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Ooh la la: French-made satellite-subwoofer system

The sound vs. style question is addressed in Michael Trei's Sound and Vision magazine review of Focal Audio's Dome 5.1 satellite/subwoofer system.

The Dome system combines sleek good looks and high quality sound. Focal

Focal Audio, aka JM Lab, may not be a well-known name in the U.S., but it is France's largest speaker manufacturer. I had Focal Mini Utopia speakers in my reference two-channel system for years and the Focal Grande Utopia EM ($180,000 per pair) is the best sounding speaker I've ever heard.

Maybe that's why the Focal Dome 5.1 satellite/subwoofer system ($2,595 MSRP) review by Michael Trei in Sound & Vision magazine piqued my interest.

The Dome replaces the Sib and Cub 5.1 system I favorably reviewed a few years ago. Unlike the Asian-built Sib and Cub, the Domes are manufactured at Focal's factory in Saint-Etienne, France.

The Dome 5.1 package is Focal smallest home speaker system yet. Trei writes: "the Dome satellite's cast-aluminum enclosure feels solid enough to withstand being run over by a small car." Each satellite speaker has a 4-inch woofer and a 1-inch aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter, similar to the one Focal uses in its upscale Profile and Electra S models. Optional stands are available for the sats.

The matching cylindrical, rounded-top subwoofer has a single downward-firing 8-inch woofer and a built-in 100-watt amplifier.

In his review, Trei wrote that he mostly loved what the Domes were doing with the surround mix of "Amoreena" from Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection" SACD, but he found the music highlighted the Focal system's dynamic limits. Little speakers have a habit of doing that. If you want to crank your tunes, get bigger speakers. The Domes' sound quality were judged to be first rate.

Trei used one of my favorite small system "torture" DVDs during testing for his review, and he noted that when playing the plane crash scene in "Flight of the Phoenix," the system didn't distort or sound like it was reaching its limit. The sound remained clear and enveloping, "just minus some of the wallop and thunder of a bigger setup," he wrote in his review.

If you want that sort of oomph, forget about small systems and audition larger alternatives.

However, if you're looking for a stylish and compact home theater speaker package, check out the Focal Dome.