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Connoisseur's Guide to Focal Headphones

Are Focal Headphones Good?


What happens when one of the world's leading loudspeaker companies sets out to build headphones that sound insanely close to your floor-standing counterparts?

A world-class soundstage that goes everywhere you go, that’s what. So, are Focal headphones any good?

Oh. Heck. Yes.

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

The French Connection

Since its founding in 1979, Focal, a French company, has won a laudable reputation with audiophiles world-wide. For more than 40 years, the company has designed and manufactured some of the best sounding luxury loudspeakers in the world. Somehow, the brand always manages to blur the line between superior acoustics and sophisticated beauty, seamlessly.

Somehow, the brand always manages to blur the line between superior acoustics and sophisticated beauty, seamlessly.

Imperial Red Focal Sopra No3 luxory loudspeakers Hand Made in France

Somehow, the brand always manages to blur the line between superior acoustics and sophisticated beauty, seamlessly.

Today, Focal focuses on more than just top-tier loudspeakers. By continuing to push the boundaries of acoustical engineering to the limits, Focal’s expertise with great-sounding materials and artful craftsmanship has inspired its product-line of headphones. The French company achieves all of this within the walls of its facilities based in Saint-Étienne, and Burgundy, France. Read more about Focal’s historic expertise in acoustics and the brand’s dedicated manufacturing facilities on the official Focal website.

Why Do You Need Better Headphones?

Focal Stellia closed back headphones laying on a bar in front of a well dressed man who seems to have an appreciation for the finer things in life.

"...Your ears deserve better, and you’re tired of missing out."

You have an appreciation for the finer things in life. This is what brings you here. You don’t just want better headphones, you crave connection to your music with more musical detail. You understand that your ears deserve better, and you’re tired of missing out. This essential guide to Focal headphones will serve up all the models in Focal’s product line, and help you choose the right one that unlocks the potential hiding in your music library.

Just like the celebrated wines and exquisite delicacies that Burgundy is famous for, Focal, surely, inherits its good taste and draws much of its inspiration from its historical homeland. Like its home, Focal’s rich cultural heritage has positioned the brand to offer something unique to audiophiles for the last four decades. Looking ahead, the company’s experience building world-class loudspeakers for the best sounding mastering studios and listening environments in the world, uniquely positioned the brand to offer something extraordinary to the headphone market at large.

Focal Stellia closed back headphones laying on a bar in front of a well dressed man who seems to have an appreciation for the finer things in life.

Your ears deserve better, and you’re tired of missing out.

You have an appreciation for the finer things in life. This is what brings you here. You don’t just want better headphones, you crave connection to your music with more musical detail. You understand that your ears deserve better, and you’re tired of missing out. This ultimate guide to Focal headphones will serve up all the models in Focal’s product line, and help you choose the right one that unlocks the potential hiding in your music library.

Just like the celebrated wines and exquisite delicacies that Burgundy is famous for, Focal, surely, inherits its good taste and draws much of its inspiration from its historical homeland. Like its home, Focal’s rich cultural heritage has positioned the brand to offer something unique to audiophiles for the last four decades. Looking ahead, the company’s experience building world-class loudspeakers for the best sounding mastering studios and listening environments in the world, uniquely positioned the brand to offer something extraordinary to the headphone market at large.

...the company’s experience building world-class loudspeakers for the best sounding mastering studios and listening environments in the world, uniquely positioned the brand to offer something extraordinary to the headphone market at large.

Photo of a well dressed woman and a gentleman posing with Focal Stellia and Focal Elegia closed back headphones.

Since 2016, after the release of its first flagship open-back headphone model, the Utopia, the roster of headphones continues to grow similarly to the brand’s worldwide audience of customers. Users understand best the special characteristics that beryllium or magnesium drivers impart to their music. In Focal’s over-the-ear headphones, these materials help fans of the brand deepen their appreciation for music, itself. This is why audiophiles keep coming back to the brand, again and again, for the excellent craftsmanship and the selection of the finest materials.

