Focal Elear - 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.
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.
Pros: Insane slam!, startling, fast, dynamic, impact, attack, separation, textured, sweet airy treble, detailed, coherent, refined, depth, large, space of the venue, decay, flat response, presence.
Cons: The slight basshead in me might prefer a tad more bass.
Slightly heavy
Focal Elear REVIEW

Thank you @Todd of Todd the Vinyl Junkie for the chance to audition these world class cans!

focal elear2.jpg

This is my first review. Ever. So please be gentle with me.

I’m sure most all that can be said about the Focal Elear has already been said, but I’ll try to give my impressions the best that I can.

My Desk top set up:

SanDisk Extreme PRO 240GB SSD + Samsung Seagate HN-Msk Top:201RAD Momentus SpinPoint ST2000LM003 2TB HDD -> Flac -> JRiver 22 -> optimized /w Fidelizer Pro -> Supra USB -> Industrial Intona Hi Speed Isolator -> Schiit PYST USB -> UpTone Audio USB Regen -> Hard adapter -> PS Audio Perfect Wave II 2.4.3 -> Discovery Plus 4 XLR > Parasound Halo -> KEF LS50 (IsoAcoustic stands) + HSU STF-1 Sub x 2.

~ OR ~ Same source to: Icon Audio HP8 MKII / Lyr / Magni -> AH-D7000, HD700, HD650, LCD 2.2f. IEM’s: Layla, Roxanne, ES Velvet, W4R, GR07 BE, Asura2, NICE HCK DIY PK2.

The Elear to me is somewhat a mix of the best of all my cans I had at the time of audition without any of their downfalls, and much more refined. They were balanced and warm like the HD650's, but more detailed with more startling insane slam. As dynamic impactful as the AH-D7000 but much more refined, balanced. And very similar to the LCD 2.2f but with more sweet treble extension, dynamism and a little more coherent.

The Focal Elear’s build quality is impeccable and looks very classy, it is a tad bit heavy but the weight distribution is well thought out. Clamp is a little strong, but could probably be stretched out a bit, however, I deferred doing this due to it is a loaner and didn’t want to change anything. The pads are very comfortable and my big ears did not come close to touching the drivers.

The Focal Elear (FE) is one of the best cans I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. I listen to mostly Blues and Jazz with a sprinkling of Classical and the Elear is an excellent transducer for all the genres I threw at it. For what it’s worth, I have never enjoyed Classical as much as with these. The detail is astounding. I do not use any EQ because I prefer as flat a response as possible. I couldn’t help my smile from creeping up during my listening time with the ElearJ

The Elear is not the most forgiving cans I’ve heard, but truly isn’t that bad with just about any source. But feed it an excellent source and well recorded music file and they are glorious!

Insane slam!, startling, fast, dynamic, impact, attack, separation, textured, sweet airy treble, detailed, coherent, refined, depth, large, space of the venue, decay, flat response, presence.

Those are the first things that came to my mind in droves, over and over again, and these descriptions are associated with every frequency from the sub bass to the extended treble. I kept writing them down throughout my time with the Elear. It is a neutral, slightly warm listen with no frequency’s that want to stand out above the others.

The separation is the best I’ve heard, yet the transition is very smooth and coherent. I have the KEF LS50 which has a concentric tweeter which makes them very coherent with one voice and I would easily compare the Elear to the LS50 for coherency.

The Elear reveals the space of the venue better than any can I have heard. The front to back separation is startling and spooky. It is definitely an out of head experience.

Sound stage is surprising and startling with an outside of head experience. It is tall and wide and I never really understood the description of tall soundstage until experiencing Elear. I was hearing sounds from above my head!

In “The Last Matador of Bayonne”, album “Dust Bowl” by Joe Bonamassa there is a horn eerily coming out of the far background. This is very clear and detailed with awesome separation, with other cans I had not given it much thought, but with the Elear it was obvious.

On “St. Louis Blues” by Wycliffe Gordon the horn blats have such an airy detailed presence and is so transparent I felt I could reach out and touch them.

The sub bass is very present when called for. The bass has excellent attack and impact, but retains fullness and separation with texture throughout, is never muddy, and does not bleed into the mids. I would compare the separation and lack of bass bleed into the mids with my VSonics GR07 BE which excels at it.

The mids have separation that is out of this world. They are natural, and textured until the cows come home! I wish I could remember the song, but it had a kind of vibrato with the vocal that had so much texture and realism. And as always there is “World Class” SPACE and AIR around the instruments.

The treble is stunningly extended yet sweet and helps for the presence in that it is clean and very present and extended but never harsh. I am getting up in years and my hearing suffers with hearing higher treble so I can appreciate the present treble with the Elear. And the quality is so good I don’t think it would be an issue for younger Head-Fi’ers with better hearing.

I had a great time with these cans and thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. Like I said, I kept writing down these descriptions throughout my time with the Elear and they excel at each description:

Insane slam!, startling, fast, dynamic, impact, attack, separation, textured, sweet airy treble, detailed, coherent, refined, depth, large, space of the venue, decay, flat response, presence.

They are an amazing set of headphones and if I had to nitpick, the slight basshead in me might prefer a tad more bass, but that might mess up the outstanding balance of these cans. As they are, they are near perfect for me and I will be saving up my shekels to buy them.

Thanks again to @Todd , and I can't wait to add these to my collection.

Pros: Smooth Sound, Resolve, Low Distortion
Cons: Humped Mid Bass, Lacks Presence
In 2016 with the launch of the Utopia and Elear, Focal officially entered into the Hi-Fidelity sector. Having missed out on hearing the Spirit One which was a stable among the Mid-Range closed back headphone options, I was very eager to get a chance hear the Elear for myself.

The packing is... enormous. Infact it was so large I was unable to take a proper picture of it in my tiny little Photo Box. The grandeur that accompanies un-boxing the Elear is befitting of it's sound!

It sit's quite tall, and upon opening it has a fabric strap to keep the lid upright. The entire interior is padded in foam offering excellent protection during shipment and un-boxing. The strap ensures that you don't accidentally let the lid fall onto the headphones themselves. The Focal team clearly made every effort to protect the Elear during shipping. Striving to minimize any damage once the headphones have departed France to their new owners!

The headphone itself while built ruggedly, is a bit creaky. The metal gimbals connect to the headband with what appears to be a plastic mechanism. Overall the whole design is very stiff, inflexible and a little noisy. I do, frankly, expect more from a headphone at this price point.

Unlike the headband assembly, the ear pads are soft and firm. They were very comfortable and I had no fatigue when wearing them for long periods of time. Each of the pads has precise even seams and no inconsistency with size.

While comfortable, the headband does feel a bit cheap. It is composed of plastic and covered in some sort of faux-leather like fabric. From a design standpoint, the headband is comfortable, evenly distributing the weight of the drivers. Though it feels very brittle in the hands.

Attractive and functional, while I would prefer a more premium material, the adjustment mechanism is very smooth. It has a solid click and holds the drivers in place. This piece, while plastic, does not feel as brittle as the headband it's attached to.

While not the most ideal place to put Left & Right indications, the 3.5mm input jacks are very solid. Being the most important part of the build, these do impress. The massive OEM cable fits in nicely, and the jacks themselves are very solid and have no wiggle to them even while supporting the weight of such a massive cable. You're also able to use your own 3.5mm terminated cables as well, Focal has done an excellent job ensuring such a crucial part of the assembly is well made.


  • 40mm Transducer
  • 15Hz-25kHz Frequency Response
  • Sensitivity: 103dB @ 1KHz, 1mW
  • 26 Ohm Impedance
  • Rated Power Input: 30mW
  • Maximum Power InputL 50mW
  • Detacbale Kevlar OFC Cable
  • Gold Plated 3.5mm jacks
  • Weight: 260 Grams without Cable

The overall sound signature of the Focal Elear is both very neutral and laid back. An while it has excellent resolve with a smooth relaxed sound, it won't hide audible compression in low-res files. The Elear is an absolute joy to experience, it brings excellent dynamics and beautifully voiced transients to your music, it even introduced me to a few new details in my favorite songs.

Starting from the bottom, there is an audible mid bass hump present. While it compliments some genres, it takes away from others. When listening to classical music, the Elear would often present timpani drums with excessive boom. Such over emphasis in those large drums often made busier passages featuring them a bit crowded. The hump does add good heft and weight to percussion and acoustic instruments, and thankfully, the Elear is quick enough that its over emphasized bass does not bleed heavily into the mid range. I prefer a more linear response at this price point, but a touch of fun pairs nicely with the Elear's smooth resolve and low distortion.

The mid range is both smooth and very dynamic, with a wonderful timbre and a very relaxed sense of presence. Regardless of my source, I found myself drawn into the music. It's been said, "the soul of the music is found in the mids." While I personally prefer the drier more tactile sound of my Hifiman HE 4, I can't deny how comforting and relaxing it was to just listen to the Elear. Having a headphone with both a laid back and very well resolve mid range was a first for me. However, there was a noticeable lack of presence for many instruments. While I do prefer the mid range of the Elear over my HE 4 on almost every genre during my first few days, I found the Elear too laid back and weak sounding for metal and other high energy genres. An after living with the beautiful softer sound on the Elear for about a week, I started to miss some the excitement and tactility I get in the mid range of my HE 4.

High end extension was quite good, and the smooth beauty of the Elear continues upwards from the mid range. I found many of the metallic percussion instruments to have a refreshing sweetness to them, such as bells, chimes, tambourines and the like. Again though, that sweetness comes at the cost of aggression. High hats, tom-tom and snare drums lack a bit of edge and snappiness to them. The slower, more fleshed out mid range really detracts from percussion in high energy tracks. But for Jazz that touch of sweetness really pairs nicely with airy ethereal percussion tracks.

While it lacked air and depth compared to my HE 4, the Elear was phenomenally black. While the sound stage was more intimate and crowded than I like at times, it's super low distortion and overall black background allowed a lot of detail to shine through. A faster headphone isn't always better in every situation. On my system, the slower but blacker Elear introduced me to details on quite a few of my test tracks that I hadn't noticed before!

Overall, after a having it for little over a week, the Elear proves to be one of the most resolving relaxed sounding headphone I've had a chance to listen to! It's not my personal preference, and I think there are better sounding options, but what I do REALLY like about the Elear, is unlike the ZMF Atticus a similar sounding closed back or my HE 4 the polar opposite open back, the Elear sounds... quite similar out of both my NFb10ES2 Line out to my Project Ember, as it does straight out of my LG v20. Yes, there's better resolve and definition within the sound stage out of my home rig, but it was impressive right out of the phone as well.

I think for the people who just want a headphone, paired with a very basic dac/amp the Elear is appealing, it's a very solid entry point into Hi-Fi, especially if you don't want to have to work to build the "perfect" synergy. The Elear gives an engaging but well resolved sound that rewards upgrades, without punishing the owner for using entry level source or amplification.
Pros: Clarity, Bass Impact and Extension, Very Comfortable, Exquisite Design and Build Quality, Amazing Sound optimal for all Types of Music
Cons: Relatively Heavy, Zero Noise Insulation (You can actually look through the earcups), Justifying spending that much money on a headphone
After using an IE-8 for a very long time (and sometimes a HFI-780), I decided to make a major upgrade. After a decent burn in period, I compared the Focal Elear to a Denon AH D7200, Shure SRH1540 and a Beyerdynamics DT1770 Pro at my house. As source I used the 44.1kHz Qobuz stream in WASAPI and ASIO mode on the Marantz HD CAD1.
Haptic Perception:

The Elear and the Denon are equally gorgeous. They both feel very nice and you can already tell when you hold them in your hands, that they are high quality products. Both sport some soft leather on the outter headband. The Elear though is a lot better cushioned inside the headband than the Denon. Where the Denon only has a thin layer, the Elear seems to have a thick layer of what feels like memory foam. The Elear feels very sturdy and it's high weight also adds to the impression of high quality.

The cable is quite thick and feels ruberlike. Some people complain about it's weight in addition to the already very heavy headphone, but to me it does not seem to be any problem (big, active guy though).

Looks, build quality and fit:

The Elear looks very stylish. The Denon might look at tad nicer when it's earpads are not extended, but as soon as you pull them out, the Elear pulls ahead :wink: The build quality of the Elear is, for my taste, simply supreme. It's heavy, sturdy and every part shows perfect craftmansship. I don't find any flaws. All joints, tansitions and connections seem to be created with love for the detail. Out of the 4 headphones, again only the Denon can compete. I love the Denon's wooden earcups, so I would call it a draw in build quality and looks. The Denon however is, despite it's lower weight, not as comfortable. The Denon is so small that I need to use maximum extension of the earcups, and it has a joint in the middle of the headband, which reduces the pressure of the earcups on your head. Unfortunately, this bends the headband in a way, that all the headphone's weight seems to be concentrated on one spot. For me very uncomfortable. The Elear on the other hand has a perfect fit and still has room for bigger heads.


Having been a closed can / in-ear user most of my life, I am not really the best person to ask here. The Elear does have more stage than the other phones obviously, being an open headphone, but the stage of the Denon and the Shure are, for my taste, also quite sufficient and nice.

