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Focal Utopia headphones...with Beryllium driver

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i (still) like Elex and now i like Clear. i would think Utopia is my obvious destiny but based on tonal differences noted by @skullguise and others perhaps this is the final stop? 
 

132C1231-E502-4C8B-BA22-EA4B01805841.thumb.jpeg.5b70c73db9c1d19609b70abccfd478a2.jpeg

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I prefer Clear to the Utopia. With Utopia I pretty much required calibration which is an insult for the asking price. The extra technicalities over the Clear are nice for sure, but I like bass.

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1 hour ago, Aura said:

i (still) like Elex and now i like Clear. i would think Utopia is my obvious destiny but based on tonal differences noted by @skullguise and others perhaps this is the final stop? 
 

132C1231-E502-4C8B-BA22-EA4B01805841.thumb.jpeg.5b70c73db9c1d19609b70abccfd478a2.jpeg

Let me know if you are interested in buying the Utopia.   I have a pair I might let go ($$$ for new speaker amp) since I use the HD800 and SR-009 most of the time. 

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I bid $10 for the Utopias.  That is some really good speaker money.

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I own the Clear and have only brief experience with the Utopia under an unfamiliar surrounding equipment so take this with a large grain of salt.

The Utopia does something very well and better than the Clear but overall I feel the Clear is a better tonally balanced headphone. There are a few flaws of the Utopia that I consider too severe for me to justify the high cost.

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So a question for the Focal mafia: Is there any difference, other than cosmetic, between the Clear and the Clear Pro?

Asking for a friend. B)

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i scoured websites-that-shall-not-be-named and the overwhelming consensus, including multiple e-mail confirmations from focal, is that they are identical internally.

important to note the Pro has different stock cables and neither is balanced but it does come with an extra set of pads.

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Thanks Bryan. That is pretty much what I came up with. Just trying to make sure I didn't miss something.

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The general consensus on this site seems to be that the Clears have better tonal balance and fewer flaws than the Utopia, but I recently got the Utopias and I definitely prefer them over the Clears. I find them to have better dynamics, clarity, and speed with a similar tonal balance (a little brighter, but still relatively warm, at least compared to my Lambda NBs). What exactly do people dislike about the Utopias in comparison to the Clears?

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21 minutes ago, ilikebananafudge said:

The general consensus on this site seems to be that the Clears have better tonal balance and fewer flaws than the Utopia, but I recently got the Utopias and I definitely prefer them over the Clears. I find them to have better dynamics, clarity, and speed with a similar tonal balance (a little brighter, but still relatively warm, at least compared to my Lambda NBs). What exactly do people dislike about the Utopias in comparison to the Clears?

I may not be answering your main question.

The Utopia does do many things extremely well. And, for me, if the Utopia sells for the same price as the Clear then, given their own strength and weakness I may lean for the Utopia.

But the decision is made easy when Utopia sells for 3 time the price of a Clear.

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6 minutes ago, mwl168 said:

I may not be answering your main question.

The Utopia does do many things extremely well. And, for me, if the Utopia sells for the same price as the Clear then, given their own strength and weakness I may lean for the Utopia.

But the decision is made easy when Utopia sells for 3 time the price of a Clear.

Oh, gotcha. I definitely understand the value argument—they're both great headphones that aren't too dissimilar.

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I also made the jump from the Clear to the Utopia.

The Utopia is a little leaner and colder, has a few db less bass and a bit more treble but is still roughly within the boundaries of neutral. It is noticeably more resolving than the Clear, has a bigger stage especially when it comes to height and depth, and in the treble there is more 6khz peak but less 11khz peak. The microdynamics are also better on the Utopia, the Clear felt like it compressed things a little bit (though it had terrific slam) while the Utopia is more nuanced. I do think the Clear is better balanced and a bit better in terms of tone, but the Utopia is noticeably more resolving. At the end of the day, a fair price for the Utopia would have been around $2k and for the Clear around 1k, at least in terms of sound quality, so they're both quite overpriced to my ears but the Utopia does perform technically better overall.

I will probably get rid of mine soon, though. It's fatiguing (the Clear was too) and I tend not to listen to it very much because of that. Granted, I haven't done any serious component swapping to try and find the perfect synergy, but I'd rather find a headphone I enjoy with no caveats and build on that. Well, I have one, it's called the HD650, but I want to find something that resolves at the flagship levels while having similar qualities. The Focals are close... but no cigar.

I'm not sure what to replace it with though. The Audezes have the wrong FR and unit to unit variation, and I don't really feel like playing roulette with $4k headphones. The Raals are intriguing, but I've heard fatigue is an issue too. The Stax SR-007 just doesn't fit my head properly. The SR-009 very much has the wrong tuning. Hifimans... yeah... no. So I'm kinda stuck.

 

students of history know, Utopia never really works out!

Edited by catscratch

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I agree with almost all of your impressions on the Utopia v Clear, except for the tonal balance (as I mentioned above). Also, while I agree that the Clear has a bit more bass overall, I think the Utopia do a better job with sub-bass.