The brand’s expertise in materials imparts favorable sonic characteristics to the sound waves the drivers produce. When it comes to building amazing headphones and loudspeakers, the company understands materials matter. No wonder Focal headphones have become so famous for the way they serve exquisite detail to the delighted ears of aficionados who appreciate the special sound signatures that high-quality materials bring to their musical explorations.

If you’re someone who has an appreciation for the finer things in life, then look no further. Focal celebrates your good taste and has much to offer.

If you’re someone who has an appreciation for the finer things in life, then look no further. Focal celebrates your good taste and has much to offer.

Focal logo on Focal Stellia closed back headphones

The Psychoacoustic Advantage

Image of Focal Chora 826 loudspeaker in Lightwood color

As a luxury loudspeaker brand, Focal’s number one priority and focal point (pun intended) is sound quality and fidelity. So, it’s no wonder the company chooses to focus on the over-the-ear (circum-aural) form-factor in every headphone it designs.

 

While the experience from a pair of headphones can never match the upfront soundstage of loudspeakers, you will experience a sense of resolution and intimacy you can never experience with speakers."

— Drew Baird, Engineer and Founder | Moon-Audio

When it comes to presenting the best soundstage, over-the-ear headphones are the connoisseur's choice. Of all the fit-types available, it’s the smaller, more portable on-ear and in-ear headphone styles that of course position drivers the closest to the ears. However, for many, there’s a sonic advantage when placing the drivers farther away from the ears rather than closer. And there’s no-one more uniquely positioned to understand this psychoacoustic advantage better than Focal.

When it comes to presenting the best soundstage, over-the-ear headphones are the connoisseur's choice. Of all the fit-types available, it’s the smaller, more portable on-ear and in-ear fit-types that of course position drivers the closest to the ears. However, for many, there’s a significant sonic advantage when placing the drivers farther away from the ears rather than closer. And there’s no-one more uniquely positioned to understand this psychoacoustic advantage better than Focal.

The advantage in positioning the drivers spaced farther away from the user’s ears is a greater dimensional “width” in the overall sense of presentation the wearer perceives. Think of a “wider” sense of presentation as being analogous to hearing a set of loudspeakers in an acoustically treated room. For many, this sense of presentation is one step closer to the perfect audio “end-game.”

Think of a “wider” sense of presentation as being analogous to hearing a set of loudspeakers in an acoustically treated room. For many, this sense of presentation is one step closer to the perfect audio “end-game.”

Example graphic of an acoustically treated room for speaker placement that visually describes what a

Speaker placement | Credit: https://www.crutchfield.com

Think of a “wider” sense of presentation as being analogous to hearing a set of loudspeakers in an acoustically treated room. For many, this sense of presentation is one step closer to the perfect audio “end-game.”

However, Focal’s engineers didn’t just stop there when they chose to focus primarily on the over-ear design. Focal loudspeakers are known for their phenomenal soundstage. But the engineers truly went a step further when they brought that soundstage to Focal premium headphones.

The engineers position the drivers at an angle sympathetic to the position of the user’s ears when the headphones are worn. By positioning the drivers inside the ear-cones to point towards the user’s ears, sound is directed better into the wearer’s ear canals. The end result is an enhanced soundstage, and an optimized sense of presentation that users hear when wearing Focal’s over-ear designs.

By positioning the drivers inside the ear-cones to point towards the user's ears, sound is directed better into the wearer's ear canals. The end result is an enhanced soundstage, and an optimized sense of presentation.

Example of a loudspeaker made by Focal - Focal Shape 65 loudspeaker.

In fact, this is why all of Focal’s top-of-the-line headphones have a soundstage that’s so similar to that of a pair of loudspeakers. While the experience from a pair of headphones can never match the upfront soundstage of loudspeakers, you will experience a sense of resolution and intimacy you can never experience with speakers.

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones with upgraded  Black Dragon Premium headphone cable.

While the experience from a pair of headphones can never match the upfront soundstage of loudspeakers, you will experience a sense of resolution and intimacy you can never experience with speakers.

Why Do Over-Ear Headphones Sound the Best?

Many audiophiles prefer a “wider” sense of presentation compared to the “narrower” “in-your-head” sense of presentation that on-ear and in-ear-monitors can deliver. On-ear and in-ear types lose the extra-dimensional “width” of over-ears due to their smaller form-factor, but focus on better mobility.

