Focal Clear Mg - Open-Back Dynamic Driver Headphones - Official Thread

A post was merged into an existing topic: General purchase advice: Ask your questions/for advice here!

That’s right. 0.1 ohms. Typical for a contemporary solid state amp. The THX 789 is absolutely NOT high impedance – it’s a lean and analytical by design. I compared the Utopia, OG Clear, and Elex with my 789. I liked only the Elex, as it took away some of the Elex’s brightness and glare. Both the Utopia and OG Clear were too lean, edgy, and fatiguing for longer sessions.

Listen to @eric75. It’s always best to test despite the theoretical issues of high impedance amps. Some headphone drivers don’t seem capable of changing tone much beyond the basic potential allowed by their physical construction. Depending on the combination of high impedance amp & headphone model, you can end up with pleasant richness and warmth, or ridiculous and comical bass bloat.

Listen before judging based on charts.


From descriptions and measurements, the Clear MG seems awfully reminiscent of the Elear. Did you ever have a chance to hear that Elear?

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Great review @antdroid. :+1:t4:

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I did, but that was 4 years ago. I do remember it being the most veiled of the open-backs for sure.


I don’t think rolling amps is a good way to EQ a headphone, but you might consider the Focal Arche as it has an output impedance setting specifically for the Utopia.

Also aren’t there other software EQ methods that don’t add much if any latency?

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Interesting. There were conflicting claims - even from Focal - about whether the original Clear and Clear Pro were supposed to be the same, so it’s good to see them pronouncing definitively on this, even if the measurements don’t bear this out.

Re qualia, it was interesting to see you both prefer the original Clear/Clear Pro, especially as this is (for now) a minority view. My own sentiments towards the original Clear Pro for most of the time I have owned them is that they would benefit from some tempering of the upper-mids/lower treble, which would often sound a bit thin and rasping. Oddly - and I’m attributing this to psychoacoustic normalisation rather than burn-in - I don’t/can’t hear them this way any more, even in A/B comparisons to something warm and rich like the Oppo PM-1. Anecdotally, I interpret this as evidence for what Mike Moffat has said about hearing being integrative, in this case over a period of nearly a year.

My hypothesis about the Mgs is that they’ve thrown the technicalities baby out with the tonality bath water; meanwhile, I’ve steadily acclimatised to the temperature of the originals.

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Perceived technicalities often follow from relatively elevated treble. My old HE-560 exaggerated the bow and rosin noise of violins and stringed instruments, so I heard all sorts of playing details or artifacts that melt into the background with other headphones. Did the music creator want me to prioritize bows scraping on strings? My OG Clear emphasized the notes, so by some measure it might be less technical or suitable for a sound engineer. Or, just more balanced overall.

So much of this is perceptual habituation and/or progressive auditory training. I owned the Elex before the Clear, and it sounded ridiculously metallic for 20-30 hours. Then my ears stopped hearing it, or it broke in. Learning is a one way street.


I have Sonarworks Reference 4 (new version is called SoundID Reference?) but I don’t love using Software EQ. It just feels wrong to me, and I have tried it in the past to “repair” the OG Clear signature in the low end, and it resulted in a low-end that felt more boomy but also kind of distorted. It didn’t have that tight, controlled, ninja like accuracy that I feel with Planars and with the Stellias. Maybe that’s just not possible in a dynamic open-backed.

I think the Focal Arche seems cool but I looked into it and it was made by Micromega, and is upwards of 2.5K which seemed like a lot. I don’t mind spending money but after having done tons and tons of research I decided to go with the THX 789 because it is so universally acclaimed to be a low-noise low-distortion high-powered beast at a very reasonable cost, and it’s supposed to be mega-transparent. As a producer that’s what I want from all my components (DAC included).

Also I just bought the Focal headphone stand for a shocking amount of 350 USD – and the Arche has one built in! I’d feel dumb getting an Arche now. I didn’t really know about this impedance stuff before though, all I knew is the Arche didn’t measure great and uses AKM 4490’s. I can get 4493’s in an RME ADI-2 DAC if I want (which I can probably feed via SPDIF from my MOTU 624, so I can use MOTU’s low latency thunderbolt drivers).

