Focal just announced three premium over-ear headphones, which quadruple in price as you step up. The Focal Listen is a $250 closed-back headphone for mobile users. The $1,000 Focal Elear is an open-back headphone for audiophiles. Finally, the $4,000 Focal Utopia is another open-back headphone for the most critical audiophiles with a cost-no-object design. Details of each are outlined below.
Focal Utopia – Closed-back Over-Ear Reference Headphones
Focal’s Utopia open-back reference headphones were designed to offer the ultimate listening experience for the most critical audiophile and utilize the company’s 35-year history and experience with other product lines that carry the Utopia moniker. Known for creating reference products such as the $220,000/pair Grand Utopia EM Reference Hi-Fi speakers, $25,000/pair Utopia UltimaReference automotive speakers, as well as the most sought after SM9 Professional near-field monitor, Focal spared no expense while developing the Utopia Reference headphones.
After listening to dozens of high-end cans in both open and closed back designs, Focal’s designers realized that the experience users have with headphones compared to a pair of high-end speakers is one with an incredibly limited soundstage. With that goal in mind, Focal’s engineers began to think of the newest Utopia project as the world’s first, wearable, full-range, ULTRA near-field loudspeaker rather than strictly a pair of headphones.
Focused on creating nothing shy of perfection, designers began looking at every single aspect of the product; from the raw materials, to the construction of the drivers, to the padding used in the ear cups, to the leather used to wrap them for the ultimate comfort as well as creating an acoustic room around your ear, to the design of the and technical mechanism of the headband, all the way down to the quality of the cable and even the packaging used to give Utopia a premium look and feel.
Beginning with the drivers, Focal looked at many of their previous reference products that use Beryllium, which combines the ultimate rigidity to weight ratio. Beryllium is 30 times higher cost than gold. Creating a driver with a completely open front and open back design, Focal was able to avoid using a crossover or passive filtering process common in other headphones. The result, when used in conjunction with a proper headphone amplifier/DAC, is a frequency response from 5Hz to 50kHz, and driver assembly so light, it can vibrate 50,000 times per second, producing some of the most airy, open-sounding, yet sonically accurate music in any genre.
While designing the ‘wearability’ of the product, Focal again maintained a goal to create a yoke that is strong and light while paying attention to comfort in the ear cups. Engineers wanted to ensure Utopia’s ability to fit all sizes and varying head shapes while creating a stunning looking product. After much research, a carbon fiber yoke was established as the ultimate design material, which offers an elegant look, while being lightweight and extremely rigid. Additionally, in order to avoid creating the joint found in conventionally-designed headphones for the rotation functionality, which breaks up the aesthetics, Focal built this feature directly into the headband, using more than 100 parts.
After auditioning some of the most premium leather suppliers in the world in order to find the softest, most comfortable yet most acoustically neutral samples for use in the ear cups, designers decided to work with U.K.-based Pittards to supply the leather that would be used on both the ear cup cushions and headband.
Included with each pair of Utopia Reference headphones, is a rigid packaging with magnetic locking system, a 4m (13.1ft) OFC cable, a Neutrik 6.35mm (1/4“) stereo plug and two shielded Lemo connectors with self-locking bayonet system.
Focal Elear – Open-back Over-Ear Headphones
Using all of the R&D that was established for Utopia, Elear shares many of the same design cues in an open-back headphone at an attainable price that offers performance similar to headphones twice as expensive. The Elear features the same driver shape, while utilizing an Aluminum-Magnesium blend, versus the more expensive Beryllium driver used by its bigger brother.
Once again, Focal’s goal was to create the highest quality sound while avoiding any distortion in the process of reproducing the music. Elear achieves a frequency response from 5Hz to 23kHz for a unique high-fidelity audio experience. Just like the Utopia, Elear were built for long listening sessions with microfiber fabric cushions, and aluminum (vs carbon fiber) yoke with the same in band mechanism, providing a truly comfortable fit for everyone, no matter the size / shape of their head.
Elear offers impressively realistic reproduction of the highest highs and lowest lows while staying true to Focal’s unique sound profile. With their open front and back design, Elear was modeled after the Utopia but designed to offer an incredible listening experience when combined with a headphone amplifier/DAC for the upcoming audiophile at a more affordable price.
Included with each pair of Elear is rigid packaging with magnet locking system and a 4m (13.1ft) OFC cable, a 6.35mm (1/4“) stereo Jack and two 3.5mm (0.14“) Jacks with self-locking system.
Focal Listen – Closed-back Over-Ear Headphones
The new Listen over-the-ear headphones are Focal’s newest product aimed at the mobile user, following in the footsteps of the highly revered Spirit Pro, Spirt Classic, Spirit One S. Listen mirrors the hand built design of the Utopia and Elear. Listen’s closed-back technology with specific venting was intended for consumers that look for premium sound and elegant design with the portability meant to be taken on the bus, the subway or simply as a passenger on a cross-country road trip.
With their closed-back design and large chrome plated ear cups, Focal’s Listen provides excellent isolation from outside noise while offering high-quality acoustic performance, even on a busy city street or in a subway car. At the core of their acoustic quality is a large driver (40mm) made of a Titanium coated Mylar sheet which provides the rigidity needed to reproduce deep bass, yet lightweight enough to provide an elegance to the upper register at any volume. Listen’s exclusive diaphragm technology creates its outstanding sound quality, while its highly dynamic, deep controlled bass, and overall tonal balance makes it unique in its class of headphones.
Additionally for comfort, the thick thermosensitive memory foam and soft touch headband provides optimum comfort and weight distribution. With their noise isolating design, built-in multi-function remote and omnidirectional microphone, they are ideal for traveling, taking a conference call in private or for hours of intense listening. With its bayonet design, the cable also locks into the headphones for the ultimate durability.
Included with each pair of Listen headphones is a soft carrying case, a 1.4m OFC cable with built-in remote, omnidirectional microphone and airplane adaptor.
Price and Availability
- Focal Listen will be available for $249.00 USD / $399.00 CAD on July 15, 2016
- Focal Elear will be available for $999.00 USD / $1,499 CAD on June 29, 2016
- Focal Utopia will be available for $3,999 USD / $4,999 CAD on June 29, 2016
|Type||Circum-aural open back headphones||Circum-aural open back headphones||Closed headphones,
|Sensitivity||104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz||104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz||122dB SPL @ 1kHz – / 1Vrms|
|THD||<0.2% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL||<0.3% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL||<0.4% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL|
|Freq. Response||5Hz – 50kHz (+/- 3 dB)||5Hz – 23kHz (+/- 3 dB)||15Hz – 22kHz|
|Loudspeaker||40mm (1.6“) pure Beryllium “M” shape dome||40mm (1.6“) Aluminum-Magnesium “M” shape dome||40mm (1.6“) Mylar/Titanium|
|Weight||490g (1.08lb)||450g (0.99lb)||273g (0.60lb)|
|Cable Length||4m (13.1ft)||4m (13.1ft)||1.4m (4.59 ft)|
|Connectors||1 x Jack 6.35mm stereo – 2 x Lemo 9.5 mm||1 x 6.35mm (1/4“) stereo Jack connector – 2 x 3.5mm (0.14“) Jack||Jack 3.5mm 4 conductors|
|Carrying Case||220mm (8.6“) x 190mm (7.5“) x 100mm (3.9“)||220mm (8.6“) x 190mm (7.5“) x 100mm (3.9“)||239mm (9.4“) x 212mm (8.3“) x 111mm (4.4“)|