Focal Sib Evo review: awesome Dolby Atmos from an affordable surround sound system

The Focal Sib Evo 5.1.2-channel system delivers immersive surround sound with the minimum of fuss and a wallet-friendly price

T3 Platinum Award
Focal Sib Evo speaker system unboxed on yellow background
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Focal Sib Evo is an affordable immersive Dolby Atmos surround sound system that includes everything you need in one package. Add a compatible AV receiver and you’ll have a 5.1.2-channel setup that can bring today’s latest and greatest audio soundtracks to life.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Excellent immersion

  • +

    Well-integrated bass

  • +

    Tonally balanced

  • +

    Attractive lifestyle design

  • +

    Easy to install and setup

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    System will struggle in really large rooms

  • -

    Overhead effects depend on ceiling

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    Speaker terminals are a bit fiddly

In this Focal Sib Evo review, we're looking at a set of surround sound speakers that have upfiring Dolby Atmos drivers built in to the units. The result is a super-simple 5.1.2-channel setup that’s designed to deliver high-quality immersive audio in one easy-to-install package. 

The Focal Sib Evo package consists of two Sib Evo Dolby Atmos loudspeakers with integrated upward-firing drivers, three Sib Evo Satellites and a Cub Evo subwoofer. The Sib Evo Dolby Atmos loudspeakers bounce sound waves off the ceiling using the drivers built into the top of their cabinets, creating the illusion of two overhead channels.

You don't have to wonder which speakers to get in this package – it's all in one box, and from one of world's best speaker manufacturers. The resulting sound quality is fantastic, enveloping you impressively in the audio, and the relatively compact size of the speakers makes them ideal for almost any room size.

This is absolutely one of the best surround sound systems, especially for Dolby Atmos from a more compact setup. Just add one of the best AV receivers and some cabling and you're away.

Focal Sib Evo review: Price & features

The Focal Sib Evo surround speaker system can currently be picked up for £699/$1,600. In the UK, that's stunning value when you consider you’re getting a full 5.1.2-channel immersive audio package. In the US, it's still an excellent price for the quality of the speakers, and the simplicity of the purchase.

The system itself is built around a pair of Sib Evo Dolby Atmos speakers, which should be positioned at the front on the left- and right-hand sides. These speakers use a two-way design with a 19mm tweeter and 13cm woofer within a sealed enclosure. Built into the top is a 10cm full-range upward-firing driver that bounces sounds off the ceiling to create the overhead effects.

There are three Sib Evo Satellite speakers, all of which also use a compact two-way design, but also have a bass port at the rear. The 19mm tweeter and 13cm woofer are identical to the ones in the front speakers, thus ensuring tonal cohesion throughout the system. All three speakers can be mounted vertically or horizontally, allowing one to be used horizontally under your TV as the centre speaker.

Finally there’s the Cub Evo ported subwoofer, which is designed to deliver any bass extension beyond the capabilities of the small Dolby Atmos and Satellite speakers. The Cub Evo is equipped with a 21cm downward-firing bass driver, and has 200W of Class D amplification built in. As a result this compact sub packs quite a punch, and can go down to 35Hz.

Focal Sib Evo speaker system unboxed on pink background

(Image credit: Future)

Focal Sib Evo review: Design & setup

The Focal Sib Evo surround sound system might be relatively inexpensive, but the speakers and subwoofer are all extremely well made. The design is both contemporary and lifestyle-friendly, with curved cabinets, mesh grilles, and an attractive gloss black finish.

The Dolby Atmos speakers are slightly larger and have an indent on the top where the upward-firing driver is housed. At the rear are small holes for the speaker cable (four in total), and both speakers sit on hard rubber stands that can be angled accordingly.

The three Satellite speakers each have two holes at the rear for the speaker cable, and their stands allow for vertical or horizontal orientation (you can rotate the Focal badge as well, which is a nice touch). There are also two brackets included, allowing you to wall mount the surround speakers.

The subwoofer is essentially a matte black cube with a gloss black bass port at the front. It sits on large anti-vibration feet that raise the downward-firing driver up off the ground, and there are some basic connections and controls at the rear.

