Focal have announced three new headphone models which cover 3 extremely different areas. At the lower end, or should I say in the more reasonably priced range is ‘Listen’, a closed-back and fairly straightforward design. The other two are both open-backed, with some extreme design and material choices, particularly for the ‘Utopia’ model. Luxury doesn’t come cheap though…
Utopia and Elear
At the top end of this release – and at the top end of most headphones ever available – are the Utopia and Elear models. These are both open-backed headphones, and Focal say they have aimed to achieve a listening experience similar to sitting in front of a good pair of monitors. Supposedly they both have the ‘Focal’ sound, but appear to achieve this with very different driver technology.
The designs try to mix an industrial look with a luxurious feel. The Utopia takes this to the extreme with a carbon fibre yoke and Pittards leather ear cushions. It’s fair to say Focal have put a lot of effort into these two models and they look great. Both sets feature removable cables with high-quality connectors, but alternative connectors or built-in mic’s aren’t available. Presumably that’s because these are only intended for the critical listen.
Whilst they are apparently very well built with fine materials and the sound is likely to be excellent, I don’t see any breakthrough technology here. It’s quite exciting to see a bold release like this and I would of course love to give the Utopia’s a listen to find out what 4,000 USD buys. However, I wonder if they really have stayed true to the Focal sound we know from their studio monitors, or if they’ve played to the HiFi audience with an enhanced response.
‘Listen’ is the cheapest model of the three but still priced for the pro world. Yet this is a very different design. If you’re recording or needing noise isolation, these are the only option as they are a closed-back design. There isn’t anything unusual or out of the norm here, especially with them being built out of plastic. In this case though, the cable is 1.4m long and sports a mic and remote for use with mobile and IT devices.
All three models have 40mm drivers and are 32 Ohms, but each model appears to have a very different driver technology. Whilst this is common amongst headphones, I’m curious to see how different they sound. With the Focal name and a frequency response of 15Hz to 22kHz in the Listen model, I would hope that their performance is great. However, early feedback from a lucky few have already commented that the ‘Listen’ model is good but nothing special. This would be a shame if it turns out to be true, as these are potentially the right design and price for many engineers and musicians.
Pricing and Information
Prices for these three new models quadruple, starting with ‘Listen’ at 249 USD, ‘Elear’ are 999 USD, and finally ‘Utopia’ with a price for which you would expect for something heavenly at 3,999 USD. This clearly places each model in very different markets, with only the extreme audiophile and anyone wanting to splash some cash going for the Utopia’s. More information can be found on Focal’s webpage.