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Focal Utopia headphones...with Beryllium driver


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Tyll is the last person I'd accuse of selling out. He's one of the few reviewers I read and listen to. Having said that, I often don't hear things the way he does. But that's fine. Use honest, educated opinions like Tyll's, use your own ears, use whatever metrics and science you know, and put all of that together to guess if something is for you or not.

Changing your mind in this hobby is a pain in the ass. The internet remembers everything you say and nobody realizes that the situation in the real world always changes. So if you say A and a few years later you say B, people will assume you either sold out or have no idea what you're talking about, when in truth you're just being honest about things as you see them at the moment. It's one of the reasons why I don't post about headphones much anymore. But then again I have nothing to post anyway, though 10 years ago, that didn't stop me.

Edited by catscratch
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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

I could have said that just as easily as you did, and suspect that many other people feel the same way about it. It's like any hobby, I guess. There is that initial phase when you're all into it an

I'd suggest trying them on a Cmoy to see if a superior amplifier might help. 

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On 10/9/2016 at 9:16 PM, catscratch said:

It's one of the reasons why I don't post about headphones much anymore. But then again I have nothing to post anyway, though 10 years ago, that didn't stop me.

I could have said that just as easily as you did, and suspect that many other people feel the same way about it.

It's like any hobby, I guess. There is that initial phase when you're all into it and spending a ton of time on it. In this particular hobby, that involves a lot of listening, experimenting with all sorts of gear, reading, reading, and more reading, and then eventually you start to think you have something to say, so you start posting, and every now and then you argue with others about things that have acquired a heightened sense of importance in your life... and for no particular reason other than that's how you've been spending your time.

Then eventually, you lose interest in most of it, and certainly in the need to argue with others about things that really aren't (or shouldn't be) all that important in your life. So if it's headphones, you can say, "I thought they were good, you should give them a listen..." or if it's scotch, "I sure like it, you might want to add it to your list..." and then get on with things that actually do matter.

Which, no doubt, is some new hobby that you now think matters, for some reason. At least if you're like most of the rest of us.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yep, they're awesome. Hasn't been a lot to be excited about since the HD 800 came out, but this is one exception for sure. While the Elear is very nice and enjoyable on its own, the Utopia breaks new ground. I simply haven't heard a more balanced, nuanced and coherent sound from a headphone... ever. Treble seemed absolutely spot-on. Very, very impressed. 

 

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On 30/10/2016 at 11:19 PM, Bjorn said:

Yep, they're awesome. Hasn't been a lot to be excited about since the HD 800 came out, but this is one exception for sure. While the Elear is very nice and enjoyable on its own, the Utopia breaks new ground. I simply haven't heard a more balanced, nuanced and coherent sound from a headphone... ever. Treble seemed absolutely spot-on. Very, very impressed.

I'm kinda tending the same way in my view of the Utopia, but I have never heard a BHSE or KGSSHV Carbon driven SR-007/SR-009. It certainly beats any dynamic / ortho I have heard.

I am running mine direct from the Bricasti DAC. I am getting much better results than via a headamp by going direct. Would love to compare this setup with the stat holy grail rigs mentioned above.

 

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34 minutes ago, DonkeyBalls said:

I'm kinda tending the same way in my view of the Utopia, but I have never heard a BHSE or KGSSHV Carbon driven SR-007/SR-009. It certainly beats any dynamic / ortho I have heard.

I am running mine direct from the Bricasti DAC. I am getting much better results than via a headamp by going direct. Would love to compare this setup with the stat holy grail rigs mentioned above.

I'm bringing my Utopia down to a meet in LA this weekend with the express goal of listening to it on as many rigs as possible to see what I think of it on different amps. So far I've only heard mine on my ECP Ravenswood.

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19 minutes ago, TMoney said:

I'm bringing my Utopia down to a meet in LA this weekend with the express goal of listening to it on as many rigs as possible to see what I think of it on different amps. So far I've only heard mine on my ECP Ravenswood.

If you get the chance to run the Utopia direct from the XLR outputs of a high end DAC, then you might find its performance leaps upwards significantly. It did for me. Requires a very good DAC with a excellent volume control implementation, especially for a relatively sensitive headphone like the Utopia. Not all DACs support doing this - best to check with the manufacturer.

Anyway, my experience has been that the very best head amp I have heard is no head amp at all. If you haven't tried this with the Utopia I highly recommend giving it a go.

