Focal Elear with Case plus choice of Utopia or Clear Pads for $599

Well, the Elear w/ Utopia pads is closer to the Elear w/ Elex pads (or, indeed, the Elex themselves) than they are just the raw Elear. But there are still differences between them.

Most notably, the Elear w/ Utopia pads has more mid-range presence and vocals will be more forward than with the Elex pads. The Utopia pads will give a bit more (realistic) bite with brass, transients seem faster and they yield a better sense of air and space than the Elex pads.

You can see the frequency response for the three different pad options on the Elear here:

The Utopia pads are also much better looking, far more comfortable and more nicely finished than the Elex pads, which always seem a bit rougher than even the stock Elear pads.

There’s a whole thread on Focal headphones and pad-rolling here.


Hi and welcome @cbl117.


Thank you!

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Very very tempting…need to do more research.

Hi…the only difference between the Elear and the Elex is the pads and coloring. If you change the pads on the Elear to the Clear/Elex pads you get an Elex, there is no reason the mids should deviate based on the coloring of the unit.

While you’ll get an “Elex” by putting “Elex” pads on the Elear, using the Clear pads does not result in the same frequency response. It’s close, but definitely different … both audibly and measurably.

That’s based on measuring every Focal “audiophile” headphone/pad combination.

At some point I’ll get back to posting copies of those graphs using HEQ compensation.


Hi and welcome @LuisNill.

I’m torn between these and going with the Open Box Clears. I love the look of the Clears, though I must confess I’m concerned about how it will stand up to dirt over time.

A-ha! I was starting to believe that my own concern over dust contamination on the Clear was perhaps mere figment of my imagination, then I saw this. Dust is not very noticeable on the Clear and it can build up over a long period of time before it becomes visible, possibly allowing for potential damage to the delicate drivers and/or restriction of the airflow through the grille. I try to avoid this by storing the cans in their carrying bag when not in frequent use, and I brush the cups with an old Decca vinyl record cleaner , a sort of double-sided brush with extra-soft silk hairs that must be as old as I (I’m 56) but still works like new. When done I blow on the cups to clear out potential loose hairs from the lattice. Individual hairs are just not visible, at least not to me.

I’m newer to the headphone community. What things would I need in the rest of my chain to take advantage of the clear over the elear?

Your ears :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:
Seriously, if your goal is to take advantage of the Clear over the Elear just do nothing and if you’re like 90% of audiophiles you’ll prefer the Clear “as-is” over the darker Elear (I mean the tone not the colour). However introduce pad swapping, amplifier variations, dsp etc. and there is no telling which one you’ll prefer. The Elear is one of the most responsive to DSP headphone that I know of, features a huge “playground” in the mids area where FR variation is most revealing, it’s like having 20 headphones in one with practically one single constant value: badass yet superbly tamed deep bass (“slam”) that no other Focal -or any other make for that matter- has and I still have no idea how Focal achieved this because it’s not easy, ask any engineer and you won’t get a clear answer from any of them, only educated guesses. In theory you can make the Elear sound even better than the Clear but for that you’ll need to be patient and read/view tons of material, many of it rather cryptic, and have some basic familiarity with EQ’s, filters, gain, etc.

Not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Unless you’re already familiar with headphone technology I would not recommend this approach. But there are many DSP’s on the market that provide two-click presets for specific models and the Elear is almost always included in the mix. Those will cost you within the range of about $100 to $300. It may seem like a lot but considering it can turn $1,000 cans into $1,500 to $2,000 headphones there is plenty food for thought. Personally I like my Clear a lot but I managed to tweak the Elear into something that sounds better than the (plain non-DSP’d) Clear, at least to me. As usual in such situations YMMV.

The Clear and Clear Pro do not respond that well to DSP, most likely because they have been tweaked to death by design because other than that they are built pretty much the same way the Elear is, using the same general drivers and frame. In fact at Focal HQ in France all the audiophile phone models the company makes -except the Utopia- are referred to as “Elear-Class” after the name of the initial model. Navy brats will be familiar with that nomenclature technique as it applies to military ships.

