I love meeting with people who create. It is truly special hearing their stories, how they see the world, insights to their process and getting a glimpse in to how they manifest the objects we enjoy every day. I had a chance to sit down the Focal’s CI Business Development Manager, Nicolas “Nico” Debard for a discussion.
Smith: How did you come to Focal?
Debard: About 20 years ago, I had a six-month internship here at Focal. I was in charge of the Pro Audio market survey and presented to the Board of Directors at the end of my internship. The conclusion of our meeting was surprising:
Board: “OK, well done. This is your last day with Focal as an intern. When do you finish your studies?”
Nico: “I finish my Master’s Degree at the end of December.”
Board: “OK, so January 2nd, you come and work for us.”
Nico: “OK. Sure.”
Smith: It seems to have worked out well for you! Do you have a favorite part of your job?
I like understanding the markets, doing discovery, surveys and analysis. I also love doing the voicing of a system. I can easily pinpoint frequencies so it’s something I really enjoy. As we design the drivers in-house, we get to define specifically what we want and build the most efficient way to get there. Either we have the right driver already or we manufacture a totally dedicated driver for that specific project. It’s much like the perfect engine for a given car as opposed to taking a stock engine and trying to modify it for various applications. The results are not the same.
Smith: What products have you worked on during your time with Focal?
Debard: Initially I worked extensively on the Pro Division, developing the products and ideas on that side of the business. Later I worked with the Product Marketing Department, and for the last five years I’m now working on the Custom Installation or “CI” lineup of products. I have also worked on our headphones and the flagship Utopia line.
Smith: What is a favorite product that you’ve worked on for Focal?
Debard: That’s a tricky one! I’m from a pro background so that will always have a special place for me. I find myself inspired by my surroundings and we make solutions for so many different applications. When I’m in my studio, I am thinking about pro, in my car I am thinking automotive and walking around I am thinking about headphones. Seasonally it matters as well. Spring and summer, I am focused on outdoor applications then during autumn and winter I’d rather work on indoor products.
Smith: Speaking of outdoor, you launched the new Littora outdoor range at CEDIA 2022 and it has a new take on some traditional elements.
Debard: Yes, we wanted to focus on producing Focal sound quality in an outdoor solution with beautiful aesthetic appeal. Not only the physical audio quality for outdoor applications but also well-designed products that offer something very easy to match with any kind of outdoor environment in terms of finish and overall shape. As an example of form and function, we believe the stone shape was a better fit than the age-old rock speaker!
Smith: Things trying to look like other things that never quite do are problematic, as they actually draw more attention in a negative way.
Debard: The idea is to match or blend with any kind of environment, so you have three finishes: limestone, basalt and sand. The finishes came from an overall survey of what you see in terms of actual landscapes. We also took a global approach to make sure that everyone will find the right solution in terms of finish for any given application.
When we evaluated the market, we were surprised to find out that nobody was offering a voice-matched solution across the various outdoor applications. To me this was problematic because it lacked ultimate flexibility. We wanted a comprehensive solution that could be easily mixed and matched. In a specific area in the garden, you will use the stone product then around the pool you might prefer to use satellites and a burial subwoofer. This is not a problem, because they offer the same voicing and tuning. However, our customer is looking at much more than just “an audio system” — it’s also a way of living. As a result, its more about the design, attention to detail, finishe, and so on. It had to be successful in all aspects.
Any other thoughts on what it means to offer a complete solution?
We talked about a lot about the speakers in Focal but not about the required electronics to complete a system. We do the voicing of products using the matching Naim electronics along with Focal speakers. In this way we are sure that our client will end up with a perfect user experience.
Chris Smith is the principal and founder of TheCoTeam. Bringing 20 years of industry experience to the custom installation space they Coach | Consult | Collaborate with integrators and manufacturers to solve problems and run a more efficient business.
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Chris Smith is the Principal and Founder of TheCoTeam. Bringing 20 years of industry experience to the custom installation space, they Coach | Consult | Collaborate with integrators and manufacturers to solve problems and run a more efficient business. TheCoTeam.com