It's interesting, I don't really get fatigue from listening to headphones anymore. I used to back in college, but as I've gotten nicer and nicer headphones and gear I've consistently lowered my listening volume. I think I used to turn it up when I wanted to hear all of the details, but now they're all there even at low volumes—especially with the Utopias and my estats.

Have you tried the Koss ESP/950 or ESP/95X? I feel like they have a pretty similar sonic signature to the HD650s, but they're quite a bit more resolving. Also, because of their plastic construction they're light as a feather so they're pretty comfy (to me, at least).

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I had an ESP950 and it had issues right from the start. I should probably send it back to get fixed but haven't gotten around to it. In either case, they don't have dust covers and I have a German Shepherd, and I really don't think that's gonna work out. But I do use the L700 fairly frequently.

Edited by catscratch

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17 hours ago, ilikebananafudge said:

What exactly do people dislike about the Utopias in comparison to the Clears?

Here's Elear (which is similar to Clear in many ways):

focal_elear-png.7779

Here's Utopia:

focal_utopia-png.7780

The LF roll-off on the Utopia makes it sound leaner even if objectively it extends lower. It's like comparing sealed and ported box speakers.

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I agree with most of what catscratch described about the Utopia and Clear. For me, Utopia's resolution and clarity are very impressive and clearly better than the Clear. I bought the Clear new for $1K US but the best deal I could find for the Utopia is over $3K.  

I do not find the Clear fatiguing in my system. I also wonder how much factor the system synergy/matching plays. Even though I read the Focal headphones are very easy to drive I do believe the amps make a significant difference.

I listened to the Utopia in a store driven by a Chord Dave DAC/amp. I primarily listen to my Clear driven by full balanced SuSy Dynahi and Kevin's Current Feedback CFA.      

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6 hours ago, RudeWolf said:

Here's Elear (which is similar to Clear in many ways):

focal_elear-png.7779

Here's Utopia:

focal_utopia-png.7780

The LF roll-off on the Utopia makes it sound leaner even if objectively it extends lower. It's like comparing sealed and ported box speakers.

What are the differences between the Clear and Elear? The Elear should be the very same as the Elex that Massdrop is selling and the price is rather acceptable, is it? 

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I have both the Clear and Elear. 

Going by memory, I bought the Elear two years or so before I bought the Clear. They are more similar than different but I like the Clear much better. I feel the Clear has better resolution and top end and, again, better tonal balance compared with the Elear. Even though the differences are relatively small, all thing combined, I consider the Clear a better headphone all around.

YMMV!

Edited by mwl168
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RudeWolf - where are these measurements from? Do you know what system they were done on? And is there an HD650 measurement from that system? Thanks.

Regarding pricing, I'd look for an open box special, which will often be well under $3k. These are still covered by the factory warranty. There are also lots of them floating around on the used market sometimes for under $2k but of course buying used is always a risk.

Edited by catscratch

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For your viewing pleasure.

Elear

Elear.png.d78f69dbf39a3bdf7f6db830d0415436.png

Clear

Clear.png.5c6e05d128ce42b34d20c041e86ffb5a.png

Utopia

Utopia.png.c64c589bb735785705808d33921e8aeb.png

Sennheiser HD650

HD650.png.093eaa0defdf07bb859e10489847cccc.png

All measurements were performed by Sonarworks. They do DSP-based headphone and speaker calibration. During the 5 years I was with the company I can say that even now they're hard to beat in terms of headphone measurements. Mostly due to the fact that all measurement curves are checked by audio engineer ears so that they make the headphones sound as close as possible to a known tonal reference.

All of these curves are averaged from at least three different samples from the headphone in question. I can't tell much more about the actual method. Just make sure you only compare them to other Sonarworks curves.

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Didn't realize they were SonarWorks and you were with them - nice! Would have looked up myself otherwise. Thanks for linking.

I sanity check measurements too, by using a test tone generator to listen to the FR by ear. However that method is a bit flawed in that the brain adjusts incredibly quickly to gradual changes in volume, so it's mainly useful for hearing sudden peaks and dips, the rest you have to train yourself to hear. But it's better than nothing and faster too.

Edited by catscratch

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1 hour ago, catscratch said:

Didn't realize they were SonarWorks and you were with them - nice! Would have looked up myself otherwise.

Yeah, best job I've ever had! Saw the company grow from 5 people to 50. And how many jobs out there expose you to almost all of the headphones that matter? Sadly, we had to part ways...

1 hour ago, catscratch said:

I sanity check measurements too, by using a test tone generator to listen to the FR by ear.

We tried it as well. It's a decent method to find out resonances, but for lower Q stuff it's pretty much useless. Generally you need a good set of ears to match the EQ to a known neutral speaker system. That way you can get to a target curve that actually makes sense. Harman did it this way and so did we.

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On 7/31/2020 at 1:42 AM, ilikebananafudge said:

The general consensus on this site seems to be that the Clears have better tonal balance and fewer flaws than the Utopia, but I recently got the Utopias and I definitely prefer them over the Clears. I find them to have better dynamics, clarity, and speed with a similar tonal balance (a little brighter, but still relatively warm, at least compared to my Lambda NBs). What exactly do people dislike about the Utopias in comparison to the Clears?

We hear them similarly. I found the Clear boring coming from the Utopia tbh.

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