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Focal Clear Professional Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 50 27.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 95 51.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 26 14.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 12 6.6%

  • Total voters
    183

amirm

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This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests of Focal Clear Pro headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1499.
Focal Clear MG Pro Headphone Review.jpg

As our British friends say, the Clear Pro "looks the part." It a unique and luxurious design. Comfort was very good although the cups are on the smaller size. The headband spring is quite progressive and gets stiff fast. So if you have a wider head, it may not be so easy to ear.

The standard cord supplied with it is rather thick, short and kind of stiff. Not a fan.

The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Please note that headphone measurements are not very exact so variations exist between reviewers especially in higher frequencies.

Edit: I was told the headphone was the "MG" version. It is not. It is Clear Professional.

Focal Clear Pro Measurements

Let's start with our usual frequency response:
Focal Clear MG Pro Frequency Response Measurements.png

This is almost identical to Focal Clear I reviewed a while ago. Sadly this means shortfall in bass response and various deviations from 1 kHz up. There was also 2 to 3 dB channel level difference which I could not dial out no matter what I did. Hand pressure on the low output pad would fix this partially but I could not make it do so by itself.

Here is the deviation from the target to use to develop equalization:
Focal Clear MG Pro Relative Frequency Response Measurements.png


Dynamic range and distortion are disappointing at higher output levels. I could easily hear the drivers crackling during 114 dBSPL -- a defect that I have only heard with Focal headphones:
Focal Clear MG Pro Relative THD Distortion Measurements.png


Focal Clear MG Pro THD Distortion Measurements.png


Impedance is highly variable due to a very large low frequency peak:
Focal Clear MG Pro Impedance Measurements.png


So if you have a high impedance headphone amp, you are going to get different frequency response than what I measured.

Group delay is messy:
Focal Clear MG Pro Group Delay Measurements.png


Sensitivity is about average:

Most sensitive headphones.png


Focal Clear Pro Listening Tests and Equalizations
Out of the box lack of bass was obvious and overall sound while not bad, wasn't exciting either. So out came the EQ tool:

Focal Clear MG Pro Equalization EQ Parametric.png

It is non-trivial to develop an EQ above bass due to fair amount of variations. I used negative filtering to simplify equalization in the 4 to 6 kHz. The negative filter took down a resonance which improved clarity. And then I boosted the overall region with a more gentle filter. Once there, the sound was transformed substantially and was impressive at times.

The disappointment came from any attempt to push the headphone during bass heavy tracks. The drivers created nasty crackling sound forcing me to turn the volume down. In a sea of competition without this issue, I am so surprised that Focal continues with the same low excursion drivers even with this revision.

Conclusions
At low to medium volumes and with equalization the Clear Professional produces very good fidelity. Turn up the volume or defeat EQ and it becomes a headphone not worthy of the brand. Combine that with the nearly $1,500 price and the limitations become quite glaring.

I personally would not choose or recommend the Focal Clear Pro. But if you like it for some other reason, then be sure to use equalization and keep the volumes down for best performance.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • Focal Clear MG Pro ASR Frequency Response.zip
    27.5 KB · Views: 50
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KeithPhantom

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Open back headphones do seem to have trouble getting good sub bass without EQ or internal DSP. The continued issues with drivers bottoming out is more concerning, but I can say it’s not something I’ve ever noticed with my EQ’d Elear, but I tend to listen at 70-80db, so I’m not really ever stressing it.
 

KeithPhantom

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Open back headphones do seem to have trouble getting good sub bass without EQ or internal DSP. The continued issues with drivers bottoming out is more concerning, but I can say it’s not something I’ve ever noticed with my EQ’d Elear, but I tend to listen at 70-80db, so I’m not really ever stressing it.
The only exception to this the HD 560S. I have a very aggressive convolution filter on them that do +6.3 dB at 17 Hz while listening to very bass-heavy songs at medium to high volumes and haven’t had any clipping and once I even pushed it (high gain A30 Pro like at 12 o’clock, not listening to the, though). I remember EQing the Clears when I had them, it was impossible to run even a +3 dB. This is the reason keeping me from Focal Headphones.
 
