Home Open Back Headphone Reviews Focal Utopia Review: Still The Best In The World?

Focal Utopia Review: Still The Best In The World?

The Utopia has been around for a few years now; has anything else managed to outclass it?

by Stuart Charles Black
>AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an eBay affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

Thank You Audio Advice for the loaner unit on many occasions!

Prepare to embark on an extraordinary journey into the world of unparalleled audio excellence with the Focal Utopia.

Renowned and revered by audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike, the Utopia stands as a shining beacon of what is arguably the finest headphone on the planet.

It represents the pinnacle of Focal’s relentless pursuit of sonic perfection, meticulously engineered to deliver a transcendent listening experience that defies expectations and sets new standards in the realm of high-end headphones.

As we delve into the realms of sound quality, design, and innovation, you will discover why the Focal Utopia has earned its rightful place as a true masterpiece in the world of audio.

Prepare to be captivated, for the Utopia promises nothing short of audio nirvana.

Focal Utopia

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H!

Specs/Graph

Shoutout to Crinacle for the graph

Specifications

    • Type: Open Back, Dynamic.
    • Fit: Circumaural (Around-Ear)
    • Frequency response: 5Hz – 50kHz.
    • Impedance: 80 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
    • Sensitivity: 104dB/mW.
    • Driver Size: 40mm.
    • Material: Carbon Fiber, Fabric, Leather, Metal.
    • Color: Black.
    • Cable: OFC Cable with Neutrik 1/4″ Plug (9.8′ / 3m)
    • Connector to Earpiece: 2x LEMO (Unspecified Type)
    • Weight: 1.08 lbs. / 490g

Introduction

Focal Utopia Review

One of the most interesting facets of Focal headphones is that they are incredibly hit-and-miss.

When a company charges seemingly outrageous prices for their products, it should beg the question: are they actually worth it?

Well, you may be surprised when I say this, but in the case of most of them, I’d say no – they aren’t quite worth the steep asking prices.

But the Utopia? It could be a slightly different story.

I will convey everything I’ve experienced listening to one of these and tell you if I personally think they are worthy of the asking price.

Build Quality

Focal Utopia Review

 

The Focal Utopia stands as a testament to impeccable build quality, embodying an exquisite fusion of premium materials and meticulous craftsmanship.

Its ear cushions are luxuriously wrapped in lambskin leather, ensuring comfort and durability for extended listening sessions.

The memory foam padding within the ear cushions conforms to the contours of your head, providing a snug fit and exceptional clamping force: not too tight, not too loose.

The headband features carbon fiber construction, combining lightweight resilience with a striking visual appeal.

The Utopia’s drivers are a true marvel, boasting Beryllium diaphragms that deliver pristine sound reproduction.

The ear cups are encased in black anodized aluminum, exuding a sleek and modern aesthetic, complemented by a finely woven black metal mesh that adds both refinement and acoustic precision.

To complete the package, the headphone is adorned with brushed aluminum accents and features a Neutrik cable, ensuring a high-quality, reliable connection for your audio source.

Focal Utopia Review

Focal Utopia ReviewThe Utopia’s design is a harmonious blend of form and function, setting a standard for excellence in the realm of high-end headphones.

Comfort

As alluded to above, the Focal Utopia offers exceptional comfort levels, making it a pleasure to wear for extended listening sessions without the need for adjustment.

They do feel fairly substantial in your hands, but nowhere near as heavy as an Audeze.

In other words, it doesn’t feel like farting in the wrong direction is going to result in a broken neck.

The Utopia’s design incorporates plush, memory foam ear cushions that conform to the shape of your ears, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit.

Focal Utopia Review

Focal Utopia ReviewThe headband is also padded, distributing the headphone’s weight evenly and reducing pressure on the top of your head.

The combination of these design elements results in a headphone that feels fairly light (all things considered) and secure, allowing you to enjoy your music for hours without discomfort or fatigue.

Whether you’re listening at home or on the go, the Focal Utopia’s comfort ensures that you can immerse yourself in your favorite music without distractions.

For the most part, there isn’t anything too cumbersome to speak of, that is until you get to the Wire.

This thing is DUMMY THICC, and not for the faint of heart. It terminates in a 1/4″ jack at the business end and comes in beefier than a Wendy’s Baconator.

Even so, the cable is fairly malleable and feels just right to the touch.

Focal Utopia Review

Sound

Sound-wise is where they start to really pick up steam. Ever had a unicorn puke rainbows into your ears?

That’s what the Utopia feels like.

It’s like Homer Simpson that time he smoked weed. Caution: Sounds may seem more edible than they actually are.”

What makes these so fantastic is that they do pretty much nothing wrong and are absolutely the best-tuned headphones I’ve ever heard.

They don’t have any glaring flaws, and in fact, have no flaws to speak of in my estimation.

