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Focal Utopia headphones...with Beryllium driver

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On 2/19/2018 at 8:21 PM, Sherwood said:

I've been putting in a lot of hours with the Focal Clear on my L2 -- reasonably good match on low output impedance, very poor match on high impedance.  I can't remember hearing another headphone so sensitive to high output impedance before, but it screws the bass all up.

Understanding now why you make a DSHA-3F version, Doug.

On high Z, the L2 has a Zout of something like 50 Ohms. The headphones have an impedance of 80 Ohms at 1KHz, but 300 Ohms at 50Hz. That means there is a voltage divider with the headphone Z and amp Z. So, if there is a 1V signal, at 1K about 38% (50/(50+80)) of that signal is lost to the amp's impedance, and the other 62% goes to the phones. So you are left with a 0.62V. At 50Hz, the amp is still 50 Ohms but the phones are 300 Ohms. That means they get 86% of the signal. That's nearly a 3dB boost at 50Hz. Hence too much bass.

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My advice to anyone buying a Focal Utopia is make sure you get it from an "authorized distributor". Read that as paying MSRP or $3,999. Check the Focal website for the criteria as they are pretty anal about it. Even though I got mine from Crutchfield - which is as legit as there is - they told me their warrantee is 1 year. At the time (March 2017) Focal said the warrantee was 3 years if bought in the U.S. from an authorized dealer, which is why I paid MSRP from Crutchfield.

Anyway, the left driver in mine just died after barely a year in use. There is a poll on repairs on the Head-Fi website, and around 17% of owners have had to get repairs on this $4,000 headphone, which is ridiculous. 

Crutchfield has terrific customer support, so fortunately, they are sending me out a new unit even though it is just past a year, and they sent me a UPS label to send the original one back. Whew! So it was worth spending MSRP to get it from them. You can also try the headphone out for 60 days and return it for full refund, no questions asked.

I am not too happy about Focal changing their warrantee interval on-the-fly like this. I mean if Crutchfield isn't an authorized dealer, who is?

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Holy shit 17% is disconcerting. I've been trying to search for that poll but my Google Fu isn't too strong. Mind sharing a link?

Never mind, found it.

Edited by penmarker

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I'm guessing that number is exaggerated because people who haven't had problems are probably less likely to either find this poll or vote in it. Generally, polls like that are hardly accurate or scientific. Still, the warning about buying from authorized dealers stands. I've read elsewhere of focal drivers potentially running out of excursion at high spl, and I wonder if that relates to more frequent driver failure.

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the poll is statistically meaningless. the guy who started it has acknowledged that and tried to have it removed without success.

Edited by tin ear

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Focal being cunts is sadly nothing new but this is pretty deplorable...  <_<

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Let’s not forget that Focal warranty is non-transferable, so used units don’t get serviced, even if they originally came from an authorized dealer at full MSRP+tax.

(Not that Stax warranty support is anything to boast of, either.)

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On 4/24/2018 at 3:35 AM, tin ear said:

the poll is statistically meaningless.

Yeah. It is what is called a self-selecting sample. It is the basis of the crap statistics you see on shampoo, face cream etc TV adverts "67% of 106 people report a difference in 2 weeks". Which is bollocks for two reasons. First the confidence is low. With 90% confidence and a buying public in the UK for that brand of face cream might be 500,000 is +/-12%. So all you can say is that the data is somewhere between 55% and 79% with 90% confidence. The second way it falls down is that the sample is self-selecting - it is not a true randomised test. Either they have been selected by the company, or they only include data from a subset of customers who contact them. The sample sizes are always suspiciously tiny for major billion dollar brands. Why do they not do a sample of 1000, or 10,000? They certainly have deep enough pockets. Or perhaps they know that in a real statistical randomised test with a large sample size they will get about 50%. In other words that their massively expensive product does nothing whatsoever.

<rant mode = off>

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not going to create a new thread... figured i'd drop some simple thoughts on the Focal Elex that arrived last week. i decided to grab these after reading ample comparisons to Sennheiser and the notion that these are more energetic with better low-end with some semblance of HD580/600/650 balance. my 580's have sounded so good out of gilmore lite mk2 that this intrigued me. all of the below is my direct thoughts vs. HD580.

