Focal Maestro Utopia Evo loudspeaker

How do you know you're beyond help as a card-carrying audiophile? For me, it happened during a recent trip to Italy. Several times a day, my thoughts drifted to the Focal Maestro Utopia Evo speakers that had been delivered two days before I left for Europe. At one point, I considered FaceTiming the housesitter to request a live view of the listening room, where the Maestros were playing music, breaking in.

Chrissakes! Couldn't I just enjoy la dolce vita? Savor the belly-busting meals in Treviso and Civitavecchia, surrender to Tuscany's soul-soothing landscapes, thrill to Rome's old-world charms? Ninety-nine percent of the time, I did. The trip was a delight, and I wouldn't have missed it. But yes, I thought of those Maestros several times a day. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Drama on my doorstep
Having heard them at four audio shows over the span of a year, I'd been in justifiably high spirits the day the French speakers made it to my doorstep. They rocketed to the top of my must-review list because, each time, they'd impressed me with their power and finesse (footnote 1).

There's a second reason I won't soon forget the French speakers arriving chez moi: They were accompanied by an unexpected palletful of Naim electronics whose value represented a few years' income. Had I won an audio lottery? Was someone trying to get in my good graces? Mais non! It was a shipping-company error. When I called Focal America, an employee took care of the issue, seemingly grateful that I hadn't helped myself to a fat five-finger discount. A freight truck arrived a few hours later and hauled the treasure away. I didn't know whether to feel relief or regret.

To get the Maestros inside—they weigh 256lb each and maybe 350lb in their crates—I enlisted the aid of a local contractor and a sinewy worker from his crew. Using a dolly and ratchet straps, the three of us jostled and jerked, heaved and hoisted. Then we unpacked the speakers and maneuvered them into position. It helped that Focal's floorstanding Utopias are equipped with low-profile casters (footnote 2), so you can roll them—just not easily across a thick rug. We managed. Maneuvering and uncrating the speakers and storing the crates in the gear closet was a one-hour-plus, three-person job.

When I informed my friend Lindsey about the Maestros' laborious delivery, he texted back, perplexed, "Good lord, man. I envisioned you audiophile reviewers sitting in a perfectly tuned, oxygen-rich control room at exactly one bar of pressure, swirling a glass of wine while a crew of roadies move and adjust every variable according to the micro-expressions on your otherwise smug faces." A man can dream.

After the helpers left, I inspected the speakers up close. Their two-tone cream-and-walnut finish shone. It was hard to believe that this exact pair had been used as demo speakers at multiple audio shows: There wasn't a scratch on the rotund, vaguely droidlike enclosures.

Like my reference speakers, Focal's Scala Utopia Evo ($52,000/pair), the Maestro Evo ($76,000/pair, one level up in the Utopia line, footnote 3) rise from a matte-black MDF plinth. That base curves toward the rear and protrudes about 6" from the back of the tower, forming a plateau on which dual binding posts are horizontally mounted. Behind the binding posts is a trio of large, bridge-shaped jumpers marked "Sub-bass," "Midrange," and "Tweeter." These let you tune the Maestros to taste. Each jumper has three positions. The center one provides the most technically neutral response. The rightmost bus boosts the attendant frequencies by about 1dB for the bass and treble, about half that for the midrange jumper. The left bus cuts them by the same amount.

In 2010, John Atkinson gave the Maestro Utopia III his highest recommendation. Its successor, the Maestro Evo, is the same size and shape. Its accordion-like silhouette is made up of three separate subenclosures. Visually, the compartment with the bass drivers floats above both the plinth and the 2"-tall, front-facing flared vent that works in conjunction with the 6" down-firing bass port behind it. The low-frequency cabinet leans a few degrees away from the listener. Constructed from a proprietary MDF recipe the company claims is "much more rigid than classic MDF," the housing accommodates two of Focal's 11" woofers, which are made in France (as are all the company's transducers). Both drivers reproduce sub-280Hz frequencies. The bottom one, which is animated by a fat double-ferrite magnet, is responsible for the deepest bass, though the crossover doesn't distinguish between them.

Above the bass box sits a solid-black aluminum enclosure, positioned parallel to the floor, that's roughly the size and shape of an extra-thick pizza box. This chamber houses the pure-beryllium inverted-dome tweeter, which handles all frequencies above 2.2kHz.

