Embodying Focal’s core values, the new headphones combine exclusive technology, remarkable audio performance and the brand’s own design codes. This month also sees the inauguration of Focal’s brand new production line at its site in Saint-Etienne, France which will be entirely dedicated to manufacturing Elear and Utopia headphones.
“For the past two years, we’ve offered some of the best sounding over-ear headphones with our Spirit line,” says Ben Jensen, president of Focal North America. “With Utopia, we challenged our engineers and designers to create a reference headphone that equals the sonic excellence found in our other premium lines in Hi-Fi, automotive and professional monitoring and are incredibly proud of what we were able to achieve for our most discerning audiophile customers.”
Utopia – World’s first beryllium headphones
Focal’s Utopia open-back reference headphones were designed to offer the ultimate listening experience for the most critical music enthusiast and utilize the company’s 35-year history and experience with other product lines that carry the Utopia moniker. Known for creating reference products such as the $220,000/pair Grand Utopia EM Reference Hi-Fi speakers, $25,000/pair Utopia Ultima Reference automotive speakers, as well as the sought after SM9 Professional near-field monitor, Focal spared no expense while developing the Utopia Reference headphones.
After listening to dozens of high-end cans in both open and closed back designs, Focal’s designers realized that the experience users have with headphones compared to a pair of high-end speakers is one with an incredibly limited soundstage. With that goal in mind, Focal’s engineers began to think of the newest Utopia project as the world’s first, wearable, full-range, ULTRA near-field loudspeaker rather than strictly a pair of headphones.
Focused on creating nothing shy of perfection, designers began looking at every single aspect of the product; from the raw materials, to the construction of the drivers, to the padding used in the ear cups, to the leather used to wrap them for the ultimate comfort as well as creating an acoustic room around your ear, to the design of the and technical mechanism of the headband, all the way down to the quality of the cable and even the packaging used to give Utopia a premium look and feel.
Beginning with the drivers, Focal looked at many of their previous reference products that use Beryllium, which combines the ultimate rigidity to weight ratio. Beryllium is 30 times higher cost than gold. Creating a driver with a completely open front and open back design, Focal was able to avoid using a crossover or passive filtering process common in other headphones. The result, when used in conjunction with a proper headphone amplifier/DAC, is a frequency response from 5Hz to 50kHz, and driver assembly so light, it can vibrate 50,000 times per second, producing some of the most airy, open-sounding, yet sonically accurate music in any genre.
While designing the ‘wearability’ of the product, Focal again maintained a goal to create a yoke that is strong and light while paying attention to comfort in the ear cups. Engineers wanted to ensure Utopia’s ability to fit all sizes and varying head shapes while creating a stunning looking product. After much research, a carbon fiber yoke was established as the ultimate design material, which offers an elegant look, while being lightweight and extremely rigid. Additionally, in order to avoid creating the joint found in conventionally-designed headphones for the rotation functionality, which breaks up the aesthetics, Focal built this feature directly into the headband, using more than 100 parts.
After auditioning some of the most premium leather suppliers in the world in order to find the softest, most comfortable yet most acoustically neutral samples for use in the ear cups, designers decided to use True Lambskin leather from New Zealand on both the ear cup cushions and headband.
Included with each pair of Utopia Reference headphones, is a rigid packaging with magnetic locking system, a 4m (13.1ft) OFC cable, a Neutrik 6.35mm (1/4“) stereo plug and two shielded Lemo connectors with self-locking bayonet system.
Utopia is slated to be available on June 29, at first in limited quantities from qualified dealers for the suggested retail price of $3,999 USD / $4,999 CAD.
Elear – Hi-fidelity Headphones
Using all of the R&D that was established for Utopia, Elear shares many of the same design cues in an open-back headphone at an attainable price that offers performance similar to headphones twice as expensive. The Elear features the same driver shape, while utilizing an Aluminum-Magnesium blend, versus the more expensive Beryllium driver used by its bigger brother.
Once again, Focal’s goal was to create the highest quality sound while avoiding any distortion in the process of reproducing the music. Elear achieves a frequency response from 5Hz to 23kHz for a unique high-fidelity audio experience. Just like the Utopia, Elear were built for long listening sessions with microfiber fabric cushions, and aluminum (vs carbon fiber) yoke with the same in band mechanism, providing a truly comfortable fit for everyone, no matter the size / shape of their head.