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Example of over-ear full size headphones | Purple Focal Listen Wireless Chic full-sized headphones on Sieveking Sound Omega Wood Headphone Stand.

...where psychoacoustics are concerned, there are no right or wrong answers. There are only preferences and compromises; advantages vs disadvantages.

On the other hand, a “narrower” sense of presentation that’s more “centered” in the forehead is usually achieved best with the smaller and more portable on-ear and in-ear fit-types. However, where psychoacoustics are concerned, there are no right or wrong answers. There are only preferences and compromises; advantages vs disadvantages.

On the other hand, a “narrower” sense of presentation that’s more “centered” in the forehead is usually achieved best with the smaller and more portable on-ear and in-ear fit-types. However, where psychoacoustics are concerned, there are no right or wrong answers. There are only preferences and compromises; advantages vs disadvantages.

Which Focal Headphone is Best?

Example grapic depicting a closed back headphone vs an open back headphone.Focal Stellia vs Focal Utopia

For a more in-depth impression of the Focal Stellia vs the Focal Utopia, read the Focal Stellia headphone review.

Focal took the audiophile world by storm in 2016 when it released its first flagship headphone model: the Utopia open-back over-the-ear headphone. Since then, the roster of audiophile headphones Focal offers continues to expand. Today, Focal’s continued innovation in dynamic driver technology in open or closed over-the-ear formats has produced plenty of options for audiophiles of all experience levels and budgets.

Below is a breakdown-list and reader’s digest on all of the headphones Focal currently produces in order from least expensive to the most expensive.

Below is a breakdown-list and reader’s digest on all of the headphones Focal currently produces in order from least expensive to the most expensive.

The Focal Price Point:

  • Entry-level
  • Mid-range
  • Flagships
Model Closed-back

Listen $210

Photo of the Focal Listen portable entry-level Closed Back Headphone's side profile.

Listen Wireless $254

Model Closed-back Model Open-back

Elegia $899

Photo of the Focal Elegia mid-range Closed Back Headphone's side profile.

Clear $1499

Clear Professional $1499

Model Closed-back Model Open-back

Stellia $2999

Utopia $3999

The good news is that everything Focal knows about building amazing headphones for audiophiles is now available in other headphone-styles to suit a variety of users and their unique listening-applications.

So, which Focal headphone is the best? Well, from its four decades in the business crafting superb loudspeakers, the Utopia inherits everything the company already knows about presenting a phenomenal soundstage. So, there’s good reason to support the Utopia’s spot as one of the best sounding open-back headphones ever made (period). It’s certainly a favorite here in the Moon-Audio office. For a more in-depth impression of the Focal Utopia, read our Focal Utopia Headphone Review.

Consequently, the expertise and R&D going into the production of a flagship product of this caliber also justifies the higher price-tag. The good news is that everything Focal knows about building amazing headphones for audiophiles is now available in other headphone-styles that suit a variety of users and their unique listening-applications.

Which Focal Headphone Is Right For Me?

Now that we’ve discussed a general overview of price-points, we’ll answer this question by addressing the next most important topic: ergonomics. 

Like everything, there are pros and cons to weigh in all the form-factors. For example, the over-the-ear design requires the ear-cones surrounding the wearer’s ears to be large enough to not only surround the user’s ears but also to isolate sound. Isolation is created when a tight “sealing condition” around the ears effectively prevents the sound from leaking out.

Sometimes, this over-the-ear design choice will come with a few drawbacks that could limit the flexibility and the availability of ergonomic scenarios best suited for the use of the headphone. Compared to “lighter” fit-types, this means over-the-ear headphones can typically have a heavier and bulkier weight to consider in their inherent designs. After all, “large” usually implies “bulky” and “heavy” materials all working together to both surround the wearer’s ears and to create a solid sealing condition that isolates sound, effectively. However, Focal’s innovations here have resolved almost all of the issues usually associated with the larger fit-type. This makes Focal’s over-ear headphones more flexible for many more ergonomic scenarios, and even portable.  

Male model wearing a pair of Focal Stellia closed back headphones.