Anyway, I didn’t really want to “hardware EQ” the Utopias or Clears (or Clear MG’s which I’m considering upgrading to). But I thought this talk of high output impedance was interesting. Isn’t the Arche solid-state?

Also… Resolve’s review showed the Clear MG clearly has more elevated bass than the OG. I really hope that is true but I’ve seen lots of reviews where there is no difference. Is there any consensus. I’d consider upgrade my Clear Pro OG to Clear MG if that’s the case, and maybe call it a day – use the Clear MG when I can, and use the Stellia when environmental factors force me to (laundry or dishwasher is running, girlfriend is cooking, construction work outside etc)

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This is spot on. :clap:t4:


Yes and no.

You can’t dismiss a cans technical ability as simply a matter of treble tricks either simply because it may have an “elevated” treble response. Elevated often times being preference related anyways unless we all agree on a reference standard, which isn’t happening anytime soon.

As an example: if you dismiss the Utopia’s technical abilities as merely a function of treble response you would be making a really tough sell.


I think SoundID is for consumers and Reference is for pros, but they do very similar things. I’ve tried both as well as other headphone EQ products. The results vary but I’ve never experienced any of them adding a noticeable amount of distortion. Yes if you EQ the bass (or treble for that matter) up high enough on some heaphones, they may not like it. But that is an “issue” with the headphones and not the EQ. I use oratory1990’s EQ settings with my OG Clears and I don’t have any issues with the bass being distorted. Some might find it boomy, but that is more about personal preferences and even oratory1990 himself recommends adjusting the 100hz low shelf filter to preference.

I’m not a pro so latency is not an issue for me. However one of the EQ software plugins I use is EQuick from DMG Audio. It has two settings, one low latency for mixing and one higher latency for mastering.

I have read that in general, planars have more linear bass but dynamics have more sub bass and punch. In my experience when EQ’d the same both technology’s bass sounds the same to me.

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I have the Focal Arche and just picked up a Monoprice THX 887, which uses the same tech as the THX 789 but measures better. All are solid state amps. I’ve only had the THX for a few days but so far the Arche in it’s standard Voltage mode and the THX sound the same to me. The FR also measures the same on my MiniDSP EARS with the OG Focal Clear.

I’d be interested to know what your source is for the Arche measuring poorly. All of the reviews I read were very positive and the only source I can find for measurements is here:

Having said all that, I don’t think you can go wrong with either amp in terms of not coloring the sound unless you use one of the Focal headphone settings on the Arche that increases its output impedance. Even then the effect is very minimal, way less than SoundID or oratory1990 EQ.

Interesting that you actually have the Arche, and great to know the “voltage” setting and the THX 887 sound the same. You don’t mention whether the mode for the Clear sounds much better, though. I’m very curious. Is this a high impedance mode to match the Clear?

My issue with EQ was exactly that – I think I pushed it up ever so slightly (a couple dB maybe, maybe even 1.5, can’t remember exactly), but that amount was just too high for the driver to handle and it started sounding really shattered and distorted. I was very disappointed. I am not sure about all the audiophile terms (it’s like wine or scotch tasting, really, where the words have no direct correlation to the phenomenon, only a symbolic representational one that you have to learn as you spend more time describing more gear). But in plain words, the bass on a planar, and on the Stellia, to me sounds tight, accurate, and fast (fast decay is what I mean). It almost feels like it’s a punch into your ears with a very small powerful fist (not a large, diffuse fist), and it retreats as soon as it delivers the full impact.

On the Clears, I found the bass did “retreat” as quickly, but because the impact was not as snappy (it was fast but just not “sharp” or concentrated), it felt like the bass was just so much more diffuse.

Otherwise, though, I love the sonic signature of the Clear OG’s so so much. And I find the open backed design and the microfiber pads are the most luxuriously comfortable thing I’ve ever worn on my ears. They are simply fantastic – I really miss them when I wear my Stellias. Unless in the winter months, leather for me (with a closed back design) is just way too hot.

