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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

Garrincha

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I'm going by memory but if correct the Clears went over $1000 easy.
Ok, I was wrong. Still $1500 is well overpriced for the CLear, whatever specific model. Senns HD650 shoudl be comparable, if not better, may excluding build quality and looks, but for sure tonality and sound quality, for a fraction of the price.
 

Cougar

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Ok, I was wrong. Still $1500 is well overpriced for the CLear, whatever specific model. Senns HD650 shoudl be comparable, if not better, may excluding build quality and looks, but for sure tonality and sound quality, for a fraction of the price.
I agree, way overpriced. Even the Elears went for around $1k but I got mine when they dropped to $600 new with carrying case and extra ear pads.
 

PeteL

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I have not listend to the Clear, but.... from the frequency response alone, also using the oratory measurements, (https://www.dropbox.com/s/hqb9zjsvc2nu5zc/Focal Clear.pdf?dl=0, https://www.dropbox.com/s/zr5tqw0qojom9uh/Sennheiser HD650.pdf?dl=0) the HD 650 has a better tonality, a better midrange and a better compliance to the Harman target. Yes, the Clear has some more dB in the bass region, but both are well below the target and need EQ anyway to get a decent bass. So I hardly doubt the Clear is soundwise superior, I would rather expect the opposite. By the way, the HD650 came out 2003, and is still much more Harmanesque. And "more dynamic, more engaging" is so subjective and most probably plain wrong, if not meaningless, that it belongs more on head fi.org.
Well... You haven't listen to the clear but...
Yes of course it's subjective and not measurment based, I was clear about that. But I had both for many months, AB them, listened to all sort of stuff with them. To me it is superior. I did not say more harmanesque, I said superior to me. How can I be "plain wrong" when it's a subjective assessment? What is your basis on saying that the HD650 sounds more dynamic then? I would like you to clarify, by meaningless would you say that all headphones are equally dynamic? That would be a fair point. Do we have metrics to compare both? Are you saying that it's not possible for a driver to deliver high amplitude transient better than an other driver? Just trying to assess where this comment stem from. Of course the 650 need more amplification. It could be partly that. I was using most of the time a THX 789 for this. Maybe it's not enough, maybe it is. Again, it sounded less dynamic to me in my use cases. Engaging is purely subjective yes, it just mean to me that I am more engaged in my listening when using one than the other. What's wrong with that?
Now. I am not where you found the rules about any subjective opinion don't belong here and only on Head-Fi. Quite elitist if you ask me...
Lastly, to be clear, I said without EQ. The 650 rolls off at 100 Hz... 100 Hz!! plenty of good stuff get's lost, this one is not up for debate, It's right there in the measurments.
 
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Garrincha

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Well... You haven't listen to the clear but...
Yes of course it's subjective and not measurment based, I was clear about that. But I had both for many months, AB them, listened to all sort of stuff with them. To me it is superior. I did not say more harmanesque, I said superior to me. How can I be "plain wrong" when it's a subjective assessment? What is your basis on saying that the HD650 sounds more dynamic then?
I am not sayin the HD650 is more dynamic, bu rather that this concept is either meaningless or at least not well defined and very dubious.
would like you to clarify, by meaningless would you say that all headphones are equally dynamic? That would be a fair point.
probably. There is so much talk about "dynamic bass", "planar bass" or BA bass (in IEMs), I suspect it is mostly invented.
Do we have metrics to compare both? Are you saying that it's not possible for a driver to deliver high amplitude transient better than an other driver?
Even this is a very flimsy concept. Every headphone that is capable of delivering the highest frequency in the audible range, 20kHz, can swing something 20,000 times per second. How could this ever be slow?
Just trying to assess where this comment stem from. Of course the 650 need more amplification. It could be partly that. I was using most of the time a THX 789 for this. Maybe it's not enough, maybe it is. Again, it sounded less dynamic to me in my use cases. Engaging is purely subjective yes, it just mean to me that I am more engaged in my listening when using one than the other. What's wrong with that?
Now. I am not where you found the rules about any subjective opinion don't belong here and only on Head-Fi. Quite elitist if you ask me...
Lastly, to be clear, I said without EQ. The 650 rolls off at 100 Hz... 100 Hz!! plenty of good stuff get's lost, this one is not up for debate, It's right there in the measurments.
Yes, I stated this several times already. The stock tuning of the HD650 has even less bass than the Clear, but even the Clear is very short of the Harman target, so BOTH require EQ. And with EQ, I strongly doubt that any of your mentioned points (bass, "transients", "engaging", "dynamic sounding") is weaker in the HD650 than in the Clear.
 

