Focal Alpha 80 Evo studio monitor review: Next-gen pro powerhouse
Mix with confidence with this speaker that hits the sweet spot of performance and price.
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Ask recording engineers to name the most important gear in their studio, and they’ll point to their reference monitors. No matter what kind of music you make, or whether you’re a pro or a hobbyist, your monitors are the lens through which you evaluate your work. The best studio monitors provide an honest, accurate translation of your mix, presenting every nuance with depth and clarity.
French manufacturer Focal has been making audiophile loudspeakers and professional studio monitors (as well as PopSci‘s best overall headphones) for decades; its speakers are mainstays in many of the world’s leading music lounges and mastering studios. Top-of-the-line Focals run well into the six-figure range; fortunately for the price-conscious prosumer, its Alpha Evo line provides an entry point into professional Focal technology at a fraction of that cost.
With the second-generation Alpha Series, Focal introduces a range of features and upgrades and expands the family with two new models. Focal bills the Alpha Evo Series as offering a transparent sonic profile with deep, powerful bass; a wide sweet spot; and consistent tonal balance at any volume. I put these qualities to the test in the studio with a pair of the new flagship Focal Alpha 80 Evo two-way, bi-amped 8-inch monitors.
Exploring the Alpha 80 Evo
Each Alpha 80 Evo (which retail for $549) houses a 1” aluminum inverted dome tweeter with custom dispersion-controlling waveguide and an 8” woofer with composite slate fiber/thermoplastic polymer cones, which Focal says lowers weight and improves speed, rigidity, and damping. Frequency response is 38 Hz to 22 kHz. The tweeter and woofer are powered by internal 35-watt and 80-watt Class D amplifiers, respectively, delivering a max output of 108 dB SPL.
The previous model’s dual-port design has been replaced by an internally fluted laminar port, improving airflow for more efficient low-end performance and ease of integration into small spaces.
RCA, TRS, and balanced XLR inputs connect just about any pro sound source; inputs are level-compensated to ensure consistent volume when switching sources. High and low shelving filters let you tailor response to your room and your taste; a sensitivity switch matches monitors to system levels. A standby mode, selectable via a rear-panel switch, turns the speaker off after 15 minutes of inactivity and wakes it back up when signal returns.
Everything’s housed in vinyl-covered 5/8-inch MDF cabinets with diffraction-taming rounded corners; inserts allow speakers to be affixed to walls or a ceiling.
Alphas in action
I set up the Alpha 80 Evos on stands in my 9×10-foot dedicated home studio, and I spent three days burning them in before doing any critical listening. Studio sound sources included commercially released tracks and mastered and unmastered .WAV files, played from Apple Logic through an Antelope Audio Discrete 4 Pro converter. Later, I moved the speakers to my open, wood-paneled 20×14-foot living room, where I listened to vinyl tracks and streamed TIDAL Master Quality Audio high-definition files (up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution). For comparison, I usually reference mixes at home on KRK passive Rokit 5s and I’ve logged a lot of hours in front of Meyer Sound, JBL, Yamaha, and Genelec monitors in commercial rooms.
When it comes to a studio monitor, neutral response is paramount—but the Alpha 80 Evos check all the boxes. Both finished and unfinished rock, blues, and Americana mixes were reproduced with accurate tonality and imaging, revealing details usually exposed in much more expensive speakers. But listening to advance tracks from jazz saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom’s Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1, a sumptuous collection of spare, improvisational duets recorded in ultra-high-resolution 32-bit/384 kHz, was a revelation: The sound presentation was so richly detailed, I felt like I could feel the air in the room.
The Alpha 80 Evo’s sound stage was expansive, living up to its promise of a wide, consistent sweet spot; and sonic images were presented with pinpoint precision. Transients were crisp, with no harshness or breakup; I experienced no fatigue even over long listening sessions. These speakers are truly linear, delivering a consistent sonic presentation at any volume.
Midrange was deep; bass was big, full and lush yet focused and well-articulated. I found a subwoofer unnecessary, but for those mixing bass-heavy genres, game soundtracks, and immersive content, or just want more thump and thunder in the room, Focal’s 200-watt Sub One (which retails for $999) pairs nicely with Alpha Evo Series models.
Music is experienced in the context of its medium. From unprocessed guitar effects to vinyl albums to SACDs, the Alpha 80 Evos presented tracks with honesty and clarity, exactly as they were intended.
So, who should buy the Alpha 80 Evo?
Don’t be fooled by the Focal Alpha 80 Evo’s (relatively) low price. You can make world-class mixes with these monitors. And you’ll also enjoy kicking back with your favorite playlists. They’re not the cheapest studio monitors in the mix category but, in my experience, their performance blows away models costing twice the price, and they could just as easily occupy the bookshelves of an analytical music consumer’s listening station. I highly recommend them for anyone looking for incredible value in true professional-grade studio monitors that prioritize accuracy but never sacrifice musicality.