High-end audio is about precision. Recreating live music in your home is one of the wonders of technology, requiring speakers accurate enough to create a convincing fascimile of the recorded soundfield. Take a look through any of my recent speaker reviews in the past year, and you’ll find them full of measurements trying to puzzle out the intricacies of a speaker‘s sound.

So when French audio giant Focal invited to see how its speakers were made last year, I knew to expect the fancy machinery, anechoic chambers, and assembly lines. What I didn’t expect was how much of a human touch is part of the process. At nearly every step there was some degree of craftsmanship involved, from cabinets hand-made in France‘s southern countryside, to high-end woofers that are pressed into shape with sinew rather than steel. The company takes its ‘Made in France‘ tagline seriously.

Disclaimer: Focal flew me out to France to check out its facilities for its 40th anniversary last year. Despite this, Focal had no say in the text of this article and it’s my intention to keep it as objective as possible. This article is meant as more of a look into Focal‘s design process than a judgement of its speakers. Note that many of the photos in this article were provided by Focal, as we were not allowed to take photos due to unreleased products on the factory floor.

Focal has been in the audio business since 1979, producing studio monitors, car speakers, headphones, surround systems, and of course, hi-fi speakers. Despite the sprawling portfolio, the company’s factories had more of an intimate vibe than you’d expect from such a massive operation. Over time, Focal‘s production has settled on two primary facilities: its main headquarters in St-Etienne, an hour outside of Lyon, and its cabinet factory in Bourbon-Lancy, a small rural commune over two hours away.