Focal Headphone - Discussion

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adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #20 on: 20 Sep 2019, 12:44 pm »
They have a free onlne demo you can try out... I did this awhile ago....
You should try it out someday and let us know what you think??

Be interesting...

I just dont want to muck with the way the Focal Clears are working here for me with my 70 yr old transducers!!

 :lol:

Alex

Freo-1

Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #21 on: 20 Sep 2019, 02:38 pm »
I don't blame you.  Those are great phones!

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #22 on: 21 Sep 2019, 12:07 pm »
Day three..

Today I started listening with my T1's and the AGDR ODA SS amp....after several tunes, familiar I was wondering where the magic went....

Yeah real objective, right....

With some folks stating our auditory memory is only seconds long, I spent 30 minutes with the T1's and then switched to the Clears.

Well OMG I can solidly state that I have found something for me that buries the T1's, and they are pretty dang good.

Buries is a strong word, but the audo world is full of folks using verbose adjectives!!   :D

Its like the T1's are "flat" and a bit bright compared to these, I ddnt think the T1's were that bright compared to say T90s....

The presentation between the two are night and day difference.

I think I will try the same "test" with the T1's on a tube amp I like vs the Clears on this SS amp and see if the experience is closer.

Both cans are great but one is greater than the other! (for me).

All the best
Alex

Note: Listening to a group called Talk Talk, "The Color of Spring CD" song is "Happiness is Easy".
Very good demo and test track. Bass on the clears is full and accurate, on the T1's its lacking "body"...
Drums, wooden sticks, percussion is right on accurate. Very balanced and natural. Less so on the T1's.
T1's are more analytical and lacking the overall openess. Quite a stark difference inbetween the two.

Freo-1

Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #23 on: 21 Sep 2019, 09:12 pm »
Decided to conduct a deep dive on the listening impressions of the Focal Elear vs. the Sony MDR Z7.  They are somewhat different in design and driver technology.  The Sony has 70mm drivers in a closed back design (with vents), while the Elears are open back with a 40mm driver. 


The fist discs I used was "lady sings the blues", a two CD compilation of various singers from different eras, with a wide range of recording quality.  I feel discs such as these allow one to get a better handle on the headphones strengths and shortfalls.


My initial thoughts were that the Elears would be superior to the Z7 across the board.  That did not turn out to be the case.  The Elears were judged to be better with about half of the recordings, while on the other half, the Z7 actually sounded a bit better.  This is likely attributed to the deviations from neutral with regard to the recording.  Observations are as follows:
  • The Z7 is slightly more comfortable for longer listening sessions, but this delta is very slight.  Happy with the comfort of both.
  • The Z7 has more bass slam, sometimes almost too much.  Stand up bass notes are more pronounced with the Z7.  The Elear bass was deep, and seemed a bit more natural sounding.
  • The midrange between the two is where the differences are really noticed.  The Z7 mids are slightly recessed compared to the Elears.  With a hot recording, the Z7 tames this trait, which actually makes the playback easier on the ears.  The Elears, on the other hand, seem more forward, which can cause a bit of a hiss with S and T vocals.  Because of these deltas, the Z7 seems to be slightly more clear, but less alive sounding.  This is highly dependent on the recording
  • The treble is also different between the two.  The Z7 treble seems slightly recessed, but seems to go a bit higher than the Elears.


I then listened to Dvorak Symphony #7 SACD recording from the Dutch Philharmonic.  I noticed the same differences as above, but with the large scale symphonic music, the more forward midrange from the Elear made the performance sound a bit better.  Also tried a Rachmaninoff recording of piano concertos, and here again, the Elear midrange was preferred overall, but the Z7 clarity is very noteworthy. 


I have a whole new appreciation for the difficulty in reviewing headphones.  I now better understand why one reviewer will "fall in love" with a given headphone, while another reviewer will find them lacking.  The recordings one decides to use, along with the playback setup (my opinion of the Z7 changed a lot for the better when I got the Dynalo headphone amp) makes a huge difference in the review process. 

Another thing I noticed is that the headphone measurements from one site to another for same headphone can be quite different.  One site I found helpful was sonarworks, who has a no nonsense approach to headphones, and appear to be brutally honest about the subject.

In summary, the Elears are a mighty nice set of headphones.  I'll use them primarily for classical, but will continue to use the Z7 occasionally for rock and world music. 

May have to look into the Z7 M2 phones down the track.  The magnet size was doubled.  It's getting some good ink. 

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #24 on: 21 Sep 2019, 11:47 pm »
Good review!

With my Focals, I have found one amp that just really stands out with these cans....its "uncanny" to say the least!!

Other amps are ok but the one SS amp makes listening very enjoyable.

I have never used a Sony headphone and its good to hear your report.

Alex

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #25 on: 23 Sep 2019, 12:39 pm »
Good Morning!

Listening here to Ray LaMntagne's Till The Sun Turns Black, "You Can Bring Me Flowers"....its quiet time here right now,
the AC is not running, quiet no ambient sounds....good for listening at low levels.

