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Focal Clear Review (headphone)

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I sold my Clears last year due to the driver clipping issue. I usually listen at lower levels so it rarley cropped up, usually only on really bass-heavy passages. But, just knowing that it was even capable of this was a deal breaker because I had a hard time accepting this "design feature" in a headphone at this price. They did sound nice though, so it's a shame they had such an issue. I did get pair of Elegias some months ago and can report that my Elegia exhibit no such clipping even at insane volumes (for test purposes, not for listening - gotta protect your ears!).
 

Jimbob54

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I had in ear moulded monitors supplied for work. When the guy took a mould of my ear canal I asked him to make a second set for my Etymotic ER4S. It makes a big difference to comfort but I still get a big buildup of eat wax.
I only suspected it was wearing IEMs which caused my problem but it was only confirmed when i retired and wore them much less. Now nature can cope with the magnitude of wax my ears generate. It could not when wearing IEMs more often, (about 8 to 10 hours every second weekend).
Im laughing at eat wax- whatever floats your boat!

I have some Ety's - they actually fit fine and I dont mind the deep fit, its the ones with shells that trouble me, always rubbing with metal edges.

I bet you needed great isolation for F1- never been to the track but it must be crazy loud!
 

esm

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Every other Clear owner has weighed in here with basically the same thing, and I'm no different: the Clear Pros have been my favorite headphones when using them in situations where they don't clip, but they're unusable in situations where they do. I genuinely thought I'd blown them when it happened the first time, and my ears were ringing for a while afterward. Certain movie soundtracks are really, really good at highlighting this. :(

It's really a shame, they're the most luxuriously comfortable cans I own (oh my god those pads are wonderful), and I've always liked the non-EQ'd sound of them (which is good, because the moment you start lifting the bass up at all, the problem becomes immediately apparent). I'd probably be a lot more upset if I hadn't gotten a ridiculously good deal on them from Adorama a few years ago.

tl;dr: if you keep the volume a little lower than Amir likes it (and avoid low-freq EQ), they can be great. But low frequency gain really is the enemy with these.
 
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solderdude

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With that in mind, since EQed behaviour seams to be almost a must for @amirm assessment of the performance, would it be fair to assume that this could benefit from a sharp low cut at 30 Hz or so, and if the recommendation could have changed with such a tweak.
You can add a sharp LF cutoff but it isn't present in most music anyway. Perhaps not use these to listen to vinyl . :D
 

Jimbob54

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Just applied your EQ in Roon, just out of interest @amirm , what pre -amp reduction did you apply? 2 dB? Im guessing Roon didnt indicate digital clipping that tied in with the physical did it (if you turn on the clipping indicator in headroom management part of the DSP in Roon , the signal path indicator flashes red for illegal samples on the off chance you didnt know )
 

acbarn

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In the era of ASR's influence I'm not going to invest in anything that needs significant EQ to perform properly. I realize it seems everything that reproduces hifi sound needs a bit of EQ or DSP to actually perform as it should, but I'm old school in a way that believes expensive modern audio equipment should be very close to neutral without having to tweak it.
I understand and respect your position, but as one who was initially somewhat skeptical of using EQ on headphones, I now believe it’s nearly impossible to get the best out of any headphone without EQ.
 
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Frank Dernie

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I bet you needed great isolation for F1- never been to the track but it must be crazy loud!
I took my noise meter once.
It went bang up to full scale with the engine idling in the garage :( so I don't know how loud.
Early days is was fingers in ears, then ear defenders and latterly multi channel radios.
I had one driver in each ear and a switch for who I was talking to. Luckily rare for both drivers to talk at the same time.
Before tv monitors in the garage I used to give a "commentary" to the pit crew from the pit wall because they saw nowt.
 

acbarn

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Just applied your EQ in Roon, just out of interest @amirm , what pre -amp reduction did you apply? 2 dB? Im guessing Roon didnt indicate digital clipping that tied in with the physical did it (if you turn on the clipping indicator in headroom management part of the DSP in Roon , the signal path indicator flashes red for illegal samples on the off chance you didnt know )
Oratory’s EQ curve for the Clear, which is similar to Amir’s (though more bass-heavy), calls for -4.9 db:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/hqb9zjsvc2nu5zc/Focal Clear.pdf?dl=0
 

Joachim Herbert

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amirm

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Thread Starter #131
Just applied your EQ in Roon, just out of interest @amirm , what pre -amp reduction did you apply? 2 dB? Im guessing Roon didnt indicate digital clipping that tied in with the physical did it (if you turn on the clipping indicator in headroom management part of the DSP in Roon , the signal path indicator flashes red for illegal samples on the off chance you didnt know )
Roon never indicated clipping with my EQ and yes, I have the headroom management option turned on. I think I had it set to -3 dB or so. Unfortunately I changed that to take the snapshot for the review so don't know what it was before.

To make sure others follow, in no case did I have a digital clipping. When we say "clipping" we mean the driver reaching its limit. The sound of the two are very different.
 

Jimbob54

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Jimbob54

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Roon never indicated clipping with my EQ and yes, I have the headroom management option turned on. I think I had it set to -3 dB or so. Unfortunately I changed that to take the snapshot for the review so don't know what it was before.

To make sure others follow, in no case did I have a digital clipping. When we say "clipping" we mean the driver reaching its limit. The sound of the two are very different.
Cheers, figured you had ruled out digital clipping but raised it for clarity sake
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #134
Oops, forgot to include the impedance graph. Just added to the review:



Be sure to use a headphone amp with impedance at 1.5 ohm or less as measured by me. Otherwise you would radically change the frequency response of the headphone in bass area relative to the rest.
 

solderdude

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To make sure others follow, in no case did I have a digital clipping. When we say "clipping" we mean the driver reaching its limit. The sound of the two are very different.
Indeed, it's like you hit something with a teaspoon. Very 'abrupt' and makes you wonder you broke it. Totally not musical where clipping source material sounds more like 'roughening' of the sound.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #136
Folks are wondering at what level I "listen" to headphones. Answer is that it is pretty low for bulk of the time. For *evaluating* headphones, I listen at wide range of levels for brief periods to represent all listeners of these products. Listening at higher levels allows me to evaluate limits of products and represent a larger set of people who may buy them.

But yes, compared to my son who is in his 20s, I do listen at louder level. So there. :)
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #138
I love my Clears. Now I know how people over at SBAF feel when Amir’s measurements show Schiit gear to be flawed.
My job here is to be highly critical. If I lower my standards at some point everything will be good. The high standard was good in the case of Schiit, prompting them to redesign their products and remove said flaws, much to the chagrin of a few at SBAF.

To make it even worse, I EQ’d my clears and they sound even better. :)
??? They sound better with EQ to me as well. The issue was the trade off with the drivers hitting their hard limit.
 

vkvedam

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Ohh boy, didn't see that coming. I had very high expectations, disappointed :confused:
 
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amirm

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With that in mind, since EQed behaviour seams to be almost a must for @amirm assessment of the performance, would it be fair to assume that this could benefit from a sharp low cut at 30 Hz or so, and if the recommendation could have changed with such a tweak.
With no tactile feel like speakers have, it would be a huge shame to also have to cut off some deep bass that headphones can reproduce. But sure, if you own this headphone and are hearing the clipping, cutting off some of the lows helps.
 
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