Focal Utopia Open-Back Headphones - Official Thread

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#61

Great! I hope so. Thanks for for letting me know


#62

There was some treble smearing imo but who knows you may like that kind of sound. But even I admit the Utopia’s treble response isn’t particularly airy nor sparkly. It’s the upper mid tone that gets really aggressive which I think the Hugo 2 does smooth over a bit.


#64

For those interested in reading more about the Utopia, @Ishcabible has written a very comprehensive review of them, including some history and real world comparisons!

Even if you’re not planning on buying, it’s an excellent read. You can find it on the main headphone.com site here.


#65

@Ishcabible Nice write-up! I appreciate that you always give a sober view of the equipment you review and don’t just gush unqualifiedly.

I’ve noticed that you seem sensitive to timbre and find the Utopia, HE-6 and IIRC LCD2C unnatural in one way or another. What’s the highest end headphone that you’ve heard get timbre right?


#66

Honestly, I’ve yet to hear any headphone get timbre right. The HD650 is closer than basically any flagship to me. The HE1000 V1 is pretty good because the softness kind of distracts you from the overly lively low treble and provides a similar intimacy as the 650 but even that sounds off. The SR-007 MKI is also up there but the bass presentation and spatial presentation ruin it for me.

Though they’re probably the closest. The other flagship headphones I can think of off the top of my head other than the HD800 and HE6:

SR-009 sounds super plasticky and artificial. (Stax in general are a hard pass from me because the have this ethereal presentation that sounds way weird to me and distracts me enough that I can’t ever enjoy my music using Stax)
Ether Flow honestly sounds like a headphone in the HD558 tier or lower because nothing about it sounds right to me; timbre is the worst offender though. It sounds like comparing a grand piano to a low end keyboard when you listen for timbre. I can see people enjoying the sound signature but it makes more sense to me to buy a used HE500 while they’re still around because that sounds much better to me for like, a fifth of the price and goes for a relatively similar sound.
LCD2, 3, and X all need a lot more presence to sound normal for me but I did like my LCD3 Pre-Fazor’s midrange coloration a lot.
T1 variation bugged me as the two pairs I’ve owned and the other pairs I’ve heard all sounded different from each other but consistently were either too dry or too warm.
K812 reminded me of the HD800 but did everything worse and harsher.
Eikon timbre is really interesting because while it’s not totally natural, it’s obvious that Zach was going for a particular sound because it colors vocals and guitars in a way that no headphone can match for me. It’s not totally accurate but it’s super fun.
TH900’s low midrange utterly kills them for me because male vocals and low strings sound totally lifeless to me.
Grados…aren’t really worth mentioning honestly. I like the SR and RS series for my middle school throwback punk music because they sound so raw and aggressive but they fall way short for actual tonal accuracy. I haven’t heard the PS series but the GS1000 was super confusing in that it no longer had the fun 2k spike and traded that in for a looot of mid-treble. Not a fan.
The HD800S is pretty much like the 800 but muddier and grainier.
The D7200…needs a midrange. I’m hoping the D9200 improves on that.
The TakeT H2+ kinda sounded tonally like those 90s hifi component things so their midrange was super lacking but the presentation was super holographic and fun.
The Z1R’s midrange sounded like a telephone.

I’m probably forgetting some; if you want to know what I think of anything else I’ve probably heard it as long as it was released before last year. The LCD4, Susvara, and a couple other newer flagships are still on my radar to hear. I have an Ananda and DT1990 on loan from some friends coming in the next week though, but I’d be surprised if either displaced even the HD650. I’m more hopeful for the Ananda though.


#67

Wow, ask and ye shall receive! I have heard A LOT fewer headphones than you, and no current flagships. I have heard a handful of headphones more expensive than the 6X0 series and they did all have some tonality issue or another. I currently have an LCD2C and HD58X. I used to love the LCD2C but now whenever I listen to it it sounds wrong, and I’m back to the Sennheiser.