Sound Quality:

This is where the Elear really shines. The Shure SRH1540, while having a really nice sound at lower volumes, does tend to have a problem at higher volumes with (non-EDM) tracks that are already a bit bass heavy, resulting in the bass overpowering the instruments and voices. The Elear never has too much bass. Sometimes you wish there could be more bass, but the moment when there comes a part where the track does have bass, you realize that the finetuning is more than well done. The Elear is capable of an absolutely amazing bass and it shows it at the right times in the right quantity.

The bass on the Elear has a strange way though of letting you know that you have left sane limits. If you go crazy with the EQ you will eventually reach a point, where you suddenly hear cracking noises instead of a bass. At first I was worried. Then I took the Shure and EQed the **** out of it, to see what it is capable off. At some point it reached a maximum where even more relative EQ dB did not increase the effect. But it did not distort. Pretty impressive. Then I slowly upped the Elear to see where I can take it before the cracking sound appears ... and my ears started to tickle. I have never before experienced that from a headphone. The HFI-780 which I used for my basshead cravings has a nasty bass and is a really brutal headphone. But this tickling in my ears I only ever had in Clubs that have massive music power and don't really care if you will ever be able to hear something again. I was quite impressed!

The DT1770, while having amazingly aggressive dynamics, sounds relatively muffled in comparison to the Elear. This was very obvious for example on Infected Mushroom's Track "Saeed" from 1:00 to 1:30. The difference is huge. The DT does have a super nice bass though, as well in impact as also the depth it can reach. The Elear, while holding back a tiny bit compared to the DT, easily holds up to it though and delivers even more details in that section. The DT is overall a very detailed headphone, but I find it quite tiring to listen to. It's fun, it's aggressive and I would call it the perfect headphone to play Battlefield 1. But it's not a good general use headphone for my taste. The Elear simply does everything better and not by a small margin.

The Denon is the closest contender to the Elear, but the Elear does have more impact, similar to the DT1770. Both the Elear and the Denon can play any type of music very well and you simply don't want to ever stop listening, as they both offer a mixture of super nice dynamics, detail, a hint of warmth and a total lack of annoyances.

I will not make Bass/Mids/Treble sections in this review, as my understanding of music does not go as deep, as that of many of the headfiers here and I rarely listen to classic music while analyzing how this or that instrument sounds in terms of "real life reproduction". All I can say is, that the Elear has an extremely nice balance of offering amazing dynamics, especially but not only in the bass section, but at the same time not being in any way tiresome to listen to, despite being able to even offer as aggressive dynamics as the DT1770, when asked for. For my understanding the Elear excells at every type of music I throw at it. Especially worth mentioning I find, that the headphone retains most of it's dynamics also at, for me, quite low volumes with just a tiny bit help from the EQ.

The DT1770 has, despite sounding a bit muffled in comparison (as if everything happens in a very small room with cushions on the wall, so I suppose it means "small stage"), a very detailed and clear sound (Hm, clear and muffled? I did not think that would be possible, but it obviously is. Need to work on my audiophile vocabulary, but I hope you get my meaning anyway :wink: ). The Elear easily beats that and is, as mentioned before, on top very easy to listen to during long sessions. If you take the price of the DT as measure, then the Elear is definitely worth it's price. Also a small premium over the price of the Denon is justified (and luckily that's exactly what I payed), due to it's even better dynamics and more comfortable fit. Both are amazing cans. But in my opinion, all headphones beyond 300€ tend to be a bit overpriced anyway :wink:

For me at least, the Elear is the clear winner and is the headphone out of the 4 contenders, that will stay with me. Next I am planning to get a chord mojo, and see how well they team up. If I go that route, I might update this review.

Tracks I used to compare the headphones (streamed via the standalone Qobuz Windows app @ 41.1Khz lossless):

In my father's house (Eric Blibb)
Easy - Don't Hurt (Ike Quebec)
Loie (Rudy van Gelder Edition) (2007 Digital Remaster) (Ike Quebec)
Capr./Caprice Rubato - Subharmonische Mixturen (Oskar Sala)
Thunderstruck (AC/DC)
Pink Nightmares(album mix) (Infected Mushroom)
Saeed (Infected Mushroom)
Flamingo (Infected Mushroom)
Hungry for More (Denton Eeprom)
Fire (Edit) - Experience: Remastered (The Prodigy)
Radioactivity (Fatboy Slim)
Three Piece Suit (Trinity)
Smack My Bitch up (The Prodigy)

Thanks for reading! 8)
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Pros: Awesome with string instruments
Cons: Overpriced!
Messed around with the Elear and too bad it has to go back.  
Very fancy looking headphone and has a nice solid feel. Fits nicely on my head and the thick long cable is not of an issue for me. I use heavier cables with my Hifiman.  
Sound is very nice, especially with string instruments.  Bass is very good and so is the "subbass".  I used Bootsy Rescue MK2 to push this headphone to the next level.  Sound stage, impact just became heaven.
Design and finish is great. It does creak a bit, but that isn't an issue once it's on your head.  
Bad news is that the unit I messed with just didn't cut it above 57% volume on my PC.  With zero EQ the driver starts to pop on the right side with volume above 57%.  Not acceptable for unit in this price range.  I have zero tolerance for this kinda crap from manufacturers that think it's ok to send out units with this kinda fault at this price range.  
I feel the headphone is worth 400 if it worked ok and not the price that are asking for.  

Update 3/1/17:
I received a new Elear and guess what.  No driver issues this time around.  Therefore one star gets added on.  It's still overpriced for what you get though.
The headphone does not response to EQ and such like my Hifiman and others.  So you are stuck with a narrow range of music genres.  
My wife says that it sounds very clean and she was bopping her head while jamming on her tunes.  She likes it as much as the Hifiman 400i on the musical side, but she wishes it had the impact the Hifiman has.  
I had some more people listen to it and all agreed on how well they like the sound, but wish there was more impact.
On the new unit, bottoming out the driver took some more effort listening to the same tracks as before.  
For my ears I had to use DBX goRack, setting 5 to enjoy the headphones even more with reggea/dancehall music.  One hour flew by with and had no fatigue.
I think it is on some elears. Mine does the same thing so I sent them back for them to look at.
Mine went back as well, replacement did the same thing at moderate volume.
Dear snellemin, 
We have read your Elear review and we are sorry that these headphones don't give you entire satisfaction. 
However, the issue described is actually not a quality issue.
Indeed, we have made a clear design choice on Elear and Utopia. Our headphones have been designed to favor the respect of the dynamic contained within the audio signal versus dynamic compression that would offer a higher SPL capability but less respect of the original audio signal. To cut a long story short, the choice was audio quality oriented rahter than SPL oriented. This allows our products to work with full performances until the mechanical clipping is activated. This means that you jump directly from a very low distortion to a sound which could be heard as rattling / cracking noise. On very special tracks with only very low frequencies at very high level, you can thus hear some noises - as you will do on classic loudspeakers.
If we change your pair of Elear headphones, the new one will be designed similarly and it will also have a kind of cracking sound when you will be listening to music with high volume and a fair amount of bass.
The only solution we can recommend you is therefore to listen to your headphones at a lower volume to avoid the cracking sound. 
Thank you for your understanding,
Best regards, 
Marine, Community Manager Focal 
Pros: excellent sound qualities, wonderful build, comfortable, very good bass, an intimate sound stage provide for an overall excellent package
Cons: Extremely long cable, which is quite thick. Open back lacks isolation
I want to thank @Todd of TTVJ for this wonderful surprise, and opportunity to review the fine Elear. It was a wonderful 7+ days, which I thoroughly enjoyed; extended due to a weather delay. Best of luck to the people that follow.
What a surprise! Forgot I was entered, and when another unit became available, Todd emailed me. Woohoo! Quickly I had to research what/where/how/$/etc to be up to speed....some tour reviewers used VERY expensive Amps with which to review...
….My hope was that the ampsandsounds Kenzie would be in the house with the Elear when it arrived, and as luck had it; they came one day apart (Happy, I was!).

Quite the nice shape
Reading those reviews, both formal and observational, a pattern developed rather quickly. There was a somewhat disconcerting repetition of comparisons to a particular headphone (actually two), which cost close to twice (and more than 2x) the price of the Elear. While I can understand the need and want to compare above and below level, after listening I believe the criticism leveled at the Elear against those particular headphones is quite unfair. That said, I have not listened to those in comparison. I was quite happy to judge the Elear as a stand-alone, along with the Kenzie.
It is a shame that those of us in the audio world tend to move on rather quickly when the “newest, latest, greatest” comes out. Too often, the “flavor of the month” is given its dues initially, and then moved to the curb sometimes quite abruptly. One need only peruse the Head-Fi “for sale” threads for listings of those same items. I will not mention names/brands/product, but it is painfully clear that this is not only wrong, but also a disservice to what has and is produced. In another fine product, which I just finished reviewing, the Sponsor-thread has clearly dropped off of the front page, well into the 2nd-3rd pages, depending upon who has commented. I really think this is a travesty of justice. One item I learned from my just finished review, is that you CAN reach that plateau where you are happy, and do not need to quiver about the smallest of details or the smallest of errors, the smallest of “faults.” You can indeed be happy with whatever current “units” you have, and still admire other products, which you graciously receive for review. It is that “other unit,” which has allowed me this peace, this listening harmony. I am not ashamed to admit it, either. In fact, I just placed my order for that unit, knowing it will be with me for a LONG time, as a result of this conclusion. Some day, I hope to add the Elear to that equation, that list of what I have, which is just right. It is enough for me to be satisfied, the performance of the Elear and the IEM of which I speak. Enough for me to simply plug in and enjoy without the need to “move further up” the food chain we call portable audio equipment. I am in complete enjoyment and satisfaction with the Elear, and am quite lucky to have thoroughly enjoyed my week (extended by weather and a Holiday). It is not perfect, and I will point that out, but I will unabashedly admit I have not heard anything above this price-wise, but feel no need to after my time together. Couple this with the excellent ampsandsounds Kenzie in the house, and I have found a “system” with which I could easily sell my home system and be done. The synergy between them is so good; that I do not need to look further, there is no need.
Absolutely top class, first-rate build is what I noticed from the opening of that really cool case to the time on my head. The quality of components used is of envy, as is the build. Soft colors of gray and black are matched with the silver highlights of accent rings on the ear cup, as well as trim just below the band. This is not a headphone, which shouts at you, but exudes an understated quality. One aspect, which drew my early criticism, is the silver aluminum adjustable bands, which go into the headband. My thought was that they appear and feel quite flimsy for such a purchase.  That was quickly allayed, when I realized how thick and wide the band was. I also realized that the “flimsiness” of the band going into the headband was by design to allow a certain movement on ones head for proper placement. The ear pads are also, non-concentric circles, much like the ear cup itself. Made of soft suede-like material, they are offset in their axis, again to orient the sound properly into our ears through good placing on our head; the front of the pad slightly overlaps the “sound room”. With orientation towards the front of the headphone there was no need for multi-dimensional movement of the cup, due to the suspension mentioned, and the band in-use “adjustment.” It is quite good, and quite heavy. That said I found my best fit was with a hat on, and I could happily wear the Elear for hours without much discomfort. As an eyeglass wearer, this is important. An undue pressure pinches the frames of my glasses onto my head. This did not happen, once I was able to adjust the Elear properly. A wonderful, non-portable case exudes quality and safety. This what a case should look like whenst one spends this kind of money. I will state upfront, as many other have that the cable is ridiculously long and heavy. I can understand why, due to various listening locale pleasures, but if the cable is unduly heavy, you can quite certainly feel it weigh upon the headphone. I was able to coil the bulk up and place it out of the way, but that would be a short-term solution. It is an extraordinary cable, but for me far too long and heavy.
The Elear is extremely quality is excellent as mentioned. No flaws. I would prefer a freer mounting system, which would allow the ear cups to rotate for better fit (see above comments, which negate this, but kept for initial repose). But this is accommodated by the change in pad shape. For overall fit, I am more comfortable in long sessions wearing a hat. Without, the lower parts of the pads tend to pinch. Without my glasses, it is better, but if you rely upon wearing your glasses, it may be an issue.
Initial listening:
MacBook Pro+ampsandsounds Kenzie+Elear:
Probably 75% of my time, at minimum was spent using this set up, because this was the set up I enjoyed the most. If I were to purcjase both test units, this would be why…to run with my Mac. It is a natural synergy, which I find as many excuses as possible to enjoy…many times over…
One of my favorite male vocalists is Dave Matthews, as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan (my all time favorite artist, God rest his soul). Matthews has a "soft-gravelly" quality, which compliments his music extremely well. Throw in a diverse group, and you have a diversity, which lacks in much of the music of today. It is almost like he is from another era. Gravedigger shows the passion with which his music was developed, coming from a slower start, building to a crescendo, and finishing with that sad, intimate, almost forlorn ending. You FEEL for those that died in the song, and the Kenzie portrayed this without protest. It was as if the reverence from the amp was a conscious decision, which complimented the veneration from the Elear. It's way of paying homage to those departed. What a respectful way it was. 
Follow that with Grey Street, and you have come full circle. This journey is like an experience where you must be brought down to the depths then lifted out. There were times in which I would fail miserably during my two-day mtb races on the first day. I would have to dig deep on the second day to overcome this. With the help of my trusty Specialized Stumpjumper, more often than not I did. On a cold, wet snowy, did I say cold?, day in Lawrence, Kansas we rode the second day of the Kansas State Mountain Bike Championships. Moving steadily through the pack, this was the second muddiest race in which I had ever participated (Columbia, MO for the other). I am proud of my 7th place out of 65. And I was the only one to ride up a particularly muddy section...I attribute this to not only my skill (which wasn't much), but also to the ability to read the terrain and let the bike decide the route. Almost intuitively, the Stumpjumper guided me; much the way the Kenzie is showing the way for the Elear. Showing me the correct path to choose while allowing me the choice of music for the journey.