One thought I had about these cans is the way they sound different that many others....I called this its clearness, accuracy, resolution and perfect tonal balance?

Then I was thinking hey the sound alot like loudspeakers? So whats this about?

I know Focal makes loudspeakers, but I never heard any, but I am wondering how this loudspeaker technology or sound might have transferred to the design of their Focal headphones?

...and is the magic that makes them sound the way they do?

Alex

Note: I found this: Part of a review at another site"

"Like the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature headphones I reviewed last year, the Clear's drivers are situated toward the front—not the side. This driver design, also common to Focal’s Utopia and Elear headphones, creates a solid soundstage in front of you, similar to traditional loudspeakers. I much prefer headphones featuring this driver orientation."

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #26 on: 3 Oct 2019, 12:45 pm »
Just wanted to share in the Focal discussion thread that the Schitt Magni 3 amp for $99 is a
extremely good amp to use with these headphones.

Absoltuely magical....listening to Duende and its really, really very nice....

Very live, open, musical...

I have 10 other amps and this one is the best even over the higher end amps..

The magic happens with low gain setting onthe amp...

This amp really seems to allow the Focals to display what they are really capable of...

I spent hours with other cans, and when I come back to these it makes me really feel awesome at what I am experiencing.

Good Morning!
Alex

kingdeezie

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #27 on: 3 Oct 2019, 01:40 pm »
A few years back I got rid of my 2 channel audio for a time, and went nuts on headphones. I had at one time the HE1000s, Abyss 1266, and the Focal Utopias. I sold the HE1000s first. I had the V1, and for my tastes, they were too soft with my equipment.

I kept the Abyss 1266 and Utopias together for a long time. Eventually I wanted to get back into 2-channel audio, so I sold all my headphone gear to fund the transition back.

The Utopias always were my favorite. There was something great about the 1266, but the Utopias were just spot on from top to bottom for my tastes. I used them for movie watching, playing videogames, and listening to music.

I still regret selling them. Maybe some day again.

Enjoy the Clears!

Freo-1

Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #28 on: 4 Oct 2019, 02:35 am »

I've been enjoying the Focal Elear for a couple of weeks now.  They are a great bargain at closeout prices, or second-hand.  With the sonarworks application, they sound like a much more expensive set of phones.  They have essentially the same driver as the Clear, the major difference being the 80 ohm impedance for the Elear due to the slightly different voice coil.  The driver element is identical.  Do not believe the hype that the Elear is much inferior to the Clear.  It is not. 


I've also noticed the phones take some time to brake in.  They have gotten quite a bit more open sounding from when they were new.  The 4M cable actually works for me quite well, as it allows some freedom of movement. 


One thing that really hits the listener is the vast difference in recording quality.  Playing a well recorded disc such as "Art Pepper meets the rhythm section" really brings out the best in what the phones can deliver.  However, a fair amount of rock recordings come across as compromised, where the overdubbing and compression is revealed in spades. 


A good headphone amp also helps to bring the phones alive.  I'm using a Mjolnir Dynalo amp, which works very well with the cans. 


Lastly, I'll look into getting a Loki for equalization, as an alternative to the sonarworks app, thus bypassing the computer. 

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #29 on: 4 Oct 2019, 04:40 pm »
Whats not too like!!!

 :D :D :D




Alex

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #30 on: 4 Oct 2019, 05:15 pm »
Testing with the Clears and Schitt Vahalla 2....

Not a good pairing at all for me.

The lower 55 ohm cans on the Vahalla 2 in low gain mode is less clear and open as with the Magni3 and my other solid state amps.

The Vahalla 2 works so well with high impedance cans like the HD 600's and T1's.....

The vocals of LeAnn Rimes are muddied somewhat...just not as clear and crisp sounding.

Alex

gefski

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #31 on: 4 Oct 2019, 08:58 pm »
Though I don't own a Focal, I go to meets several times a year, and have listened, in 20 to 30 minute sessions, on my rig, to the Elear, Utopia, and Stellia. As with many companies, (Sennheiser and HiFiMan for example) I find no "house sound" here.

FOR ME:
The Elear is a HD650-ish can but with a bit less haze (v-word) giving the impression of more transparency. But the instrumental timbre is less real. For both cans, the presentation is forward (row "A"). Some like that intimacy, some find it "in my face".

The Utopia's presentation is just the opposite, conveying true timbre and dynamics of all instruments, vocals, and sounds in apparently real space, be it small and immediate (Gillian Welch), beer-hall (R.L. Burnside), or cathedral (Opus 7 choral). Ironically, at our meets, many quickie listens leave some preferring the Elear as "more impressive".

At a recent meet, I got a listen to the Stellia, and was floored. A fairly ambient noisy meet, I was staggered at the attenuation of surrounding noise (way more than the Aeon closed the same afternoon). Then I was swept into unstoppable foot-tapping with everything I listened to. An "I was there" experience without any of the forward pushiness that I dislike. Didn't get to compare it to Utopia. Since my listening station is quiet, I don't "need" a Stellia, but it's easily my favorite can in a long time.

