Focal Elear

General Information

Manufacturer's Description:

Elear are audiophile open-backed headphones manufactured in France by Focal. Inspired by the best technology and acoustic research that went into designing Utopia, our flagship headphones, they offer truly exceptional performance. The mechanical design provides remarkably smooth and seamless style due to the solid aluminium yoke. They also feature memory foam ear cushions for maximum comfort, an essential quality for long listening sessions. Finally, the exclusive speaker drivers with their aluminium/magnesium ‘M’-shaped domes enable Elear to provide strikingly realistic sound. Be inspired by the sound of a high-fidelity system with a pair of Elear headphones, for hours of listening pleasure.

Latest reviews

Pros: Outstanding bass, mids, sub-bass, comfort, practical, looks, overall sound, very enjoyable, dynamics, punchy, lively, stunning impact and slam
Cons: Some creakiness, not the most airiest or biggest sound stage, not the most detailed or fastest cans, can sound a little harsh when pushed, maybe clamping
My audio connective trail and setup:

16 & 24-Bit WAV lossless files,

Foobar2000 with WASAPI event output,

Digital optical toslink cable,

Gustard DAC-X10 (with a HiFi Tuning internal fuse) connected to a custom solid core silver power cable,

custom pure silver XLR cable/Oyaide Neo d+ class B XLR cable,

S.M.S.L SAP-10 amplifier connected to a custom SOLID CORE PURE SILVER 99.999% 5N 2MM 12 AWG power cable,

all connected to a custom Russ Andrews Yello power mains extension with a Supra gold plated UK mains plug with a gold plated AMR fuse inside.


Hi everyone.

I will keep this brief initially and will update in time.

My cans have been burned in for a minimum of 75 hours, I have heard them with their stock single-ended cable but mainly through a custom XLR cable. I have also heard it on my previous audio set-ups, see my previous equipment if you wish.

I'll start with saying the box is massive but they keep the cans well protected during transit. I believe the stock cable is too long but at least it is shielded.
I really like the looks of the Elear, large but classy. Understated but with some bling.
The build quality is good but just like their Utopia, there is some creaking from the headband/yokes. But at least the yokes are metal, take note HiFiMan with your poor and cheap plastic yoke/headband parts.
I find them comfortable with a good seal, the ear pads are just excellent.
I do not find them too heavy, unlike Audeze LCD cans. Sorry.
The weight is distributed well and the ear pads are easily replaceable too. Credit to Focal here, take note Audeze with your ear pads connecting via sticky rims.
I also love the fact that they have 2x 3.5mm ports for the cable, great possibilities for cable rolling : ) More credit and thanks to Focal, take note Grado for goodness sake and start making cans with detachable cables.

I found these cans to be very lively, punchy and dynamic. Very present bass but not the fastest, I believe Grado cans are the fastest. Good extension and sub-bass, these are probably a warm sounding can.
Mids and vocals are great, good detail and authenticity.
There is a peak in the highs like pretty much all cans but these are not bright headphones. It has good clarity and great separation, again like the Utopia not the largest sound stage (the Sennheiser HD 800 are the king) and not the most airiest (the Grado GS1000/GS2000 are exceptional cans here).
These have a more forward sound, more intimate but the Elear are just very enjoyable to listen to. Full of bounce and life, they are not analytical cans and are not boring. They present music in a joyous manner. These cans make you tap your feet, nod your head and just enjoy : )
They are also very easy to drive, they got pretty loud out of my iPhone 3GS (which I just use as an iPod for my earphones)!

They are not reference or flagship cans, nor do they pretend to be but these are great open back dynamic cans that are decent value, comfortable, practical, well thought out, look great and sound very pleasing indeed.
What more do you want? Have a listen if you can, I'm sure most of you will really like them as I do.

Update 1.
Listening with this setup:
Digital optical toslink cable,
Cambridge Audio DacMagic with a linear 12v AC 2000ma power supply,
a custom 6 core pure silver litz RCA cable,
Graham Slee Solo with PSU1.