  • treble is not as lush/obvious and vocals are slightly recessed... i think it's because of the slight upper-mid dip or whatever the fuck that people have measured on both Elear and Elex
  • bass is drastically better in every regard (quantity, detail)
  • imaging/positioning is a fair bit better and soundstage is wider but not much deeper

^because of all of the above, i think i find these slightly easier to listen with across all genres... read a lot of stupid comments that Focal isn't great for electronic which i could not disagree with more. and much better with rock/metal because of the better low end and tweaked treble. they're not bright and they're not fatiguing.

couple other things... fit is good, takes 45 minutes or so before i get a hotspot from the headband because of the weight but no biggie. and these have probably the best finish i've ever experienced on any headphone. ever. i cannot make a single critique of the build quality and anyone who does is a bitch. also all black, murda'd-out headphones are dope. @Dusty Chalk #amirite

that's all she fucking wrote. these are the first comments i've typed up for a headphone in nearly 10 years so they must have made some kind of impression.

 

 

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23 hours ago, Aura said:

that's all she fucking wrote. these are the first comments i've typed up for a headphone in nearly 10 years so they must have made some kind of impression.

Bryan, it's just FOTM...or in your case, decade 😄

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Hi All. Poping in from wherever the hell I've been.

Posting in this thread because I'm mostly listening to the Uptopias these days and they're a bit of an odd load impedance-wise.......

I've been threatening to try a solid-state amp for, well, years now. Without ever having done anything about it. A conversation over the weekend reanimated the idea.

I'm seeking nominations for a SS amp that would work well with the Utopias - low Z out, quiet, don't need a ton of gain - that could be gotten for a small amount of money (<$1,000) since I have no idea if this is just a lark or not. And I suck at selling things, so said amp might be sitting in my rack, used or not, for quite some time. 

Doug's DSHA 3F is an/the obvious choice, but out of my experimental price range.

It wouldn't hurt if the candidate amp had power to drive inefficient planars, as well.

There is a Headamp GS-1 offered for sale elsewhere. The owner wants to bundle it with a pair of headphones that I need like I need to run a 3/8" Speedbor through my skull diagonally. If I can convince him to un-bundle, that seems at first blush like it might work. And Justin's work is beyond reproach. So there's that.

Any thoughts?

 

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Is the GS-1 anything like the Gilmore Lite Mk2 voicing-wise? I find the GL2 to be dead neutral, with excellent technicalities, but the Utopia leans a bit to the bright side, and could really use a warm and lush signal path. In my system right now (with M51 as source) it sounds very clear, punchy, spacious, and detailed, but also a bit dry and a bit analytical.

Edited by catscratch
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4 hours ago, CarlSeibert said:

Hi All. Poping in from wherever the hell I've been.

Posting in this thread because I'm mostly listening to the Uptopias these days and they're a bit of an odd load impedance-wise.......

I've been threatening to try a solid-state amp for, well, years now. Without ever having done anything about it. A conversation over the weekend reanimated the idea.

I'm seeking nominations for a SS amp that would work well with the Utopias - low Z out, quiet, don't need a ton of gain - that could be gotten for a small amount of money (<$1,000) since I have no idea if this is just a lark or not. And I suck at selling things, so said amp might be sitting in my rack, used or not, for quite some time. 

Doug's DSHA 3F is an/the obvious choice, but out of my experimental price range.

It wouldn't hurt if the candidate amp had power to drive inefficient planars, as well.

There is a Headamp GS-1 offered for sale elsewhere. The owner wants to bundle it with a pair of headphones that I need like I need to run a 3/8" Speedbor through my skull diagonally. If I can convince him to un-bundle, that seems at first blush like it might work. And Justin's work is beyond reproach. So there's that.

Any thoughts?

 

If you can find a Creek OBH-11SE, that’d be excellent experimental solid state for very little outlay; otherwise I’d start with a Headamp Pico Power.

MHO

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Hey Carl! I would ask Justin and Peter if the $500 Gilmore Lite mk2 will drive the Utopias the way you want them driven or else extend your experimental budget to cover the new GSX Mini, which is a very cool new product. Have fun!

