Focal - Official Thread

While Focal are, perhaps, best known for their loudspeakers, they’ve made quite the splash with their initial, and subsequent, entries into the home/audiophile headphone space as well.

Launching with two units, the mid-range Elear and the flagship Utopia (widely regarded as one of the best headphones available, period), and since adding the Clear, the Clear Pro and a collaboration with Massdrop with the Elex - a hybrid of Elear & Clear with some custom tuning, they already have an interesting range of personal-audio products.

So here’s a general thread to discuss the Focal line-up, current and future.

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To kick things off, here’s a little - and very “quick and dirty” - shot of Focal’s current trio of audiophile-targeted headphones, all nestled up together - in an entirely non-artistic manner. But even here, familial similarities are easy to discern … from the design language to some of the shared parts:

Left to right is the Elear (mine), the Clear (on kind loan from the “Community Review Program” here) and one of my pairs of Utopia (right). I intend to tackle full reviews of these units individually, as well as with an all-up back-to-back comparison of the three.

I also have the Massdrop Elex on its way to me by way of joining the most recent drop for those, maybe better pictures when I have all four units together and as part of the actual reviews.

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Definitely a nice looking line-up!

I always had trouble grabbing pictures of the Clear. For some reason the grey design just doesn’t want to work with my lighting.

Very interested to hear your thoughts on the lineup. I have not heard the Elex, but I am not a huge fan of the Elear. The only time I really enjoyed it was through the SPL Phonitor X. Seemed to make the midrange suckout not seem as bad? Haha.

I am definitely a big fan of the Clear and the Utopia though. I find with the Clear you do need a quieter listening environment than the Utopia though!

Stoked to see your thoughts!

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I’m not that big on the Elear myself unless they’re paired with Sonarworks “True-Fi”. That fixes up their interesting tuning/tonality, though of course won’t do anything to elevate other technicalities (though it’s really just the tonality I find off).

Definitely going to be interesting to see how they fair against the Elex, either with or without “True-Fi” enabled on the Elear and especially the Clear!

I bought the Elear and returned it (after 150-200 hours of break-in). Thought the reviewer complaints about middle frequency holes were valid, significant and more than offset the Elear’s attributes. Overall I was very disappointed…maybe I put too much stock in the claims of being “an HD 650 without the vail.”

I have the Elex, and listened to the Clear a couple times now, and I have a hard time with my untrained ears separating the two, but I also didn’t have them side by side for comparison. I am actually not to big on the Elex, or Focal headphones ( I haven’t heard the Utopias though) They just aren’t my thing I guess. The Elex is a solid build and I enjoy them when I listen to them but all in all I tend to grab my HD800, or Purplehearts. I might sell/trade up for the Fostex 900 mk2s if I can… I wish I jumped on the $900 sale of the emeralds that went down a couple weeks ago…but I had my eye on the prize of the ADI-2 DAC (no regerts!!!)

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I take it back, I’ve been listening to the Elex for a bit tonight with the ADI-2 and the element and have really been enjoying it. It is so weird how you can put something aside for a bit and be meh about it, then pick it up and be all “oh yeah, this is why I got this thing!”. Now I don’t want to get rid of it, enjoying it again.

What do you like about the Elex vs your HD800?

Hmmm… it is an easier listening experience, more liquid gooey carmel jam insert more audiophile terms related to food here lol couldn’t resist. But seriously it is a more “musical” experience, I honestly think it is what you want to here when listening to the HD 58X/650/6XX for me at least. I have had a couple HD6XX series plus the 58X currently and I think that the Elex easily replaces them. I don’t think it actually holds a candle to the HD800 as far as sound stage or clarity but what does. For me it is more similar to the HD6xx series for sound signature (but it is its own unique snowflake, I don’t want to take away from the Elex by that comparison it is just a good reference). When you get yours in, I think you will enjoy it. I’m not a big EQ guy but I think you could probably be happy with or without it on these. I picked up some Dekoni fenestrated sheep skin pads for them and honestly wasn’t digging how it changed the sound, but I might give it another chance this weekend.

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My Massdrop x Focal Elex arrived, and I finally got a chance to unpack and test them. And while I was at it, and the light was favorable, I figured I’d should grab a quick snap of them all together.

Focal%20Lineup%20(1024)

Left, to right, it’s Elex, Elear, Clear and Utopia.

I need to make a proper stand/rack for this sort of thing …

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Looking forward to your impressions. I’ll have hands on my Elex tomorrow.

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I’m finding I like the Elear more than the Clear; the Clear’s neutrality makes it feel like a glorified 7506, frankly. The Elear’s main weakness is in dynamic contrast: it doesn’t do subtle, at all. The Clear does it effortlessly. So they have their places, but for pure enjoyment the Elear is my favorite.

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I’ve just taken delivery of my Focal Clear headphones and will let you know my impressions when I’ve heard them and listened for a while. At least long enough to get a good impression.

