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Focal Utopia Headphones

Utopia

Focal

Moon Audio

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Focal Utopia $10,000 Headphones for much less




"Exceptional headphones," read Gary F's Focal Utopia review in the "reviews" tab below. Take the Focal Utopia Review Challenge



Focal's Creation Process



"Focal's DNA...the combination of the absolute acoustic quest, total control of the manufacturing process and..."


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Focal Utopia $10,000 Headphones for much less

Leave it to a French speaker maker to change headphones in epic and awesome ways. Focal’s design innovations represent a revolution in headphone design. Focal Utopia’s driver diameter closely follows their voice coil’s diameter with an open back magnet assembly thus there is no trapped air behind the dome. Think of it as a miniature, ported speaker with the most amazing sound you can put on your head. In addition, the driver uses pure Beryllium formed in the new "M" shaped dome which is extremely rigid and super light which results in incredibly low distortion and quite possibly the best in the headphone marketplace.

Suddenly our best selling Silver Dragon audio cable is the cable Drew developed for Focal’s Utopia headphones. We’ve sold our Utopia Silver Dragon cable around the world. If you want the best sound out of the best headphones, level up to Silver Dragon audio cables.

Focal Utopia Supply Note

Focal is a well known and respected French speaker manufacturer who had NO IDEA their new “speaker-like” cans were going to melt the ears of music lovers, audiophiles and experts from Cnet to Stereophile. We’ve moved from impossible to get Utopias to having a few. If the past and the quality of these headphones is any indication, our supply will not last long.

Moon-Audio.com is an audio order democracy. We fill orders for HOT products like Focal’s Utopia on a first come, first served basis and we NEVER play games with your money or our inventory (i.e. we don’t say we have HOT things when we don’t). We hope you have a chance to join a very special club this holiday season - the Focal Utopia owners association.  Parlez-Vous français?

Focal Utopia Review Challenge

Focal Utopia headphones reviews may attempt to do the impossible - describe sound utopia in an online review. Drew, Moon Audio's Founder, wrote a Utopia headphones review on our blog. He found describing sonic bliss difficult, taxing and not nearly as much fun as listening to Focal's headphones. That's why we've created the Focal Utopia Review Challenge. Our challenge is simple - write a Focal Utopia review so prescient, clear and easy to understand even non-audiophiles understand why the French speaker maker's headphones are special and revolutionary.

Let's face it. People who don't love audio gear as much as we do think we are a little crazy. The Focal Utopia Review challenge requires at least two superhero skills - the ability to really head greatness and write about a subjective sonic experience with passion, clarity and words sure to create engagement. If you are up for a challenge, write your Focal Utopia review, a headphones review so great music lovers and non-audiophiles will know we aren't so crazy after all. 

Description

Utopia are the reference pair of headphones from Focal. The Utopia is the result of more than 35 years of innovation, development and manufacturing of speakers and loudspeakers in France. As a world first, Utopia features the only full range and fully open back loudspeaker, built within a pair of headphones, using pure Beryllium formed in the brand new "M" shape dome.

The acoustic quality of this exclusive solution allowed Focal to avoid the use of any crossover or passive filtering process to achieve a frequency response from 5Hz to 50kHz!

The listening experience is outstanding in terms of realism, natural sound reproduction, dynamics and clarity. When listening to the Utopia, the headphones virtually disappear and the audio signal is revealed with a level of precision never achieved until Utopia.

Design is also a key point, be it in regards to the way of using the headphones, comfort, as well as the aesthetic. Another achievement with Utopia is the removal from the conventional rotation included on the yoke and its integration into the headband to ensure a total purity of the design.

The Pittards leather, used on the cushions, reinforces the character of classically elegant lines, as well as the expression of comfort and overall performances.

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.

