Focal Clear Open-back Headphones - Official Thread

by slightly warm i mean it adds a bit of extra presence down low in the bass and lower mids. so if a neutral amp plays a note with no added coloration, the V200 will give that same note a bit more weight (Bass), and/or resonance. it will sound a bit thicker and more substantial. much the way a tube amp will color the sound. The V200’s added warmth is not that that much, hence i say slightly warm. it’s not strictly neutral sounding, but not too too warm either. it walks a nice middle ground between tube warmth and solid state neutral. it’s a really nice sounding amp.

EDIT - sorry, forgot to address the EQ part. Yes, a bit of EQ can definitley get a neutral solid state amp to sound like the V200, from a tonality standpoint. what is more important on the solid state side of things is power delivery and dynamic range. when an amp is under duress, how much, if any, does it’s performance suffer. this is a tough one without a lot of side by side testing. some amps sound great at moderate volume with moderate tempo playing. but crank the volume and play something very complex, and it starts to lose it’s composure. i’d point to the older Magni amps from Schiit. push them hard and detail would start the blur together, and extension all around would compress. fast heavy bass beats would really tax my old Magni 2. by the 3rd consecutive bass note you’d get a blurry wall of bass vs separate and distinct notes. compare that to my Phonitor E, and no matter what i throw at it, at any volume that doesn’t cause me injury, and it just will not lose it’s composure. bass stays tight and defined. micro detail still come through with good placement and separation. notes keep their leading edges. it’s basically unflappable. that’s what i really look for on the solid state side. minor coloration changes can be done with a touch of EQ, but composure cant be changed.

and i do agree with PaisleyUnderground that a nice tube amp would likely be a more worthwhile investment vs another solid state amp.


@nhatlam96, you already have a lot of SS amps. Have you thought about getting a Feliks tube amp? Shipping and overall pricing should be less than the Pendant, since Feliks is based in Poland, and there is a German distributer.

I have not heard any of the Feliks amps, but I’ve read that Focal uses them for their demos, although I’m not sure which ones.

@SleepyRhythms has recommended the Echo with the Clear, and that has the advantage of being their cheapest model. Headphonics has also reviewed the Echo and the Elise with an Elear, which is not the same as the Clear, but may give you an indication of the synergy between the 2 brands.


My SP200 is a budget amp like the Magni, but it’s new and made in 2020. The volume pot is set to 70% and low gain, anything higher than this and it’s getting into unhealthy territory. Overall the Focal Clear does a great job at being efficient, so my SP200 can stay at relaxing moderate output. I blasted crazy EDM tracks, Star Wars Orchestral Themes and Power Metal, so far I can not complain.
However, I never tried a higher tier solid state amplifier like the violectric V200 and I wonder if the V200 would be able to provide me more control? The slight coloration of the V200 would then be a higher quality than using EQ maybe? So far I also don’t find the Focal Clear to be bright at all, but it could need a little more soundstage I suppose. I have some theories for the Focal Clears slightly flat soundstage:

  1. Theory: It is inredibly detailed in everything. Its detailed in the bass, mids and treble. In order to be detailed, it needs to push those frequency things forward. And if you push all those things forward, then there is little soundstage left. Does that make sense somehow?
  2. Theory: Those midtier budget solid state amplifiers, like SP200, RNHP, G111, G103 (they all sound exactly the same btw) may have good measurements, but they sacrifice “organicness” for accuracy. That would explain the slight flatness?
  3. Theory: Hightier solid state amplifiers like the V200/220, do sth different than the midfi solid state amps. They color the sound slightly and show higher quality amplification and control. Which is odd, because their measurements of THD and noise whatsoever, are just the same as the midfi amplifiers. But they must do sth different to the sound, which is not explainable by measurements. That intriges me very much, Im going to order the V200 now and try it out.

I read those articles, but it is not tested with the Focal Clear.

I have read SleepyRhythms post about the Echo. It’s not 100% OTL, so it’s like a tube, but less tubey. So it adds a little warmthness, while still holding that clarity. For me, that very much sounds like a vioectric V200/220 :thinking: Because the V200 also apparently adds a slight warmth. Maybe the slight warmth of the Echo is different than the slight warmth of the V200/220?


Did you consider the Focal Arche? It has a setting specifically for the Clear and you can get $1000 off if you buy before Jan 1st.

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The Clear reflects the sound characteristics of the upstream DAC / AMP combinations quite well.

In the case of very neutral combinations (topping, S.M.S.L., etc.) it can sound a bit pointed in the heights and sterile.

I also think that it doesn’t benefit to the same extent from my tube amplifier as my high-impedance headphones with dynamic drivers.

I find both my ifi Zen DAC / AMP combo and the ifi iDSD signature with the 3D option activated as the ideal solution for me.
It doesn’t sound holographic in any way, but actually expands the stage and makes the spatial sound representation more precise.
It has a similar effect on the sound as turning on the crossover function on the Feliks Audio Euforia.