Rejean Bedel, Focal's product manager in France, explained to me in an email that 10 years of research and development went into the current Utopia line. "We wanted to refresh all the technological aspects of the loudspeaker—drivers, membrane, internal mechanical structure, etc.—without changing the [exterior] design. More high-tech tools have enabled us to go further in understanding, characterizing, and optimizing loudspeaker and cabinet behavior. These tools come from the automotive and aerospace industries—things like CAD, finite-element simulation, laser scanning, additive manufacturing (footnote 4), and airflow simulation." Focal also built a larger anechoic chamber to aid the Utopia makeover.

One result of all that research is the midrange transducer, an updated version of Focal's highest-end 6.5" "Power Flower" driver, which is mounted in the Maestro's third, topmost subenclosure. That driver is crowned with a Faraday ring (footnote 4). "The ring's dimensions, materials, and positioning were optimized to make the magnetic field no longer affected by the position of the voice-coil, by the amperage, or the frequency of the current passing through it," according to Bedel.

By the way, this midrange compartment, which takes up the top 8" of the 4' 10"–tall speakers, bends forward. The tilt is a welcome hindrance to audiophiles who would otherwise use their speakers to support Star Wars figurines or houseplants. You know who you are.

Break-in and setup
While I was in bella Italia for eight days, the speakers were fed a looped playlist of test tracks to help limber up the drivers. After I returned, whenever I wasn't in the room for stretches of time I played the Tellurium Q burn-in files (footnote 6), full of digital percussive punches and frequency sweeps.

Two weeks later, I had to concede that if any changes had occurred since I'd first fired the Maestros up, they were so small that I couldn't discern them. By comparison, the Maestros' smaller siblings, my Scala Evos, were initially bass-shy. They'd taken about six weeks to unleash the kind of low-end muscle I craved. A British friend of mine, also a Scala owner, insists that with his pair, the bass was underwhelming for more than six months. Then, one day, joy. Suddenly, "We're talking about the difference between 'where's the bass?' and 'we're on the bass train to bassland in a bass universe of bass,'" he texted me in a state of elation. With the Maestros I'd received, there were no issues. Maybe this was because of all the hours they'd racked up during those audio-show demos. Their low end was forceful and prodigious from the day they arrived.

The Focals sounded best positioned farther apart than most speakers in my 15' × 21' room—7' 9" center to center. This gave me the most coherent, focused, and massive soundstage.

Once I'd determined the optimal placement, it was time to install the optional isoAcoustics Gaia feet Focal had sent along. In the spring, I had attended an A-B demo of the Gaias on Focal speakers and come away impressed. But in my room, paired with the Maestros, I couldn't get the Gaias to produce the same magic. It was hard to put my finger on, but the upper midrange and treble region seemed less engaging with the Gaias. Perhaps it's because the Gaias raise the speakers by roughly 3", and even without them the Maestros' tweeters are 7" above the level of my ears. Could that be key to what I was hearing? All I know for sure is that I got the most pleasing results with Focal's factory spikes combined with a cheap tweak: I tipped the speakers slightly forward by placing foam yoga blocks (cut in half lengthwise) under the rear spikes (footnote 7).

Success! Well, mostly. Despite the two dozen acoustic panels in my listening space, including tall bass traps in the corners, I struggled with a room mode at about 35Hz. Previous speakers hadn't seemed to excite it much, but the Maestros did, presumably because they simply put out much more energy in that frequency range than those other speakers did. I sculpted some of the problem away with Roon's parametric EQ, but I wasn't satisfied until I dealt with the peak using proper room correction software: ARC Genesis via my Anthem STR integrated amplifier.

Later, I connected a Krell FPB 200c power amp while still feeding the signal through the Anthem's ARC circuitry. The Krell, bless its steely soul, gave me a tight and thunderous bottom end. I also auditioned the Maestros with Margules U-280 SC 30th Anniversary Limited Edition amplifiers, configured as monoblocks and equipped with factory KT88 and 12AU7 tubes; that duo excels in harmonic coherence and 3D imaging. I got the best of both worlds when I biamped the Focals, letting the Krell take control of the bass while the Margules amps handled the midrange and treble.

Footnote 1: On the last day of AXPONA 2023, Editor Jim Austin, who knew of my fondness for the speakers, texted me: "Heard the Maestros. Damn." I texted back, "Right?" More loquacious assessments weren't needed. Until now.

Footnote 2: Once the factory spikes are installed, the casters no longer make contact with the floor.

Footnote 3: There are two Utopia Evo models above the Maestro: the Stella ($149,998/pair) and the Grande ($279,998/pair).

Footnote 4: More often called 3D printing.