Ken Tajalli

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. . . . is very short of the Harman target, so BOTH require EQ. And with EQ, I strongly doubt that any of your mentioned points (bass, "transients", "engaging", "dynamic sounding") is weaker in the HD650 than in the Clear.
Personally, I couldn't care less about the Harman curve!
Harman curve is too dull for me, so when I look at measurements of headphones, I look for smoothness in frequency response, and distortion levels.
I happily listen to without any EQ to something like Audeze LCD-XC (2021) or Hifiman EDXS.
Indeed I tend to avoid those headphones that require much EQ.
For the record, I liked neither HD650 nor the Clear, though if I was to pick one, the HD650 would be the lesser evil.
 

PeteL

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I am not sayin the HD650 is more dynamic, bu rather that this concept is either meaningless or at least not well defined and very dubious.

probably. There is so much talk about "dynamic bass", "planar bass" or BA bass (in IEMs), I suspect it is mostly invented.

Even this is a very flimsy concept. Every headphone that is capable of delivering the highest frequency in the audible range, 20kHz, can swing something 20,000 times per second. How could this ever be slow?

Yes, I stated this several times already. The stock tuning of the HD650 has even less bass than the Clear, but even the Clear is very short of the Harman target, so BOTH require EQ. And with EQ, I strongly doubt that any of your mentioned points (bass, "transients", "engaging", "dynamic sounding") is weaker in the HD650 than in the Clear.
OK, I may have a bias, possibly. Actually I do have a bias. I think that headphones should be sensitive enough to be driven by anything. I fail to find a reason not to so. maybe this dislike led me to not appreciate the sound to it's fullest, who knows how brain work right? I think that attenuated "sub" bass will trumps no sub bass any day tough, this one I won't give you, unEQed you are missing way too much down there with a 650. And I listened to this headphone a lot, really a lot.
 

Garrincha

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Personally, I couldn't care less about the Harman curve!
I think that is not by chance that is is the result of a preference scoring, including many experienced listeners. Sure sometimes I like a bit more bass or a bit less treble, maybe like the Usound/oratory target, but in general the Harman curve is just fine.
Harman curve is too dull for me, so when I look at measurements of headphones, I look for smoothness in frequency response, and distortion levels.
I agree on the frequency smoothness and low distortion criteria, but think it is very much exaggerated to call the Harman curve dull.
I happily listen to without any EQ to something like Audeze LCD-XC (2021) or Hifiman EDXS.
Indeed I tend to avoid those headphones that require much EQ.
Funnily, both (Audeze LCD-XC (2021) or Hifiman EDXS) have quite a good compliance to the Harman target. So you like dullz tuned headphones?
For the record, I liked neither HD650 nor the Clear, though if I was to pick one, the HD650 would be the lesser evil.
The HD 650, with a properly EQed bass, is an excellent headphone.
 

PeteL

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so BOTH require EQ. And with EQ, I strongly doubt that any of your mentioned points is weaker in the HD650 than in the Clear.
In the end tough, I feel like you miss the main point of the post you where critical about. The premisse was, no access to EQ, no access to external amp, and what open back can perform better in these limited conditions. Yes, You may tell me just use close backs or Iems and that answer would make sense I admit, and there are tons to chose from, but in my very limited selection, some Grados GR10e Iems, A set of M-50X, I got a Fostex TH-X00 kicking around somewhere too, sold a 650 but it was with me for some time, well the Elex (as I said close to Clear) Is the most hifi experience in these conditions, I know it started out as a "VS Senns" But you have to be taking into account the use case. I did not say neither the Senn was a poor headphone, I think well amp and EQed it does sound great, but In the end, it's not a contender because it don't work in my main use case. The thing is, does another headphone can do that better than this Focal premium line of headphones.
 