Focal Utopia Headphone Diagram

First full range loudspeakers in a fully open back headphone

Focal Utopia Technology

  1. Basket
    • 50 mm diameter
  2. Surround
    • Only 70 microns thanks to the NBR Material
    • The lightest surround never made
  3. «M» shape dome
    • Innovation coming from K2 Power
    • 40 mm diameter
    • Beryllium for Utopia
  4. Voice coil
    • First voice coil without any support
    • 25 mm diameter and 4,4 mm high
    •  The smallest and lightest voice coil never made
  5. Motor
    • Total weight:135 mg

Focal Utopia Headphones Review - February 2017 by HiFi+

Focal Utopia Headphones Review - March 2017 by The Absolute Sound

Q&A

Questions & Answers
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What should I do to get the moon audio 5 year warranty on these headphones? Thank you
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Features

Additional Info

Handcrafted in France
Open back circum-aural
Low noise with the least distortion we've heard
Full range “loudspeaker-like” sound
Patent Pending Pure Beryllium “M” shape dome with no air behind it
Easily adjustable to any head size or shape
Balanced cable (bi-amp)
2 Year Warranty from Focal
5 Year Warranty from Moon-Audio.com (exclusive) for registered cans (that’s how sure we are our customers will LOVE their Utopia headphones


Beryllium « M » shape dome

For a tweeter the deciding factor is the MASS of the dome. The lighter the dome, the better the acceleration of the dome. Resolution is directly proportional to acceleration, rigidity and damping!

Why Beryllium?

Beryllium is 13 times more rigid in flexure than Aluminum
Sound velocity in Beryllium is 2,5 times faster than Aluminum
Very good thermal conductivity
Very hard: scratch the glass
7 times more rigid than Titanium or Aluminum at the same mass
Extended Frequency response up to 40 kHz
Undoubtedly the best stiffness to weight ratio
High internal damping


Design

Leather headband
Pittard leather cushions
Carbon fiber yoke
Easy cable customization



Accessories provided

Rigid carrying case with magnet locking system
13.1ft (4m) OFC cable (1 x Neutrik® 01/4“ (6,35mm) stereo Jack Neutrik® 2 x shielded 03⁄8“ (9.5mm) Lemo® connectors with self-locking bayonet system)


Specifications

Type Circum-aural open back headphones
Impedance 80 Ohms
Sensitivity 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
THD <0,2% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
Frequency response 5Hz - 50kHz
Loudspeaker 137⁄64“ (40mm) pure Beryllium “M” shape dome
Weight 1.08lb (490g)
Cable length 13.1ft (4m)
Connectors

1 x Jack 01/4“ (6.35mm) stereo
2 x 03⁄8“ (9.5mm) Lemo®

Carrying case 12.8“x10.2“x6.5“ (326x260x164mm)

Reviews

Focal's UtopiaReview by Jason B
Quality
Price
Value
This is a layman’s review – no technical jargon, etc.

I've been reading about Focal's foray into the Headphone game - they made a big splash in 2016 with two amazing units - a Flagship / TOTL pair, and what many consider as the best value in the headphone world (relatively speaking). Jude’s video with the Focal representative was another big push in the direction of appreciating the technical aspects of the design.

White Paper that I found on Focal's website to be a very good read:

http://country.focal.com/get.php/media/homes/casques/Whitepaper_Headphones_PC1281.pdf

The Focal Utopia and Elear. A friend got a pair of the Elears on a demo program......didn't like them at first with the tube set up he prefers with his Sennheiser HD800's. He changed tubes, it got better.......changed again and, WOW! He was very impressed......well, that meant a lot to me because I view him as very established ears......and his preferences and mine typically align.

