Given that the Focal Dome Flax 5.1 ($1999.00) is a “Home Theater in a Box,” I had what I thought was the “dubious honor” of reviewing this system. Well, let’s get this out of the way first: I was impressed by everything I heard in my time with this premium all-in-one speaker system, and it was a pleasure to listen to something so different and perhaps even unique.
Fit and finish of the Focal Dome Flax 5.1 system is great and this is just a beautiful system to look at. The design screams high-end in every way. The piano gloss finish is gorgeous to look at, so you won’t want to ever put the grills on.
These compact loudspeakers are designed to breathe sound into your living space, regardless of whether it’s a condo, dorm, or even a small home theater (up to 430 square feet). The grills lock on with a twist, connecting to the heads of four Allen-head bolts that are not magnetic.
These speakers may used in numerous configurations. Whether on a stand, or on the wall, or hung from the ceiling, these Dome Flax are built like a tank! The terminals are under the speaker, and I connected ‘em I was saying to myself “S***, no way this is going to fit a 12-gauge wire!” Well, I was wrong… no problem at all. BOOM, right in!
The wireless sub is icing on the cake in this package where the speakers feature all-aluminum construction, not MDF or plastic like lesser systems. Again, not cheap… and it shows.
If you want to read what Focal says about the performance of these speakers, just follow this link to the Focal website.
Materials and What It Means for You
These are Focal speakers, and anyone who knows the brand, knows it’s all top-notch gear. The Flax cones are made in France, exclusively by Focal, since 2013. And this is where the magic happens. The Flax cone technology offers a distinct improvement in definition with better linearity in the frequency response. What this means (for you non-audiosnobs) is that the driver is capable of producing beautiful sound without distractions.
The natural sound of these Dome Flax Focals, with low coloration of the music, is very easy on the ears (i.e. non-fatiguing). The richness of reproduction in the midrange impresses and the extra rigid cone also makes for tight mid-bass, and for such a little speaker that is a pleasant surprise. This is pure physics, Flax is twice as light as fiberglass, and because the fiber is hollow it has very low elasticity, which makes it super rigid.
My stands are 26” high, and with these speakers being so small I had my doubts that would work out. Thankfully, these satellite-style speakers adjust six ways to Sunday, so not a problem. For my initial listening, I used the mini-subwoofer included with it. I will say this: it’s less than fully-capable for home theater use. But, if you are going to use it in a dorm or a condo, then it will fit the bill nicely since it’s so small.
Here’s a Dome Flax satellite on a speaker stand (SVS SB-4000 behind it). Photo by Steve Potenziano.
For this review, because the speakers turned out to be so good, I also used the pair of SVS SB-4000 subs I have in for review. But, I started breaking the system in with Nora Jones without the big subs. Then, I turned on the SVS subs and BOOM, the tiny Dome Flax speakers sounded like they were 5 feet tall! I was INCREDIBLY impressed!
So… If you are going to use the included sub, which is not all that powerful and does not dig deep, use it behind the couch, against the back wall. I tested it on both sides of listening position as well. But using it placed against the back wall gave me the best bass loading and made the most of its modest capability.
Sound and Ease of Use
Let’s start here: Don’t let the small size of the satellites fool you. They are more than just “capable” speakers, and that’s in a variety of applications. They can be used as front center and surrounds. I used them in a 2.1, 4.1 and 5.2 configuration.
These babies also can be used as ceiling speakers, and IMO these blow away many other speakers (of this size) that you can use in that application. No cutting sheetrock required; just mount the brackets, point the speakers where you want them and done! The beautiful thing with the design of these is the tweeter is so close the woofer, it sounds like a concentric driver and yes, that is a very good thing.
Look at how close the tweeter is to the flax woofer, they are almost one single driver. Photo by Steve Potenziano.
After the initial Nora Jones, which I used to ease into the system… BLAMO! Right to the Death Metal and Hardcore. No mercy, I cranked the dial and went with Parkway Drive’s new song “Absolute Power.” It’s a great song to test these out and see what they can do when pushed hard. Next up was Dying Fetus and “Slaughter to Prevail.” Yes, I listen to some hard metal (lol)! Well, they held up beautifully, didn’t skip a beat even with the punishment that is my music.
For a small speaker, handling metal cranked up loud like this, is no small feat.
I went to the movies next. Captain Underpants is a great flick with lots of dialog, and tons of special effects and low frequencies to stretch a system. It was just a joy to listen to through the Focal Dome Flax 5.1 rig, and especially so with the big SVS subs taking care of bass. I also watched Avengers Infinity War, and aside from the sub it seemed there was nothing they couldn’t handle in terms that soundtrack. But again, using big subs is key, this was with the SVS SB-4000 subs, and man that extra capability in the bass made them sing!
After the home theater experience, I wanted to see how these worked in a nearfield setup. So, I hooked them up to my gaming PC. I use a Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 system for music and gaming on it. FWIW, my gaming PC is a powerhouse system and I needed to know if these sounded as good as in the theater when the speakers are right next to me.
First, I went through a few songs on YouTube. The imaging was superb! I definitely didn’t want to go back to my old speakers, lol.
I fired up Battlefield 1, and also Grim Dawn (a hack and slash type RPG). Let’s just say that the nuances the Focals revealed in gaming were INSANE. The system definitely brought the game to life. So, would I recommend the Dome Flax 5.1 satellites for use with a gaming PC? Well… hell yes! They are a bit expensive for the application, but I wanted to try it and they performed.
These are high-quality, ultra-compact, satellite style loudspeakers. They are beautiful to look at and a joy to play music, movies and games through. The fit and finish is second to none for a HTiB, and the Flax cone material technology offers a distinct improvement is sound attributable to improvements in definition plus frequency response linearity (or so says Focal, but it does sound great). They have it all, really.
The subwoofer is very small and can be used wired or wireless. It comes with a transmitter for placement, and it will fit just about any place you could want.
Is this system for everyone? No. It’s a system for those who can afford it, and enjoy the look and sound of Flax cones, when it comes to music and movies. As I stated earlier, if you put them in an apartment or a dorm or a condo, these will fit the bill very nicely. Personally, I’d love to have them as my new ceiling speakers; not a second thought in my mind about that.
It’s commendable that Focal was able to translate its signature speakers technologies into a consumer-friendly package with such a small form factor. After this initial experience with the brand in my home, I am looking forward to reviewing other speakers in their line. For example, I’d love to hook up the tube amp to some of their crazy high-end stuff.
So, to summarize, build quality is an A+. Materials used, A+. Sound is a A, at least for what they are and really, I don’t think they could be any better considering their size. I give this system a “Recommended” with only the subwoofer’s modest performance holding it back from being a “Top Choice.”
Thanks for reading,
Cover image from focal.com