Focal Clear Headphones

AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
Wow...These are, simply put, the best headphone I've ever listened to, or my favorites at least.

These sadly aren't mine, a buddy asked me to help him pair up an amp with them so I've got them for a few days. I'll do one of my normal write ups when I get some time on them, but these should absolutely be on the short list of anyone looking for an endgame headphone...they're worth every bit of their $1500 price tag

Comments

  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 9,895
    edited March 19
    And they look comfy
    By any chance could you bring them to LSAF?
    2-channel: Modwright KWI-200 Integrated, Dynaudio C1-II Signatures
    Desktop rig: LSi7, Polk 110sub, Dayens Ampino amp, W4S DAC/pre, Sonos, JRiver
    Gear on standby: Melody 101 tube pre, Unison Research Simply Italy Integrated
    Gone to new homes: (Matt Polk's)Threshold Stasis SA12e monoblocks, Pass XA30.5 amp, Usher MD2 speakers, Dynaudio C4 platinum speakers, Modwright LS100 (voltz), Simaudio 780D DAC
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
    Not this pair but I’ll likely have bought a pair by then and will bring those
  • Joey_VJoey_V Posts: 6,614
    I have been wondering about the Utopias
    Joey's Gear:
    Current Gear:
    Torus RM15 -> Emm Labs DAC2x and TSDX Transport -> Cary SLP-05 preamp -> Boulder 2060 stereo amp (w/ Audioquest WEL Signature) -> new speakers
    Rotel RA1592 Super Integrated -> Sonus Faber Olympica 3
    Rotel RC1570 preamp -> Rotel RB1582 amp -> Focal Kanta 2

    Old Gear:
    Speakers: BW PM1 (3.5/5), CM10s2 (3.75/5), BW800D3 (5/5), Rockport Aviors (5/5), Sonus Faber Stradivari (5/5), BW 802D2 (4.5/5), Martin Logan Summits (4.25/5), Martin Logan Vantage (4/5), Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor (3.75/5), AV123 Strata Mini (3.5/5), ML Mosaic (3.25/5), Onix Ref1 (3/5), Sonus Faber Concerto (2.75/5), SF Concertino (2.5/5), Axiom M22ti (2/5), Polk LSi9 (3/5), LSi7 (2.9/5)
    Source: Squeezebox 3 -> PS Audio Digital Link III -> Cary 306/200 CDP -> Cary 306 SACD -> EMM LABS DAC2X/TSDX
    Preamplification: Rotel RC1070 -> Rogue Perseus -> Cary SLP98 -> Cary SLP98F1 -> Cary SLP05 (sold and then repurchased)
    Amplification: HK AVR330 -> Rotel RB1070 -> Rotel RB1090 -> Plinius SA102 -> Cary 211FE -> Classe M600 -> Boulder 2060
    Subwoofer: Infinity Entra2 sub -> SVS 25-31PC+ sub
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
    IMO unless you need ultra detail from your music this is a better headphone
  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 9,895
    And you would have to consider what else in the chain.

    What HP amp are you using Danny?
    2-channel: Modwright KWI-200 Integrated, Dynaudio C1-II Signatures
    Desktop rig: LSi7, Polk 110sub, Dayens Ampino amp, W4S DAC/pre, Sonos, JRiver
    Gear on standby: Melody 101 tube pre, Unison Research Simply Italy Integrated
    Gone to new homes: (Matt Polk's)Threshold Stasis SA12e monoblocks, Pass XA30.5 amp, Usher MD2 speakers, Dynaudio C4 platinum speakers, Modwright LS100 (voltz), Simaudio 780D DAC
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
    I've still got that Chord Mojo and a Burson Conductor
  • Joey_VJoey_V Posts: 6,614
    IMO unless you need ultra detail from your music this is a better headphone

    You heard both?
    Joey's Gear:
    Current Gear:
    Torus RM15 -> Emm Labs DAC2x and TSDX Transport -> Cary SLP-05 preamp -> Boulder 2060 stereo amp (w/ Audioquest WEL Signature) -> new speakers
    Rotel RA1592 Super Integrated -> Sonus Faber Olympica 3
    Rotel RC1570 preamp -> Rotel RB1582 amp -> Focal Kanta 2

