It has installation settings that allow it to be customized for a wide variety of listening rooms. The physical design is robust yet it is aesthetically pleasing. The Sub Air is a compact, 8” wireless subwoofer. Just like the sound bar, it can sit on a flat surface or be wall mounted.
The sound quality from this combo is excellent. The Dimension’s reproduction of vocals from TV programming is impressive. It is also quite capable of producing good sound for music listening. The Sub Air integrates well with the Dimension to produce impactful low frequency sound.
Focal also included their apt-X wireless Bluetooth receiver in the review package. It allows for streaming music from a smartphone, tablet or PC to the Dimension. I found this to be a nice feature; it is much more convenient than using a wired connection. It has the ability to stream audio up to 16-bit 44.1 kHz.
Focal Dimension High-Fidelity 5.1 Soundbar and Subwoofer
- First Rate Sound Quality
- Analog And Digital Inputs
- Robust Construction
- Audio Streaming Via Bluetooth Wireless Receiver
- Wireless Sub For Placement Flexibility
- Flat Surface Or Wall Mount Options For Sound Bar And Sub
Focal was founded in 1979 by Jacques Mahul, an engineer, audio enthusiast and technology journalist. Focal’s first product was the DB13, a bookshelf loudspeaker. Focal’s product line-up now includes a full range of loudspeakers, home theater products, wireless and multimedia speakers, headphones, automotive speakers and professional audio loudspeakers. Focal designs and manufactures speaker drivers for use in their own brand of speakers, JMLab, as well for use by other speaker manufacturers. Their flagship product, the Grand Utopia loudspeaker, is one of the most impressive loudspeakers in the world.
Dimension Sound bar
5 Ultra-flat with 4″ Paper Cones
6-channel 450 Watts
50 Hz – 25 kHz ± 6 dB
2 x HDMI™ (OUT/IN)
Digital Optical Toslink
Analog 3.5 mm Jack
Dimension Sub Out: Powered Output Dedicated to Dimension Sub
Sub Line Out: Low-Level Output Compatible with All Amplified Subwoofers
Sound Bar Dimensions:
4.5″ H x 45.25″ W x 4.5″ D
Flat Bass-reflex Subwoofer, Integrated 150 Watt BASH Amplifier
40 Hz – 200 Hz, ± 3 dB
Crossover Cutoff Frequency:
Variable 50 Hz – 200 Hz
Left Right / LFE
Continuous Power Output:
0 – 180° Switch
ON Auto (1 W) OFF (0.5 W)
16.1″ H x 14.2″ W x 6.3″ D
Apt-x Universal Wireless Receiver
10 Meters (Line of Sight)
Resolution and Sampling Rate:
16 Bit 44.1 kHz
10 Hz – 22 kHz
<1.89ms @ Fs 48 kHz
Radio Transmission Power:
2.5 mW (4 dBm)
Radio Transmission Frequency Range:
2.4 GHz (Bands ISM)
2.4” H x 2.2” W x 0.6” D
Focal, Focal Dimension High-fidelity 5.1, Soundbar Reviews, Subwoofer Reviews
The Dimension sound bar and Sub Air subwoofer are part of Focal’s home theater line of products. There are multiple subwoofer offerings in the home theater line. For this review Focal opted to send me the Sub Air, one of their stand alone, amplified subwoofers. In addition, there is a Dimension subwoofer specifically designed to be used with the Dimension sound bar. Focal designed it to nest behind the Dimension sound bar on a tabletop surface. The Dimension sound bar provides the amplification for it. It is deep enough and wide enough such that it can act as a base for flat panel displays.
The Dimension sound bar and Sub Air subwoofer fall near the higher end of the price range for sound bars. I expect products like it will become more popular as 4K/UHD displays and programming become the standard. I think consumers will look for exceptional sound to match the exceptional image quality that 4K/UHD offers. A trend we are seeing with the new OLED TV panels is ultra-thin bezels. This leaves little or no room to package speakers and an external audio source is necessary. I think it is safe to say this trend will continue and sound bars will be the logical choice for TV audio.
The Dimension sound bar has an extensive set of options and inputs to allow for a wide variety of uses and setups. I can see a Dimension sound bar as the sole audio setup in a system used for watching TV and listening to music. It is clear that Focal has put a great deal of thought into the design of the Dimension sound bar and subwoofer. For additional information, Focal has written a white paper on it.
The Dimension sound bar is larger and heavier than most sound bars. This is not a complaint; I like the robustness of the design. The look is sleek yet somewhat industrial. The outer case is a single piece of 2.5mm thick, brushed aluminum formed into a channel. This makes for an incredibly rigid chassis.
