Focal’s Utopia headphones live adult to their $3999 price

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These dual open-back headphone models are Focal’s initial try into a high-end headphone market, so it’s judicious to pattern a association would have some teething troubles, yet there are none. The star of a show, a lofty Utopia, is fundamentally a Sennheiser HD 800 S with a some-more gratifying low finish and, somehow, even some-more fact and resolution. It’s some-more than twice Sennheiser’s seeking cost of $1,700, yet it’s also built out of legitimately disdainful materials like CO fiber and beryllium. And, many importantly, those imagination pieces minister to creation a headphone lighter and producing a sound characterized by fantastic pointing and fidelity. The obtuse Focal Elear contest opposite a likes of a $699 Audeze EL-8, yet again claim their value by perfect opening and quality.

Someone indeed wore these headphones, someone indeed listened to them

The initial thing that stood out to me with both sets of Focals is that someone indeed wore these headphones, and someone indeed listened to them. Neither a Elear nor a Utopia are quite light, yet they’ve been structured to ideally discharge their weight opposite a listener’s head, avoiding pain points or annoy over prolonged listening sessions. The Utopia, benefiting from a CO fiber border and some-more lush lambskin leather ear pads, gives some-more room around a ear and feels a some-more gentle of a two. The microfiber-covered Elear pads use a same memory foam, yet they can’t compare a leafy density of a some-more costly pair’s seperated leather. Both of these headphones, though, are unusually comfortable, putting to contrition many of their designed-by-numbers rivals. we didn’t have many complaints about a comfort of a HD 800 S, yet a Focal Utopia is unequivocally forward in this dialect and I’d even go so distant as to contend we cite a Elear, too.

Sound change on both Focal pairs is fundamentally over reproach. Bass is full, rich, and precise: it’s a leader on both apportion and quality. Mids are as benefaction as they need to be, never strenuous or being overwhelmed, and a three-way is bright in a definition. The vital differences between these dual pairs come down to their resolution, imaging, and soundstage.

By resolution, I’m not referring to a marketing buzzword of high-res audio, yet rather a meandering of fact that we can hear. With a Utopia, all is in such fantastically accurate focus, so crisply delivered that we will — as clichéd as a observant is — hear whole new abyss and layers to your favorite songs and conclude a strange brew that, frankly, we competence have never formerly heard. At The Drive-In’s “Arcarsenal” is a good example: there are pointed cascading echoes of a vocals that generate to a sides, as if dissipating out into a distance. we usually rescued this fact on a Utopia, and we wasn’t even perplexing to listen critically. Also, we had no thought how distinguished and determined a tambourine was in a whole Relationship of Command album. The simplest approach to conclude a Utopia disproportion is that any sound is given a possess space and definition. It’s like there are a million small orator drivers to comment for all a several instruments in a combination so that we hear any and any one of them distinctly.

In terms of soundstage, a Utopia feels like a full 360-degree globe around my head, spacing out sound both in front and behind as good as to a sides. The Elear feels roughly artificially far-reaching on a sides, yet in both cases it’s a satisfyingly expanded display of a song that creates many closed-back headphones feel claustrophobic by comparison. Mind you, there are occasions where we competence cite a larger cognisance of some-more condensed, in-your-face cans; electronic dance song tends to advantage from carrying a records stranded together in a sweaty, close wall of sound that can strike some-more forcefully than an open, methodical sound. That was one of a few downsides of a HD 800 S for me: a fact that it was a small too good behaved for a grimiest things (e.g., Skepta’s Konnichiwa) in my song collection. But a Utopia binds adult many improved in this department, interjection in vast partial to a reduction respectful and some-more distinguished low end. The Elear is even warmer than a Utopia, so we unequivocally doubt anyone would be in a rush to credit these of being a stereotypical “boring” audiophile cans.


I could go on articulate about how loyal to life a Utopia sound, how we can roughly clarity a hardness of a drum conduct or a lead corner of cymbals, yet these headphones are not magical, and they do have downsides. So let’s speak about a annoyances. First and many waggish is a length (and weight) of a enclosed cable. Both a Utopia and Elear come with a 13-foot wire that is a unequivocally clarification of overengineering. It’s like a one-pound pet python that comes with your flattering new headphones. The Elear indeed has a advantage over a Utopia in this case, as it uses customary 3.5mm connectors during any cup, that authorised me to barter in my Beyerdynamic T5p.2’s five-foot wire and suffer a saner connector setup. The Utopia’s got a fancier, reduction common tie during a cups, so you’re kind of stranded with a profusion wire and a 6.35mm jack for your audio source.

The cables are hilariously overengineered

Speaking of sources, you’ll wish to have something beefier than only a phone or laptop sound label to energy possibly of these headphones. Both are rated during 80 Ohms, definition they need a bit some-more energy to strech their full intensity than a standard 32-Ohm pair. Still, don’t let a numbers dope we into awaiting they need 2.5 times a power. I’m means to expostulate both a Elear and Utopia to super shrill levels with any of a following DACs: Apogee Groove, Apogee One, DragonFly Red, Chord Mojo, DacMagic XS, and Oppo HA-2. You can use your phone as a source, yet it becomes a little bit absurd as you’ll need one adapter to couple your phone to your DAC, afterwards another adapter to cringe a Focal cans’ large jack to a unchanging 3.5mm size.


On a pattern side of things, we have to be wakeful that these are a quintessential open-back headphones. The outdoor enclosing of other headphones is transposed by steel meshes on both Focal models, with a design’s counsel vigilant being to let sound shun in all directions. This eliminates vigour buildup inside a crater (because there is no cup!), that can be unpropitious to a peculiarity of a sound. It also creates listening to possibly of these headphones a whole-room event — we won’t be means to hide in a wily piano concerto though alerting your flatmates to a fact we like exemplary music.

I keep entrance behind to a Utopia again and again; they’re addictively good

If there’s anything disastrous to be pronounced about a Utopia or Elear’s sound reproduction, it’s a classical problem of unequivocally good audio apparatus exposing unequivocally bad recordings. You’ll fast start to hatred low-quality streaming services and demeanour for something of aloft fidelity. That being said, I’m not pulling we into a snake-oil universe of high-res audio and crazy formats: all of my listening and devotion of these headphones took place with 320kbps MP3s. we attempted a few FLAC files, we even listened on a Pono Player and an Astell Kern player, and whatever disproportion there competence be, we didn’t notice it. The Utopia and Elear sound only as good with well-recorded dense files as they do with a super-duper lossless varieties.


The doubt we non-stop with is a doubt we have to answer for myself: how many would we compensate for unequivocally good audio? I’d contend a Focal Elear are precisely my top limit: $999. we only wouldn’t feel gentle regulating anything some-more costly for such an bland charge as personification behind music. But a biggest downside for a Elear, crazy as it might sound, is that they’re not a Utopia. we indeed perceived a cheaper set initial and grew to unequivocally like it, and was prepared to boot a many some-more costly kin as only CO fiber-clad overkill, yet a knowledge taught me otherwise. we keep entrance behind to a Utopia again and again — even with a frightfully unreal cable. The day we have to lapse these headphones will be happy, for I’ll no longer have to ensure them with my life, yet also super unhappy since I’ll be vouchsafing go of a truly singular approach of experiencing my music.

The Focal Utopia and Focal Elear are accessible to preorder now.

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