Home Headphone Comparisons HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Focal Clear: An Audiophile Showdown

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Focal Clear: An Audiophile Showdown

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

Focal and HIFIMAN are two respected manufacturers in the high-end audio industry, known for their commitment to delivering exceptional sound quality and premium craftsmanship.

In this comparison, we will dissect two of their not quite mid-fi but not-really-hi-fi-either headphones, the Focal Clear and the HIFIMAN Ananda, from A to Z, exploring their design, performance, and features in detail.

Focal

Focal, founded in 1979 in France, has established itself as a prominent player in the world of high-end audio equipment.

The company is renowned for its meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to producing audio products that offer unparalleled sound quality and comfort.

Focal’s expertise extends across a wide range of audio equipment, including headphones, loudspeakers, and professional studio monitors.

HIFIMAN

HIFIMAN, a relatively new-ish player in the audio industry founded in 2007, has rapidly gained recognition for its innovative approach to headphone design and audio technology.

The company, headquartered in China, has earned a strong reputation for delivering high-fidelity audio experiences at various price points.

HIFIMAN is particularly acclaimed for its planar magnetic headphone technology and a commitment to pushing the boundaries of audio quality.

Now, let’s begin our comprehensive analysis of the Focal Clear and HIFIMAN Ananda headphones, examining every aspect from build quality to performance, to help you make an informed decision about which one suits your audio needs and preferences.

We’ll also touch on the Focal Clear MG and give a quick comparison to the OG Clear.

Let’s dive in!

Build

The HIFIMAN Ananda and Focal Clear are both well-built headphones, each with its own unique design and construction features.

Focal Clear

Focal Clear Review

The Focal Clear headphones are known for their exceptional rigidity and premium construction.

The ear cups on the Clear are notably sturdy, with limited rotation capabilities, ensuring durability and a consistent listening experience.

This minimal rotation helps maintain the headphone’s structural integrity, but you may crave a bit of extra movement.

The ear cups are crafted from high-quality materials, featuring a combination of Alcantara, metal, leather, and memory foam for the pad interior.

If you’re wondering, Alcantara is a synthetic material with a suede-like texture, commonly used in automotive and fashion industries for its durability, luxury appearance, and ease of maintenance.

The connections into the earcups on the Clear are secure and well-constructed, minimizing the risk of cable detachment or wear over time.

They utilize high-quality detachable cables, which are both convenient and reduce the risk of issues that may arise down the road.

HIFIMAN Ananda

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

The HIFIMAN Ananda headphones share a similar build.

Like the Focal Clear, the Ananda’s ear cups are constructed to be rigid and well-built, allowing only a limited degree of rotation.

The cups also contour and mimic the shape of the human ear vs. the traditional round cups present on the Clear.

Both cups are fairly deep and allow for plenty of room inside.

Unlike the Clear, they can fold up and down which is something to keep in mind.

This design choice ensures stability and, like the Clear, results in a robust profile built for the long haul.

That said, some users prefer the additional rotation of the Arya’s cups east to west as it makes achieving a proper fit a bit easier.

Your mileage may vary here, but I didn’t have much of an issue with either design.

In fact,

the Arya’s loosey-goosey rotation can be a bit of a detriment as it sometimes gets tangled up like a pretzel.

HIFIMAN also emphasizes durability with premium materials.

The Ananda itself is an all-metal construction, with the cups themselves containing a combination of Pleather/Polyester padding.

The connections into the earcups on the Ananda are dual 3.5mm terminations into each side.

This was Design revision #1 from HIFIMAN which also appeared in the Sundara.

The headband on the HIFIMAN Ananda is crafted with user comfort in mind, featuring a thin but effective wool fabric type of pad that cradles your head quite nicely and feels great to the touch.

Comfort

Comfort is a crucial factor to consider when investing in high-end headphones, and both the Ananda and Focal Clear deliver excellent comfort experiences, despite their somewhat bulky appearances.

HIFIMAN Ananda

HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Arya vs. Edition XS

Wearing the HIFIMAN Ananda is a bit like strapping a football helmet to your head – but in the most comfortable way possible.

 The Ananda features large earcups that envelop your ears like a well-fitted helmet, creating a unique and cozy listening experience.

The plush earpads are made from Pleather/Polyester which allows for breathability, making them ideal for extended listening sessions.

The headband of the Ananda distributes its 440g of weight evenly across the top of your head, ensuring that you won’t feel any undue pressure points.

The clamping force on the sides is just right – snug enough to keep the headphones securely in place but not so tight that it becomes uncomfortable over time.

There is a small caveat in that they may dig a little into that ridge behind your ear where the bone is, but it’s a small price to pay and I haven’t noticed it much in recent years.