KIND of like what I rode up...
Soundstage is narrower than I am used to with the Elear, but still quite satisfying. A song such as Dave Matthews’s version of Long Black Veil makes you understand that other than this being a semi-open headphone; this journey is for you and you alone. EmmiLou Harris' voice just simply adds to the magic, necessary for that journey.
I do not have any experience beyond this, the Elear/Kenzie. After a glorious week together, I really have no need to move further up towards the summit. When you combine a "Summit-fi" amp with an entry into the "top-tier" headphone; and it synergizes such as these do, there is no need whatsoever to proceed further. Skyfall by Adele epitomizes this perfectly. A build of sound from her voice to the piano line, to the drums to the orchestra just finish the deal. I have no need to go any further. I will not call this my endgame, as that would be an insult to both. You reach a view on your journey, and it's just…right....You can certainly see further, and higher; but because you have traversed the path to get there; you have already seen what you need; experienced what you need. Concluded what you have is enough. Again, this is not a slight, a disservice as in you have settled. No, certainly not. But you have reached that inner bliss where all you have in front of you laid bare is enough. The view and journey have solidified themselves as all you need to be complete. THIS is what the Elear/Kenzie combos have provided me. I have no need beyond this. 
Conversely on Dave Matthews excellent song Dodo, his vocal is the foundation on which the song relies. Bass and drum line are most definite support, but too far forward with the Elear. Luckily, Dave's voice can overcome that. His voice center stage, the bass/drum line at ether side extreme the combination fits well together, despite this not being the best combination through the Elear.
One of my favorite test tracks was Anne-Sophie Mutter's Zigeunerweisen Op.20. The Elear/Kenzie combo was meant for this. It is as if all in the audience are collectively holding their breath throughout the whole song...The synergy of Elear and Classical music cannot be underestimated. This is a fine pairing. Details galore, instrumentation where it should be, as well as excellent separation, the Elear simply excels at the Classical genre, to me. The audience was breathless it seemed, and so was I at the listening.
Following that mix, Mission Impossible by Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys, to me epitomizes all things good in the Elear (besides those already mentioned). Instrument separation is very strong, and imaging quite good. Playing the piano across the mid-left line, and slightly behind, the string instruments show a true strength in bringing the whole together. As the song progresses, the piano can clearly be heard moving slowly towards the center, and more forward. The string instruments then move to either side, enveloping the “bad-guy” piano. What ensues is just a really, really good mix of the tension in the scene. Each instrument playing to be heard, and mixing quite well. I really like this song through the Elear’s. And yes, that dip in mids can be heard, but the overall presentation covers this “deficiency” well. I don’t really count it as a deficiency, but an almost “relief” which allows the other strengths of the Elear to show…the upper bass and the lower trebles simply shine. Follow that with Thrift Shop by, Stirling and Tyler Ward and the wholeness of presentation shows. Excellent male vocals, plucking of strings, and the deep support bass line from the guitar in the background show through very well. Just a sound, which I really like.
In the Elements-Orchestral version, there is just a holy buckets kind of sound. Simply an oh my goodness type of sound, which makes one truly marvel at what we can put together for our pleasure. This must be what the top sounds like. So deep, so spatial, so clear and vibrant, that my jaw slackens a bit, not in jealousy, but a wanting to jump wholeheartedly into the music, like no song has through the Elear/Kenzie up until now. And the other songs have been damn bloody good. I had to stop listening for the night after this song. Incredibly sensuous and surreal. I truly felt like I was in Transylvania. Hearing the beat of the cloth mallet on the chimes has never felt so real. I was INSIDE the head of the mallet. Every instrument so precisely placed, that I dare not breath, lest I disturb the smallest Ion in this sphere. This song truly defines a sense where intimate sound stage is desperately OK. Menacingly perfect. No sense of flaw is present, and you dare not disturb that aura. You dare not move. You do not want this sensation to end.
THIS is the site I had after opening, and of course hooking the cables up...


iPhone 6+(+) ampsandsounds Kenzie + Elear
Using my iPhone 6+ through the Elear/Kenzie, an almost deep foreboding sound was had. The kind of sound, which once you hear it, draws you into the darkness. Into that deep, deep cavern of unknown. An unknown you are hesitant to explore, but know you must. This is the true definition of "The Journey is the true meaning." I cannot see myself using this set up, unless I had a quality amp to run the Elear through, and at that point, it would be better to run a whole better set up. Not unpleasant, just not the best, and not what the Elear was meant to be heard through.
Continuing with the 6+,  Stirling's Element leads the way back into the musical bliss from which I enjoyed the Elear. Overall it isn't the best sound but one, which you gladly take, knowing your smartphone will never sound this good again....Again, a very good sound, but one you will not use often.
Fiio x3ii+ampsandsounds Kenzie+Elear:
The Fiio x3ii gives the Elear a straight forward sound. Kind of analytical, which the Kenzie warms nicely. Almost a juxtaposition of sound smorgasbord...who wins? Well, I do right now! An interesting mix, which the Elear tries to meld into an elegant but slightly hollow sound presentation. It is not the Elear's fault, though. I blame the almost antiseptic flat sound of the Fiio here. I really, really like the sound from the Fiio, but here it is just hollow and odd with some of the songs. Then on others, just right. Still quite acceptable, but not the weeping, teary-eyed emotion which the MacBook combo can bring. Highs are better positioned and of a clearer nature, but at the cost of that lack of....fullness. Maybe it is the trueness with which the Elear lays the sound to my ears. No hiding behind a false presentation.
Then a song such as Bailor (Sequiriya Cabal) comes on and dispels all of that hollow-nonsense. I'm very confused. Full, rich, detailed and deep, this song throws mud at me as if to say, “What do you expect? This is a good set up, too!” I cannot disagree, either. An honest sound that allows the strengths of the Elear not to be hidden. Shown full on, this particular song is at the front of what is good; detail, rich fairly-wide of sound, each instrument can be separated like you were running around the stage trying to get close to each instrument; then quickly like a mouse on to the other…aaahhh! Confusing, but in a good way.
Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela combine so well on the Hands album, that the combination is a natural. The title track is just a play on the emotions. Bass guitar and Flamenco combine seamlessly to concoct a sound, which really brings the strengths out. Variety, solid bass, mids which compliment and hold together the two opposites while there is enough treble to satisfy ones needs. No bleeding of sound into the others territories. Each playing nicely, to combine into a sound, that puts you front and center. Intimate, almost sitting on stage next to each guitarist, this is a sound, which is very small venue-like. Quite good. No mouse activity here…
Headphone Comparisons, Fostex T40RP Mk3 vs Audioquest Nighthawk vs Elear:
My assortment of IEM’s and Headphones is not that vast, and probably never will be. But I enjoy all that I have, using all as much as I can. That said, some unit’s fall by the side, rarely used. When I do revisit them, I am reminded why I purchased them in the first place.
The Fostex T40RP MK3 would be like a teens hopped up Honda Civic. A great headphone for modding, and tailoring sound to an individuals taste, the closed-back T40’s sound quite good. Decent reach on both ends, but bass can get quite boomy, and “unruly,” like a show-off or the Fart Can exhaust, which was (unfortunately) quite popular for a time. To show its best, it really should be modified, especially the older Mk1 & Mk2. Best used (to me) for Rock & Roll, it isn’t that bas when used for other genre, but just like a Civic, it reaches its limit when asked to do too much complicated music.
My newly acquired Audioquest Nighthawk would be like the fine touring machine, the VW R32. The ride, which excels in all conditions, thanks to the 4-Motion AWD allows the strengths to show, it’s excellent engine and engine note; along with one of the best interiors out there, belying WELL beyond the price range. Pretty darn fast (the car is, too) of sound, with excellent feedback; the NH doesn’t really do anything exceptionally well. It does sound VERY well, instead. As such, it does maintain that composure no matter the genre, or sound. An extremely competent headphone, which takes a different route to reach its sound spectrum; much the way the AWD R32 does. A headphone you would be extremely satisfied with (I am), but one when compared to the Elear leaves you wanting more. I will say, to me the bass is a bit better, and slightly deeper of reach than the Elear. Some have stated that the bass in the Elear sounds too “analytical,” a statement with which I would disagree. The bass is almost perfect for me. That said, I truly enjoy the bass on the NH.
This leaves the Elear. I would call the Elear the Porsche 911 Turbo of headphones. While one would think that this could very well have been a Ferrari 488 GTB that would be too much flash. No, the Focal Elear is more understated. The Elear let’s the performance speak. It is not about flash, it is about SUBSTANCE. Not that the Ferrari does not have performance, it certainly does, but in a much flashier way than the 911 Turbo. Performance speaks. And it expresses volumes about the character and substance of the Elear. A quality I very much appreciate.
On Stirling’s We Found Love, the female vocals are magical! Right where they need to be. The incorporation of native sounds as background is just right. Not overpowering, right where they need to be...bass provides a solid foundation on which the song carries without problem. A hint of bass being withheld, but I think it is so that the supporting drums and vocals can show their force...just fantastically represented by the Elear.
In Hello, Adele’s signature song, the bass line is a little too far forward. I think it is the recording, but I am not sure…her voice, though. Stunning, through pretty much anything; magnificent through the Elear. This combo is made for female vocals and violin...I am in love.
Someone Like You-Adele: I have goosebumps...just Adele and the piano. Royal Albert Hall; one of the most iconic venues on the planet cements this combination. Adele/Royal Albert Hall=Elear/Kenzie. For some reason I am brought to tears by this. I think it is the genuine love I have for my wife, and this combination of Adele/Royal, Elear/Kenzie makes such an impact upon the sound. I am the luckiest guy on the planet right now...
Set Fire to the Rain: vocals and piano upfront again, drum/bass as foundation. Strings again, alight as the middle, which holds the bass line and Adele/piano together. This songs shows that the Elear/Kenzie allow the music to shine through. Not imposing a "false sense" of sound on the proceedings. There is nothing false about this. This is true music. 
Revisiting Anne-Sophie Mutte’s Zigeunerweisen the classical violin orchestral masterpiece shows this is what the Kenzie and Elear were meant for...oh my God. The Elear/Kenzie combo was meant for this. It is as if all in the audience are collectively holding their breath throughout the whole song...while magical, it is a hint too laid back for me, until the song hits the 6:45 mark. Then the finale finishes what has brought me to my knees. I think it is simply preparing me...slowly bringing me back into the fray. Preparing me for the finish...gently. Then not a slap in the face, but a collective RUSH of air thrown at me to take my breath away. I have no choice but to gasp, hopefully silently as she plays when that moment arises. So pure is that moment, that I decide then and there, that I have reached what is my moment in sound. That moment when you decide this is it. I need look no further. Yes, as I state below, there are other fine headphones, but when you reach that moment where the bass drops from the orchestral movement, seamlessly with Ms. Mutter’s unbroken violin playing you just have to sit back and admire what the Elear brings. That full rich slightly warm sound, which can play at the soft music as well as it can the louder. This makes me very, very happy.

My review rig for the week...I am a very lucky man...
The last song, which helped me define what I like in the Elear, was Bears, by Lyle Lovett. An excellent bass line is laid down, supported by the guitars in the mids followed by Lyle’s voice, which ties the two together. Crystal clear clarity, the sound provides you with enough space to separate all instruments but keeps that intimacy, which I find is one of the Elear’s strongest points. As @kman1211 stated, and I agree, “I’m not too picky about soundstage size, I care much more about imaging…” I wholeheartedly agree. If I can pick out exactly where Lyle’s microphone is compared to the National steel guitar and the electric mandolin, then I am satisfied. The instrument of our listening has transported me to the presentation itself. That is all I ask of my headphones...I get transported to the music. An avenue of delivery, which ends up being a good ride. The Elear is that instrument. That headphone, which takes me to that place of listening and does so without fuss. The Focal does so unencumbered by “what might be better” or “what has more depth,”…etc. It just does it.

