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review: Focal Spirit One

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
so i've had these for a few days but i finally had a chance to listen to the Focal Spirit 1 for a little bit...awesome way to kick off my Sunday, yes sir!
 
Initial impressions
 
build/finish out-of-the-box impressions: solid, not too heavy, fairly compact, cables just long enough, fits snug but comfortable, don't care for the built microphone/remote control but it has one and works good, great semi-hard carrying case and a nice soft pouch as a bonus.  so far so good
 
travel/portability: great passive noise canceling and not much sound leakage even at fairly high volumes, cables don't get in the way and is the perfect length for putting the iphone/ipod in the pocket comfortably without too much slack getting in the way, not so big and pretty streamlined on my head so i don't look too ridiculous using it on trains/subways (unlike my beyerdynamic t5p...).  the fit is snug out of the box, but not uncomfortable; 1hour of usage and no discount.  overall, good job here!!
 
casual listening on various musical genres: since these are supposed to be used with smart phones (judging by the built in microphone) i plugged it straight into my iPhone un-amped. sound is dry, tight and not overly bright (was a little worried since the Focal Utopia speakers i had in my car back in the day was too bright for my preference).  it's very detailed and analytical but not so much that the music sounds "boring."   initial impressions is that the sound stage is small and the bass is a tad too strong and sloppy/lose, but this may change with a good DAC/amp and some time to burn them in. overall i still like them but they've got to be better for the price range and wearing the Focal logo.
 
a little bit of semi-critical listening (again, straight out of the iPhone)
John Mayer's Gravity: electric bass clearly overpowers guitar...i love the guitar solo in this track but it doesn't sound fat enough with the Focals and the over powering bass distract from the guitar solo. i usually don't pay attention to the drums in this track but i bothered me that the cymbals don't sound natural...they sounded very dry and had no shimmer.  John Meyer's vocal sounds excellent though.
 
Diana Krall's Lets fall in love: with this track i always listen for the position vocal vs the guitar, piano, and double bass.  it's a live recording (maybe from a restaurant/club) and on some headphones/speakers you can pick up on the background chatter/notice...not good for the recording but i use this to see how transparent the headphones/speakers are--definitely could hear it with these cans.  good separation, good image, but the stage isn't wide enough...even for closed back cans.  the walking bass sounds good but again, little strong.  vocal sound excellent and can easily/feel hear Diana Krall's airiness singing style which is lost in some headphones
 
Ashley Alexander's Big Band's That old black magic: i play the trombone and love the instrument and ashley alexnader is one of my favorite modern jazz trombonist.  this is an exciting song with a lot of stuff going on and with lessor headphone/speakers a lot of the detail is lost.  the tonality okay but just not fat enough. it's not great but not also terrible. the kick drum and electric bass used in this song is supposed to be strong and exciting but with the Focals it's really over powering and sloppy. That said, imaging again is good across the sound spectrum. I'm impressed by the fact that I can clearly hear ashley alexander's lip articulations!
 
JJ Johnson's Misty: my all time favorite jazz trombonist...it's not fair for me to listen to this track without letting the Focal's burn in a little because i'm always overly critical with this track.  that said, the Focals does not do this song any justice at all.  the opening solo is not full, dark, and powerful like it should be; tonality is good, but it's just tinny.  the opening solo always sends a tingle down my spine but with the Focals it did not.  piano sounds good but again, the double bass sounds loose and over powering.
 
initial conclusion:
re-reading my comments i was a bit too harsh because i made them appear worse then they really are.  but being that its in the price range of many great sounding headphone and it wears a very high-end audio brand name so i really expected a lot...they still sound good and i feel after some time to burn in they'll sound better.  no doubt the bass will tighten up and stage might open up with a good amp, but i feel since these were designed to be used with phones (hence the build-in microphone) it should perform better straight out of them.  
 
i have them plugged into my current home rig and gonna give them the usual 100hr burn-in and listen again.  i'm always looking for a better option for travel to the beyerdynamic t5p due to its size and heft.  i really want to like these because the size and ergonomics is perfect for traveling...fingers crossed!
 
post #2 of 10
Hi. Have you maybe tried the Sennheiser Momentum? If yes, how would you describe the difference?
post #3 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Speed8009 View Post

Hi. Have you maybe tried the Sennheiser Momentum? If yes, how would you describe the difference?

 

I found them to be more balanced than the Momentum, which I found to have too much bass. The bass on momentum is kind of loose and too much for me. On the spirit one the bass is very punchy, fast, tight, well extended and makes the sound more energetic overall. 

