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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

Rayman30

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Comparing the Focal Clear Pro with HD-650, I enjoy both immensely, however the Focal seem to have a more physical sense of impact, the mid range is also richer and more detailed to my ears. The bass though, the Focal Clear are punchier and more resolving, I EQ a bass shelf to get more out of them.
 

mr.at

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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.
Well, again, a PREMIUM PRICE doesn't always result in PREMIUM SOUND. There's $2000 turds, and yet, there's $20 marvels.
Price should not at all be a benchmark for better sound quality. But it could be for better quality, besides the sound. Most of the times, yes.
The differences are as far and wide in the lower price ranges as in the higher ones.
Most of the time though, PREMIUM products have other features, which may or may not have to even DO with audio.

Leather. Titanium. Gold. Craftsmanship. Country of Origin. Scale of Production. Components reliability (Beryllium, Copper, Gold, Stainless Steel vs. Bronze, Zinc, Magnesium, Aluminum).

Sometimes an amp is expensive because it's a huge 10kg aluminum block CNC milled down to 2kg. Maybe even the damn heatsinks have articulately cutout designs of surgical precision. Maybe the there's a 100 strands in the cable. Maybe some special materials or substances have been used. Maybe the best capacitors in the world, maybe gold alloy of sorts in the soldering, gold plated or titanium knobs, connectors yada yada.

Most of the time, what I see is that expensive equipment DOES have a better quality of craftsmanship, materials and components. It also has emotional value, some branding push, some endorsements like no other, some uniqueness to the units (limited edition etc.).

All that - will NOT always translate to performance. However, it might just translate into longevity, reliability, usage safety, tighter tolerances for repeated use.
Maybe a premium amp measures meh - but it might just have the components that will make sure it performs AS IS even decades later with minimal change/depreciation in performance. So it might just have much more shelf life.

I know, most of us are trying to get the best for their dollar - I am. I'm like modding and DIYing my cans to my listening spec and preference rather than eyeing more expensive equipment, and a constant purchase/sale cycle. But there's people with real deep pockets, for whom cost is no object. Remember, a Bentley or a Rolls Royce is nobody's first or only car. Also, neither go faster than a tuned Nissan GT-R, which can be had for a quarter of the price. So again, speed isn't even something those car makers are eyeing. No one's gonna sit on the dashboard - hell, we may never even interact with it, but yeah - Rolls Royce: Rosewood dashboard. Ebony dashboard. Ceiling? Leather. I aint got leather seats in my car, where it may actually have a FUNCTIONAL PURPOSE. But talk about leather you only get to stare at (RR) lol.

I absolutely HATE Grados, from just the one that I've tried, and Tyll and a lot of other people do, too.
Now that Spirit Torino line of Made in Italy headphones are a further extension to it, and those headphones are so damn expensive, yet I have to laugh at the ****** (at least by the looks of it) drivers that they insist on using. Those cheapos might be had for $30 a pair off AliExpress - maybe. Again, that's my assumption.

I HAVE however felt that Kennerton may just be using a $20 a piece driver in their $700 pair of headphones.

People love $20 Koss Porta Pros, and Crinacle just shat on $5000 Final Audio Sonorous Xs. (EDIT: Okay, just found out, he shat on $2200 Spirit Torino Radiante also)

So what's the issue here? Well, Kennerton (and Spirit, I'm sure), must pride themselves in making their headphones, by HAND, by a Russian and an Italian (respectively) with GREAT materials (nice metals, sometimes 500 year old aged woods, premium leather), great care, great finesse and stuff. They may not sound great to some. Hell, they may sound just average, but sound ALONE is not that they're selling. Beauty will lie in the eyes of the beholder, and people must be willing to pay for the whole EXPERIENCE of owning such a thing.

We definitely get stupid soon as we start assuming that okay, if it's EXPENSIVE, it just damn well be better than anything else below it's price. Price is a defining factor for the whole package - not just the acoustical component. And there may always be some caveat.

At the moment, for example, for the Focals, the overall sound still isn't. It's the intended clipping they've implemented to discourage over-excursion. And like a few of us here - well, many now own Focals, and still look forward to own them. It is possible a few are really, REALLY pushing them beyond the limits of the expected parameters. The clipping might just be a fail-safe to make sure your cans don't go complete kaput. But I haven't seen any real hate for the overall sound sig Focal's offer. Only mere nitpicking, aside from the clipping (which again, an issue that I and many others don't have).