    Old Gear:
    Speakers: BW PM1 (3.5/5), CM10s2 (3.75/5), BW800D3 (5/5), Rockport Aviors (5/5), Sonus Faber Stradivari (5/5), BW 802D2 (4.5/5), Martin Logan Summits (4.25/5), Martin Logan Vantage (4/5), Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor (3.75/5), AV123 Strata Mini (3.5/5), ML Mosaic (3.25/5), Onix Ref1 (3/5), Sonus Faber Concerto (2.75/5), SF Concertino (2.5/5), Axiom M22ti (2/5), Polk LSi9 (3/5), LSi7 (2.9/5)
    Source: Squeezebox 3 -> PS Audio Digital Link III -> Cary 306/200 CDP -> Cary 306 SACD -> EMM LABS DAC2X/TSDX
    Preamplification: Rotel RC1070 -> Rogue Perseus -> Cary SLP98 -> Cary SLP98F1 -> Cary SLP05 (sold and then repurchased)
    Amplification: HK AVR330 -> Rotel RB1070 -> Rotel RB1090 -> Plinius SA102 -> Cary 211FE -> Classe M600 -> Boulder 2060
    Subwoofer: Infinity Entra2 sub -> SVS 25-31PC+ sub
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
    Extensively yes, not back to back unfortunately, but I owned the Utopia for a while when it first came out so am very familiar with it
  • Joey_VJoey_V Posts: 6,614
    Ah I see
    Joey's Gear:
    Current Gear:
    Torus RM15 -> Emm Labs DAC2x and TSDX Transport -> Cary SLP-05 preamp -> Boulder 2060 stereo amp (w/ Audioquest WEL Signature) -> new speakers
    Rotel RA1592 Super Integrated -> Sonus Faber Olympica 3
    Rotel RC1570 preamp -> Rotel RB1582 amp -> Focal Kanta 2

    Old Gear:
    Speakers: BW PM1 (3.5/5), CM10s2 (3.75/5), BW800D3 (5/5), Rockport Aviors (5/5), Sonus Faber Stradivari (5/5), BW 802D2 (4.5/5), Martin Logan Summits (4.25/5), Martin Logan Vantage (4/5), Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor (3.75/5), AV123 Strata Mini (3.5/5), ML Mosaic (3.25/5), Onix Ref1 (3/5), Sonus Faber Concerto (2.75/5), SF Concertino (2.5/5), Axiom M22ti (2/5), Polk LSi9 (3/5), LSi7 (2.9/5)
    Source: Squeezebox 3 -> PS Audio Digital Link III -> Cary 306/200 CDP -> Cary 306 SACD -> EMM LABS DAC2X/TSDX
    Preamplification: Rotel RC1070 -> Rogue Perseus -> Cary SLP98 -> Cary SLP98F1 -> Cary SLP05 (sold and then repurchased)
    Amplification: HK AVR330 -> Rotel RB1070 -> Rotel RB1090 -> Plinius SA102 -> Cary 211FE -> Classe M600 -> Boulder 2060
    Subwoofer: Infinity Entra2 sub -> SVS 25-31PC+ sub
  • BC6BC6 Posts: 60
    I agree 100% on the Focal Clear. Amazing headphones. I listened to a lot of headphones at RMAF, including the Utopia, and the Clear was my favorite of all of them. They were musical and, well, clear. Admittedly, RMAF is a less-than-ideal listening space, but even with all of the noise and chaos, the Clears made a huge impression. The Utopia was actually marginally better, but not $4000 worth of better. I couldn't see spending $2500 more for a small improvement.