KeithPhantom

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The HD 650, with a properly EQed bass, is an excellent headphone.
I disagree. In my experience both the HD 600 and the 650 can’t handle really bass-heavy songs at high volumes without distorting, and I had both. Both suffer bottoming-out as well when I used EQ (strict self-generated Harman target, not Oratory’s or AutoEQ’s presets) on them. I think this is because the driver wasn’t really designed to output this amount of SPL at low frequencies. The 660S and especially the 560S do way better down there after EQ.
 

Ken Tajalli

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Funnily, both (Audeze LCD-XC (2021) or Hifiman EDXS) have quite a good compliance to the Harman target. So you like dullz tuned headphones?
index.php
index.php

Are they?
On LCD-XC I see, elevated output past 4K, reduced bass and a notch at 4K itself.
On EDXS I see, reduced output between 1.5K to 2.5K and elevated past 3K.
Harman target is OK as a guide, but it is not bible - I do not EQ blindly to achieve it.
I rather not EQ and live with minor issues, than EQ as a must. Headphones should sound right to me out of box, or I won't buy.
EQ is just a cherry on top, sometimes.
 

Garrincha

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index.php
index.php

Are they?
On LCD-XC I see, elevated output past 4K, reduced bass and a notch at 4K itself.
On EDXS I see, reduced output between 1.5K to 2.5K and elevated past 3K.
Yes, like I said, quite good compliance. There are so many headphones, that are way more off, even expensive ones (for example Meze or ZMF) and highly acclaimed ones (for example Sennheiser HD800), so both mentioned models can be considered to follow quite nicely the Harman target.
Harman target is OK as a guide, but it is not bible - I do not EQ blindly to achieve it.
Well, you don´t have to, but I would claim that in most cases it is the best thing to do.
I rather not EQ and live with minor issues, than EQ as a must. Headphones should sound right to me out of box, or I won't buy.
Ok, again, that is your person la choice. There are many headphones that have out of the box very weak bass or some peaks, but with EQ sound phantastic, so I would not discard those ones.
EQ is just a cherry on top, sometimes.
I see it as a general improvement.
 

Robbo99999

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I disagree. In my experience both the HD 600 and the 650 can’t handle really bass-heavy songs at high volumes without distorting, and I had both. Both suffer bottoming-out as well when I used EQ (strict self-generated Harman target, not Oratory’s or AutoEQ’s presets) on them. I think this is because the driver wasn’t really designed to output this amount of SPL at low frequencies. The 660S and especially the 560S do way better down there after EQ.
That was my experience too, HD600 EQ'd to Harman bass offers a loose bass that doesn't have the detail within the bass that other headphones EQ'd to the Harman Curve can resolve. I too have the HD560s, and the Harman EQ'd bass on that is really good, about the best amoungst my few headphones, about equal to the EQ'd bass of the HE4XX planar headphone I have. That doesn't mean I think the Clear is a better headphone than the HD600/650, as I don't really like the way the sharp measured peaks in the treble of the Clear vs the smooth measured frequency response of the HD600/650. However Clear does have lower distortion in the bass than HD650 and requires less bass boosting to reach Harman too:
index.php


index.php

If you don't push the Clear above 104dB in the bass then it should offer cleaner bass than the HD650.
 

KeithPhantom

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Another issue that I had with the Clear is the unevenness of the treble. Not even parametric eq was enough due to their peakiness. I think now that I use convolution filters I could fix a lot of their flaws around 4,000 to 6,000 Hz by using a convolution filter set to 1 Hz taps (at the cost of processing power).
 