Also, Sennheiser Orpheus HE 1 is premium - the Shangri La is - multiples of thousands of dollars (5 Focals to 50 Focals worth). No one has called THEM wacky just yet.
 
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Leiker535

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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.
I don't know if you're trolling or not, but I'm going to respond anyway. There has been premium headphones reviewed here on ASR that were still recommended by Amirm like the HD800S, the Hifiman Aryas, the Focal Utopias and the original HE6 (and followings, if you disconsider the forever on discount Adorama price). Furthermore, there has also been discussions about how certain high-end headphones, like the 800S and the Aryas, can project a sense of soundstage that is not common on common offerings. So generalizing isn't the way here.
 

PeteL

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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.
Seem I don't get the reasoning here. Why do you first comes up with "Focal and Adam" , And then the next sentence go for "excluding studio monitors" Adam literally only do studio monitors, with truly excellent exemples universally praised. The Focal headphones here are marketed as "studio monitors", What is your point exactly? As studio monitor are they good or are they bad? And why should the intended use case matter? There are excellent Hi Fidelity home speakers and there are really bad ones. Same for Monitors. You feel that as soon something is expensive it's automatically bad? Where is this coming from? Based on?
 

srkbear

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The Clear Pro (and Clear Mg Pro) are sonically identical to the regular versions, they just have a unique color combo and come with different accessories. They get a long coiled cable, skip the balanced cable, and come with an extra set of pads.
Do you have any frequency response curves to confirm this? I’ve tried both the Clear MG and the Clear MG Pro when buying a pair for my nephew and I had to tune both quite differently. I went with the Clear MG and he adores it. I realize that my experience is anecdotal but I’d appreciate some evidence confirming your assessment if you have any, thanks!
 

srkbear

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Right? I've been reading about this clipping since 2019 - I myself have never had this issue with my Elex either.

Anyhow - now I have no way to verify this buy my hunch is, the clipping must occur when the voice-coil leaves the magnetic field, so as to maybe 'save' the metal dome from permanent de-shaping. So this must be a fail-safe for driver protection.

So anyhow, it's clipping or a permanently bent M-dome, and your drivers are done; I'd take the former in any such situation. But truly, I don't know really what volumes folks are listening at. I listen loud myself - never got them to clip once. I've had my pair for 3+ years.
I’ve never had my Utopias clip either, and I apply a lot of bass. I’m also using an exorbitantly overpowered 14 watt headphone amp to run them.
 

srkbear

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Boy, and I'm getting fantastic, earlobe-flapping, distortion-free bass from my HE4XX for roughly 1/7th of rhe price (including the deep, comfy ZMF pads).

How can you not chuckle at all those "looking to upgrade, because, while I'm happy with my current setup, I want to try something serious, like y'know, $1000 serious":facepalm::facepalm::facepalm:
Well there are some great sounding headphones in higher price tiers. The Dan Clark Stealths are one, the Susvaras sound awfully good if you can drive them, the Meze Elites are very fine, and I love my Utopias (with Stellia pads). A lot of folks like yourself are very content with exceptional offerings at lower price ranges. I think headphones are very personal gear and I fault no one for enjoying their choice at any price point.
 

srkbear

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Nothing really great considering the price, I mean it isn't bad but it just reiterates that Planar headphones reign supreme.
Oh come on now, I’m usually in total agreement with your posts but there are plenty of terrific dynamic driver headphones! I own the Utopias and I prefer them to any number of planar offerings. A well-designed headphone can perform exceptionally with any driver configuration, and the the opposite is also true of poorly-designed examples.

I think all driver types offer advantages and disadvantages. It’s their execution that determines the end result. Cheers!
 

