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Focal Clear Review (headphone)

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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #22

hmscott

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#25
After seeing a few reports of failed transducers and even more frightening the failure of an Elegia headband - it's plastic in the middle with no metal reinforcement - and Focal not offering warranty support for the headband failure, I've lost interest in the Focal's until they come out with new headband designs.

Please see the 2nd review in the collection by Trasselkalle and his follow ups to that review:
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/focal-elegia.23447/reviews

I think it was the Focal responses and that they refused to even repair the headband for cost that finally put me off Focal headphones for now.

@amirm - does the Focal Clear have a continuous or connected metal headband framework inside the outer plastic? Does it look like it can fail like the Elegia in the photo's in the review I linked?

And, thank you sincerely for investing in the Headphone rig for measurements - it is very helpful, and amusing to think just how bad our headphones really are, yet how many hours of joy we get from them. If manufacturers can be motivated to tighten up their designs, production, and QC I'm all for it. Thanks again. :)
 
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Jwosh

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#26
@amirm Would you consider overlaying frequency response measurements of something like a HD600 or HD650, in addition to that of your preference curve? Knowing that they're both more or less the universal reference / point of comparison for headphones that would likely give the measurement a significant amount more meaning to a lot of people. It would be the case for me personally, at least. Nonetheless I am very glad to see that you're starting to get into headphone testing!
 

hmscott

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#27
Would you consider overlaying frequency response measurements of something like a HD600 or HD650, in addition to that of your preference curve? Knowing that they're both more or less the universal reference / point of comparison for headphones that would likely give the measurement a significant amount more meaning to a lot of people. It would be the case for me personally, at least. Great review nonetheless & I am glad to see that you're starting to get into testing headphones as well!
That would be useful, to be able to flip on top overlays of other headphones - the Preference Curve - and other reference comparisons - perhaps as the headphone database builds a section like the review database can offer graphs of tested headphones and overlays of other tested headphones for comparison.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #28
@amirm Would you consider overlaying frequency response measurements of something like a HD600 or HD650, in addition to that of your preference curve?
I did that in Sennheiser HD800S review:



It was a quick fit so bass may be better than I showed above. Will do a more detailed review in the future. For now, you can see that it hugs the preference curve fairly well above 100 Hz.
 
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#29
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Joachim Herbert

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#30
Mine is fine. I had an Elex before that had to be replaced due to distortion in one channel, though. No distortion problems with the replacement.

And I recently bought a Clear pro plus the Elegia because both sound pretty good without EQ. I am still not over that 94db spl stuff, though.

Having said that I will watch the debate on headphone measurements from the sidelines. Something seems to be wrong here. Not sure what, but time will tell. I surely will enjoy the Clear in the meantime.
 
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#31
Thanks for the review Amir!
Is the parametric EQ in Roon applying pregain to prevent clipping?
I owned the Focal Elegia for a weeks but the clamping pressure was just too much for me/my head. It gave me headaches after like 30 minutes. (I tried to loosen it a bit but could not get it comfortable.)
Maybe it would be interesting to measure the clamp force on some standardized head?
 

solderdude

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#32
I have Focal Clear and I don't hear any distortion. It's strange.
The reason is very simple.

One point Amir makes is valid. The darn drivers clip and they clip hard above a certain point. You need to boost subbass a lot for this to happen.
The resonance point of these drivers is really low, much lower than most others.

Suppose we listen to music and not a sine at 20 Hz. Then bass notes and kick drums are about the lowest frequencies around. Let's forget church organs or the damping mechanism thud of a grand piano for instance.
Here's the spectrum of a kick drum:


Below the spectrum of the lowest note in a country song:


One thing is clear.. below the lowest note (around 35Hz) the energy drops really fast. Those levels are easily -30dB down. And that's where the driver gets in trouble. We can measure it and say how bad it is (look at Amirs klippels and see most speakers do a similar thing) but he reality is there is little to no energy there in music.

Now have a look at the distortion plot of the Clear at 94dB SPL
1608453984196.png


The distortion starts to rise below 40Hz. In music, however there isn't 94dB SPL there at all so that's why you don't hear it.. because in reality (music) the frequencies aren't there. We can measure it and even at unrealistic levels and show the results but that doesn't mean it is audible.

Enjoy your Clear.. it is an excellent headphone. Clear drivers don't break easily (the older 80 Ohm drivers, ELear, Elex etc. do) but use sensible levels and you're fine with detailed and distortion free music reproduction. Just don't try to use a tone generator to hear 20Hz at 110dB SPL. (80 Phon)

Note the 10kHz distortion spike is a measurement artifact of the used HATS due to the massive dip it has at that frequency and the % conversion.
There is no dip at 10kHz The peak around 15kHz is real though.
 