The overall build is impressive, quite impressive
I am very aware that there are many, many other quality headphones out there which are not only in the same price, but more expensive. One need only look at the TOTL Utopia, from Focal to understand. When I started reading the reviews in anticipation of my time with the Elear, I kept reading, over and over that this headphone was better in tight bass, this headphone was better in spatial presentation, this one had clearer treble, etc…it kept going. Once I put the Elear on though, all of those comments simply faded away with the music. The music, oh the music. Such a sound my ears have not heard except with my home system. And it made me smile. It made me happy. It made me cherish my music. I enjoy my music very much, and if the instrument of listening can make me smile and the sound quality better, by putting me inside; then it is an experience with which I cherish. I really don’t care if the HD800S sounds “better,” or the T2 has better mids or treble or whatever. It is the sound of the Elear, which pleases me as I listen. The Elear gives me that sense of musicality, that sense of oneness with the headphone. Yes, the others cost more, and I have not heard them, and they very well could be better; but as I stated in my Aria review, I have found it. There is no need to proceed further. This is all I need. Is this perfect? No, but the minor flaws can be lived with or changed. That cable is incredibly long (yes, for far listening purposes), and an open back headphone cannot be used in all situations (like when my better half, my wife is watching TV, and it bleeds through), but when the Elear is called upon, it will be there. It will fulfill the sound with warmish tonality, far reaching bass, mids, which while somewhat recessed are still quite good, and treble (which seemed to divide the Head-Fi community the most) that supports when needed, and takes front when called upon.
I am very sad that this combination has left my house; far too soon, it has... But I smile knowing that the next people in line have such a tremendous treat in store. The Focal Elear has quickly transported itself onto my very, very short list of top headphones with which I would live happily for a long time. And that is all I could ask of the Focal.  I want to thank Todd from TTVJ for inclusion on the tour. It was a wonderful surprise, and I can unabashedly state that the Elear has been the best headphone I have ever listened to, or tested. Thanks again, Todd!

Nice Focal review, thanks!
I am also a big Dave Matthews fan and use many of his tracks to compare tubes.
Pros: Rich, weighty, fulsome tone. Hard hitting punchy dynamics
Cons: Noisy headband, possibly poor design.


When I got into this hobby back in 2010 my seminal purchase was a Klipsch Image One headphone. At the time it was the first headphone I had spent over $100 on and the first audio product I had purchased in a long time. I had owned countless numbers of beater Sony’s and Koss Porta Pros but the Klipsch headphone seemed like a step up to something more serious in my book.

The problem was that it was a little too insensitive for my iPad and iPod. That lack of drive or ability to pump up the volume from my two Apple sources would be the catalyst and my undoing.

Not having enough power with onboard amplifiers in those two devices is what initially got me looking for some small outboard amplifier that I could connect between the iPod and the headphones to get the volume levels I wanted.

At the time I wasn’t even sure such a device existed…. An amplifier for a headphone, with portability…. This quest for some device I wasn’t even sure existed was the jumping off point for my journey down into the Head-fi rabbit hole.

I had no idea at the time, what I was getting myself into.

6 years later, I’ve torn through probably 20 different headphones, 5 or 6 dacs, at least 5 different desktop amps a couple few different portable amps and thousands upon thousands of dollars.

The entire time, I’ve been chasing a dragon of very specific origins. Because despite spending a ridiculous amount of money on playback equipment and being as susceptible as anyone to Madison Avenues gaming of the consumer system, I don’t consider myself an audiophile.

I don’t listen to high res, I don’t really care a whole lot about detail retrieval and think imaging and soundstage are overblown when it comes to headphones.

In the 2 channel game, with speaker playback, imaging actually matters because you can, with the right speakers, actually cast an image out into the room of a band playing. 2 boxes placed in the corners of a room can project a sonic hologram of sorts.

With headphones it doesn’t work like that. Not even close.

Even the greatest imaging headphones like the Stax SR-009 or the Sennheiser HD800 only provide a mild amount of extra depth to a soundstage that is essentially within inches of your face (in the absolute best circumstances) and right in the middle of your head in most cases. And I think stereo image width, has a lot more to do with the track mix of the file being played than the acoustics of a headphone. The headphone imaging game is really a game of inches and so I don’t place a lot of currency in it.

What matters more to me is color & tonal richness, dynamic drive and scale. I want a headphone that plays forcefully and pressurizes the air and creates some rhythmic drive that interacts with me on a physical level.

I don’t want to listen to my system, I don’t want to be a passive observer with my sound system. I want to engage my music. I want to feel it and be immersed in it.

To that end I’ve been chasing a dragon further and further into high end Head-fi territory that seemed to be getting further and further away. I was beginning to think maybe my dragon didn’t exist.

Still the end of 2014 marked a point at which I stopped chasing. I pulled the trigger on an HD800 headphone to couple with my Audeze LCD2, T1 and my LuxMAN’S tube amp.

I had been dragging my feet on the HD800 because of all the universal criticisms of it being overly bright and being a bit light in the ass on low frequency fare. Still I felt it was an Apex predator and I outta have it on hand. The LCD2 I own is the third specimen I have purchased. The LCD2 does not wow you, and I’ve twice now, tired of it and sold it because I wanted something different for difference’s sake. In any case, at the end of 2014, I acquired an HD800, had an LCD2 and a T1 in hand and from then on have been largely satisfied with my system, despite still feeling that all 3 headphones sound a bit anemic dynamically. Even these apex predators were, to me, light on tonal weight and density and lacked the air pressure that I wanted.

In the meantime I’ve developed a mild addiction to DIY audio and am always strung out on vintage gear, particularly Tannoy Reds and Golds (If you gots hit me up!) , but I have kept my headphone rig in the same general state… short of a tweak or two.

I’ve also been immune to the upgrade bug and the hype machine that is the audiophile press. I still read sites like 6Moons, Computer Audiophile, Digital Audio Review, Audiostream, Stereophile and Inner Fidelity but nothing ever really grabs my attention.

I don’t own a DAP because I find the concept redundant. Even though I have been tempted repeatedly, I have managed to resist attempts by the hype machine to convince me to buy a second device that I can stick in my pocket that’ll play music slightly better than the other device in my pocket that plays music.

So when Focal Audio announced the imminent release of two new flagship headphones, The Elear and the Utopia, it barely moved the needle for me. I do remember going on their new website to look at the models. But I had the same response to it that I did to the Pioneers SE Master 1, or Final Audio’s Sonorous or even the Audeze LCD4. I was more irritated by the price point than interested in the device.

And so I disregarded it out of hand, until something happened.

Tyll at Inner Fidelity posted a review that wasn’t just a thumbs up… He was over the moon about it.

Mind you, I treat most audio review sites with a healthy level of skepticism. I’ve been burned more than once purchasing a product based on an audio review sites or multiple sites gushing recommendation only to find the product performance falls well short of what the reviewer described.

Tyll Hertsen is one of only a couple exclusions I can think of. Other writers at Inner Fidelity are viewed through the same cynical lens as the rest of the market, but Tyll has a track record of calling it like I see it. So when he posts a review with unbridled enthusiasm like he did for the Focal Elear it forced me to take a second look.

Maybe I need to consider this a little more seriously.

Despite being hamstrung on cash at the time, serendipity provided the answer. I had posted a mechanical part for customizing one of my cars on an obscure auto enthusiast forum. I just didn’t have the time or the need to install it so had listed it and the ad had been collecting dust in some obscure corner of the internet for months.

Suddenly out of nowhere, I had a bite. Full price plus shipping… Done and done!

So with my Paypal account suddenly overflowing with cash, I made arrangements to acquire my own Focal Elear. I was able to catch the second wave of Elears that flooded the market in September and have now had the device in my care for over 3 months.


So to begin in earnest, the Focal Elear comes in your bog standard retail box but with a relatively nice cardboard carrying case with magnetic closure. I do like the acoustic foam on the lid. It looks like the grill pads off of an old JBL L100 vintage speaker. And while the box is nice and protective it is massive. It will not work if you want to throw your Elears in your suitcase to travel unless you’ve got a very large suitcase.

I purchased a Pelican case (iM2100) and used the cardboard insert out of the Focal box to create my own travel case. I happen to think it looks pretty sharp if not exactly like an OEM product.

Other ancillaries are limited, a gargantuan cable, a cable wrap, and warranty/ user documents.

In hand the Elear is a very good looking headphone. On its surface it looks like a better engineered or more durable Beyer T1. Obviously the housing/ driver is completely different but the suspension system is similar. The Elear uses aluminum blocks at the end of the headband where the T1 uses plastic, the Elear has a 1” wide yoke hanger/ headband slider where the T1 was less than half that, albeit with thicker aluminum stock. The yokes are connected to the ear cups with metal pins, the T1 connection was plastic with a metal screw, and the headband leather is more substantial. The leather on the T1 was remarkably soft but always felt a bit fragile to me.

Not to give too much away, but the reason I speak of the T1 in past tense is because it has been sold…. This should be a pretty clear indicator of how I feel about the Elear but there is more.

One thing that I need to mention that I haven’t heard much chatter about is the headband noise. To me it is actually a pretty significant problem.

The Elear headband does appear more substantial than the T1, and I do think the T1 suspension was chinsy and poorly engineered contrasted against a bombproof everlast design like the LCD2, or perfectly silent and seemingly durable design like the HD800. But the Elear also appears to fall short here.

I think the Elear suspension/ slider mechanism is too complex and made with poor material choices. Let me explain:

First I think the gimbals/ yokes are made of thin but wide aluminum material and were likely formed in a press… Problem is that the geometry with the rolling bends in thin aluminum stock strikes me as easy to bend or deform, and despite babying my pair since day one, there is an actual lack of symmetry between the left and right side of mine.
Also inside the headband, once you remove the screws on the aluminum blocks, what you actually have is a plastic headband housing with a top and bottom shell. There are small springs on either side of the housing with plastic bearing plates glued to the plastic housing to allow side to side movement. There is a spring loaded pin connected to the slider that catches against detents inside the headband and another spring loaded tab inside the headband that applies pressure to the slider. With all this movement, I don’t see anywhere in it where a specific part is encountering forces or friction that will cause it to wear down or fail. But because there are so many little plastic odds and ends inside there, and two different axis of movement being controlled by spring loaded parts I’ve found that my specimen actually has a couple different spots where different pieces get hung up on each other and make audible pops and scraping noises. Also both in the center and out on the edges, the headband makes creaking noises fairly often.

Numerous times when listening to music, I’ve heard the headband making noise and the obsessive part of me goes into a tailspin. I end up completely distracted by the noise waiting for the headband to give me another pop or click or creaks while the music continues in the background.

Also the headband just doesn’t feel solid… Not LCD2 solid or HD800 solid. It feels a bit loose.

I would love to see a reengineered headband for sale separately or even as an aftermarket solution that was more simple and/ or made of more durable materials.

So I don’t think the Elear is perfect. I think the headband falls remarkably short of what should be expected from a $1000 product and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect silent operation from the mechanical bits of a product during use.

