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Focal Clear Review (headphone)

solderdude

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I don't own one (for previously stated reasons, not SQ) so cannot measure it.
It can be calculated for 33 Ohm and is peaking to +1.9dB.
The effect of 0.2 Ohm, 10 Ohm (see article) and 120 Ohm are already known.

The HD559 and Focal change because the impedance peak is low. This is because the drivers are poorly damped mechanically.
The HD800 also has a considerable impedance peak but is 'wider' and the impedance is high.
It just answers to Ohms law (voltage division) and the ratio between the output R, the lowest impedance and highest impedance.
For many headphones there is no impedance peak so also no change in sound for certain output R amps.
This means the effect differs per headphone. When you use amps with a low output resistance (< a few Ohms) you are guaranteed not to be bothered by this effect.
Violectric and THX are near 0 Ohm so no worries. When you want to emulate the Focal amp just use a 10 Ohm series resistance in series with the signal wires, NOT the common wire.

DACs have no influence on output R. Its only the amps.
 
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Super helpful examples!

My Clears handle these fine. The second track has some distortion around :15, but not at :42 where the bass kicks in. It was there with my Audio Technica mx50 too so I am guessing that is the recording there.

These are cool tracks. They make me want some Rythmiks more than more HPs.
I do agree, I didn't know these artists, not very keen on hip hop but I will definitely try more!
 
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If I intepret that correctly: with 0 Ohm output resistance, you will get the highest fidelity of the headphone. What prevents designing 0 ohm output resistance amplifiers?
Physics.
Even a bare wire has an impedance.
You could do that at extremely low temperature though, supra conductivity gets you very close to 0ohm.
 
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Jimbob54

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Maybe something different, can the output voltage of the dac have an effect on the frequency response? How can I measure it and what output voltage can be considered safe or not? With safe I mean does it change FR or not
The output voltage of the dac has no impact on the FR of a headphone connected to an amp that is in turn fed from the DAC. The output voltage of a DAC changing has an impact on how hard the amp has to work to achieve the desired output voltage into the headphone.

What is it you are trying to get to? What is concerning you?
 

m8o

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Just a quick note that I really loved reading this review. Specifically the way you drilled in on the places this HP shows its weaknesses and the manner you reported them.
 

DjBonoBobo

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I wonder if future reviews will include headphones that sound better than the Focal Clear (without EQ). For me, the Clear was a significant upgrade over the HD650 with no real drawbacks. All the other headphones I tried had some kind of drawbacks that were dealbreakers for me (e.g. treble on the HD800S, wearing comfort on Audeze and Stax). But what do I know...
 

Jimbob54

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I wonder if future reviews will include headphones that sound better than the Focal Clear (without EQ). For me, the Clear was a significant upgrade over the HD650 with no real drawbacks. All the other headphones I tried had some kind of drawbacks that were dealbreakers for me (e.g. treble on the HD800S, wearing comfort on Audeze and Stax). But what do I know...
I think "sound better" is the crux of a lot of the discussion on this and other HP review threads. Given this is a measurement led site, we might have to settle for "best measuring" before EQ and after, so proximity to the FR target and distortion and other measures. Whether the "best measuring" equates to your, mine or anyone's idea of "best sounding" is going to be hard or impossible to say at this point, maybe never. (EDIT- thats why we EQ, after all) But if we can understand how measurements can be reconciled to perception of things like soundstage, clarity, separation etc then its all to the good.
 
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nhatlam96

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I wonder if future reviews will include headphones that sound better than the Focal Clear (without EQ). For me, the Clear was a significant upgrade over the HD650 with no real drawbacks. All the other headphones I tried had some kind of drawbacks that were dealbreakers for me (e.g. treble on the HD800S, wearing comfort on Audeze and Stax). But what do I know...
This is a matter of personal taste and intention.
When I go to sleep, I prefer the smoother and more vocal intense HD58X.
When I would like to have complete experience of the music, then I pick the Clear.
 

solderdude

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If I intepret that correctly: with 0 Ohm output resistance, you will get the highest fidelity of the headphone. What prevents designing 0 ohm output resistance amplifiers?
With a low output resistance amplifier it behaves as close as possible to a voltage source.
It is not related to highest fidelity though.
With low impedance headphones that are low in output resistance you get the least amount of coloration with all headphones.

0 Ohm is hard to do in practice but one can get really close. 0 Ohm is not essential or obligatory though. Low impedance is preferable.
Obviously the designers at Focal feel 10 Ohm is optimal for the Utopia. It would make more sense to simply EQ in a different tonal balance than to use different output resistances to slightly change the bass.

Maybe something different, can the output voltage of the dac have an effect on the frequency response? How can I measure it and what output voltage can be considered safe or not? With safe I mean does it change FR or not
It can't when you measure it but when you use a DAC with 2V out and compare it to a dongle with say... 1V out the 2V out DAC will generally be preferred. Lower the output voltage to the same 1V and all differences disappear (unless the DACs differ in other aspects as well)
 

m8o

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Whether the "best measuring" equates to your, mine or anyone's idea of "best sounding" is going to be hard or impossible to say at this point, maybe never.
Hear, hear. Can't be said enough. This should be a disclaimer put at the top or bottom of every test review, in red, maybe italicized; would blinking be too much (lol)?
 
