Focal Clear Open-back Headphones - Official Thread

focal

#41

Ah thanks that’s great info. I wondered if it wasn’t just cosmetic tweaks. I still like the look of the original chrome coloured clears.

-Paul-


#42

The official differences with the Clear vs. the Clear Pro are:

  • Color-way - gray vs. black/red (I might be in the minority that likes the gray the least).
  • Different pads - yielding a different tuning (“flatter” for the Pro).
  • Cables

The Pro comes with two cables - a 5m coiled cable and a 1.2m 3.5mm cable with a 6.35mm adapter. The standard Clear comes with three cables - a 1.2m 3.5mm cable, a 3m 6.35mm cable, and a 3m 4-pin XLR cable.


#43

Thanks for clarifying. I still think that the original clear is a better looking headphone. Looking at the package too i think I would go with normal clear too. I am not a fan of coiled cables.

-Paul-


#44

I am new to this forum but it looks like an interesting place to be.

I bought a pair of Focal Clear’s and took delivery at the end of this past May. I use them daily with a stack of Schiit Audio components (Schiit Audio Wyrd, Modi Multibit DAC, Loki Tone controls and Lyr 2 amp (w/NOS Philips 7DJ8 tubes)). The IC cables are all 0.5 meter Kimber Heros with WBT connectors and the USB cables are Pangea Silver USB cables. The Kimber Heros cost more than some of the Schiit Audio components. Its a crazy hobby.

Anyway, before the Clears I was using HiFi Man HE-400S cans. The Clears are obviously better cans and have better definition in every area but the HE-400S are no piece of junk either.

I am used to quality headphone performance. Back on Christmas of 1990 I received a pair of Stax Lambda Pro earspeakers with the SRM1 MKII driver. I love the sound of full range estat headphones and will upgrade my Lambda Pros sometime in the near future (maybe the L700…009s?).

I feed the above hardware from a Toshiba 17 inch laptop with an Intel i7 processor and 24GB RAM. I also have 1.5TB internal storage in the laptop, plus an additional 5 TB of external storage to rely upon.

My music files are mostly 24/96 or higher FLACs but I have some redbook stuff that I ripped off CDs. I record high rez PCM on my main audio rig from vinyl via a TASCAM UH-7000 high rez USB audio interface. I use Sound Forge 12 to do my recording and Foobar 2000 to play them back. My LP setup is pretty decent (VPI Prime, Ortofon Windfeld Ti, etc.) and it creates some really nice PCM files.

I work from home and have the luxury of being able to listen while I work. My headphones have to be comfortable and have quality audio or I cannot listen. I guess you can say I’ve been spoiled.

The Clears are very comfortable and I have worn them more then 4 hours at a sitting without any negative side effects. That is unusual for dynamic headphones that I have tried. Most other headphones always end up creating a hot spot or some part of the headband or cups start to feel uncomfortable after some period of time. The Clears are very good in this respect.

They are beautiful to look at. The styling of the Clears make them kind of unusual and its a nice unusual. The packaging with the extra cables and the box itself is first rate. Everything on the Clears have been well thought out and Focal has listened to its Elear and Utopia owners. They have created a model with everything right.

I’m not saying they are perfect. For the money they are perfect. They have all of the above and outstanding sound quality. They do not have the lightning fast response of an estat headphone but they are very quick and they can be very lifelike.

They are my favorite dynamic headphone. A dammed good product that will push the competition to create their version of a $1500 killer set of cans. This is a great time to be a headphone audiophile and I look forward to what is to coming down the pike.

I know my Focal Clears will be with me for some time. They appear to be very solidly built, on top of everything else mentioned, and I doubt I will have many issue with them. I wonder what kind of upgrade a different cable might be? The cables that came with the Clear all appear to be excellent quality. Unless someone I know, and respect, tells me there is a cable that makes a significant difference, I intend to enjoy what I have.

Thats the thing with the Focal Clears. For sure there is a headphone out there with better this or that but what we have with the Clear seems to be a hard act to follow. I have the feeling that this will be my dynamic headphone of choice for quite sometime.