What they will do first off is expose flaws in the recording because of how brutally transparent they are.

What I mean by transparent is if a fly took a dump in the studio, you’ll hear it with laser-like precision.

The micro details, in addition to the fantastic overall resolution, are a couple of the main aspects that stood out to me, along with the fantastic instrument Timbre and propensity to reveal lesser-known band members with shocking clarity.

We’ll delve into all three one by one.

Focal Utopia Review

 

Micro details

Door #1

In my video review, I talk about this as a sort of doorway type of analogy. With music, there are generally 3 doors of sound.

The first door reveals pretty much everything that you know about a song: The main instruments/riffs, the solos, as well as the more well-known band members who play said instruments.

The stuff that 99.9% of headphones reveal is in Door #1.

Door #2

The second door is akin to something like an HD600 or an HE400i/400se.

This is where you start to get a feel for what music is truly supposed to sound like, as things start to open up and bloom like a flower.

Voices become more distinct, resolution is improved, and instruments have better separation, which allows you to take a deeper glimpse into the song.

Door #3

Door 3 is very rare, and the Utopia is really one of the only headphones to reveal what’s layered behind the other layers.

Opening this door allows you to finally hear just about 100% of what’s going on in the song. In other words, everything the artist put into the track is revealed.

Even the smallest of artifacts suddenly become a big deal: the sighs, lost voices, ad-libs, and anything you can imagine that was never heard, much less thought to be relevant.

The Roots’ “The Next Movement” is a prime example of this.

Imagine someone sprinkling garlic powder on the song.

Those individual grains of tasty goodness represent all of the various stuff that’s truly happening that you previously weren’t aware of.

Everything has a crisp, controlled, and smooth character, reminding me of an LCD-X or Ananda, but a lot better.

Timbre

The second morsel of goodness comes in the form of the amazing instrument Timbre.

Everything sounds so natural and true to life, that sometimes it can be overwhelming, while at other times the Utopia tends to give you a blank stare.

“That’s it?” you ask.

Yeah, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Lol. You may expect more to be there (and there isn’t more) or you may have thought a particular instrument should have sounded a certain way and didn’t.

You also might have walked away angry like Colonel H. Stinkmeaner.

But it’s something you’ll have to accept about these headphones. It goes back to honesty.

These aren’t in the business of hyping anything.

That said,

it’s also what makes them so good. You’ll hear music as is, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

The Lost Ones

I grew up listening to both Pink Floyd and Yes, but back then Richard Wright was almost never on my radar.

He was just another band member and never got much attention.

It was all about Roger Waters and David Gilmour; because guitar and bass.

I mean who cares about the keys? After all, I’m not Alicia.

As I got older, they became more and more important to me.

Richard Wright had an immense impact on Floyd in those early years, and a headphone like the Utopia truly gives him his due.

The same can be said for Tony Kaye.

Who the heck is that you may ask? He was the keyboardist for Yes, and on Starship Trooper” his Hammond Organ sounds sublime.

What I’m getting at is that with these headphones, those instruments are highlighted with magnificent intensity and ferocity.

Focal Utopia Review

They not only become important, but also necessary in evaluating the song as a whole, and how the artists relate to each other.

Hearing the crescendo in Part I of Starship Trooper was almost breathtaking because I was truly able to understand the song on a deeper level.

It made more sense to my feeble mind.

There was a moment that stood out at 2:42 when Jon Anderson pleads “Mother life, hold firmly onto me.”

At that moment, with the Utopias, you can clearly hear the Hammond organ come into focus with startling clarity and precision.

I promise you, I’ve heard Starship Trooper about a thousand times and it’s never come through hardly at all, much less like it does with these headphones.

Richard Wright gets this same sort of favor.

His Wurlitzer electric piano, Arp String Synthesizer, and Mini Moog all reveal themselves as you’ve never heard before.

There’s simply a startling revelatory quality that each possesses, and it makes “Have a Cigar” all that much better.

By and large,

the background instrumentation in all songs will become so clear to you, that you’ll want to go back and rediscover all of your old favorites – one by one.

Amp/DAC requirements

 

At 80 Ohms Impedance and high Sensitivity of 104dB, you may not think you need an amp.

But because of the 1/4″ termination, these aren’t meant for portable devices.

You’ll want a good desktop amp, and dare I say don’t cheap out on it either for obvious reasons.

There’s something really disrespectful about powering a $4000 set of headphones with a $200 setup

I used them with the $2500 NAIM DAC V-1 and Chord Hugo, so I have tested them on rather beefy amplification and the same sentiments still hold true: these are amazing headphones.

Before demoing again, I was actually expecting to be disappointed and thought to myself “Surely these aren’t as good as I made them out to be initially.”

WRONG, BUSTER.

They were every bit as good and even better than I remember!

