The Grand, Very Grande Utopia

I had enthused over the sound being produced by French company Focal's top-line Grande Utopia EMs ($180,000/pair) in our report from the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, so the first room I went to at the 2009 SSI was the room featuring the exact same pair of Grande Utopias. In Denver they had been driven by Boulder source and amplification components; in Montreal, amplification was all YBA—Passion 1000 monoblocks and Passion preamp—cabling was AudioQuest, and the source was the excellent sounding Esoteric P-01VU transport ($32,000) and D-01VU dual-mono D/A converter ($32,000), clocked by the G-0Rb high-precision master clock ($16,000).

The "VU" appellation of the Esoteric components stands for "Version Upgrade"; while the regular P-01 and D-01 are still available at $25k each, the VU versions feature 8Ns copper conductors, higher-grade resistors and capacitors, and improved power supplies.

Whatever the reason, whereas Focal's Denver presentation had focused on the speaker's extraordinary dynamic range capability and bass extension—aided, no doubt, by the field-coil–energized woofers— in the Montreal I was struck by the delicacy these humongous speakers were capable of producing. Whether it was my latest recording of Cantus, While You Are Alive, or "The Mooche" from Editor's Choice, the smallest detail of each recording was laid clear without being exaggerated or spotlit, to the benefit of the music.

A good show always pays off...'s picture

I bought my Cobalt 806 S-series due to a good Focal show in Austin, TX of the previous Grande Utopias w/the Tioxid tweeter. Always nice to see the top of the line. Gee; I do wish I had a 15" 50lb+ woofah, shudder.

jrb's picture

Delicacy=YBAs. I thought the Passions had disappeared from this side of the Atlantic. Are they imported again?

The Bogg's picture

The sound from these monsters was unbelievable.Beautiful imaging and soundstaging and superbquality bass. The 16 of us that drove to the show left with jaws dropped after the demo where we were allowed to play some music - I used Track 1 off the Reference Recordings Tutti cd. Truly amazing.

Laura and Sam Douglas's picture

I heard this system with my husband and brother in Montreal and we were amazed. We have all been audiophiles for over 27 years. The Esoteric P01VU source player system combined with their timing clock, and the Focal Grande Utopias was truly outstanding. Once our older separates stack is sold, there is no better way to move up. This system outperformed everything else we heard at the show. Congratulations to Focal, YBA and Esoteric for such outstanding system collaboration. We feel this was really a new development to further the “state of the art.”