That said, the remaining aspects of the build quality are all positive. I love the metal ring on the cups, I really like that they utilized the simple and relatively easy to source 3.5mm connectors versus some obscure, exotic or proprietary connector that is impossible to find. I like the removable pads although Focal has shown no indication that they are going to sell replacement pads yet. And despite being too long and ridiculously heavy, I do actually like the quality of the cable. It is unwieldly but is a solid cable with good conductors of good size and is what one would expect from a serious piece of audio equipment. I just wish it was maybe 3 or 4 feet shorter.
Okay with those few but significant grievances out of the way let’s get down to the heart of the matter.
Is the Focal Elear good? Damn Straight! At this point in my journey, it is the closest I have come, in the headphone game, to getting E X A C T L Y what I want.
But that may not be quite enough for some people so let me elaborate.
The Elear has an intoxicatingly rich tone. It has weight and dynamic punch in spades. This isn’t to say it is just about bass. Bass with the Elear is certainly one of its strong suits and I can’t imagine anyone coming away from the Elear saying they were unsatisfied with its bass performance but it really is about more than bass and frequency response when you talk about the headphone from a tone perspective. It energizes the space around your ears, it moves air to physically interact with you. And to me, because it pressurizes/ energizes the air it creates this momentum and in a way, demands that you pay attention to it.
It is not a headphone you wear to listen to music while you work. You'll get nothing done.
The Elear is not an acoustics superstar. Compared to the HD800 and to a lesser degree the T1, the acoustics seem darker and murkier, fringe notes and small light details out on the edges of the stereo signal are less clear than they are with the HD800 and T1. Still despite not giving clarity to the depth that the HD800 and T1 do, this darker acoustic tuning also seems to create this inkier black space for music to spring up from, creating emotional tension and anticipation. When listening to Tool's 'Wing's for Marie' the alternative scratching noises out on the edges between the main notes being played in the center could not be heard as clear as they could on the HD800, but the Elear could track the small variance in volume as the guitar came in (once again bouncing back and forth between left and right channels). It's ability to accurately represent these "micro dynamic" changes in volume communicated the building tension and anticipation. Where the HD800 was able to remove all the shadows it's inability to convey the small dynamic shifts left it sounding accurate but lacking the emotional engagement.
One of the most remarkable experiences I had was after playing music through the Elear for a good hour or so, I plugged my late T1 in to see how it compared. Mind you this was a 19K serial number T1, not the early models that were plagued with inconsistency and mid treble glare. The sound coming out of the T1 was so bleached sounding, so anemic sounding that I actually pulled it off my head for a minute and checked the connections because I was worried that something was wrong with it… Nothing was. It was just after listening to this full bodied sound out of the Elear for so long, switching over to the T1 seemed like going from 3D to 2D or from color to black and white. It was a remarkable difference.
VS. LCD2 the differences were similar to the differences with the T1. Contrasted against the Elear, the LCD2 sound lacks the dynamic weight of the Elear. I don’t think the bass performance on the LCD2 is anywhere near the level of the Elear. At least not with my list of priorities. For those who don’t mind that recessed sound, the LCD2 has remarkably linear response down into subterranean levels. It just does so with it quite a bit less propulsiveness (is that a word?) It can play certain low end fare with texture and nuance, but it does this with a significantly recessed presentation. It is very much like the often maligned HD650 veil. Compared to the Elear, the LCD2 has this same veil on.
In my world, this hamstrings engagement with music. It doesn’t give you the dynamic feeling, the pressurization of the space around your head, moving volumes of air to make music come more alive. It gives you the data, an accurate representation of the sinewave but lacks that extra layer of hills and valleys, quiet and loud that create tension and momentum that draws you into the music.
The Elear isn’t perfect. It's soundstage is relatively crowded in comparison (although contrasted against the larger market it isn't bad) but the tone is so rich, the dynamics are so engaging, its a nourishing, involving, potent communicator. And like I said I don't care a great deal about soundstage so the Elear is extraordinary in my book.
So in terms of the LCD2 and T1 I think the Elear destroys them both…. With my tastes in my system.
To your run of the mill audiophile who listens to his system at quieter volumes, or who wants to listen to his system as much as he listens to music, the Elear’s propulsive up front nature may leave him wanting it to take a step back to allow him to investigate detail and textures and filigree more.
But I am not that guy… I want the music to cast a spell over me…. I don’t want to observe the performance I want to be immersed in it. The Elear does that for me.
Vs HD800. Now this one is a bit interesting because of my obvious proclivity for punch, you would think that the HD800 wouldn’t stand a chance,at least that’s what I thought. But what I’ve found is that the HD800 while clearly not excelling in certain areas that the Elear does, is a wonderful alternative voice to have on tap. Obviously the HD800 has more clarity front to back and cast sunlight in a number of places where the Elear is still casting shadows. But with the tone controls on my Luxman amp, the HD800's dynamic slam can be brought up a notch to compete on a more even playing field and though they each excel at different things. I think for me the HD800 and the Focal Elear are a perfect dynamic duo to continue my Head-fi journey with.
To me, the Elear is like the Les Paul with Seth Lover humbuckers and a big Marshall Stack. A big, full bodied, wall of sound that punches you in the gut and prioritizes the leading edge attack and warm powerful sustain…. The HD800 is the Fender Telecaster with a P90 pickup and a vintage Hot Rod amp that has more nuanced articulation of individual notes. It excels with a cleaner tone and offers up more info with reverb, decay and release.
They are both masters of certain parts of the tonal envelope, and complement each other.
Obviously I can’t get the levels of body and punch with the HD800 that I do with the Elear, but I do think the HD800 midrange is more honest and linear. There is a smidge of hollowness to the midrange of the Elear. The HD800 gives me a completely different look, more air, more depth (there are those damn sound stage words again) and despite the Elear ticking most of my personal listening habit boxes. I still find that I want to listen to the HD800 quite a bit, even with the Elear in house. So I am keeping it!
Interesting side note:
I’ve always viewed my HD800 as my microscope. If I was looking at different dac or amp options for my system, the HD800 has always been a good tool to have on tap to tease out differences between devices, especially since differences between dacs are usually vanishingly small (you heard it here first, don’t believe the hype!) but there are often small differences and the HD800 has proven invaluable in identifying them.
What has surprised me is just how adept the Elear is at this same thing. I don’t know a whole lot about its design at an electrical level, but it seems to be remarkably sensitive to upstream changes in a system. I am better able to pick out differences between my two dacs at my office system with the Elear than I am with the HD800. One other thing I have found is that the Elear will and does sound like a completely different headphone depending on what amp you tether it to.
Connected to my big rigs, a Luxman SQ-N100 (the original Japanese version) and my custom built Nelson Pass transformer rig the Elear is the most dynamic headphone I’ve ever heard, bar none.
Connected to portable amps like the ALO Audio National, the Cayin C5, and to a lesser extent the Chord Mojo, the sound is more restrained sounding and not quite as dynamic…. Still better than most, but it does sound a bit lackluster compared to the experience through the Luxman tube amp. This pairing, the Elear and the SQ-N100, is almost obscene how good it is. And if I was content before, I am pretty much at games end now.
The only item on the horizon that still has me wanting to make one last run into the market, is the new Sony flagship. Because I am only too familiar with Sony’s habit of building their sonic foundations on bass and tonal fatness and because I have been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time with Sony’s legendary R1, and because I admire the full throttle engineering approach Sony takes with statement products, I am curious about this lone specimen out in the wild.
Beyond that. I think I am done. The Elear is the dragon. It is what I was looking for. While I am not entirely thrilled with the headband, it hasn’t failed on me and so I can only knock it for not ‘feeling’ like it is going to hold up without any real proof of that… Time will tell. I hope it does, or that someone brings a solution to market that is better.
And as far as the Utopia goes…. If that fancy 3 armed detail on the cup of the Utopia had been milled out of aluminum and the cup ring material had been upgraded from plastic to either aluminum or wood, I may have looked at it a bit more seriously.
But because it is a plastic part and the only other difference is the yokes are made of carbon fiber, I have trouble with the notion that the more advanced driver of the exact same shape, is worth 3k. Not saying it isn’t. I just have trouble seeing the value in it.
So no Utopia for me.
Nope… Short of the Z1R taking up residence here, I’m done.
Game over.
This was a heck of a review thank you sir. So I take it the z1r is the next big headphone for you?
The Fed
The Fed
Rchandra.... Depends on what the market says after its been out for a minute but yeah, I really am satisfied with where my system is and the only wildcard out there is the Z1R, primarily because I really respect Sony's "destroy all who oppose you" approach when they are releasing a flagship product and know full well that their reputation is on the line.
I have to believe that they will have cut ZERO corners in that pursuit, so am keenly interested in it.
Truly excellent review and very well written. Got a pair on the way and hope they compliment my He500s nicely. Again, I would like to compliment your writing style @The Fed !
Pros: Immaculate build quality. Fast unique energy and presentation. Works effortlessly with faster songs. Great introductory price
Cons: Uppermid Recession followed by peak in treble. Uneven rougher timbre. Weight. The stupid 13 ft long cable
Focal has seen quite a bit of spotlight over the past couple of the months. From relatively passable portable headphones to the insane reveal and release of 2 honest to god flagship headphones on the same day they've gone from a passable brand to one of the most compelling brands making headphones seemingly overnight. With over 3 million dollars invested into the design of the Elear and Utopia they took a huge gamble that not a lot of other big names in audio would take these days. After rabidly tracking down pairs to impression; both these flagships ended up in my collection and both have seen an insane amount of play over the past couple of months. I'll be touching on the Utopia in another review as it is a completely different beast from the Elear as they target two completely different markets. That being said neither headphone is a modest offering, but will the Elear be overshadowed by the Utopia? Or will the more accessible Elear make the distance to be a compelling options not only to other cans in it's price bracket but even pull punches against its bigger brother? The answer lies somewhere between those 2 questions.

Build and Design
Something that is wonderfully brought over from Focal's speaker design philosophy is the careful selection of materials and attention to detail. These Headphones are absolutely beautiful to my eyes. While I kind of wish for more color within the audiophile styling the color scheme and black on the definite silver of the yokes and logo accenting is a nice contrast. The materials are carefully and beautifully implemented from the Lamb Leather accented headband to the Micro-Fibre headband padding and pads and aluminium yokes it's truly a uniquely built can. Not only are the materials smart but the build of the headphone overall is immaculate. The construction and balance of the headphone overall are really well done. While the headphone is heavy thanks to the mostly metal construction it's well padded and balanced so it really does not pull down or push down on your head as much as some other headphones around the same weight do. That's not to say these aren't heavy and it does not affect comfort but it is well handled and well thought out. It is refreshing to have a headphone feel like an honest top of the line headphone in the hands from the moment you pick it up. What's impressive is that even compared to cans 4x its price like the Audeze LCD-4 and Hifiman HE-1000; it absolutely puts them to shame in terms of build quality. It does this by keeping a relatively familiar design and refining it to the point of perfection, sometimes if it ain't broke you don't need to revolutionize, just refine. Top marks to Focal for upping my expectations of how headphones at this level should be built and designed today.
If there is one big issue with the design;  it's not the headphones themselves but the included cable. At 13 feet long it is a monster that's meant for home use but as someone who uses headphones at a desk I found the cable to be way too long for my use and the weight especially really detracted from the comfort and usability of the headphone. It's disappointing that these did not come with a shorter lighter cable or any other accessories whatsoever. However the 3.5mm mono connectors are easy to come by and recabling the Elear yourself would not be a hard endeavour, it’s just a shame that a re-cable is necessary. Besides the stupidly heavy cable you don’t get any other accessories. The box is touted as an accessory being called a carrying case. While the box is nice and has a nice presentation to it; the cardboard construction makes me kind of hesitant to really call it anything but a box and I haven't used it as a "Carrying Case" at all.
However talking to some of the guys at Focal they have said that they are going to be including a shorter cable with their flagships later on. While that is something to look forward to it is still disappointing that the headphones as a package feel very bare-bones when compared to the accessory offerings of other headphones offering stands and actual carrying cases .
The first thing you notice when putting on the Elear is the weight. It doesn’t feel like it’s really pulling but it does feel like there is a definite weight to them when resting on your head. This is because while the headphone does come in at just under a pound without the cable like the Audeze LCD lineup; it’s much better balanced and cushioned. While i’d give the comfort inside the cup to Audeze because of the bigger size; the Elear overall wins out in comfort as the weight overall is just handled so much better. However for people who like the lighter fit of the HD 800 the Elear comes short of that comfort. While the weight is well handled it is still present and along with the excessive cable it comes with it does drag down if you don’t manage the excess cable somehow.

Moving onto the pad comfort i found the cushioning on the top to be exceptional in stopping the weight from putting pressure on the top of my head. The pads overall are quite good, they are unique in that they are a Microfiber pad versus a traditional Velour or Leather pad but they do well and have a nice bit of depth and volume to them to make them plush and comfortable and I never found myself uncomfortable in them. It was only after about 7 hours did I find my ears sweating in them but overall quite comfortable. For people with bigger ears they should fit but your ear might feel a little bit stuffed inside the cup.

The clamp might be a bit of a sticking point for some people as these do clamp quite tight. I would compare to a new pair of HD600/650 in that they clamp tight and really sit on your head which is good considering how heavy the can is but overall it might be a bit uncomfortable to some as the clamp never really loosens over time. Over the 70+ hours I have with the Elear the clamp stayed the same thanks to the robust yokes so that might be a serious con to anybody wearing glasses.

Overall for the Elear’s shortcomings in comfort it is still good and very wearable for long sessions. For most people who I had impression them also felt like they were fairly comfortable. So not exactly top marks here but definitely above average.
When I first had my impression with the Elear i was happy with them but not head over heels in comparison to other headphones. I had felt like the Elear had a good presentation and energy but never really excelled in 1 particular area. It took me a while to really appreciate the full grasp of what the Elear can accomplish and only after sitting down with them after a good number of audition sessions and time did I really start to appreciate what the Elear brought to the table. There is this certain thrill and energy to the way that the Elear presents its sound.
It keeps it in a relatively small and intimate stage and just packs as many different elements into it as possible. The best way I had heard someone describe it to me while listening to their favorite orchestral tracks was that it put them square in the middle of the pit versus sitting in the audience. Because of this the imaging is well defined but just not very wide.  While it is slightly disappointing for an open headphone to maintain a relatively small space to it’s sound it definitely made sense to me with just how much the Elear was packing.

