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Focal Utopia Review (Headphone)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and technical measurements of the Focal Utopia open-back headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $4,000 (not a typo).

The Utopia appropriately gives off a luxury feel:

Focal Utopia Review open back headphone.jpg


The comfort was excellent despite the 500 gram weight without the heavy cord. The latter is super thick and weighs 185 grams by itself. The inside cup dimensions are 51 by 59 mm. And it is 23 mm deep.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are preformed using standardized GRAS 45CA headphone measurement fixture. Headphone measurements require more interpretation than speaker tests and have more of a requirement for subjective testing as a result. In addition, comparison of measurements between different people performing it using different configurations requires fair bit of skill. So don't look for matching results. Focus on high level picture. Listening tests are performed using RME ADI-2 DAC and its headphone output.

Mounting the headphone on the text fixture was easy requiring almost no manipulation to get proper meausrements.

Focal Utopia Measurements
As usual, we start with our stereo frequency response measurements:

Focal Utopia Frequency Response Measurement.png


As noted, we have our bass droop which is substantial as it is not even flat. Between 100 Hz and 1.7 kHz response fairly closely resembles our target. We then have some deficiencies but the highs seem to then hug the curve. There is some noise around 1.5 to 2.5 kHz which we also see in the Group Delay graph:

Focal Utopia Group Delay Measurements.png


I don't know if it is diffraction, reflections or what. I prefer to not see this in high-end headphone.

Back to our frequency response, here is the deviation from target:

Focal Utopia Frequency Response Measurement Deviation.png


Distortion is exceptionally low at higher frequencies and only gets bad at 114 dBSPL:

Focal Utopia Relative Distortion Measurements.png


Focal Utopia Absolute Distortion Measurements.png


Impedance is quite uneven so best to use a solid state amp with low impedance to drive the Utopia:

Focal Utopia Impedance Measurements.png


Fortunately efficiency is good:

Most Sensitive Open Back Headphone Review.png


Focal Utopia Listening Tests
As is, the Utopia sounded just fine. Not a whole lot to rave about but no glaring, annoying response errors. As expected, deep bass was absent so out came the EQ:

Focal Utopia headphone equalization EQ.png


I dialed in my quick shelving filter to bring out subbass. I increased its bandwidth to 70 Hz but was not sure that was a good trade off so went back to 50 Hz. A more precisely filter may work better. Tune this to your taste.

Above that, I dialed in two filters to fill in the dips in the response. As I have noted before, any increase in this region also has a nice bonus of increasing spatial effects. On this note, the Focal Utopia with this EQ is a delight to listen to. You get a halo of sound about 25 to 30% outside of your head with very nice instrument separation and excellent clarity. I wish I had the Sennheiser HD-800S to compare but what is there, reminds me of that headphone. Whatever magic Sennheiser has found there, Focal seems to have discovered as well.

Conclusions
Objectively we have the "old school" frequency response tuning with deficient sub-bass response and some in the upper mid-range, lower treble. What is missing is not significant enough to leave you disappointed if you paid $400. But at $4,000, you better find a way to add EQ and get the sound to the next higher level.

I struggled with what grade to give the Utopia. It straddles the fence between recommended and "happily recommended" with the latter being with EQ. At the end, I went with the latter.

EDIT: my son helped me with this review. Hoping over time he can do more of these since he likes headphones. And it frees me up to test other products.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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majingotan

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#2
Now I know why I rank this headphone as the best I've heard subjectively and now with measurements backing up my love for its tonality, timbre, separation, clarity and bass
 

Helicopter

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#4
Wow. This is a pleasant surprise. Being older than the original Clear with the hyped Beryllium and the high price tag to set expectation bias, I thought this would be a disapointing headphone. It still seems like a good candidate for an update in the lineup. It would be nice if they could match the Clear MG aesthetics a little more and boost the bass. $4k is a lot. I would have to sell a few pairs or slow my purchases for some months to fit that into the budget.

