Focal Utopia Open-Back Headphones - Official Thread

They announced the update in EU a little ahead of the gun in January which is how we found out about it. They didn’t start shipping in North America until last month. The current price is $4400 if you want this option but I would suspect that to drop to $3990 pretty quickly.

@Resolve has a pair right now that he’a doing an unboxing for for anyone interested in a closer look .


For those looking for an unboxing of the Utopia with the new case and cables. Gone is the 4m python cable but now it is the same cable used with the Stellia, Clears and Elegia. The cables still use the LEMO connector as well.


Wish they would refresh it to use the 3.5mm as used in the Stellia, Clears, and Elegia.

I would be disappointed if such a well built pair of phones skimped on connectors. The LEMO connectors are top notch and I feel rewarded by their precision and electrical qualities. I am ok with the long, heavy, thick stock cable that came with my used set.
Anything is better than the permanently kinked Clear factory cable set.

Focal almost pulled a fast one with the cables for the new SKU. For some reason they didn’t put the 3.5mm in the pamphlet box but in the carrying case. A little worried I got a quarter inch adapter but no 3.5mm cable!

I just wanted to post some measurements here of the Utopia using our new GRAS 43AG-7 and KB5000 (KEMAR Anthropometric Pinna).

What I’m showing here is the raw measurement along with a few target curves, and I wanted to try getting a sense of what everyone finds most valuable for representing it.

Here’s the Utopia compared to the Harman over-ear 2018 target (notice the crazy bass shelf).

Here it is compared to the Harman 2013 over-ear target (more appropriate bass to my ear, but still ‘preference’). Between these two I find the bass on the 2013 target to be more appropriate, however I prefer the treble extension on the 2018 target. Also notice, more upper mids on the 2013 target between 2-3khz.

And here is Crin’s suggestion of an ‘enthusiast neutral’ target. Basically this takes the Harman over-ear 2018 target but ignores the bass shelf (and other features below 900hz). The idea behind this was that while all the features of the Harman target above 900hz are still present, they generally match ear-related gain factors (leaving aside the treble roll off for now). There may be some gain factors below 900hz from the head and neck but it may not be necessary to include them for headphones, and so this eliminates the ‘preference’ based features in lower frequencies like the 200hz dip and the bass shelf around 120hz.

The other nice thing about this is that if we consider a real headphone like the Focal Utopia to be reasonably ‘neutral’, this custom target reflects that fairly well. I think this can also still be improved by adjusting the target’s treble roll-off. I tend to find that the Harman targets generally do this to some degree (the 2018 less so than the 2013 target).

We can also go with the GRAS KEMAR DF target, but I’m not sure if anyone actually wants their headphones to match that, and so while it might be useful for consistency, I’m not sure it’s something we should actually shoot for.

In any case, the question of which target curves should be used is somewhat a matter of approach. There are ‘established’ curves like the ones from Harman, which are based on consumer preference (meaning there’s some room for disagreement), but you can set a custom target like the one I’ve done above that ignores the ‘preference-based’ features of the Harman target like the bass shelf, while still retaining the ones that generally follow the gain factors of the physical ear. I say generally here because they don’t follow them perfectly, but it’s pretty close.


I think the 2013 Harman is the way to go. The bass is too high on the 2018, but the last one doesn’t make sense. A completely flat response from 1k down wouldn’t allow for any dynamics in the bass frequencies. It’s too unrealistic in my opinion.

I’m glad to see the GRAS is setup. It’ll be great to see more accurate measurements on future reviews. :+1:t4:


Yeah this is what I’ve been wrestling with. Technically I think it is accurate to what we may assume is ‘neutral’, if you consider what that might sound like, but you’re right you do lose bass definition as a result. The question in my mind is, which is more important for representing a ‘neutral target’. Is the bass definition and emphasis part of ‘neutral’? or is that just preference. Recognizing that a ‘neutral target’ doesn’t actually exist, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to consider headphones that we might think of as sounding classically neutral to achieve it.

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I think whichever target most accurately represents the natural presentation of instruments is the one to go with. Neutral for me is an accurate and natural presentation of sound with as little coloration as possible.

This follows from the rather arbitrary nature of human perceptual systems (as evolved to be ‘just good enough’ for survival/reproduction) versus the machine tools of the science era.

For analogy, consider a visual comparison with how a flat audio measurement ideal might differ from a naturalistic target (e.g., Harman). The film Tim’s Vermeer (2013) is extremely educational on this topic. A video professional (Tim Jenison) noted that the renaissance master Vermeer’s paintings had the look of what a lens sees rather than what the human eye sees. Vermeer had been considered to be a creative and technical master - it turns out the most plausible painting method involved a lens and mirror system. Any random amateur could rapidly learn Vermeer’s technique.

Now, art created by the human eye can be fully pleasing but it doesn’t have the precision of perspective drawing (e.g,. vanishing points) and lenses with mirrors.

All of this is going to end up back in the objective/subjective debate and a place with lots of debate but no firm truths…museums are full of everything from primitive to photorealistic art and all of it is great.


