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Focal Elear, new generation headphone

Discussion in 'Headphones Area' started by walkman archive, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    A few months ago, I read about the launch of a new headphones from Focal, a French brand that carries many years manufacturing speakers, but with zero experience in headphones.

    Focal Elear 07.JPG

    At first glance they did not seem something relevant to me, except because who wrote about them was Tyll Hertsens, main author of innerfidelity, whom I have great respect for his enormous knowledge of the subject.

    If he said things such as "I'm disoriented" or "this headphone is a game changer", even if it comes from a company without experience, means that something important is happening.

    That occurred at the end of July. Now in February 2017, I found an article about them and looked if any store in my city would have them to have a listen, and the was only one. So I called them on the phone to confirm if they had it in stock and it could be tested, and they told me Yes, so I picked up my super-D6C and one of my best recordings in a TDK SA-X (from vinyl) and went to the store.

    The first impression upon seeing the headphones display is shocking. I believe that I had never seen so many good headphones together!

    Focal Elear 02.JPG

    Focal Elear 04.JPG

    One of the employees attended me very kindly and took the Focal Elear out of the display. When I pull out my walkman from the bag he was astonished and told me that he had never seen a walkman like that. I explained that it is a professional model and has a stunning sound quality. As I saw him I was so curious, I put the tape in and let him listen first. Upon the face he had put and how he nodded, it seems that the D6C surprised him very pleasantly with its sound quality... ;-)

    Focal Elear 01.JPG

    I took my Sennheiser 650, which I have next to my 540 Reference Gold as a reference flat and uncoloured sound. My favorite headphone so far is the 540 which, although it has rather less sensitivity than the 650 (causing need to turn up the volume considerably more), I feel that has a response that is virtually identical to the 650, but with a little more than punch in the bass. The sound is extremely wide, detailed and neutral.

    After listening to the SA-X with the 650 for a minute, I changed to the Focal and what left me astonished is the impressive punch that the battery has and -in general- the sharp sound. Tyll was right: this headphone has a punch that I’ve never heard until now, approaching their response so much to a good pair of speakers with a good amplifier.

    Focal Elear 05.JPG

    It is true that many audiophiles prefer to listen to a good pair of speakers rather than to headphones, because the spatial image is wider and the punch is clearly stronger. But it is also true that the headphones offer clear advantages: there’s no need to have a acoustically perfect listening room, they have a more intimate sound, and a level of high definition, with which you can hear even the finest details.

    The Focal Elear –as Tyll says-, arrive to change the game, because with these headphones slight battery punch won’t be a disadvantage anymore.

    Focal Elear 06.JPG

    The Elear have a sound that are really close to perfection. I have spent some time comparing the with my other headphones, and I really have the feeling that this headphone hardly has defects, while everyone else has any.

    For example, the GRADO SR325 have a very sharp sound, but not too open. I modified mine with them extra large pads and this was solved, but even so they have a too bright sound and lack bass.

    The Beyerdynamic DT990 have an amazing quality/price ratio and sound frankly well, but if you are looking for a neutral sound, this headphone has a clear profile in "V" and the image that projectes not is so wide as others.

    The Sennheiser 650 and the 540 have a very similar, incredibly neutral sound that I love and I think is fantastic to evaluate the quality of the recordings, recorders or players. But it gets a little hard to get used to the famous "Sennheiser veil". Once you accustomed, then yes, it is fantastic. They only lack a bit more bass, although that is something that I think now after hearing the Elear.

    The AKG 702 have a sound with a more than moderate "V" profile and it goes very well for recordings or albums from the 60 or 70 with a rather dull sound, but compared with the 650 or Elear, have a somewhat hollow sound.

    The Sennheiser HD800 have an extraordinarily wide and detailed sound, but they lack something that I don’t know very well how to describe what it is, that causes you to not enjoy listening to them. It is not to be annoying (at all), but they just don’t engage and make you enjoy. I have pending to do the Anaxilus mod to see if the sound improves.

    The SONY MDR-3000 have an impressively wide soundstage. The largest of my collection of headphones. And a truly impressive sound, but are not very neutral; rather, they have a very bright sound, in line with the SR325.

    The Elear have almost everything: a sound that engages, a moderate profile in "V", an impressive punch on drums and a serious thick bass that fills so much. But it also has clean and crisp highs and a perfect mids, as well as a correct soundstage (not as broad as the HD800 or others). In short, an almost rounded headphone!
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
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  2. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    PS: They guy offered me if I'd like to test another headphone from the display. He first suggested the SONY MDR-Z1R, telling me how good they are and how extraordinary they sound. However, the price was more than double! Upon I put them in my head, a few seconds were enough to realize that they didn't sound as good as the Elear. Not even close. So I told him I didn't like their sound at all.

    Then I asked for the GRADO GS1000, which I've hear many people talk about. Upon I put them in my head I've heard a well balanced sound, not as bright as the 325 but couldn't stand up to the Elear. The latter has far more punch in the bass and thicker sound for much less money.
     