The Dimension sound bar has a parallelogram shape and two metal brackets hold it upright on horizontal surfaces. It comes with a wall mount bracket and if I were keeping it long term I would wall mount it. Due to the parallelogram shape, the drivers point slightly upward when placed on a tabletop. When wall mounted, they fire perpendicular to the wall. The Dimension is a five-driver speaker. The front panel is concave in front of each of the drivers. To minimize the thickness, Focal uses ultra-flat speaker drivers. The Dimension’s 4” drivers are only 1 7/16” thick. Focal derived it from a driver designed for automotive use. The Dimension uses DSP and phase control to create the sensation of surround sound from 5.1 surround encoded material. Some other brands of sound bars opt to use reflected sound to try to emulate surround sound. The Dimension sound bar has a six-channel 450W amplifier built in. This amplifier drives the Dimension’s five drivers. The sixth channel drives the optional Dimension subwoofer.
The Dimension sound bar is a bass reflex design. There are ports located on either end. The two outside drivers on either side produce the low frequency sound through an internal chamber connected to the ports. According to Focal’s specifications, the Dimension sound bars frequency range is 50Hz to 25kHz +/- 6dB.
There is a control panel on the front of the Dimension sound bar. It has a built in proximity sensor and the panel lights up when your hand nears it. The control panel allows the user to turn the power on/off, adjust volume, adjust bass, select the input and put the sound bar in night mode. Night mode reduces the peak volume and dynamic range for Dolby Digital encoded content.
The back panel contains two HDMI connections, one digital optical Toslink input, one analog 3.5mm jack, and subwoofer outputs. It also contains controls to configure listening distance, mounting location, room brightness and the subwoofer setup. One or two additional HDMI inputs would be nice to see. The current layout of the rear panel is cramped, so this would likely entail a redesign.
A credit card sized remote comes with the Dimension sound bar. It has buttons for volume, mute, bass adjustment, inputs, Audio Video Syncing, Night mode and controlling the front panel lights. It is not a particularly user-friendly remote and I found it to be unresponsive at times. However, CEC commands through HDMI can control volume on the Dimension sound bar. I suspect the majority of users will opt for using this type of volume control. Of course, there is also the option to use a universal remote to control volume.
The Sub Air is an 8” bass-reflex subwoofer with an internal 150W BASH amplifier. It is quite compact at only 6.3” in depth. It is 16.1″ tall and 14.3″ wide. The outer cabinet is gloss black and it has a classy look to it. High gloss white is also available as a finish option.
The control panel is on the bottom of the Sub Air’s cabinet. There are controls for cutoff frequency, phase, volume, and power on options. There are RCA inputs on the control panel, but he Sub Air also has a built in wireless receiver. The Sub Air comes with a wireless transmitter that connects to a subwoofer output. It can connect to any device with a subwoofer output, not just the Dimension sound bar. It is a slight inconvenience to adjust the controls on Sub Air when it is sitting on the floor. However, the Sub Air can be wall mounted, so it is logic to have the controls on the bottom.
Focal’s apt-X Universal Wireless Receiver is a Bluetooth receiver with stereo RCA outputs. It can connect directly to RCA inputs on a stereo receiver or with RCA cables. With the use of a y-cable it can connect to a 3.5mm analog input. It allows streaming of audio from smart phones, tablets or PC’s with Bluetooth connectivity. The music could be from an app on the device or files stored on the device. The apt-x codec has 4:1 compression, which allows for streaming of audio up to a resolution of 16-bit/44.1kHz.
I setup the Dimension and Sub Air in my living room system to use with my plasma TV. For the purposes of this review, I placed it on top of the home entertainment console that resides under my flat screen TV. I use this system for most of my Satellite TV viewing and typically only use the plasma TV’s internal speakers. A good sound bar is a logical upgrade to this system for everyday TV viewing.
Setting up the Dimension sound bar involved making more connections than I was expecting. I connected the HDMI out from my satellite receiver to the HDMI CEC and the HDMI ARC to my plasma TV. With this connection scheme, the Dimension would default to HDMI ARC every time I turned it on. Since my plasma does not have ARC (Audio Return Channel), I needed to make a decision for the audio to function. My options were to manually switch to the HDMI CEC every time I turned the system on or to connect to the optical digital output on my plasma TV. I decided to connect the optical output from my TV as I wasn’t interested in having to switch inputs every time I turned the system on.
Connections were also required for the wireless Bluetooth receiver and the subwoofer’s wireless transmitter. Both of these devices required external power supplies. All said and done it took 2 HDMI connections, 1 optical connection, 1 connection to the Bluetooth receiver, 1 connection to the wireless sub transmitter, and 3 power connections. This is one area where I think Focal needs to reassess its strategy, fewer wires would be nice. To complicate things, the access to the connections in the recessed area of the back panel is awkward. It is even more difficult when using heavy HDMI cables.
The process to pair the wireless sub transmitter to the Sub Air was easy and it took less than 30 seconds to complete. Pairing my phone to the apt-X wireless Bluetooth receiver was equally as easy.