Regarding amps I would stick with solid-state with all high-end Focals. I don’t clearly recall the reason but I’ve read convincing material to the effect that relatively low impedance dynamics can become ferocious with tubes. I haven’t tried it so can’t really comment further. Focal recommends pretty expensive high-end SS amps but, and this will sound odd, I obtained my best results using a desktop-DAC-vintage receiver chain linked with resonably priced cables (1 USB 1 pair RCA outs into the receiver’s “aux” input). Regarding this receiver it is a fully restored Pioneer SX-650 of 1977 vintage. It is modestly rated at constant 35wpc 20Hz-20kHz (“real watts” as we say) but its weight and part values hint at more beefy specs, in the vicinity of 46 “real watts” per channel. It weighs a solid 30lbs. Be advised that this photo is pretty large but worth viewing full-size:

This receiver will push more watts into the headphones than most HP amps. This is the result of a phenomenon known as output voltage swing on machines that were wired in parallel and had a simple resistor pad circuit between main speaker and headphone outputs. It was common in the 70’s but rare nowadays. Remember, this is by no means a cheap alternative to a dedicated HP amp, in fact it would cost you more because the receiver must be fully restored which is very expensive unless you do it yourself, if so inclined. The result is easy on the eye tho, which can be of great value should WAF issues become involved.


That’s a fantastic post @MuseMuff. Really easy to read and very enjoyable. It has some great tit bits of info too. It makes for very interesting reading for anyone thinking of getting a focal too.


Tank you @prfallon69, I contributed this post because I felt that the topic called for paying attention to the impressive potential of the Elear, offered here at a ridiculously low price for such a high-quality bundle, all the while paying my respects to the fantastic Clear. There is plenty good reason why Elear-Class phones have gained such a large market share in this segment over so little time. They are stellar, simple as that. Also I am excited because Monday morning my new Stellia will be home with me. I received unexpected income so was able to purchase them several months earlier than planned.

With these my Focal episode as a collector concludes, but as a listener… well they have become my favourite brand so they’ll be around for a long, long time. I will not be buying the Elex because it’s not a “real” Focal even though it performs like one. I won’t be getting the Clear Pro either because it’s redundant with its “civilian” version and frankly speaking I don’t like its sound. Too flat, as it suits a studio phone but it doesn’t suit me. Now I can move on to single-item acquisitions instead of series, it’s much less stressful on both my nerves and my (now paid off at last) credit cards

I was a little disappointed by the Elegia, perhaps because I was expecting too much from what was Focal’s lowest-priced launch ever. I don’t think trying to please joggers and hikers is suited to this category of headphones and I have the feeling that Focal won’t dabble into that market again for quite a while. People who want sound on the go usually don’t want to spend that much on something that will be exposed to the elements and the incidents inherent with mobile audio. On the other hand the Stellia is the second most expensive Focal to date and I expect a lot from it. Judging by the reviews I shouldn’t be let down, but experience has taught me one thing about audio: the higher the price the lower the rationale should be. In other words a $4,000 headphone will never sound twice as good as a $2,000 unit, it could even sound worse. The most expensive item in my collection is the $6,000 Hifiman Susvara but guess what, the $360 Sundara sounds better! Those I will always be willing to laud, they are the best value in all of planardom. Not the best sounding (that’s always costly, even Hifiman can’t pull the price under two grand for truly superior performance; the best they can do is the HE6se at $2,000 and still plagued with so many bugs I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two flying off it. I wonder where the HE6se is heading for? I never heard Dr. Bian utter a single word about it and for such a talkative man, that’s not a good sign methinks.

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Tit bits? Where? Please dude, tell us! :crazy_face:

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I agree, Focal headphones are great, though I do know some don’t like their sound profile. I am a big Focal fan. I love my Clears. Though I am having to buy another set due to a theft. But that’s another story which I may tell when I have it resolved. So yes I am missing them at the moment. But again thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Focal lineup.