Sometimes, this over-the-ear design choice will come with a few drawbacks that could limit the flexibility and the availability of ergonomic scenarios best suited for the use of the headphone. Compared to “lighter” fit-types, this means over-the-ear headphones can typically have a heavier and bulkier weight to consider in their inherent designs. After all, “large” usually implies “bulky” and “heavy” materials all working together to both surround the wearer’s ears and to create a solid sealing condition that isolates sound, effectively. However, Focal’s innovations here have resolved almost all of the issues usually associated with the larger fit-type. This makes Focal’s over-ear headphones more flexible for many more ergonomic scenarios, and even portable.  

Female model wearing a pair of Focal Stellia closed back headphones

By perfecting the over-the-ear design, Focal continues to focus on its core competency: presenting the best soundstage possible.

By perfecting the over-the-ear design, Focal continues to focus on its core competency: presenting the best soundstage possible.

By perfecting the over-the-ear design, Focal continues to focus on its core competency: presenting the best soundstage possible. It achieves this while pushing the limits of material sciences by manufacturing some of the lightest and most comfortable headphones on the market. After all, if producing a headphone with a superior soundstage is important, so should the ability to sustain the listening session comfortably without fatiguing the ears. Thanks to Focal’s engineering prowess and originality, this important ergonomic feature is on display in every over-ear headphone the company makes.

Check out all the headphones Focal makes below.

Focal Listen Headphones

Focal Listen (Wireless) Closed-back headphones

Focal Elegia Headphones

Focal Elegia Closed-back headphones

Focal Clear Pro Headphones
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Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

The Ergonomics of Focal Headphones: Simplified.

In the table below, we’re serving up everything you need to know to better understand which Focal headphone is the right choice for your ergonomic application. Whether your goal is to improve your music listening on-the-go with a fantastic closed-back design or to listen unapologetically with Focal’s most musical open-back designs in the privacy of your home, Moon-Audio has your ergonomic application covered, right here.

  • For Home
  • For On-the-go
  • For Pro Audio
Model Open/Closed Difficulty to Drive Ergonomic Scenario Weight
Focal Elegia Closed Back Headphones for the most neutral uncolored listening sessions at home.

Elegia

Closed

Relatively Easy

Mastering Engineer

0.95 lbs (430g)

Clear

Open

Relatively Easy

Home Critical Listener

0.99 lbs (450g)

Stellia

Closed

Relatively Easy

Home/Mobile Critical Listener

0.96 lbs (435g)

Utopia

Open

Relatively Easy

Home Critical Listener

1.08 lbs (490g)

Model Open/Closed Difficulty to Drive Ergonomic Scenario Weight
Focal Listen closed back portable headphones for the most fun headphones to listen to music when on-the-go.

Listen

Closed

Relatively Easy

Mobile Music Lover

0.60 lbs (273g)

Listen Wireless

Closed

Relatively Easy

Mobile Music Lover

0.60 lbs (273g)

Focal Elegia Closed Back Headphones for the most neutral and linear listening session on-the-go.

Elegia

Closed

Relatively Easy

Mastering Engineer

0.95 lbs (430g)

Stellia

Closed

Relatively Easy

Home/Mobile Critical Listener

0.96 lbs (435g)

Model Open/Closed Difficulty to Drive Ergonomic Scenario Weight
Focal Elegia Closed Back Headphones for the most linear and neutral listening session in professional or home studios.

Elegia

Closed

Relatively Easy

Mastering Engineer

0.95 lbs (430g)

Clear Pro

Open

Relatively Easy

Mastering Engineer

0.95 lbs (430g)


So, which Focal headphone is the right model for you? As depicted in the table above, sometimes, the answer boils down to the demands of your ergonomic scenario.

Focal logo with Focal Utopia open back headphones in a listening room

For example, if your goal is to listen to music predominately in the privacy of your home, then open-back headphones should be on any home audio enthusiast’s radar. The Focal Elear, Clear and Utopia open-back headphones will help you achieve your end-game the best at home or in the office, undisturbed.

On the other hand, if you’re searching for the best portable headphone to use when on-the-go, then look no further than Focal’s closed-back headphones. The Focal Listen, Listen Wireless, Elegia and Stellia closed-back headphones offer the best soundstage in a closed-back format.