With the Dimension and Sub Air in place, I set the rear control switches to match the setup and listening room. The last setup item was adjustment of low frequency output. Both the Dimension and Sub Air are capable of outputting a significant amount of low frequency sound. Getting them set correctly for room response is not difficult. There is a bass level setting on the Dimension and phase control, cutoff frequency and level on the Sub Air. On the Sub Air the cutoff frequency was set to LFE and the phase control was set to 0 degrees. I did not utilize an overly scientific method to set the low frequency levels. I loaded a noise sweep on my smartphone and looped it while adjusting the level on the Sub Air and then the Dimension. I did a few iterations of this to get a response that I perceived as being flat. My main concern was eliminating any low frequency boominess. Personally, I find it annoying and it can be very disruptive to others in the house not watching TV.
My first impression of the Dimension sound bar and Sub Air subwoofer was extremely positive. They are an enormous upgrade from the audio my plasma TV produces. Most of my time with the Dimension and Sub Air involved watching satellite TV. I watched live sporting events, TV shows, and movies. My normal TV viewing involves using the speakers built into my flat panel plasma. If you do this long enough you forget what you are missing. The fact of the matter is the sound quality from many flat panel displays is not that good, and mine is no exception. The frequency range and dynamic range are limited.
On weekend afternoons, I often watch PGA Tour golf broadcasts on NBC and CBS. The Dimension did a great job of reproducing vocals from the announcers and on course commentators. The announcers were clear, concise and natural sounding. The Dimension and Sub Air also excelled at reproducing all the other sounds present in a golf broadcast. Many of these sounds you may never hear if you only use the speakers in your flat panel. Cheers from the galleries sounded natural and seemed to envelop me to a certain extent. It was not the same sensation as watching golf in my home theater with 7.1 surround sound, but there was a greater sense of realism than stereo sound from the TV. The Dimension brought to life the subtle background sounds from golf broadcasts such as birds chirping, balls landing on greens and in the water, along with the occasional outburst from a golfer.
One of my favorite serial dramas is Banshee on the Cinemax network. I was fortunate to catch the premier of season four while I had the Dimension and Sub Air for review. The intro sound track is dark and intense and the music sequence builds up to the start of the show. The Dimension and Sub Air did an outstanding job of reproducing this audio track. The Dimension reproduced the sound effects from this show exceptionally well. Low frequency sounds were fast and had impact. Once again, the vocals were superb. The Dimension and Sub Air made watching this show even more enjoyable.
Some owners of the Dimension and Sub Air will use the system for music listening as well as watching TV. To evaluate it with music, I used the apt-X wireless Bluetooth receiver to stream music from the Spotify app on my smartphone. It was convenient and it made me think I should incorporate a wireless Bluetooth receiver into my current audio set up. The sound quality was good and I found this to be a fun alternative to listening to my music library on my two-channel system. To do a little critical listening I selected Miles Ahead, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from the biography on Miles Davis.
I listened to “So What”, a song I have heard many times on SACD. With the Dimension the cymbals sounded light and airy just as I’ve heard them many times before. The trumpet was distinct and smooth sounding. The Dimension and Sub Air performed quite well with this less than reference quality source. At low to moderate levels the Dimension and Sub Air did well but at higher levels it did start to labor.
Focal’s apt-X wireless Bluetooth receiver is capable of streaming 16-bit 44.1 kHz audio. This would make it ideal for someone who stores audio on a laptop, smartphone or tablet. To test out the capabilities of streaming 16-bit 44.1 kHz audio, I loaded the Verve Remixed Vol. 2 album onto my smartphone for playback. The album played flawlessly over Bluetooth without any perceived loss of resolution.
THE FOCAL DIMENSION SOUND BAR AND SUB AIR SUBWOOFER Offer Setup Flexibility Allowing For Integration Into Almost Any System.
- Sound Quality
- Robust Design
- Setup Versatility
- Digital and Analog Inputs
- Fewer Wires
- Better Remote
- Additional HDMI inputs
The Focal Dimension sound bar and Sub Air subwoofer offer setup flexibility allowing for integration into almost any system. On the downside, the setup does involve a significant number of wires, external components and power supplies. Having wireless capabilities is convenient but it could make it difficult to wall mount the Dimension sound bar and have all the external components concealed for a clean look.
From a performance perspective, the Dimension sound bar and Sub Air subwoofer excelled at playback of TV audio. They brought to life the TV viewing experience. In a situation where a person has limited space, it would make for a good all-in-one audio solution for TV and music. I found the apt-X wireless Bluetooth receiver to be an excellent product and I enjoyed the ability to stream music from my smartphone. I will be incorporating one into my two-channel music system.
I recommend the Dimension, Sub Air and apt-X wireless receiver individually and together as a system. Anyone interested in a high-end sound bar and subwoofer combo should audition them.