Professional studio monitors are expensive. Top-of-the-line monitors can easily exceed $1,000. But you don’t have to spend that much if you are a home-based producer. In this review, we check out a studio monitor from Focal, a brand that is well-known for pro gear. But the difference here is that this is their more affordable entry-level Alpha 50.
Focal Alpha 50
With such a strong history in the audio business, there are a lot of expectations. Let’s see if this cheaper option can compete with other choices in the market.
The Focal Alpha 50 has a lot to live up to considering the reputation Focal has. Let’s dive into the details to see if it can match these high expectations.
This is one area that Focal consistently delivers in. Their pro-level gear is a mainstay in many studios. That same expertise has carried over to the more affordable Alpha range.
Balance and neutrality are excellent. The low-end offer plenty of substance and depth. Warm without any muddy bass tones. Normally I recommend adding a subwoofer. But, it can be a challenge to integrate correctly into your studio space. The Alpha 50 provides enough range in the low-end that you can forgo the subwoofer. Something other 5-inch monitors sometimes struggle with.
Mid tones are just as impressive. Detailed and clear. Precise and defined vocal components along with instruments. Likewise, they handle electronic elements just as well as organic instruments. The top-end is also extremely tight and maintains excellent clarity. Elements like cymbals crash cleanly without any harsh tonality.
The large sweet spot is another excellent feature. While still near-field monitors they manage to project sound extremely well. This allows for more precise and flexible placement within your studio space.
These are excellent-sounding monitors. Focal has leveraged their experience and delivered. A fantastic choice for any home studio setup.
The attention to detail continues when it comes to the build quality. It features a 15mm MDF cabinet with a vinyl coating and black painting. It’s solid and robust.
Component quality is also high from the Polyglass woofer cone through to the tweeters aluminum inverted dome. Not as refined as their more expensive line. But, there is no doubting they have approached these monitors with care and precision.
Exclusive components set the Alpha 50 apart from the competition.
They are on the heavier side. But this does add to the premium feel. A well-built monitor that is sure to last you a long time. As long as you treat them well.
The Focal Alpha 50 offers a 5-inch Polyglass woofer cone powered by a 35W Class AB amplifier. The Polyglass driver is exclusive to Focal. They have an in-house team that develops drivers. Something few audio companies do. Polyglass combines molten glass micro balls with cellulose pulp. This gives it excellent rigidity and helps deliver fantastic audio across the full frequency range. Plus, it’s built tough. Up to 10 times stronger than standard polypropylene found in many studio monitors.
The Focal Alpha 50 is heavier than other 5-inch monitors.
The tweeter is a 1-inch aluminum inverted dome powered by a 20W class AB amplifier. Not quite as premium as the other tweeter configurations available from Focal. But, it still performs exceptionally well.
The frequency response is 45Hz-22kHz. An excellent range that delivers smooth sound across the full spectrum. With a max SPL of 103dB, these are quite loud and more than enough to fill a small or medium-sized studio.
The tuning options on the Focal Alpha 50 are another excellent feature. You’ll have access to both Low-Frequency and High-Frequency shelving controls. These two controls allow you to fine-tune the studio monitor’s performance based on the acoustics in your room.
Placement of speakers and room dynamics play a massive role in audio quality. Having access to these shelving controls is critical to get the most out of your monitors. The controls are also precise and accurate.
An added Sensitivity switch completes the options. This allows you to bump SPL by 6dB. While I doubt you’ll need to use it often it can be handy for niche circumstances.
The Focal Alpha 50 studio monitor is attractive but certainly not a standout. Strong performance is the top priority over flashy design. The all-black cabinet is sleek but lacks any flair. If you are the type of person that likes your electronics to make a statement you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The Focal Alpha 50 offers a plain design but makes up for it in sound quality.
The side grooves on the cabinet do add some flavor to an otherwise straightforward design. The only hint of color comes from the Focal Audio logo that illuminates when active. Despite its average appearance, it is easy to overlook. After all, this isn’t a beauty contest, it’s all about audio quality.
My only complaint is the standby mode. While an excellent power-saving tool it can be frustrating. This is one design component I often don’t like. It’s a personal gripe. Many people quite like this feature.