Thus it sounds “warmer” or more relaxed, with a perceptibly expanded sound.


Uff, thanks for the link. It looks very interesting and elegant, but my internal alarm bells go crazy here. Do you remember the special ifi zen can hd6xx version? In the past, when that amp came out, I was cringing: “An amplifier with an extra HD6XX mode? Are they kidding?” Now when I look at the Focal Arche, im get the same cringe. Looking at the specs: The DAC part of the Focal Arche is the same like my SMSL Sanskrit 10th MK2: AKM4490. Torch said its comparable to the performance of the RME ADI-2 DAC fs, which just makes it uninteresting to me. I have two friends, who own a RME ADI-2 and we all hear no difference to the AKM4490 chipset. But there are others who can… Now the amp is and should be the most interesting part anyways. Specs-wise, it’s the same like all other solid state amplifiers. But specs dont say everything, so I have to research a little more. Torch said its more rich and engaging than other solid state amplifiers, but what does that exactly mean? He also said that the amp part of the Arche is not quite as good as the Phonitor X, which makes me remember this:

So,that would also mean its not quite as good as the Phonitor E, because Phonitor E and X are the same. So my last concern is then this: Is the V200/220 as good as the phonitor E? If that is the case, then the V200 is slightly better than Focal Arche amp. Does my conclusions make sense or am I missing something? However, the Arche has some “specialized” modes for the Focal headphones and some phases, which at the same time intrigues me and makes me very sceptic. An amplifier shouldn’t do something like this? It sounds like a gimmick imo. The onky way to find out is by trying out I guess :frowning:
When it comes to built: it only weights 4.65kg?? That thing looks big, but it’s very light. Im asking myself why they make it so big, when it is so light? My sp200 is half as big, but weights 772g, without DAC. Im not saying more weight is better, im just asking why they would make it so big, when its unnecessary?
When I conclude so far:
DAC: same as my 100€ dac: AKM4490.
AMP: spec wise same as any other 200€ amp and it’s inferior to Phonitor E + has modes “specialized” for certain Focal Headphones (how is that supposed to be believable? :face_with_monocle:)
Built: It’s big, but hollow. Why? Nothing in there?
This everything combined, makes me question its price. Do you understand my troubled worries from an audionoobphile standpoint who only has been in midfi territory so far?

If the hifi ss amp vioectric V200 doesnt really enrich anything comparetively to my SP200, than I am reeaaaaallllyyy sceptic of that Focal Arche. The V200 is already considered to be on par with Phonitor E? Then how should the Focal Arche keep up then. I will be just going full tube at this point. I will be then asking for more help. Right now Im waiting for that V200 to arrive.

I have never heard of this. Now from their website: “The famous iFi 3D Holographic, it widens the sound-stage of your music beautifully….It really brings your music to like, makes it more tangible and believable”. Isn’t that audiophile heresy? It reminds me of these “7.1 surround” features of cheap gaming headsets. But you have good experiences with the iFi 3D Holographic, I think I will try it out. Thank you man! I might be even quite nice for gaming.
I have a slight problem with the input. I can not use USB, because of strong and annoying electrical interference. My motherboard supports optical, but the shape is different? Look at that cable. Whould that cable fit for the idsd? Or this cable maybe?

No offense, but I don’t understand any of the reasoning here at all. Using anecdotal data and fuzzy logic here isn’t going to get you any meaningful answers. It also completely ignores the most important thing about selecting an amp: Synergy.

If a big, somewhat hollow box with a different feature sets actually sounds the best with your chain, then overanalyzing spec sheets and hypotheticals just becomes counterproductive after a certain point. From my perspective, BOM on all of these amps are VASTLY lower than their MSRP, so even analyzing part:$ value is largely irrelevant. That is, unless you’re more concerned about features than sound, in which case I’ll see myself out of the conversation.

It might be wise to give more credence to the reported synergy between the Arche and Focal headphones.

Edit: An aside - Crossfeed and 3D effects built into amps are largely hit and miss in my experience, especially with iFi and a little less so with Phonitor amps. I can say without reservation that Roon’s crossfeed is vastly better than either of the aforementioned amp’s crossfeeds as it doesn’t screw with a song’s tonality versus what I heard on either of those amps. So in that regard, the Phonitor E might be better than the X/Xe


I could have sworn that I had Reddit/ASR blocked at my firewall …


I understand your cautious skepticism. The majority of us have gone through this at some point. On one side you have people claiming that it’s scientifically proven that a simple set of measurements on the frequency domain tells us if something performs audibly perfect, yet there is also a large community of people who firmly disagree with this. You don’t know where the truth lies, and without your own frame of reference this can be rather challenging.