Footnote 5: Developed 200 years ago, Michael Faraday's induction ring—the world's first electric transformer—remains both useful and improvable. See

Footnote 6: See

Footnote 7: The Maestro owner's manual includes an IKEA-like diagram illustrating the optimal listening configuration, with the listener's ear at or slightly above tweeter height. According to Rogier's measurements, on just their spikes—no Gaias—the Maestro tweeters are 47" from the floor. When Rogier is sitting in his listening chair, which is of pretty ordinary height, his ears are 7" below the tweeter axis with the Maestros level. In an email correspondence, Focal's Bedel wrote that it's okay to listen below the tweeter axis. JA's measurements confirmed this, finding that a suckout develops but not until 10° below the tweeter axis. In most configurations, the listener's ears should remain well above the region where the suckout occurs especially with the speakers tilted forward by raising the rear spikes. Bedel further clarified: "It's not recommended to tilt the Maestros with other things than the spikes. A speaker that isn't perfectly stable can be dangerous. We know that a tweeter at 115cm is almost the maximum height, but it's still good for a standard chair or sofa. We decided on 115cm to get a nice sense of envelopment and overhang."—Jim Austin

Focal Naim America
313 Rue Marion
Quebec, QC J5Z 4W8, Canada
(800) 663-9352

cognoscente's picture

yet another review of a Bugatti W16 Mistral.

As the name says: "Utopia". And as that word means "the impossible reality". Or in this case French decadence and arrogance. So ... ?

GDubAZ's picture

and yet, you read it, so . . .

Glotz's picture

in the photo above is puuuuuuuuuure beauty!

Speakers to die for!

Haven't read the review yet, can't wait- Because Roger!

Decadence and arrogance.. lol. What a poor soul.

I really would like to see an R2D2-decaled version of this available or at least a BB8 livery. Admit it, it would be great for a few days.. lol

cognoscente's picture

we all know that a 9k stereo set sounds substantially better than a 3k one, 1 third of the price, and that a 90k stereo set sounds only slightly better but not substantially than a 30k one, a third of that price.

Prices and products like this are just decadent and arrogant, especially in relation to the bigger picture. This is out of proportion, this lacks all reasonableness.

And beautiful, speaking of beautiful, the Goldmund Samadhi is beautiful, but here again, that is just Swiss decadence and arrogance.

Anyway, I'm not a dreamer, poor soul indeed, and rather a realist and interpreter with an eye for proportion of things.

MatthewT's picture

Lots of 99 dollar components on review there.

Ortofan's picture

... luxury-class audio goods would be willing to provide an explanation of how their audio components end up in a similar price range to that of a motor vehicle from Mercedes/BMW/Lexus (or even a loaded Ford F-150)?

In the meantime, there's a $3K speaker that excels in both the subjective and objective evalutions.

cognoscente's picture

yes, I know: F1 > hyper cars > super cars > sports cars > regular cars

but still ... prefer to read about 3k - 5K loudspeakers

and yes my headphone is from Focal and my first and second loudspeakers were of JM Lab, but these reviews here over and over again of equipment whose price are out of any proportion, and then pretending it's just a sandwich bumps into me

Ortofan's picture

... Focal speakers priced at $6K/pr.

Fine results on both subjective and objective evaluations - except, perhaps, for the low impedance dip from about 80-600 Hz. Nothing that a Rotel or Parasound amp, for example, couldn't handle, however.

Do you have a ballroom to fill with sound? Then maybe you need the $76K Focal model. Will you enjoy your music ten times better when heard through the more expensive speakers? Who knows - and, if so, is the difference worth it to you?

prerich45's picture

Yes the MA Silver 500 is a wonderful speaker...but the Focal Utopia just has that look! Now, am I willing to pay almost $80k for that However someone is, and I say more power to ya!!! I actually like looking at things I may never be able to afford.

Glotz's picture

and assumptions about 'what we all know' are poor generalizations. To suggest otherwise is arrogant indeed, because it tries to invalidate this review and any other- A pursuit of knowledge.

When you start involving nationalities with those generalizations, it creates xenophobic disinformation. It also points to the soul, rather than the pocketbook.

Arrogance and decadence was never the intent of any of these state of the art products from their designers, whether French or Swiss or German or English.

These designers, like Focal especially, sell very reasonable speakers to any budget. They are for everyone that realizes this is investment and not an appliance purchase.

Making out-of-touch statements can be rectified by visiting audio shows and auditioning with an open mind, and refining generalizations into direct experience- something every reviewer here has and owns through their ongoing, life-long effort!