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The only exception to this the HD 560S. I have a very aggressive convolution filter on them that do +6.3 at 17 dB while listening to very bass-heavy songs at medium to high volumes and haven’t had any clipping and once I even pushed it (high gain A30 Pro like at 12 o’clock, not listening to the, though). I remember EQing the Clears when I had them, it was impossible to run even a +3 dB. This is the reason keeping me from Focal Headphones.
I’m confused what you mean by “+6.3 at 17db”. What’s the significance of the 6.3? What unit is that? I’ve never messed with convolution though, the whole idea perplexes me, I just stick with plain old Parametric EQ.

I‘m mainly a planar guy these days anyway. My HE6se and LCD-5 seem to be able to take any EQ I throw at them without complaint. The HE6se especially is great for basshead fun, they’ll handle 12db of boost below 105hz and feel like head-mounted subwoofers.
 

phoenixdogfan

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Obvious competition here are the LCD-Xs and the Arya Stealths. This would appear to come in a distant third to them both.
 

Byght

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The photo is of a Focal Clear Professional, not the newer MG version. You can also tell by the grilles and the wording on the earcups. The MG version has large hexagonal holes in the grille.

@amirm, maybe search and replace "MG" with "" ?
 

KeithPhantom

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I’m confused what you mean by “+6.3 at 17db”. What’s the significance of the 6.3? What unit is that? I’ve never messed with convolution though, the whole idea perplexes me, I just stick with plain old Parametric EQ.

I‘m mainly a planar guy these days anyway. My HE6se and LCD-5 seem to be able to take any EQ I throw at them without complaint. The HE6se especially is great for basshead fun, they’ll handle 12db of boost below 105hz and feel like head-mounted subwoofers.
Messed up the units, I meant +6.3 dB at 17 Hz.
 
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The photo is of a Focal Clear Professional, not the newer MG version. You can also tell by the grilles and the wording on the earcups. The MG version has large hexagonal holes in the grille.

@amirm, maybe search and replace "MG" with "" ?
Ooh, good catch, that would explain why it measures near identical to the Clear OG. The MG variants are tuned a bit warmer IIRC.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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The photo is of a Focal Clear Professional, not the newer MG version. You can also tell by the grilles and the wording on the earcups. The MG version has large hexagonal holes in the grille.

@amirm, maybe search and replace "MG" with "" ?
Oh. The owner said they were MG Pro. Shoot. Let me correct....
 

Maiky76

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This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests of Focal Clear Pro headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1499.
View attachment 227912
As our British friends say, the Clear Pro "looks the part." It a unique and luxurious design. Comfort was very good although the cups are on the smaller size. The headband spring is quite progressive and gets stiff fast. So if you have a wider head, it may not be so easy to ear.

The standard cord supplied with it is rather thick, short and kind of stiff. Not a fan.

The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Please note that headphone measurements are not very exact so variations exist between reviewers especially in higher frequencies.

Edit: I was told the headphone was the "MG" version. It is not. It is Clear Professional.

Focal Clear Pro Measurements

Let's start with our usual frequency response:
View attachment 227913
This is almost identical to Focal Clear I reviewed a while ago. Sadly this means shortfall in bass response and various deviations from 1 kHz up. There was also 2 to 3 dB channel level difference which I could not dial out no matter what I did. Hand pressure on the low output pad would fix this partially but I could not make it do so by itself.

Here is the deviation from the target to use to develop equalization:
View attachment 227914

Dynamic range and distortion are disappointing at higher output levels. I could easily hear the drivers crackling during 114 dBSPL -- a defect that I have only heard with Focal headphones:
View attachment 227915

View attachment 227916

Impedance is highly variable due to a very large low frequency peak:
View attachment 227917

So if you have a high impedance headphone amp, you are going to get different frequency response than what I measured.

Group delay is messy:
View attachment 227918

Sensitivity is about average:

View attachment 227919

Focal Clear Pro Listening Tests and Equalizations
Out of the box lack of bass was obvious and overall sound while not bad, wasn't exciting either. So out came the EQ tool:

View attachment 227920
It is non-trivial to develop an EQ above bass due to fair amount of variations. I used negative filtering to simplify equalization in the 4 to 6 kHz. The negative filter took down a resonance which improved clarity. And then I boosted the overall region with a more gentle filter. Once there, the sound was transformed substantially and was impressive at times.

The disappointment came from any attempt to push the headphone during bass heavy tracks. The drivers created nasty crackling sound forcing me to turn the volume down. In a sea of competition without this issue, I am so surprised that Focal continues with the same low excursion drivers even with this revision.