On this forum you find more people who have varying levels of experience within the high-end segment of this hobby, and who don’t rely on measurements or commercial review channels to make their purchase decisions. The reality is that we all have different values, different preferences, different ears. We all have to find our place in this hobby, and the only way to get there is through trial and error. Not every decision you make will be the right one, but the only way to learn is to try.

Just keep an open mind on anything in this hobby. Let your own ears be the final judge. The purpose of this hobby is to gain more enjoyment out of listening to music. That’s something measurements won’t help you with, past the point where you’re currently at.


:thinking: Hmmm, I read from your comments that you are a rather doubtful, critical person who would like to have very precise data and impressions conveyed in order to bring your own action to a conclusion as rationally as possible :interrobang:

My personal advice on the topics addressed here in the forum is:

Trust the person you know best :handshake:;

Yourself and your ears :bangbang:

Two things are really beneficial in your case.
1.) You live in Germany :de: :+1:
2.) You met me here :joy: :rofl:

Joking aside, from mannheim, once the lockdown has ended, you have a very good option to consult various dealers in order to get a very good impression of the various hi-fi products and ultimately to make the decision that will satisfy you.

After prior arrangement by telephone :telephone_receiver:, you can test some of the products of your choice yourself;

With your own laptop :computer: / PC, your own music :musical_score: and all the other components that you already have in your portfolio :headphones:.


They have their branch in the pedestrian zone in Heidelberg and have a large number of them, in Germany rather “exotic headphones” (ZMF, GRADO, Abyss, etc.) in their portfolio.
Also headphone amplifiers from Feliks Audio, Cayin, Stax etc.

Call there:

06221 889211

Talk to Mr. Thomas Halbgewachs or Ms. Andrea Rühe and make an appointment.


They are located in the inner city of Karlsruhe, have, among other things, the entire Focal range on site, including the Arche amplifier, and are happy to make them available to try out.

Call Mr. Rouven Jahraus

0721 921273 0

for an appointment.


These are located in the center of Frankfurt and have Chord, Cayin, Focal etc. products in their portfolio.

Call Mr. Thomas Blaufuss for an appointment:

069 92004116


They are located in Wiesbaden and are very well sorted with Audiovalve, T&A, Fostex, Lehmannaudio, Copeland etc.

Call 0611 4503262 for an appointment. (Secretary)

In all those companies I usually have the opportunity to borrow the devices of my choice so that I can test them in peace at home.

As a new customer this may not be an option for you, but you will have enough time on site to “listen into” the product of your choice.

Here is our “problem child”, although they do exist here in Europe, they are always “sold out” and therefore hardly anything can be ordered there.

By the way, if you need more information about ifi Audio, please contact @SebastienChiu

As a company employee, he is “surely happy” to provide you with more information about their products.

Have Fun :sunglasses:


Yes… and no. Unlike many consumer electronic goods, I don’t think you’re going to be able to research yourself out of this confusion. I also do a lot of research before purchasing things. I enjoy it. But with an headphone amp and/or DAC it’s a lot less useful to look at specs and read impressions. You really need to try it to know.

I would also describe myself as a relative noob to hi-end audio equipment. After some consideration the Focal Arche was the clear answer for me to try next because:

  • If you’re looking for synergy between the headphone and amp however you define it, the Focal Arche will be one of the best, if not THE best, choice
  • The $1k voucher makes it a relatively safe choice. If you don’t like it, sell it
  • I trust Torq’s superior knowledge of this subject and his review was positive

A few other comments:

  • There’s more to a DAC than the chip used and you can use other DACs with the Arche anyway.
  • The Arche is a pure class A amp and may need the space for cooling without fans. Regardless of the reason unless you know a lot more than me about amp design and layout, don’t use it as a measure of quality.
  • The Focal specific settings of the amp are nothing like the 6XX mode on the iFi amp. That was just a bass boost that reportedly wasn’t any different than the same bass boost found on other iFi amps.

C’mon man, be nice. You were a noob once too. He isn’t claiming all amps and/or DACs sound alike - yet. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I believe you proceed from a false assumption …

But I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what/why.


Focal Arche has been discussed many times on these and other forums as to how it “matches” with each Focal headphone. It may have been known to some before, but there was still confusion as to what the mechanism was exactly, and it was finally confirmed on’s own livestream with Focal reps not too long ago.

The answer is: it is impedance matching for each set. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s no gimmicky DSP or anything like that.

Focal knows what impedance is ideal for each of their sets so I would trust them on that.

And if it’s not desired - as mentioned - it can simply be used as a regular (but well implemented & performing) amp and/or DAC.


A post was merged into an existing topic: How to compare amps more fairly - my experience

A post was merged into an existing topic: How to compare amps more fairly - my experience

Guys look at my thing!


cus errrrrrr. Hey look!

What pads are on your Clears? Cool looking cable by the way.

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Those are the Dekoni Elite Valour mister, BTW those cables are made by OIDIO in the UK, i like them because they let you color coordinate with up to 3 colors if you so choose