In Sanskirt, Kanta means “beloved”, and if Focal was inspired by this ancient language for its speaker line, it hits the spot!
Unlike most mainstream manufacturers, Focal has stood out of the crowd for the most part of its 40-year history by making loudspeakers and all of the components that go into the making of one, themselves. Not relying on third-party vendors has helped them keep tight control on quality and also costs. But it has also inadvertently spawned the birth of many pioneering materials and innovations for this French brand that have now become their legacy.
The Kanta range, which isn’t new anymore, uses a lot of the trickle-down engineering from their flagship Utopia and Sopra ranges but even adds some improvements that have come with the passage of time. But even before you get into the tech of the Kanta range, there’s the design and from virtually every angle, it’s as French as they could've made it. Especially in our test pair’s shade of Gauloises Blue for the front baffle and walnut for the cabinet, it’s as unique as a Kanta bai showing up in a French-maid outfit for her daily duties.
Other design highlights include a glass top, magnetic grilles that preserve the form of the front baffle, without masking the Beryllium tweeter and the ingenious Zamac base that makes even a hefty package like the Kanta No.3 look like they’re floating in air. There’s no denying that the Kanta No.3 is a special looking loudspeaker and they look purposeful, determined and dynamically oversized even before you start playing the music!
Focal’s philosophy is to specify its speakers according to room size and the largest Kanta in the range is meant for rooms which are at least 400 sq.ft or more. Our listening room is just a shade over the minimum limit, but with a roof height upwards of 10ft, we had enough cubic volume to make the Kantas sing.
Benefitting from Focal’s Focus Time cabinet design that places the midrange and bass drivers in a forward leaning position in relation to the tweeter ensures coherence and time alignment of the multiple drivers and this also dictates the front shape of the Kanta range. Moulded from a single piece of high-density polymer, it is 70% denser, 15% stiffer and offers 25% more damping than the commonly used MDF. A quick knuckle-rap test confirms this and the front baffle feels as inert as any other exotic material on much more expensive loudspeakers.
Details such as the rounded edges all around and even the cabinet which is moulded and bent from a single piece of wood go a long way in reducing diffraction effects to a bare minimum and also give the Kanta No.3 a decidedly avant-garde look. This is also the first time Focal has blended two of their celebrated technologies in the same package - Flax cone material with Beryllium tweeter and it seems to have worked wonders to reveal a new side of Focal’s character. These Flax cones were first seen on the Aria range a few years back and were born out of the need to find a more cost-effective alternative to synthetic materials, so it’s essentially a form of linen sandwiched between glass fibre layers. They also tick all the hallmarks of good driver requirements such as light weight, stiffness and damping.
The twin 8in bass units also use the same material, along with the NIC (Neutral Induction Circuit) like on the midrange driver in a bid to stabilise the magnetic field around the voice coil for a more predictable response. In addition, the midrange driver also sees the inclusion of a tuned mass damping instead of a typical roll surround around the edges of the cone. Inspired by the world’s tallest skyscrapers and racecar suspensions, it’s an elegant solution to reduce resonances that affect the pistonic behaviour of any electrodynamic driver but is more critical in the midrange.
All of this is topped by the legendary Beryllium tweeter which gets its own housing in the form of the third-generation IAL (Infinite Acoustic Loading) so technically, this tweeter is even more advanced than on the Sopra, although it eschews the Sopra’s elaborate enclosure design for a simpler and cleaner front baffle.
Twin ports, one each front and rear make it relatively easy to place these large floorstanders in the room. We settled for a slight toe-in with 10ft of distance between the left and right Kantas. Initially, it’s the total lack of coloration that really captures your attention, even if you’re not an audiophile. You can tell that you’re hearing more of the music than you might be used to. Perhaps its inherent “rightness” stems from the combination of technologies, materials but most of all, timing and coherence. It doesn’t sound like a three-way speaker, instead homogenising the sound into one massive wave that approaches your ears exactly at the right time.
‘Troubles that you’re in’ by Fink highlights this coherence and integration between the drivers. Sharp transients, full body to the acoustic and bass guitar that are perfectly harmonised. A solid centre image and a large soundstage work in tandem to remove the speakers from the equation completely, leaving just the music in the room.
‘24 hours’ by Tom Jones sounds like he’s appeared in the middle of your room with the drummer right behind him belting out the marching snare and ominous kick drum. The scale is massive, yet the experience is intimate and it really makes for an unforgettable experience if you have the right supporting equipment and room.
The twin 8in bass drivers really pressurize the room without overhang or boom. Play a great recording that thrives on timing, such as ‘Crest’ by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook, and it’s evident that the Kanta No.3 can keep up with drum and bass just as well at the same time projecting vocals in an almost holographic manner. It’s a very different sound than almost every other Focal speaker, with a much warmer signature that emphasizes musicality over all else.
There is a bit of upper mid-bass heaviness, which also contributes to its approachable nature, but this also means they’re not the most accurate or clinical like our resident PMCs. But the Kanta No.3 is also a lot more accepting of a wider range of musical genres and packs a wallop that’s much deeper too. They encourage you to rummage through your music library, play old songs to find new details and that has always been the hallmark of any great piece of hi-fi equipment.
It boils down to the utterly natural sounding highs and the inertness of the cabinet that doesn’t corrupt the sound with secondary reflections. The fantastic timing of the sound from all the drivers reaching your ears at the precise time can really be heard in this case, highlighting the importance of time alignment, be it acoustical in this case or electrical (via crossover) on other speakers.
Incidentally, we also received the Kanta Centre in a matching shade of blue to complete the LCR front of our reference system and using the identical tweeter and similar midrange drivers as the Kanta No.3, it did wonders for music in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music. Be it opera, rock or dance, the Kanta LCR established a rock solid foundation for the sound to come to life, minus the feeling of large boxes, amplifiers, cables or DACs in the room.
They aren’t the cheapest option in a very crowded segment, but the Kanta No.3 makes a very strong case for itself by combining form and function like no other loudspeaker in its category. Studies suggest that we also “listen” through our eyes and in non-medical terms, that just means that aesthetics dictate how we perceive other qualities and by that yardstick, the Kantas will have you smitten.
For non-audiophiles, these would be a sheer indulgence and bordering on insanity, but if you’re on a quest for euphonic nirvana, the Focal Kanta No.3 is all about the music more than about audio exotica. Their ability to disappear into a room despite their large size, the sonic tapestry they create that draws you into the music, the sheer transparency and clarity of the Beryllium tweeter without being sharp or bright and the warm and open nature of the midrange...it all fuses together beautifully to make for a truly high-end listening experience that you wouldn’t want to stop for a long, long time, late into the night.