Focal Elear Headphones Review
The first time I learned about Focal Elear and Utopia headphones, I thought their new cans would be unique. I’ve heard the distinct and extraordinary sound from Focal speakers. When Sanjay, Focal’s North American Sales Manager, asked to introduce new headphones we looked forward to the meeting.
Sanjay made a full and magical presentation. Focal wanted to create headphones with the same particular sound as their Scala Utopia V2 speakers ($33,999.00 pair) or Maestro Utopia speakers ($52,499.00 pair). Headphones economics and customer needs are different than speakers. The challenge was to make headphones sound more open, bigger, warmer and yet detailed and intimate – more like speakers. Focal designed new tools, processes, and materials to craft their new cans .
Sanjay's presentation started with Focal’s cleaner, ergonomically improved, and better fitting Listen headphones. Listen is a great lower priced headphone. Focal’s improvements were well planned, explained, and executed, so anticipation was running high.
Focal Magician Sanjay
“I know you didn’t travel all the way from France to introduce the Moon-Audio.com team to your Listen line,” I said to Sanjay. Sanjay was a magician. With a flourish, he produced a second suitcase. And, like any good magician, he built tension by telling a story.
He used parts to show, demonstrate and illustrate aspects of Focal’s advanced driver design. With each slow, deliberate, and detailed discussion of foam, headbands, drivers and magnets anticipation grew.
One way to know a new product is something special is to see, hear, and feel the passion from those who create, distribute and sell it. Sanjay was like a magician who knew his illusion was epic, stunning, and astonishing. He could afford to be patient, confident and take the time to build excitement.
More than an hour into Sanjay’s show and still nothing about Focal Utopia headphones. And that’s good since Sanjay’s patient presentation created a full appreciation for each new Focal headphone. Then I experienced Déjà vu all over again when Sanjay let me slip on a pair of Focal Elear headphones.
Focal’s Elears create emotional engagement with music. Normally, I’m an over-analytical headphones listener. Listening to high-end headphones and learning how to design Dragon audio cables to support them is my job, passion, and life.
Despite my left-brain analytical tendency, I love getting lost in music. Great music and the high-end audio gear we use to hear it, is medicine I can’t live without and that's why we created Moon Audio. Focal’s Elear headphones produce alluring, engaging and seductive sound. These cans do so many things right, it’s hard to know where to start.
Elear headphones review features:
- Great top end frequency extension
- Clean and detailed without being overly analytical
- Good bass presence not bloated or bogged down
- Quick, responsive, and tightly controlled
- Vocals that sound like the recording
I use 4 songs to test new audio gear:
Focal Elear Vocals
I find Elear’s vocals, while not as smooth, soothing, and astonishing as Utopia, very close to what I expect from a studio recording. I didn’t focus on discovering missing pieces to long loved music yet. I listened to Elear before hearing Focal’s Utopia headphones.
I know and love the female jazz singer Patricia Barber’s voice, intonation, and timber well. Patricia is my go-to artist when testing vocals. Barber’s vocals on Smash sound as alluring as ever with instrument separation clear and concise. Piano decay sounds like a smooth stream of water.
The detail and definition is outstanding on the Elear. Listening to Roger Waters' vocals on Paranoid Eyes, you can hear the moisture in his vocals. At no time when listening to Christina Aguilera on You Lost Me, did her vocals come off as hard, cold or shrill. Christina has an incredible frequency range and with an inferior set of headphones, this can often be the case yet the Elear kept up with her vocals every step of the way.
Focal Elear Value
Fully prepared for Focal Elear’s headphone magic to fade I asked Sanjay the price. “What?!,” I said with my mouth open and surprise fully expressed. To say Focal Elear headphones are an enormous value at $995 is to have a gift for understatement.
Focal Elear build quality is what we expect from cans costing more than $2,000. Heck, there are several headphones costing more than two grand where build quality isn’t close to the handcrafted feel of the new Focal Elear. Expect price reductions from many high-end headphones as they scramble to keep up with Focal’s new performance and quality standards.
No headphones in the $1,000 or less category beat on Focal’s new Elear cans. While you may hear a pair of cans you prefer by spending another grand or two, Focal Elear headphones set new standards for craftsmanship, sound, and performance at this price point (period and full stop). Elear will be our “Best” in the $1,000 or less category for some time (we’re betting).
If you want more design details, then read my Focal Utopia headphones review. There are differences. Utopia’s driver uses Beryllium while Elear cone is aluminum (Beryllium produces smooth as butter sound without being lush or laid back).
Headphones earpads are more important than you realize. Everything from the properties of headphone earpad materials to the specified porousness impacts how headphones sound. We recommend buying replacement pads before you toss your old cans. New earpads may rejuvenate your old cans.
We discovered switching pads between Focal Utopia and Elear headphones creates identifiable sound changes. I find Focal Utopia’s sound beautiful, full and close to perfect. For those who want a little more weight to the bottom end try Elear pads on Focal’s Utopia cans. Vice versa on Elear. Want less weight in the lower end? Buy and install a pair of Utopia pads on your Elear headphones to lose some lower end sound wave weight.
Focal Elear and Utopia Headphones Dragon Audio Cables
Much like fly fishermen “match the hatch” selecting lures consistent with what trout or salmon eat we make our Dragon audio cables matched to sound signatures of the best headphones in the world. One reason I’m an “overly analytical” listener is I’m usually designing a Dragon cable as I listen.
We recommend our Silver Dragon V3 audio cable for Focal Elear headphones. The Silver Dragon V3 audio cable helps bring the top end resolution, layers, and sound in line with Focal Utopia with factory cables.
Experimenting to change headphones sound signatures is fun. We found several easy ways to improve tone, soundstage, and the sound of Focal’s new headphones. We made a special Black Dragon cable to add warmth, fullness, and depth to Focal Utopia. And almost instantly our Black Dragon for Focal Utopia is one of our best sellers around the world.
Hope my Focal Elear headphones review introduces the French revolution in sound, performance and quality listening experience from speakers you wear on your head. Neither the Elear or Utopia are hard to drive. You can hear great music with either headphone from your smartphone, pad or computer.
Personally, my Elear headphones travel while Focal Utopia cans stay home. The last thing I want to do is leave a pair of Utopia headphones in a hotel room or Uber. Both Elear and Utopia headphones are astonishing, epic and beautiful. If you ever want to sit on the ground and talk headphones, gear and music we’re glad to set up a demo session at our headquarters in Cary, North Carolina. Contact us to book an appointment at our office, showroom, and cable manufacturing institute.