  3. retro

    retro Active Member S2G Supporter

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    Great review walkman archive, a friend of mine recently purchased the Elear and has many positive things to say about them. He's also getting a loaner pair of Utopia's to compare.
     
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  4. Radio Raheem

    Radio Raheem Well-Known Member S2G Supporter

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    you're doing you're best to get me to buy more cans Wa haha but honestly this is where the use of multiple eq's come in, im not talking you're typical 7 band eather,

    great reviews my man
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
  5. retro

    retro Active Member S2G Supporter

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    The rule is no EQ with these high end cans RR .:biggrin:
     
  6. Radio Raheem

    Radio Raheem Well-Known Member S2G Supporter

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    and there lies the limitations my friend, but yes i know haha:bigthumbsup:
     
  7. TooCooL4

    TooCooL4 Active Member S2G Supporter

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    Hi Hugo I too did listen to the Focal Elear back in October while in Munich. Like you I was using my D6C along with the Ray Samuels P-51 Mustang. They are use to me using my D6C or DC2. The shop is HiFi Concept www.hificoncept.de

    I just wanted to see what they are like, in general I don’t like Focal speakers as they are always very shouty and in your face. As soon as I started to play the music through the headphones my face lit up and then I compared them to my modified Beyerdynamic T70 / T90. The Focal Elear just destroyed them. They make my very good T70 / T90 sound broken.

    The Elear are shockingly good, if they had come in a closed back design I would have bought one on the spot. Since I only use headphones on the move they are no good to me.

    I wanted to listen to the Focal Utopia but they did not have them in stock, if the Elear’s are that good and they are only the baby brothers of the Utopia. I can only imagine what the Utopia sounds like, since they are 3 x price of the Elear.

    I will be back in Munich in May for the High-End hi-fi show so hopefully I will get a chance to listen to the Focal Utopia.

    By the way did you get a pair?
     
  8. TooCooL4

    TooCooL4 Active Member S2G Supporter

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    I went to my local Hi-Fi shop today, just for a social visit. I asked if they had the Focal Utopia, the manager said they had sold the last one.

    They are going to get one in for me to take home and try, looking forward to that. That was the shop that I bought my first piece of Hi-Fi from way back when. The first thing I bought from them was a Mission Cyrus 2 amp.

    Should have a Focal Utopia to take home for a test drive soon, I did tell the manager who is a good friend of mine that I have no intention of buying one since I only use headphones on the move and the Utopia are open back design.
     
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  9. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    That's more or less the same that happened to me when I compared them to almost anyone. These headphones are out of this world...

    I use headphones both in the street but mostly at home where I work in, alone and very well isolated from any noise, so open full-sized ones are perfect for me here, but I totally understand you.
    This Elear are like Grado: the leak a LOT so a guy beside you is absolutely hearing what you hear. Not for having a guy near you indeed...
     
  10. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks!
    The problem your friend will find will come if he loves the Utopia... :biggrin:

    Haha. Another great thing of these high-end cans is that they sound perfect... without EQ at all.
    Sometimes a particular album sounds colored and an EQ is very welcomed, but many sounds just great and don't need any.
    Years ago I realized that I was bass-intoxicated for maaany years. It took me so long to realize about this, but when I did I quickly learnt to listen in a neutral way, and since then I truly enjoy the music hundreds of times better.
    Until then I was tired of EQ, always adding bass, always wanting more and always tired of it at the same time...
    If you feel you are intoxicated too, I can give you some advice on what to do :nodding: :thumbsup:
     
  11. TooCooL4

    TooCooL4 Active Member S2G Supporter

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    Finally got round to listening to the Focal Utopia today, all i can say is I think it would give my favourite headphones a run for it’s money. My favourite headphones are the Stax SR-009.
    Hugo if you have not listened to the Utopia yet let me tell you now don’t, because if you do you will not want to keep the Elear.

    I started with the Elear today to familiarise myself with the sound again then I switched to the Utopia, wow what a difference. I listened to several tracks, one track had a double bass being played on it and on the Utopia I heard the player fingers moving up and down the strings I did not even hear it on the Elear. I did switch back to make sure I did not miss it and no I did not as it was missing on the Elear. The Utopia makes the Elear sound like it was broken.
    Only one way I could describe the experience, it’s like driving a performance car like a Ferrari, Lamborghini etc that is the Elear then you drive a Formula 1 car that is the Utopia just a different league altogether.
    I don’t know how they have done it, as I don’t care for Focal speakers. Their speakers I find shouty, aggressive and in your face but the headphones is just correct well the Elear and Utopia anyway have not listened to the models lower down the scale.

    I did some experiments with both headphones just to see what I could get out of them. I only ever use headphones on the move, never at home I just want to listen to my main system. I put my hands over the cups to simulate a closed back design. The sound just collapse in on itself, the sound lost nearly all it’s coherence became thin and lifeless etc. So even if I had some crazy notion of getting any of them modified to closed back it would not work.
    Well off to the Munich High-End hi-fi show tomorrow to checkout some new goodies.:yesss:
     

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