You can wear these headphones for hours on end with minimal adjustments, making them perfect for long gaming sessions or marathon music-listening sessions.

Focal Clear

Focal Clear Review

The Focal Clear also excels in the comfort department.

The large, well-padded ear cushions are covered in microfiber fabric, which feels plush and inviting against your skin.

Weighing in at a slightly heavier 450g, the Clears are nearly indistinguishable from the Ananda in terms of weight, and this balance is key to their comfort.

The headband design ensures that the weight is evenly distributed, eliminating hot spots and allowing you to wear them for hours without fatigue.

The clamping force is just right, securing the headphones without causing discomfort, even during extended listening or gaming sessions.

Both the HIFIMAN Ananda and Focal Clear offer top-notch comfort despite their bulky appearances and are suitable for long listening sessions.

While the Ananda may feel a bit like someone has gently wrapped their hands around your face, its unique design and plush earpads make it an endearing and comfortable choice.

Meanwhile, the Focal Clear’s thoughtful ergonomic design and premium materials ensure a similarly comfortable and immersive listening experience, making either of these headphones a fantastic choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike.

So, whether you prefer the “football helmet” or a more classic headphone look, rest assured that comfort won’t be a concern with either of these.

Sound

Sound quality is a paramount consideration when choosing high-end headphones, and both the HIFIMAN Ananda and Focal Clear offer distinct sonic characteristics that cater to different preferences.

HIFIMAN Ananda

The HIFIMAN Ananda delivers a sound signature characterized by a balanced and clear presentation.

However, there are some notable nuances to be aware of:

Bass

The Ananda’s bass response is generally accurate but has a gentle roll-off starting at around 60Hz, resulting in a slight dip in the sub-bass frequencies.

This means that while it provides good bass presence and articulation, it may not have the same punch and slam in the very low end as some other headphones.

Your mileage may vary here, but I personally feel it’s fine. Could it use a bit more slam? Sure, but it’s not a dealbreaker as most songs aren’t trying to blow you away below 60Hz.

Mid-range

The mid-range on the Ananda has a dip after 1kHz but recovers around 2kHz.

This dip may affect the perceived warmth and body of vocals and instruments in this range.

However, it still maintains good presence, and the dip is not extreme, ensuring a balanced and enjoyable mid-range overall.

In other words,

it isn’t as problematic as the mids in lower-tiered HIFMAN headphones such as the 400se, 400i, Sundara, etc.

Treble

The Ananda’s treble is clear and bright, which can bring out finer details in music.

This treble emphasis may appeal to users who prefer a more analytical and detailed sound.

However, it’s important to note that some listeners may find the treble to be slightly fatiguing during extended listening sessions.

I’ve always found the Ananda’s treble to be ever so slightly hissy/bitey, but again, not a dealbreaker.

Focal Clear

Focal Clear Review

The Focal Clear headphones offer a distinct sound profile with its own set of characteristics:

Bass

The Clear has a more extended bass response with a gentle roll-off starting below 30Hz.

This results in bass that is more impactful and with a bit more slam compared to the Ananda.

If you enjoy music genres that rely on super duper deep bass, the Clear might be the preferred choice.

Both basses are very articulate and have plenty of texture. You’re able to hear individual notes rather than feel them rattling your brain into oblivion, and that’s always a plus.

Mid-range

The Clear’s mid-range is well-balanced and slightly elevated around 1kHz.

While it does experience a minor dip, it’s not recessed, ensuring that vocals and instruments still maintain a strong presence and natural timbre.

Treble

The Clear’s treble is more subdued compared to the Ananda.

This can contribute to a smoother and less fatiguing listening experience, especially for those sensitive to bright treble.

However, some users may perceive a subtle graininess in the treble/mids, which might impact the overall clarity of the music.

It’s hard to say exactly where this came from, but I was listening to FLAC files through a NAIM DAC V-1 and Bryston BHA-1; two of the most respected amps in the world.

I wouldn’t say it’s a major problem, but it certainly was there. It’s interesting to note that Focal’s Clear MG does not suffer from this – at least per my experience.

Recap

The HIFIMAN Ananda and Focal Clear offer distinct sound signatures that cater to different tastes.

The Ananda provides a brighter and more analytical sound with a slightly rolled-off bass and a unique mid-range dip.

On the other hand, the Focal Clear boasts a more extended and impactful bass, a well-balanced mid-range, and a smoother treble presentation, albeit with a subtle graininess for some listeners.

Some users also may take exception to its somewhat darker, more veiled nature.

The choice between the two ultimately depends on your personal preferences for bass impact, mid-range character, and treble clarity.

