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Focal Spirit One Headphones

Posted

Pros: Warm, good bass, feel sturdy, good aesthetics, detachable cable, nice included accessories and case

Cons: Not actually circumaural, cheap cables, overbearing clamping force, highs can be shrill

I was overall unimpressed with the Focal Spirit One cans.  I'm hardly a connoisseur of headphones, but I was let down a bit by the sound and the manufacturer's advertising.

 

I compared these to my reference headphones, which are at the moment a pair of Sony MDR-V6.  I would be comparing them to some Denon AH-D950s from ~2000, but they are (alas) broken.  My overall impression of the Focal Spirit One is this: good, but you can find much better for less money.

 

The Sound:

I found the sound to be pleasant - it leans toward warm with very pronounced bass characteristics; the bass sometimes got in the way of the rest of what I was listening to, but always felt tight and accurate.  I was disappointed that the low end was not as fulfilling depth-wise as the Sony's - the Spirit One's bass did not carry as low or as smoothly, but was certainly emphasized more.  It was easy to hear the difference between the booming sound of the Focal and the quieter, deeper feel of the Sony.  I did find the mids to be much more present in the Spirit One's as compared to the Sony's - where sometimes the MDR-V6 could leave me wanting to hear more, the Spirit One's filled in the range well.  I did find the Focal set to be shrill at times on the high end, but never tinny - the Sony's were more accurate at the highs, but the Focal's were louder and fuller sounding with snares, etc; I couldn't seem to hear as much of the small details in the high end on the Focal.  I missed the accuracy and very neutral response of the Sony's, all in all - the sound from the Focal Spirit One is somewhat boomy and loud, emphasizing the lower end of the spectrum.  The sound stage was quite compressed, as expected from them being closed - the feeling was one of isolation and a very small venue.  I listened with an LG G2 with/without an amp (analog), from a Lenovo T430s without an amp (analog), and from my desktop with my portable amp (SPDIF) and my Yamaha receiver (SPDIF).  I found that the sound was most certainly enhanced by having an amp (bass is a bit out of control without one) - portable amp was a FiiO E07K; the Yamaha was not a noticeable improvement over the FiiO, overall.

 

The Fit and Build:

The Focal's hurt.  I have large ears, and Focal bills these cans as over-ear (circumaural).  Let me clear that up right now: they are in no way circumaural, with the possible exception of those under 10 years old.  Adult ears will not be enclosed by the pads - the pads rest on the ears, most certainly, and thanks to the huge clamping force they hurt after only a few minutes.  The pads are by no means soft, really, as they are quite stiff and smooth - unknown if they would soften over time.  Headband has plenty of adjustment, the set is light and conveys a well-constructed feel, and the aesthetic is polite and inoffensive, if modern.  I did not like the included cables - they feel cheap and low quality, though they seem to have a textured sleeve around them which will probably lend them durability.  The cables seem to stay in place nicely and aren't loose at all.  I also noticed no rattles or unexpected vibrations.  Ambient isolation is superb, thanks in part to the clamping force and deep, stiff pads.

 

Conclusion:

I was left wanting after listening to the Focal Spirit One.  The Sony's trademark neutrality was missed greatly, the un-amplified playback was miserable (although expected), the fit on the ears was painful even for short sessions, and the highs were not consistent.

Posted

Pros: excellent, fast, punchy and well extended bass; lush and present mid-range ; meaty and natural sound ; good treble with no harshness or sibilance ; very fast and energetic sound (excellent PRAT); very good isolation; good overall build quality; excellent for portable use; detachable cables

Cons: the sound is a a little congested; voices could use more texture ; could be uncomfortable for many

The Focal Spirit One really took me by surprise.

 

A friend of mine praised them a lot so I asked him to lend them to me for a little test.

 

When I opened Focal Spirit Ones’ case, I found 2 detachable cables, one for smartphones with volume control, and one for normal usage, a 3.5 to 6.3 jack converter, a small bag for easy carrying and of these.

These headphones look really good and feel sturdy. It has a lot of plastic but it feels well built and has some metal parts. All the grey parts from this picture are metal:

focal1

The cable is not as thin as I have seen at other headphones and has a nice and sturdy feel.

When I first put them on the head I observed they have a very good grip and a strong clamping force. I started listening to them. My first impression was not so good, and my ears started hurting. The cups aren’t so big and they apply pressure on the ears. I don’t have big ears, but they still get pressed by the cushions. I never had problems with a headphone before.

People said Grado RS2i wasn’t comfortable, but I wore them with no problems for hours, they said LCD2 is too tight and heavy, I had no problem with them whatsoever. Well, for the first time my ears really felt uncomfortable with the focals. I did not like it and put the headphones back into their box. Started listening to some Aurvana Live and thought it sounds better. After a while I thought I might give the Spirit One a second chance.
I put them on and started working.

