Thanks, I hope you are not missing them too much. They really are amazing.
I miss them but not too much, I’ve got some alternatives that can get me by. I’m sure that they’re getting proper and well deserved head time with you.
I found a way out. It’s to put it on the back of the headphone stand and listen to the other headphones I have and pretend it’s not there.
Lol! But then all you’ll do is stare at them wishing they were on your head! they really are beautiful! Great shot! my two favorite headphone companies! Such a diabolical contrast of Audio bliss!
The HE 1000 SE are fantastic headphones on the right amp. After the Headamp I can not wait to hear the Pendent.
The Focal Utopia was released a few years ago, and I had listened to it a couple times in the past, although not in the best conditions – either at headphone meetups or in a store. I was given an opportunity to try these out for an extended period of time from Headphones.com and the HeadphoneCommunity Preview Loaner Program and here’s my quick review of these flagship $3990 headphones.
Yea that’s a big price-tag for these, at the manufacturer advertised price. What you do get for that price is an exquisite headphone that is built-well with beautiful lines, features, and full of anodized metal, carbon fiber, and leather materials. The pads are plush and made of a perforated leather wrap that is very comfortable to wear as well. The black matte and shiny body and silver accents on the Utopia really pop with elegance and masterful design in my mind, and it feels great to hold, not just to look at.
Being open-back with only an expanded metal grill look covering the driver, the Utopia does leak out a lot of music as well as leak in outside noise and almost sounds like it doesn’t isolate much of anything. But if you’re used to open-backs, this should come as no surprise, and the added benefits of not having to deal with congested closed walls, and reflections and damping issues, as well as over-heating your ears and limited your soundstage is an easy pick for someone like me who wants the best overall sound quality, while still having good breathability and being able to hear the world around me, if needed.
The driver that Focal developed when the Utopia came out is similar to the Focal Elex and I went over some of that in the review back when I owned it, but of course the Utopia version came out first and is made of Beryllium. Both, however, have a very large amount of excursion distance, allowing the driver to move much more than other headphone drivers that I’ve seen and this gives the Focal headphone line, very speaker like movements and helps improve dynamics of the headphone as well as physical slam and impact when called upon as it can move a lot of air.
Beryllium is one of the key differences though, as it’s very stiff, yet also very lightweight and that can provide a unique pistonic action and also maintain control due to its inherent properties. It’s also an expensive material to manufacture and so many companies don’t use it for both cost and also safety reasons.
The Focal Utopia comes in a large box which is well padded. It comes with a lengthy long and rubbery cable that isn’t a massive issue to tangling or conformity, but it’s very heavy, which adds to the already weighty headphone. It’s not to the level of weight discomfort that I have experienced on a heavier headphone like the Audeze LCD series, most recently the LCD-X, but it’s just a little more than I would prefer, and not as comfortable to wear as the Focal Elex or the ZMF Verite, which is in the general ballpark of this headphone in price.
The Utopia also uses quick connectors made by Lemo, which looks and feels very high quality, however is not commonly used in the industry and will end up costing a lot to replace your cable with another one, whether that be stock, aftermarket or DIY.
The Utopia sounds fantastic. There is a great deal of detail and resolution in this headphone with great dynamics and a clean sound signature that really appeases to my personal preferences with a good linear-ish bass and mid-range and with a slightly elevated lower treble without sibilance. The one drawback is that the soundstage is a little intimate with not a lot of range, left and right, but has layers of depth to allow for good imaging within a smaller frame.
The bass does roll-off towards the lower frequency response with a roll-off starting probably around 80Hz, though I decided not to measure these while I was reviewing this set. My frustrations with MiniDSP EARS and its variations in measurements has put me off using it currently. But anyway, the Utopia does not slam and bump and knead your skull with bass waves, but does provide impact when called upon and has a nice clean bass response, and a slight roll-off. I don’t mind this roll-off, as it’s got enough punchy bass to keep me satisfied and it’s clean, quick microdynamics lend well to my preferences.
The mid-range is forward and very revealing. The Utopia has an intimate soundstage that’s not super wide but this let’s me focus directly on vocals with great accuracy and detail. I found both male and female vocals to be on the same level playing field, with only perhaps a slight focus on upper mid-range. I didn’t like this particular headphone for certain types of female-led pop music, where higher pitched and nasally vocals can become overly strained and over emphasized with the Utopia.
The treble region plays well with my preferences. To me, it’s smooth and tuned how I like it. It doesn’t seem to have any real issues in this region. Some may find that there’s a slight peak in this region, around 7K but it doesn’t bother me at all, especially coming from headphones such as the Arya previously. This little bit of bump does increase some of staging and pushes certain harmonics forward, and I think that contributes to the depth and layering that I find is top notch on this headphone.
While I love the Utopia’s sound signature and its technicalities, as well as it’s stunning and marvelous design, I personally am not going to add it to my collection. This primary reason comes down to two things for me, personally – it’s cost – at $4K it’s pretty pricey. Accessories for it are also on the upper end of the scale if you want to upgrade, since it has unique Lemo connectors, and just replacing their pads can cost more than the top notch Sennheiser HD6XX. The other main factor is that it’s just slightly beyond what I can wear comfortably for a long period of time due to the weight of the headphone and the weight of the cables.
I don’t think the weight will be a problem for everyone, as it is much lighter than some other lines of headphones, most notable the Audeze LCD series, however for me, I prefer the max weight of headphones to be around 450 grams to be comfortable and this is just above that threshold.