Since the Sib Evo system uses a 5.1.2 speaker configuration, you’ll need an AV receiver with at least seven channels of amplification and the ability to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X – because these speakers will also work with the rival object-based audio format.

The upward-firing speakers reflect sounds off the ceiling to create the illusion of overhead channels. However, the effectiveness is dependent on the ceiling, and the lower, flatter and more reflective it is, the better. If you have a very high or vaulted ceiling, then this approach isn’t for you.

Otherwise this system is very easy to set-up, although it is better suited to smaller rooms given the compact nature of the speakers. In fact our only real complaint is that the speaker terminals are small and fiddly, making it tricky to fit higher gauge cable into the holes.

Focal Sib Evo in living room

(Image credit: Focal)

Focal Sib Evo review: Sound quality

The Focal Sib Evo produces a dynamic front soundstage, with a detailed and precise delivery from the left and right speakers, combined with clear and focused dialogue from the centre. There’s a wonderful sense of cohesion, with the identical tweeters and woofers ensuring excellent tonal balance. The surrounds blend seamlessly with the rest of the system, while the subwoofer lays down a solid bass foundation that supports the other speakers.

When it comes to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, the upward-firing drivers prove very capable at generating the necessary overhead effects, creating an engaging and immersive sonic experience where audio objects are steered smoothly around the room, moving seamlessly from speaker to speaker. With the best object-based audio soundtracks the results are often stunning, and despite its compact size the sub produces plenty of low-end grunt.

The only limitation to this 5.1.2-channel system is the unavoidably front-heavy nature of the overhead channels. To address this you could buy an extra pair of Sib Evo Dolby Atmos speakers for the rear surrounds, and move the two Satellite speakers included in the package to the sides, thus creating a highly immersive but still inexpensive 7.1.4-channel set-up instead. Of course you’ll also need 11 channels of amplification, but the results would definitely be worth it.

Focal Sib Evo in living room

(Image credit: Focal)

Focal Sib Evo review: Verdict

The Focal Sib Evo surround sound speaker system is an easy, effective and inexpensive way of adding immersive audio, with everything in one simple package. The 5.1.2-channel system is well made and attractively designed, making it a lifestyle-friendly choice for those who want to enjoy Dolby Atmos and DTS:X with the minimum of fuss. Only the fiddly speaker terminals disappoint.

The overall performance is excellent, with a cohesive and tonally-balanced sound field that creates a hugely enjoyable immersive surround experience. The system is better suited to smaller rooms, and to get the best from the overhead effects you'll need a reflective ceiling, but the five speakers complement one another and the subwoofer is well integrated, adding bass depth.

Focal Sib Evo review: Also consider

If it's a compact Dolby Atmos system in this kind of price range you're after, a soundbar with surround speakers might actually be the best alternative to this – we'd point you towards the Samsung HW-Q950A. Its combo of soundbar, sub and two rear speakers includes 22 speaker drivers, including four upfiring driver. It's incredibly immersive, though the Focal Sib Evo delivers slightly higher sound quality overall. But the Samsung doesn't require an AV receiver or any cabling, so it's even easier to set up. Here's our full Samsung HW-Q950A review.

If you think your ceiling won't work with the upfiring drivers very well, you might as well go for a regular 5.1 system – we'd recommend the Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 package. That gets you two big and hefty floorstanding speakers for your front left and right channels – you're basically swapping Dolby Atmos height channels for even more power and dynamic range in the remaining surround sound. Here's our full Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Package review.

Stephen Withers
Stephen Withers

Steve Withers is a professional calibrator and freelance journalist who regularly contributes to T3, reviewing audio and video products, and writing articles. Steve has been writing about audio and video products for over ten years and, along with T3, he also contributes to TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Expert Reviews, AVForums, Pocket-lint, Home Cinema Choice, and Wired. Steve is Level 2 certified with THX, the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and the Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). As such, he remains abreast of all AV technology developments and the latest industry standards as we transition into a new era in home video and audio.