Focal Grande Utopia EM in black finish

Analog music sources, Technics SP10 MK3  with two Kuzma 4 Point 14".   Studer A820 half track tape machine.

Digital music source is Aurender W20  into Bricasti M1 SE MDX

Soulution 725 preamp, Soulution 755 phono stage and Soulution 701 mono block amps

Cable is 100% top tier Purist Audio design.  Mostly 25th Anniversary Luminist,  all ten AC cords are the new Purist 30th Anniversary AC.

My space is 18 X 31 and acoustically treated with RPG panels, tube traps and fiberglass acoustic treatment over triple reinforced walls and ceiling. The floor is lamination beams over steel plates to pier and beams.  Two sheets of 5/8 epoxy lamination sheets make up the floor with two inches of concrete topped with India multi color slate.

Whisper Wall rail system and fine textured acoustic cloth covers the work, making  everything appear as a normal room with painted sheet rock or decorative cloth covering.

The room acoustics were conceived by RBDG and the entire space was torn out to bare dirt under the foundation and bare studs in the walls.  The combo of all new electrical and acoustical treatment resulting in best sound I’ve ever had.

Room Details

Dimensions: 31’ × 18’  X large
Ceiling: 12’

Components Toggle details

    • My Photography
    Commercial + Advertising Photography, Dallas, TX.
    • Focal Grande Utopia EM
    The best offering from Focal, shown with Stillpoints Ultra 5. Ultra 5 was an amazing upgrade for the speakers !
    • RPG Acoustics QRD 734 (variation)
    On front wall, now obscured by acoustically transparent cloth, is floor to ceiling RPG (similar to QRD® 734) in foam, so it's partially absorptive.
    • Studer Studer A820
    Found a near mint A820 at a production studio in Illinois.  I was so excited about it's condition I had it driven here in the back of an SUV, covered with moving blankets.

    Head block sent to John French and all cards at Soren Wittrup who worked for Studer.  This is the machine I spent more than a decade searching for.
    • Technics SP10 MK3 Rosewood with Stillpoints Ultra 5
    Technics SP10 MK3 Panzerholz + Rosewood shown with Stillpoints Ultra 5
    • Technics SP10 MK3 Panzerholz + Ebony
    Technics SP10 MK3 Panzerholz with African Ebony lumber (no Veneer). This is the original design by John Semrad and myself, copied to death now.
    • TTM Stainless Mat and Oil Damp Weight
    Japan, TTM Stainless mat (6.61 pounds) plus TTM oil filled record weight.
    • TTM record stabilizer TTM three piece set
    Very hard to find, grateful I was able to purchase this last week.  Three piece TTM record stabilizer replaces my previous single piece unit.
    • Air Tight Opus
    Air Tight top of the line phono cartridge
    • Mutech Hayabusa
    Excellent MC cartridge, retail about $4500.00
    • Koetsu Blue Lace Platinum
    Top tier stone body Koetsu, perfect alternate to Air Tight Opus One
    • Soulution 725 preamp
    725, Soulution best preamp, shown in system
    • Soulution 755 phono
    Soulution best phono stage, unbelievable amount of adjustment for cartridge including channel balance to 1 DB
    • Soulution 701 Mono Block Amplifiers
    Soulution top tier 2KW solid state amps from Switzerland
    • ORB-DF03 USA version DF03
    Excellent LP flattener, simple to use and so far perfect result
    • Aurender W20
    Aurender music server, model W20 with 12TB storage on board.
    • Bricasti M1 SE MDX
    In my opinion the best DAC for the money, this is a very good sounding piece.
    • Vibraplane 2212-01
    Under my Technics MK3,  powered by Silentaire DR-150
    • Degritter Ultrasonic LP cleaning machine
    New from Estonia, very powerful ultrasonic LP cleaning machine.
    • Degritter and ORB LP flattner Degritter and ORB LP flattner
    View of two important pieces to maintain LP collection
    • Milbank Transocket three phase 750 amp
    750 amp meter base. Pass through design, three phase power is a huge benefit in conjunction with our dedicated transformer.
    • Porter Port Cryo outlets 20 Amp
    14 of these in my system, each to a dedicated breaker in copper based electrical box
    • Furutech NCF Booster
    New NCF Booster added to majority of AC cords in system.  Easy to see against light colored wall, arrow points to NCF Booster to my (previous) owned Allnic M-5000 amp.
    • Purist Audio Design Focal EM Supply cable
    New four conductor cord, replaces stock Focal supply cord from EM drive box to back of speaker. Amazing upgrade
    • Purist Audio Luminist 25th Anniversary XLR X 4
    (1) Soulution 755 phono to Soulution 725 preamp
    (1) Soulution 725 to Soulution 701 mono blocks
    (1) Bricasti M1 SE DAC to Soulution 725 preamp
    (1) Studer A820 to Soulution 725 preamp
    • Purist Audio Luminist 25th Anniversary Bi-Wire
    1.5 meter Bi-Wire, Soulution 701 mono blocks to Focal Grande EM
    • Purist Audio Design 30th Anniversary AC Cables
    New STUNNING cable from Purist Audio, silver and seven stage network box.  This cable brought so much dynamics, resolution and transparency to my system it qualifies as a main component.
    • Leica Disto D2
    Super laser measuring tool. Indispensable for setting distance and alignment of your speakers

