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Focal Clear Review (headphone)

Helicopter

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@amirm your future is bright as the sun as long as we consumers care less what these companies get away with. After this thread I am HAPPY to donate. Personally I don't know how you do it. All I can do is salute and $upport you dude. @Helicopter Couldn't disagree more. Principles man. How about the principle of luxury purchasing. Headsets start at $10. Washing machines start at $158 for portables. For your analogy to work a $1500 Focal Clear level washing machine would cost a measly $23,700 all things being equal, but you wouldn't care if a feature broke and LG wouldn't fix it and tried to cover the fact up by dropping the price 33% to offload the bad stock? :D After all, its only hard earned money and vendor trust that's lost. :):oops::facepalm: Hey Focal. You win. We deserve every bit of the loss of money and vendor trust you stole from us. We are all talk but have no real teeth and are the wallet opening honey ants you think we are. Please milk us. Go on covering your mistakes, we really were dreaming to expect you would do right by the money we paid you. We know you don't care, because we don't care.....enough. But Focal... ASR scares you at least a little bit right? Right? We know that you know that the footsteps you hear will be a lifelong friend now. We also know that you know that we know you will be watched very closely along with the rest of the other Schiit that comes along. ;)
I should have said I empathize with your thinking, I just feel differently. I am a big fan of exposing these things as well. I just am not sure this makes the company especially bad. It might. I would want to see some data on Focal's competition to draw a real conclusion. In the case of LG, I had not really realized they were especially misleading compared to others, but I did find data showing most of their products, including the second washer had better than average reliability.
 

Chuckv

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I should have said I empathize with your thinking, I just feel differently. I am a big fan of exposing these things as well. I just am not sure this makes the company especially bad. It might. I would want to see some data on Focal's competition to draw a real conclusion. In the case of LG, I had not really realized they were especially misleading compared to others, but I did find data showing most of their products, including the second washer had better than average reliability.
I own a business man. Ignore me. I think differently than just about everybody other than @amirm and those like him who know what its like. What you guys don't get or ignore, I don't know which, is if they screw you on something little you can bet they will screw you on something big if they can get away with it. I NEVER want to screw a customer because its not right. So if I make a mistake I OWN IT. Have I lost money? Absolutely. Have I gained loyalty? Absolutely. I get referrals based on unethical business practices of others. Why? I do good on my clients. Period. Focal has a lot going for it. I hope they don't screw it up like they just did their headset line. We all just want to enjoy the music without getting taken advantage of. I'm old school I guess.
 

ShiZo

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It was annoying returning the clears until I got one that didn't clip. And I feel really bad for those that didn't have time or return policy to do so. But with focal, I learned that's why you have to pick your dealer carefully. www.headphones.com (no affiliation) allows a 365 day return policy and will give you replacements until you have a set that doesn't clip. Aside from that, they will replace up to three years. I like to believe that this issue only exists on earlier models and not the most recent ones. But I couldn't say with scientific certainty. I did reach out to focal and asked them to send another pair for a larger sample size. I mean who wants their headphone to get such a bad review?

Minus the distortion (which I believe doesn't exist on all) this thing would be the crown of non eq'd headphones IMO. I think another clear without the issue needs to be reviewed, but that's not really up to @amirm.
 
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Chuckv

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It was annoying returning the clears until I got one that didn't clip. And I feel really bad for those that didn't have time or return policy to do so. But with focal, I learned that's why you have to pick your dealer carefully. www.headphones.com (no affiliation) allows a 365 day return policy and will give you replacements until you have a set that doesn't clip. Aside from that, they will replace up to three years. I like to believe that this issue only exists on earlier models and not the most recent ones. But I couldn't say with scientific certainty. I did reach out to focal and asked them to send another pair for a larger sample size. I mean who wants their headphone to get such a bad review?

Minus the distortion (which I believe doesn't exist on all) this thing would be the crown of non eq'd headphones IMO. I think another clear without the issue needs to be reviewed, but that's not really up to @amirm.
Dear Focal. @amirm needs a Clear sent to him for review.
 
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Hi,

If anyone is interested.
based on the data from the first page, I did not go through the entire thread to check if the raw data was available...