Jeez, sorry to hear about your loss, quite a bummer. Happened to me with my first Sundaras, they got lifted from a diner’s counter right behind my back. Still in the box as I was returning home from the store where I had purchased them. Fortunately I had paid with a Visa card which carried insurance so I got $300 back for the $575 they had cost me at the time. Got another pair that same day but I was upset for a week or so, it’s so frustrating.

About people not liking the sound of Focals, that’s just a healthy reminder that not all people have the same preferences. Personally I never liked Grados even though I know several people who have the upper-tier models that cost almost as much as Focals. That doesn’t remove an ounce of respect I have for them. What matters is that YOU like what you use.

Still can’t believe how managed to nail down that Elears+hardshell case+Utopia pads deal for $600. The pads alone go for $200! Good thing the Stellia is around the corner otherwise I think I would have indulged in this myself. Aesthetically the Utopia pads look fantastic on the Elear (which itself is jaw-dropping handsome to begin with), better than on the Utopia even. But for having tried this combo a few times I know that the Clear pads do a better job on the Elear. But man, they look ridiculous with their decidedly poorly matching colours. I think I would try and find a dyer to dip them in black, I’m sure it can be done (when there’s no pandemic at least) for less than fifty bucks. Would be worth it. Right now I am wearing the Elears with the Clear pads without any DSP and the sound is very close to the Clear only with more bass. Not bad but I still prefer the corrected Elear on its own with DSP. took me a month to fine-tune them the way I like :slight_smile:


Thanks for your kind words. I loaned out my Focal Clears and HD800 to a friend and with being in a high flood risk area had no home insurance. Flooded 2 times in 6 months. They were burgled and my gear disappeared. I don’t hold him responsible in any way. But it’s a real bastard thing to happen. So I am trying to find money from somewhere to replace them. But I don’t work and am disabled with Severe COPD and on Oxygen 24 hours a day. I am as well as can be though given the circumstances. As you can imagine though money is tight. To compound matters my wife had her phone stolen whilst out shopping. So she’s had buy a replacement. Some luck. Oh well enough tales of sorrow. We will manage fine. Stay well and stay safe.


You too. Especially with respiratory issues, I hope that you’re able to practice social distancing and stay healthy during this difficult time.


Yes thanks Percy. I am virtually housebound as it is, so it’s just a case of making sure nobody brings it to me. More time for listening to great music of course.


That’s a sad story, sorry for your cans, but they come and go like many other things in live. Stay safe, you and your family and everyone in this forum, situation is tough .


Agreed everyone is in such a tough place right now. Everyone worries for their family and friends. Let’s hope we all ride this out safely.


That really sucks about your gear (and your wife’s phone).

There’s a pair of Clears on this thread:

My guess is they pop up from time to time. When you’re ready they’ll probably have a pair listed. I’m sure @taronlissimore and @andrew could work out shipping with you.

Stay safe, brother. :+1:t4:


My friend, your luck will turn in time, it always does. If I lived near you I’d gladly loan you my Clears until you get another set of your own but unfortunately we’re not even on the same side of the Pond. I am also disabled and had to retire at age 50 owing to permanent nerve damage to my back that prevents me from driving heavy machinery which is what I did for a living until 2014. Can’t complain about money, I get enough from my insurance settlements. Both ex-wives remarried so no expense there and my grown daughter is an anesthetist who certainly doesn’t need any financial support. But her birthday’s coming up and I am beginning to think that perhaps she’d like this Elear combo for a gift. She loves music but never had the time to learn the ropes of the audiophile trade so to speak, and this would be a worthy intro. Gave her a NAD/Paradigm Atom v3 combo when she was a kid and she still uses that. Time for a substantial addition methinks, the old NAD 3020 has more than enough swing for the Elear.