That recommendation enticed me to set up a demo at Moon Audio in Cary, NC. Drew provided me plenty of time to evaluate the various headphones, and he set it up so I could use my FiiO DAP to play music I was familiar with. I spent about 1.5 hours between the Focal Utopia (w/Black Dragon cable) and Elear (w/Silver Dragon cable) and Fostex TH900 (Zoltis mods and stock cable). The Utopia’s head stage, imaging, frequency response, and dynamics was overwhelmingly good compared to the Elear and especially the Fostex TH900. In particular, a track from Chris Jones, “Roadhouses & Automobiles” – the Fostex only reproduced about 60% of Chris’s low, full, chesty vocals. The track clinched it for me.

At that point.....I was going to do 1 of 2 things.....either pull everything out of the car and sell it to get the $'s to buy the Utopia or 'save up' for about a year or so to get them. Getting the Elear + a good cable was a very viable option.....but my psychosis is......I would always wonder......would what I'm hearing sound much better on the Utopia's.

I negotiated the purchase with my wife, and I was able to bring home the Utopia, a Black Dragon cable for the Utopia, and Drew made a Black Dragon RCA cable to run between my DAC and the Headphone Amplifier. I have been ‘burning them in’ for the last few weeks, and I believe they have opened up beautifully. The staging and bass response seem to be better and the highs have settled in to perfect balance (I admit that these impressions may be psychoacoustics from feedback others have posted – but the sound has noticeably changed from when they were first connected).

Regarding comfort – the Utopia is heavier than the Fostex with similar clamping feel. I’m a very sensitive headphone wearer (unfortunately) – if the pads push into the mastoid process – I get a very sick, woozy sensation over time – and I have worn a Kevlar helmet for several years, so the top of my head is sensitive to pressure (reasons why the Audeze offerings can only spend about a minute at a time on my head). My Sennheiser HD650’s needed to be adjusted quite a bit to reduce the clamping pressure, but the Utopia is perfect. The pads are extremely comfortable, and they do not get warm like other pads I have demoed. So for me, I find the Utopia to be a very comfortable headphone – not the ‘barely there’ feeling of the HD800 or the HiFiman HEK – but my friends this weekend at a mini-meet felt the Utopia was not heavy or uncomfortable at all.

My listening has been primarily through this chain: AURALiC Aries (source), AURALiC Vega (DAC), Moon Audio Black Dragon RCA, Eddie Current Zana Deux S, Moon Audio Black Dragon Utopia headphone cable. I probably have over 300 hours on the cans at this point, so they should be considered ‘broken in’. These headphones are fast…..they excel at fast paced music, but they are dynamic – even at low volumes. For some listeners – this may lead to fatigue or at least – as a headphone they can only listen to when they want to ‘critically’ listen. I really haven’t found that to be the case – I have been listening to them for about 6 hours a day (changed jobs – working from home now before I start traveling again) – and I have not experienced fatigue. But comparing to the HEK this weekend, the Focals outpace the HiFiman with everything that I played. We noticed a bit better focus with the voice as well with the Utopia versus the HEK. We surmised that in an attempt to get wider staging, the voice is a bit diffuse with the HEK – but the Utopia has great width (IMO) without sacrificing the tight image of the voice.

Another interesting aspect of the Utopia – they are easy to drive, but they scale incredibly well. One reviewer said that if they are driven by a DAP or similar portable solution, they loose some detail, but they don’t loose their overall character. I found them to be very enjoyable to listen to out of the FiiO X5iii and the Mojo. I felt they were amazing out of Drew’s Pass Labs HPA-1 solid state amp, and my friends DNA Stratus, my EC ZDS, and my friend’s Trafomatic Head2. This amp brings up an interesting point as well – the Utopia is easy to drive, but there was a very nice improvement in bass presence and overall impact when they were driven by the more powerful Head2 amp. This amp puts out 2 watts @ 50 ohm, and that increased power over the ZDS provides a ‘weight’ to the sound – dynamics even at low volumes.

The overall sense of the sound on all amps was that the frequency response was very linear – the headphones excel in the highs, mids, and lows – there is no weakness (to my ears – confirmed with three fellow listeners this weekend). So, in summary – I find these to be the most incredible sounding headphones I have had the privilege to listen to, they offer really good comfort, and they have top-notch aesthetics (to me anyway).