Jimbob54

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Do you have any frequency response curves to confirm this? I’ve tried both the Clear MG and the Clear MG Pro when buying a pair for my nephew and I had to tune both quite differently. I went with the Clear MG and he adores it. I realize that my experience is anecdotal but I’d appreciate some evidence confirming your assessment if you have any, thanks!
Interesting one. I think "everyone" accepts the OG Clear and Pro were the same and I think the same reasoning has been applied to the MG. I cant find any measurer that has reviewed both variants. Even then, unit to unit variation might well account for any differences . I found this on reliable source of info, Reddit (/s) :

https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/micb83
The last post on there says : "The official word from Focal is their is no difference in sound between the MG and MG Pro. If you look at the reviews of Major Hi-Fi and Audio46 you'd think they got their headphone samples mixed up. Each reviewer seems to hear the opposite of the other. If nothing else, this shows the two versions are only different in color scheme and packaged accessories."

Except- I cant find the "official word from focal" anywhere.

So I dont think there is a definitive line on this, but I would be amazed if they had designed the MG and MG pro to be different in anything but cosmetics. Doesnt mean factors like actual pad manufacture, unit to unit variation etc arent in play, even if unintentional.
 
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Moderate Dionysianism

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Well there are some great sounding headphones in higher price tiers.

I wouldn't deny that, although Amir's measurements just keep showing that those headphones aren't easy to find:)

What I find laughable in the light of the results here are all those typical audiophile narratives that boil down to "you haven't heard good gear until you've heard expensive gear" or "yeah, it's good - for its price range".
 

Phoney

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I wouldn't deny that, although Amir's measurements just keep showing that those headphones aren't easy to find:)

What I find laughable in the light of the results here are all those typical audiophile narratives that boil down to "you haven't heard good gear until you've heard expensive gear" or "yeah, it's good - for its price range".

While I do agree that price does not equal performance, there's a noise cancelling headphone that measured pretty much like the Dan Clark Stealth here (near perfect), but it was not recommended ny Amir. Because it certainly did not sound like the DCA Stealth. You can't fully predict the sound of a headphone from measurements, not as much as you can with amps or dacs. I use the headphone reviews here more as a clue than a conclusion. Headphones are highly subjective, try before you buy if possible.
 

srkbear

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I wouldn't deny that, although Amir's measurements just keep showing that those headphones aren't easy to find:)

What I find laughable in the light of the results here are all those typical audiophile narratives that boil down to "you haven't heard good gear until you've heard expensive gear" or "yeah, it's good - for its price range".
Well I for one certainly don’t pander to that sort of classist language! :) I’m constantly challenging folks who proclaim that their outlandishly priced DACs and streamers are superior, because it’s been proven here that the technology involved in performing these tasks that reside in digital realm is not costly to design.

It’s impossible to convince these snobs that there’s nothing their $6,000 NAIM network transport offers that can’t be performed by an RPI. Same goes with a $750 Topping or Gustard DAC compared to PS Audio’s $10,000 version. In both of these cases I think the “blue chip” manufacturers are fraudulently endowing their wares with esteem purely by arbitrarily inflating their price points.

But I do think headphones and speakers are the true endgame in creating the sound signature we experience, and they’re far more personal elements of sound systems. And especially with headphones, with legitimately premium examples like the ones I mentioned previously, I can see and feel the quality that for me at least gives some credence to their cost.

That doesn’t mean that if I were privileged with access to the actual manufacturing costs of my Utopias, I wouldn’t bristle at the markup involved. And if you happen to have that data, please don’t share, I don’t wanna know! ;)
 

srkbear

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While I do agree that price does not equal performance, there's a noise cancelling headphone that measured pretty much like the Dan Clark Stealth here (near perfect), but it was not recommended ny Amir. Because it certainly did not sound like the DCA Stealth. You can't fully predict sound of a headphone from measurements, not as much as you can with amps or dacs. I use the headphone reviews here more as a clue than a conclusion. Headphones are highly subjective, try before you buy if possible.
I think Amir’s love of the Stealths is likely personal to some extent too, and not simply informed by their proximity to the Harman Curve. I can’t speak for him but from what I’ve observed of his integrity and ethics in this space, I don’t think he’d deny that. He’s been fairly transparent that headphone measurements are tricky.
 

Robbo99999

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I wouldn't deny that, although Amir's measurements just keep showing that those headphones aren't easy to find:)

What I find laughable in the light of the results here are all those typical audiophile narratives that boil down to "you haven't heard good gear until you've heard expensive gear" or "yeah, it's good - for its price range".
I get the impression that headphone performance is even more unrelated to price than speakers. For instance it's hard to get a perfect cheap speaker, but with headphones you can get some crackers at lower price points once you've done some EQ on them.
 

