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The Legacy of Colin Whatmough ~ Focal Point Loudspeaker


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Hi All,

 

I thought that I would dedicate this system thread to the late (and great) Colin Whatmough and the very rare Focal Point loudspeaker.

 

Firstly, for those of you who have not seen my hi-fi journey and audio system, here is a link to my Blog site at  http://stevem1960.blogspot.com/ . As you can see from this blog, I have tried many different speakers in the past and present, with an emphasis on trying out the different topologies including conventional boxes-monitors-horns-point source-dual concentric-open baffle-Apogee panels-and various electrostatics. So it takes something very special for me to sit up and take notice as I have kind of 'been there' and done that.

 

I acquired the Whatmough Monitors Focal Point loudspeaker from an elderly gentleman here in Perth who bought the speaker new and direct from Colin, at a time when the Focal Point was the pinnacle of Whatmough loudspeaker production. Some of you may remember the superb Whatmough Monitor leadlined 202, 302 and 502 models from that era which I recall selling at a shop locally for upwards of $8K. Well, the Focal Point sat at the top of this range of audiophile speakers at the time. The story with the Focal Points is that they were custom designed and built by Colin and only six pairs were ever made. Mine is the only piano gloss black pair in existence made to special order, the other five pairs are in timber finishes.

 

As you would expect from Colin Whatmough the speaker is impeccably finished and uses superb (at the time) Focal drivers from France. I was a little skeptical of the vintage of the drivers and whether they would keep up with the magnesium, beryllium, ceramic Accuton, Raven Ribbons and electrostats that I have been using. However, I needn't have had any concerns as the Whatmough Focal Point is one of the best loudspeakers I have had in my house or heard elsewhere, for that matter. They are just bloody accurate and very musical. Definitely greater than the sum of the parts ...no doubt due to Colin's supreme skill at crossover design. I have never heard a speaker open up and be free of the constraints of the boxes like this one, especially in the mid-treble response and mid-bass transition. Truth be told my WAR Audio Reference One speaker @ $8K are similarly as good, but they cannot quite scale like the Focal Points due to the FP's larger size. The Focal Points produce a crazy-good image, vocals are lock tight in the center and instruments are clearly placed and defined within a tidy soundstage. Musicality, timing and transients are of the highest order, there is nothing boring about this speaker ...almost horn-like the music just enters the room and hangs in the air free of the boxes. They are very discerning of ancillary equipment and pick the nuances of amplifier and source differences, and are efficient at 92dB @ 8 ohm impedance so present a benign load for finessed low powered amps like my 15w Bakoon or the 20w 807 valve amplifier.

 

I feel that I am starting to collect too many speakers now and may have to move some of them on. Another large 60kg eight box loudspeaker like the Focal Point is not what I need in my house at the moment, but it is quite good to be pleasantly surprised by some things at a late stage in my audio journey.

 

Cheers,

 

 

Steve

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Steve M
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Yeah, I like the Focal Point spkrs a lot Andy ...both for its modern Dalek-like looks and it has surprised me how coherent and top notch the overall sound is. :thumb:

 

I can't imagine how good Colin Whatmough's final opus the mighty Paragon speakers would sound like @ RRP $50K. I think he was a very talented Aussie speaker designer ....maybe slipped under the radar a bit of the world stage?

 

I did have the privilege of conversing with Colin before he passed ...he seemed like a really decent person.

 

Cheers,

 

Steve.

 

 

 

 

paragon.jpg

 

 

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When I first heard 201i Leadline at Audio Excellence sometime in 90s, and convinced me to purchased it on the spot, then an opportunity came along to purchase 502i without a hesitation. @Steve M I remember vividly about a phone conversation I had with him for about 30 mins, he was so patient with me and was willing to talk as long I would like to. He was a true gentleman with real talent on speaker designs. I believe his speakers are under appreciated even on SNA

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This brings back some memories, 20 plus years ago,remember the tween towers and weapons of mass destruction. I was young and gullible

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Oooh! they look very nice in timber finish. Some analogue film photos which sets the scene well. The Focal Point spkrs do sound v.good on a valve amplifier, your EL34 push-pull amp would’ve been great on them.👍

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They ware golden tube se40 stereo amps×2 running in mono and yes they had a wonderful sound.However the best sound and biggest regret for selling them was the Snell typ A mk3.The  ost natural sound i have ever heard,but Collins speakers were not far behind. 

