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Focal Clear Review (headphone)

Joachim Herbert

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Regarding the ISO vs Fletcher Munson curves: Do you really need 30dB additional gain at 20 Hz at 100 phons?
I believe Fletcher Munson did their research beginning in the 30ies of the last century. ISO 226 is current science. I gave up using the loudness function of my stereo about 45 years ago and listend "flat" from then on.

What I mean to say is, that if you start to EQ you must go all the way. That not only means to boost and attenuate a set of frequencies - you must do it depending on the SPL you are listening at. There are very few amps that can handle this. The RME ADI-2 DAC being one of them. Though I am not sure which if they follow Fletcher Munson, ISO 226 or something completely different. If you do static EQ your almost always wrong.

Having said that I will continue to enjoy my Clear without any EQ. It's just fine with the music I listen to at the levels I play that music. Took care of my hearing all my life.

Now this is what Floyed Tool has to say about that issue (highlighting by me:

"The curves tell us that different frequencies at the same sound level may be
perceived as having different loudness. This is not a message that anything
needs correcting. We live with these characteristics from birth, and they are a
part of everything we hear, whether it is live or reproduced. That is why audio
equipment must exhibit fl at-frequency responses—uniform output at all audible
frequencies—so the sounds we perceive have the correct relative loudness at all
frequencies, assuming they are reproduced at realistic sound levels."


Floyd E. Toole, Sound Reproduction, Loudspeakers and Rooms (2008) Page 432

Now, realistic might be interpreted as "live", which may or may not be feasible.

In case it is not (pretty likely), should one boost a given range until the sound is audible, or boost the overall volume to make it audible. How to keep the balance, how to stay within the limits of the audio chain?
 
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Yes, I plan to do that. It is definitely needed as a reference for future measurements from me. I routinely use it as a "control" in my testing. I just need to run all the tests formally and post them.
Should the HD600 be the reference instead of the HD650? My understanding from reading (a long time ago) was that the HD600 was more "flat" while the HD650 had a signature profile that many people preferred. Or, is that incorrect information gathered from non-science reviews?
 

RayDunzl

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Should the HD600 be the reference instead of the HD650? My understanding from reading (a long time ago) was that the HD600 was more "flat" while the HD650 had a signature profile that many people preferred. Or, is that incorrect information gathered from non-science reviews?

Here is a measurement of each, overlaid:

1608672592533.png


https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/report/hp/sennheiser-hd-600.php#gsc.tab=0

https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/report/hp/sennheiser-hd-650.php#gsc.tab=0
 
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This is a very timely post since my Focal Clear Pro headphones will arrive arrived today. I really appreciate all of the input — both from Amir's measurements, as well as the comments on real-life experience and challenges from Focal Clear / Clear Pro owners.

As a side note: for those who are (still?) interested in purchasing these headphones, I would recommend contacting Tim Finnegan <[email protected]> at Dale Pro Audio for a quote, including whether sales tax will be charged (USA). I also received a great price on an RME ADI-2 Pro FSR that is arriving Thursday. {I gain no benefit in referring Tim; simply passing along his info since I have consistently received great prices on the Focal, Sennheiser, Beyer, RME, Ashly, etc. that I have purchased for my home office environment.}
 
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This is a very timely post since my Focal Clear Pro headphones will arrive today ("out for delivery"). I really appreciate all of the input — both from Amir's measurements, as well as the comments on real-life experience and challenges from Focal Clear / Clear Pro owners.

As a side note: for those who are (still?) interested in purchasing these headphones, I would recommend contacting Tim Finnegan <[email protected]> at Dale Pro Audio for a quote, including whether sales tax will be charged (USA). I also received a great price on an RME ADI-2 Pro FSR that is arriving Thursday. {I gain no benefit in referring Tim; simply passing along his info since I have consistently received great prices on the Focal, Sennheiser, Beyer, RME, Ashly, etc. that I have purchased for my home office environment.}
Mine is delivered next morning too :p Looks like a great pairing with the RME ADI!
I will hook up mine onto my Rotel pre amp.

Question : would it be reasonable to feed these HP directly from an Iphone? If not, I'll probably get something to amp it up when I am away for few days so I can enjoy streaming from my phone, you guys let me know what you think.
 

Rottmannash

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Mine just don't want to crackle. The deep bass is awesome, and I can definitely feel and hear it. If Amir is not listening loudly, then my Clears must be working better.

I removed the HPF and increased the low shelves to +4/+3dB.

View attachment 100859

View attachment 100860

This is louder than I would ever listen.

View attachment 100861

I guess if mine crackles, I'll just turn the volume down.
When I turned the volume up loud enough to hear the popping out was past painful. I almost couldn't tolerate the intensity just to try to hear it.
 
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Mine is delivered next morning too :p Looks like a great pairing with the RME ADI!
I will hook up mine onto my Rotel pre amp.
For what it is worth, my planned routing would be:

Sources > *[Ashley LX308B]* Mixed Analog | Direct Digital > RME ADI-2 Pro FSR > Monolith THX 887 > Focal Clear Pro

* All of my sources are routed via a "mixer" rather than a "selector" as a pre-amp for my home office setup. This way, all sources are always active and I don't have to fiddle with changing source selector when I want to play audio from Squeezebox, Allo Digital Signature, Alexa Input, Work/Personal PCs (via Topping E30s), turntable, etc. But, I can also flip over to the direct digital input to the RME for critical listening periods when I want to remove the extra DA/AD conversion from the chain.

