Focal Listen Headphones
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Includes Full Warranty, All Sales Final
The Focal Listen are premium headphones that are great for the on-the-go lifestyle.
The closed back design and large chrome plated ear cups provide excellent isolation from outside noise while offering high-quality acoustic performance, even on a busy city street or in a subway car.
- Closed circum-aural headphones
- Exclusive diaphragm technology offering amazing sound quality
- Mobile, light, comfortable and high isolation headphones
- Multifunction remote
- Compatible with all smartphones
- Ergonomic Design – Comfort & Finish
- Compact & Foldable
- In-depth Mechanical Design Study
- The Focal Driver Design – The Focal Sound
- Closed headphones, circum-aural
- 122dB SPL @ 1kHz – / 1Vrms
- <0,4% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
- Frequency response
- 15Hz - 22kHz
- 1.6“ (40mm) Mylar/Titanium
- 0.60lb (273g)
- Cable length
- 4.60ft (1.4m)
- Jack 3.5mm 4 conductors
- 9.4“ x 8.3“ x 4.4“ (239x212x111mm)
- Carry Case
- Detachable cable with mini jack input
- USB cable
- 2-Year Warranty
So the search began. Tried some NAD VISO and while the soundstage depth was an interesting effect (if you believed), the NADs just didn't fit my head: too tight above the ears and no seal of the cushion below.
After pouring over Head-Fi reviews and an audiophile daughter saying you can't go wrong with Focal. Got the Listens --GREAT
--better than OPPOs; not as laid back. Lively, perhaps a better impedance match with my FIIO-X3 . Good sound isolation, good sound on my walks. Great cans.
11 months ago
The Focal Listen is one of three of the newest line from the French company Focal. The Listen is the most affordable of the bunch at an MSRP of 249 USD. This puts them in on the of most competitive price brackets. There are many other options that could be vying for your hard earned money, the question is, is this new headphone from Focal right for you? Let�s find out!
Build Quality/ Design:
I will start this review with the build quality. At the price point of 249 dollars a certain level of quality is expected. I am happy to say the Listen�s succeed in providing this level of expectation. I feel pictures do not really do them justice. In pictures the all black headband looks cheap and very plastic. This is not entirely true I discovered. In Focal�s description of the product they say the headband is �soft touch.� I initially thought this was talking about the padding on the headband. In reality it is referring the headband itself. It is almost like rubber giving the headband extreme flexibility. It can be contorted and bent without putting strain on the headband. You can tell it was designed to be thrown in a bag and take a few hits.
The ear cups are chrome plated which gives the impression that they are made of brushed aluminum; sadly, this is not the case and they are actually made of plastic. It is a very high quality plastic I might add however. I am sure they went with plastic as it is lighter, and this is supposed to be a mobile headset after all.
The headband attaches to the ear cup almost like a ball and socket. I think this is a really nice way of doing this. It allows the ear cups to actually swivel forward a little bit. The reason this is beneficial is that it allows you to turn the ear cups to fit your ears more precisely.
The cable is wonderful in my opinion. It is a heavier gage than many mobile headphones which is nice as it looks like it can take some abuse. Because of the thick rubber coating on the cable it is very tangle resistant and does not �remember� its shape, and simply lies straight. On the cable you will find both a microphone for phone calls and a separate circle button which is used to control music play back and answer phone calls. There is no volume control on this device. I am guessing they chose this as it makes it universally compatible with all mobile platforms (iOS, Android, and windows). This is nice as volume control is not that important to me and it means I do not need to order a certain model with a specific cable. An additional side note, the cable has a locking mechanism, which is not preferred as it means I cannot replace it with any 3.5mm cable if this one fails.
While as a whole the build quality is fantastic, there are a few changes I would make to this device. Firstly, I would like to have seen headband markers on the headband. As I stated earlier this is designed to be a mobile headset. It folds up into a neat little pouch for compact storage. This means however, that you need to unextend the headband to stow it, and thus undue you fit. While it is a rather trivial thing, it would be nice to know an exact measurement that fits your head.
The second design change I would make would be the ear cups. I have relatively small ears and this just manage to encompass them. Essentially, they are large on ear headphones. Again this is a little nit-picky as they are mobile and I am sure people would not want massive cans while on their morning commute.