Male model wearing Focal Stellia closed back headphones
Close up image of Focal Elegia insignia

For musicians, mixing/mastering engineers, or producers, both the Elegia closed-back and the Clear Professional open-back headphones are excellent choices for projects, requiring an honest reference headphone with a more neutral and flatter frequency response. All of these options meet the demands of the respective ergonomic scenarios at different price-points, superbly.

For a more in-depth guide on everything there is to know about the advantages vs disadvantages between closed-back and open-back headphones in general, and the ergonomics scenarios best suited for each, read our ultimate Closed Back vs Open Back Guide to find out which style is the best for your ergonomic situation.

Materials Matter: The Sound Signatures of Focal Headphones


When it comes to building something remarkable, the most experienced sound engineers understand that materials matter. When it comes to building something that sounds remarkable, not everyone fully agrees with the same principles. However, the materials used in loudspeakers, headphones and high-end audio cables, indeed, have a sound signature. It’s the best acoustical engineers, and listeners, who recognize the difference.

Example image of The Periodic Table of Elements

Standard periodic table | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The material selected by a manufacturer for a headphone or speaker driver, for example, can determine that hairline difference in what users experience vs what they cannot hear, precisely. This includes the perception of micro details in the music with improved transients and frequencies felt by the body even though they are technically beyond the range of normal human hearing.

Still, there’s information encoded into musical expression the human body responds too in ways that science hasn’t even fully understood yet. As audiophiles, this knowledge deepens the appreciation we share for the sound signatures of unique and rare materials. As lovers of music, this affinity for materials deepens our appreciation for the effect materials have on our connections with recorded music.

In short, the materials that possess the ideal properties to accurately reproduce music’s natural transients in its full resolution will be the choice of engineers who are music lovers themselves: they just get it. With more than 40 years building superior loudspeakers under its belt, Focal’s engineering team also just gets it. 

Focal Driver Materials

Example of Titanium periodic table symbol for Focal titanium-based headphone drivers.

Titanium symbol | Credit : https://www.cafepress.com/+periodic-table-titanium+coasters

  • Ti: (Titanium)
    • Focal Listen Closed-Back headphones
    • Focal Listen Wireless Closed-Back headphones
Example of Magnesium periodic table symbol for Focal's magnesium-based headphone drivers.

Magnesium symbol | Credit: https://www.cafepress.com/+periodic-table-magnesium+coasters

  • Mg: (Magnesium)
    • Focal Elegia Closed-Back headphones
    • Focal Clear Open-back headphones
    • Focal Elear Open-back headphones
Example of Beryllium periodic table symbol for Focal beryllium-based headphone drivers.

Beryllium symbol |Credit: https://www.cafepress.com/+periodic-table-beryllium+coasters

  • Be: (Beryllium)
    • Focal Stellia Closed-back headphones
    • Focal Utopia Open-back headphones

Periodic Table of Sound Signatures

Model Open/Closed Driver Material Sound Signature Music Genre Dragon Match
Focal Listen closed back portable headphones.

Listen

Closed

Example of the Focal Listen's Titanium periodic table symbol for more forward and fun sounding listening sessions.

More Forward/Fun Sounding

All types.

Focal Elegia Closed Back Headphones

Elegia

Closed

Example of the Focal Elegia's Magnesium periodic table symbol for more neutral, natural and more linear sound signatures.

Neutral/Linear/Flatter FR

All types.

Clear

Open

Example of the Focal Clear's Magnesium periodic table symbol for headphones that are on the warmer side of neutral sounding.

Warm Side of Neutral

All types.

Stellia

Closed

Example of the Focal Stellia's  Beryllium periodic table symbol for the most analytical, resolute  and detailed sound signature.

Analytical/Resolute/Detailed

Detail Oriented Music

Utopia

Open

Example of the Focal Utopia's  Beryllium periodic table symbol for the most analytical, resolute  and detailed sound signature.

Analytical/Resolute/Detailed

Detail Oriented Music

 

Focal's Ti (Titanium) Drivers

 

    • Focal Listen Closed-Back headphones 
  •  
Image of  Titanium periodic table symbol for headphones with  titanium-based drivers.