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3 hours ago, DonkeyBalls said:

I'm kinda tending the same way in my view of the Utopia, but I have never heard a BHSE or KGSSHV Carbon driven SR-007/SR-009. It certainly beats any dynamic / ortho I have heard.

I am running mine direct from the Bricasti DAC. I am getting much better results than via a headamp by going direct. Would love to compare this setup with the stat holy grail rigs mentioned above.

 

Neither have I, sadly. There just isn't a way for me to experience such a combination without $$$ out blindly. And that's not a move I'm comfortable making, so my modified 717 will have to do. While I am well aware it's not the best available and the O2s might leap ahead with a heavy-duty KG amp, it does sound significantly better than a stock 717. I had both next to each other and the stock 717 sounded dynamically dull, a little thicker in the bass and kind of veiled compared to mine. It's basically just a matter of the caps being swapped out for far superior ones but caps do matter. 

I have no hopes for the 009 though as I think it's too bright/thin and you'd need to change things quite significantly for it to sound right IMO. The Utopia seems like a much wiser bet to me. 

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Yeah, the O2 on anything less than a KGSSHV is not optimum, you really need to experience them on a TOTL amplifier and DAC. I'm definitely not hearing thin or bright with the 009 through my gear, this is definitely an area I'm most sensitive too and cannot tolerate in any shape or form.

Has anybody heard the Utopia direct from a Chord Dave? this combo has my attention.

Edited by johnwmclean
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41 minutes ago, johnwmclean said:

Yeah, the O2 on anything less than a KGSSHV is not optimum, you really need to experience them on a TOTL amplifier and DAC. I'm definitely not hearing thin or bright with the 009 through my gear, this is definitely an area I'm most sensitive too and cannot tolerate in any shape or form.

Has anybody heard the Utopia direct from a Chord Dave? this combo has my attention.

I don't doubt. That's why I'm not going to start an O2 vs Utopia debate. Someone with a KGSSHV (or even better) rig will have to do that. It would sure be nice to hear comparisons from someone who does, because I'm a little on the fence about whether to invest more in the O2 or go back to dynamic (i:e Utopia). Both ways would cost me about the same considering I'd need a new, balanced source for the KGSSHV:s and a swell Utopia amplifier will be much easier on the wallet. 

Tyll (who DOES have a KGSSHV on hand) did say he preferred the Utopia and I agree on his opinion that the e-stats sound a little hazy up top when compared to it. That is actually exactly what I found as well, and what struck me first about the Utopia. Which is funny, as I've never thought that way of the O2 before. 

Gah... decisions :D

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18 minutes ago, Bjorn said:

I don't doubt. That's why I'm not going to start an O2 vs Utopia debate. Someone with a KGSSHV (or even better) rig will have to do that. It would sure be nice to hear comparisons from someone who does, because I'm a little on the fence about whether to invest more in the O2 or go back to dynamic (i:e Utopia). Both ways would cost me about the same considering I'd need a new, balanced source for the KGSSHV:s and a swell Utopia amplifier will be much easier on the wallet. 

Tyll (who DOES have a KGSSHV on hand) did say he preferred the Utopia and I agree on his opinion that the e-stats sound a little hazy up top when compared to it. That is actually exactly what I found as well, and what struck me first about the Utopia. Which is funny, as I've never thought that way of the O2 before. 

Gah... decisions :D

His is the KGSS reviewer edition I believe.  I am with John here that you really need the KGSSHV at a minimum to show case what the SR007 can really do.  My KGSSHV Carbon recently came back from the GRLV upgrade and both the SR009 & SR007 were so great out of it.   The SR007 almost has too much bass out of the the Carbon..still a sublime listening experience.

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12 minutes ago, purk said:

His is the KGSS reviewer edition I believe.  I am with John here that you really need the KGSSHV at a minimum to show case what the SR007 can really do.  My KGSSHV Carbon recently came back from the GRLV upgrade and both the SR009 & SR007 were so great out of it.   The SR007 almost has too much bass out of the the Carbon..still a sublime listening experience.

Right, right. My bad. I do recall it runs at a higher spec than a traditional KGSS though. 

Anyhow, the O2 through my admittedly "modest" rig still sounds better than anything else I've listened to as far as headphones go (apart from, maybe, the Utopia), so I suppose that's always something.

Another quick note regarding the Utopia, it really did seem to change a little bit depending on how far forward/back you position it around the ears, getting marginally richer sounding when positioned more forward. Not unusual per se, but something to be aware of. 