Right, and in this case it would probably be closer to the last graph. The bass shelf really is just a preference element. So if you hear things that are elevated or dipped somewhere, they should show up as deviations from the target, and I think most people would notice the bass emphasis from Harman.


That gets to the question of methodology for identifying the target. People have tried to achieve a curve that perfectly matches the gain factors of the human ear, but there are very good reasons why headphones aren’t tuned to those targets as commonly. In my mind, I wouldn’t consider that ‘neutral’ either, but rather, ‘bright’.

So I think this boils down to one of the subjects Mad Economist and I were talking about on our live stream the other day, about what people assume is ‘neutral’, regardless of the curves that are actually developed for the human ear.


I just feel that bass is more present in live listening, both is concert and studio sessions. A flat response isn’t accurate to the sounds drums and other low frequency instruments create.


Yeah that’s also because of the room and distance from the sound source. I think you’re right though, if you want it to sound like a live environment, it would require way more bass. But in a way I kind of don’t think that’s neutral in the sense of eliminating the various additional elements that might ‘color’ the sound (like the room). The other side of it too is that even in the recording situation there’s preference. Some people want their bass to be way higher than others, or emphasize different elements in the mix. This is just one of the many problems in the circle of confusion haha.

So I guess it comes down to “what’s the best way of representing FR”, and at the moment I don’t have an answer. Because there’s also the question of interpretation. You may see the linear bass extension on the last graph and perfectly understand that you’d want more bass than ‘dead flat’.


Absolutely. Nailing down a truly “neutral” FR is a tough endeavor due to all of the aforementioned factors.

Good luck! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Could pick one or two popular headphones on this community and use those to compare. Or have a tool created like crin’s and allow people to select their preferred/target.


Also, the tool used by Crinacle looks to be released to the public thanks to Marshall Lochbaum -


Damned near impossible I would say. Just too many variables. Bezt we can hope for is a guideline to use as a basis for self tweaking.


Focal Utopia Impressions

I recently visited Gramophone in Timonium Maryland to demo their headphones. I was able to demo for the Focal Utopia, LCD XC, and the Aeon Flow Closed. I will be dropping impressions into the other thread for those as well.

Audio Chain
Bluesound Node 2i -> McIntosh MHA150 -> Focal Utopia

I found the bass on the Utopia to be very detailed, textured and fast. There was a slight bass rolloff but it wasn’t super noticeable. The Utopia is not a hard hitting headphone in the bass region, but it was okay to listen to. It did feel a bit thin though.

I found the mid-range to be really lacking. Vocals sounded thin and tinny without much weight to them. Again it was very detailed and fast, but I did not feel the draw to the vocals that I am used to from my Auteur or the HD 6XX. Vocals also sounded a bit distant in the mix.

I am a bit sensitive to treble and I noticed the treble on these as soon as I played the first 10 seconds of my first song. The treble is sparkly, fast, detailed, and clean, but it was too much for me. I found it sibilant from the first “s” that was spoken and hearing high hats made me wince. I imagine this is what many people enjoy about the Utopia, as it felt very detailed. But for me it was too much.

I didn’t like the timbre on this. It didn’t feel real and full bodied rather thin and a bit metallic. I also like a warmer sound and this was very clean, bright, and analytical.

I found the soundstage to be artificially wide. At first listen it did seem to be wide, but as you listen more it seems like its an okay sized stage, a bit wider than the HD 6XX, but the sounds feel further. It doesn’t extend its soundstage. I believe that the imaging and separation is what is causing this to happen. Everything feels like it has its own place in the mix and it has its own air within that confined soundstage.

I initially tried the Focal Clear about 2 years ago on a loaner for a week. I was initially impressed with it coming from my HD 6XX but quickly found the characteristics about it to be not what I enjoyed such as the metallic timbre, artificial highs/soundstage, and thin sound. As I have moved up in my gear and headphones I was always curious as to how the Utopia would be, and maybe it would bring me back into the Focal lineup. Since trying the Utopias, I really have 0 interest now in them. I would much rather pickup a Verite and call it a day. I don’t think the Utopia is bad, plenty of people really enjoy them. I just think that for me and my preferences they aren’t what I like. Maybe in the future if I can try them on my tube gear I might change my mind, but for now I will stay a ZMF shill :slight_smile:

McIntosh MHA150 Thoughts
Initial thoughts of the MHA150 was not positive. I wasn’t able to fully understand the sound characteristics since I was using new headphones but based on build quality there was a lot to be desired. The volume knobs was the worst plastic I have ever felt. I haven’t felt any audio gear, even cheap Chi-Fi with such a bad volume knob. It was also very touchy and had no resistance to the knob so any slight touch could send the volume skyrocketing and blowing out your eardrums.

From a power perspective it seemed to be powerful enough. The Focal Utopia is not a demanding headphone but I was having the volume at about 30% to have a decently loud listening volume.

IT is pretty to look at though :slight_smile:


Yeah, McIntosh solid state…not my thing either. I’d try a different amp before blaming Focal.

Nice write up.