On long listening sessions I find that the Elear's clamp a bit more than most other cans, something to consider maybe.
The treble can sound a little harsh when pushed, for those 2 reasons I have to deduct half a star sadly to be fair to my other reviews.
Holy moly, the bass on these things are just epic! Supremely powerful, stunning impact and slam! Great presence and drive, there is a smoothness and fullness to the bass. Excellent texture and detail on the lows. Are these cans really open back?!
Quite incredible. Definitely some of the best bass I have ever heard on any headphone.
These things are alive and kicking bass!
Pros: A paltry $699 new right now (Sep 2017)
Dynamics, realism, substance,and accuracy
Does the low and midrange regions like few other phones can.
Cons: could stand just a little more top end sparkle and air, but then they'd be exactly like the Utopia's I guess.
Their greatest attribute is the dynamic rendering of instruments; capturing their natural qualities, that add to the sense of musical realism. That is a very important ingredient to me personally in music listening, that keeps be from becoming bored, or fatigued by the job the headphones are doing, and staying involved in listening. Many phones I used sounded rounded over, laid-back, veiled, and obscure the reverberant artifacts that accompany what a real piano, acoustic guitar, saxophone, crash cymbals, chimes, etc. sound like in person. When listening to Trane or Bird, you feel like they are playing sax for you, right in front of you. Concert piano pieces capture the whole space around the instrument, and the reflective harmonics of the hall and stage. Elear presents it with a more convincingly complete rendition than I've heard other phones attempt to do. You feel like you are listening to the performance, not a hi-res recording of it. It also means that you don’t need to crank these cans up too loud to hear the nuances that have been shielded from you with other phones; they are served up to you without requiring harmful volume levels. That is something that needs to be understood by anyone using Focal’s. You are no longer struggling to “hear into” the music so hard anymore to discover all those tasty, delicious morsels of detail underneath. Because they are not buried under the hazy shroud, those details are exposed and conveyed with ease by these drivers.


I feel they are just shy of being completely tonally neutral, maybe just a bit weighted to the warm side depending on what you are driving them with. Because they do bass instruments so well it messes with my perception that they are dark sounding because I find myself listening (concentrating?) so keenly to that register in music to see what I've been missing in familiar tracks with my other phones. Its ability to plumb the extended depths of bass lines and bring back nuances that are rolled off by other headsets that makes this sound like it's slanted to a darker profile. Now I do wish it had a bit more in the upper treble region. So if I had anything I'd balance to the spectrum is that I wish that region had more inclusion to the whole profile. The other thing that would make these better phones would be expanding the soundstage width and height, possibly by angling the drivers differently. For open-backs, they don’t have the expansive soundstage that is typically a strength of OB’s. The imaging is fine, just emanating a bit “close to your head”. The depth of the stage is wonderful. So while not a perfect set of headphone’s the Elear has so many things it does well, I can’t niggle too much for a set of $700 phones (yes that’s right, not $1000! – Audio Advice in NC has them new right now for that price). You can spend that $300 you saved on a nice evening for your angry wife that is pissed you spent yet more money again on music gear. But you’ll probably just Shiit yourself instead.


The Elear’s excel at dynamics, accuracy, and substantive rendering of music without sounding thin, microscopic, analytical, but not at the expense of lacking musicality. There is no midrange congestion, grit, sharpness, edginess, or overhang in any frequency range that I can hear. Separation of orchestra’s, choirs, and multiple vocalists, is done right. Violin or cello sections are distinct and clean; not some grungy, shrieking mess of sound. These get you involved in the music, whether that is heavy fusion jazz, classical, rock, or other genres. They simply present what they are served, so bad recordings will not be made any better sounding.


I find it hard to believe anyone would deem these too shrill, or toppy. I’d wonder what they were driving them with or what recordings they were playing. Same goes for too dark or too warm. I don’t think tube amps would be the best pairing option with Elear’s because generally they would over emphasize the “warmness capabilities” of this phone and kind of darken the tonal neutrality. Maybe for a HD800, but not this one. Now if you like that, go for it…or get warmer phones? I think it’s as simple as this….if the amp or DAC has qualities that favor dark, warm, middy, trebly, whatever characteristics, they WILL be exposed by this earphone. Just like when you improve your loudspeakers, you start hearing your amp’s shortcomings, or cables, interconnects, or whatever is the cheap part of your sound production chain. This is the same case with the Elear’s. They are now the strongest link in the sound production chain if you are powering them with units that have less than audiophile DAC’s, or amps with without sufficient capabilities. Also the Damping Factor of amps is important with lower impedance speakers, so just because an amp sounded good with one set of phones does not mean it will perform equally with all headphones, especially if you are driving diaphragm-type with high impedance as opposed to these Elear's which are lower impedance (80 ohm). Damping factor provides tighter bass regulation, and poor damping will make bloomy, flabby, inarticulate bass of the best performing speaker. You got to regulate yourself!

