Focal Elear Review

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Before we get into the Focal Elear Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..

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What I will bring you in this review

  1. Ratings/Price
  2. Specifications
  3. Summary
  4. Pros
  5. Cons
  6. Video Review
  7. Amp/DAC requirements
  8. Who these headphones benefit?
  9. Consensus/Conclusion
  10. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Focal Elear

Ratings/Price

Specifications

Summary

Simply put, this open back wonder feels like a $1000 headphone when you put it in your hands. With not a hint of plastic, this baby puts your mind at ease with regard to durability. I’m not sure I’ve ever handled a headphone quite like this one. My only gripe with it is that while it’s extremely solid, it doesn’t move, rotate, or fold at all. I suppose this is to be expected given that Focal intended for this to be strictly an in studio headphone only. The 1/4″ termination made that pretty clear as well. Closed back vs. open back headphones.

Comfort is exemplary, and despite the fact that they’re fairly heavy, they feel amazingly comfortable on your head with a manageable clamp force. I didn’t feel the need to take them off or even adjust them, but your mileage may vary. For instance Lachlan would disagree with me a little bit.

My barometer is about 2 hours. If I don’t feel the need to take them off after that, I will render them comfortable. Why? Because I rarely wear headphones for longer than that unless I’m mixing down a track.

If I do feel the need to take them off before 2 hours, comfort varies. If I have to make a slight adjustment, it’s not the end of the world. But, if I have to take them off after less than two hours, that means that comfort is average and likely below average depending on the headphone. If the sound is great, I will grin and bear it. 😛

Anyways

Back on track. The Elear is super comfortable, so no worries there.

Sound

As far as sound, these really shine. Plugged into the NAIM DAC V-1, they remind me a lot of an Audeze LCD-X. Learn more: Audeze LCD-X Review. The bass is definitely there, but it’s leaner than your typical bass-head outfit. I actually prefer bass this way. With the Elear, you’re able to actually hear bass notes in their entirety, rather than just feel them. In listening to Chon’s “Homey”, the bass pleasured me in a way that’s hard to describe. It has great dynamic movement and speed, but still renders you nodding your head.

The LCD-X is similar to the Elear in that it’s got a buttery smooth, liquid type of sound that will put you in a relaxed state. It’s full bodied and crisp, with an accurate, but also engaging quality. The Timbre of the instruments is tonally very true to life, and that’s one of the best characteristics that a headphone can have. What is Timbre?

On Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky”, Richard Wright’s keyboard is more clearly heard and felt. With the Elear, the sound has a chance to actually ring out, and linger for awhile. This is something lost in entry level models. You’re really able to pick apart, dissect, and perceive the instrument in it’s proper context. I believe Wright was the hidden gem of the group, and often times, it’s the higher end stuff like this that can really illustrate it effectively.

So overall: A laid back experience, best enjoyed with a glass of wine on the couch.

Pros

  • Liquid smooth sound. Buttery.
  • Great comfort.
  • Amazing build.
  • Sturdy Kevlar cable.

Cons

  • Slightly grainy at times.
  • Weird mid-range that can sound a bit sucked out at times.

Video Review!

Amp/DAC requirements

Theoretically, with a 104 dB Sensitivity and a 80 Ohm impedance, these could work out of a phone or mobile device. The problem is that

  • 1) They weren’t designed for portable use
  • 2) If your DAC or Soundcard is crap, they still won’t sound good. You’ll just be amplifying bad sound. What is a Soundcard?

That said, because they terminate in a 1/4″ jack, I would go ahead and plan to use an amp with these. How to choose a headphone amp.

Recommendations:

  • NAIM DAC V-1
  • Chord Mojo

Budget Options:

Keep in mind if you go with the DragonFly or HA-2, you’ll need an adapter (a 1/4″ to 3.5mm one).

Who these headphones benefit?

These do well with most genres, but I enjoyed them with:

  • Jazz
  • Classical
  • Rock
  • Indie Pop
  • Hip-Hop

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

  • The Soundstage could be better for an open back. I wasn’t all that impressed with it. What is Soundstage?
  • The cable is extremely long and bulky (13 ft.), but I found it to be a lot more flexible and tolerable than any Grado cable I’ve come across. 😛
  • I can’t outright say that the lack of movement is a negative, given that it’s strictly made for the studio. But I was a little disappointed in just how stiff it felt.
  • I can’t really explain what it is, but there was a sort of emptiness about the Elear that I can’t quite put my finger on. There was something missing, but I don’t know what. In reading Head-Fi forums, others noticed it as well. They, as well as Lachlan would contribute it to the mid-range being slightly recessed in areas where it shouldn’t. I can’t claim to know exactly where I felt it, but that’s likely the case. Keep in mind the treble is somewhat darker sounding than your average headphone as well, so that might be a factor. This graph from Tyll kind of confirms a lot, in that there’s a weird face plant after 2k that is likely the culprit.

Consensus/Conclusion

The Focal Elear is a wonderfully built, comfortable set of headphones with a liquid smooth sound signature and a bass that has impact. Intended for home use, with a bulky cable. An amp is almost mandatory.

Final Word

Do I recommend these? If you’re looking for a warmer, laid back sound, and don’t care to be overly obsessed with details (but still like some!), then I would say it’s a decent buy. That said, in listening with them, I wasn’t eager to buy a pair, and I’m not sure I would spend $1000 on them. In fact I know I probably wouldn’t. Nothing about them stood out from a headphone in the $300-$600 range, and that’s really the issue. Diminishing returns. I could always opt for something cheaper that sounds just as good.

Would I spend the money on the LCD-X? I’m more inclined to do so, but with that headphone, comfort holds me back. It’s simply too heavy, and feels like a bowling ball.

So what would I go with? Simply put, either the Sennheiser HD600, or the HIFIMAN HE400S.

The 400S has a similar, crispy, liquid type of sound for a lot cheaper, but build quality isn’t quite as good. Still, the sound you’re getting is absolutely remarkable, and it’s worth a shot. Interested?

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL HIFIMAN HE400S REVIEW!!

What about the Gold Standard HD600? It’s got a bit more of an aggressive mid-range, and works fabulously in nearly any circumstance. It’s my default recommendation, and has stood the test of time. Don’t believe me?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE GLOWING REVIEWS ON AMAZON!!

AND

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL SENNHEISER HD 600 REVIEW!!


Well that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Focal Elear Review.

What do you think about the HD400S?  What about the HD600? Let me know!!

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know in the comments below or Contact me!! I would love to hear from you..

Until then, all the best and God bless..

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

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