Comments 4723

Thank you !

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

lovely !


Pulled two old images.

Added new photo of LPs and tape which includes Soulution 755 and 725.  Nice view of  includes A820.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter


Thanks for dropping in to my system, always good to read comments from others.

I owned Aesthetix when you could still find NOS Telefunken and not at super high prices.  I contributed to several threads at Audiogon about tube tests in Aesthetix and what my results were.

I did photography for Aesthetix as well as several other high end pieces and was happy with Aesthetix IO and Callisto including the revised models referred to  as partial eclipse and full eclipse.

During that time I auditioned ARC, Allnic, Einstein, Upsilon and Messenger preamps and phono stages.   I bought and used Allnic for many years and was happy with it's sound. I was Allnic distributor until just recently and that caused me to evaluate all my gear again.

It came down to VAC and Soulution and if I had the money I would have bought both and done a shoot out.  As it is, I'm friends with Soulution importer and I took his word at what Soulution was capable of.   I've had it in my system for about three months but the 755 phono was back ordered and I just received mine last Friday.

All the guys in my group are tube guys, just like me.  Last Tuesday with only a few hours on it the Soulution I got almost 100% agreement that I had reached a new threshold in performance.   I did not expect solid state would ever be able to do what this achieved and I'm now considering the 760 DAC with LEEDH.

i don’t know where you live, but if travel ever brings you my way you are welcome to listen with me and our group and see what you think.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Hey Albert I own the Focal Scala Evo Utopias, am a lifelong focal fan. Currently use an Aesthetix Calypso Signature and you are right it's so hard to find quiet 12ax tubes. Really thinking of changing to another pre amp that's quieter and more reliable. Did the solution work well as a replacement with the same imaging and Soundstage the Aesthetix is known for?


Took a new photo showing room and amps, the previous image was very old.

Break in is going well, new gear is spectacular with master tapes.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

I owned Aesthetix for a long time, from basic to signature to Full Eclipse.  It's hard to get quiet enough 12AX7 tubes, especially if you want NOS like Telefuken.

I don't know if Soulution will stand alone or I'll add tubes.  Its so new it's still changing every few days of break in.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter


i have a tubed CS Port phono i like alot, and have acquired a used Aesthetix Io Eclipse phono which is at Aesthetix for some updates on it's way to me.

so a few tubes here and there can also be a choice. but maybe if i had the Soulution 755 phono i might not have bothered with those phono's. but it's  a spendy unit.


Thanks Mike, I may add a tube preamp at some point but first going to try all Soulution.

Seems the Swiss solid state designs are winning hearts, I see tube guys going with darTZeel, Soulution, Nagra and CH Precision.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

hi Albert,

as a tube loving solid state user i can relate. i view my swiss solid state darTZeel as sounding like music, not tubes........or solid state. i do think musical reproduction bliss can be fully found with the right solid state. and an appreciation of tubes does help.

congrats on the Soulution gear, it's is at the very top level.

best regards,



Radical edit on my system, removed all Allnic now that I am no longer associated with them and VERY happy to be listening to Soulution from Switzerland.

Never thought I would go solid  state but the rep is a 30 year plus friend and talked me into taking a chance.   All I can say is solid state has moved light years since I last owned in in early 1980s when I switched to tubes.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Sounds like a plan, look forward to it. A



You can reach me direct at [email protected]

I hope to open up again in April when more folks have received their Covid vaccinations.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Albert, I will make my way up there when Tuesday is opened up, drop me a line when that happens. I've used Soren before, good tech!