We’ll give a final recommendation towards the end, so stay tuned!

Versatility Across Genres

Open-Back Design

Both headphones have open-back designs that allow for a spacious and natural Soundstage.

This openness creates an immersive listening experience that suits a wide range of music genres.

Whether you’re into Classical, Jazz, Rock, electronic, or any other genre, these headphones can reproduce the nuances of each genre with finesse.

Instrument Separation

Focal Clear Review

The Ananda and Clear both excel in instrument separation, allowing listeners to distinguish and appreciate the individual instruments and vocals within a track.

This quality enhances the overall listening experience, particularly with complex and layered music.

The Ananda is incredible at revealing all the things you likely missed but weren’t even aware were there.

This is an aspect of high-end headphones that will probably make you want to do backflips. The excitement is real, my friends.

I’m talking about things like backing soundscapes, lost synths, distant voices, spooky whispers, and generally anything that fattens up the track but can’t be distinguished clearly in cheaper products.

This is something you absolutely will experience, so get. F’ING. EXCITED.

Resolution

Both headphones offer high-resolution audio capabilities, which means they can reveal intricate details in the music.

This is especially beneficial for audiophiles who value fine nuances, such as subtle guitar plucks or the delicate decay of piano notes.

The skies really the limit here and kind of goes hand in hand with what we just discussed regarding instrument separation.

You’ll start to hear all those little delicious grains of detail that may have gone unnoticed in the past. Again, these qualities are some of the absolute most exciting things about high-end headphones because it’s like listening to music for the first time.

The overall experience is simply superior in every way.

Soundstage and Imaging

While the soundstage on both headphones is fairly similar, the HIFIMAN Ananda tends to create more “out-of-your-head” moments.

This is up for debate but something I personally experienced more with an Ananda.

This means that the sound feels more spacious and three-dimensional, allowing you to feel immersed in the music. You may perceive th ings outside of your immediate vicinity feeling like they are actually happening around you; a quality that can be fairly unnerving if you’re listening to mu sic late at night by yourself.

The Focal Clear also has a good soundstage, but it may not provide the same level of depth as the Ananda in my opinion.

Instrument Timbre

Due to its planar magnetic driver technology, the Ananda has a slight advantage in instrument timbre.

Planar drivers are known for their ability to reproduce instruments with excellent accuracy and naturalness.

While the difference may be subtle, audiophiles who prioritize lifelike instrument timbre may lean towards the Ananda.

Amplification

JDS ATOM HEVI Review

Both the HIFIMAN Ananda and Focal Clear are relatively easy to drive and can be used with mobile devices.

However, you’ll probably want an amp anyway.

For the Ananda, a simple and affordable amp like the JDS Labs ATOM will suffice.

The Ananda’s impedance is moderate, and it can benefit from the extra power, low output impedance, and clean amplification provided by the wonderful ATOM.

DON’T OVERTHINK IT!!

The Focal Clear, with its higher sensitivity, can be driven with ease by a wide range of amplifiers, including portable options.

While it has a slightly higher impedance at 55 ohms, its high sensitivity (104dB) ensures that it can reach satisfying volume levels even without a powerful amp.

Closing Thoughts

HIFIMAN Edition XS Review

Both the HIFIMAN Ananda and Focal Clear are very good headphones that offer distinct sound signatures and comfort experiences.

The Ananda, with its unique “football helmet” design, provides a bright and detailed sound, making it a solid choice for those who appreciate analytical listening and clarity.

However, it’s worth noting that for those seeking a combination of performance and value, the HIFIMAN Edition XS stands out.

This model offers an excellent overall package with a balanced sound signature, good comfort, and impressive resolution.

It provides a compelling alternative that doesn’t compromise on sound quality while offering a more budget-friendly option.

Ultimately, the choice between these headphones depends on your personal preferences, budget, and priorities.

If you prioritize spending more money unnecessarily, the Ananda is an excellent choice.

In all seriousness, it was my go-to option above mid-fi for a few years until the XS came out.

So if you’re looking for a better overall value proposition without sacrificing sound quality, the Edition XS is worth considering.

Learn More:

 

Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this HIFIMAN Ananda vs. Focal Clear comparison and came away with some valuable insight.

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

What are your thoughts on the Clear? The Ananda? Is the Edition XS the better value? 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!!

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2 comments

Christian S September 20, 2023 - 10:10 am

Hello stu! great review. I just want to know if is it worth buying the ananda stealth if I already have an xs for around 350 USD for the Ananda? thanks alot!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 20, 2023 - 11:23 am

Hey man thank you! Wait are you saying the Ananda Stealth is $350 USD? Or the XS that you have was $350?

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