#68

BTW, I find it odd that a lot of headphone reviews mention timbre only in passing, if at all. I’ve personally gotten to the point where decent timbre is a prerequisite. I don’t even find it that genre specific, as even electronic music will incorporate some acoustic instruments here and there, and if those sound obviously wrong it spoils the experience for me.


#69

What’s a good adapter to use to connect the Utopias to the QP2R balanced input? The Utopia has a 6.35mm male jack and the QP2R is a 2.5mm balanced output. I have not been able to find an appropriate adapter to make this connection. Thanks.


#70

You will need a balanced cable for your Utopia first. Those will most commonly have a 4-pin XLR on the end (though you could do dual 3-pin XLR or 4.4mm TRRRS or go straight to a 2.5mm TRRS termination).

Once you have a balanced cable on the headphones, then adapters are easy to find.

The reason you can’t find an adapter to go from 2.5mm TRRS (balanced) to 6.5mm TRS is because it would short out the amplifier in the QP2R and probably damage it.


#71

Thank you very much for this. Any suggestions for a balanced cable for the Utopia? I’m afraid I am quite a novice with respect to headphone and your advice is greatly appreciated.

Sunil


#72

It’s hard to make specific suggestions for such a cable.

The stuff I have direct experience with ranges from expensive to insane, in terms of prices, and oddly the ones I liked best (and that I thought looked the prettiest and were the most nicely constructed) were the “cheapest” ones. But in this case “cheapest” was still >$600.

And the cheaper stuff I’ve not tried.

Very plain-looking, but functional, cables can be had from Moon Audio. They can build pretty much anything you need, including adapters. I’m not a fan of their appearance, or the way the cable feels, but they do a good job and will stand behind what they build.

Bear in mind you’re going to pay about an $80-100 premium over the normal prices of most cables just to get official LEMO connectors (which is what the Utopia use), so don’t let that throw you off ($80 would be at cost for those connectors).

Probably the best-best from the boutique builders are Norne Audio. They’re the least expensive of the “big boys”, but beautifully made, aesthetically gorgeous, with first-rate materials/connectors and lots of sensible options. Though you’ll wait anywhere from 4-12 weeks to get your cable.

The sky is the limit from there.

You can also have someone re-terminate (and shorten if you want) the stock Utopia cable for 4-pin XLR and then use adapters from there to get to the 2.5mm TRRS connection for the QP2R.

I run into cable issues so much that I designed my own line of modular cables. And generally I think DIY is the most effective way to go here if you can.


#73

Thanks for all your help. I have a limited budget of about $800. Does it make sense to first buy a headphone amp before getting the cables? I’m wondering if this would give me more bang for the buck.


#74

If you’re using the QP2R as the source, then I would NOT add an external amplifier to drive the Utopia. Doing so will defeat one of the major selling points of the QP2R - which is its current-mode amplification (unless you go with another Questyle or a Bakoon amplifier).

Besides which, you shouldn’t need the extra power (QP2R can push the Utopia to 120 dB). I would just turn on “High Bias” and “High Gain” for now, and then hunt about for a suitable balanced cable for the Utopia*.

If you are using other sources or more demanding headphones, then an amplifier may be useful. I’d have to know what configurations (sources, headphones and amps) are involved to say anything more specific.

And if you’re using the QP2R both as a portable and as a desktop USB/DAC then it might be worth looking at getting the dock for the QP2R and using the output on that to feed an external amplifier - as that will yield much better results than trying to take the 2.5mm or 3.5mm outputs from the QP2R and driving an amplifier directly from those.


(*I can’t speak to their quality, but it seems you can get a 2.5mm TRRS balanced to Utopia cable from various vendors, including on eBay for as little as $120 or so).


#75

Thanks once more. I guess I’ll just look at the balanced cables in that case and forget about the Amp. I’m just using the QP2R and the Utopias. I have contacted Norne Audio as you recommended and am waiting for their reply.

All the best,

Sunil