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

Personally, I like both a lot, but the Clear has better technical performance.

The Auteurs natural timbre is amazing however.

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You’re not making this any easier haha. I appreciate your insight!

I have a pair of Focal Celestees, which I love, and I have the ZMF Aeolus on order. I feel like I have my open and closed-back bases covered, but can anyone make the case for the Clear MGs as a different third option I should be considering anyway? (Please??!!)

I’ve not heard the Aeolus, so I’ll defer to Darthpool. Check out @TylersEclectic’s latest stream. The chat asks him to compare the Focal Clear (original) with the ZMF Auteur, but then he also does a live comparison of the Aeolus with the Auteur; all of those comparisons should give you a good idea on where he stands regarding your inquiry. And considering the impressions of the MG Clear have been overwhelmingly something like “they’re very similar to the original Clear,” it should be a good resource for you.

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What is the difference, sound wise, between the Clear Mg and the Mg Professional?

Okay so I’ve spent a long time measuring these and trying to figure out the differences between the Clear MG, OG and Elex (Elear with Clear pads), and I feel more confident using in-ear mics to show this, mainly because they’re more readable and consistent in the treble - where the real differences show up among them.

Sample 1
In-ear mics: Clear vs Clear MG

GRAS 43AG: Clear vs Clear MG

Sample 2
All three compared with in-ear mics

GRAS 43AG: Elear with Clear pads vs Clear MG

While this shows some difference in the bass between the MG and OG, it could just be that the OG I’m using to measure here is a bit of an outlier in the bass (looking at Jude’s measurements at least). But regardless, the main differences here are in the treble as I mentioned.

The MG is noticeably pulled back in the mid-treble, making it somewhat smoother there. While this is a good thing, it also loses a bit of the balance that was created by the Clear and Elex’s three bumps, 6khz, 8khz and 10khz. Importantly, the MG elevates significantly in the upper treble above 10khz, imparting a kind of ‘shimmering’ character to it. While that slight shimmer worked on the OG Clear, due to the three bump balance, the contrast between mid treble and upper treble on the MG is a bit too intense for my liking. I think some may be fine with this though, and how much you notice it will likely depend on factors like age and sensitivity to upper treble.

So, in short, for tonal balance, I think the OG Clear is simply better, with a more even balance in the mid-treble, in spite of the fact that the MG is a bit more smooth there. The OG’s mid treble presence just gives it a bit better focus for cymbal hits, rather than the emphasis towards the upper edge of those tones.

For technical performance, they’re all very similar, but I’d rank them like this:

Clear MG > Clear OG > Elear/Elex

The difference in microdetail and microdynamics is significantly more noticeable between the Elear/Elex and that MG than it is between the MG and the Clear OG. So, I mentioned earlier that the difference in terms of detail isn’t as noticeable as the difference in treble tuning, and I think that’s still true. But the reason I think there’s actually a tangible difference here beyond simply the tuning changes (people often perceive more upper treble as ‘more detail’), is because the differences I hear for detail are primarily in the midrange.

In any case, they’re all great sounding headphones, but my personal preference is for the Clear OG’s treble tuning, even though it can occasionally be a bit ‘gritty’ at times (it’s a tradeoff I’ll take), and I do hear a slight detail advantage on the MG.

For anyone wondering about the MG vs MG Pro, the official word is that they’re supposed to be the same just with different accessories, but I can’t verify that at the moment.

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The graph says GRAS 43AG, but it was measured with in-ear microphones?

Well, that one was… Most of the measurements are done on the GRAS. And I’ve also measured these on the GRAS. That’s literally just a watermark.

Ahh, okay. Will you be posting the GRAS measurements?

I’m curious to see how they differ from Jude’s.

Well, he’s using a 5128, which is a different standard. I don’t think he measured this on a GRAS. So… those are not cross comparable either.

Here’s the GRAS measurement:

Again, bass difference shown here is likely more to do with the reference Clear than any actual difference. Unit variation is a thing…

But, the 711 couplers are rated for accuracy up to 10khz, and this is why showing it with in-ear mics is more readable and accurate for showing treble differences.

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Understood.

The in-ear measurements also include your specific pinna gain, and not the ‘average’ of the measurements rig. It’d be nice if we could all measure our own.

That would actually be pretty interesting. :thinking:

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Right. The point of in-ear mics is ONLY to show the difference between the models, and not the actual raw measurement. Moreover, in-ear mics don’t take any additional gain factors apart from pinna/concha into consideration. But in this case, there aren’t going to be any unique interactions that would yield different results for different people, as far as the comparison between models is concerned. It may show a difference in the overall FR - in fact that’s highly likely, but the delta between each model should be the same.