I am new and you do not know me. I am not subject to making constant changes to my gear. Once I achieve a certain level of sound quality I like to stay put and spend my money on new music. I started upgrading my main system and my work system two years ago.

I have achieved what I consider to be a pretty decent setup on my work system (the gear I mentioned above). There are lots more expensive things out there but I feel what I have performs at a very high level. My main system is almost done too. That system is very good also and there is one last piece of hardware to be acquired…coming at the beginning of next year.

Thanks for reading my endless ramblings.

Ed


#45

I was waiting for the “trade-in” sale to pick these up. I was hoping it would be more than a $300 discount, but I’ll take it. The cans are on their way to me. Hopefully these don’t have the QA problems of the Elears from last year.


#46

The discount is actually $400 and most online stores will donate a pair on your behalf so you don’t need to trade in.

So far we haven’t seen any QC issues with the Clear, but Focal is great with warranty work if you ever do run into an issue(although turnaround can be a little slow at times).


#47

I stand corrected on the list price. For some reason I keep thinking of the Clear as a $1400 headphone, but you’re right, it’s $1500 and a $400 discount. So I guess I feel better, and the wait just got harder.


#48

For those that are interested, I just posted my full review of the Focal Clear.

I had originally intended to do this a couple of weeks ago, but @Ishcabible’s Utopia review was ready to go, so I slotted that in first.

As it happens, the timing works out well due to the new Focal trade-in/sale deal. I thought the Clear were excellent value at their normal price. At as little as $1,100 they’re going to be really hard to ignore.


#49

Comfort wise, is the headband basically the same as the Elex?


#50

Closer to the Utopia.

Which is to say, more comfortable than the Elex (for me).


#51

Solid review, thanks. I love the impact of the Elear, but they disappoint when it comes to subtlety; the Elear just doesn’t do subtle. It sounds like the Clear manages the subtlety without losing much of the impact. I’m finding it hard to imagine a more perfect headphone. I guess I’ll find out if I’m right about that soon.


#52

Just bought a set of clears. Should be here next week. Got them on AVexchange. So looking forward to these.

-Paul-


#53

Thanks @Torq for another excellent review!
Do you have some comments on the Focal Clear vs Sennheiser HD800S on the RME ADI 2 DAC/ Phonitor X combo, especially regarding timbre/tonality for Jazz/Classic (big and small ensembles) music?
Reading your review the Sennheiser seems to have a slight edge in slam and big one in soundstage which is already a bonus.


#54

You could, reasonably, take both the RME ADI-2 DAC and SPL Phonitor X out of the equation here. The Phonitor X is so neutral and transparent that it really doesn’t contribute anything but sufficient power and drive authority to make the HD800S or Clear really sing (not that either headphone is especially power-hungry … the RME unit has more than enough grunt for either).

Phonitor X with the RME ADI-2 DAC does give a better result than just using the headphone output on the RME unit though … dynamics are much improved and the slight sense of compression/congestion that sometimes creeps in with the ADI-2 DAC’s direct headphone output is completely avoided.

And depending on which filters/settings you choose on the ADI-2 DAC it’s an extremely neutral and resolving little unit anyway. So it’s not really adding or taking anything away from the headphones tonally or in terms of timbre.

Now the crossfeed/matrix features available on both the Phonitor and the ADI-2 DAC can bring the Clear closer to the stage/imaging performance of the HD800S … but if you use those same features with the Sennhesiers then they’re still going to give a larger and more vivid/convincing image.

Which just leaves you with the headphones themselves …

The HD800S have more low end slam and a slight advantage in low-end extension. It is not big difference. The Clear has a slightly more present bottom-end, however, and this tends to offset the raw extension advantage of the HD800S simply by virtue of their rendition being slightly lower in level vs. the Focal’s. One other minor difference in the delivery of the lower registers is that the Clear has a very modestly cleaner bass rendering.

This isn’t really a noticeable trait in most small-ensemble or jazz pieces, and really needs full-orchestral performances to become clearly audible (more contemporary stuff, D&B, EDM and so on shows the bass differences more readily), otherwise they are tonally and timbrally very close.

