Focal Clear headphones
Jun 9, 2018 at 5:34 PM Post #3,871 of 10,323

koiloco

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The time switching from one to the other was 2-3 secs. The time listening to each before switching varied and was generally a lot longer. Aside from the back to back comparisons, I also listened to the Utopia alone for several days, then the Elear for a few days, and now the Clear for the past few days. I'd like my decision to be easier because one is substantially better overall than the others, but I'm not finding that any of the three wins on that basis.
If you can't hear the technicality differences between the Clear and Utopia without straining and paying super close attention to the music, just get the Clear + a decent amp. That's my personal guideline to compare HPs at relatively same level. Everything else, IMO, is just different presentations of the curve (tuning) and everyone has his/her own preference.
 
Jun 9, 2018 at 5:37 PM Post #3,872 of 10,323

dontfeedphils

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If you can't hear the technicality differences between the Clear and Utopia without straining and paying super close attention to the music, just get the Clear + a decent amp. That's my personal guideline to compare HPs at relatively same level. Everything else, IMO, is just different presentations of the curve (tuning) and everyone has his/her own preference.

I'd agree with this. If he really only puts the Utopia "a small notch" above the Clear then he should call himself lucky and enjoy spending at least $1.5k less.
 
Jun 9, 2018 at 5:48 PM Post #3,873 of 10,323

koiloco

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I'd agree with this. If he really only puts the Utopia "a small notch" above the Clear then he should call himself lucky and enjoy spending at least $1.5k less.
+1
IMO, we need to be honest with ourselves and be aware of our listening capability. Some of us will buy TOTL and could easily hear and appreciate that last few % of improvement. Some go straight to TOTL but won't be able to discern, and therefore would imagine/pretend/make believe or at best very slowly learning to recognize those improvements. As with any other hobbies, this one also has a learning curve, often made treacherous with snake oil, hype, myth, dishonesty and last but not least, our wonderful imagination...

Nothing wrong with either routes cuz it's your own $. I am just throwing some reality out there.
 
Jun 9, 2018 at 6:12 PM Post #3,874 of 10,323

Phronesis

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You must not really have an overpowering FR preference, huh? Usually it's pretty easy with Utopia being brighter, Elear warmer, and Clear right down the middle.

It seems so. IMO, the Clear, being right down the middle with good technicality and excellent tonality balance, would fit him best.

If you can't hear the technicality differences between the Clear and Utopia without straining and paying super close attention to the music, just get the Clear + a decent amp. That's my personal guideline to compare HPs at relatively same level. Everything else, IMO, is just different presentations of the curve (tuning) and everyone has his/her own preference.

I'd agree with this. If he really only puts the Utopia "a small notch" above the Clear then he should call himself lucky and enjoy spending at least $1.5k less.

I definitely hear a difference between the three, which is why I'm not just going with the Elear, as the least expensive, nor can I easily rule out the Utopia. I generally don't have a strong FR preference - I like some variety, which is why I can enjoy both the Audeze and Focal sound and have multiple headphones simultaneously. With the Focals, I'd ideally like to have the added clarity and resolution of the Utopia, the Elear's lack of excessive edge, and the Elear's amount of bass with the Utopia's control of bass. I watched the head-fi videos by Jude and it seems that my impressions and preferences are very similar to his. I don't generally expect any headphone to be the 'best' for all tracks, since there's so much variation in how tracks have been recorded. If the Utopia was at least x% better for all the tracks I listened to, I'd go for it regardless of the extra cost, but the problem is that for some tracks I actually like the Elear and Clear better.

+1
IMO, we need to be honest with ourselves and be aware of our listening capability. Some of us will buy TOTL and could easily hear and appreciate that last few % of improvement. Some go straight to TOTL but won't be able to discern, and therefore would imagine/pretend/make believe or at best very slowly learning to recognize those improvements. As with any other hobbies, this one also has a learning curve, often made treacherous with snake oil, hype, myth, dishonesty and last but not least, our wonderful imagination...

Nothing wrong with either routes cuz it's your own $. I am just throwing some reality out there.

Definitely agreed. When it comes to audio perception and memory, our minds can be unreliable and play tricks on us. We can perceive differences that aren't really there, and we can also miss consciously noticing real differences that we do hear at some level. Moreover, our ears/brains adapt over time, so the significance of differences we perceive can also change over time. That's why I try to make these comparisons in various ways, using a wide variety of tracks, at various volume levels, using both extended listening impressions and comparisons from quick switching.
 