Hello Anthony,

I will be opening up Tuesday night listening sessions again soon since Covid vaccinations are making headway.   When that happens you can listen with us.  The Studer cards were sent off to be rebuilt, I actually have two sets and two technicians did work on them.

Soren (from Denmark) did the first set and Studer tech in Canada did the second, my plan is to listen to both and see if I prefer one over the other.  These two Studer technicians have different opinion as to what parts to use, especially caps.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Hi Albert,
I've been eyeing your system for awhile, it is very impressive! Congrats on the new Studer A820, it doesn't get any better if you can get it in the hands of the right tech. I'm a fellow Studer owner and not far from you in Fort Worth. Would love to stop by for a listen one of these days. Cheers, Anthony



First of all I apologize for not responding earlier, Audiogon did not notify me about your post on my thread.

I have heard both Magico and Focal Grande EM at audio shows and I was both impressed and disappointed, depending on set up, room acoustics and associated equipment.

When I was speaker shopping I had a dozen on my list before deciding and ultimately it was a set up in Montreal that made me decide to buy the Focal Grande EM.

Something to consider with any speaker are parts and service.  Since my Focal Purchase several of the speaker companies or specific model I was considering are no more.  Either company changed hands or model is gone.

 That makes me wonder, what if there are no exact replacement parts later on?  

When I spoke to Focal they told me to my face that they could provide an exact and perfect replacement for any driver or crossover part in my EM Grande for all foreseeable time.  Nine years have passed and their promise is still true.

If you have not already found your ideal choice, I hope you are successful and have the will power and patience to match up other pieces in the chain necessary to make your system as perfect as you can.

Ultimately all the other pieces in the system are as important as the speaker.  I achieved that in my system and honestly if someone ask to buy my speakers I would not sell.   I have no idea where I would go to replace them.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Hi Albert,

I have the opportunity to purchase a used Magico M Project or Focal Grande Utopia EM at essentially the same price.  I am really torn at what to do.

I feel as if the Magico are the more technologically advanced speaker/have the better drivers, however, I am just drawn to the iconic look of the Utopia and the adjustments that can be made to make it sound good in room.

Have you had the chance to compare any high end Magico to the Utopia?

I appreciate your thoughts,



I'm proud to have delivered an Allnic L7000 to another performing artist.  Here are his comments:

"As a performing artist, my field of expertise is classical music.
         As a singer, I have learned that a resonant tone, 
         accurately produced from a stable centered core,
         resonates the truest, and most accurately vibrant tone.

         All sound production, whether live or reproduced,
         fundamentally adhere's to this principle."

Obviously he feels Allnic is true to his art and profession.   Please visit his website:

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Thank you Jamiek for your kind words and also for the bit of humor. 

I like my Grande Utopia very much and while they are not perfect I cannot think of a speaker I would trade for, especially considering how long it took to break in the focal.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Grand Utopias? I heard there was a recall on those. 

Just kidding. I had the same pair and loved them. Excellent system. 


I've been experimenting with the Studer A820 playback.  The on board electronics can be built up many different ways, I have heard two so far and have two more that will be added.

I previously tried the King-Cello and although it was good there were things about the Studer electronics I preferred.   I think the Trafoless cards are more transparent and resolved but somewhat less musical than the transformer versions.   I’m not picking one over the other at this time, just evaluating and experimenting.

I hope within the next few months to have four sets of boards I can plug and play in the A820, each built with different voice due to choice of caps, resistors and solid state devices chosen.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter


I think you have me  confused with another person.  I do not have any earthstone products and the VTL in the first image is VERY old, I use Allnic M5000 for several years now.

Last, in case you are confusing your product with the floor in my listening room, my floor is India slate.  Not an earthstone product.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Thanks a lot for your commitment, Auro. 

I thought the output tubes VTL has yet started but the output of the VTL tubes is rebuilt. I look at through many options for the wall but the stones of the products VTL are available in many colors. 

The quality of the earthstones is good for any of the building and the service is exceptional with a lot of the stone's product.

The quality of our service is wonderful. We use expert craftsman for work and install the stones. Our EOQ manager balance all of the product quality in the service.

Thank you again for your idea.


See new image of Studer A820

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

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