Both spirit one and momentum have a nice natural sound, but the focals would use a little more texture in the voices. 

Both have a very good midrange.  The treble seems a little more defined on the Focals and has more spark than the Momentum, but is not bright or sibilant.

 

I compared the Akg K550 with the momentums here. I really wanted to like the momentums and get rid of k550 due to the isolation/clamping force issue, but they did not convince me to give up on k550. 

 

When I compared the Spirit One with the K550, I ended up selling the AKGs.

post #4 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan.gheorghe View Post

Both spirit one and momentum have a nice natural sound

 

Agreed

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dan.gheorghe View Post

I found them to be more balanced than the Momentum, which I found to have too much bass. 

I had the opposite experience. I felt the Momentums were more balanced, and the Focals had a stronger bass emphasis. 

My ears agreed with these graphs:

 

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post

Agreed

 

I had the opposite experience. I felt the Momentums were more balanced, and the Focals had a stronger bass emphasis. 

My ears agreed with these graphs:

 

 

I tested the momentum on fiio e17, dragonfy and burson conductor. On every one of them I felt the bass was too much and a little loose. Maybe the fact that the spirit ones' bass is faster and tigther made me like it more. I just love the bas on the focals. While I found the bass from momentum tiresome, this did not happen with the focals.

 

And regarding the graphs:

 

Here is the freq response from innerfidelity for the focals:

 

And here is the graph from innerfidelity for Momentum:

 

 

 

The focals are a little more present on the bass but not in tiresome way.

 

I have LCD2 too and don't feel it to have too much bass because it has a tight well extended bass.

 

Now let's look at the 30 hz square wave response at the momentum:

 

 

and at the focals:

 

 

 

 

From what I understood from innerfidelity again, the focals 30 hz square response shows a very tight, slamming bass, tighter than momentums, confirming my findings in this regard.


Edited by dan.gheorghe - 3/12/13 at 8:23am
post #6 of 10

I listen to my Momentum through my PA2V2 which is a tiny bit bass lean, which seems to work really well.

 

If it wasn't for the number of reports of quality control with the Focal I might have considered it more seriously, but I still like it's sound. More than the UE6000 and AKG K550. 
But I liked the Sony MDR-1R more, so it was between that and the Momentum.

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post

I listen to my Momentum through my PA2V2 which is a tiny bit bass lean, which seems to work really well.

 

If it wasn't for the number of reports of quality control with the Focal I might have considered it more seriously, but I still like it's sound. More than the UE6000 and AKG K550. 
But I liked the Sony MDR-1R more, so it was between that and the Momentum.

 

From my understanding, they had a small percentage of headphones with problems in the first batch, but that was fixed, so the new ones should not have any problems:

 

 

 

Quote:
Conclusions
It saddens me no end that what would have otherwise been a remarkable first entry into the headphone market by Focal has been marred by a glitch in the manufacturers process. Thankfully, that appears to be behind us now, the problem has been identified and eradicated, and Focal has all the pieces in place to ensure everyone who purchased their Spirit One headphone will end up with a nice piece of kit.
post #8 of 10

I've looked at quite a lot of 50Hz Square Waves from a number of high end headphone that I really like, and none of them 'measure as well' as the Focal One.

 

My point is that measurements don't tell the whole story, and my ears simply didn't like the Focal bass as much as others.

Also if a headphone is too fast/tight, it can sound unnatural. Acoustic sounds require a certain level of decay. For example Grados measure terribly in some aspects, but their decay and timbre is sublime.


Edited by GREQ - 3/12/13 at 9:55am
post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan.gheorghe View Post

 

I tested the momentum on fiio e17, dragonfy and burson conductor. On every one of them I felt the bass was too much and a little loose. Maybe the fact that the spirit ones' bass is faster and tigther made me like it more. I just love the bas on the focals. While I found the bass from momentum tiresome, this did not happen with the focals.

 

And regarding the graphs:

 

Here is the freq response from innerfidelity for the focals:

 

And here is the graph from innerfidelity for Momentum:

 

 

 

The focals are a little more present on the bass but not in tiresome way.

 

I have LCD2 too and don't feel it to have too much bass because it has a tight well extended bass.

 

Now let's look at the 30 hz square wave response at the momentum:

 

 

and at the focals:

 

 

 

 

From what I understood from innerfidelity again, the focals 30 hz square response shows a very tight, slamming bass, tighter than momentums, confirming my findings in this regard.

Thanks for the review sir.


Edited by rahulsharma - 3/23/13 at 10:57am
post #10 of 10

Thats a very impressive 30Hz square wave result.

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