My friend Vernon's take away from the time spent with the Utopia at the meet:

Pros:
- I think its level of detail retrieval is on par with the HD800 without some of the analytical sounding tone that comes with the HD800. Never felt like I was missing out on details
- Very balanced frequency response without any noticeably distracting spikes
- Seemed to be a genre master. It could play fast songs with authority and slower songs with delicacy
- Great sense of focus and very musical while having top notch technicalities. Very hard to find in headphones
- Build quality is superb. Love that carbon fiber band. Classy looking pair of headphones as well
- Cable swaps seem to make a noticeable difference in tonality
- Extremely comfortable for me, though I didn't wear it for several hours in order to determine if the level of comfort applies over time
- Sounded excellent out of every system we tried, which likely means it's easy to drive

Cons: (Really nitpicky here, as it was tough to think of any...)
- With the stock cable, there was a tendency towards a mildly hot treble with some passages
- Soundstage is above average, but not 'ethereal' as commonly attributed to the HD800
- Bass seems like the most scalable aspect of the Utopia, but that may or may not be a good thing
- Mad expensive
- Stock cable is unruly
Favorite amps with the Utopia were the ZDS w/Sophia tube and the Trafomatic Head 2
ZDS for its capability to showcase the Utopia at its finest and the Trafomatic Head 2 for its sheer authority to turn the Utopia into a rage machine with finesse

My friend Tom's take away from the time spent with the Utopia at the meet:

The fast speed and high resolution of the Utopia was obvious the minute I put it on. These contributed to the high dynamic nature of these phones. For me, it surpassed my HD800 in both of these aspects. The Utopia’ sound was also very punchy, reminding me of the HE6 I used to own. Both of them gave me some aspects of listening to hi-fi speakers, such as the sense of power, authority and ironclad control. But the HE6 is less resolving than the HD800 and one more level lower than the Utopia.

I felt the sound of the Utopia was overall quite forward, a little over my comfort zone. But here I should add a cautionary note. This was the first time for me to listen to it and my experience may change over time should Jason let me have more time with it over several occasions. I recalled that the HE6 also sounded very forward the first couple times I listened to it but before long it ceased to sound like that to me. Assuming the forwardness was true for a minute, I thought it might be engendered by some emphasis on the mid-bass (tight and punchy), and some emphasis in the high mid and in some treble bands.

I agree with Vernon who pointed out that the Utopia was free of the spikes present with the HD800s. Even with two types of modifications to the 800’s and a Norne Draug 2 cable, my HD800 still has residual problems with the artificial treble spikes. In contrast, the Utopia had no such problems at all. It is a truly remarkable achievement considering how resolving the Utopia is and it does so without an exaggeration of the edges. This is also an indication that the HD800 might have a tendency to present false details manifested as some of those spikes.

With the above cautionary note, I do wish the Utopia could move a little towards the relaxing sound signature of the HEK. For instance, the mid-bass was very tight and impactful from the Utopia but the extension to the sub-bass was somewhat lacking. The HEK was much better in this aspect. I am very sensitive to the tightness of the mid-bass and prefer a tuneful bass range with a moderate level of energy. Another example was that while I like the aliveness and beautiful timbre of violins with the Utopia, I wish the sound could soften and darken a little for better conveying of mood states. The same thing could be said about cello sound. I prefer a little less bass energy to convey certain emotions that are supposedly at relatively low energy levels.