They started growing on me.  After a few hours I realized I like them a lot. They have a lovely PRAT and a very interesting sound.

It has a fast and very engaging sound.

The bass is very fast, punchy, well extended and tight.

The mids are lush and have enough details to make you get goosebumps on a nice song.

The treble is ok, it has the necessary spark, but is not hot and it has no sign of sibilance.

The sound is a little congested but it is not bothering me that much.

After a few hours I realized the grip and the tension in the pads loosened up and the comfort wasn’t  a problem anymore. I prefer a strong grip to make a good seal, instead of the loose one AKG K550 has.

Speaking of the seal, the Spirit One offers a very good one and thus a very good isolation from outside noise.

I started a little comparison to k550. I felt the AKGs to be technically superior in some aspects, with a wider soundstage, more details, better instrument separation, and a little more present sub-bas.

However, I found myself listening more with the Spirit Ones and forgetting about theK550.

I really had a rough time at work lately. My main project started to be tested for production. My first test went like this:

testing

And then came the bug report:

dog

But after working hard:

code-30

I managed to fix almost all of them.

So after this… I felt like I deserved something to cheer me up and these wonderful new toys were the perfect candidate :D

Well, in 2 days, the headphones convinced me, I thanked the friend who lent them to me, I gave them back and went to Jack-fi to buy a new pair for myself :D .

I bought the headphones and started to make a more thorough comparison to AKG K550, to see if I would keep them too or If I would sell them. All the tests were made withBurson Conductor on low gain .

Here are my impressions of the two on some songs:

 

Michael Jackson- Man in the mirror

On spirit one, the sound was warmer, the voice is more natural and present on some level though not as resolute. On the K550 the treble was more detailed and the soundstage wider, but there was sibilance present which is annoying after a while, and it can get tiresome.

 

AC/DC – Gone Shooting

Really love the PRAT and the bass with the Focals. The bass is very present, well extended and fast. These cans do know how to rock.
On K550 I felt the sub-bass a little better than with the Focals. Again the sound was more opened and more detailed. The voice had more body, and it was more resolute but not as natural as with the Spirit One. The treble is hotter on K550. I enjoyed this song more with Spirit One.

 

The Spirit of the Gambo – La gambo in Tenor (Classical)

Even if the Spirit One is more congested than the K550, i enjoyed the overall performance on this song. The sound was natural, the gambo more present in a way than on the K550. However the akgs won on this song due to the bigger soundstage, better instrument separation,more details and, also the instruments had more resolution. Thek550 is a better performer overall with classical music than the spirit one.

 

Infected Mushroom – Wanted to

This song has some awesome bass on it.

The bass on K550 was excellent and even if the song was very demanding, the akgs did not have a problem with it. The bass hit fast, low and threw an awesome punch. The song was very enjoyable, but at the end when the instruments and sounds got crowded, I felt it necessary to lower the volume a little due to the hot treble.

The Spirit One was awesome with this song too. The sound was more meaty and the bass had more impact. I love the bass control on the spirit one. The sound was very veryengaging. Again the voices were more natural on the focals. I ended up liking the Spirit One more on this one.

 

Ana Caram – Blue Bossa

The Spirit One gave the voice a very natural and warm presentation. The midrange was very lush and the sound was like hot melted milk chocolate. The guitars were amazing and the overall sound gave me goosebumps.

The AKGs presentation was nice too. The sound was more opened again and it had more details. The voice had a better resolution and you could hear the sound coming from her throat, but it was not as natural as with the Spirit One.

Both sound presentations were very good but I still preferred the more lush and natural approach.

The voices on spirit one are nice, natural and very enjoyable, but they could use more texture.

 

ATB – Addicted to Music

Ok…The sound very opened for a closed headphone, I can give AKG that. The bas was nice and impactful, but the treble was very annoying on this song. It was too hot and very very sibilant.

On Spirit One the song was just fine. The sibilance was almost gone and the treble was in acceptable levels. The midrange was very nice and more present, as the treble did not ran over it as it did on the k550. The bass was as always very good and engaging. Really loved this song on the Spirit One.

 

When I bought the AKG K550, I bought it for office use and it did its job very well for a while. However the hot treble can get a little tiresome sometime and doesn’t help you to concentrate on your work. Another thing I dislike about the K550 is the seal. To get a perfect seal I had to put an elastic over my head and that is not cool :P .
One other thing is portability, and their size doesn’t make them a very portable headphone. Whenever I went somewhere other than my workplace I preferred taking myCreative Aurvana Live because they were smaller.

They are very good headphones and one of the best closed ones I have heard.

I haven’t heard any other closed headphone to have such a good soundstage. It also has a lot of details and the midrange is very present. The bass is very well extended, fast and deep. I actually think that it has a little more sub-bass than the Spirit One.

