Focal Turns 40 - A Look At Their History
Focal started in 19679 in Saint-Étienne, France. Focal’s talent took root in the working of a family run SME specialise in precision mechanics. Focal had just two guys working in the manufacturer of their speaker drivers, one of whom was the founder Jacques Mahul.
Focal commercialised speaker drivers for other loudspeaker manufacturers, a second brand called JM-lab specialised in making high-fidelity loudspeakers. They launched the DB 13, with a double voice coil speaker driver which revolutionised the world of compact bookshelf speakers, by defying it’s size.
In 1989, the company opened a Car Audio department, and in the 90’s a chap called Gérard Chrétien came in to the business and Focal made it’s first steps abroad. Focal was committed to getting itself into the high-end audio sector, which it succeeded in doing and gained many awards around the world.
1995, Focal launched what would become a symbol of high-end audio, the Utopia series. They wanted to push the limits and deliver a reference loudspeaker. It was originally meant to be a bit of a niche product, but become a commercial product after receiving praise worldwide. They launched Utopia Be in 2002, and Utopia III in 2008, each time they received fantastic feedback from the industry, press and consumers.
In the early 00’s, Simon Matthews (who is still the Director of Design at Focal), joined Focal, he bought industrial design to the creative process along with Parisian design agency Pineau & Le Porcher.
The 00’s was a busy time for Focal, around this same their Car Audio department really started the pick up the pace. In 2001 a car full equipped with a full Focal Speaker system won the world final of the USA’s Car Audio IASCA competition, in the expert category. Focal have continued to win award after award for their in-car audio systems.
Focal stuck to it’s roots when many other brands were moving manufacturing away, Focal were committed to retaining total control over the whole process.
In 2002, Focal entered into the Monitor market, with a new Focal Professional department. It didn’t take long for their monitor speakers to be praised by professionals and sound engineers.
It was also in 2002 that Focal ditched the JM-lab brand, and everything they made would be under the Focal brand.
Focal then met up with Naim Audio, a leader in high-end HiFi electronics in the UK, this meeting led to the merging of the two companies in 2011. In 2014, Vervent Audio Group was created and it’s managers along with a private equity firm acquired the Focal & Naim group. Jcques Mahul became vice president of the board, later that year he left the group completely.
Focal also received the Living Heritage Company Label award, which is given by the French state, for their expertise in speaker drivers.
At this point, Focal had a lot of bases covered in the audio world, home audio, car audio and monitoring. They launched their first pair of headphones, the Spirit One. in 2016, they launched their Utopia high-end headphone.