The difference between the Clear and Utopia is, in my opinion, almost as much preference driven as it is performance. While the Utopia is definitely the more capable technical performer, many of the people I know prefer the Clear’s signature.
The Elear I have in the office I bought as a result of them being available new-but-open-box, from another vendor, for $499. That’s when they were still $1,299 (or maybe $999) officially. It was too good to pass up even just to hear them (already had two pairs of the Utopia).
When the Clear was announced I figured I’d upgrade to that in the office. Around the same time I saw that Sonarworks had added a profile for the Elear, so I got to try them together. While the Clear is a better sounding, and more technically capable headphone than the Elear, combining the Elear with True-Fi made them so close that I just couldn’t justify the extra expense.
So the Elear stuck for the office rig.
I plan to do a full back-to-back review of the Elear, Elex (Massdrop), Clear and Utopia at some point in the near future.
We also had a Utopia to compare with but I didn’t think to write much about it because of the price differential and technical performance gap. I do think some people would prefer the Elex or Clear to the Utopia because of their extra bass heft though.
Your review is spot on, with how I feel about the Elex next to my HD800. I consider them to be a side grade/compliment to the HD800. I’ve been listening to them almost exclusively the past couple days to really get a good feel for them. I’ll try to put up a review/thoughts/impressions of the Elex when I get back from a mini vacation to Bellingham and Vancouver.
Compared to similar headphones in its price range, its such a musical and full sounding headphone. I would definitely take it over the HD 800 / HD 800S but thats more down to my own personal preference.
It definitely leaks the most sound out of the high-end Focal headphone lineup though. And as a double to that, it lets in the most outside noise. A quiet room is pretty much required with them (I know that’s the case with most open-back headphones but it applies to the Clears even more-so).
Friendship off!!! kidding. I do find the Focals to have a very nice look to them. I agree that they are a more musical experience over the HD800, but I just get more wow factor from the HD800 than the Focals. Still I’ve only tried the Elex, and the Clear so far.
Haha I can appreciate the HD 800 for what they are. I just couldn’t justify having them in my collection as they would see far more shelf time than head time.
The HD 800 beats the Clear on pretty much every technical level (that huge, huge soundstage) but I could keep the Clears on my head all day whereas I can only keep the HD 800 on for no more than an hour before I need a break. I haven’t tried them for gaming though so I should probably give them a try for that!
Whiling away some time as these burn-in. Not my first rodeo with them - but definitely the first time with a fresh-out-of-the-box pair. Which was interesting in, and of, itself - most notably in the first 30 seconds or so of play the bass was really quite off and then settled down to be what I remember it as.
Excuse the custom cable - the stock cables are excellent (much less irritating than those for the Utopia or Elear), and quite striking, but they don’t fit the 4.4mm TRRRS connector on the WM1Z, so I resorted to using cables I built myself.
Very nice pairing with the flagship Sony DAP. Though they definitely pay dividends driven from a more capable source and amplifier. And definitely the sweet-spot in Focal’s line-up at the moment - taking the best elements of the Elear and the Utopia and putting them in a very nice package (the included case is excellent).
They might not quite reach the raw technical capabilities of the Utopia, but they’re surprisingly close, and otherwise have a decidedly beguiling presentation.
Full review to follow, once they’ve had some more hours playing.
No need to be a slave to the rule of thirds! But yes, I like the second one. The first has a more interesting diagonal line through cans and DAP but could use more space to the upper left. Also, it feels a little like the cans are turning their back to the DAP.
Both photos have phenomenal lighting and color. What was your lighting setup?
Oh, ambient lighting only (room gets light from three sides, from huge picture-windows), flipped the blinds (acts as a nice diffuser for the outside-daylight), a shade to cut down some excessive highlights from the left and then a circular polarizer to nobble the glare that remained.
I had the Focal Utopias and was not nearly as impressed as I was with the Clear. Although the Clear were not as dynamic as the Utopias they certainly very good. I like the Clears more in because of the depth of the soundstage imho. So I decided on the Clears which represent much more value over the Utopias. Unfortunately I am forced to put them up for sale, because my “Big Fat Head” gets clamped too tightly therby giving me a headache in 1-1/2 hrs. listening. Do not be discouraged. When I say “Big Head” I mean big head. They are very comfortable on shorter listening. I guess my “Fat Head” is because of all the brains I have.
Aesthetically I find the Focal Clears the best looking headphones around IMHO. I would love to audition them and I will look into doing so soon if it’s possible. I was looking at local dealers of Focal headphones and noticed that a few stocked the Focal Clear Pro’s. Have you had any experience with these?