Elear offers impressively realistic reproduction of the highest highs and lowest lows while staying true to Focal’s unique sound profile. With their open front and back design, Elear was modeled after the Utopia but designed to offer an incredible listening experience when combined with a headphone amplifier/DAC, at a more affordable price.
Included with each pair of Elear is rigid packaging with magnet locking system and a 4m (13.1ft) OFC cable, a 6.35mm (1/4“) stereo Jack and two 3.5mm (0.14“) Jacks with self-locking system.
Elear is slated to be available on June 29, at first in limited quantities from qualified dealers for the suggested retail price of $999.00 USD / $1,499 CAD.
Pure Beryllium ‘M’-shaped dome speaker driver
The new Utopia headphones are equipped with totally open-backed full-range speaker drivers with pure Beryllium ‘M’-shaped domes. One of the reasons why headphones sound different to speakers is due to the shape of the soundwave. Whether it’s an inverted dome or a positive dome, a listening distance of an inch requires that the shape of the dome is completely redesigned to achieve a plane wave in ultra-nearfield listening. In order to achieve this, Focal designed a cone with a new ‘M’-shaped dome, equipped with the famous pure Beryllium dome in order to offer an unrival- led mass rigidity damping ratio. Elear, on the other hand, has a dome made of an aluminium/ magnesium alloy just like Aria speakers.
As part of the project, Focal also designed the very first voice coil without former that also features a monolayer coating to make it even lighter. The result is a voice coil measuring 25mm in diameter by 4.4mm in height which is actually lighter than voice coils measuring 15mm x 1.5mm used in other high- end headphones on the market. The goal is to have excellent mechanical coupling to the dome considering its diameter, and to ensure the voice coil is always controlled by the magnet’s magnetic field regardless of the excursion of the moving part.
The surround is clearly a key component of the moving part. When it comes to the physical demands expected of Utopia and Elear headphones, the surround needs to offer an optimized compliance and have high Xmax, to ensure they are as lightweight as possible. Once again, Focal has proved its expertise with another world premiere: the thinnest suspension ever created, with a thickness of 80 microns! This challenge required months of work to conciliate very low mass, maximum excursion and the linearity of the moving assembly, all while ensuring perfectly balanced sound regardless of the volume.
The cable supplied with Utopia was specifically selected for its capability to respect the original audio signal, such as its very low impedance (< 90 mΩ/metre). It is totally symmetrical in order to offer extremely low crosstalk (< 70 picofarads). The shielding protects it from electromagnetic interference and allows for a longer cable (4m/13 ft.). Finally, the 9.5mm Lemo connector and the 6.35mm Neutrik stereo jack enable easy customization.
Listen – Over-Ear Headphones
The new Listen over-the-ear headphones are Focal’s newest product aimed at the mobile user, following in the footsteps of the highly revered Spirit Pro, Spirit Classic, and Spirit One S. Listen mirrors the hand built design of the Utopia and Elear. Listen’s closed-back technology with specific venting was intended for consumers that look for premium sound and elegant design with the portability meant to be taken on the bus, the subway or simply as a passenger on a cross-country road trip.
With their closed-back design and large chrome plated ear cups, Focal’s Listen provides excellent isolation from outside noise while offering high-quality acoustic performance, even on a busy city street or in a subway car. At the core of their acoustic quality is a large driver (40mm) made of a Titanium coated Mylar sheet which provides the rigidity needed to reproduce deep bass, yet lightweight enough to provide an elegance to the upper register at any volume. Listen’s exclusive diaphragm technology creates its outstanding sound quality, while its highly dynamic, deep controlled bass, and overall tonal balance makes it unique in its class of headphones.
Additionally for comfort, the thick thermosensitive memory foam and soft touch headband provides optimum comfort and weight distribution. With their noise isolating design, built-in multi-function remote and omnidirectional microphone, they are ideal for traveling, taking a conference call in private or for hours of intense listening. With its bayonet design, the cable also locks into the headphones for the ultimate durability.
Included with each pair of Listen headphones is a soft carrying case, a 1.4m OFC cable with built-in remote, omnidirectional microphone and airplane adaptor.
Listen is slated to be available on July 15th at select retailers and online partners for the suggested retail price of $249.00 USD / $399.00 CAD.
www.focal.com/headphones | www.focalna.com