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Focal Clear Headphone


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I am surprised there has not been much of a talk of the Focal Clear headphone here yet. 

I bought a pair from Justin a few months ago during a promotional sales. It’s an impromptu buy mostly prompted by Tyll’s review and the fact I had just built a SS Dynahi. Don’t ask me why!

To cut to the chase (my personal opinion of course), this is my favorite dynamic headphone I have heard to date. I agree with just about everything Tyll said about it. It just sounds “right”. Probably best overall in terms of reproducing the tonal and timber of instruments. It reproduces a well recorded piano as convincingly as I have heard from headphones. 

I own a pair of Elear and have listened to the Utopia under a unfamiliar environment a few years ago. Other headphones do somethings better than the Clear does, but taken as a whole, the Clear is my favorite of the dynamic headphones I own by a clear margin (hehe).  

It’s an easy headphone to drive but the amp does make a difference. I mostly listened to it either through my balanced CFA or the SS Dynahi using its stock balanced cable. 

To paraphrase Tyll’s comment, in the insane HiFi market today, the Focal Clear is a bargain especially at the promotional price of $1000 USD.

Now I have completely lost my marble!

Edited by mwl168
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36 minutes ago, mwl168 said:

To paraphrase Tyll’s comment, in the insane HiFi market today, the Focal Clear is a bargain especially at the promotional price of $1000 USD. Now I have completely lost my marble!

Looks like the Clear is $1500 nowadays.  Looking back 10 years ago, when the reasonable best  dynamics available were Sennheiser HD580/600  with the occasional crazy person who splurged on Sony R10 behind their wife's back, I suppose it's better there are so many choices now.  

I tend to avoid audio/headphone shows these days, but somewhere somehow Hifiman and Audeze seem to have taken over the world, and the price of TOTL headphones have reached speaker levels.  I wouldn't mind sitting down to compare Raal SR1a, Mysphere, Susvara, Utopia, Abyss, and maybe a ZMF thrown in for fun.  Where does Clear fit into that scheme of things, I wonder?

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I now own 2 of them (*)....especially when driven by Doug's/ECP's DSHA-3F, it is perhaps the best dynamic system I've heard.

 

(*) I had one, and bought a used one for an insanely good price with the intention of giving it to my son for his birthday and holidays; but he seems to like the Elear with its warts, and the Clear sounds pretty nice out of the RME ADI-2....we'll see, he may choose them anyway

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Elear has an edge to it in the upper mids/lower highs to my ears....admittedly a very short listen.  Clear is a lot like what Tyll said about it IMO: a little more balanced tonally than the Utopia even, though it lacks that eerie-good transparency of the Utopia.

I've never heard it, just read about it; but some of the tonal issues with the Elear are supposedly slightly better in the Massdrop Elex.  But like the Clear vs Utopia, not as transparent a sound for Elear/Elex as compared to the Clear.

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I’ve had Elear for a couple of years. It’s a good headphone and I did like it initially but over time it was the can I have the least desire to listen to. 

I cannot describe sound impressions frequently range by frequently range or if it has bumps and dips at what frequency. But something is amiss with the Elear when I just want to listen to and enjoy the music. Everything is relative, again, Elear by itself is a good headphone. I just happen to have other options at my disposal.

Agree with Todd that, IMO and going by distant memory, the Clear has better tonal balance than the Utopia. The Utopia is more resolving and transparent.

I was kind of WTF when Clear was first announced - how much can it be different from the Clear? Now I know how ignorant I was.

My reason for starting this thread is so that a great headphone does not otherwise fall through the cracks, kind of like Kevin’s current feedback dynamic amp  ?

Edited by mwl168
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There was talk about the Clear in the Utopia thread. The Clear is what got me to buy the Utopia in the first place - it has fantastic tonal balance, excellent punch and dynamics, and a very airy and open sound overall.

What eventually made me move on are the annoying peaks at 6 and 11khz which made the treble a bit shrill, and the fact that I'm used to Stax and the Clear just didn't quite have the resolution, whereas the Utopia does. It's not a huge difference though, and the Clear does get you most of the Utopia, with better tonal balance, for less.

I think $1k is the right price for them, I wouldn't pay $1500 especially seeing how used Utopias can be had for under $2k these days.

Even though there are things that annoy me about the Clear and the Utopia both, they're actually quite close to my ideal sounding headphones. They just need more linear, less metallic highs, and maybe a bit more soundstage width. That's about it honestly. Having said that, I still use the HD650 way more than either.

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Followed by the Elear, the Clear might be the best deal of the neo-Focal era. It's one of the very few headphones which offers a straight step-up in technicalities over the HD650, without completely fucking up the tonal balance.

As for the Utopia... technicalities are superb, but it's too thin to sound enjoyable for me. Trivial to correct via DSP, but I'd rather save myself the hassle.

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  • 2 months later...

Sonarworks ranked the Elear as good as the Clear.  I had the Elear for awhile.  While it did some things very well,  it was a bit too shrill for my taste.  Migrated to Audeze LCD-3, which was closer to my preferred sound.  The LCD-3 was clearer,  but a bit dull with violins. Wound up selling that and obtained a Abyss Diana.  Very happy with those, as they seem to do everything right. 

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