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FWIW, I tried a Utopia from one of my (full-size) Dynalo builds, and thought it sounded fine. Should be pretty similar to the various HeadAmp models. 

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On 9/9/2019 at 10:16 PM, catscratch said:

Is the GS-1 anything like the Gilmore Lite Mk2 voicing-wise? I find the GL2 to be dead neutral, with excellent technicalities, but the Utopia leans a bit to the bright side, and could really use a warm and lush signal path. In my system right now (with M51 as source) it sounds very clear, punchy, spacious, and detailed, but also a bit dry and a bit analytical.

I would get a used GS-1 and upgrade the old dynalo boards to Dynalo plus over the Gilmore Lite M2 with the brick power supply.  Justin charged me $200 for them and the overall tone is warmer which should match a little better with the Utopia.   You can also buy the GL2 and find a used Headroom DPS power supply instead of using the supplied brick psu for better sound.  Best is to go with the GSX-mini or Doug ECP DSHA-3F to improve upon the smallish soundstage.

Edited by purk
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23 hours ago, purk said:

I would get a used GS-1 and upgrade the old dynalo boards to Dynalo plus over the Gilmore Lite M2 with the brick power supply.  Justin charged me $200 for them and the overall tone is warmer which should match a little better with the Utopia.   You can also buy the GL2 and find a used Headroom DPS power supply instead of using the supplied brick psu for better sound.  Best is to go with the GSX-mini or Doug ECP DSHA-3F to improve upon the smallish soundstage.

That's more or less the plan. A DHSA-3F is probably next once I find the funds. But I do need to decide if I want to keep going with the Utopia. It does some things brilliantly but other things annoy me, but I don't know if what I'm looking for in a headphone exists in the first place, so this may be as close as it gets.

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On 9/12/2019 at 5:33 PM, catscratch said:

That's more or less the plan. A DHSA-3F is probably next once I find the funds. But I do need to decide if I want to keep going with the Utopia. It does some things brilliantly but other things annoy me, but I don't know if what I'm looking for in a headphone exists in the first place, so this may be as close as it gets.

I owned the Utopia for a year before selling it.  I love nearly everything about especially how dynamic sounding it was, but the size of the soundstage really bother me at the end and decided to go back to the SDR mod HD800.  YMMV.

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33 minutes ago, purk said:

I owned the Utopia for a year before selling it.  I love nearly everything about especially how dynamic sounding it was, but the size of the soundstage really bother me at the end and decided to go back to the SDR mod HD800.  YMMV.

Yes, the dynamics are exceptional, as is the midrange resolution and just the openness and transparency of the midrange in general. The problem for me is not so much the soundstage but the peaks in the highs and the slight bit of metallic coloration to the sound. A few years ago I had a flu that permanently damaged my inner ear and left me far more sensitive to treble peaks at certain frequencies, and it's become an issue of outright usability just as much as preference. But the Utopia is far from the worst offender in that regard, and with just a touch of EQ in places it's very usable. More so than the Clear was.

I'm looking for Sennheiser HD6X0 tuning with Stax-like technicalities, and this is honestly not that far off. Hopefully with some tweaks I'll get there.

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I went from the Utopia to the Clear.  Gave up that last tiny bit of amazing transparency for a better (to me) upper-mid/treble balance.  Purk is also right about the soundstage, but the DSHA-3F gets the best I've heard for soundstaging from them, and imaging (eerie good!) within....

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I'm looking for Sennheiser HD6X0 tuning with Stax-like technicalities

I tried the Dekoni all-velour pads on my Utopias and my impression of the result was "a $4,000 HD650". Which sounds like a put-down, but to my mind, is not a bad thing at all.

At the moment, I'm using Elear pads on the Utopias. Tyll liked that combination back at Inner Fidelity. I tried it once before, thought it very musical but lacking the "magic" Utopia transparency and went back to the Utopia pads. This time around, I'm pretty happy with the Elear pads.

The hybrid Dekonis failed to impress a year ago, but given my Elear pad experience... who knows?

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