Focal’s new Sphear in-ear headphones will certainly impact the audio industry with a strong combination of engineering, finely tuned design and affordable price (€129 retail - $179). Two years in development, Sphear represents not only Focal’s entrance in the in-ear category but also an innovative concept, rethinking every aspect of design, from the use of memory foam tips all the way to the carefully controlled weight distribution on the housing in order to achieve a comfortable natural position in the auricle.
According to Focal, the Sphear mechanical design relieves the ear canal from excessive volume and weight, avoiding discomfort in long sessions by distributing the weight in conformity with the shape of the ear cavity. But the housing was also designed to accommodate a larger dynamic driver, 10.8mm in diameter, able to generate what the company calls “high-definition” sound, in line with the slogan “The Spirit of Sound”.
According to Simon Matthews, Focal’s Head of Design, designing the Sphear was a challenge not only in terms of audio quality but because they tried to solve many of the ergonomic constraints which have forced other manufacturers to compromise their designs. That encouraged the company to create a dedicated R&D team, combining engineering and design, to improve every single critical aspect of the product. As Simon Matthews explains, the design team also had in mind that the new in-ear headphones should be able to translate new digital high-resolution audio sources, always bearing in mind the brand’s DNA.
For the project, Focal understood that in-ear phones are truly personal objects and, increasingly, a life-style statement. The choice of “spheric” shapes is directly associated with the intent to convey harmony and balance, while also helping the Focal Sphear design to be efficient and still discreet. Simon Matthews calls it “a true sensorial pleasure”.
Those considerations are remarkable considering the affordability of the Sphear headphones and the “hi-fidelity” threshold. According to Focal, the new drivers developed for the Sphear use a Mylar diaphragm with a specific profile with streaks, designed to help control the excursion and avoid distortion. Directly coupled with a vented acoustic chamber this approach generates a neutral response and linear tonal balance, tuned like any other loudspeaker.
Also, by using a larger electrodynamic driver and what the brand calls a “bass reflex” design, the Focal Sphear extends the frequency response with powerful and tight bass, while the noise isolation helps to deal with noisy parameters. The housing is made of stainless steel for its durability but also solid aesthetics, complemented with a black gloss finish.
The resulting in-ear headphones promise to be practical, light and discreet, solving many of the constraints of miniaturization and physics of speaker design with innovative solutions. According to Focal, a true statement that in-ears can benefit from the same acoustical principles used in loudspeakers and larger circumaural headphones.
The Focal Sphear in-ears include a flexible cable with built-in remote controls allowing compatibility with most devices, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, featuring also a built-in omnidirectional microphone for calls. Focal also supplies three pairs of memory foam tips and three silicon tips of different sizes, an airplane adaptor, and a carrying case.