Focal's [Ti] Sound Signature: Forward, Fun-Sounding

Focal Listen Headphones

Focal Listen Headphones

In consumer and automotive products, titanium is a metal recognized for its strength-to-density ratio. According to a Wikipedia article, titanium possesses the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element, making it as strong as some forms of steel, but far less dense. The metal is generally too expensive to manufacture for the consumer market. It’s more commonly used in automotive applications, including moto racing where low weight, high strength, and rigidity are critical components to winning a speed competition.

For headphone drivers, this combination of strength and light-weightiness are highly desirable properties. This combination makes it possible for the diaphragms of a dynamic driver to vibrate quickly, resonating clear, highly resolute and distinct sound throughout the audio spectrum, but also light and precise enough to ensure ultra-fast response times. All of these properties work in tandem to reproduce accurate sound with a signature that’s characteristically more “forward” in detail, and yet fun to listen too. Part of the "fun" is the high-energy resonance that can be heard clearly on percussive elements such as snare, cymbal, and kick drum hits. For example, the “ring” timbre of snare hits can be particularly forward sounding in the overall soundstage, and this adds to the natural fun and funky flavor of high energy music styles.

Example of a racing motorcycle's engine's titanium-based engine.

Motorcycle racer | Credit: wikipedia.org

If this sound signature sounds appealing, then take the Focal Listen and Focal Listen Wireless for a ride. These closed-back headphones are Focal’s titanium-based headphones, and they are optimized for excitement.

Focal Listen Wireless Headphones

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Recommended Cable: Bronze Dragon Premium

Since the Focal Listen and Focal Listen Wireless are both closed-back headphones, they are excellent portable options. For the best musical immersion on-the-go, we recommend pairing either of these headphones with the Bronze Dragon Portable Headphone cable to smooth out the titanium drivers’ high-energy resonant “ring” in the top-end. Designed for portable headphones, the Bronze Dragon’s ultra-pure, single-crystal silver and copper strands offer the most musical presentation for these headphones by adding more “warmth” with a bigger and fuller body. This adds bottom-end weight to the excitement without becoming lush or bloated. It’s the best sonic match for the sound signature of Focal’s current titanium-based drivers and features a flexible cable that’s perfect for the on-the-go application of each headphone’s design.

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Focal's Mg (Magnesium) Drivers

 

  • Focal Elegia Closed-Back headphones
  • Focal Clear Open-back headphones
Magnesium periodic table symbol for headphones with magnesium-based drivers.

Credit | https://www.cafepress.com/+periodic-table-magnesium+coasters

Focal’s [Mg] Sound Signature: Warm Side of Neutral

Magnesium is the third most common metal used in structural applications, following behind iron and aluminum, according to Wikipedia. It’s commonly infused with other materials as an alloy for producing super-strong and lightweight materials. Like titanium, magnesium is also used in high-performance vehicles because of its extremely low density and weight. Magnesium is the least dense of all stable metals, and similar to titanium, it’s also very high on the strength-to-density ratio.

Example of NASA Aeronautic spacecraft made with magnesium to achieve lift-off and sustain flight in the air.

Aeronautic aircraft | Credit: nasa.gov

Magnesium’s stiffness-to-weight ratio is one of the reasons why the metal is used so much in high-performance automotive and even aerospace applications. When used to manufacture the bodywork or the engine components of high-performance automobiles, magnesium’s light-weight properties help vehicles gain a competitive advantage in a speed contest. Similarly, magnesium can help an aeronautical spacecraft gain a competitive advantage over the law of gravity and achieve lift-off.

For headphone transducer applications, these properties lay the groundwork for reproducing highly accurate sound waves with low distortion. Unlike titanium, magnesium tends to naturally provide (generally speaking) excellent resonance rejection, which explains why headphones made with it tend to sound more neutral. When used in headphones, magnesium is a fantastic material for applications where true, honest, more neutral and less colored sound gives a competitive advantage to those in the field of audio engineering and the serious work of mastering studios.