Garrincha

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That was my experience too, HD600 EQ'd to Harman bass offers a loose bass that doesn't have the detail within the bass that other headphones EQ'd to the Harman Curve can resolve. I too have the HD560s, and the Harman EQ'd bass on that is really good, about the best amoungst my few headphones, about equal to the EQ'd bass of the HE4XX planar headphone I have. That doesn't mean I think the Clear is a better headphone than the HD600/650, as I don't really like the way the sharp measured peaks in the treble of the Clear vs the smooth measured frequency response of the HD600/650. However Clear does have lower distortion in the bass than HD650 and requires less bass boosting to reach Harman too:
index.php


index.php

If you don't push the Clear above 104dB in the bass then it should offer cleaner bass than the HD650.
Well maybe the HD650 cannot be driven to full power with bass EQed to Harman (mine is in my other place across the ocean, so I cannot check it now), but at least it is not crackling! And for example my Hifiman Sundara can easily be boosted to give bass even above the Harman target to a loud level without any issues. I costs just $300.
 

Robbo99999

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Well maybe the HD650 cannot be driven to full power with bass EQed to Harman (mine is in my other place across the ocean, so I cannot check it now), but at least it is not crackling! And for example my Hifiman Sundara can easily be boosted to give bass even above the Harman target to a loud level without any issues. I costs just $300.
Well, yeah, I don't think Focal Clear would be worth $1499 either.
 

Garrincha

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This track is a sure thing to make it happen:


On RME ADI-2 Pro, I recall the level being around -10 dB on the volume control. I got it to happen with and without EQ but it is far worse with the former.
I can propose another great song, which has very deep bass:
There is also magnificent dancing involved. And I would like to make call, since I like the song a lot, but do not manage to track it down, does anyone know what song this is?
 

acctx

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Just seeing "Focal" I knew I'd see a wacky freq response graph. Once I saw the tag >$1000 I knew the graph will be extra wacky like with all "premium" heapdhones.

I really didn't see any measurements of any headphones that would show clear advantage over good old HD600. May have missed on something.

Certain companies like Focal or Adam seem to rely on flashy marketing than precisely engineered products.

A lot of so called "high end" (studio monitors excluding) audio gear seems to be aimed at complete suckers as it seems like the higher priced they are, the closer they are to being complete junk.

ASR has been a real eye opener. I'm losing more and more respect to audio companies by the day.
 

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Garrincha

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Just seeing "Focal" I knew I'd see a wacky freq response graph. Once I saw the tag >$1000 I knew the graph will be extra wacky like with all "premium" heapdhones.

I really didn't see any measurements of any headphones that would show clear advantage over good old HD600. May have missed on something.

Certain companies like Focal or Adam seem to rely on flashy marketing than precisely engineered products.

A lot of so called "high end" (studio monitors excluding) audio gear seems to be aimed at complete suckers as it seems like the higher priced they are, the closer they are to being complete junk.

ASR has been a real eye opener. I'm losing more and more respect to audio companies by the day.
While it may be true for some supposed "premium" brands (e.g. ZMF, Meze, Focal, Abyss), in general it's a very brute generalisation. There exist for example Dan Clark Audio headphones, which are expensive and mostly have a very smoth and Harmanish frequency response. You are throwing out the baby with the bath water.
And as discussed before here in this thread, the HD600/650 is weak on bass, which cannot be properly equalised. My Sundara by contrast punches after EQ really hard at any low frequency and is even without closer to Harman. Edition XS/Arya/1000V2/Susvara might be better still.
 

Bernd

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I see the measurements show 'clipping crackles' at -114 db. This seems to be an issue with all the Clears, whatever the model. I owned the original Clears, and those suffered from unbearables 'crackles' in the lower bass frequency (<70hz) at higher volume levels, that I sold them after a few days. How Focal dare to put high-end phones with such a flaw on the market (and it does not matter much whether this a fault in the design or simply a QC issue)
and keeps getting away with it - is a mystery to me.
 

Garrincha

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I see the measurements show 'clipping crackles' at -114 db. This seems to be an issue with all the Clears, whatever the model. I owned the original Clears, and those suffered from unbearables 'crackles' in the lower bass frequency (<70hz) at higher volume levels, that I sold them after a few days. How Focal dare to put high-end phones with such a flaw on the market (and it does not matter much whether this a fault in the design or simply a QC issue)
and keeps getting away with it - is a mystery to me.
Yes, but they look so fine! You really do not seem to understand high-end audio!
 
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