    I wound up buying Audeze LCD-XC because my wife believes that the point in me having headphones is that she doesn't have to hear them, and the Focals are all open back while the Audeze is closed. I like the Audeze a lot, but in my mind they take second place to the Clear.
    Polk Audio: 2.3tl front, CSiA6 center, 500-LS ceiling, RT/FX, RTi8, and Monitor 4 rears, really loud and ugly homemade subwoofer
    Atoll IN300 Integrated Amp, Yamaha CX-a5100 AV Preamplifier/Processor, Yamaha MX-a5000 11.1 channel amplifier
    Sony XBR55-AE1 OLED TV
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
    My main issue with the Utopia is there’s a small peak in the upper treble, I’m sensitive to treble so it bothered me personally...but they are a nice liquid smooth headphone
  • AsSiMiLaTeDAsSiMiLaTeD Posts: 11,715
    I've had my Clear for a couple weeks now and can share some thoughts. I'm sticking by my original statement, these are the best headphones I've ever owned. "Best" is of course subjective, probably more appropriate to call them my favorite.

    There are plenty of reviews online, I don't know how much value I'll add by doing a full rundown so I'll keep my thoughts brief but detailed enough to maybe entice some of you guys to check them out.


    Build and Comfort
    The Focal Clear are comfortable, though a tad on the heavy side. They're not as comfy as the Fidelio X1/X2 but more comfortable than most of the other headphones in their $1500 and up price range. They're more comfortable than the Audeze and HiFiMan and the other planners but don't disappear like the HD800, for example. They look beautiful and are built extremely well, built quality is among the best I've seen in a headphone. They come in any color you want as long as it's silver.


    Feature and Accessories
    No wireless or fancy features, but they come with a very nice carry case and several very nice cables balanced and unbalanced. I much prefer the accessories on these over the other two Focal cans, the case is nice and the cables aren't as obnoxious to use on a daily basis.


    Sound Quality
    These are incredibly easy to drive for a high end headphone. I've been testing these on the little Chord Mojo and the Studio Six (we're talking a $500 portable dac/amp and a $4,000 desktop tube amp) and they sound great out of both devices. They also scale well enough that they sound better out of the Studio Six, as they should.

    They've got tone for days, it's the best tonal balance I've heard in a headphone ever and it's not really even that close. Tonal accuracy is a key item for me in ensuring that instruments and voices sound correct and these absolutely nail that.

    The bass is fantastic for an open design, among the best I've heard in an open headphone though it's not as prominent as many planar designs so if you like tons of bass these may not be for you. I've noticed on a couple occasions that the bass can just bleed into the midrange but it's rare and only happens with midbass-y music to begin with. It's a very minor flaw and isn't remotely a deal breaker for me.

    The midrange and treble are both excellent, they just have perfect balance all the way through the frequency range. IMO the treble is perfect for me, if you are looking for ultra detail I'd say these are not as good as the Utopia but don't want to give the impression that they're not detailed because they certainly are. I found the Utopia to be a bit peaky up top, I'll gladly trade in that last tenth of a percent in detail for a headphone that's less fatiguing.

    These are incredibly dynamic, just like the other two Focal models. They've got a punchy dynamic sound that can get you from time to time if you're not careful with the volume knob.

    They image quite well, but the soundstage is bit small for an open design. I'm a soundstage fiend though, I suspect that the soundstage will be fine for most people but if you're looking looking for a super wide expansive soundstage I'd recommend you try these before buying. This is where headphones have a distinct disadvantage to speakers, you can't really have a wide expansive sound AND a focussed perfectly imaged sound because physics. You need the right compromise between the two and these just nail that for me, that's ultimately the main selling point as these are the only headphones I've heard that nail that balance.

    Another big plus for me is these handle complex music very well, I'd say about half of what I listen to ranges from classical to stuff like Dream Theater where there tends to be a great deal of complexity, and most headphones have a hard time untangling all that...these do an exceptional job.

    Ultimately these are a great all-rounder headphone and that's the killer feature for me, they sound great with every genre of music. Those who know me know that I have a decent size collection of headphones, these are good enough to replace a number of those. The following are the cans being replaced by these Focals - Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-560, Audeze LCD-2, and my ZMF Eikon.
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