For some of the best magnesium-based drivers on the market, check out the Elegia, Clear and Clear Professional, all of which are made by Focal in France.

Example of Focal Clear Professional headphones made with magnesium to provide excellent resonance rejection.

Focal Clear Professional headphones

For some of the best magnesium-based drivers on the market, check out the Elegia, Clear and Clear Professional, all of which are made by Focal in France.

Example of Focal Elegia closed back headphones with Silver Dragon headphone cable

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Recommended Cable: Silver Dragon Premium

Image of a Silver Dragon Headphone Cable for  Focal's magnesium-based headphones. and Listen Wireless Titanium-based headphones.

We recommend pairing all of Focal’s magnesium-based headphones with a Silver Dragon headphone cable. Doing so will further add enhanced resolution and detail to the “warmer side of neutral” voicing offered by Focal’s current magnesium-based product-line. For mastering engineers, audio engineers or anyone who appreciates listening critically, adding the Silver Dragon headphone cable to the Elegia, Clear and Clear Professional is the perfect way to add detail and top-end energy to the more neutral soundstage with enhanced room for your music to breathe.

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Focal's Be (Beryllium) Drivers

 

  • Focal Stellia Closed-back headphones
  • Focal Utopia Open-back headphones
Example of Beryllium periodic table symbol for headphones with beryllium-based drivers.

Credit | https://www.cafepress.com/+periodic-table-beryllium+coasters

Focal's Pure [Be]ryllium Sound Signature: Analytical, Resolute, Detailed

With its extensive resumé designing world-class loudspeakers, Focal knows a thing or two about the best sounding metals for its dynamic transducers and tweeters. This is why the brand focused on perfecting beryllium for all of its top-of-the-line headphones. Beryllium is an extremely difficult and expensive metal to work with, and yet Focal has earned its reputation as the king of pure beryllium. According to Focal, “…Beryllium is seven times more rigid than Titanium or Aluminum, the latter two [being] well known for their rigidity.” For its top-of-the-line headphones and loudspeakers, Focal takes full advantage of the metal’s ideal physical properties and unique acoustic characteristics. In terms of pure beryllium-based drivers, this includes both of Focal’s top-of-the-line open-back and closed-back headphones: the Utopia and Stellia.

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Read more about Focal’s manufacturing process of beryllium in the Focal Magazine Guide.

But why beryllium? To represent sound waves more accurately, a dynamic driver or transducer’s diaphragm requires the right balance between weight, stiffness, and rigidity. These properties allow the driver’s diaphragm to vibrate back and forth like a piston which produces the sound waves we hear. If the material of the diaphragm is not stiff enough, the diaphragm will be too flexible, and this flexibility will distort the sound waves it’s responsible for producing.

On the other hand, the diaphragm should be light enough to vibrate rapidly. If the diaphragm is not light enough, it’s difficult getting a heavy diaphragm to move back and forth fast enough to produce the frequencies accurately as they normally would naturally in the real world. So, the ideal material is one that’s extremely light, but also exceptionally rigid.

Unfortunately, most metals become increasingly flexible, and less rigid, the lighter and thinner the material is worked during the manufacturing process. This is what makes beryllium and Focal’s manufacturing process so incredibly special. Beryllium has one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of all known materials. Being such a strong metal, beryllium is an extremely difficult and expensive material to work with. However, Focal’s manufacturing facilities in France have mastered the process.

So, what’s the sound signature and physical result gained when the most rigid and lightest metal on the periodic table of elements is used in a headphone’s dynamic transducer? The most articulate, resolute, and highly detailed sound waves available in a dynamic driver, that’s what. Both you and your music will enter a new sonic dimension of high fidelity sound that's more similar to the resolute detail found in planar-magnetic drivers. However, your music will retain that classic loudspeaker-esque low-end energy for which dynamic transducers are simply the best. 

Example of a diamond's strength and rigidity compared to beryllium's strength-to-weight ratio.

