Legacy Audio Focus 20/20 loudspeaker

I was introduced to Legacy Audio at the CEDIA Expo in September 2002, and I'll long remember it. A pair of Legacy's huge new Helix loudspeakers anchored the company's silent display, and I was irresistibly drawn to them. Sales manager Bob Howard introduced himself, and, after a few minutes of chatting, introduced me to Bill Dudleston, Legacy's founder and chief designer. Within two minutes, Dudleston had told me "I don't design speakers for hi-fi people. I design speakers for people who love music."

When you've been in the audio press for a few years, you've heard rhetoric like this before, but there was something decidedly different in Dudleston's tone and manner. My interest was snared. After a bit of discussion, Howard, John Atkinson, and I agreed that Legacy's $6500/pair Focus 20/20 would be an optimal place to begin an investigation of Legacy's wares. Legacy, by the way, is no Johnny-come-lately to the audio business. Its 20-year history is discussed in the sidebar.

A double-decker (plus)
Bill Dudleston describes the Focus 20/20 as "a satellite and subwoofer in one box, with a transition driver to fill in the crossover range." The extensively reinforced cabinet holds a subchamber for the midrange drivers and tweeters that is itself subdivided, the midranges and tweeters each having their own sealed spaces. All drive-units in that burly cabinet are manufactured to Legacy's own precise specifications. The Kevlar Hexacone midranges are from Germany's Eton; Audax supplies the dome tweeter, which has a massive 48-oz magnetic structure; and the ribbon tweeter, sporting a neodymium magnet, is sourced from Foster.

The 12" "transition driver" was designed from the ground up by Dudleston and is made by Eminence, a major supplier of drive-units for the musical-instrument amplifier industry. The two 12" subwoofers, another start-with-a-blank-page Dudleston design, feature a 3" voice-coil, a 1" butyl-rubber surround, and hefty 20-lb magnet structures. An unusual feature of Legacy's bass drivers is their use of two voice-coils. As the woofer generates back-EMF while reproducing low bass—as much as 50V worth in a Focus subwoofer—when that energy reaches a certain level it is shorted from the first voice-coil to the second, effectively using the woofer's own energy as a brake on excessive excursion.

The crossover is split between two screened PC boards, which separates the mid and treble sections from the bass sections with their large inductors. Each board hosts tuning turrets, where values of resistors and capacitors can be fine-tuned to match drivers to within 1dB. The internal wiring harness is copper strand of three gauges: 12 gauge from the inputs to the woofers, 14 to the higher-frequency drivers, and 16 to the shunt trimming resistors.

The cabinet is extremely solid and beautifully finished, if not quite as luxuriously as JMlab's Utopias, the big Wilsons, or Legacy's own more costly models; four large spikes couple the speaker to the floor. Around back are one of the two 12" subwoofers, the two reflex ports, and a hookup panel equipped with two sets of stout binding posts and three switches. The first of these changes the low-frequency impedance contour when using amplifiers with high current capability. This option, according to Legacy, "converts the Focus from a traditional B4 alignment to a more sophisticated sixth-order Butterworth alignment, thus reducing distortion in the octave above system resonance." Unless the speaker is being driven with a low-powered receiver, Legacy recommends that the leftmost switch be left in the Up, or B6, position.

In its Down position, the middle switch softens the midrange presence, while the rightmost switch provides some subtractive contouring in the lower-treble region, to alleviate room flutter or overly bright recordings. I left all three in their Up/Off positions for all of my listening.

Most speakers have worked well in the same general spot in my listening room, and the Foci were no exception: about 3' out from the back wall to the back of the cabinet, and 42" from sidewall to tweeter center, and all was well. The Legacys worked best with a bit of toe-in, but most of the side panel was clearly visible from my listening chair.

Defying expectations
Fresh out of their boxes, the Legacy 20/20s caught my ear with their effortlessly robust presentation. The Focus is a big speaker, and the pair of them easily threw life-sized images into the room—presenting the power of a large orchestra in full cry proved silly-easy. Leonard Bernstein's Candide Suite (CD, Oue/Minnesota Orchestra, Reference Recordings RR87-CD) spread luxuriantly into the room, with firmly grounded bass and the sweetness and clarity that are characteristic of Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall. Most impressive was the sense of relaxation that the speaker showed on this highly dynamic, very-large-scaled music. The Focuses' spatial presentation was very deep, but a tad narrower than the best I've heard. I expected slightly more top-end extension than was there, but chalked this all up (correctly, I later learned) to the review samples' spanking-newness. It was soon clear that this was going to be a fun review, so I settled in to let the speakers break in for a few weeks before getting down to any purposeful "review listening."

The transparency and detail resolution of the Focus are comparable to those of speakers costing considerably more. With three 12" drivers operating below 250Hz, I had some concerns that the Focus would sound a little slow, thick, or heavy. I couldn't have been more wrong. Even with all that air being moved, the Focus was consistently dextrous and well-defined throughout the bass and lower midrange. Frank Zappa's "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" (CD, You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol.6, Rykodisc RCD 19569/70) had great bop and bounce, and the furious complexity of Jaco Pastorius' tour de force "Donna Lee" (LP, Epic PE 33949) was cleanly and distinctly articulated.

The Focus matched its deftness with power. The raging thunder of John Bonham's drums on Led Zep's "Achilles' Last Stand," from Presence (LP, Swan Song/Classic SS 8416), exhibited great controlled power and explosiveness. With Finlandia (LP, Mackerras/London Proms Orchestra, RCA/Classic LSC-2336), the big brass at the right rear of the stage had superior heft and weightiness and satisfying "blat." In fact, the Legacy's bass was one of its standout qualities. The careful attention paid to the lowest octaves has resulted in excellence that will extend well down into the low to mid-20Hz region in most rooms of normal size.

Company Info
Legacy Audio
3370 Route 100
Macungie, PA 18062
(800) 283-4644
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