I read earlier that many felt the soundstage of the Utopia was on the small and close-in side. I think the size and shape of its soundstage were both decent. Plus the imaging and separation were very, very good. One thing I want to mention was that with some tracks, I clearly detected a spherical border of the soundstage: everything was clear and alive inside of the border; outside of it sounds abruptly disappeared. I thought this might be one of the reasons why some listeners perceived a close-in soundstage. In contrast, the HEK and HD800 did not create the impression of such a border. Sometimes, if I closed my eyes while listening to my HD800, the stage seemed to extend endlessly. Anyway, likely due to that I do not often listen to large orchestra works, the Utopia’s soundstage was not an issue to me. It has its own characteristics but not necessarily a shortcoming. The Utopia’s soundstage might help create an enhanced sense of realism and immersiveness.

And, last but certainly not least, I had a wonderful buying experience with Drew, Nichole, and Martin. I want to thank Drew for answering questions via phone and email – for setting up a wonderful demo experience – for getting the cables done so quickly – and for making the exchange of the 5’ headphone cable for the 10’ cable so easy when I was knucklehead with my order. Moon Audio is an excellent company with wonderful people and top shelf products!
(Posted on 3/21/2017)
Focal Utopia HeadphoneReview by Gary F.
Value
Quality
Price
These are exceptional headphones. I listen to a lot of classical music and these are the first headphones to truly outclass the Sennheiser HD800 and 800's and the Stax Sr-009's in this genre. I also prefer these for Jazz and pop also. They can credibly reproduce the sound a saxophone which is not easy. In addition, they have a good headstage. It is the equal of the Stax Sr-009 imho. (Posted on 2/16/2017)
GoodReview by Venus pham
Value
Quality
Price
I love it. (Posted on 2/16/2017)
Focal utopia headphonesReview by Paul A.
Value
Quality
Price
Awesome headphones! Good job Focal! Great customer service Moon Audio! Both,highly recommended! (Posted on 2/16/2017)
Focal's Magical Headphones UtopiaReview by ScentTrail
Value
Quality
Price
Headphones are different now thanks to a French speaker company. Focal's Utopia headphones change key ideas about headphones and sound. Ideas such as soundstage, clarity, and separation new standards are set. Every high-end headphones maker in the world must now rethink, redesign, and discover a new sound or risk losing share to a speaker company.

And yes Focal's epic speaker maker roots explains why they've made the best headphones I've ever heard. Once exceptional and acceptable headphones (Fostex TH900) and In-Ear Monitors (Shure KSE1500) slip from "great" to "good" after spending several hours listening to Fostex's new cans at Moon-Audio.com yesterday.

Many headphone review ideas are blown apart by Focal's new Utopia cans too. I prefer closed back headphones like my Fostex TH900s, or I did until yesterday. Focal's open back Utopia headphones don't create fatigue, heat or become uncomfortable over time. The opposite is true. The more I listened and wore the Utopia headphones the LESS I noticed these magical cans. During breaks between songs, I heard ambient sounds from the Moon-Audio.com office, and I could have cared less.

Focal Utopia & the Psychology of Sound

Focal's Utopia headphones change the PSYCHOLOGY of sound. Utopia's new headphones are so clear, inclusive and their ergonomics so well crafted things once important such as "isolation" fade. Isolation isn't the issue. Being swept away by the sound, hearing more music, and forgetting TIME is the real desire. "Isolation" is not really what is important - sound quality clarity, and warmth are the real issues. And I know that now after listening to "open back" headphones so epic what was once critical - isolation - isn't relevant at all anymore.

After looking for several hours, I tweeted that I'd spent a single hour listening at Moon-Audio.com in Cary, North Carolina near my home in Durham. I spent more than two hours fascinated by how these French headphones changed the headphones listening experience, a change I'd summarize as:

* Astonishing clarity especially mids and lower range sounds such as vocals
* Clarity helped by Moon Audio Black Dragon cables (Moon's Black Dragon headphones cables for Utopia are sold around the world now as audiophiles find ways so the best headphones in the world sound better)
* Soundstage so deep and multidimensional it feels like you’re listening to speakers
* Sound so warm, inviting and encompassing the experience feels swept away

The Focal Utopia Headphones Musical Experience

I challenged Focal’s Utopia headphones to vastly improve the sound of music I’ve listened to for years, music listened to so much my brain knows the patterns, pauses, and changes. How little I knew, understood or heard beloved albums and tracks is one of my biggest Utopia realizations. Here are a few examples of how much these magical cans change the headphones music listening experience.