For me comfort is very important. The way I see it, a headphone could sound sublime, but if it is painful to wear than I cannot truly enjoy the musical bliss. These headphones earn a solid C- (7/10) for comfort. They are not painful to wear, but could certainly be improved upon. The biggest discomfort comes from the headband. There is rather minimal padding. This leads to discomfort on the top of the head after a little bit of time listening. I will say that it has improved since I first put them on. I have enjoyed a two-hour flight with these and have only need to adjust occasionally, which is normal for any headphone. Speaking of flying, these isolate extremely well. They even compete with my SE215�s which block out about 35dB of sound. I bet these do about 30dBs, also I have no measurements to verify this.
An additional few side notes are, if you are a glasses wearer the fit can get a little finicky as the clamping force is pretty high on these. If you are sensitive to that kind of pressure these may be a no go for you. Again, however, the pads seem to soften up and become far more comfortable. Furthermore, if you have a melon head (you know who you are) these may not be a good fit for you. I have a relatively small head and to get these to fit me well I need to extend them over halfway to the maximum amount.
So, to sum up: If you have a large head and wear glasses these may be a pass for you, as they will most likely be very unpleasant to wear. If you do not wear glasses and have a normal head size, then you are in luck! If you have a normal head with glasses, than give them a shot cause they work for me!
Before I get into sound I think it is important for me to mention that all sound preferences are highly subjective to the listener. If possible audition these to get a more accurate feel for them. My personal sound preferences lean towards a slightly warm bass and a little sparkle in the treble. I tend to not like over recessed mids (extreme U shaped sound).
I will start with the lows of this headphone. I was happy to find out they are not bass cannons. Often times headphones in this price bracket that are portable are heavily bass emphasized. These are pretty neutral with maybe a tint of a mid-bass hump. It does drop off when you get to the sub bass region, so if you like a healthy low end rumble you may find these lacking. I would personally prefer a little more sub bass as I think it really helps round out the music and gives a nice body, but it is okay as it is.
The mid-bass this headphone has is very tight and well controlled. It does not bleed into the mids hardly at all, which is nice as it makes the vocals super clean, which I will talk about later. The bass also does not have a ton of punch. It does not beg for attention, instead it just does its thing. I cannot say how refreshing this is in a mobile closed back headphone. It almost feels like this is the bass that should have been present in the T70 or T70p from Beyerdynamic. While some track could use a little more punch, I would much prefer this to the alternative.
The mids and vocals are this headphones strong point. They are clear and crisp. I was honestly startled by how clear vocals were on some tracks. I was walking around my house and stopped what I was doing just to listen (see what I did there?), always a good sign when a headphone has that affect. It is especially apparent on acoustic music with a strong vocal singer. Focal managed a near ideal balance between enough low end to give singers depth in their voice, but enough treble to give them a life-like edge.
The treble on these headphones is pretty standard. It is well done, but nothing special. It has what you would expect from a headphone in this price range. Detailed treble, but not harsh. It extends well, especially for the price range, but is not amazing. It is never sibilant to my ears, but if you are very sensitive to treble you may find these a tad harsh.
In summary, these are mostly neutral headphones that excel with vocal heavy music. Because of their neutrality they are solid all-rounders for many types of music, from classical to pop. The Listen shines at pulling vocals out of the music. It provides the image of the singer sitting in front of the instruments. They also do benefit from a short burn in to evolve their best sound quality.
Things I like:
�Wonderful sound quality
�Above average isolation
Things I don�t like:
�Minimal headband padding
�Slightly small ear cups
�Proprietary locking cable
�Very average sound stage
�No adjustment markers.
The final question remains, are these the headphones for you? If you are looking for a relatively neutral headphone that is easily portable and has excellent isolation that these should be on your short list. I honestly cannot think of many portable headphones that have a neutral sound signature and isolate this well for this price point, granted there are many headphones I have not listened to. I think the fact that it is not a bass cannon gives this headphone the niche to survive in its competitive price bracket. As far as value I would absolutely say it is worth the MSRP. I could honestly see this headphone selling for even 300 or 350 (although 350 would be a little excessive) in the current market. If you do get them, be sure to give it at least a week before passing final judgment. When I initially got them I did not care much for them, now they are one of my favorites and my go to mobile headphone!
If you have questions about the headphone please let me know!