Experience your full listening potential with the Shape 65 Monitors.
For many years, I used a ratty old pair of computer speakers. I used them until they started spouting static out of them. At the time, I didn’t know there were consumer-level speakers available that didn’t just amplify the sound coming from my computer; premium-grade speakers will also enhance the sound of your music and videos. Over the years, I’ve tried out several different types of speakers but really tried to limit myself to the ones that sit on my desk. It wasn’t until recently that I thought to invest in a real set of ‘studio monitors’ which would also benefit the quality of sound editing in my video work. After some research, I decided on the Shape 65 studio monitors from Focal.
Part of the reason I chose to go with Focal monitors is because of their rich heritage within the speaker market space. Focal has produced high fidelity speakers since 1979 and has consistently and constantly invested in acoustic research.
“Focal products offer unrivaled sound quality. We want every loudspeaker and every speaker driver to be the best in its category. Whichever product you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll be listening to the sound of the original work: the Focal Sound.”
For this reason, I started looking at mid-size studio monitors from Focal and the Shape series of monitors was recently released with the intent that Focal is dedicated to providing innovative nearfield monitoring solutions. The number 1 rule with choosing a set of studio monitors is to pick a speaker that is going to fit your room. This might mean that a set of monitors that will work well in your basement studio (a large open space) may not work as well for your living room (a smaller closed off space). The Shape 65s features a 6.5-inch woofer and according to Focal’s specs, they recommend it for smaller spaces. My home office actually measures around 180sqft and has two open doorways. The Shape 50 monitors — the size down from the 65s — lists a room size restriction of 130sqft. I’ve found that the Shape 65s do a good job of filling my selected room with a large, powerful sound.
The Shape 65s are a very versatile monitoring loudspeaker. They have been specially engineered for near field monitoring and can be used as far as 3-feet away. They have an extended low-end frequency response. The speakers are designed and made in France in order to maintain Focal’s tradition of high-performance. Plus, Focal is better able to retain control over all the processes that make up a Focal speaker. The Shape monitors are optimized for the acoustics of smaller listening rooms, which is why I really sought them out for my home office. The monitor ships with a set grill covers for the speakers. I have them pictured here with and without the covers in place.
- 1″ “M”-shaped aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter
- 6.5″ Flax sandwich cone woofer
- TMD surround
- N. I. C. magnetic circuit
- 6.5″ double passive radiator
- Two Class AB amplifiers
- Low tweeter directivity for a flexible listening position
- Designed without a port allowing it to be placed near a wall
- Numerous settings for optimal integration
- Accurate control, even in the very high end
- Flax sandwich cone: controlled and articulated bass, natural and detailed lower mid-range and upper mid-range registers
- Fastening mechanisms present on the back and underneath the loudspeaker: for installing on the ceiling or a wall (fastening accessories not supplied)
- Threads for ceilling and wall mounts (fastening accessories not supplied)
The Shape 65s arrived packaged in a cardboard shipping box with the information about the speaker located on the outside of it. The speakers are sold separately so if you want two, you have to purchase each one individually. You have the option of connecting the speakers through RCA or XLR connectors. Each monitor is self-powered through a standard power cable. Users have the option to control some of the audio levels right on the back of the monitors. There are four knobs on the back — releasable high-pass filter, adjustable crossover at 160Hz, and adjustable bass and treble. The cabinet of the Shape 65s is made of MDF and covered with a walnut veneer. They are very classy looking and even though you could easily hide them in a corner, why would you want to? They look that good.
While connecting to the monitors really isn’t a big ordeal for most people, it was a bit of a challenge for me. First of all, I have a MacBook Pro. This means that in order for me to have a stereo signal from my computer, I needed to run it through a DAC converter. I went with the Audioengine D1 DAC Headphone AMP, which was both affordable and function for my needs. The output cable from the Audioengine device is a USB-A. My MacBook Pro is a recent release so it only has USB-C ports on it. In addition to the Audioengine device, I had to connect a USB-C hub in order to get the signal through from my computer. As it turned out, I didn’t have an issue with the sound quality and I was incredibly impressed with the power that the Shape 65s had. I listened to several tracks of music from my iTunes library (Drive By by Train, Dirty Deeds by AC/DC, and 1985 by Bowling for Soup) and loved how deep the sound quality was. 1985 has a much brighter sound than the other two tracks and even it had a crisp and clean sound.
I have to admit that I felt a little like Marty McFly in the first scene of Back to the Future when I first plugged in the Shape 65 monitors to my computer. I had no idea what to expect from the volume level. The Audioengine amp has a volume control and so does iTunes. I tried to make sure both were turned to a ‘reasonable’ volume and still found myself blown away from the power of these small framed monitors. One of the great effects I had from the set-up I was using was that when I was sitting in the middle of the speakers, it sounded like the music was coming at me from in between the monitors. The room where I had the speakers hooked up is located in the front of our house and our living room is at the back. While I had music playing at a ‘moderate’ level, I walked back to the living room and could still hear the music at the front of the house loud and clear.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I originally started researching studio monitors to enhance the quality of gear for video editing. As a near-field monitor, they excel for this type of use. I am able to hear individual tracks of voiceover, music, and sound effects easily and clearly. One of the elements of editing I really enjoy is sound editing. Most of the time, I try to isolate my ears from outside influences and use a good set of sound isolating headphones when I am mixing, but the Shape 65 make it very easy to enjoy the full range of sound within a soundtrack.
I can recommend the Focal Shape 65 based on their premium build quality and professional sound experience. I think they are ideal for smaller spaces and I’ve never had a set of studio speakers with such a simple set-up. The only downside to these monitors is the price. They retail for around $900 — each. So for one pair of speakers, you would be investing $1800 into your set-up. While I can support that these monitors are worth it, it’s still something that should be considered when you are planning a set-up like this.
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