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couldnt find if you have mentioned elsewhere. what mics do you use for inear measurements?

They were custom made. But very basic ones that sit at the entrance of the ear canal. It’s also an open shell, so it doesn’t actually block the canal itself.

Attempted plea: The Clear MG may offer a more neutral presentation and more detail, resolution, and better technical performance in general. Whether it’s different enough is uncertain and subjective.

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Most of what I’ve heard about the Clear MG makes it very attractive (including a greater sense of “air”), but this imbalance in the treble is a bit concerning.

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I agree. However, my question for @Resolve would then be, can the treble imbalances be “fixed” with some mild PEQ? I refuse to EQ my IEMs because I only use them when on-the-go/in portable situations, but I have no problem EQing my over-ears on the main desktop system. So with that said, with EQ, is the Clear MG the clear (haha) winner here?

And thanks for the measurements @Resolve

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Probably. It might be tricky to go too narrow due to the somewhat ‘ragged’ nature of the way these drivers tend to behave. But a subtle mid-treble boost around 8khz and a drop above 10khz, or a downshelf may help there. Eventually I’ll try to build out a profile.

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These measurements and impressions line up more or less with mine from last month. I posted this review/comparison in the OG Clear thread but I’ll post it again here:

Focal Clear Mg Professional

Intro

I’ve been using the original Focal Clear to work just about every day since last March when the Coronavirus pandemic first hit the US. I purchased them in anticipation of many months stuck at home and they’ve truly been a saving grace for both business and pleasure. As an audio engineer, I’ve come to rely on the Clear’s neutral tonality, sharp imaging, and speaker-like dynamics. So when I saw the announcement about an update to the Clear, I was PUMPED. Since then, I’ve been looking for an honest review of the new Focal Clear Mg Professional. More specifically, I’ve been looking for comparisons between the Mg Professional and my treasured original Clear. This morning, after seeing this post on Reddit: “Focal Clear MG Pro — only two left in stock from Audio 46,” I dropped everything and went on an adventure to Manhattan so I could write the review myself.

_DSF4311-2

Build, Design, and Comfort

Grade: A-

The first Focal Clear Mg Professional that Audio46 gave me to listen to was broken — There was significantly more low end in the left driver than the right driver. Since I had my original Clear with me, I knew that there wasn’t anything wrong with the rest of the chain but we tried swapping cables, adapters, DACs and amps anyways just to make sure. After ruling everything else out, the manager came out with a brand new pair. The second pair seemed to be working fine…

Apart from the first pair being defective, the build, design, and comfort of the Clear Mg Pro seemed more or less the same as that of the original Clear so I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote in my Focal Clear review :

/*

The Focal Clear, like everything Focal produces, is beautifully designed. I’ve had mine for almost a year now and they still look / feel brand new apart from the ear pads . Replacement ear pads are extremely expensive at $200 per pair. For reference, Sennheiser sells replacement pads for their HD 6-line for $50 per pair. In theory, ear pads have a substantial effect on a headphone’s sound which is how Focal justifies such a steep price. There are third-party replacement pads available for the Focal Clear but according to objective measurements and subjective impressions by Andrew Park at headphones.com, none of them sound the same as the stock Focal Clear pads. The pads on my Focal Clear do look worn but despite wearing them for 6+ hours just about every day this year, they still feel firm and sound the same as they did when I got them.

Unlike the ear pads, the headband is not replaceable. This is an unfortunate design flaw. In order to keep the headband fresh for as long as possible, I purchased this headphone headband which happens to perfectly match the Focal Clear color scheme.

The Clear is unreasonably comfortable for how heavy it is. At almost twice the weight of Sennheiser’s HD 6XX, the Clear is almost just as comfortable as the 6XX if not more comfortable in some ways. The (very expensive to replace) ear pads are perforated which probably contributes to the Clear’s breathability along with the Clear’s open-back nature. In the year that I’ve spent using the Clear for recording/mixing/mastering sessions every day, comfort has never been an issue. It isn’t as comfortable as wearing nothing, but it may be the next best thing.

Eyeglasses seem to have a noticeable effect on low end response. With glasses on, the sub frequencies sound slightly off. I avoid this issue by resting my eyeglass temples on top of headphone ear-pads like a complete maniac.