New Chautauqua by Pat Metheny
I heard the “On The Road Again” story in Metheny’s title track. Closing my eyes drifting toward a new Chautauqua I recalled visiting the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York years ago. Metheny via Focal’s Utopia headphones sounded full, woody, and like a summer day.

Quadrophenia by the Who
Hard to think of early seventies rock as operatic, but, thanks to Focal’s Utopia cans, we hear a “group” of individual powerhouses musicians in The Who tell a magical, coherent, and ROCKIN story. The waves and rain at the beginning of I am The Sea and the seamless transition to Townsend’s power ballad in The Real Me are epic, stunning, and opera-like.

Beck Midnight Honey on Midnight Vultures
Hearing Beck as if for the first time thanks to Focal Utopia brings Dylan and Monk to mind. “Kremlin mistress” is only one of Beck’s Dylanesque examples. The knife sound on Pressure Zone is stunning, surprising and epic. Beck’s sampled music moves around, grows in dimension and complexity fast without warning. Focal’s cans were never behind or distorted. Even in LOUD sampled music it’s the quality of silence that creates dimension, hooks and patterns. Utopia headphones create uncolored silence. There’s no buzz, no static, and nothing other than the sound of snow falling at night in the woods.

Dylan’s Memphis Blues
You’ve never heard vocals the way you’ll hear them with Focal Utopia headphones and Moon Audio Black Dragon audio cables. Dylan’s raspy poems were so clear words previously slurred into oblivion were present, warm and e e cummings beautiful. “I never heard that,” was a common reaction. Recovering so much lost detailed changed so much it’s hard to fully share. Looking at paintings is the closest explanatory experience. Since it is impossible OWN a Pollack, a Schnabel plate painting or a Warhol I’ve made regular visits to see paintings such as MoMA’s One: Number 31, 1950 or Untitled by Anselm Kiefer at the NC Museum of Art. Every visit brings something new into view shifting the perception of the work. Before Utopia’s cans music didn’t seem to have the same “see more with repetition” aspect. Music would wear a groove, set pattern expectations and be similar if not the same with each listening. Not so much anymore. Utopia headphones are so astonishing, clear, and special listening to Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again over and over across time would highlight and peal the music so new duets, notes, and sounds appear with every listening.

Utopia Headphones Blues
Having heard the sound I’ve been searching for with treasure and time for years can I afford a pair of Focal’s Utopia headphones? Nope, not even a little, but that’s what they make lotteries and Credit Cards for right?

Money is a funny thing. Money often sets a price point and we assign value based on what may be an arbitrary point. I like to pay by WORTH. I overpay someone who learns to cut my hair, paint a painting or create great websites because their art is often worth more than the asking price. Having the addictive music listening experience I enjoyed at Moon-Audio.com yesterday with Focal’s Utopia headphones is worth more than the French speaker company’s asking price.

I’ll be going into debt to bring the Focal Utopia experience home sooner rather than later. Life is short and music matters are two hard-won lessons. If you have the means, perspective or desire to purchase a special listening experience do so. I didn’t START with Shure’s KSE1500s. Years ago I purchased a pair of Shure SE425s and worked my way to Shure’s electrostatic In-Ear Monitors (IEMs).

So I’ll be saving, selling and scrimping until a pair of Utopia’s live on the headphones stand where my once great Fostex TH900s perch now. In making such a purchase do I risk something better coming along? Who cares! Focal’s design and approach is so novel it will take years for other headphones makers to catch up or surpass between now and then there will be hours and hours of magical musical listening experiences. (Posted on 2/16/2017)

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