Jazzlistener's picture

that once you get to this price range, although the sound quality sees diminishing returns, the “package” itself reaches a point of becoming an art form. These are stunning looking speakers, as are the higher end B&W, Wilson, and others. Some people are willing to pay a premium for that. And why not if that’s what floats your boat. People spend as much if not more money on furniture, art, granite counter tops, etc. For my part, I love the higher end Devore speakers. I recognize they are wildly overpriced (due in large part to the fact this is a small boutique company). Doesn’t stop me from admiring the hell out of them though.

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

gets you so riled up? I mean, I really hope you are a living well below the poverty level and if well-to-do donate most of your salary to lower income families. If you're getting by on a pension, fine but please spare us your righteous indignation. Get real for your targets of anger. It's a friggin' big French speaker. Choose something else to be angry about or maybe show some gratitude for something you like instead of shitting on some reading material some of us actually enjoy.

Nirodha352's picture

Totally non-related because I don’t care what they cost. No one is forcing me to but these speakers. But let’s get to the “bigger picture”…. I once heard the biggest Kharma loudspeakers producing a violin of humongous proportions (about 5 meters wide) and for this was for me a big NO NO. So, this speaker above is also flawed in producing a realistic soundstage. This is a stereo magazine.. can someone explain this phenomenon?

Glotz's picture

I really appreciate RB getting to the heart of the scale / image size of the Focal. Whether or not one see it as accurate, he announces what he hears and lets the reader decide whether or not it's a deal breaker. To some after an audition, it may be exactly what they're looking for- A little more majesty and scale vs. 'real-life'. Thanks for the observations on the bass performance as well. (I should read below to see if anybody skewered the speaker for being 4 dB over flat in the bass range.)

I noticed that no reader gave RB kudos for hearing the correct listening height range for the speaker and where the IsoAcoustics Gaia 1's would place the listener to low for best axis (10" vs. 7").

Funny, the naysayers are never yay-sayers when the reviewer gets it right?

cognoscente's picture

I'm asking everyone here to excuse me that I'm ruining the party here, while the rest of the world ...

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

To some people in this world , listening to beautiful music on a great stereo is their escape from the world and its horrors - "There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant - (sighs deeply). Oh, fuck it." From The Grand Budapest Hotel. Whether your stereo costs 100 or 100,000 who the f cares ? just enjoy the music.

Indydan's picture

We are all aware of what is going on in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, etc.
What does that have to do with anything?
Should we all stop living because there are wars in the world?

bhkat's picture

Thank goodness there are people who are in the market for multi-kilobuck equipment so that the technology filters down to more affordable equipment.

Dorsia777's picture

Is 100 percent on the money!

georgehifi's picture

Don't know about that? to me they all look like an expensive loaf of sliced blue bread that's been dropped and has busted open. Other than that they did sound good when I heard this range.

Cheers George

Jazzlistener's picture

a big blue loaf of bread to you, I need some of what you’re on, lol.

Glotz's picture

Good one.

Dorsia777's picture

I agree with many of the sentiments stated in the comments. Absurd, over priced, snobby, unnecessary are all words that come to mind when seeing speakers in this price range. Then again that’s because I can’t afford it! And if you can afford these should you?

I’ve actually heard these exact speakers at World Wide Stereo in Montgomeryville, PA. They were outstanding. Jaw dropping gorgeous, insanely articulate, massive scale of a soundstage, and incredibly natural sounding. They were playing at around 100-104db and there was ZERO fatigue. Did I mention the bass response? This is coming from a guy that was just having fun with them and asked the sales associate to play a Rammstein CD.

Walking out of that showroom I looked at my brother and said what would you rather own? That pair of speakers OR a pair of Legacy Focus and a Dodge Challenger 392 Scat Pack with a hemi shaker hood…

mtrot's picture

Lol, might want to get that Scat Pack while you still can!

Anton's picture

That they even build it to seem as though it's looking down at you.

(Physical joke about the speaker, not really a 'value' comment. No trouble!)

Ortofan's picture

... merely the middle model in Focal's Utopia range of speakers.

Above it stand the Stella Utopia EM EVO ($150K/pr.) and the Grande Utopia EM EVO ($280K/pr.).

Despite the "Editor's Choice" award, the Hi-Fi News review of the top model seems less than enthusiastic.

MZKM's picture

For anyone wondering, at an expo I asked the rep how many of these expensive units they sell, he said only a handful a year in the US, but that overseas is their real market.

mtrot's picture

"Later, I connected a Krell FPB 200c power amp while still feeding the signal through the Anthem's ARC circuitry."

Okay, that settles it. I'm going to have to pick up a set of Maestro Utopia Evo to go with my FPB 400cx and Anthem STR Preamp!