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Jun 9, 2018 at 6:23 PM Post #3,875 of 10,323

koiloco

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...
Definitely agreed. When it comes to audio perception and memory, our minds can be unreliable and play tricks on us. We can perceive differences that aren't really there, and we can also miss consciously noticing real differences that we do hear at some level. Moreover, our ears/brains adapt over time, so the significance of differences we perceive can also change over time. That's why I try to make these comparisons in various ways, using a wide variety of tracks, at various volume levels, using both extended listening impressions and comparisons from quick switching.
IMO, you are doing it right.
Just the fact that you are comparing and considering all 3 Focal models shows that you are very self aware and not drinking any kool-aid. :beerchug:
Let us know after you decide. Gluck...
 
Jun 9, 2018 at 7:08 PM Post #3,878 of 10,323

doraymon

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So I can use the cool balanced Clear cable of course :)
Balanced doesn’t necessarily mean better.
A balanced amp often sounds better out of its balanced output but that’s not true for single ended ones.
Very often balanced amps produce more noise and distortion due to their architecture, you can check this article HERE for example.
 
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Jun 9, 2018 at 8:08 PM Post #3,879 of 10,323

zephyrstar

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Balanced doesn’t necessarily mean better.
A balanced amp often sounds better out of its balanced output but that’s not true for single ended ones.
Very often balanced amps produce more noise and distortion due to their architecture, you can check this article HERE for example.

I know, I just want to try it for myself. :)

Regarding that article, I am a little confused by it. It says "Benchmark does not offer balanced headphone outputs on any of its products."

But the new amp they show coming out in June has a 4 pin headphone out https://benchmarkmedia.com/collections/headphone-amplifiers.

Am I not understanding something?
 
Jun 9, 2018 at 8:19 PM Post #3,880 of 10,323

doraymon

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I know, I just want to try it for myself. :)

Regarding that article, I am a little confused by it. It says "Benchmark does not offer balanced headphone outputs on any of its products."

But the new amp they show coming out in June has a 4 pin headphone out https://benchmarkmedia.com/collections/headphone-amplifiers.

Am I not understanding something?
I was only interested in that article in a general sense, not in the "marketing" part.
Actually I have never tested a Benchmark amp before and I was never interested in buying one.
My point was more to say don't take things for granted like "balanced output is better" and in that sense I found that article very informative!
But yes, you have a point we could ask them what happened!? :L3000:
 
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Jun 9, 2018 at 8:23 PM Post #3,881 of 10,323

zephyrstar

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Ha, so I guess there is some discrepancy there.

I'm with you, I don't think it is necessarily better or worse. I don't have much experience with balanced output yet so I want to try it myself at home for a while.
 
Jun 9, 2018 at 8:51 PM Post #3,883 of 10,323

doraymon

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Someone who has heard the Clear and can vouch that balanced rules the day...speak up!
It really depends on the amp, not on the headphones.
The headphones won't notice if upstream there is a balanced or single ended connection! That's the whole point!

From the Benchmark article: "Headphone transducers are balanced devices. They have two wires. The electrons that flow into one wire must flow out of the other. The current is always balanced. The headphone transducers cannot detect the difference between a single-ended drive and a voltage-balanced drive. The system is balanced with either type of voltage drive."

Different story for analogue interconnects, where balanced connections do help a lot, especially for long distances. I believe that is how balanced connections were born int he first place.
 
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Jun 9, 2018 at 10:26 PM Post #3,884 of 10,323

makne

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FWIW...Bob Katz has the same opinion (re: balanced outputs) in the article on the Pass labs amp.
https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/katzs-corner-episode-24-pass-labs-hpa-1-headphone-amplifier

Someone who has heard the Clear and can vouch that balanced rules the day...speak up!

Bern
It doesn't really have anything to do with the headphones, but the amp's design and architecture.
The main benefit of balanced (aside from maybe a little better crosstalk that I highly doubt is audible) is more power. Which is pretty much completely useless on the Clear, as it is very easy to drive. I can't see any amp having trouble with driving the Clear power-wise, what one should worry about is the quality of the amp, aswell as output impedance which should be low.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 12:49 AM Post #3,885 of 10,323

vaibhavp

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You need both clear and utopia driven at their 100% potential to hear differences according to price. Electronics play a big role in this. Hugo 2 alone won't do justice to Utopia.

Thats why its important to balance your system with electronics and hps as far as your budget is concerned.
 

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