The Trio11 Be, designed for accuracy and versatility, is Focal’s new flagship monitor, and it can be set up in both mid-and near-field applications—and between 3-way and 2-way operation. Given Focal’s reputation for quality, I was eager to test a pair out. They’re large monitors, but not ridiculously so (their dimensions are 25 x 13-9/16 x 17-3/4 inches); still, at 82 pounds each, they were too heavy for the monitor stands in my studio.
So instead of listening to them at home, Mix arranged for me to go to Fab Dupont’s Flux Studios in New York City, which already had a pair in the control room of its “Dungeon” studio. I did an extensive listening session there.
The Trio11 Be is equipped with a 1-inch beryllium inverted-dome tweeter, a 5-inch woofer and a 10-inch subwoofer. Its ample tri-amplified power section includes 300 watts for the sub, 150 watts for the midrange driver and 100 watts for the tweeter.
A nice-looking, red-colored wood veneer covers the cabinet, which features a horizontal port at the bottom and small ports on either side of the aluminum plate that houses the midrange driver and tweeter.
That plate is one of the innovative features of this monitor. If you remove its screws, it can be rotated freely, making it easy to reconfigure the tweeter orientation for horizontal positioning. Focal includes four rubber feet to help with decoupling, which you can attach either on the bottom of the monitor or the side, depending on how you’re orienting it.
On the back of the Trio11 Be you’ll find a power switch, a socket for the included power cable, a fuse housing and a voltage selector that needs to be unscrewed to be accessed. You can switch the unit between 115V and 230V operation. Because the monitor is fuse-protected, if you want to change the voltage, you first must swap out the fuse for one of the appropriate ratings before powering up.
On the top of the rear panel is the XLR speaker input, a –10 dBV/+4 dBu sensitivity switch and a switch for enabling the Auto Standby feature. The latter, which is on by default, puts the monitors in a power-saving standby state when you turn them on. When a signal is detected at the input, Standby is automatically turned off. After a few seconds, you’ll hear the audio. If the input receives no signal for 15 minutes, the Trio11 Be reverts to Standby mode.
The back panel also houses control knobs for three EQ bands provided to compensate for room acoustics. Each knob is a 7-position switch that offers –3 dB, –2 dB, –1 dB, 0 dB, +1 dB, +2 dB and +3 dB settings. The LF Shelving band corrects at 250 Hz and below. The LMF EQ is a bell-filter with a center frequency of 160 Hz and a Q of 1. The HF Shelving works at 4.5 kHz and above.
FOCUS ON THIS
Also on the back panel are two 1/4-inch jacks labeled Focus Input and Focus Output. You use these for connecting a standard footswitch (not included) to turn on and off the Focus mode feature, and for connecting the monitors together.Turning on Focus mode switches the subwoofers off, transforming a pair of Trio11 Be monitors from a 3-way to a 2-way system, with significantly less bass response. According to the specs, the bass goes down to 30 Hz with the subwoofer on and to 90 Hz when in Focus mode. What’s more, switching to Focus mode activates a shelving filter that cuts the maximum high-frequency reproduction from 40 kHz to 20 kHz.The concept is that instead of switching to other monitors to check your mix, you can turn on Focus mode and it’s like having a second set to compare to. It’s a clever idea, although you’ve got to figure that any customers who can afford the Focals will almost surely own one or two other speaker pairs they can switch to when checking a mix.
And even though the Trio11 Be monitors do sound different with Focus mode on, the difference is not as significant as it probably would be switching to a completely different make, model and size of monitor. You’re still listening through the same power amps, tweeters (although filtered) and midrange drivers.
At Flux, I sat at the console and listened to a wide variety of music through the Trio11 Be monitors in a near-field position. I had a footswitch handy, and the monitors were connected to each other so that I could also turn on and off Focus mode.
I listened to everything from hip-hop by Nas to Steely Dan’s “Peg” (you can’t test speakers without listening to Steely Dan; I think it’s a law) to Foo Fighters to thumping EDM from Deadmau5 to Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” to jazz from Art Pepper. I also listened to solo acoustic guitar music, orchestral music and more.
I was extremely impressed with how the Trio11 Be monitors sounded for every kind of music. In their normal mode, they offer incredibly accurate and crisp reproduction. Thanks to the subwoofers, the bass was substantial. Particularly on EDM and contemporary R&B, you could clearly hear what was going on in the subsonic range. That said, the bottom end didn’t seem overly hyped, which is a good thing from a mixing-accuracy standpoint.
The midrange was rich and full. Stereo, distorted rhythm guitars on the Foo Fighters song “Monkey Wrench” and Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise” sounded warm and thick. The beryllium tweeters delivered extremely crisp high end. On a couple of mixes, particularly Art Pepper’s saxophone on the song “Move,” the highs were at the borderline of being too bright for my taste. But with the high-end shelving filter on the back, you could always adjust for that if it seemed problematic in your studio.
I also listened in Focus mode, switching back and forth between it and the 3-way mode. The difference was fairly significant, particularly in the bottom end with the subwoofer off. It certainly provided another perspective on the music that would be helpful when mixing.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
Clearly, Focal put its considerable experience and resources for designing monitors into this new, flagship product. Between its premium quality reproduction, its ability to be both a near-and mid-field monitor, and the versatility of Focus mode, it has a lot to offer, as it well should at this price point.
Because of their cost and size, I’m guessing the Trio11 Be will mostly appeal to commercial facilities, but I do know that Focal is marketing it as a high-end home-studio solution, too. Indeed, if you’ve got the money and some hefty speaker stands, the Trio11 Be could be the monitor you’ve always dreamed of.
PRODUCT: Trio11 Be
PROS: Excellent-quality reproduction; tweeter and midrange driver can be rotated; plenty of power for near-or mid-field use; Focus mode gives you the perspective of a different sound; three EQ bands for adapting to room acoustics; well-crafted and aesthetically pleasing; Auto-Standby mode saves power
CONS: Pricey; footswitch not included for Focus mode