Focal XS Book Music System
Good-quality, well-made speakers; balanced sound in reasonably large spaces; well-priced
No USB connectivity or remote control
For all the tricks and capabilities the Mac has mastered, audio quality from its speakers is not one of them, in fact, up until recently external computer speakers did not have the best reputation when it came to sound performance either.
It was a gap in the market felt by gamers, music fans and video buffs. Fortunately, improvements have been made and, increasingly, we are being presented with more sophisticated, better performing designs.
The Focal XS Book Music System is without a doubt in this category, sporting two desktop speakers that produce top-notch audio. Many users will appreciate its affordable price, too, in a product market where competitor models cost significantly more. While Focal has left out some of the extras you’ll find in higher end speakers, the XS’s pared-back design does nothing to detract from its audio production.
Each speaker looks about the shape and size of an overstuffed, bulging book; they have a nice weight to them and are sturdy when positioned on a desktop or shelf. The main body is a brushed silver, with black accents, similar to the aesthetic of Apple’s current MacBook and iMac range. Needless to say, it’s a good-looking unit to display in the home or office.
On top of the right speaker is a volume control knob that also operates as a power button; under the hood you’ll find an internal power supply, left and right RCA inputs, a 3.5mm stereo input jack and a RCA-style jack to connect the left speaker using the 1.5m cable that comes included with the system.
A 0.75in tweeter and 4in mid- bass driver are contained within both speakers; the XS Music System also comes with a number of 1.5m audio cables so that you can connect the speakers to sources with RCA and 3.5mm outputs.
There are a couple of features missing on the XS Book speakers that you would typically find on desktop systems. The first is USB connectivity; the second is a remote control.
Without a USB connection, you have to hook up the speaker to your computer’s headphone jack for an analogue connection, instead of a digital connection that USB ports afford you.
The fact that the unit ships without a remote control also means that to adjust the volume control you have to be within reach of the right speaker. This isn’t a huge problem if you’re at a desk and using the speakers for computer- based work. But, if you are using the system to play music in a large room, mobile access is a sticking point.
We wish there was a remote control for the speakers, because the audio quality is impressive enough to use as your main music system in the home.
We tested the XS Book in a large, open-plan space and were surprised to find it had the chops to produce high-level audio that enveloped the room. If anything, the bass was heavier than most speaker systems three times its size. If you’re a fan of music with a strong bass line, you’ll appreciate this.
On a desktop and used for close-range audio, the speakers perform just as well. The 1.5m cable connecting the two units doesn’t allow much length to position the speakers far apart.
But if you’re using these to flank your computer, this isn’t going to be a factor.
Macworld Australia‘s buying advice.
We recommend the Focal XS Book Music System as an affordable, stylish and capable desktop speaker set to boost your Mac’s audio. While it can also be used in mid-to-large spaces, the lack of remote control limits convenience and access for this purpose. This may be a ‘con’ for some users, but it’s because of this pared- back design that the XS Book is so affordable compared to other same-category models.