Other than those two things, I would be extremely happy to add this to my collection, and be very content as something that I can enjoy for any genre, any time, and not really have a need to consider an alternative.
Excellent review, Anthony.
Yes excellent review. I would love this in my collection. But alas the price. Maybe one day. For now I shall make do with the Clears, which after all is a great headphone.
Cool review, thanks for your thoughts. I am loving mine.
Just in case you haven’t looked, it is easy to find the Utopias for less than $2500 online, at places like Audiogon. I paid 2350 for mine, and another 350 for an aftermarket cable (WyWires). So don’t let that 4k retail scare you off, it’s not a real world price at this point.
Oh yes, I’m well aware - that’s why I mentioned the Manufacturer Advertised Price (MAP) in the review.
It’s all relative if you can get any other headphone for used/below MAP value too though.
Mine were less than 2300 with a super nice braided aftermarket (balanced) cable included. Seller took great care of them and I was lucky to find them. I wasn’t in the market at that time, but I’m glad I jumped on the deal. They made a super addition to the new Clears I bought a few months ago at the headphones.com sale price. I also purchased the Elegia as a birthday gift for a musician friend in Germany. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to listen to those first.
Certainly. I don’t think I would drop 4k on any headphone. And 2k is really pushing the upper limit. But I think the Utopias are super value at a reduced price. The only other one I’d think seriously about in that range is the ZMF Verite, based on reviews and comments, but you don’t see those often in the resale market.
Ive seen a few show up on Head-Fi’s market lately and they are around $2000-2200.
Where to go from a Mojo?
Hi All! I’m relatively new to this forum, and feel super lucky to also have recently joined the ranks of Utopia owners. Now that I’ve spent some time with them and feel like I know them, I was hoping to turn to the wisdom of the community (ideally, with folks familiar with the Utopias or its “cousins”) to help with some input on upgrade steps.
I chose the Utopias after many trips to my local hi-fi shop in NYC (shout out to Headphone Annex), and pulled the trigger right after CanJam, because I love (love love love) the combination of detail and punch. I started by just running them out of a Chord Mojo, but am about ready to make a leap from that. I did buy a Schiit Jotunheim (with multibit DAC) off of ebay to try out, and not only did I vastly prefer the Mojo’s DAC, but I actually still prefer running the Utopias straight out of the Mojo rather than using the Jotunheim as an amp, because I feel that the direct-to-mojo has a pinch more clarity, and I also sensed a loss of voice separation and head space through the Jotunheim. I am mostly streaming Tidal/Qobuz through a desktop computer as my Roon core (and may very well set up an NUC to take over those duties soon). In general, my goal is to slowly buy/sell my way up (over a long time) to something like a Hugo TT 2/Mscaler or dCS Bartok (heard it at CanJam - swoon), but those are a long way away. For now, I just want to move beyond the Mojo.
After some limited listening and hours of reading, I have generally narrowed my products of interest to the below, and I would so much appreciate what others have to say about these, or other options I may have missed.
- Chord Hugo 2 (new ~$2500, used ~$2100) - since I love the Mojo, this makes sense, and the option to bring it along anywhere and possibly get the streamer at some point make it appealing. I could also put off an amp upgrade for a bit.
- Chord Qutest (new ~$1700, used ~$1400) - same as above, minus portability and streamer, but much less expensive. Would probably need an amp upgrade sooner, though.
- Schiit Yggdrasil (new ~$2500, used ~$1700) - Supposedly great, but I’ve never heard it with Utopias (only Dan Clark planars for a couple of minutes).
- PS Audio DirectStream Jr (used ~$2500) - Never heard it, but awesome reviews, and has a built-in streamer. Particularly hope to hear something from all of you on this one.
- SPL Phonitor X/XE (new $2500/$2000, used ~$1400) - I spent a good amount of time listening to these with Utopias at CanJam and thought it was an absolutely stellar amp. Reviews are also universally glowing. I don’t feel compelled to look beyond these, but I welcome other opinions.
I also hope to get an upgraded, balanced cable, but I’ll save that for another thread/time.
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!!
Just for fun, here they are:
Sooooo - I bought a Hugo2 (found one on eBay for $1800), and I just felt the need to tell everyone that it’s amazing with the Utopia. Like - jaw-dropping. I thought it would be a decent upgrade over the Mojo. It’s not. It’s a MAJOR upgrade. I’m in love. I literally cried a few minutes in, followed by getting a pit in my stomach thinking about what I had been missing out on before. There is a major increase in separation of voices, especially on more complex pieces (think choral or orchestral), and then on top of that, so much more detail for every voice. The other thing I notice now, that I didn’t before, is that I truly “hear” the room of the recording. I noticed natural reverb before, but now I can squarely place myself in the physical space. Listening to something like “Vesper Mass, Op. 44: 2. Blessed is the Man” on Teach Me Thy Statutes (I like this simply because it’s an amazing choral recording), you can immediately tell the difference between a good DAC and a great DAC. I feel like, for the first time, I’m truly taking advantage of what the Utopias can offer. Thank you, Rob Watts. You are my hero. /end of love letter to Hugo2
Just added Focal Utopia to my collection (Stellia and SHURE SE846). Sold my Meze Empys. Any suggestions for a balanced cable to use with AK SP2000?
Congratulations what a great addition. I would love one myself. Perhaps in the future. We shall see. Enjoy.
Happy anniversary Paul.
Thanks Christopher. Appreciate it.