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Too much bass out of the 007A Mk2 with the Carbon?  I thought it really fleshed them out down low where they could use a bit more and tighter bass.  I use an Ygg as a DAC so perhaps we have chain deltas and/or different tastes, purk.

HS

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1 hour ago, Bjorn said:

I don't doubt. That's why I'm not going to start an O2 vs Utopia debate. Someone with a KGSSHV (or even better) rig will have to do that. It would sure be nice to hear comparisons from someone who does, because I'm a little on the fence about whether to invest more in the O2 or go back to dynamic (i:e Utopia). Both ways would cost me about the same considering I'd need a new, balanced source for the KGSSHV:s and a swell Utopia amplifier will be much easier on the wallet. 

Tyll (who DOES have a KGSSHV on hand) did say he preferred the Utopia and I agree on his opinion that the e-stats sound a little hazy up top when compared to it. That is actually exactly what I found as well, and what struck me first about the Utopia. Which is funny, as I've never thought that way of the O2 before. 

Gah... decisions :D

IMO the 007s have always been a bit dark / treble recessed. There latest 007A is much better than the older MK2/3s IMO. The 009 is another league (out of the Carbon).

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5 hours ago, DonkeyBalls said:

If you get the chance to run the Utopia direct from the XLR outputs of a high end DAC, then you might find its performance leaps upwards significantly.

Just looked at the specs on the Bricasti M1... I guess I see how that could work. What kind of cable do you use with the Utopia for this? Something custom which splits into two 3-pin female XLR connectors?

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Just now, gepardcv said:

Just looked at the specs on the Bricasti M1... I guess I see how that could work. What kind of cable do you use with the Utopia for this? Something custom which splits into two 3-pin female XLR connectors?

Yep - simple XLR harness from Moon Audio. 2x3pin female XLR into 1x4pin female XLR.

Just have to be careful to adjust the DAC volume out before connecting the headphone, otherwise bad things can happen.

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44 minutes ago, astrostar59 said:

IMO the 007s have always been a bit dark / treble recessed. There latest 007A is much better than the older MK2/3s IMO. The 009 is another league (out of the Carbon).

I have a mk1 (SN 71xxx) though. 

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1 hour ago, HemiSam said:

Too much bass out of the 007A Mk2 with the Carbon?  I thought it really fleshed them out down low where they could use a bit more and tighter bass.  I use an Ygg as a DAC so perhaps we have chain deltas and/or different tastes, purk.

HS

Hi Sam,

I have MK1 and not MK2.  Don't get me wrong...I absolutely love the  sound of the pairing but I also notice that the sub-bass was just a touch strong for me in some recording.  This  is really not a big issue but just something that I notice.  Same source but likely not the same cables however.  I love the KGSSHV carbon.  Its a stellar amp and I do enjoy both the SR009 & SR007.

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3 hours ago, purk said:

His is the KGSS reviewer edition I believe.  I am with John here that you really need the KGSSHV at a minimum to show case what the SR007 can really do.  My KGSSHV Carbon recently came back from the GRLV upgrade and both the SR009 & SR007 were so great out of it.   The SR007 almost has too much bass out of the the Carbon..still a sublime listening experience.

What does this mean?

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7 hours ago, cutestory said:

What does this mean?

Instead of using a simple LM7815/7915 circuit feeding the LV lines it can be replaced with Kevins Golden Reference Low Voltage power supply (GRLV) which has much less noise.

Edited by johnwmclean
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10 hours ago, purk said:

His is the KGSS reviewer edition I believe.  I am with John here that you really need the KGSSHV at a minimum to show case what the SR007 can really do.  My KGSSHV Carbon recently came back from the GRLV upgrade and both the SR009 & SR007 were so great out of it.   The SR007 almost has too much bass out of the the Carbon..still a sublime listening experience.

Interesting Purk. My KGSShv Sanyo had more bass than the Carbon, maybe not quite as deep but more quantity. On the 007 MK3s it was a bit too much on some dance material. The Carbon has a bit less quantity but is faster and has more control. `The sundstage is also wider and the amp is generally more 'alive'. I can see it might be an issue on some DACs but it is a better amp for sure. The bias is higher on the Carbon (20mA as opposed to 10mA) not sure if that is part of the reason? Also the PS is better in the latest Kevin incarnations. 

So I think you like the addition of the LV boards? I think they also have a positive. I am quite obsessed with PS and clean mains supply, it seems to be a big factor in the sound you end up with and how good it is.

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