Focal is greatest referred to as France’s main high-end speaker model, however beginning simply final yr it launched two spectacular headphones, the Elear and the Utopia. Right now I am reviewing Focal’s newest entry, the equally named Clear, and all three headphones share an identical design and aesthetic. They’re all over-the-ear, open-back headphones, with a sound that is large on readability, spacious imaging and impartial tonal stability.
The Focal Clear
The 40mm aluminum-magnesium dome driver and its ultralight copper voice coil are unique to the Clear. Its perforated microfiber ear cushions are super-comfy. That is excellent news as a result of the Clear weighs just below 1 pound (450 grams), and but it was nonetheless a really snug headphone to put on over lengthy listening periods.
To make sure most flexibility the Clear comes with three units of cables, a Three-meter cable with a 6.3mm plug, one with a four-pin XLR plug, and a 1.2-meter cable with a Three.5 mm plug. The Clear is made in Saint-Etienne, France, and construct high quality could be very a lot as much as high-end requirements. The headphone comes with a snazzy laborious carrying case to guard these attractive ‘telephones whenever you’re on the transfer.
I am guessing the Clear shall be principally used as a house headphone, nevertheless it’s straightforward sufficient to drive with moveable music gamers, and even smartphones. I used to be actually pleased with the sound with the Clear plugged into my iPhone 6S. Even so, the sound noticeably perked up after I plugged the Clear into an Astell & Kern Kann moveable music participant. There’s only one snag with moveable use: as an open-back headphone, the Clear would not block exterior noise.
What does it sound like? “Clear” could be an apparent place to begin, with an unforced high quality that simply appears to let music by with out imposing any change on it. I affiliate that kind of sound with vanishingly low distortion, and possibly that is why the Clear makes music sound so lifelike. A set of Audeze LCD3 Fazor headphones had been veiled by comparability. Norah Jones’ “Flipside” for instance had a extra opaque high quality over the LCD3, the Clear uncapped extra of the music’s drive and life power. A lot so I that began swaying in what passes for dancing with the Clear on my noggin. The Clear’s sound was extra open and spacious, whereas the LCD3’s was barely claustrophobic. The Clear’s treble was extra prolonged and pure, and bass definition was additionally superior. Nonetheless, the LCD3’s bass oomph and visceral punch outpaced the Clear’s, so if you happen to’re on the lookout for a muscular, gutsy sound, the LCD3 could be a better option.
Left to proper, the Focal Elear, Clear, and Utopia
Stepping as much as Focal’s flagship Utopia headphone introduced not solely extra readability, but additionally extra physique to the sound of the devices, populating cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s “The Goat Rodeo Periods” classical/bluegrass fusion album greater than what I heard from the LCD3 or the Clear. The Utopia would not simply ship vivid transparency; there’s an natural wholeness to the sound.
Rocking out to Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” album was pure bliss, the Utopia simply sounds higher and higher the louder you play it. This headphone is an audiophile responsible pleasure, however returning to the Clear wasn’t that a lot of a letdown. The Clear revives the ghosts of the musicians that performed on that report a long time in the past.
I subsequent in contrast the Focal Elear with the Clear, and the latter is solely a better decision, clearer and airier sounding headphone. The Elear is a candy however much less speedy, much less tactile-sounding machine. It is all a matter of levels after all, and that is nonetheless excessive reward certainly for the Elear.
As you may need discovered by now, the Clear is the center mannequin of Focal’s high-end headphone line, it sells for $1,499, however since UK and Australia costs haven’t but been set, the straight conversion equivalents are round £1,130 and AU$1,900. The Elear is $1,000, £892 or AU$1,199; whereas the Utopia goes for $four,000, £Three,499 or AU$5,500.