Diamond | Credit: wikipedia.org

So, the use of beryllium isn’t just another form of exotic psychoacoustic snake oil. Beryllium is, in fact, the strongest material available (next to diamond). This makes it extremely useful for producing the most accurate sound waves in a dynamic driver possible. Here’s what Focal has to say about beryllium:

“…Beryllium is seven times more rigid than Titanium or Aluminum…This results in a sound wave propagation three times faster than Titanium and two and a half times faster than Aluminum. In the end, the linearity of the frequency response curve, the acoustic transparency and the impulse response of the Beryllium tweeter are maximized and offer near-perfect sound.”

Focal

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Recommended Cable: Black Dragon Premium

Black Dragon Premium Cable for Focal Stellia and Utopia beryllium-based headphones.

To get even more from your music, we recommend pairing both the Focal Utopia and the Stellia with the Black Dragon headphone cable. However, for audiophiles wanting to squeeze out every last drop of performance from either of these beryllium-based headphones, we highly recommend the Black Dragon Premium cables for both. The Premium versions are designed to optimize every point of signal saturation in only the most high-end headphones. When trying to squeeze out every last percentage point of performance from a high-end headphone like the Focal Stellia, choose the Black Dragon Premium cable. Likewise, the Black Dragon Premium cable for Focal’s premium Utopia just makes sense.


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Is there a night and day difference between the sound qualities of the standard Black Dragon and Premium Black Dragon headphone cables? No. Is the Premium the best of the best? Quintessentially, yes. The Premium headphone cable is designed exclusively for only the most créme de la créme headphones on the market where every last morsel of detail makes the difference in bringing you closer to the music. Similar to the standard Black dragon headphone cable, the Premium version is extremely smooth sounding and reveals remarkable low-end with wonderful voicing. The Black Dragon sound signature is the best match for Focal’s most analytical, detailed and resolute sounding pure beryllium-based premium headphones. For a more in-depth analysis of the differences between sound signatures of Dragon Cables, read our Audio Cable Sound Signature Guide.

Focal's Pure [Be]ryllium-based Headphones: In Focus

Focal Utopia Open-back headphones featuring a Black Dragon Premium headphone cable

Ultimately, audiophiles wanting to achieve the highest level of performance possible should look no further. The Utopia and the Stellia are Focal’s flagship headphones for critical listening in its growing line of headphone products. When Focal introduced the Utopia in 2016, the brand set a new standard of quality and craftsmanship for not only the other headphones in its product line but for headphones made by other brands in the same class too. The Utopia open-back headphone changed headphone design and the industry, profoundly. It was Focal’s use of beryllium and the company’s lineage that contributes so much to the Utopia’s sensational success.

In the headphone industry, the Utopia is constantly referenced as an example of excellence. The Utopia even won the Inner-fidelity Editors Choice award in 2018. Because of its open-back design, the Utopia is the supreme choice for getting the most out of your music at home. It’s important to note the Utopia has a higher impedance of 80 Ohms, so an external DAC/Amp is required to use the Utopia’s. We recommend the Chord Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp as the best DAC/Amp to pair with this headphone. For a more in-depth impression of the Utopia, read our Focal Utopia Headphone Review.

In the headphone industry, the Utopia is constantly referenced as an example of excellence. The Utopia even won the Inner-fidelity Editors Choice award in 2018. Because of its open-back design, the Utopia is the supreme choice for getting the most out of your music at home. It’s important to note the Utopia has a higher impedance of 80 Ohms, so an external DAC/Amp is required to use the Utopia’s. We recommend the Chord Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp as the best DAC/Amp to pair with this headphone. For a more in-depth impression of the Utopia, read our Focal Utopia Headphone Review.

From the Utopia’s excellence, Focal one-upped its own success when the company created its next flagship headphone, the Stellia, utilizing the same pure beryllium drivers in a closed-back format. The beryllium-based driver allows the Utopia and Stellia to achieve a full-range frequency response of 5Hz to 50kHz and 5Hz to 40kHz, respectively. Focal’s innovations here allow both flagships to lift the veil and reveal more details hiding in your music. This means more dynamic presence, articulation, precision, clarity and tonal balance are all exposed at the micro-detail level. And now this level of precision is available in both an open or closed-back format. To dive even deeper into our impression of the Stellia, read the Focal Stellia Headphone Review.

Focal Stellia Closed-back headphones with a Black Dragon Premium headphone cable


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