The Elear definitely uses every part of the small space it has as the sound signature is just packed to the brim with energy. Most of this energy comes from the very mid-bass focused bass presentation. While there is a sufficient amount of extension to let bass strings play their course and feel alive; the majority of the bass of the Elear is centered around a resounding tightly woven punch. It gives deeper drums and faster drum lines an appropriately pleasing dynamic and handles even the fastest of songs with ease. This sense of conveying its sound in fast powerful punches carries on to the rest of the spectrum. The presentation of the treble especially conveys this sense of power and gives a slight bit of edge that gives the Elear a bit of bite but overall it’s a well tempered edge that lets cymbals and hi-hats have an appropriate power to them. This leads to the Elear having a ball with blisteringly fast and articulate songs and instruments like pianos and fast aggressive electric guitar licks. The fast attack of the treble on these instruments lets them sound tight, fast, articulate and overall very satisfying for those who like a can with a lot of energy. It gave songs and records like the DOOM OST and AC/DC’s Back in Black album and especially Luminol feel like fireballs. That’s not to say the more lush and relaxed jazz recordings sound thinner as a result. Horn sections are presented richly and resolved well and lower mid and bass strings in Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album have a nice resonance and whir while keeping a solid pace. However within this faster tighter presentation is the mid-range presentation that is going to prove divisive. There is an under-representation of upper mids that is a bit jarring in combination with the peak in treble. The transition is rough and leads to female vocal presentation feeling a bit shouty and shrill. Some more understated female vocal performances sound fine but any time the upper mid rings into the treble it does feels rough and a little unpleasant. It is a bit disappointing because it does lead to the headphones feeling quite fatiguing at times. This is also paired with some uneven timbre on many instruments that makes presentation overall sound grainy at times. While the detail is there the character of instruments and vocals overall is unfortunately a little less smooth than I was expecting.

Overall even with those flaws in mind I really liked what the Elear brought to the TOTL table. I really liked the unique powerful punch and just how fast the headphone was overall  even if it’s not the smoothest headphone that I could have hoped for.

I have tried padrolling the Elear with the Utopia pads to see how they change. To my knowledge there still has not been anyone who has made an adaptor for other pads yet but judging by the way pads fasten in it wouldn’t be too hard to 3d print. It is an easier experience than most cans to padswap. No need to stretch the pads over the ring or cup, just peg them in and they’re in. Very much appreciate that design.

The first thing i noticed when listening with the Utopia pads on the Elear was the reduced bass presence which leads me to believe that the Elear pads add quite a bit of bass and seal a bit better than the perforated lamb leather of the Utopia pads. The Utopia pads had a way of smoothing out and rolling off a lot of the sound signature of the Elear. While that may sound good considering that it might make the headphone a bit more balanced and neutral overall it just further highlighted the issues with timbre and the shouty shrill uneven mids and took away a lot of the raw power behind the bass and made the can really unappealing overall. Some might appreciate the increased clarity but personally I found that sticking to the stock pads was best.
A big strength that I saw to the Elear is how accessible they are to most gear. Over my time with them I auditioned through a good number of sources and amps and overall I found them to be pretty agreeable with most gear. The Elear has an 80 ohm impedance and a 104db sensitivity so they aren’t too hard of a drive.
Magni/Modi 2
Admittedly not my favorite combo in the world but it wasn’t too bad with the Elear. While detail and texture overall  is far behind some other options the combo didn’t exactly do injustice to the Elear. Aside from a bit of a brighter hazier treble response the Schiit stack felt like they drove the Elear well.

Dragonfly Black
Unfortunately the worst of the lot as the Dragonfly Black’s glarier nature does not paint the prettiest picture with the Elear and really makes them fatiguing and bright. The Dragonfly Black does do a good job driving the Elear alright even if you probably shouldn’t be using it with them.

Audio GD NFB-11
This is the Amp/DAC I used the most with the Elear and I have to say it actually makes for a pretty damn good combo. I found the detail on offer with the NFB-11 pairs very well with fast dynamic cans and it definitely does not disappoint with the Elear. The neutral bright lean of the NFB-11 does lead to a thinner sound in comparison to some more expensive amp/dac but with the Elear it pulls punches very well. It keeps up with the speed while also offering some pretty outstanding detail. Probably my favorite cheaper option overall.

Chord Mojo
I have a bit of a bias against the Mojo just because I don’t feel like the price/performance is necessarily there but it’s not a bad pairing with the Elear at all. The DAC is pretty good and the Mojo provides more than enough power to feed the Elear on the go.
Naim DAC v1
Had a chance to listen to this along with the Focal Headphone Manager. He said that this was the DAC that they had used to tune both the Elear and the Utopia and I could definitely tell. It’s expensive but overall it did sound pretty impressive. Where the NFB-11 was nice it definitely feels a little bit thinner in comparison to the Naim. There is just something richer and fuller to it that really brings out some of the best in the Elear in all regions that I liked but it is a very expensive option with enough power to drive the Elear and Utopia but might struggle a bit with other headphones.

HD 800
This is where I see the biggest competition for the Elear especially with the introduction of the HD800S making the HD800 cheaper and in line with the price of the Elear. So competing for the same bracket how do these fair? I would say that the difference between the two is wide enough that they operate in 2 different niches.

Build on the Elear is quite a bit better just because of the material used but the plastic construction of the HD 800 and bigger cups do make comfort quite a bit better for the Sennheiser camp. While i do prefer the aesthetic and build of the Elear more the decreased weight and more breathing room inside the HD 800 does win out as far as design goes however Focal does get big points for using a more accessible 3.5mm termination to each cup versus the HD 800 weird off Lemo connectors making recables and possibility of finding an aftermarket cable easier with the Elear.

The main advantage that the HD 800 has on the Elear is accessibility. Besides the infamous peak; the HD 800 are fairly accessible cans. While boring or too piercing with their peak on depending on what you’re listening to them through the HD 800 wide soundstage and more subdued presentation overall help to make the HD 800 a more pleasing can on a technical level than the Elear. The transients and clarity overall are a lot smoother making the Elear sound grainy in its voicing. However the Elear has a more engaging attack and decay to its presentation making it feel faster and more agile than the HD 800. While it may not be as natural as the HD 800 by any means it is definitely a more pleasing listen to my ears but more often than not I could see myself picking up the HD 800 instead. However something else to keep in mind is that the Elear is less picky with different sources and depending on where you’re listening to the HD 800 through your mileage and overall experience might vary.
It’s a really tough call so for those that are thinking of either can in contention with each other I would definitely say have a chance to listen to them both. In my opinion the HD 800 wins out by a hair just because of the wider soundstage and less aggressive sound overall. But I would definitely say that both are different enough to compliment each other in a collection
Funnily enough this comparison is a lot easier than Elear vs HD 800. Build notes stay the same but sound changes quite a bit.

I really didn’t like the changes made to the HD800S. While the elimination of the peak is nice i felt like the entire can was a little bit more boring because of it. The soundstage remains the same but the nice chiseled detail and micro detail that was in the HD 800 is lost some here. The extra bass is nice but less tight so when comparing to the Elear the bass of the HD 800S feels wooly and little out of place. The HD 800S also sits at a different price bracket (currently sitting at 1700 USD on amazon) and I feel like with that price differential the Elear absolutely schools the HD 800S in terms of value for the cost.
HD 650
Ah the most common comparison i’ve seen here. I feel like it’s a lost cause trying to sway dedicated 650 owners from dropping  these and I can’t say that the Elear necessarily fits the title of Super HD 650. That’s not to say it’s not a good upgrade for 650 owners either I just think there is enough different between them that if you go in expecting a buffed up 650 you might leave a little bit disappointed.
The biggest similarity is in the scale of each cans soundstage. They both occupy a smaller space but both present themselves in different ways. The warmer nature of the HD 650 is akin to the Elear but the weight and power of the treble are definitely a lot more compelling than the slightly veiled and rolled off treble on the 650’s. Bass on the Elear is quite a bit better as well, both opt for a mid-bass kick but the HD 650 does offer a bit more sub bass. However what was surprising to me is how much more I liked mid presentation on the 650 over the Elear. While i preferred pianos and instrumentation on the Elear i liked the smoother presentation of vocals on the HD 650 more overall. Voices are presented in a lot clearer and consistent tone while the Elear is shouty and shrill at times. Tonality and timbre is also smoother on the HD 650 leading to a more relaxing listen overall. However you trade in the smoother nature of the HD 650 for a faster and more detailed can overall as I find the attack on the HD 650 feeling a bit slow on some faster tracks that the Elear makes feel effortless. The feeling of dynamics also feel better on the Elear giving a much livelier and satisfying response than that of the HD 650 on drums and various percussion instrumentation.

It’s a really tough call and i’m sad to say that the Elear might not be the better HD 650 that every HD 650 owner was really hoping for. But the Elear is a different enough option from the HD 650 to justify picking it up but probably not for the same reasons that most HD 650 owners were hoping to pick one up.
Audeze LCD 2/3/4
This is the comparison I wanted to make the most because the difference in quality between these options are staggering. I chose a broader range for this comparison because I felt on listening each of these cans represented the same kind of sound overall but refinement with each step got a bit tighter and smoother but not different enough to warrant different comparisons per can.

Starting with comfort and build quality the Elear wins out hard in this category. The Better materials, the more solid construction help the Elear feel a lot more quality than any of the Audeze cans even up to the LCD-4. While the LCD series offer bigger cups and plusher pads the better balance and padding of the Elear makes the LCD cans feel quite heavy in comparison. When handling the two it is nearly night and day with the quality of construction and workmanship when comparing the Elear to any of the LCD headphones.

Moving on to sound I will say that all of the LCD series prove smoother and lusher overall. The tonality of voices and bass extension prove for a much richer and relaxed experience overall and on the right tracks they just feel smooth and effortless. Besides that every other element is better on the Elear. The sheer speed and energy of the Elear just run circles around Audeze and while the Elear might not be as liquidy smooth they make up for it by just beating the Audeze to a pulp in technical detail and power overall. This remains true even up to the LCD-4.

That seems overly brutal but really listening to the cans side by side it really baffled me at how much more I preferred the Elear to any of the LCD lineup. Again they will fill different spots in a collection and they are different enough to compliment each other but as far as competing as a technically sound and pleasing warm headphone the Elear wins out hard against all the LCD headphones.
This was the can I was most directly comparing the Elear to at first and in a lot of ways I think the comparisons between these 2 cans are very close.

Starting off with build I think the Elear does win out overall just because the hinge design on the TH-900 is a little bit questionable but the craftsmanship on the TH-900 cups is impeccable enough to comment on. Comfort is better on the TH-900 despite the cups being a bit more shallow. The TH-900 just feels lighter and the clamp is quite a bit lighter and I found them easier to wear for prolonged period than the Elear.

Both cans are similar in that their response overall maintains a bit more focus in bass and treble than a smooth mid response however the Elear does balance this quite a bit better than the TH-900. This leads to the Elear sounding a bit more cohesive and smooth overall than the TH-900. But where the strength of the TH-900 lies is in the comically impressive bass response. The extension, the punch the impact is just so perfect that I have a hard time finding any real competition to it. The bass is cleaner on the Elear overall but far less impressive and satisfying than the TH-900. Both disappoint with mid representation and both feel uneven with vocals. I found the Elear to sound better rounded with vocals but grainer than the TH-900. I found the TH-900 to sound a bit edgier and piercing but cleaner overall. So it’s really a pick your poison kind of deal. Treble response is a bit more pleasing on the Elear but both have this peak due to the weaker presence of the upper mid section. Really I find both to be about equal in most areas except bass. Even soundstage is similar between the two. Owning both cans they do operate in a similar enough niche to where both kind of overlap but it’s really a toss up as the bass of the TH-900 is just so good that it’s hard to really get rid of in favor of the Elear so i’d say they’re about even unless you’re an absolute bass head in which the TH-900 wins out but only by a hair

Ah big brother Utopia. While I don’t think these cans operate in the same bracket enough to really compare the two fairly there will be people wondering how the Elear fairs in comparison.

Gonna leave build quality and comfort aside as both cans are very similar in that regard with the exception of the Carbon Fibre yolks which are really cool. But both feel very similar on your head so it really isn’t a comparison.

Let’s get to the good stuff. I’m gonna get this out of the way and say that the Utopia is damn near flawless so this is gonna be pretty one sided overall. The gap between the two in my eyes is night and day. Where the Elear is competing with other cans the Utopia just sweeps the table. Clarity, timbre, speed, soundstage, detail retrieval, balance overall; it’s just all so much better on the Utopia. So much better in fact that every headphone i’ve listened to after owning the Utopia sounds veiled. It’s really that good. The difference in clean tonality between the Elear and Utopia is just night and day to my ears but the question isn’t which can is really better but rather is the gap between the two really that big. The answer to my ears is yes. The Utopia is just so much smoother and feels so much more engaging than the Elear that the gap feels quite large. Maybe not 3000$ large but definitely large. I can see where people might end up liking the Elear a bit better overall though. The warmer tonality of the Elear might make them feel a little bit easier to listen to versus the brighter more mid and treble focused might not be as easy to listen to and I have had people tell me after directly impressioning both that they liked the Elear a little bit more. Maybe the gap isn’t as big as i think it is.

