In less than three years, Focal has established itself as a key player in the high-end headphones market with international recognition and with Arche, it is redefining yet another ultra-high-end experience. According to Focal, Arche offers presets for every set of Focal headphones to make sure users get the absolute best from the combination. "Where Micromega brings its expertise in manufacturing high-end electronics, Focal’s acoustic knowledge shines through in the remarkable performance it delivers. Music lovers therefore get an all-in-one solution for their headphones, whilst benefiting from the performance delivered by the converter to drive their home hi-fi system," the company states.
Upon entry of the digital signal, Arche offers a dual mono design, from signal processing to amplification to reduce crosstalk to an absolute minimum. The two premium digital-analog balanced AK 4490 converters take care of the left and right-hand channels, respectively. Each converter has a dedicated regulated power supply. Used frequently in high-end electronics, these converters have an extended operating range of 768kHz - 32bits, specially designed to ensure the pure and perfect reproduction of high-resolution audio formats. Arche processes PCM format signals, 384kHz, as well as DSD 256.
As for power, the dual mono design continues with two amplification channels equipped with a dedicated power supply. Each amplifier operates at pure class-A, regardless of the impedance of the headphones used. "With 2 x 1W, Arche powers the headphones easily, providing extremely high impedances. And in addition to the extremely low distortion, this choice means it is also outstanding in terms of transient signals," the company adds.
The new headphone amp and DAC from Focal, also offers the option to select two amplifier types using the multifunctional rotary potentiometer located on the front panel. A pure current amplifier is available in the “Amplifier” section under the designation “Voltage”. This mode provides an output impedance of just 0.1 Ohm, which results in major listening dynamics. The second “Hybrid” integrated amplifier is similar to a power amplifier as it benefits from a higher output impedance. Here, the tonal balance slightly favors the bass and enhances detail.
By housing these two amplifiers within a single electronic component, every user gets amplification to suit their headphones and their favorite tonal balance. Focal has also built in solutions dedicated to each of its headphones via presets with the products’ branding, and Arche will be updated with new firmware for every new Focal launch. And the unit comes with a solid aluminum headphone mount, inspired by the brand’s logo.
The rear panel is dedicated to the connection of sources via an analog input (RCA) and three digital inputs (USB, toslink and coaxial). Arche can also be used as a digital-analog converter to drive the signal towards a power amplifier used for powering a pair of headphones or high-fidelity loudspeakers. To do this, Focal added an XLR format balanced output, doubled up with two RCAs for amplifiers with more traditional connectivity.
Arche’s front panel allows users to connect up to two pairs of headphones via 1/4” (6.35mm) unbalanced stereo jack outputs and a balanced 4-point XLR. The multifunctional rotary potentiometer enables total control of the system and the selection of inputs and volume control. The output level can also be optimized in relation to the impedance of the headphones connected.
Arche will be available in March 2019 on Focal.com/US or Amazon.com, starting at $2500.
Newest Closed-Back Headphones
At the same time, Focal announced Stellia, a new high-end, closed-back headphone model, using a new generation of exclusive speaker drivers, capable of working at low sound levels while offering an extended frequency response. The new speaker drivers use frameless 100% copper voice coil, ‘M’-shaped pure Beryllium dome and a new surround to offer increased dynamics. The design also uses integrated vents to extend the driver’s frequency response, while an EVA foam positioned behind the speaker driver absorbs high frequencies and acoustic diffusers break up standing waves.
The Stellia headphones also add soundproofing capacity to enhance its closed design. The earpads are designed to diffuse sound through a non-perforated full-grain leather and absorb the audio signal through an acoustic cloth which covers the memory foam.
Focal has also strictly overseen every stage in Stellia’s creation, from the development process to industrialization, even developing a specific robot to meet the requirements of manufacturing these headphones. Stellia uses the headband and yoke mechanical features originally developed for the flagship Utopia headphones. The consistent curve between these two elements offers flawless comfort, regardless of the shape and size of the listener’s face and head. This comfort is enhanced by the high-resilience memory foam used for the elegant, high-isolation full-grain leather earpads.
And because this a more sophisticated approach to headphone design with lifestyle elements, Focal offers the Stellia in two cognac and mocha finishes and adds a high-end packaging. Stellia is presented in an imitation leather pack, with a matching cognac and mocha color scheme. A storage case houses two high-quality cables with the same materials and finish. The first cable measures 10 1/8 feet (3 meters) and is ideal for use at home on a high-end amplifier. The second is designed to be portable: measuring 3 3/8 feet (1.2m) with a 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo jack. The rigid travel case in cognac and mocha woven finishes provides effective yet stylish protection for the headphones,
The Stellia headphones are available now on Focal.com/US and Amazon.com, starting at $3000.