Focal Elear Headphones
The Focal Elear headphones are the world’s first full range fully open back loudspeaker built in to a pair of headphones. Focal's "speakers on your head" approach create great open airy headphones. Made from Focal's unique Aluminum-Magnesium blend with the company’s new “M” shaped dome these headphones feel as great as they sound.
Focal Elear Best $1,000 Headphones?
As Moon-Audio.com’s founder, I’m often asked an impossible question - what is the best headphones for a $XXXX price. Headphones are like art. What excites, inspires, and thrills our ears may not be what someone else would select, glorify or buy. Hearing is subjective.
An important caveat stated headphone greatness exists and Focal Elear headphones are great. My Focal Elear headphones review shares how we define headphone greatness.
I wrote this Elear headphones review to provide a peek inside our evaluation process. We want to explain why the French speaker company Focal’s Elear and Utopia headphones are game changers.
Focal Elear Headphones & Musical Emotion
I can be overly analytic when listening to new audio gear. After hearing thousands of headphones, DACs, DAPs, Amps and audio cables it is hard to stop my engineer brain.
Analytical listening isn’t the musical experience sought. Music is an emotional experience. It should sweep our hearts and minds away moving us into a dream where music, musician, and our ears connect.
Finding gear capable of experiencing those musical emotions is difficult. Making it easy to find, buy and hack high-end audio gear is another reason we started Moon-Audio.com.
Chord’s Mojo Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) create a magical musical mystery tour. Focal’s Elear and Utopia headphones are insanely great audio gear, gear capable of sweeping ears, hearts, and minds into a dream where it rains all the time but you never get wet.
Focal Elear and the Headphones Market
Any audio gear between ears and music may influence, change, and color the sound. You may hear the equipment instead of the music.
As an engineer who may create new audio cables, I look for sound “markers”. Sound markers define a piece of equipment’s “sound signature.” Choices in design, materials and desired outcome create “sound signatures”.
The headphones market is divided. “Big” or “Sales First” brands such as Bose and Beats focus on marketing, not R&D. Fidelity to the sound of an original studio recording is less important than sales. Audiophiles want to let the music be, to hear the original studio recording.
“Sales first” brands, sometimes called “low-fi” or “mid-fi,” value sales over sound fidelity. They may spend $100 on marketing for every $1 in product development. Sales first headphones WANT to color, change and influence music because doing so supports their marketing.
Headphones with distinct “sound signatures” are easier to market, package, and sell. Marketing the ABSENCE of something is more difficult. The search for “audio purity” isn’t important for all buyers.
Neither audio gear purists nor “sales first” brands are right or wrong. People buy headphones for many reasons. If everyone on your campus has a pair of Beats and you want to join them buy Beats.
At Moon-Audio.com we are headphone agnostics. I founded the company after making audio cables friends loved enough to share with their buddies. Our Silver and Black Dragon audio cables and other headphones hacks help cans from Beats to Focal Utopia sound better.
Focal Elear and Headphone Emotions
Focal Elear headphones create emotional listening experiences. The Elear sounds tight, detailed and yet flowing and big. 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 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 Smashas alluring as ever. Instrument separation is clear and concise. Piano decay sounds like a smooth stream of water.
Focal Elear Headphones Value
Prepared for Focal Elear’s headphone magic to fade with a high price I asked Focal’s Sales Manager Sanjay how much their new cans cost. “What,” I said with mouth open and surprised fully expressed. To say Focal Elear headphones are an enormous value at $995 having a gift for understatement.
Focal Elear build quality is what we expect from cans in the $2,000+ range. Several headphones costing more than two grand must improve build and sound quality to be close to Focal Elear headpones. Look for price reductions as many high-end headphones scramble to keep up with Focal’s new performance and quality standards.
Focal Elear and Utopia Headphones Dragon Audio Cables
Like fly fishermen “matching the hatch” or selecting lures consistent with what trout or salmon eat we make Dragon audio cables matched to sound signatures from the best headphones in the world.
We recommend our Silver Dragon V3 audio cable for Focal Elear headphones. The Sliver Dragon V3 audio cable helps bring the top end resolution, layers, and sound in line with Focal Utopia with factory cables.
First full range loudspeakers in an fully open back headphone
Elear is an open back pair of headphones featuring numerous innovations from Focal, which are key to their outstanding acoustics performance.
Elear offers the world’s first, full range and fully open back loudspeaker, built-in to a pair of headphones. Additionally, they are made from an Aluminum-Magnesium blend, in a formed shape, unique to Focal with the company’s brand new “M” shape dome. This new dome shape has originated from the research performed during the Utopia headphone project that will offer the highest quality sound, while avoiding potential avenues of distortion.
The acoustic quality of this exclusive solution allowed Focal to avoid the use of any crossover or passive filtering process in order to achieve a frequency response from 5Hz to 23kHz.
The result is thus impressively realistic, making the headphones virtually disappear and providing listeners with a truly unique high-fidelity audio experience.
Elear also benefits from the R&D done on Utopia. With regards to mechanical design, the rotation traditionally included on the yoke has been moved into the headband to ensure the total purity of the design.
The microfiber fabric, used on the cushions, offers a true comfort for all head shapes and sizes – a quality that is mandatory for long listening sessions.
Both Utopia and Elear require an external DAC and amplifier. They cannot be plugged into a portable device such as an iphone or android smartphone.
Benefits of Aluminum/Magnesium (AL-MG)
|Al-Mg = Aluminum||+||Magnesium|
|Optimum damping||+||Improved rigidity|
No ringing effect
- Headphones Made in France
- Open back circum-aural headphones dedicated to low noise environments.