In general I have reached for my HD800S when I wanted to listen to large, complex classical works or pieces recorded in a manner that actually captures the natural stage of acoustic instruments well. But since stage/imaging is the aspect of headphone listening that I care the least about I think some of that is more out of habit - as for a while the HD800S was the only high-end dynamic headphone I had (the others were planar magnetics - which I find rather less satisfying for big classical pieces). In general if I am in the mood to really care about stage, I will go fire up the speaker rig!

If my musical diet was largely jazz/classical … then if I owned the Clear I wouldn’t bother looking at the HD800S. And if I owned the HD800S I wouldn’t bother looking at the Clear. And if I owned neither, then absent an audition to seal the deal for my personal preferences then a) I really couldn’t go wrong with either choice and b) I’d start to consider other factors than raw sound in narrowing down my choice.

For example, right now the Focal Clear is an $1,100 headphone (normally $1,499) and the HD800S is $1,699. The Clear comes with a more varied and useful accessory package (including a very nice case). And the Clear are easier to drive so can be used with a broader variety of gear more convincingly.

And all that said … they’re both a good enough fit for those genres (and pretty much any others) that if I was leaning towards one or the other for other reasons (aesthetics, brand preference, or even something less tangible) then I’d just go with the one I “wanted” the most.


#55

Thanks very much for taking your time to write such a comprehensive answer to my request!
I’m leaning towards a (used) HD800S mainly because Sennheiser has proven to be very reliable in providing replacement parts over the years. And I’ve always been happy with my HD650/600 cans.
So many good options these days!
Thanks again!


#56

Early returns after 3 days of burn-in: meh. They don’t grab me immediately like the Elear and the HE-560 did, as being terrific sounding. I’ll keep burning them in and give them a chance, but so far I’m not all that impressed with them. Even $1100 is too much for “meh.”


#57

I wasn’t super impressed with them in the limited listening I have had with them. I think mostly due to lack of “quality” time with them though. I enjoy my Elex, but always go back to my HD800 as my go to favorite headphones.


#58

If you like the sound of the Elear without modifications/EQ then it isn’t very surprising that the Clear isn’t doing anything for you. The Elear has significant bass elevation (as much as 6 dB) vs. the Clear, and the Elear also exhibits some nasty mid-range suck-out compared to the Clear. In comparison, the Elear will sound U-shaped … which is almost always perceived as “more exciting” vs. plain neutral (which is basically what the Clear is).

Extra burn-in time is not going to turn the Clear into a more resolving Elear.

If you prefer a U-shaped, W-shaped, bassy-heavy or otherwise non-neutral headphone, the Clear is really not the way to go. Extra burn-in time isn’t going to change their fundamental signature; it’s more likely that your brain will just to how they sound.


#59

Yeah, I think they’re probably going back. Just way too bright. Not sure why people are saying there’s more bass in the Clears than the Elears, because I’m not hearing it.


#60

You are wasting your money and you will be missing a great set of headphones. It takes about 100 hours of burnin time for the Clears to show what they can do.

I hated the sound of the Clears right out of the box. The didn’t sound anything like a $1500 headphone. The sound was worse than any other headphone I owned.

I hooked them up to my laptop and Schiit Audio stack of electronics and allowed Foobar 2000 to play my library of music. It took a week of letting them play 24/7 before the Clear’s performed.

In my case there is no psychological anything involved. I took delivery of the Clears, listened to them and they sounded like crap. I hooked them up as described above and let it play constantly for a week. Then I listened again.

It was a world of difference. The Clears sounded wonderful where before they sounded awful. I have had gear before that required burnin, like my Magnepan speakers, but the Focal Clears were the most extreme example of burning in that I have ever experienced.

Fortunately I have a salesman who advised me to wait the 100 hour period before I made my final judgement on the sound quality of the Clears. They are great headphones. They will not overwhelm you with their sound quality because they are entirely neutral.

If you listen to a high quality music source through the Clears, you will hear what they can do. I can see people who may not like the Focal Clear. That is a shame because they will miss a very good headphone.

I own several other dynamic headphones and the Clears are the best dynamic headphone that I have. In my case I love these cans. I am still a die hard electrostatic headphone fan but when it comes to dynamic headphones, the Clears are a great product.