Phoney

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He’s been fairly transparent that headphone measurements are tricky.

There's a reason as to why he actually puts a bit of weight on his subjective listening tests in the headphone reviews. He keeps telling people that headphone reviews are the biggest variables that they measure, and puts a warning about that in every review. Yet many people seem to take the measurements literally. Ofcourse that's not Amirs fault though.
 
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Phoney

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I get the impression that headphone performance is even more unrelated to price than speakers. For instance it's hard to get a perfect cheap speaker, but with headphones you can get some crackers at lower price points once you've done some EQ on them.

I'd say comfort is a pretty big deal for me, because bad comfort will just completely distract me from the sound, and as a result I will percieve the sound as worse than it really is. Unfortunately I find a lot of the cracker low cost headphones pretty uncomfortable. There are fixes and solutions that can be done to some of them, sure, but I hate buying something that I have to fix by modding and such, unless it's a very easy fix. I feel like some headphone companys make their low cost headphones less comfortable on purpose, just to give you more of a reason to buy the more expensive ones (Hifiman for instance).. Imagine if they put the Arya headband on all the low cost ones with just a subtle increase in price (~20-50 dollars?), instead of that terrible Edition XS band. That's literally one of the worst possible headbands they could've used for the HE6se v2, and I just sold it straight away instead of going through the cost and process of changing it. Not long enough at full length, not enough clamp which ruined the seal, and even created a hotspot on the head. Same for HE400se.
 

Robbo99999

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I'd say comfort is a pretty big deal for me, because bad comfort will just completely distract me from the sound, and as a result I will percieve the sound as worse than it really is. Unfortunately I find a lot of the cracker low cost headphones pretty uncomfortable. There are fixes and solutions that can be done to some of them, sure, but I hate buying something that I have to fix by modding and such, unless it's a very easy fix. I feel like some headphone companys make their low cost headphones less comfortable on purpose, just to give you more of a reason to buy the more expensive ones (Hifiman for instance).. Imagine if they put the Arya headband on all the low cost ones with just a subtle increase in price (~20-50 dollars?), instead of that ****** Edition XS band. That's literally one of the worst possible headbands they could've used for the HE6se v2, and I just sold it straight away instead of going through the cost and process of changing it. Not long enough at full length, not enough clamp which ruined the seal, and even created a hotspot on the head. Same for HE400se.
Yeah, certainly they have to not give you pain when you wear them! It varies from person to person I think.....for instance I've never really had a headphone that's been uncomfortable (well that's not quite true, I had to work the headband of my HE4XX to reduce the clamp), none of the ones you see in my sig are uncomfortable for me. But for sure you can't choose a headphone that doesn't fit right or irritates you on a physical level.
 

Phoney

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Yeah, certainly they have to not give you pain when you wear them! It varies from person to person I think.....for instance I've never really had a headphone that's been uncomfortable (well that's not quite true, I had to work the headband of my HE4XX to reduce the clamp), none of the ones you see in my sig are uncomfortable for me. But for sure you can't choose a headphone that doesn't fit right or irritates you on a physical level.

Surely varies from person to person. I need large cups (long ears and don't like any of it touching), and absolutely hate clamp. Even the Sennheiser 6xx is a bit uncomfotable for me because of clamp and getting hot around my ears. Tried a lot of things, but mostly just the Aryas, HD800, Beyers and DCA ones felt comfortable in stock form. Have not tried AKG yet, they may be comfortable enough aswell.
 

Garrincha

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Surely varies from person to person. I need large cups (long ears and don't like any of it touching), and absolutely hate clamp. Even the Sennheiser 6xx is a bit uncomfotable for me because of clamp and getting hot around my ears. Tried a lot of things, but mostly just the Aryas, HD800, Beyers and DCA ones felt comfortable in stock form. Have not tried AKG yet, they may be comfortable enough aswell.
Did you try the Hifiman Sundara? Ok, it does not swivel, but for me it is still very comfortable and the sound, after EQ and adding bass at taste without any distortion, is just great. And all this for $300
 
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