So where does this all leave the Elear? They don’t quite perform up to the same insane level as the Utopia but they are unique enough to still be considered along with them at a much lower bar of entry. That does put them in a pretty good place overall and definitely makes them compelling enough to be considered against a lot of the bigger more established cans. Not enough to completely shake them off their thrones (with the exception of Audeze) but definitely enough to carve a new seat for itself. With that new position i think it will prove to be very compelling over the next couple of years especially considering at it’s price it is roughly comparable to cans that are quite a bit more expensive than it. There is still plenty of room for refinement and the flaws that it has are really hard to ignore so if you can definitely impression them and try them before you commit blindly towards owning them. Overall though I found myself very enamoured enough by the energy and power behind the Elear that really I didn’t have too much of a problem with them. It checks a lot of boxes, packs a solid punch and sets a new expectation for how I expect cans should be built and designed in the future. Thank you Focal to committing to the TOTL market and providing a nice change of pace to what I was used to.
Nice review of the Elear.
Though, I am not that impressed with Elear, I would like to know how your comparison between Elear and the rest held? I have heard HD800S on some woo audio amps and some transfomer coupled amps and found to be well above Elear in almost any aspects maybe i could give a nod on the bass slams...Another headphone i found to be more impressive than Elear was Audeze LCD-X, and 3...not lcd 2 though...The LCD's of my pick drove by Audio GD HE-9(custom version of Master 9)..Maybe we have different hearings aside from pairing the right source and amplifier with specific headphones.
Thanks for the comment acap,

After having some more time with additional sources and becoming more familiar with the HD 800S past my initial listening with it I think my overall opinion stays the same about it. In my comparison with the Elear in this review I do feel like it's a bit unfair but my evaluation of the Elear feeling better is mainly because of the price differential. Over time I've found that the HD 800 still wins out over the Elear for a good amount of people because it's just an easier listen to the more energetic lean of the Elear. That comparisson is a good one because they very much fall into the same price bracket, sometimes the HD 800 even coming out cheaper.
The HD 800S on the other hand is in a different league. For the hike in price i very much expected it to easily come out on top of both the Elear and the HD 800S. But still I couldn't hear any reason to justify that little bit extra. I found I preferred the original HD 800 especially at the lower cost and while some of the same points where the HD 800 is better than the Elear still apply with the HD 800S not all of them do. For quite a bit less you do lose out on a better, crisper, wider presentation overall but you still get a better build quality and some very fun and unique elements in bass presentation that would help someone choose the Elear over the HD 800S. With an 800$ price differential I can't say that hike is worth it for most people.

It's the same case with the LCD-3 and 4. For a headphone that is nearly half the cost of the higher end Audeze cans it trumps them hard in terms of comfort and build quality. I found the LCD-3 to have a much easier to listen to signature with much better bass extension but i still preferred the speed and punch of the Elear's mid-bass slam. However the LCD-3 I was listening to did do a better job at making for a much more pleasurable mid range and the problems i had with the Elear did become more apparent in A/B however it was still hard to convince myself that with the way that the LCD-3 had been designed and built in comparison to a headphone that's half it's cost it did jade my opinion on them quite a bit.

Thanks for reply...
On the build quality, i am not sure if hd800/S is lesser quality compared to Elear .. Is it because of hd800 is build based on lesser metal/steel part than Elear does I dont know. But so far, it so far lesser as build quality issue reported for hd800 compared to Elear(maybe for first batch) despite being build with plastic parts..And the issue with Elear headband is still questionable as of reported by one headfier in one of the Focals thread which i am not sure is still there or not and am not going to mention what was actually happen with him/her..I'm really hope Focal address the issue soon because a $1000 headphone shouldn't have that kind of issue.. On the other side,i still can see hd800 used price is more better in this department despite being plastic based build. The plastic is of high quality and NASA spec'd quality for lower distortion parts..Dont get me wrong..Not going to give hard time on focals on this aspect because its really beautiful headphone and quite sturdy on framewise. And much beautiful than any hd800/S model..The best build quality of headphone I can think of vs weight distribution have to be Focal Utopia..

Last week, I spent quite sometimes demoed Elear on the local store nearby. Revisiting the headphone is a pleasure and inviting. Using my daily tracks which I was quite familiar with and compared it to LCD-X which happened to be in the store. I can say I prefer Elear by quite a large margin for number of reasons..Being much more weight effective is one of the major decision..After quite short time, I felt like my neck sore already thus really fatiguing if proceed for more longer.. The sound however, I can feel the lcd-x to be more transparent(the dissappearance of headphone from head) than Elear does. But not by large margin though. I can feel Elear to be somewhat veiled sounding than I used to.. The veil somehow is not neccesarily a bad thing..Focal scored nicely on this with Elear. Warm and inviting signature..Compared to HD800S, Elear couldn't match the ultimate transparency,soundstaging and detail retrieval..Just with the cost that can be overbearing on many people which have a hint thinness on timbre and do not slam as hard as in Elear..I guess its just my opinion on this one..Elear is very nice pair of can and do not fussy with source pairing as much as HD800/800S does...I rate this even higher than LCD-X i demoed overall..
Pros: Great value for money especially in this day and age where headphone prices have been escalating
Cons: A little closed sounding compared to other open headphones. A somewhat less neutral styled signature (which isn't necessarily a con depending on pref)


As with the Focal Utopia, the Elear requires pretty much no introduction. Again with great thanks to Focal and to Rocky International, Focal's local Japan distributor, for giving me the opportunity to review the Elear for a few days.
The Elear was released as an alternate offering from Focal with a somewhat slightly different signature from the flagship. One of the most exciting advantages of the Elear is the RRP of USD$1000. For the quality of sound the Elear produces compared to some other brands of the same asking price makes the Elear sound like a real steal. Although it's somewhat difficult to measure, to me, the Elear offers one of the highest return on value (or more accurately, "satisfaction") compared to other new/current model headphones in the market at the moment.

Design and Construction

Although the Elear uses the same driver design the construction as the Utopia, it is different in materials used and magnet design/strength. Other differences include the earpads where Focal has opted to use a microfibre fabric for the Elear as opposed to the lambskin in the flagship Utopia. The microfibre is warmer on my ears than the Utopia's lambskin but yet are supple on the head. The Elear's earpad also contributes to defining the overall tonal signature of the headphone, but more about that later.
The Elear is surprisingly lighter than the Utopia despite the use of aluminium yokes vs the flagship's carbon fibre. As with the Utopia, the cable that comes with the Elear is also long and heavy. The connectors are more regular 3.5mm 2 pole - therefore the cables are not interchangeable with the Utopia. Since the headphone design is similar to the Utopia, aside from the warmer earcups, the Elear sits comfortably on my head too.
Aesthetically, the Elear has a lightly more understated compared to the flagship. It retains the sophisticated but more slightly stealthy look compared to the Utopias.


Despite having a basic conceptual design with the Utopia, due to the different construction material of the driver diaphragm, the magnet design/strength, earpad materials, etc. the tonal signature to my ears is vastly different from the Utopia. I have the impression that instead of Focal creating a more affordable version of the Utopia, the Elear was created to provide an alternate sound signature to cater for customers with varying tastes. This approach is very encompassing and welcoming to catering to customers' preferences.

The tonal signature of the Elear is a warm analogue-like fluid signature with a stronger woolier bass to midbass region. The midrange to me sounds somewhat similar to the Utopia but in the treble region feels a little more mellowed (but not recessed). As such with a mellower signature, the Elear is more laid back and a contrast to the Utopia's engagingly aggressive approach. When swapping the Utopia pads with the Elear, the default Elear microfibre earpads contribute considerably to the Elear's overall warm based smooth analogue tonal signature. With the Utopia lambskin earpads on the Elear, the bass is toned down a little however something, which I can't put my finger on, doesn't sound as right.
As I don't own any headphones in this tonal signature family, I wasn't able to compare the Elear to other headphones of similar sound signature family. However from my past experience on listening to a variety of headphones, I gather audiophiles and audio enthusiasts who like the earlier Audeze LCD-2/3's, and MDR-Z1R sound signatures may want to consider giving the Focal Elear a listen.
In terms of the detail retrieval and resolution, the Elear comes close to the Utopia however is somewhat more less obvious by comparison. One has to "search" for it during listening sessions as opposed to the Utopia where it's more easily apparent. The Elear is still miles ahead of some of the other current model headphones of similar price though and to re-iterate again, this is where the return on investment of the Elear is to its owner.
The Elear's soundstage shares a similar characteristic to the Utopia whereby at least to what I'm used to, sounds a little closed in, however excels with a great 3D-like depth imaging. Do bear in mind though that most of the headphones I'm accustomed to such as the HD800S do have a wide soundstage - wereby some would even claim to be unusually wide.

Final Thoughts

So why would I give the Elear 4 stars if I think it's that great value for money? If there was greater granularity to the Head-Fi ranking system it'll get a more than 4 stars but fall a little short of the Utopia I reviewed earlier. The reason is simply due to my sonic preferences, whereby I like a little more trebles and slightly tighter bass. It's simply not my 1st choice of tonal sound signature despite its technicalities meet and even exceed my expectation for its asking price. As such I don't own any other headphone of that familyof sound signature. Had it been my taste though, the Elear would have full stars as it does it executes the technical deliverability so well at such an extremely charming price. If one likes this signature and has a budget of $1000, the Elear is really a no brainer. In my personal opinion it puts to shame the other headphones of similar price.
I have a review sample of the Elear, haven't evaluated it yet, but don't have the above cans to compare to. My references would be HEK, HE-560, maybe Koss ESP-950 (different technology, price about the same, though Koss includes amp/energizer). Maybe the new, soon to come ZMF...
@ericp10 They are at similar level of audio quality. T1 v2 are overall more balanced than Elear who has a slightly down-ward tuning. The size of  sound stage is almost the same. Elear sounds deeper on bass while T1 sounds better on treble extension. The Elear wins on dynamic response while T1 works better on imaging. T1 sounds smoother on treble but you need some good amp/dac to make it shine while Elear sounds fine even plug it directly into a smartphone.
I noticed the woo wa8, which headphone do you think works best with it? How did the elear do with the wa8?  Thanks!
Pros: Fast and engaging sound due to dynamics, pleasing and full bass, rich mids and comfortably extended treble that allows for a good slam, chunky sound
Cons: On the heavy side, upper-mid dip makes some older recordings sound a bit veiled with a slight sense of darkness

God, this hype.
As primarily a headphones guy, I had never even heard of Focal before this summer. Shortly before attending the London Can Jam in August, the hype regarding the new Focal Utopia ($4000) and Elear ($1000) had reached a fever pitch – so much so that I put it high on my list of items to try out. Turns out that so did everybody else.
Four seats at the venue were constantly occupied, the two at Focal’s booth and the two at Moon Audio’s booth – who also had a Utopia and Elear. In between the two, I had some time with both and walked away muttering that it seemed the hype was real – but I needed a quiet environment to be sure. I made the decision that day to pursue the Elear, as the Utopia was far out of my reach, and to dissect its sound reproduction for myself. After nearly two months, I am ready to publish my findings.
Type: Circum-aural open back headphones
Impedance: 80 Ohms
Sensitivity: 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
THD: <0.3% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
Frequency response: 5Hz - 23kHz
Loudspeaker: 137⁄64“ (40mm) Aluminium-Magnesium "M" shape dome
Weight: 0.99lb (450g)
Cable length: 13.1ft (4m)
Connectors: 1 x 01/4“ (6.35mm) stereo Jack connector 2 x 09⁄64“ (3.5mm) Jack
Carrying case: 1253⁄64“x1015⁄64“x629⁄64“ (326x260x164mm) 
Build Quality & Comfort
I remember thinking at the London Can Jam that the Elear looked better aesthetically than the Utopia, preferring the former’s demure nature over the latter’s bombastic grill opening in the cups and spotted earpads. The Elear emits a premium aura from it in its black, grey and silver colour scheme. “Made in France” is printed boldly, in French of course, on both sides along with the name “Elear” and “Aluminium-Magnesium.”
The earpads are memory foam and not a struggle to wear or tame. It, along with the clamp, does not add pressure to the point of discomfort or pain – far from it in fact. I’m lounging around, writing this, with it having been on my head for hours now and I don’t feel fatigued at all. The only full-sized headphone in my possession that I can say that about is the lighter HD800 - making it an achievement of the Elear’s design that it can manage this with its heavier weight.
Yes, the weight. This headphone weighs 450g and that is without the simultaneously incredible yet ridiculous cable that is provided in the box. This cable is 13ft/4m and shielded so thick you would think the answers to the meaning of life are hidden within. Make no mistake, I much prefer a good quality cable to an afterthought-cable with no effort put into it – but I’m fairly sure Focal was thinking primarily of people sitting on their couches whenever they wanted to take a break from a Focal speaker system with something more intimate.
That being said, the connectors on each side of the headphones are 3.5mm and, thus, so easily swappable - no proprietary connectors here folks.
The weight of the headphones themselves do not bother me so much either, but keep in mind that I was recently promoted to captain in the great war against heavy headphones. I’ve fought the HE-500 and two Omnis and survived to find the Elear a comfortable wearing experience. All joking aside, the weight distribution on this headphone is such that allows for this. The cherry Omni was of a very similar weight, but the nature of the T50RP frame made it awkward to fit on my head comparatively – even with the ZMF pilot pad. I spent longer than I’d like to admit trying to make the HE-500 more comfortable, so an out-of-box comfortable listening experience is something I applaud.
I spoke with Nicolas Debard at the London Can Jam in August and he told me that the Utopia and Elear were created with their in-house construction of an “M-shaped dome.” This was done in order to maintain the usage of electrodynamic drivers while offering an experience that is similar to speakers. There’s more to it than that, but I’ll let the man explain himself.