Edit: I see now there is a 2020 updated version available for pre order for $4.4k, but I can't tell if they actually changed the headphone or just the rest of the stuff in the box. Maybe next year a new Utopia... that will tempt me.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #5
Did this HP exhibit the same distortion in sub bass as the Clear at high volume?
Oh, forgot to talk about that. No, it just gradually crackles more and more as you turn up the volume. By the time it starts, it is quite loud. I would say Sennheiser HD650 and such handle a lot more power but what is here is not much of a limit.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #7

sweetchaos

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#9
To import this PEQ profile into 'Equalizer APO', use:
Preamp: -6.4 db
Filter 1: ON LS Fc 50 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 2100 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 3.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3500 Hz Gain 2.5 dB Q 4.0
To import into your favorite PEQ app, enter it manually.
Otherwise, see my PEQ guide.
..................................................................................................................
For those who don't have PEQ-capable app, and want to use GEQs instead.
Preamp: -5.8db
32 5.4
64 0.2
125 -0.6
250 -0.5
500 -0.4
1000 -1.1
2000 2.5
4000 0.6
8000 -1.0
16000 -0.9
Preamp: -6.0db
20 3.7
25 4.1
32 3.6
40 2.7
50 1.7
63 0.9
80 0.2
100 -0.3
125 -0.5
160 -0.3
200 -0.4
250 -0.5
315 -0.5
400 -0.4
500 -0.4
630 -0.5
800 -0.4
1000 -0.4
1250 -0.3
1600 -0.4
2000 3.5
2500 0.8
3150 1.3
4000 0.9
5000 -0.5
6300 -0.5
8000 -0.6
10000 -0.6
12500 -0.7
16000 -1.0
20000 -1.0
If you want to import into "Wavelet" (Android App):
GraphicEQ: 20 -0.2; 21 -0.2; 22 -0.3; 23 -0.3; 24 -0.4; 26 -0.5; 27 -0.6; 29 -0.7; 30 -0.8; 32 -1.0; 34 -1.2; 36 -1.4; 38 -1.6; 40 -1.8; 43 -2.2; 45 -2.4; 48 -2.7; 50 -2.9; 53 -3.2; 56 -3.5; 59 -3.8; 63 -4.1; 66 -4.3; 70 -4.5; 74 -4.7; 78 -4.9; 83 -5.0; 87 -5.1; 92 -5.3; 97 -5.4; 103 -5.5; 109 -5.5; 115 -5.6; 121 -5.6; 128 -5.7; 136 -5.7; 143 -5.7; 151 -5.8; 160 -5.8; 169 -5.8; 178 -5.8; 188 -5.8; 199 -5.9; 210 -5.9; 222 -5.9; 235 -5.9; 248 -5.9; 262 -5.9; 277 -5.9; 292 -5.9; 309 -5.9; 326 -5.9; 345 -5.9; 364 -5.9; 385 -5.9; 406 -5.9; 429 -5.9; 453 -5.9; 479 -5.9; 506 -5.9; 534 -5.9; 565 -5.9; 596 -5.9; 630 -5.9; 665 -5.9; 703 -5.9; 743 -5.8; 784 -5.8; 829 -5.8; 875 -5.8; 924 -5.8; 977 -5.8; 1032 -5.7; 1090 -5.7; 1151 -5.6; 1216 -5.6; 1284 -5.5; 1357 -5.4; 1433 -5.3; 1514 -5.1; 1599 -4.8; 1689 -4.4; 1784 -3.9; 1885 -3.1; 1991 -2.2; 2103 -1.8; 2221 -2.2; 2347 -2.9; 2479 -3.6; 2618 -4.1; 2766 -4.3; 2921 -4.3; 3086 -4.1; 3260 -3.6; 3443 -3.1; 3637 -3.3; 3842 -4.1; 4058 -4.7; 4287 -5.1; 4528 -5.3; 4783 -5.5; 5052 -5.6; 5337 -5.6; 5637 -5.7; 5955 -5.7; 6290 -5.8; 6644 -5.8; 7018 -5.8; 7414 -5.8; 7831 -5.8; 8272 -5.9; 8738 -5.9; 9230 -5.9; 9749 -5.9; 10298 -5.9; 10878 -5.9; 11490 -5.9; 12137 -5.9; 12821 -5.9; 13543 -5.9; 14305 -5.9; 15110 -5.9; 15961 -5.9; 16860 -5.9; 17809 -5.9; 18812 -5.9; 19871 -5.9
Otherwise, see my GEQ guide.
 
