If you have a large studio space you’ll rapidly discover that smaller monitors are not suitable. In this review, we check out the 8-inch version of the popular Alpha range from Focal. A power-packed monitor that delivers on several fronts.
Focal Alpha 80
Focal has an excellent history of high-end products for professionals. Let’s see what the more modestly priced Alpha 80 has to offer.
Let’s dive into the details to see what the Focal Alpha 80 has to offer the serious producer.
Focal studio monitors have an excellent reputation among professionals. The Focal Alpha 80 continues this tradition. These monitors sound amazing.
The low end is well defined. Full and warm they handle lower frequencies with ease. In an appropriately sized room, there is no boominess. However, in more cramped studios you’ll need to be mindful of positioning. The dual front bass ports project cleanly. For most applications, you won’t need to add a subwoofer. Some sound engineers deem a subwoofer unnecessary. When it comes to these 8-inch monitors I’d agree. Plenty of depth and delivery to satisfy.
The mid-tones also deliver crisp clarity that is hard to beat. Vocals are sharp and defined. Instrumental components are also clear. This allows for very accurate monitoring.
The top end is also extremely polished. No harshness and a satisfying clarity for the higher frequency sections. You can rapidly assess and address issues in your mix. Something which is often obscured with lower quality monitors.
The sound stage is another impressive element. The low directivity ensures an even distribution of sound throughout your studio space. Moving around your studio won’t cause a dramatic change in the audio profile. An excellent feature if you have a large studio space.
Ear fatigue is also not an issue. The clarity and well-executed audio are excellent for longer sessions in the studio.
The expertise that Focal has up its sleeve is on full display here. An excellent set of monitors that is sure to please audiophiles.
Despite these being the entry-level option from Focal they are still expensive. Thankfully the quality matches the price. The entire monitor feels premium.
The cabinet is solid and built to last. Several users have had their monitors for multiple years and have not experienced any issues.
The Focal Alpha 80 uses premium grade materials.
The component quality is also high. The French-based company has an extensive history of developing proprietary drivers. They work with several top brands in both the automotive space and music space.
The high attention to detail is on display with the Focal Alpha 80 studio monitors. A great thing to see as often entry-level monitors from other big-name manufacturers have significant corners cut.
The Focal Alpha 80 employs an 8-inch Polyglass cone woofer. This technology is exclusive to Focal. This unique offering adds extra durability and improves sound quality. The frequency response curve is very linear. Accurate and durable with improved mid-range performance sets these apart from the competitors.
The Focal Alpha 80 offers an excellent frequency range.
Supporting the low-frequency driver is a 1-inch aluminum inverted dome tweeter. Magnesium is also utilized in the tweeter. The combination of the two delivers clear sound and can stretch into higher frequencies than other drivers. With a deep soundstage and accurate reproduction, these tweeters do an excellent job.
The frequency response hits a low of 35Hz and tops out in the high end at 22kHz. It remains neutral across the entire spectrum.
The bi-amped design offers 100W for the low-frequency driver and 40W for the high-frequency driver. Ample power and plenty of headroom. At 109db SPL at one meter, these are also very loud. Remember that listening to anything above 85dB consistently can damage your hearing. Having such high volume capability allows you to not force and push your speakers when you want to assess your productions.
The Focal Alpha 80 offers precise tuning controls to further adjust output. Studio configurations vary so these controls are critical for fine-tuning.
The Focal Alpha 80 includes both LF and HF shelving options.
There are two dedicated controls on the back of the monitor. One controls low-frequency (bass) output and the other high-frequency (treble) output. The low-frequency shelving is excellent if you’re forced to place these close to a wall. Reducing it down to -6dB helps minimize unwanted low-frequency build-up. The high-frequency adjustment can compensate for any harshness in the top end. This is especially useful in bright-sounding studio environments.
Further to this, there is a dedicated sensitivity switch available. A great addition if you are working with an output source that has hit its limits. The extra 6dB boost makes a big difference without compromising the audio quality.
This is one area where the Focal Alpha 80 is a bit of a letdown. The cabinet and monitor are bulky and bland in appearance. It’s a big black box. Something that plagues many other speakers. But, after reviewing so many monitors these could use a little more love in the design department.
The Focal Alpha 80 is not the most attractive studio monitor.
But this is certainly a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Once you look past initial impressions you’ll understand that the priority here is sound. For a professional environment that makes perfect sense.
Moving beyond the aesthetics the Alpha 80 also uses an auto shut-off feature. After 30 mins of detected inactivity, it will turn off to conserve power. Upon detecting an audio source it will then reengage. A handy feature that dramatically reduces power consumption. But, it isn’t without its faults. Detection requires a certain volume level. If you are playing music at low volumes the monitor may determine there is no source and switch off. When it does come back on after increasing volume there is a distinct 1-2 second delay. For most studio environments this won’t be a big issue but for casual users, it can be frustrating.