Ultimately, these headphones just look so great as well as possess the advantages listed above. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but as I said earlier – I found the Elear to look more distinguished than the Utopia even. A quick browse through Focal’s website shows that they want to position themselves as a luxury brand, and stylish above all. This is further proven by the €100,000 gold-and-diamond studded Utopia being created recently for sale. That’s all fine and good, but it isn’t what I’m about at all. An average dude like me doesn’t subscribe to the marketing practice of being sold a lifestyle rather than a product - and I would find all that luxury-positioning pointless if the sound quality was average-at-best. Luckily, Focal backs up their image with ample substance.
The sound of the Elear is unlike any I’ve heard in headphones that I’ve owned in the past. If I had to pick one that is somewhat similar to it, it would be the ZMF Omni. However, the Elear has a dynamic quality to it that has been absent in all my previous headphones, with the Sennheiser HD800 coming closest.
What I mean by this is that the Elear pushes music out to the listener in an almost startlingly, at first, quick manner. This is not a laid back headphone, like the Omni, and it takes no prisoners in its sound reproduction. It is fast, very fast – and more than likely to surprise you at first until you are used to it. I always notice how certain instruments sound best on certain headphones that I’ve reviewed in the past: the HD800 being especially great at strings and orchestral recordings, the Hifiman HE-500 being especially good at vocals and the Omni standing out for how it showcases acoustic guitars. The instrument that stands out the most on the Elear is the piano, particularly a grand piano. The attack on the key hits is immense and startling, and you can feel a piano riff in the chest if it is emphasized in a song’s production enough.
The soundstage of the Elear is quite intimate, especially for an open headphone. Despite not owning them anymore, I would say it’s similar to the Sennheiser HD600 and Hifiman HE-400i in this regard. However, its dynamic nature provides for an interesting listening experience where an intimate soundstage can still feel rather full and detailed. This is because, once again, the Elear loves to take every instrument in a song and throw it at the listener – reemphasized. I found that, with most headphones, I would find that a certain instrument or vocal in the mix was most pronounced – with the rest of the mix falling behind to give that particular melody space to carry the song overall. This would make for an interesting experience with the HD800 sometimes, where a drum beat’s cymbal pattern would land squarely on the frequency chart of the headphones that emphasized treble – leading it to sound a great deal more pronounced than, I would imagine, even the personnel in the mixing room at the time of recording intended.
I would classify those headphones as having a more linear presentation to them. A semi-useful analogy I can think is the idea that those headphones are an assembly line, producing a single unit at a time in a long conveyer belt. What the Elear does instead is reproduce sound in what seems like batches, with each second of listening presenting a number of sounds in equal measure. This is not to say that the Elear is turning around the mixing and mastering (particularly the chosen volume of different instruments) process and brickwalling each instrument to a point where there is no dynamic range in a song. Far from it, song dynamics are well presented – you just have to get used to how it’s done.
This is because, ultimately, the Elear has a “chunky” sound. As mentioned before, the batche reproduction of sound makes it so one single instrument or melody does not take centre-stage nearly as much. Take the introduction to the Dark Side of the Moon album by Pink Floyd; a track known as Speak to Me. As the heartbeat referencing bass drum slowly gets louder, all the samples of clockwork, machinery and voices are spread on top as the song builds in suspense. If I had listened to that track with the Massdrop x Fostex TH-X00, the heartbeat sound would have been emphasized over all else. If I listen to it with the HD800, the machinery and voices are swirling around with a sharp and clear presentation – due to the HD800’s massive soundstage and imaging. I could continue with examples, but I’m sure you get the point. What the Elear does in this song is take every sample and bring it up close and personal to the listener in a manner that would be undoubtedly more strikingly noticeable than on many other headphones in this price range. Yes, this has something to do with the narrower soundstage on the Elear than the HD800 – but that doesn’t excuse just how much more noticeable each instrument is as the album carries on.
The Elear has a rather “full” sound to it, and this fact has a lot to do with the bass extension and performance. While not overly bassy headphones by any means, certainly not on the level of the TH-X00, the Elear has a bit of a boost to its bass frequency in order to give it a kick in the low-end. I don’t find the bass wanting with most genres of music I throw at it, including electronic and dance-pop music. I was actually surprised that the sub-bass extension is quite similar to that of the ZMF Omni, which is a semi-closed headphone that is heavily dependent on a good seal to perform in this regard. This is one of the several characteristics of the headphone that would disqualify it from being called “neutral” or from being used in a recording studio for mixing music – with the trade-off being that it makes the chorus of The Hills by The Weeknd sound so full and present.
The lower midrange of the Elear is quite a delight. It shares characteristics from the cherry iteration of the ZMF Omni, in that it can pleasingly reproduce acoustic guitars. Guitars and male vocals fall into this area and are presented supremely, with body and texture that are quite natural in their presentation. Like the Omni, and to a lesser extent the Meze 99 Classic, the Elear has an “earthy” quality to the lower-mids that champions the idea of perfect imperfection – contrasting with the HD800’s emphasis on accuracy and the sharply analytical reproduction of audio.
The midrange itself is nowhere near as “liquid” as the HE-500, a quality that makes the Hifiman headphones shine with vocals. However, it has more detail to it than the Hifiman – not quite as much as the HD800 but a surprisingly intense amount regardless. A song like Patience by Guns N’ Roses, with its layering of acoustic guitars, brings out the strength of the dynamics, midrange tone and detail of the Elear. The song is chock full of guitar fills and licks that accompany the rhythm guitar, and the Elear’s fast and full midrange makes it certain that the arrival of such an event is presented realistically – with the picking and strumming ringing out clearly and standing apart from the rest of what is going on in the song. As Axl Rose’s voice croons over the instrumentation, I can’t help but be surprised by how each track is not overshadows by anything else.
The chunky, batch-producing nature of the Elear is really quite impressive. That being said, the upper midrange feels a bit subdued, with female vocals having a slight dip in weight and body compared to male vocals. The dip also makes the Elear a little dark in presentation compared to the HE-500 and especially the HD800 – and not quite unlike the Sennheiser HD600 and HD650. Classic rock recordings with older recording methods, such as most tracks on Led Zeppelin’s first few albums, feel a tiny bit stifled because of this – with the songs feeling like they are hiding behind a soft wall of sorts. This is something that I noticed in the ZMF Omni as well, but the HD800 is the best headphone I have owned in terms of tackling this tricky area on the frequency chart – leading to such recordings ringing out clearly. However, it is further on in the frequency chart that the Elear redeems this fact.
The treble of the Elear is never sibilant, to my ears, and I am quite grateful for that. Due to this, I can safely say that I can get an enjoyable listen with most genres of music. However, it is further up the graph that the treble returns with a vengeance – making the Elear the headphones with the most snap I have owned yet, that isn’t V-shaped. The snare drum on some headphones with a warmer tone, or slightly dark nature, leads to an unsatisfying “thud” sound on the snare. The Elear, to put it simply, does not. Be it an EDM snare, a rock song, a metal song, a pop song or even a futuristic blip-snare in a genre I have never even heard of – the Elear will make it sound right. This, coupled with the bass bump, makes the headphones slam in a very fun manner.
The treble extension even gives instruments some air around them. Of course, this is nowhere near the capability of the HD800 – but the trade-off of that is that the Sennheiser headphones can get quite painful and strident at times. The upper-treble clarity on the Elear leads to all the aforementioned detail coming out in songs, such as the realistic twang of Slash’s lead guitar work in Patience.
While the cherry ZMF Omni produced my favourite (and most realistic) sound of strummed acoustic guitars, it didn’t make single notes pop nearly as much as the Elear does. Cymbals sound accurate without demanding listener attention by drowning anything else out.
The mixture of the aforementioned ingredients has made the Elear the most fun listening experience for me from any full-sized headphone that I have owned since I entered this hobby with the purchase of a Beyerdynamic DT990 600 ohm in 2012. Keep in mind that the Omni held this position before Focal released this beast of a headphone. That should tell you where my biases lie, with more musical listening experiences rather than neutrality or super-high resolution. However, the way the Elear presents sound makes it so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on an analytical experience either. There is a good amount of air around stringed instruments so I don’t have to always switch to the HD800 whenever I listen to orchestral/classical music – especially if I’m feeling lazy.
I know that the Elear’s sonic characteristics may be a deal-breaker for some, especially the small soundstage and the fact that the imaging is nothing special. However, I would boldly claim that a majority of listeners would really enjoy the sound that this headphone outputs. It’s musical without losing shimmering detail because of any treble roll-off. It’s punchy and fast, with metal music sounding right at home with double-kick drums ringing out clearly in the mix. Most importantly, for this sound signature, it doesn’t lose breath up top – with the treble making it sound very resolving without reaching an area of sibilance.
For anyone reading who has gone through the pain of demo’ing various amps to find one that was a good match for their HD800, I understand entirely. I’ve listened through amps that made me feel like my ears were being stabbed with those headphones, but I’ve also encountered amps that made the experience come alive – taming the peaks without losing what the HD800 was created to be.
The Elear isn’t like that. It sounds like itself when I use it with my Schiit Magni 2, Cavalli Liquid Carbon or even my portable VE RunAbout Plus. It is not hard to drive either, with its 80 ohms impedance being quite sensitive. While some headphones have a high ceiling, the Elear simply does not – letting you drive these quite easily and get the full-experience. I definitely appreciate that it can sound so similarly spectacular from my $99 Magni 2 and $599 (first-run) Liquid Carbon, with any differences being in house-sound mainly.
Comparisons with the Sennheiser HD800, Hifiman HE-500 & ZMF Omni Cocobolo

Comparison with the Focal Utopia
I’m bound to be asked this. Make no mistake, I caught myself wondering if the Utopia was really worth being 4x the price of the Elear when I first tried them both out at the London Can Jam. Such thinking is pointless because we are all well-aware of the diminishing returns of the audio game.
The short answer is that yes, the Utopia outperforms the Elear. It has detail that trumped the HD800 even, to my ears, without sounding harsh or treble-emphasized. It was, rather, a natural sounding and dynamically detailed listening experience that impressed me more than the Sennheiser Orpheus did. That being said, it is slightly towards the bright spectrum because of this – while the Elear is slightly warmer and bassier. The Elear provides a stellar amount of detail while retaining a fun sound signature that is compatible with most genres of music, and particularly being forgiving of most recordings of music. The Utopia is more on the analytical side of things.
Even if you are a lover of vast soundstages and hyper-precise imaging, I would recommend that you demo the Elear. Now that I’ve reached the conclusion, I’m trying to avoid using any clichés, but I’m failing at it because this headphone has made a lot of music come alive with far less discrimination than some of the others I’ve owned in the past. The HD800 is the only headphone in this price-range that I would say holds its own against the Elear on some fronts, (soundstage, imaging, detail) but most other headphones at this price range are going to struggle to match up – be they planar magnetic or dynamic.
To a guy like me, who has minimal experience with the dynamic attack of an electrostatic, the Elear took some getting used to – in a good way. Having instruments, especially pianos, pop out in recordings was not something I had consistently experienced before during home listening. Listening to music is simply not a passive experience with this headphone, but rather an engaging one that can even distract you if you were foolish enough to hope for a background listening experience.
It’s a little warm, has ample bass, a clean midrange that allows for impressive instrument separation in well-recorded, mixed and mastered music (modern production methods particularly) and has a comfortable treble extension that allows for the resolve and slam to happen. It’s easy to drive, has good weight distribution and is comfortable to wear – all while looking like a premium product.
I had never heard of Focal before this summer, but they walked in and took the spot of my highest recommendation of full-sized headphones (under $1000) with such ease that I can see why they took four whole years on the R&D of this headphone and the Utopia.

Bass Quantity: TH-X00 > Classic 99 > ZMF Omni = Elear > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > K7XX > HE-500 > HD600 > HD800

Mids: HE-500 > HD800 > HD600 = ZMF Omni = Elear > Classic 99 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > K7XX > TH-X00 > DT990

Treble Quantity: DT990 > HD800 > HE400i > TH-X00 > Elear > K7XX > Classic 99 > HE-500 > HD600 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I

Soundstage: HD800 > K7XX > DT990 > HE-500 > ZMF Omni = Elear = HD600 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > Classic 99 > TH-X00

Comfort: DT990 > HD800 > K7XX > TH-X00 > Elear > HE400i > HD600 > ZMF Omni > Classic 99 > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE-500

Aesthetics: Elear > HD800 > Classic 99 > TH-X00 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > K7XX > HE-500 > HD600

Lightness: HD800 > Classic 99 > K7XX > DT990 > TH-X00 > HD600 > HE400i > Elear > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > ZMF Omni > HE-500
Great Review. I've had mine for nearly a week now and enjoying them immensely. I am playing them out of my QP1R which sounds great.  My only niggle is the cable length and weight for portable use in and around the home. I am now looking for an alternative cable and a dedicated desk top head phone amp. Do you have any recommendations?
nice review.  I have them and love them.  Dynamic, punchy and incredibly musical.  Thanks for the review.