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Focal Elear Video Review

 

Pros & Cons:

Pros:

  • Design, comfort, build quality
  • Great Cable Quality.
  • SOUND: detailed without sibilance.

 

Cons:

  • Cable is too heavy.
  • Limited accessories with it.
  • Soundstage is relatively small.

 

Intro – Focal Elear :

After a couple of headphones in the mid-price range, Focal , the legendary French speaker manufacturer, has released two flagship models. The Focal Utopia and the Focal Elear. Let’s have a look at the Elear, then I will tell you hat I like and what I don’t like about this headphone and explain my conclusion to you.

focal-elear-front-with-box

The headphone:

The Elear is a $1,000 headphone. Until recently this was flagship territory but in the recent years more expensive headphone like the Hifiman HE-1000, Audeze LCD-4 etc. have come to market with prices scratching the $4,000 mark. So we can probably call $1,000 upper midrange or lower flagship range.

Check out the Focal on samma3a

The Focal Elear comes in a beautiful padded box with standard accessories. You get the headphone, the cable and manual /  warranty cards. That’s it. I would have liked a bit more. When I got my first Ultrasone for example, it had 2 cables, a short one (1.5 or 1.8m)  for use on the go with a 3.5mm plug and the “home” or “studio” cable that was longer (3 or 4 m). They also packed a nice travel case and a CD with audiophile recordings to show what the headphones was capable of. Not so with the Focal – headphone, cable, warranty card. Well. well. At least it’s all very well done.

focal-elear-with-box

The cable is a rubber cable that is nice and thick, feels very solid and heavy and is about 4m long. It’s terminated in a 6.3mm plug on one end and the other goes into a Y-splitter into two 3.5mm connectors that go into each earcup of the headphone. It’s a very heavy cable. Nearly as heavy as the headphone. It can be a bit much. I have no doubts about the quality of the cable at all but I can see how a lot of users will purchase an aftermarket cable that is equally good in sound quality but weighs much less.

focal-elear-sennheiser-hd800sThe Elear is an open-backed circum-aural headphone, so the earcups sit around your ears and sound and air can travel through the grills into and out of the headphone allowing the drivers to push all the needed air without the restrictions (reverbrations, vibrations, etc) of a closed space.

Read:  Sennheiser HD800S Headphones review

focal-elear-driverThe headphone looks gorgeous and the haptic quality is the best I have experienced so far. Everything you touch, feels polished, elegant, high quality and luxurious. All materials used feel like they can withstand abuse and I think this headphone will still look new after years of use.

The metal construction is extremely sturdy, the headband is a mix of leather, memory foam and micro-fibre, the earcups are made of microfibre and memory foam, the yolks are of some kind of aluminium that feels very solid and nice to the touch as well.

Check out the Hifiman HE-560 on sale

focal-elear-with-sennheiser-HD650The driver though is the star of the show. Unapologetic the driver is covered only by the plastic protection grill – there is no foam cover or anything between it and your ears, just a thin gauze to protect it from dust. It’s 40mm in diameter and the driver dome is M-shaped. The driver itself is made from an aluminium / magnesium mix that Focal researched for years. Focal angles the drivers towards your ears to create a better sense of soundstage and air. Impedance is 80 Ohms and the power requirements are fairly low, allowing you to drive these headphones with a variety of amplifiers and audio players.

 

Specifications of the Focal Elear:

Type

Circum-aural open back headphones

Impedance

80 Ohms

Sensitivity

104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz

THD

<0.3% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL

Frequency response

5Hz – 23kHz

Loudspeaker

137⁄64“ (40mm) Aluminum-Magnesium “M” shape dome

Weight

0.99lb (450g)

Cable length

9.8ft (3m)

Connectors

1 x 01/4“ (6.35mm) stereo Jack connector 2 x 09⁄64“ (3.5mm) Jack

Carrying case

1253⁄64“x1015⁄64“x629⁄64“ (326x260x164mm)

 

Like:

  • Design, comfort, build quality – all of it is outstanding. This is how it’s done. Competitors take notice. This feels every bit like a $1,000 headphone. Pure luxury and quality.
  • Very good cable with easy to plug in and remove connectors – again, this is how it’s done. Easy to create aftermarket cables for  it too without designing yet another proprietary connector.
  • SOUND: detailed without sibilance, lots of treble without harshness, a round and full bottom end (bass) that makes the music warm and full at all volume levels. The sound form this headphone is very coherent satisfies audiophile needs for detail and clarity while at the same time being fun and engaging. This sound signature is wonderful. The slightly elevated bass makes the mids sometimes feel a bit recessed and some female vocals could be a bit more forward but overall this is a lovely sounding headphone for my musical tastes.

 

Don’t like:

  • Cable is nearly as heavy as the headphone. While I don’t mind high quality cables and I have splurged out at some marvelous after market ones myself – this is too much. The cable drags your head down. If this cable falls down from your desk – be prepared for some “nodding” on your part.
  • Only one cable in the box and it’s 3m long – it better be what you need, because it’s all you get.
  • Sound signature not for everyone – Jazz and classical fans should also have a look at the Sennheiser HD800S, Hifiman HE Edition X V2 or the Audeze LCD-2.
  • Soundstage is relatively small. Usually open back headphones have larger (wider and deeper) sound staging than closed ones. The Focal Elear has a rather defined but small soundstage. You can locate instruments easy and with precision but in a much smaller space than for example the Sennheiser HD800S. So it’s a rather intimate sound.

 

Conclusion:

The Focal Elear is a wonderful headphone, worth every dirham or penny. If you like full sounding music with proper fun in the bass, this is it. Other headphones might go a bit deeper, some might have a larger soundstage, some have a more brutal honesty (analytical) but the Elear strikes a nice balance between all of that. I personally already own an Audeze LCD-2, HE-560 and an Oppo PM-2  so don’t really have the need to get yet another headphone in the same price range. But tempted I am. This is a great indication what can happen if a company with tremendous engineering expertise really gets into headphones. Well done Focal.

 

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