-Paul-

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Later today, or sometime tomorrow, I’ll have to post an updated “complete Focal audiophile-headphone”* line-up shot (Elex, Elear, Elegia, Clear, Stellia, Utopia), but for now … I’ll just add a quick picture of the Stellia …


*This may be the last time I get to do such an all-up, complete-line-up, shot … as it is getting ever more tempting to consolidate my collection around the flagship models.

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Not sure how long I will own all of the models from this point, as the three on the right make the three on the left a bit redundant (for my purposes), but since I do own them currently I figured I should get a picture of them all together:

Focal%20-%20All%20Up%20(2048)

When I took this I hadn’t committed to keeping the Stellia yet, so funny string and light-brown patch on top of the ear-cup is the “genuine leather” tag (or something). This has since been removed, but I am much too lazy to re-take the shot right now.

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You know, I really didn’t think that I would like the look of these at all. What with the brown leather. But I must say it is really, rather beautiful. What a line up of talented headphones.

As ever, wonderful photography too. :slightly_smiling_face:.

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Thanks!

I was among the skeptical regarding the Stellia’s aesthetic initially. The “luxury catalog” pictures made a lot more sense of it. In person, I think they look wonderful.

If Focal ever refresh, supersede, or do a special edition of the Utopia I am now wanting them to do it as a partnership with Hermès, finished in their unique orange leather.

As it stands, I still think the Utopia looks the best in the line-up, then the Stellia, followed by the Elear, Elegia, Clear and Elex (in that order).

Sound wise, assuming things are kept stock (no fiddling with pads), my ordering would be Utopia, Stellia, Clear, Elex, Elegia, Elear.

It’s a nice line-up, and has been interesting to see it build-out over the last couple of years. Particularly impressive has been how much of the flagship models’ performance has been retained in the much-less expensive versions.

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The Stellia really doesn’t photograph well. The copper is absolutely gorgeous.

I’m currently debating whether I want to keep the Stellia or try the Elegia; I need closed-back, unfortunately…but it’s really not much of a sacrifice with the Stellia, imo. :slight_smile: I strongly, strongly preferred the Stellia to the competition I was able to borrow…the TH-X00 PH and the Eikon.

Any advice?

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My review of the Stellia includes comparisons to the Elegia (among other things).

It took very little time to for me to decide that I much preferred the Stellia over the Elegia (enough that I sold my Elegia within a few days of getting the Stellia). I have the TR-X00 (Ebony), which is just a removable-cable version of the TH-X00, and I would take both Elegia and Stellia over it.

I love the ZMF Eikon. But if I had to choose over it vs. Stellia, then I would go with the Stellia … mostly on technicalities … particularly resolution.

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My thoughts are not the same as yours :grin:

I have all the Focal lineup save for the Stellia and the Elex which I will acquire within a few months, thank you tax return lol. I purchased the Elegia last Wednesday. Wasn’t expecting much from it since I’m a huge fan of open-backs but they perform a little better than I would have guessed based on reviews and comments seen online. They will never be a daily driver though, just part of the collection. If collectors listened to all their phones they wouldn’t have time for anything else. I’ll just say that the Elegia sounds like it costs: not bad but not stellar. Can’t wait to compare with the Stellia.

I’m not that fond of the Utopia and I think it’s very aptly named. It’s a little too transparent for my taste, if I were to don it every day I’d have to stream very high-quality, superbly mixed pieces crafted in the best conditions humans can create. Since I listen mostly to fusion and a lot of it live, it’s not a good match. That being said I know of no other can that can render 1970’s Tangerine Dream like the Utopia does, it gets iffy with heavy dynamics unfortunately, the notes seem to jump at you instead of softly wafting about your eardrums. I don’t like that kind of jump when I don’t expect it. Still, the Utopia for all its overpriced fantasies is a cherished member of my collection. Visually they are breathtaking although I slightly prefer the Elear’s light touch of modesty in the aesthetics department. To each their own.

Indeed. I like the Clear more than the Utopia, enough to make it one of my trio of daily drivers. However I don’t reach for them as I often as I used to, and I blame this on the DAW’s EQ settings for the Elear. It transforms the Elear into just what I was waiting for from Focal but could not find in a single unit as of now. Now I get the Clear’s err… clarity and the Elear’s punch packed together in a single pair. It’s truly amazing. I alternate ear pads between the Clear and the Elear, which makes the Elear look kinda dumb with that obvious colour mismatch but the Clear’s pads sound so much better than the Utopia’s, contrary to public belief. Just imho though. Half the time I use the Elear with its own pads, more cushy for long sessions and better fit with eyeglasses on because the pad wrap itself around the glasses’ branches while with the slightly stiffer Clear pads it just rests against them leaking some bass.

My last daily driver is the Hifiman Sundara so I can’t talk about it here in the Focal forum lol. Let’s just say it has easily earned its lofty status. It’s not just great value, it’s great cans period.