The Focal Alpha 80 is on the larger side as expected from an 8-inch monitor. It is comparable to most other 8-inch monitors available today.
The Focal Alpha 80 is a large studio monitor that demands space.
The large size is best suited to stable monitor stands or good quality isolation pads. Just be mindful of choosing the appropriate size to handle these big monitors.
Where the Focal Alpha 80 differs from the competition is in the weight. These are heavy. Most 8-inch monitors hover around the 22 lbs. (10kg) mark. These are at 28 lbs. (nearly 13kg).
The Focal Alpha 80 offers a basic set of input options. An XLR balanced input is the primary choice here. Secondary to that is an RCA input. You can have two separate devices connected at the same time. Just be mindful to not run signals to the monitor from both sources at once.
The Focal Alpha 80 doesn’t come with cables. A good XLR cable is recommended.
There are no further connection options. Not uncommon for a professional-grade monitor. You won’t find any consumer-level features like headphone ports or AUX inputs on these types of monitors.
The Focal Alpha 80 is on the expensive side. Compared to other popular 8-inch monitors the price is nearly double. But, they are still substantially cheaper than the more premium offerings from Focal. I can also understand why these cost this much. The exclusive technology and premium materials come at a price.
But the sound quality is second to none. You will not be able to find a monitor that delivers on this front so well without paying a lot more. They are a great entry point into the Focal ecosystem of products. In that regard, these offer plenty of value to both new and experienced producers.
What Others Have To Say
Focal has an excellent reputation for quality speakers. This extends to the Alpha range. They are often seen as an excellent mid-range entry point.
Warm Vs Neutral Vs Bright Audio
Describing audio is a difficult proposition. Explaining how something sounds isn’t as straightforward as one might expect. Once you include each person’s bias things can get even more difficult. Plus frame of reference becomes an issue. The more monitors you’re exposed to the more nuanced your appreciation can be.
One of the most common ways to describe audio is that it is either “warm” “neutral” or “bright”. Let’s break down what these terms mean.
What type of sound profile is right for your studio varies greatly.
Warm is usually the most common type of response you’ll find. It often describes lower frequencies. This more focused low-end response results in a pleasant listening experience. Many mainstream consumer brands like Bose tailor their gear towards a warm response. For lovers of bass, this is a good feature.
Neutral is fairly self-explanatory. There is no distinct bias towards any section of the frequency spectrum. Both the low, mid, and high frequencies present equally. This tends to be the domain of dedicated audiophiles. The goal is to get as close to how the music sounded when recorded. This also lends itself well for music production work. A neutral response allows you to fine-tune frequencies where appropriate.
Bright is the final term often used. This highlights the perception of the high frequencies. A bright response delivers crisp highs that are distinct and clear. But, there is a fine line here. Anything overly bright will quickly sound harsh or tinny. A sound that is not pleasing to listen to.
What type of response you prefer often comes down to individual preference. Some dislike overly warm monitors as they can sound boomy or muddy. Likewise, neutral-sounding monitors may seem lifeless. This becomes more noticeable if you’ve never used studio monitors before. And I’ve yet to meet anyone that enjoyed an overly bright studio monitor.
As you become more familiar with various speakers you’ll rapidly find your personal preference. When in doubt though I always lean towards neutral monitors with good tuning options. This at least allows you to customize the output to your taste.
There are some interesting alternatives available to the Focal Alpha 80. Here is a selection of other options worth considering.
Yamaha HS8 Review
The Yamaha HS8 is a good alternative to the Focal Alpha 80. It retains excellent quality but at a much cheaper price point.
- Excellent sound with no distortion and neutral response.
- Good build quality from a respected monitor manufacturer.
- The low-end response is not as warm and generous as the Alpha 80.
Read our full Yamaha HS8 review for more detailed information.
PreSonus Sceptre S8 Review
Another popular option in the 8-inch monitor market is the Sceptre S8 from PreSonus. It features a co-axial design which is rarely seen in modern speakers.
- A very flat response which is great for analytical listening.
- Generously sized sound stage with excellent depth of field.
- Not budget-friendly much like the Alpha 80.
PreSonus Sceptre S8
KRK Rokit 8 G4 Review
KRK is a popular brand especially among producers of electronic music. The iconic yellow speakers are often high on many 8-inch monitor lists.
- Solid build quality including Kevlar woofers.
- Innovative tuning options to dial in your speakers.
- Emphasizes the low-end. You’ll need to tune these for a flatter response.
Read our full KRK Rokit 8 G4 review for more detailed information.
KRK Rokit 8 G4
Should You Buy?
There is plenty to love about the Focal Alpha 80. By far one of the best sounding speakers in the 8-inch market. The attention to detail and precise handling of audio is the real draw here. Capable and accurate they are perfectly suited for serious professionals. An excellent choice if your budget allows for it.
Focal Audio ALPHA 80