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ZööZ

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#10
The distortion graph looks so good that I feel bad I don't have thousands of dollars to throw at headphones :confused:

Is it just me or shouldn't the third filter be closer to 5kHz not 3.5?
 
OP
amirm

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Thread Starter #13
Is it just me or shouldn't the third filter be closer to 5kHz not 3.5?
The filter is bell shaped so if you put it at 5 kHz, then it spills to the right where you don't want to amplify. And you wouldn't be raising the energy down lower which you need to.
 

sweetchaos

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#14
Amir vs Oratory1990:
amir oratory.gif

Amir vs Jaakkopasanen (measured by Oratory1990):
amir jaakko.gif

Oratory1990 vs Jaakkopasanen (measured by Oratory1990):
jaakko vs oratory.gif

PEQ profile by Amir (from my post #9 above):
Preamp: -6.4 db
Filter 1: ON LS Fc 50 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 2100 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 3.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3500 Hz Gain 2.5 dB Q 4.0

PEQ profile by Oratory1990:
Preamp: -5.2 db
Filter 1: ON LS Fc 105 Hz Gain 5.5 dB Q 0.71
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 140 Hz Gain -5.0 dB Q 0.25
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1270 Hz Gain -5.8 dB Q 1.2
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1950 Hz Gain 1.7 dB Q 3.0
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 2650 Hz Gain -3.8 dB Q 4.0
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 3100 Hz Gain -1.6 dB Q 5.0
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 4050 Hz Gain -1.5 dB Q 6.0
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 6000 Hz Gain -4.6 dB Q 4.5
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 8400 Hz Gain -3.0 dB Q 6.0
Filter 10: ON HS Fc 13000 Hz Gain -6.0 dB Q 0.71

PEQ profile by Jaakkopasanen (measured by Oratory1990):
Preamp: -5.5 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 23 Hz Gain 5.2 dB Q 0.58
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1232 Hz Gain -3.1 dB Q 1.99
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1969 Hz Gain 4.1 dB Q 3.81
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 10541 Hz Gain 5.1 dB Q 1.37
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 19714 Hz Gain -14.2 dB Q 0.42
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 206 Hz Gain -1.7 dB Q 1.87
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 2735 Hz Gain -2.9 dB Q 3.76
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 3270 Hz Gain 1.9 dB Q 1.49
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 5856 Hz Gain -5.4 dB Q 5.19
Filter 10: ON PK Fc 6295 Hz Gain 1.4 dB Q 1.84
 

bigjacko

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#15
Love to see a high end headphone reviewd here and setting a benchmark. Thank you Amir for measuring! From what I saw, I thought all focal headphones had small sound stage, but this one seems to be wide from Amir's word. I also saw some graphs compare the frequency response of focal headphones, all of them are similar, elex is even completely the same as utopia. Does anyone has subjective comparison between elex and utopia, and the sound stage of this headphone compare to other headphone?
 

pavuol

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#19
Focal Utopia Listening Tests
As is, the Utopia sounded just fine. Not a whole lot to rave about but no glaring, annoying response errors.
Amir there is just something wrong with you, she says the world around you stops!
..ups, that is for $120,000 version, sorry, my mystake..:oops:
 

Racheski

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#20
Edit: I see now there is a 2020 updated version available for pre order for $4.4k, but I can't tell if they actually changed the headphone or just the rest of the stuff in the box. Maybe next year a new Utopia... that will tempt me.
Pretty sure all they did was add a XLR cable and a carrying case in the 2020 version.
 

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