I may have a few days left on this THX 789 since I bought it on Amazon, so I would consider the Arche, but man, I’d feel dumb for buying the Focal headphone stand when the Arche has one built in. Also the Arche is quite a bit longer than my audio interface stack, which are right now perched on the 789 (MOTU 624 and 8D) and with the Arche, I’d have to have them on the bottom due to the Arche’s stand… and that would feel precarious and wobbly.

I can’t remember where I saw that they measured poorly. I should say, perhaps, not poorly, but that the comment was that they did not measure as well as their price would imply, and not as well as the RME ADI-2 DAC.

I’m assuming the Focal Arche is fully balanced? AKM 4490’s seem like they may be a step up from the ESS2016 in my MOTU, but I’m really not sure.

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Ok maybe I’ve kinda “stepped in it” here because I was just trying to give you some options, but now I feel like I’m giving purchase advice like I’m an authority on the subject. Far from it. I have only been serious in this hobby for about a year and I’ve only started comparing amps within the past few months. So take all of this as my opinion only with a big grain of salt. :sunglasses:

I feel confident I can tell the difference between the Arche Voltage and Clear settings using the OG Clear as headphones. There is a bit more sub-bass and the highs seem smoother to me. I believe most would say the Clear setting adds a bit of warmth - nothing major. It is very subtle and really only apparent at high volume. Focal has stated that the different headphone specific settings on the Arche are just optimizing the output impedance. This review: confirmed that by showing that the Clear setting has a higher output impedance than the Voltage setting (which as you probably know is the setting for most non-Focal headphones). The effect higher amp output impedance has on the sound will vary depending on the headphone and its own impedance variation throughout the FR range. On the OG Clear it measurably raises the sub bass region a hair. I didn’t measure any decrease in treble, so the added treble smoothness might be from the other effect of the amp’s output impedance: dampening. That is, it is possible that what I am hearing is actually a bit of distortion similar to what a tube amp might do because the higher output impedance lowered the dampening factor enough. Whatever the cause, I like it. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is more accurate. OTOH I don’t hear any loss in clarity or detail using the Clear setting either. Because of this and because it is obviously the sound that Focal meant for their headphones, I use it.

Now as far as comparing the Arche in Voltage mode against other amps, I believe I can tell the difference between the Arche and my Schiit Magni 3+, but only at high volume where the Magni starts to sound just a bit harsh. So far I can’t tell any difference between the Arche and the THX 887 but I just started comparing them and there’s a lot of debate on this subject. Not to mention that the Clear are not difficult to drive in the first place.

More importantly tonally they all sound, and as far as I know measure, identical across the frequency range.

So if I understand your use case being professional music production and not wanting your equipment to color the tonal balance of your mix, then really even the Schiit Magni should be fine. So my advice, for what little it is worth, is to stick with the THX 789. If you want something for enjoying music after work, consider the Arche but I probably shouldn’t have even brought it up as they have sadly been discontinued.

I’d be interested to know how the Arche SINAD compares to other amps but I haven’t seen anyone measure it. There’s not many amps out there that measure as well as the RME.

Yep. Two AKM 4490 DACs. Class A. Fully balanced. Some prefer the AKM over the ESS. I’m not sure I can hear a difference but I’m still working on amps. DACs are next on the list.

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That’s weird. Was this the Clear or a planar? Some headphones just don’t like to be pushed but I have a low shelf at 105hz of +5.5db and my Clear sound great. You are lowering the overall gain a corresponding amount, right? Otherwise you can getting clipping in the input to the amp.

“Often times” being the operative phrase.

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Sorry man, not following how that impacts my comment. Maybe Im missing something obvious.


I’m just curious why you didn’t just reply to the OP rather than to my comment regarding another post.

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What? This is a public forum and you engaged in the conversation so I thought you had something meaningful to add. Besides, your comment was simply the one preceding mine that addressed the topic I wished to comment on and you also placed emphasis on a statement I wished to address.