Note: These are open-back headphones. This means there is no isolation between you and your surroundings. These are useful for listening critically at home in a quiet room. They would be totally inappropriate for use in public spaces because 1. everyone would be able to hear what you’re listening to and 2. the noise of your surroundings would make it difficult for you to hear what you’re listening to.

*/

Reference Tracks | Jake Cheriff

REFERENCE TRACKS

Frequency Response / Sound

Grade: B

The Focal Clear Mg Professional has a very safe frequency response. I don’t have any measurements to reference this time because no one has posted any measurements for the Clear Mg Pro yet. So these impressions will all be purely based on my subjective experience today. It will be fun to see how those impressions line up with measurements taken in the future. In the mean time, let’s talk about what I mean by safe .

Bass

My least favorite thing about the new Clear Mg Professional is the bass. It’s hard to tell whether Focal has managed to extend the sub bass response because there’s slightly too much bass in general. If we had a graph to look at, I imagine there’d be a wide and subtle hump around 120 Hz extending as high as 200 Hz — not unlike the frequency response of the renowned Sennheiser HD 650. While that doesn’t line up with my personal preference, which leans more towards Crinacle’s neutral target , I do think it will satisfy average listeners who are less concerned about transparency and detail. I find that the increased bass does mask some detail in the low mids, slightly, compared to the transition between bass and mids on the original Clear. This low end frequency response, to me, makes for an incredibly relaxing listening experience. However, these are being marketed as mixing / mastering headphones and from a music production perspective, I don’t understand the update to the low end. I’m happy to report, at least, that the bass dynamics hit just as hard as they do on the original Clear.

Mids

The midrange of the Mg sounds sounds a little smoother than it does on the original Clear in both tonality and timbre. But like the bass, the smoothness seems like a safe choice rather than a productive choice for what should be professional headphones.

Listening to “Rolodex” by Aidan Knight:

  • The snare drum has more thump and less crack than it does on the original Clear.
  • The bass guitar and vocal seem to share more in common, tonality-wise, on the Mg than they do on the original Clear.
  • The instrumental interlude at 1:30, which opens up the mix beautifully on the original Clear, is less effective on the Mg. The contrast between sections in general is less significant on the MG.
  • The syncopated guitar and synth at 1:30 also sound less wide on the Mg.

Treble

As you’ve probably already guessed, I prefer the treble on the original Clear as well. The Mg’s treble is considerably more subdued/laid-back sacrificing a disappointing amount of clarity and detail. The original Clear’s treble isn’t perfect — There’s definitely some spiciness around 6 kHz that gives way to occasionally abrasive sibilance. But each time I switch back to the original Clear, I am reminded of how much I love that spiciness. The original Clear’s treble frequency response lives on the edge of neutrality in a way that appeals to me as a lover of detail and, more importantly, as a mixing engineer. I’d much rather overshoot in sibilance reduction, reducing slightly too much sibilance in my mixes rather than undershoot and leave behind some embarrassing ESSSplosions . The Mg’s treble is safe — Songs with questionable amounts of sibilance come across smooth as butter.

Listening to “Body” by Julia Jacklin:

  • The occasional sibilance that I hear on the original Clear is gone. The vocals are much smoother.
  • The increased bass sounds slightly bloated and unrefined.
  • The center image is less solid than it is on the original Clear.

Listening to “Come Home” by Fell Runner,

  • The guitars have less edge to them than they have on the original Clear.
  • The snare has more thud and less crack than it has on the original Clear.
  • The vocals are less clear.
  • The bass sounds slightly bloated.

Soundstage / Imaging

Grade: B+

The Clear Mg Professional’s soundstage trades blows with the soundstage of the original Clear. The increased low end makes the soundstage sound deeper at times but the decreased high end pushes everything away slightly. In music production, you can often makes things sound closer to the front of the mix (or the listener) by adding high frequencies to a sound. So it makes sense that the front of the Mg’s soundstage is slightly less intimate than that of the original Clear. But the Mg is more intimate in other ways. Although I did not have my Sennheiser HD 6XX on hand to compare, I was reminded of the vocal intimacy exhibited by the 6XX’s meaty midrange tonality. Like the 6XX, the Mg’s lower mids seem to sometimes consume a larger portion of the overall image.

The imaging also trades blows, probably depending on the frequency content per song.

Value / Conclusion

Grade: B+

I…

Read the full review on Medium.com

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I’ve gone ahead and ordered the Clear MGs - the only way to compare is to compare. I am both excited for my purchase and ashamed of my addiction.

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