Pros: Portability, removable cable, energetic sound, clean sound, vocals sound excellent, aesthetics are nice.
Cons: Hot to wear for long-term, discomfort on ears from long-term listening, highs roll off early.
Tonal Balance: Warm with prominent mids.
Preferred Genres: Warm slow moving electronic music, hip-hop and warm jazz.
Amp: Recommended, bass can seem a bit uncontrolled without one.
Listening Set-up: iTunes -> ODAC -> O2
Coming from a French company, the fashion capital of the world, it doesn’t surprise me that the packaging for the Spirit One is attractive. Sleek and informative, the white and black packaging would grab my eye if I saw it on the shelf. The front and back of the thick cardboard box shows a picture of the Spirit One on a clean white background, each showing a different angle, which is accented by a black bottom portion that shows the company name and their catchphrase. The sides show tech specs as well as included accessories.
A black cardboard box slides out from the bottom of the outer shell and exposes a carrying case which houses the Spirit One and the accessories. The accessories include: A service manual, a soft carrying bag, ¼ jack adaptor, an airline adaptor, and an adaptor jack for jacks that don’t work with 3 ringed jacks.
Build Quality and Design
As with the packaging the Spirit One carry a sense of elegance about them, minimalistic and modern the Spirit One are eye catchers. The headphones seem to be made primarily from a lightweight metal, possibly aluminum, with rubberized plastic. The shiny metal parts accent the matte rubberized black portions nicely creating a nice contrast. Focal is printed in black on the vertical pivot joints while the ear indicator is printed in white on the metal part of the ear cup. The headband is a rubberized plastic with light padding at the top. The pads are made of a fake leather that feels soft and is accented by red mesh that covers the drivers.
The look is sleek and the build quality matches. The headphones have a good weight to them that creates a feeling of durability and all of the hinges move smooth and quietly. The removable cable is a nice touch as these are meant for portable use. This makes for easy cable swapping in-case the cable is damage while in transit.
Once put on the headphones block a good amount of sound, on par with IEMs I’ve used with double flanged tips. The overhead and standing fan I have in my room are largely blocked out and the TV has certainly become quieter, though the dialogue is able to be understood. The Spirit One clamp enough to create some discomfort during prolonged usage, but usually my ears are hot before the comfort becomes a problem. On top of that, or should I say on top of my head, there is a mild pressure on top of my head. The padding is not enough to dissipate the weight.
The Spirit One are one of the few headphones that I’ve noticed significant changes with over the time I’ve used them. I highly recommend a period of use to allow them to grow into the warm and full sound that they are capable of. I also recommend an amp as I feel they are lacking when paired directly with an iPod.
The lows are the driving force behind the Spirit One, as it seems to be with many headphones these days. Most headphones suffer from mid-bass bleed, or sluggish response though. The Spirit One are not one of these headphones. The bass is capable of digging very low, though never enough to create more than a slight rumble. The sub-bass is clean though, no hints of distortion, allowing for every aspect of the bass to be heard, even subtle changes that may occur. It’s probably an odd thing to say, but by that I mean to say that the sub-bass comes off as very detailed. Not only is the sub-bass clean and detailed, but boy it’s quick. Listening to rapid quavers in James Blake’s Limit to Your Love has never sounded better. Smooth, warm and clean. Boy is it balanced nicely with the vocals also, James voice is just a touch more forward than the bass. Controlled, full, and satisfying are more words that fit perfectly with the sub-bass of the Spirit One.
The mid-bass is clean as well, with a rounded feel to it. Kick drums seem smoothed out instead of sharp and harsh that they can come off. This is a double edged sword though as the kick drum sounds a bit underwater. It doesn’t work well for fast paced indie rock, but it works well for slow moving electronic music with a sub-bass focus. The bass suits hip-hop as well, though it feels a bit soft for some harder beats. Despite that, the mid-bass is controlled and never bleeds into the mids, my only complaint is that it could use more punch.
The mids are full and clean with a warmth to them that fills out the sound. From soul to pop, vocals sound excellent. The vocals come off as laid back, which fits with the feel of the bass. By that I mean that I find that the vocals shine with singers who sing. That sounds odd, but by that I mean that vocals sound best on these when they aren’t moving rapidly. I have hip-hop and rap listed as good genres and I do feel they sound good through these. I do feel, though, that stuff like Frank Ocean, with his soulful voice, really allows the mids to shine on the Spirit One.
I’m painting a picture that the Spirit One have a narrow focus, that isn’t necessarily true. Sara Bareilles sounds good, the sibilant heavy recordings on her first album are more than bearable due to the tamed upper mids and highs, and pop hits like Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe exhibit the same clean qualities other songs have shown.
The biggest flaw I find in the Spirit One are the laid back highs. In tracks that aren’t focused on the lows to mids I find that many details are hard to hear, often pushed into the background. The mids and highs also lack that energetic sparkle that brings pop music and rock to life. For example, listening to Pink Floyd’s Money the horns seem as if they are in a canyon between the driving bass line and the sparse guitar riffs. The highs are crystal clear, but they lack much presence.
For a closed headphone the Spirit One have a great presentation. The sound is presented as if I am in an intimate venue. The imaging is great on the Spirit One and instruments have their space, I never feel that the music is congested, rather I find it to be immersive. Very well done.
At first I very much so disliked the Spirit One. The sound was plasticy with a thumping mid-bass that filled up the soundstage. After some burn in and proper amping the Spirit One have become one of my favorite specialized headphones. Yes, the Spirit One are specialized headphones. They cater towards slow moving electronic music such as Balam Acab or the warm and fuzzy jazz guitar of Wes Montgomery. That’s not a bad thing though, as the Spirit One cater to these genres very well. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the Spirit One for various genres, but I’m lucky enough to have some great headphones that do those genres better.
If stuff like Balam Acab or Wes Montgomery are up your alley then these are a great choice for you. If you’re looking for a portable closed headphone that looks and sounds great then consider the Spirit One. The Spirit One are available on Amazon for $239 and at that price I feel these are very competitive to other closed headphones I’ve heard.
More photos here.