I also have an opposite opinion about the thick heavy cable. GOOD!!! I pay more money for heavy gauge speaker cables, to carry every possible electron to my speakers. Why wouldn't I want that for my headphones? I've read similar complaints about the Grado 225, and 325 (and above), like it should be penalized for having heavy gauge OFC cabling. And I like the 2.5mm mini jack plugs in the phone end. This is a home listening environment designed headphone.

Quick mention to comfort. Very comfortable headphones that seem to disappear after a few minutes of being on your head. The weight pressing down though is noticeable, especially when you relax you neck muscles.

Any Frequency Response curve only tells part of the story. Most phones have rolled off tops to reduce listening fatigue. Entirely different to how loudspeaker FR curves look. The ear’s anatomy and the proximity of the drivers to your ears entirely change the paradigm of designing headphones. For me, I want phones to sound as neutral and balanced as loudspeakers do; to render the music with the same kind of dynamics, imaging, sound-stage and substance they can. That’s why I picked the Elear’s. Some people prefer warmer sounding profiles like the HD650. I prefer a neutral presentation without shading, which is why the HD650, Grado 325e, and HF 400i were not good sound fits for me. I drive phones with the headphone amp integrated into the OPPO BDP-105, the same ESS Sabre-32 DAC driving my Maggie’s. The input to the DAC is 0db so it is never starting out with a clipped input signal, and the output signal is about as straight-path, uncolored, and unadulterated as you can achieve. So I know if a set of headphones sounds one way, or another on this setup, then it’s ONLY the headphone’s character, and not how they are interacting with a series of other variables and equipment ahead of it. Frequency Response curve doesn’t measure other factors such as realism, dynamics, imaging, etc. all of which are just as important in contributing to the phones overall sound profile. Headphones obviously can’t incorporate room acoustics, reflections, nodal waves, and sound-staging the same way loudspeakers can. And often, that factor is what makes me feel a lot of phones have a certain amount of artificiality to their presentation. They are lacking the openness, and convincing dynamics of hearing music in a listening room, or performed live. That is what I love most about the Elears. Depending on the soundtrack, some recordings, therefore, will sound absolutely astounding and transformative, largely because they capture the intimacy, acoustics, and “room effect” of the original performance. Some acoustic guitar examples are Tommy Emmanuel, or Don Ross, (or Neil Young at Massey Hall) recordings, where the guitar and voice is so unprocessed as to sound like it is being played in front of you. Or some piano pieces performed by Rubinstein, Horowitz, or Ashkenazy, that have that same listening affect. The Elear’s will not exaggerate the sound stage size. It’s smaller and closer to your head, but it does have depth. That’s my quibble. You can sense the orchestra sections and their pinpoint imaging, and how far back or forward they are positioned onstage. But with all the many things it does better than most every other phone I’ve owned, I can’t downgrade it too harshly for that. I know there is no perfect headphone, just which inherent compromise you personally find least objectionable in your own set of priorities and budget. If detail, dynamics, realism, imaging, and neutrality are what you find to be important elements, this is a great device for delivering those.
Pros: The comfortable to use for long listening sessions.
Cons: They sound god awful.
The Focal Elear have been the worst sounding headphone that I have heard so far. I absolutely hated them. They honked so much in my ears that I had to return them to Amazon after 3 weeks. They have a peak in the midrange that I couldn't digest. I was so happy that I got my $1000 dollar back. I don't get it why everyone gives these headphones great reviews.
BobG55
BobG55
I can't agree more. I could repeat word for word your review of this overblown, overpriced, God awful headphone. And, you hit the nail right on the head : the peak in the midrange is absolutely incomprehensible. Let me add the very recessed highs & the recessed transient sound. Before hearing this headphone I thought the HD700 was the worst "high priced" headphone I'd heard but it's pretty decent compared to the Elear. I also don't get the praise for the Elear. But, everyone's different.

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