Conclusions
At low to medium volumes and with equalization the Clear Professional produces very good fidelity. Turn up the volume or defeat EQ and it becomes a headphone not worthy of the brand. Combine that with the nearly $1,500 price and the limitations become quite glaring.

I personally would not choose or recommend the Focal Clear Pro. But if you like it for some other reason, then be sure to use equalization and keep the volumes down for best performance.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Here are some thoughts about the EQ.

Notes about the EQ design:
  • The average L/R is used to calculate the score.
  • The resolution is 12 points per octave interpolated from the raw data (provided by @amirm)
  • A Genetic Algorithm is used to optimize the EQ.
  • The EQ Score is designed to MAXIMIZE the Score WHILE fitting the Harman target curve (and other constrains) with a fixed complexity.
    This will avoid weird results if one only optimizes for the Score.
    It will probably flatten the Error regression doing so, the tonal balance should be therefore more neutral.
  • The EQs are starting point and may require tuning (certainly at LF and maybe at HF).
  • The range around and above 10kHz is usually not EQed unless smooth enough to do so.
  • I am using PEQ (PK) as from my experience the definition is more consistent across different DSP/platform implementations than shelves.
  • With some HP/amp combo, the boosts and preamp gain (loss of Dynamic range) need to be carefully considered to avoid issues with, amongst other things, too low a Max SPL or damaging your device. You have beed warned.
  • Not all units of the same product are made equal. The EQ is based on the measurements of a single unit. YMMV with regards to the very unit you are trying this EQ on.
  • I sometimes use variations of the Harman curve for some reasons. See rational here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pro-review-headphone.28244/page-5#post-989169
  • https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pro-review-headphone.28244/page-6#post-992119
  • NOTE: the score then calculated is not comparable to the scores derived from the default Harman target curve if not otherwise noted.
Good L/R match.
I have generated one EQ, the APO config file is attached.

Score no EQ: 82.3
Score Amirm: 91.1
Score with EQ: 92.4

Code:
Focal Clear MG Pro EQ [email protected] 96000Hz
September012022-105633

Preamp: -7.3 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 13.70 Hz Gain 7.58 dB Q 0.25
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 196.75 Hz Gain -1.97 dB Q 1.34
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1244.00 Hz Gain -3.42 dB Q 1.92
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 2170.89 Hz Gain 2.81 dB Q 3.67
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4660.56 Hz Gain 3.82 dB Q 3.94
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 5962.92 Hz Gain -5.28 dB Q 6.94
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 6025.55 Hz Gain 4.46 dB Q 3.61
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 11437.28 Hz Gain -5.10 dB Q 7.00

Focal Clear MG Pro EQ Design.png
 

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Martin

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The Clears are fine headphones for casual, low volume listening. Their tonality is excellent, especially with equalization. They were third in my four headphone comparo. Unfortunately, they fall apart if you push the volume.

Martin
 

sweetchaos

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PEQ profile:
Preamp: -7.0 dB
Filter 1: ON LSC Fc 41 Hz Gain 7.0 dB Q 0.68
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1300 Hz Gain -2.0 dB Q 2.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 2300 Hz Gain 2.0 dB Q 3.0
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 5800 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 2.0
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 6600 Hz Gain -2.0 dB Q 5.0
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 11600 Hz Gain -4.0 dB Q 6.0

Readme
 

Dro

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It's not the bass clipping that was a turn-off with my Focal Clear Pro, but the fact that it measurably lost sub-bass over time. Not pad wear, the loss was the same with worn and fresh spare pads. No other headphones do that.
 

Cars-N-Cans

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"So if you have a high impedance headphone amp, you are going to get different frequency response than what I measured."

Hey, gonna get some nice bass-boost in the 50 Hz region! :) I'm starting to think this is where some people like DMS say certain headphones need certain amps deal comes from. Seems like a really expensive way to EQ things.
 

PeteL

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There was also 2 to 3 dB channel level difference which I could not dial out no matter what I did.
It's strange but me I see more like maybe 0 dB to 1 dB channel difference, beside a few peaks and dip in the trebles which in my understanding should be taken with a grain of salt high up there. Am I reading the graph wrong or is it based on a different measurment?

This does not feel to me so objectionable with used headphone that may have a bit of pad aging combined with possible slight measurement tolerance due to position even with best effort positioning.
 
Last edited:
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