When I took the headphones off and looked at the rep at one Audio Advice “Music Matters” show, I told him as much:

“I simply can’t believe it. They sound better every time I demo them.”

He just smiled and nodded.

So to sum it up, you’ll have to feed these properly, and you should be prepared to spend some decent money on an amp if you plan on purchasing them.

This is one of, if not the only instances where I would actually recommend thinking through an Amp/DAC to pair because, well, these are a lot of money.

Nowadays, my top recommendation is the K9 Pro – a fantastic product in all regards.

Who benefits?

They will do well with all genres:

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

And anything in between.

Because of their balanced and revealing signature, you can pair them with anything and it will sound good.

Just know that they are pretty transparent and honest, so the source material is important.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

  • The wire is very cumbersome and thick. Proceed with caution.
  • The headphones are large and bulky and do not fold in any sort of way. That’s okay, as they’re meant to be used in the studio and nowhere else. You will want a really good amp for these, something roughly the weight of an airplane will do.
  • Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin. Weird, unexplained artifacts. “What is that?” is what I kept asking myself when listening.
  • Flaws in mix exposed.
  • Extra synth on Starship Trooper was exposed.
  • Sufjan Stevens’ “Come on Feel the Illinoise” beginning rhythm was exposed and heard on a deeper level.
  • Revealing; lots of micro details.
  • Timbre is excellent, especially for hats and symbols.
  • Scintillating separation of voices.
  • The theme seems to be vocals and instruments are forward, and the bass is articulate and deep but controlled, with an incredible sense of space and depth.
  • BACKGROUND INSTRUMENTATION.
  • Like a flower.
  • Music really breathes, exposing unseen elements in the far background.
  • Electric Guest – Glorious Warrior was more fully fleshed out.
  • Kllo – Predicament. A weird voice was heard on the right side.
  • Starship Trooper. Tony Kaye’s Hammond Organ*
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd’s Acoustic guitar is incredibly realistic.
  • Have a Cigar. Richard Wright’s Wurlitzer electric piano, ARP string synthesizer, and Mini Moog/Hohner Clavinet D6 all come through with startling clarity.
  • Brought to tears by Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”.
  • Phish – You Enjoy Myself sounded better. You got a sense of how the band related to each other. Everything seemed more fleshed out and complete. Decay on instruments, in general, is astounding.

 

Final Verdict

Focal Utopia Review

The Focal Utopia has struck a perfect balance of sound quality, build, and comfort, to a degree unheard of in the industry.

As of now,

I still haven’t come across anything better and I’ve demoed over 130 units (and counting) at the time of this update.

In other words, the Utopia is true end-game status. It sounds markedly better than everything else I’ve tried, and it’s not even close.

I talk quite a bit about diminishing returns in my articles and videos, and 99% of headphones in the top-tier category fall victim to this concept.

That is, the increase in sound quality is astronomically lower than the exorbitant prices you’ll inevitably pay.

I firmly believe that the Utopia is one of the few (if not the only) exceptions to this rule.

Everything about the sound is pitch-perfect.

Put another way,

there’s a reason they named it “Utopia.”

But are they actually worth $4000?

It pains me to say this, but no. They aren’t quite worth that much. At $1000-$2000? I’d say go for it and don’t hesitate.

They are absolutely the best dynamic headphones on the planet and the best I’ve ever heard, so if I had the money to drop on an end-game headphone, the Utopia, at the right price, is definitely what I would purchase without thinking twice.

You’ll never look at recorded music (or gear for that matter) the same way ever again.

Video Discussion

Don’t forget to leave me some love and subscribe! <3

Learn More:

 

Check ’em out at Sweetwater!

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Focal Utopia Review.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please leave them down below or Contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

What do you think about these bad boys? Worth the price? Too expensive? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Focal Utopia

5

Sound

5.0/5

Build

5.0/5

Comfort

5.0/5

Soundstage

5.0/5

Pros

  • Amazing Comfort
  • Perfect Sound in Tonality and Detail
  • Great Soundstage
  • Built Beautifully

Cons

  • Cable is Really Bulky

Don't forget to share if you found it helpful!

You may also like

2 comments

Paul November 26, 2021 - 10:36 am

I’ve been on this critique/ review/ comparison for approx 3hours! The Focal Utopias are my holy grail, thank you for the confirmation ?. I have lesser Focals so working my way up. Love your writing man! I’m also off to get a chord mojo after you confirmed what I had read elsewhere. Love the humour, real world understanding and clear love for music you bring to your reviews.
Thank you I’ll be back.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black November 26, 2021 - 4:35 pm

Thanks for the love man! Still haven’t heard anything better than a Utopia! I hope that doesn’t change as I love the headphones so much lol. Even planars don’t really outclass it and planar drivers do tend to outperform dynamics. The Utopia is just that good! Check this one out as well as I did a video on it as well 🙂

Reply

Leave a Comment