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #32 on: 4 Oct 2019, 09:12 pm »
gefski!

Thanks for your insight and experience!

This is what I like about our Headphone Mania circle.....sharing our experiences and there are indeed many and different.

The Stellia's look really very nice....closed back etc...

That experience you describe into that unstoppable foot-tappng I am experiencing right now with the Clears listening to Nils Lofgren's Acoustic Live Album.

Focal has a great lineup....

One person related his hearing the Nils Lofgrens Acoustic Live that he really was made aware of what the audience was doing...kind of like being there or listening into a session and
experiencing what it might have been like to have been there.

This is a good thing!  :D

This isnt to put down any other headphones etc., lots of good stuff out there...but you cant go wrong with Focals IMO.

Several of my headphones are closed, more open backed...and none have the isolation you described with the Stellias....

My local dealer has these and the Utopias....I stayed away from listening to them....$$$$$   :D :D

Anyway thanks for stopping in and sharing your experience!

Alex


Freo-1

Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #33 on: 4 Oct 2019, 11:08 pm »
The Stellia is the one set of phones I'm also really keen to audition. Thanks for the report.

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #34 on: 4 Oct 2019, 11:42 pm »
Freo-1!!

Stay away!!!

 :D :D :D

Alex

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #35 on: 8 Oct 2019, 09:51 pm »
Been doing alot of A/B testing with several amps to see if one of them really sticks out with the Focal Clears.

Gone thru all my ss amps, testing two at a time with the same dac and flow, via a set of RCA Y adapters on the back of the dac.
Similar to whay Tyll at Innerfidelity used in amp comparions etc before he retired..

Most of the SS amps ae pretty much the same after matching the volume levels...I had a hard time hearing differences between most of them...

Then I tried comparing the SS amps to the Tube amps, really only one tube amp I have really matches well with these cans..

The astonishing thing was this time I was able to pick out the one that sounded "better" to me 3 out of 4 times.

It was the Bottlehead Mainline!

The noticeable thing was the overall soundstage just blooms with the Mainline..and this was with unbalanced connection....'

The specs on the Mainline compared to a few of the SS amps pale in comparison...but oh the sound!

Its similar to the expience with the T1's and the Bottlehead Crack.

To my ears the Mainline with the Clears is a very, very good musical setup...The tonality and slight warmth...live performances are alive.

I can listen to some old Chicago CDs and my ears dont bleed!

I am glad I built this amp a year ago...its a keeper as well as the Focals.

Alex

Freo-1

Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #36 on: 8 Oct 2019, 10:43 pm »

I tried a setup that is working out better than I could have hoped for.  Wound up running the output from the computer (using sonarworks) through the Thomas Meyer 6AH4 preamp, back to the Dynalo preamp. 


It turns out that the 6AH4 preamp beefed up the equalized output quite nicely.  There is added weight, depth, and improved clarity using the 6AH4 preamp as a buffer.  The output of the preamp uses a step down transformer which seems to be an excellent match to drive the Dynalo headphone amp.


The Focal Elear sounds even better with this setup than using the direct output from either the computer or directly from the Blu-ray player.  It really sounds like a more expensive headphone, and also sounds very close from a tonal perspective to loudspeakers. 


The Sony MDR-Z7 really sounds a LOT better as well.  Depending on the recording, the Z7 sometimes sounds more pleasing, while on other recordings, the Elear is more pleasing.


May not need to audition the loki after all.   

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #37 on: 9 Oct 2019, 12:15 pm »
Hey thats great!!

Its good to see your still experimenting!

This is somewhat like DIY but using retail building blocks instead of solder and components!!

The one thing that stands out in your comments is the "Z7 sometimes sounds more pleasing, while on other recordings, the Elear is more pleasing..."

This IMO points to a Loki would help in that somewhat....its like your changing the characteristics of the headphones but the actual recording (due to its mastering at the studio ) eq'ing there etc.
Is still not "flat".....

or you would have to listen to all the songs and categorize them as to which set of headphones are more pleasing!! That would be quite a chore!!

Anyway...neat stuff....


Freo-1

Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #38 on: 9 Oct 2019, 12:52 pm »

Actually, the 6AH4 preamp is a Thomas Meyer "clone" DIY project. 





Good point about recordings being mastered such that they are also not flat per se.  To me, the idea is to get the headphone to sound the same from a octave to octave perspective as listening to loudspeakers.  The sonarworks app allows one to get pretty close.


Sonarworks also provides the option to send in your headphones and they will make a specific curve correction for the specific set.  This gets the accuracy down to .9 db, which is pretty good.  The generic curve is within 3 db.


So far, I'm finding that the Z7 is more pleasant with rock/blues, while the Elear works better with classical/jazz (in general). 

adydula

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Re: Focal Headphone - Discussion
« Reply #39 on: 9 Oct 2019, 01:12 pm »
Gosh thats a pretty site to me!

This is the world I lived in for 40+ years....as an EE and electronics technican!

Ah! The smell of burning flux in the morning!! LOL.

This preamp indeed is old school....6 volt tubes and all!

Did you build this recently?

Alex