it was blind tested against the CMS 40's (without sub) and compared well. Plus with it's internal DAC I can skip that for now.

post #7 of 16

I don't think you can have too "good" a system period.  That said, you can get a great sounding system either with active or passive speakers.  Have you checked out the focal little bird 2.1?  It runs $1k and looks like a cool desktop system: http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/article/test-report-focal-little-bird-21-speaker-system

post #8 of 16

I'm looking at the Focal CMS 40. Any strong opinions on these speakers? Any hissing or other white noise? Do they run hot? I'll be using them on my desk right in front of me.

post #9 of 16

I auditioned them with the CMS 50's and couldn't take the higher rolloff point of the low frequencies, but it's to be expected with a woofer that size.. If you plan on adding the sub later or aren't that fussed about it, they're good speakers w/the same lovely mids as the rest of the CMS line.

post #10 of 16

guys i am looking to make the big step in choosing the the 2.0 / 2.1 and honour finally my recordings ,so i am resuscitating many relatively old thread,cause where i live i have no way to audition any hi-end brand,a desolated area for audiophilia from where i live,so my decisions will depend strongly by a huge number of personal opinions.sorry.


i would glad if someone could tell me if the CMS 65 behave well in all frequency range and how it pairs against the same product range level of the other famous brands like ,let say, emotiva , dynaudio etc.. in price and performance,and aswell if i would need the CMS SUB (it cost more then the speaker pair!!!) when i want the bass exploding on my chest when it needs, cause i can see those speaker have the bass port in front of them,so i dont know if a sub would be etremely necessary.

thanks in advance folks


post #11 of 16

It's physics. The CMS 65's give you enough low end to hear what's going on down there, but it's still a 6.5" woofer, compared to the... 10"? of the CMS Sub. Bigger woofer = more air moved = more you'll feel the bass as opposed to hearing it. That said, set up ideally, the CMS Sub should be complementing the speakers and not be too intrusive, like a car sub or something where it's really obvious you have a sub.

post #12 of 16

I just wanted to know if the low frequencies behaviour of the CMS 65 would satisfy someone`s who is not a bass head but want to hear a "concise punch in the chest" when needed,or its front bass port would be enough without sacrifice clarity and not overwhelming the rest of the frequency spectrum with just a 2.0 system.

thank you Somnambulist

post #13 of 16

I have the CMS 50's. They can certainly put out a surprising amount of bass (although it's all very balanced), it's just they roll off around 55hz. I believe the 65's roll off around 45 or 50hz. As far as a I know, with a club PA, they are designed to go to about 40hz before they start rolling off (so it's a safe bet that music generally won't go much lower than that in 90% of circumstances.


It might not seem like much, but say, some dubstep tracks I have, the lowest bass notes can go missing on my 50's. They'd probably be more audible on the 65s but couldn't say for certain. Good example is the 'Woofer Cooker' test song. I have to turn the volume up to hear the constant 20hz drone, but when the more mid-bassy notes kick in, it's kind of ridiculous a speaker as relatively small as the 50's is making that rumble. I'd imagine the size of your room would play a part too (smaller = more likely to reinforce the low end).

post #14 of 16

regarding the cms65 vs Emotiva or Dynaudio, I think the CMS is a better choice than the Dyn's although they do sound good, and much better than the Emotiva which I did not like at all.

post #15 of 16

Just registered to participate in here, hoping it might help the decision of others :)

I was in the business of buying active speakers for pure listening purposes - no mixing whatsoever. After droning a long time over various forums, I set my choice on the CMS65 as I wanted bass to be correct, but didn't want to buy a sub along with it. I coupled those speakers to a Apogee Duet 2, listening from the MacBook Pro.


After a couple of week of listening,  I realized that some of some of the songs I used to enjoy "before" on my home stereo (big amp, relatively nice passive speakers) didn't "work" as well on my CMS65 setup. They were missing something. The stereo effect was phenomenal, the clarity of the mediums, the trebles, everything was as nice as expected from the reviews. Pieces of classic music with bass & cellos were awesome, even the bass, so I thought the bass response was nice enough and didn't understand why some songs sounded so empty.


Except I was wrong; The bass response was *not* enough for certain songs. It hit me later when going over "power rock" songs, which are pretty much all over the place spectrum-wise. Those were missing low-end bass!


Pretty much any kind of music with a drum set will sound flat because the kick isn't properly rendered. Take anything below 50hz on a drum kick and you're not left with much :)


So I bought a sub on top of the CMS65 and even though I'm still struggling with the settings because the room isn't sound-proofed at all and I had to put the sub in a corner, now the kicks have power, and a whole new range of the spectrum came to life. It *really* makes a difference. 

I just wish the level knob would go even lower than -24db! I don't even understand who would be able to listen anything with it set to max (0 db). I have to set the LO PASS knob lower than I'd like in order to maintain the output level in check.


When you realize the amount of air that is moved by the sub speaker (high excursion means the membrane *really* moves a long way) you understand that even with its 6.5" speaker, the CMS65 just can't render those low frequencies. And those low frequencies are critical to bring life into a drum kick.


Wish I had known that before, I would have gone for the CMS40 or 50 with a sub instead of having those monsters on my desk :)


Hope that helps.

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