- High-fidelity pair of headphones featuring full range loudspeakers made of Aluminum-Magnesium "M" shape dome (patent pending).
- Mechanical design offering a full compatibility to any morphology.
- Balanced cable with channels separation for fast and easy custom-made solutions (bi-amp).
- Leather headband
- Alcantara cushions
- Massive Aluminum yoke
- Easy cable customization
- 50 mm diameter basket
|Type||Circum-aural open back headphones|
|Sensitivity||104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz|
|THD||<0.3% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL|
|Frequency response||5Hz - 23kHz|
137⁄64“ (40mm) Aluminum-Magnesium "M" shape dome
|Cable length||13.1ft (4m)|
1 x 01/4“ (6.35mm) stereo Jack connector
2 x 09⁄64“ (3.5mm) Jack
|Carrying case||12.8“x10.2“x6.5“ (326x260x164mm)|
|Surround||Lightest ever made at 70 microns|
|«M» shape dome||Al-Mg 40mm diamer|
|Voice Coil||Smallest & lightest ever made at 4.4mm high with a 25mm diameter|
|Motor||150 mg total weight|
- Rigid carrying case with magnet locking system
- 13.1ft (4m) OFC cable (1 x 01/4“ (6.35mm) stereo Jack 2 x 09⁄64“ (3.5mm) Jack with self-locking system)
Chord Hugo 2 or Chord Mojo.
Shipping was fast and packed well by Moon Audio.
So first off, on the Elears, they are made extremely well. Solid is the first impression I got when I picked them up for the first time. There is nothing cheap about the way they are made, and I believe they outdo many headphones at two to three times the price in construction quality. They feel like they will last forever, and it is amazing they are able to deliver such a high quality product at a fairly reasonable price.
For sound quality, I would say they are a great all round headphone. They do everything very well from top to bottom with no major weakness (in my opinion). They are balanced more toward the warmer side, but they will not make any recordings that are not on the warm side sound warm. If something has big bass in it, you will hear it for sure, but they don't over emphasize anything that is not there. Listening to classical music with timpani drums is fantastic. They really come through quite well. Also separation is great, you definitely hear soundstage sorted out very well.
In the midrange they are also quite faithful to the recording and reproducing male and female vocals. I came from a pair of Audeze LCD3s, which reproduce vocals extremely well. I think the Elears are at least the equal of those, with maybe even more resolution. I do hear things on these phones in the mids, especially separation, that I did not hear on the LCD3s. Some say there is a hole of some kind in the kids, but I don't hear it. These cans seem pretty solid in that area. It could be the recordings that these people are listening to that have the "hole" in the kids.
The treble in the Elears is also excellent to without being overbearing. It is certainly much better than the highs in the LCD3s, which are extremely rolled off. If a recording sounds a bit ragged in the highs you will hear through the Elears, and if it is well done there, you will hear that as well.
For dynamics, these headphones are beasts. They definitely going all out in the dynamics department when the recording calls for it. Just fantastic in this area.
For weakness, I would say that over-driving them could push them to be a little "shouty" sounding. However, you don't need to turn up the volume much with these. A little power goes a long way. I drive mine with a Bryston BHA-1 set to low gain, and it is more than enough. I set it at 9 o'clock and that works just fine. The other thing is the break in period. They do take a while to break in. At first the bass can sound a little muddy, but give them some time, and they really, really open up and become very coherent. They do need a good headphone amp to do their best. Lower powered portables will not do them any favors in the bass. Get a decent headphone amp for these. It does not have to be really powerful, but needs to be off good quality. Finally, the headphone cable that comes with these is cumbersome. I replaced mine with a Black Dragon of about 5 feet and it helped a lot. Locked everything in a bit better in the coherency department.
So to sum up, I cannot think of a better headphone in terms of sound quality and definitely construction for $1000.00 than these Elears. To me they a marvel of engineering in the modern headphone era. The Utopias are fantastic as well, but not the same value for the money that the Elears do. Everyone might a different opinion, but check these out. They are a great headphone, and are worth every cent of their price and more.
The Elear's join my Sennheiser HD800's and my Oppo PM-1's. Differences between the three are fairly obvious, and I find myself gravitating to different cans depending on my mood. Now that my Elears are starting to break in a little bit (I purchased them with the upgraded Silver Dragon cable), I'm enjoying them more and more. The soundstage is much narrower than the HD800's, but the articulation of each instrument and voice, and the reasonably flat frequency response makes up for the narrower soundstage. I've paired the Elears with a Cambridge DacMagic 100 DAC for a warmer sound, and they're powered by a Beyerdynamic A20 amp.
The combo works very well. I had originally tried my Schiit Modi 2 Uber DAC, but found the sound to be a bit harsh vs. the Cambridge DAC. The Elears also sounded great on my Marantz DAC1 amp which I use with my HD800's, which also tends to sounds a bit warmer. I never tried it with my Oppo HA-1, but this would probably be similar to the Schiit. All in all, glad I purchased the Elears, and I don't think I'm missing too much by not getting the Utopia's (I keep telling myself).
I'm well aware of what Beryllium can do in drivers, as my Revel Salon2's are the most articulate, flat, accurate, and pleasurable speakers I've ever owned (and I will not be getting rid of them for the foreseeable future). I'm impressed by the articulation that Focal achieved with the Aluminum-Magnesium drivers, and am sure that the Utopias improve on this already impressive feature, but unless I receive an awesome tax refund, I'm very happy keeping the Elears.
Focal Elear Headphones Unboxing
Chord Mojo DAC headphone ampSpecial Price $490.31 Regular Price $599.00