Score no EQ: 73.3
Score with Amirm EQ: 77.5
Score with attached EQ: 100.2

Code:
Focal APO EQ Score 96000Hz
January122021-155015

Preamp: 0.0 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 214.5 Hz Gain -6 dB Q 0.37
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1283 Hz Gain -7.3 dB Q 1.18
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3217 Hz Gain -4 dB Q 3
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 6000 Hz Gain -3.6 dB Q 8
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 11475 Hz Gain -7.2 dB Q 8
View attachment 105531
From the above, the only "legit" band for me is the 1.0-1.3kHz region, but nowhere near that much attenuation! -0.5 or -0.6dB at most is fine; but even then it is questionable because the headphone's hump in this region is not that pronounced, and it's quite difficult to tackle it with EQ -- I've tried but it doesn't seem to be only EQ-related.

I've never used APO EQ before, but it's not a good sounding EQ at all (it's pretty ugly if you ask me), I don't know how you guys can cope with it. I would definitely not recommend listening to music through it.

ATM the very best state-of-the-art EQ I would recommend is Crave EQ, in 'Transprent mode - 50 ms'. It's a VST though , but APO EQ seems to support VST so that should do it. That EQ is a GEM, it is as best as you can get.
 
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From the above, the only "legit" band for me is the 1.0-1.3kHz region, but nowhere near that much attenuation! -0.5 or -0.6dB at most is fine; but even then it is questionable because the headphone's hump in this region is not that pronounced, and it's quite difficult to tackle it with EQ -- I've tried but it doesn't seem to be only EQ-related.

I've never used APO EQ before, but it's not a good sounding EQ at all (it's pretty ugly if you ask me), I don't know how you guys can cope with it. I would definitely not recommend listening to music through it.

ATM the very best state-of-the-art EQ I would recommend is Crave EQ, in 'Transprent mode - 50 ms'. It's a VST though , but APO EQ seems to support VST so that should do it. That EQ is a GEM, it is as best as you can get.
Can you expand on the differences between these two EQ solutions?
 
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If i understand well your question, you're asking the difference between APO EQ and Crave EQ: well what strikes right away is that the APO is resonating a lot, I just cannot listen to it. Just to mention that.
Also I should measure it properly but it's not possible to do so, but as the APO graph shows you: the highs are cramped when approaching Nyquist.
Overall, it's a pretty bad sounding EQ.
 
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@ShiZo You and a few thousand other Clear owners.:) Yes. We're looking at you Focal. :mad:
As I have said I have owned several Focal HPs, (Elear, Clear and Elegia) and I have suffered from the driver issues in the Elear (my first Focal headphone). Overall, I found that the support I received was more dependent on the distributor than from Focal. In fact, at some point I felt completely left behind by Focal. Thankfully my distributor gave me a really good support and exchanged the Elears outside of warranty. Weren't it for their support I would have never thought of buying Focal again. And I still resent Focal quite a bit. Other issues are the ridiculous price of the replacement pads and the impossibility of replacing the headband (coupled with the fact that the "clear" color used in those gets dirty very easily!).

The fact that with a bad first experience I still got the Clears and latter the Elegia is a testament of how good I think they are to me (even when I have several other $1K+ headphones). Still, the fact that someone as trusted as @amirm has highlighted the problem is really positive for us consumers. We shouldn't be required to basically bet when buying such an expensive product.

FWIW neither my clears nor my elegia clips with any of the tracks suggested in this forum. My first Elears surely would have (I dont have the replacements any more, but they were fine).
 
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If i understand well your question, you're asking the difference between APO EQ and Crave EQ: well what strikes right away is that the APO is resonating a lot, I just cannot listen to it. Just to mention that.
Also I should measure it properly but it's not possible to do so, but as the APO graph shows you: the highs are cramped when approaching Nyquist.
Overall, it's a pretty bad sounding EQ.
Interesting - that should be easily measurable, perhaps someone on this forum would care to do some testing? I don't have the right equipment unfortunately. If it's a severe enough effect, it should be audible on a recording which would make testing fairly simple.
 

ShiZo

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As I have said I have owned several Focal HPs, (Elear, Clear and Elegia) and I have suffered from the driver issues in the Elear (my first Focal headphone). Overall, I found that the support I received was more dependent on the distributor than from Focal. In fact, at some point I felt completely left behind by Focal. Thankfully my distributor gave me a really good support and exchanged the Elears outside of warranty. Weren't it for their support I would have never thought of buying Focal again. And I still resent Focal quite a bit. Other issues are the ridiculous price of the replacement pads and the impossibility of replacing the headband (coupled with the fact that the "clear" color used in those gets dirty very easily!).

The fact that with a bad first experience I still got the Clears and latter the Elegia is a testament of how good I think they are to me (even when I have several other $1K+ headphones). Still, the fact that someone as trusted as @amirm has highlighted the problem is really positive for us consumers. We shouldn't be required to basically bet when buying such an expensive product.