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1 hour ago, Steve M said:

can't imagine how good Colin Whatmough's final opus the mighty Paragon speakers would sound like @ RRP $50K. I think he was a very talented Aussie speaker designer ....maybe slipped under the radar a bit of the world stage?

had the pleasure of hearing these in colins presence and they were magnificent in scale... he mentioned how he would go listen to live concerts and that was the kind of scale he was working to recreate ! 

 

A true gentleman i do agree and very fortunate to procure these rare pairs you have :) in the focal point .... am a long time focal lover too :D  

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@Steve M

I really enjoy your occassional reviews when you feel the need to share your enthusiasm for a particular piece of kit.

They look sensational, Steve. Thanks for a good read.

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wow. never seen them before. thanks for sharing

i had the pleasure of hearing the paragons in the old whatmough store. my first response was that I would need to buy a new house before I could buy the speakers, because their bass would surely knock my old house off its flimsy stumps. 

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Yes Mickstu ,that's the reason i sold mine .You really need an appropriate room

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Posted (edited)

The Focal Points sound very accurate and balanced across the frequency range. They are not too bassy, but are very powerful and punchy when cranked at high volume levels. They could overload a small room, but my room is quite large at 6.2m x 7.8m so does not tend to overload the bass.

 

 

.

Edited by Steve M
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Fantastic Steve! I met Colin a few times when I dropped in by his shop for a chat and lsiten. I never heard your model but did get to listen to the Paragons at a HiFi show, probably in the early 2000's. The listening environment was poor so the main impression I gained at the time was of their size!

 

I have never owned a pair of Colins speakers but I did own a pair of stacked quads which were built into solid Oak frames by Colin along with large sub boxes using Focal drivers. They were impecabbly made as you would expect.

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Posted (edited)

Hello Mondie,

 

Sounds like Colin was a true enthusiast mucking around with your stacked Quads, which had no relationship with his own box loudspeakers. My encounter with Colin was similar to yours, I reached out to him to buy a pair of Focal 8K-5412 bass drivers for a DIY transmission line subwoofer I was building for a pair of the ER Audio ESL-3 electrostatic speakers I was using at the time. Colin was very helpful and found a pair of the Focal drivers in his stash.
 

I still recall him extolling the virtues of a d’appolito speaker array with box speakers, saying that it was the best way of replicating the lock tight imaging you get from an ESL’s directivity.

 

Steve

Edited by Steve M
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On 17/6/2021 at 7:31 PM, Steve M said:

Yeah, I like the Focal Point spkrs a lot Andy ...both for its modern Dalek-like looks and it has surprised me how coherent and top notch the overall sound is. :thumb:

 

I can't imagine how good Colin Whatmough's final opus the mighty Paragon speakers would sound like @ RRP $50K. I think he was a very talented Aussie speaker designer ....maybe slipped under the radar a bit of the world stage?

 

I did have the privilege of conversing with Colin before he passed ...he seemed like a really decent person.

 

Cheers,

 

Steve.

 

 

 

 

paragon.jpg

 

 

I'm pretty sure this is the speaker we all heard in Colin's shop / warehouse with Cayin amps.  It was a gathering organised by the Melbourne Audio Club (MAC) and it was a full house of audiophiles.  They had the same shape and were large.  They sounded really good.  Colin was still tinkering with them but they were production speakers.  He spoke for a time and was a true gentleman.

 

LPG

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On 17/06/2021 at 7:40 PM, vinilink said:

When I first heard 201i Leadline at Audio Excellence sometime in 90s, and convinced me to purchased it on the spot, then an opportunity came along to purchase 502i without a hesitation. @Steve M I remember vividly about a phone conversation I had with him for about 30 mins, he was so patient with me and was willing to talk as long I would like to. He was a true gentleman with real talent on speaker designs. I believe his speakers are under appreciated even on SNA

 

My first "proper" speakers were his 502i's.