Essentially after 30 minutes of no input, the monitor will turn off. It won’t re-engage until it receives a signal. The problem here is that the signal needs to be a certain volume before they kick in. This can lead to a delay. You’ll then need to adjust the volume again once they are active.
The Focal Alpha 50 is on the larger side compared to other 5-inch studio monitors. While this no doubt assists with the audio performance it does mean they can be difficult to place.
The Focal Alpha 50 is larger than similar 5-inch monitors.
Considering the intended use I would suggest monitor stands to get these up to the appropriate height. It’s not ideal to have these just sitting on your desk. The added weight also makes these a good candidate for stands. They’ll quickly place too much pressure on flimsy shelving.
The Focal Audio Alpha 50 offers up two connection options. A balanced XLR connection point and an unbalanced RCA inlet. This RCA connection features preset sensitivity compensation specific to unbalanced sources.
The Focal Alpha 50 offers both balanced and unbalanced connection options.
Beyond these primary connections, the Alpha 50 doesn’t offer any extra inputs. There is no headphone jack or AUX option. This once again shows that the focus for this monitor is professional use.
Focal studio monitors are expensive. The Alpha range however is more affordable than the rest of the offerings in the Focal Audio range. Value-wise it is difficult to assess these studio monitors. The sound quality is exceptional and hard to match.
They deliver performance levels that are usually found in more expensive gear. So while some monitors may be cheaper you’ll have a hard time matching this level of quality.
If you are in the market for 5-inch monitors these are a good choice. Albeit on the pricey side. But if you are on a budget you can still find alternatives that deliver good sound quality. They just won’t sound as nice as the Alpha 50.
What Others Have To Say
Focal has an excellent reputation in the audiophile community. The Alpha range has won many fans due to the excellent sound quality.
How To Break In New Speakers
I often see reviews for studio monitors where the user has returned the speaker nearly instantly after purchase. These reviews often mention poor audio performance. But, there can often be more to this story than meets the eye (or should I say ear!).
All loudspeakers should be ‘broken in’. This is the process of establishing the speaker and warming it up so to speak. You should expect to run the speakers for around 20-30hrs before they reach optimal performance levels. While you can get specific audio tracks to help with this general music is fine. But, if possible aim for more low-frequency heavy tracks. These help the mechanical elements to settle and adjust to the environment.
New speakers need to be broken in to attain maximum performance.
Once the transducers have has a chance to settle you’ll be able to achieve the best performance from your new monitors. During this time be mindful to not push the speakers too far. Aggressively playing at loud volumes is not good for the initial break-in period.
So when you do get your shiny new studio monitors make sure to take the time to properly warm them up.
There are several 5-inch studio monitors on the market. Here are some alternatives to the Focal Alpha 50 studio monitors.
Yamaha HS5 Review
Yamaha is another brand with an excellent reputation for studio monitors. The HS series is a reasonably priced range on par with the Alpha range from Focal.
- A neutral sound response that’s great for professional production work.
- Attractive design that is also available in an all-white version.
- The low-end isn’t as full as the Focal Alpha 50.
Read our full Yamaha HS5 review for more detailed information.
KRK Rokit 5 G4 Review
The iconic KRK monitors are another mainstay of several studios. The latest generation offers some unique and innovative features compared to other monitors.
- Advanced tuning features allow you to further customize the output.
- Distinct and eye-catching design.
- The response is not as neutral as other pro-level monitors.
Read our full KRK Rokit 5 G4 review for more detailed information.
KRK Rokit 5 G4
PreSonus Eris E5 Review
If the price point of the Focal Alpha 50s is deterring you the Eris E5 is an affordable alternative. While not as polished they are still a great option for beginners.
- Great sound that is quite neutral in a nearfield environment.
- Cheap price point making them an excellent value buy.
- Despite a good balance, the bass output isn’t amazing.
Read our full PreSonus Eris E5 review for more detailed information.
Presonus Eris E5
Should You Buy?
The Focal Alpha 50 studio monitors are an excellent option for the dedicated professional. The fantastic audio quality sets these apart from other 5-inch monitors. The clarity and brightness are just right with plenty of depth in the low end. They are however on the pricier side. Despite the increased price, these are worth it.
Focal Audio ALPHA 50