Question : would it be reasonable to feed these HP directly from an Iphone? If not, I'll probably get something to amp it up when I am away for few days so I can enjoy streaming from my phone, you guys let me know what you think.
I will let others speak to whether the Focal Clear can be driven by an iPhone.
 

Helicopter

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Mine is delivered next morning too :p Looks like a great pairing with the RME ADI!
I will hook up mine onto my Rotel pre amp.

Question : would it be reasonable to feed these HP directly from an Iphone? If not, I'll probably get something to amp it up when I am away for few days so I can enjoy streaming from my phone, you guys let me know what you think.
It is pretty good, louder than I would listen for more than 10 minutes, with my Samsung Galaxy S9, which has a pretty weak amp. I wouldn't give up my desktop amps for it, but I probably wouldn't get a portable amp either. But yeah, if you wamt to make them chatter you will need a real amp.
 
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amirm

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Hm. Once you start correcting for equal loudness it gets really complicated. These are the equal loudness contours as stated in ISO 226:2003. Please note that you need to boost a 20 Hz tone by almost 35 dB to make is appear to be as loud as a 1000 Hz tone playing at 80 dBA.
That is not the reason for proper low frequency reproduction. Whoever created the music with deep bass could have had a system with far better low frequency reproduction than this headphone produces in stock form. We are simply trying to do justice to that by having perceptually "flat" response in our playback gear to as low a frequency as we can. I can tell you confidence that you loose complete aspects of some music I have with typical bookshelf speaker or headphones like this. The good news with headphones is that we can boost the low frequency of many without ill effects unlike bookshelf speakers. To the extent there is no crackling or severe distortion as the Clears can have, then we should do that for better enjoyment.
 
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amirm

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When I turned the volume up loud enough to hear the popping out was past painful. I almost couldn't tolerate the intensity just to try to hear it.
With what music?
 
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I have had the Focal Clear for about 2 years now and I have to say I never found them to be lacking in bass. Yes, the headphones have some harshness in the treble, but it is only pronounced on music that is already a little hot. Using cables that are higher gauge, all but eliminate that harshness or at least cover it up, by filling out the sound with more low end. I suggest the Canare 4S6, which is 20awg. This being said, these are the most pleasing and neutral-sounding headphones I have ever come across, although I have not tried the ZMF Auteur, which is said to be amazing.

Also, I don't think your assessment that bottoming out when adding bass is a big demerit. Any headphones when you turn up the bass will start to crackle at normal levels. I have tried that with Sony, Denon, and Sennheiser headphones and all 3 began do distort when I pumped up the bass.

Anyone on this forum listen to or have the Auteur, care to share their impressions?
 

solderdude

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Using cables that are higher gauge, all but eliminate that harshness or at least cover it up, by filling out the sound with more low end. I suggest the Canare 4S6, which is 20awg
There is no cable in the world (except the ones I make :D) that can alter the tonal balance in any way.
That said... if you use a really crappy cable with 10 Ohm cable resistance then the sound does change. Acc. to Focal even for the better and you will get more bass with such a poor quality cable and can even change the stereo image.
 

Helicopter

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I have had the Focal Clear for about 2 years now and I have to say I never found them to be lacking in bass. Yes, the headphones have some harshness in the treble, but it is only pronounced on music that is already a little hot. Using cables that are higher gauge, all but eliminate that harshness or at least cover it up, by filling out the sound with more low end. I suggest the Canare 4S6, which is 20awg. This being said, these are the most pleasing and neutral-sounding headphones I have ever come across, although I have not tried the ZMF Auteur, which is said to be amazing.

Also, I don't think your assessment that bottoming out when adding bass is a big demerit. Any headphones when you turn up the bass will start to crackle at normal levels. I have tried that with Sony, Denon, and Sennheiser headphones and all 3 began do distort when I pumped up the bass.

Anyone on this forum listen to or have the Auteur, care to share their impressions?
Welcome to ASR. I bet those Canare cables are a little less kinked up than the Focals.
 

Helicopter

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There is no cable in the world (except the ones I make :D) that can alter the tonal balance in any way.
That said... if you use a really crappy cable with 10 Ohm cable resistance then the sound does change. Acc. to Focal even for the better
I bet I can make some that change the sound too. :p
 
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There is no cable in the world (except the ones I make :D) that can alter the tonal balance in any way.
That said... if you use a really crappy cable with 10 Ohm cable resistance then the sound does change. Acc. to Focal even for the better and you will get more bass with such a poor quality cable and can even change the stereo image.
Its not so much about changing the sound, its about letting all the sound come through. Like with speaker wire, if you use 24 gauge cable, you will have no bass. Also, the insulation used will affect the highs. If you don't believe me, try making some cables using a cable that uses cellular polypropylene/polyethylene and report back. Dielectric constant/capacitance make a huge difference in the highs when you have a 10ft headphone cable and revealing headphones. Gepco X-Band Microphone Cable uses cellular polypropylene, if you want to go down that route and make a cable. The Mogami 3173 also uses this insulation, but it was too thick at 18awg to be useful as a HP cable.
 
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