Focal Elear Open Back Headphone Review
Focal has caused a stir recently with their two new additions; the Utopia and the Focal Elear headphones. In the hunt for a snappy title, we have found that the word ‘Elear’ has no definition in either English or French, so we had to make do with a click-baity title instead.
With the Utopia at a wallet-wilting £3499, the Elear has missed out on a lot of attention due to its less sensational price. However, £899 is still a fair whack for a pair of headphones so let’s see if we can define ‘Elear’ here.
- Excellent clear sound
- Strong, well made cable
- Great presentation, beautiful!
- Some may find them heavy
Design and Appearance
The Focal Elear comes in a very impressive looking box, although it won’t stand up to much use without starting to look scruffy, as it’s made of paper-coated wood or card. Given the Elear’s intended uses however, we don’t imagine that it will need to go back in very often. The headphones themselves are very well built, with great styling. Imagine the Sennheiser HD600 being designed by a Frenchman and the Elear would not be far off.
Durability and Build Quality
The Elear is of relatively light construction in terms of the way the components fit together. For instance the headband and earcups have a little bit of give to them, but this is down to helping achieve a good fit rather than poor design. Whether these parts loosen in years to come, time will tell but we don’t think so. That’s where the lightness ends though, as the Elear weighs in at a relatively hefty 434 grams (15.3 Oz – nearly a pound!).
Also the cable is quite substantial; it makes most other cables look like spider silk but it’s not cumbersome; ‘reassuringly lavish’ probably fits. It’s a rubber-coated affair and matches the headphones very well.
There’s plenty of padding under the headband and with the soft and pliable earpads on the Elear, no particular part of the head registers discomfort. These headphones can be worn for hours depending on your neck muscles; those 434 grams can start imposing themselves after a while.
The Focal Elear‘s tuning is pitched slightly warmish, but with a respectable presence in the mid/treble region too. It is good at reproducing the subtle variations in volume offered by acoustic instruments and so excels with live and acoustic performances. Having said that, studio recordings are pretty convincing too. The Elear is fairly forgiving with less than perfect recordings, old records and music files; pops and scratches are there alright, but not brought into sharp relief. Enough fun can be had with old MP3 files without feeling as if we need to rush out and get these in higher resolution in order to enjoy the Elear.
Bass is in no short supply, but is well balanced with the rest of the frequencies; it doesn’t tend to dominate unless the music is already bassy. Sub bass gives a pleasant rumble if required, and mid bass is punchy and tight; it’s well behaved up to the midrange and the transition to the higher frequencies is nice and even.
Plenty of space here; decays are as long as needed and vocals/backing vocals are clear and well defined. Fans of acoustic and classical music are in for a treat as a strong impression of the recording space is given by the Elear, with the ebb and flow of natural reverb being very well reproduced.
Treble is not pushed at us but is very resolving and we find ourselves ‘reaching in’ to the recording to find tiny details which are all the more natural-sounding. Transient speed is excellent with clear, sharp percussive sounds. Also, be ready for unplanned sounds in recordings, such as when a singer opens their mouth, ready to sing. Unplanned perhaps, but fun to spot and enjoy as an added level of realism.
- Soundstage and Separation
Width is great with studio recordings but as noted above, all the more realistic with recordings made within a performance space such as classical or opera. Imaging is impressive, with subtle harmonic details giving a strong impression of instrument shape and form.
Music genres good for and why
The Focal Elear is a good all-round choice; if this is the only headphone you have, it will do everything well but it really shines with classical and opera; anything which is recorded within a performance space really.
Focal’s Elear may sit in the shade next to Focal’s current flagship headphone (The Utopia) but can really dish up the goods. Prices for top of the range headphones have been pushing up and up recently, but if you wish to keep your feet on the ground then the Focal Elear is one of the best which can be had for under a grand.