FWIW neither my clears nor my elegia clips with any of the tracks suggested in this forum. My first Elears surely would have (I dont have the replacements any more, but they where fine).
Same here. I couldn't help but love my clears and my elegia. And you're right, the way focal warranty is set up is really distributor dependent.

Got the ether cx on the way to compare with my elegia though :D.

My first elegia clipped but the second did not. But the clears I went through a bit to get a pair that didn't.
 

Jimbob54

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I've been spending more time with my Clear Pro (bought second hand but good condition) and there is a noticeable L/R imbalance definitely skewing to the left. I dont believe its my hearing as other phone's arent noticeably skewed . A 2db reduction on the L brings it far more back into balance but if I'm right that my hearing isnt impaired on the R this either means:

1. My used set have had some work done - a repair/ swap of drivers so no longer matching or;
2. My set left the factory with an imbalance which would definitely be a QC issue in my book- for any phones nevermind ones with this RRP.

Be interested to hear other users' experience . I note @amirm charts show a noticeable divergence especially in the lows so perhaps this is a QC issue for the model.
 

JIW

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I've been spending more time with my Clear Pro (bought second hand but good condition) and there is a noticeable L/R imbalance definitely skewing to the left. I dont believe its my hearing as other phone's arent noticeably skewed . A 2db reduction on the L brings it far more back into balance but if I'm right that my hearing isnt impaired on the R this either means:

1. My used set have had some work done - a repair/ swap of drivers so no longer matching or;
2. My set left the factory with an imbalance which would definitely be a QC issue in my book- for any phones nevermind ones with this RRP.

Be interested to hear other users' experience . I note @amirm charts show a noticeable divergence especially in the lows so perhaps this is a QC issue for the model.
Have you tried putting them on with left and right reversed, i.e. the left driver on your right ear and vice versa? Have you tried listening to correlated pink noise? If there is no driver mismatch, it should all be perfectly centered.

Also, when @solderdude tested them in 2017, there was a significant driver mismatch.

Source: https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/headphones/measurements/focal/clear/

Anyways, you could also try running a slow frequency sweep and see how the sound moves to get an idea of the mismatch, e.g. using this tool: https://onlinetonegenerator.com/frequency-sweep-generator.html. Keep in mind, however, the relatively low hearing sensitivity at low and high frequencies.
 

Jimbob54

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Have you tried putting them on with left and right reversed, i.e. the left driver on your right ear and vice versa? Have you tried listening to correlated pink noise? If there is no driver mismatch, it should all be perfectly centered.

Also, when @solderdude tested them in 2017, there was a significant driver mismatch.

Source: https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/headphones/measurements/focal/clear/

Anyways, you could also try running a slow frequency sweep and see how the sound moves to get an idea of the mismatch, e.g. using this tool: https://onlinetonegenerator.com/frequency-sweep-generator.html. Keep in mind, however, the relatively low hearing sensitivity at low and high frequencies.
I did swap ears - same issue (well, opposite issue)
Not pink noise but my RME DAC lets me put the signal in mono and still skewed. Not proposing to do anything else tbh as the offset I applied in Roon gets me to the point where I dont notice in normal listening and , as second hand unit, there is no point progressing further with manuf. etc.

Its the vocal range that is most obvious- when you know it should be centred but its off to the left in the sound image on most tracks which would correlate with the FR charts of both solderdude and Amirs measurements showing a mismatch
 
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This album under the Focal Clear (I combine it with the ADI-2 DAC - 'Slow' DA filter) is pure eargasm...
to consume without any moderation

edit: the end of the "MAD" track reminds a little bit of the 'clipping' sound of the Clear lol :-D
 
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Eeh, not really my cup of tea. I do know what you mean when you describe the feelings of arousal.
I get those too.

I especially like acoustic guitars on my Clear. They sound so real as if my dad would sit in front of me any play his guitar.
 

DivineCurrent

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Eeh, not really my cup of tea. I do know what you mean when you describe the feelings of arousal.
I get those too.

I especially like acoustic guitars on my Clear. They sound so real as if my dad would sit in front of me any play his guitar.
I agree, there’s something this design of driver does that allows the full dynamics of acoustic instruments and especially piano and percussion, to come through in such a realistic way.

We can talk all day about the frequency response being a little off target and whatnot, but really what matters the most is subjective impressions, and the Clears just do something my other headphones cannot do. I use some EQ to tone things down in the treble at 6 and 10.5 kHz, and so it basically sounds as smooth as the HD650 to me with the added benefit of more bass extension and wider soundstage. And also greater perceived dynamics.
 

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