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I wonder if future reviews will include headphones that sound better than the Focal Clear (without EQ). For me, the Clear was a significant upgrade over the HD650 with no real drawbacks. All the other headphones I tried had some kind of drawbacks that were dealbreakers for me (e.g. treble on the HD800S, wearing comfort on Audeze and Stax). But what do I know...
I actually wonder if Amir would consider reviewing the HD650. It would be extremely useful to have as a reference, especially given that so many of us are familiar with it. In fact, I'm one of those people who just can't find a headphone I like more. I have never tried a Focal Clear, but I definitely didn't like the Elear very much.
 

DjBonoBobo

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I think "sound better" is the crux of a lot of the discussion on this and other HP review threads. Given this is a measurement led site, we might have to settle for "best measuring" before EQ and after, so proximity to the FR target and distortion and other measures. Whether the "best measuring" equates to your, mine or anyone's idea of "best sounding" is going to be hard or impossible to say at this point, maybe never. (EDIT- thats why we EQ, after all) But if we can understand how measurements can be reconciled to perception of things like soundstage, clarity, separation etc then its all to the good.
This is a matter of personal taste and intention.
When I go to sleep, I prefer the smoother and more vocal intense HD58X.
When I would like to have complete experience of the music, then I pick the Clear.
Sure. I don't want to argue with that at all. It's just that the HD 650 seems to be the closest to the desired target so far, and the Clear struck me as clearly superior in every respect.

If headphones are so heavily dependent on individual preferences, at least from my perspective, the target seems less generalizable than other measurements on this site. It calls into question what to do with the measurements. But I think that has also been noted by more competent people (than me) here from the beginning.

I probably meant: are there headphones with objectively better results than the Focal Clear out there, leaving EQ and possible clipping (which I've never experienced in 2 years with them) aside? If so, I would be interested to know if I then also subjectively like the sound better. With HD 650 it was not so. I like it well, but i like the Clear more. The question is not meant rhetorically either, I really wonder.
 

nhatlam96

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Not sure if I follow everything you said, please then correct me.
With low impedance headphones that are low in output resistance you get the least amount of coloration with all headphones.
Basically, low amp output impedance equals to less coloration, as long as the headphones itself are low impedance?
Why does the headphone impedance matter here?

0 Ohm is hard to do in practice but one can get really close. 0 Ohm is not essential or obligatory though. Low impedance is preferable.
Obviously the designers at Focal feel 10 Ohm is optimal for the Utopia. It would make more sense to simply EQ in a different tonal balance than to use different output resistances to slightly change the bass.
Unsurprisingly, the Focal Arche is then a big and hollow marketing gimmick. I always knew that, now it's been explained.

It can't when you measure it but when you use a DAC with 2V out and compare it to a dongle with say... 1V out the 2V out DAC will generally be preferred.
Why is the 2V DAC more preferable than the 1V DAC. What are the tonal differences?

but I definitely didn't like the Elear very much.
I find the Clear very obvious a class higher than Elear and Elegia.
 

Jimbob54

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Sure. I don't want to argue with that at all. It's just that the HD 650 seems to be the closest to the desired target so far, and the Clear struck me as clearly superior in every respect.

If headphones are so heavily dependent on individual preferences, at least from my perspective, the target seems less generalizable than other measurements on this site. It calls into question what to do with the measurements. But I think that has also been noted by more competent people (than me) here from the beginning.

I probably meant: are there headphones with objectively better results than the Focal Clear out there, leaving EQ and possible clipping (which I've never experienced in 2 years with them) aside? If so, I would be interested to know if I then also subjectively like the sound better. With HD 650 it was not so. I like it well, but i like the Clear more. The question is not meant rhetorically either, I really wonder.
FWIW I'm in the same boat as you and others. Prefer the sound of my Clear to hd600 and few others before and after EQ.
 

solderdude

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Basically, low amp output impedance equals to less coloration, as long as the headphones itself are low impedance?
Why does the headphone impedance matter here?
A low output resistance guarantees the least possible coloration of the sound when using low impedance headphones. For high impedance headphones the effect is less because the ratio between output R and impedance differs.

Unsurprisingly, the Focal Arche is then a big and hollow marketing gimmick. I always knew that, now it's been explained.
Well it DOES change the sound a bit for those headphones. Those that prefer a bit more bass will certainly prefer that amp in 'special' mode compared to voltage mode. It's cheaper to buy an old Topping amp with 10 Ohm out though for that specific HP.

Why is the 2V DAC more preferable than the 1V DAC. What are the tonal differences?
louder sounds 'better' and 'fuller'. Technically the only difference is level. There is no difference in tone. Only perceived differences due to the 6dB increase in level.

I find the Clear very obvious a class higher than Elear and Elegia.
haven't heard the Elegia, measurements suggest a much warmer tonal balance. Some find the Clear lacking this.
I found the Clear to sound better than the Elear. That one has a weird tonality to me but others find it the best.
Aside from technical performance there is also such a thing as preference and differences in ear/pinna that can make some folks prefer this and others that.

There are people that find the treble peak of Beyers pleasant. Most likely when examining their hearing one may find their hearing has a similar dip as that of HATS but at a lower frequency (different concha/ear canal). Others hate the treble peak (me for instance) but 20 years ago I wasn't bothered by the peak in my DT990 and loved it for its details. Now I can't listen to it without counter measures.
 
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Joachim Herbert

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Hm. Usually a review on ASR makes me consider a new product or reconsider a product that I do already own. Now I am sitting here, listening to "Once upon a time in the West" by Max Johnson through a Clear pro with a big smile on my face. Different use case, obviously. ;-)
 

Jimbob54

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