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PeteL

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#33
Don’t own the clear, I liked them at trade shows tough. I do own the Elex, which do share some of the DNA, and reading this review, I’m a bit perplex. The Elex is a very good headphone. Not perfect, but a very very clear improvement over a 650 which seams to be some reference. Much more dynamic, the 650 immediately sound dull and veiled. Sorry to ear those clicking/distortion issues tough, It could be worth investigating if it really is strickly a QC issue or If it’s just that I don’t ever push it as loud. In all case I never heard that in mine, but it does seams that it affect almost too many people to be strictly called a defect, if it is they’ve let way to many units trough the screening, it’s an issue, not a defect.
 
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#34
By attached dataset Focal Clear average absolute deviation is 0.98 dB
If we have future reviews with similar deviations data we can rank and headphones in pretty easy way.
Unfortunately previous headphones had different datasets.
 

YSC

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#35
The reason is very simple.

One point Amir makes is valid. The darn drivers clip and they clip hard above a certain point. You need to boost subbass a lot for this to happen.
The resonance point of these drivers is really low, much lower than most others.

Suppose we listen to music and not a sine at 20 Hz. Then bass notes and kick drums are about the lowest frequencies around. (let's forget church organs or the damping mechanism thud of a grand piano for instance.
Here's the spectrum of a kick drum


Below the spectrum of the lowest note in a country song:


One thing is clear.. below the lowest note (around 35Hz) the energy drops really fast. Those levels are easily -30dB down. And that's where the driver gets in trouble. We can measure it and say how bad it is (look at Amirs klippels and see most speakers do a similar thing) but he reality is there is little to no energy there in music.

Now have a look at the distortion plot of the Clear at 94dB SPL
View attachment 100432

The distortion starts to rise below 40Hz. In music, however there isn't 94dB SPL there at all so that's why you don't hear it.. because in reality (music) the frequencies aren't there. We can measure it and even at unrealistic levels and show the results but that doesn't mean it is audible.

Enjoy your Clear.. it is an excellent headphone. Clear drivers don't break easily (the older 80 Ohm drivers, ELear, Elex etc. do) but use sensible levels and you're fine with detailed and distortion free music reproduction. Just don't try to use a tone generator to hear 20Hz at 110dB SPL. (80 Phon)

Note the 10kHz distortion spike is a measurement artifact of the used HATS due to the massive dip it has at that frequency and the % conversion.
There is no dip at 10kHz The peak around 15kHz is real though.
The FR in here looked a lot flatter. What correction curve did you use?
 

YSC

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#37
Don’t own the clear, I liked them at trade shows tough. I do own the Elex, which do share some of the DNA, and reading this review, I’m a bit perplex. The Elex is a very good headphone. Not perfect, but a very very clear improvement over a 650 which seams to be some reference. Much more dynamic, the 650 immediately sound dull and veiled. Sorry to ear those clicking/distortion issues tough, It could be worth investigating if it really is strickly a QC issue or If it’s just that I don’t ever push it as loud. In all case I never heard that in mine, but it does seams that it affect almost too many people to be strictly called a defect, if it is they’ve let way to many units trough the screening, it’s an issue, not a defect.
For qc I remember adding from their spirit ones having similar issue, seems the very thin diaphragm once over driven will deform and then crack like hell
 

staticV3

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#39
I bought a bunch of under $99 headphones a few months back. I will start testing them once I get through the loaner ones that have been waiting. don't have that Phillips though. Does it have a good reputation?
The 9500 looks like it has a pretty weird tuning. I'd be more interested in how the new 9600 performs
 

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Robbo99999

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#40
1608458504537.png

Hi @amirm , what exactly is the measurement group delay in terms of "the physical structure"(what's happening) of the measurement, and also what it represents? My intuition tells me it's showing interference & cancellations, non minimum phase areas that can't be EQ'd, but I wanted to know about the actual measurement, because I don't really know anything about it. Also, are you looking for a certain threshold in the measurement to indicate unEQ'able parts, how do you interpret it? EDIT: after reading the comments I can see you've answered this to some extent, but I'm still after knowing more about it, and what exactly it is.

I think there's a typo/mistake in your review when you say you lower the peak at 11.3kHz, but in your EQ you show you're actually boosting that area rather than cutting?
1608458774099.png


My most significant impression of this headphone based on this review - I'm surprised to hear about static & crackling sound after the bass EQ, which also occurs in stock format at louder volumes....that's quite an obvious deficiency, quite a drawback for an expensive ($1490) headphone, going against it's "Focal Clear" namesake, gotta say I was suspicious of the high price and obvious use of the word "Clear" as part of the main name of the headphone, it does scream "[uninformed] audiophile buy me"! EDIT: after reading the comments to this review, then this static/clipping could be a QC Issue, still it's not the confidence you want, nor the hassle.
 
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