I miss them to this day - as good as they were I don't think I got the most out of them from upstream components.

 

Colin was a real gentleman. I met him a number of times as he was designing and building a set of speakers with my step-father. It was those speakers and the conversations I had with Colin that ignited my interest in hifi

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Way back in the early days before Colin went commercial I met him through the Melbourne Audio Club. He built speakers then using a ribbon tweeter built by Russell Woolcock. Loosely based on the Kelly ribbon.

http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/ribbon.html

No horn loading was used, I still have a pair in a speaker design from a friend of mine, coupled to a Philips midrange and KEF B110 or B200 (forget which exact model) woofer. Ribbon is 50mm long and 3mm wide, no problems if it breaks,  easily

cut a replacement from alfoil. Back in the day Small's chocolate foil was recommended!

Excuse the sideways pic, there's the ribbon on top. The angled sides contain large steel pole pieces attached to a large magnet. Ribbon has an impedance matching transformer to the crossover.

 

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Edited by Ian McP
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On 17/06/2021 at 4:48 PM, Steve M said:

feel that I am starting to collect too many speakers now and may have to move some of them on. Another large 60kg eight box loudspeaker like the Focal Point is not what I need in my house at the moment, but it is quite good to be pleasantly surprised by some things at a late stage in my audio journey.

Sell these in a few years I'll be interested- not now as I am just about to buy a house.

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Nice write-up Steve, and great pics. They look like serious business and can imagine they would sound that way too. Very nice that people remember a pioneering spirit, such as Colin obviously was, with such fondness.

 

The speakers do have a look of several 'stacked box' types that Pat used to create at W.A.R. Audio (and I would regularly drool over). He loved the Focal drivers too.

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On 17/06/2021 at 4:48 PM, Steve M said:

Whatmough Monitors Focal Point loudspeaker


They look fantastic.
Curious, are they rear ported and is that the 7" Kevlar Focal ?

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On 21/06/2021 at 12:09 PM, Hifiplus said:


They look fantastic.
Curious, are they rear ported and is that the 7" Kevlar Focal ?


Yes, sealed 5” kevlar mids and 7” bass with dual ports at the rear. Each bass driver has its own chamber, top rear box houses the external crossover.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

The Focal Point spkrs are sounding very good like this, firing out of a triangulated room position. Huge scale and depth perspectives with the music hanging in the air.

 

Sometimes I put my box speakers in this position for the better imaging and bass output that it provides. I feel my normal listening positioning (in the middle of a 6.5m x 7.8m room) has a slight bass null which this triangulated set-up solves. Besides increasing bass impact, what the triangulation does is, it puts a 3m space into the corner behind the plane of the forward firing speakers ...thereby giving fantastic depth perspectives, creating a realistic live soundstage in which the musicians are clearly placed.

 

*I am wondering if anyone else has tried this triangulated corner speaker positioning, and whether it has been a positive experience for you?

 

Cheers,

 

Steve

 

 

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Edited by Steve M
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Posted (edited)

The speaker positioning below also works very well, similar to above but the speakers are pointed to focus about 1m in front of the listening position ...it makes the loudspeaker really disappear'' in the room.

 

Its something I saw mentioned by Jimmy Hughes in Hi-Fi News and Record Review UK magazine decades ago and also heard done to good effect in @MarkT 's room with the mighty ATC50/100? loudspeakers.

 

Edited by Steve M
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Darn! those speakers look the business Steve. Knowing your history could it actually be that you've found long term music makers? I wonder if the closeness of the walls behind assists or muddies the bass. They'd take some moving around no doubt.

 

My room won't allow that experiment across the corner if you remember, and I'm a little trepidatious (a word?) as to whether the wood floors we're in the process of having installed will radically change the sound.

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They’re good Ged, right up your alley too in the bass department …you’ll have to drop in for a listen.

 

Steve

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Yes please, once this floor, skirting, wall / ceiling painting, furniture replaced etc, etc. I'll be there with bells on.

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very interesting speaker placement. close to  the front walls with extreme toe in. hay as long as it sounds fantastic. 

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