The Focal Spirit One was a very nice surprise. I did not expect it to perform so well. It has a wonderful prat, nice fast, deep and well extended bass. The midrange is present and lush. It also has a meaty sound which I love. The seal and grip are very good and provides a very good isolation. The treble is ok and not hot or sibilant at all. The sound is very energetic and engaging.

It has a very well balanced sound.

If you remember, I have made a comparison between the akg K550 and the sennheiser momentum, and overall I preferred the K550, because I found the momentum to have too much bass for my tastes.
The sennheiser momentum sound is similar to the Spirit Ones‘ and maybe has a bit more detailed sound and refined, but the bass on spirit one is much tighter, faster and  the overall sound is more engaging.

I really wanted to like Senheiser Momentum more than the AKG K550, and buy a pair, to solve my portability and seal issue, but that did not happen then.

On the other hand, after 2 days with Focal Spirit One I decided to buy one :D .

Now I have a very engaging headphone which I can carry with me easily wherever I go. The seal is good and I think they can be used on an airplane with no problem.

Pros:

  • excellent, fast, punchy and well extended bass
  • lush and present mid-range
  • meaty and natural sound
  • good treble with no harshness or sibilance
  • very fast and energetic sound (excellent PRAT)
  • very good isolation 
  • good overall build quality
  • excellent for portable use
  • detachable cables

Cons:

  • the sound is a a little congested
  • voices could use more texture
  • could be uncomfortable for many

Since I have the Focals, K550 gets less and less head-time, and I decided to sell them after all.

The Spirit One sounds very nice from Fiio E17 and my Galaxy S smartphone as well.

For their first headphone on the market, Focal really did a very good job and I must congratulate them for it!

Their new titanium driver really brings something to the table and it feels it has a lot of potential. I am anxious to see what new headphones Focal will get out, as I am sure this is not their last one.

Posted

Pros: Clear bass, excellent build. Lively presentation.

Cons: Overly bright. Synthetic sound.

Very good headphones if you want something fun, lively and bassy. I was really impressed at first but with time I started to notice the short comings. Although relatively open sounding the sound is quite synthetic, almost forced. They do not give an accurate representation of the material listened to but that is not to say they do not give an enjoyable performance. Bass is well defined and lively, maybe too lively. 

If you are after some 'truth' in your closed back headphones then I would steer clear of these. If you are looking for something fun then I would recommend giving these a try!

Focal Spirit One Headphones
By:
Description:

Designed for the discriminating listener who demands the finest personal sound experience possible; Focal's new Spirit One headphone combines space age materials, 32-years of acoustic industry leadership, and a dash of French design flair to create a luxury experience sure to delight your senses. With its aluminum billet "Made for iPhone telephony controls and clear sound microphone capsule located on its acoustically damped modular signal cable, you'll hear perfect telephone conversations from both cups, as well as world class musical fidelity thanks to 40mm sculpted mylar-titanium driver elements. Sold with an attractive hard case, cloth bag and a full compliment of accessories, and backed by a two-year parts and labor warranty, your Spirit One will become your trusted travel companion for years to come. Listening to your music everywhere in your everyday environment, it's now possible. Focal-JMlab has the solution to bring a quality sound in any room in your home (living-room, bedroom, Hall, kitchen etc.), in your garden, in your car or in your professional studio. Innovation is pushing the envelope. Focal permanently invents new solutions to integrate a hifi quality sound whatever the conditions, in-wall, on-wall or in-ceiling loudspeakers. And everything becomes possible. Since 1979, Focal-JMlab is one of the world leaders of the High End acoustic loudspeakers. 30 years to fight our values, to keep our production in France and to stand up for the idea of a luxury à la française. Innovation, tradition, be the world's best in everything we create for your pleasure, that's Focal philosophy; the Spirit of Sound.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandFocal
ColorBlack
EAN3544051725002
FeatureSealed-back, Circumaural Design . 40mm Sculpted Cavity Mylar Titanium Diaphragm. Modular Single sided, acoustically damped signal cable with integrated microphone & made for iPhone, iPod, iPad controls. Comfort-Fit Aluminum Framed Pentagraph Headband Design with Gimbaled Earcups. Fully Accessorized (Hard Case, Travel bag, Airplane Adaptor, 1/8 to 1/4 Jack Adaptor) .
LabelFocal
ManufacturerFocal
Model529102-SPOH
MPN529102-SPOH
PublisherFocal
StudioFocal
TitleFocal 529102-SPOH Spirit One Headphones
SKUFCL-SPIRIT ONE
CatalogNumberList - CatalogNumberListElementjmlspirone
Item Height2.5 inches
Item Length8.5 inches
Item Weight0.5 pounds
Item Width8.5 inches
Package Height2.9 inches
Package Length9 inches
Package Weight2 pounds
Package Width8.4 inches
PackageQuantity1
PartNumber529102-SPOH
ProductGroupCE
ProductTypeNameHEADPHONES
ProductTypeSubcategory2302726
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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