Focal Clear headphones
Jun 10, 2018 at 1:54 AM Post #3,886 of 10,312

makne

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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.
why won’t the Hugo2 do the Utopia justice? Chord dacs are very resolved, transparent, high quality, and their power output is more than enough to drive the Utopia, which isn’t too hard to drive.
With that said, personally I need a warmer amp with the Utopia to enjoy it, as it becomes too lean and a little sharp for me paired with a Hugo. But the Utopia is in no way underdriven by a Hugo or Hugo2
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 2:29 AM Post #3,887 of 10,312

vaibhavp

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why won’t the Hugo2 do the Utopia justice? Chord dacs are very resolved, transparent, high quality, and their power output is more than enough to drive the Utopia, which isn’t too hard to drive.
With that said, personally I need a warmer amp with the Utopia to enjoy it, as it becomes too lean and a little sharp for me paired with a Hugo. But the Utopia is in no way underdriven by a Hugo or Hugo2

I am a mojo user since about a year. Have auditioned a friends hugo 2. I think chord dacs are nicely resolving. Very good quality.

But their hp driving ability is very overrated. Their amp stages are kept very simple so to use minimum parts keeping in mind their dac role. They are good for the purpose but not optimum. Its opinion of owner of hugo 2 as well.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 3:30 AM Post #3,888 of 10,312

Paulo Abreu

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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.

I am so blessed to live in a small island where you can't hear nothing before buying :) Just my opinion, if Utopia didn’t make the "click” already, for +1500$US more than Clear? Then it will probably never do ... IMHO Clear is the less risky choice for one good reason: its in the middle. In a time you can/will adapt to any of them, but if you want to fine tune sound signature with a choice of amp, then Clear is the one that will take you there. My 2 cents
 
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Jun 10, 2018 at 4:01 AM Post #3,889 of 10,312

koiloco

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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?
Could just be for connection convenience.
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
After volume matching, IME, no difference on either my desktop amp or DAP.
I do run the Clear balanced on both though.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 4:05 AM Post #3,890 of 10,312

koiloco

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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.
In my pro audio years, 2 reasons for balanced :
1. Noise/interference prevention.
2. Signal strength for long cable run.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 6:59 AM Post #3,891 of 10,312

nanaholic

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I am a mojo user since about a year. Have auditioned a friends hugo 2. I think chord dacs are nicely resolving. Very good quality.

But their hp driving ability is very overrated. Their amp stages are kept very simple so to use minimum parts keeping in mind their dac role. They are good for the purpose but not optimum. Its opinion of owner of hugo 2 as well.

Considering that the optimal/ideal amp's job is to provide the cleanest/least distorted signal amplification as possible, common sense would say the simpler the amp stage is the better. If you are looking at a very complicated amp design with lots of different parts, maybe you are actually into/expecting some sort of sound flavouring from the amp?

Of course there's nothing wrong with that, people buy amps for sound flavouring all the time. But that's a different thing to not having enough power driving ability.
 
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Jun 10, 2018 at 7:07 AM Post #3,892 of 10,312

vaibhavp

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Considering that the optimal/ideal amp's job is to provide the cleanest/least distorted signal amplification as possible, common sense would say the simpler the amp stage is the better. If you are looking at a very complicated amp design with lots of different parts, maybe you are actually into/expecting some sort of sound flavouring from the amp?

Of course there's nothing wrong with that, people buy amps for sound flavouring all the time. But that's a different thing to not having enough power driving ability.

Yes having less distortion is desirable. And no I am not looking for more distortion.

My listening test proves otherwise. Better amp section gives a more believable presentation, more mind blowing moments. More justification of why the hps cost so much.

So I am in favour of using quality amps, especially with chord dacs. On paper they perform better than amps. But I would be hard pressed to differentiate high end hps on them like clear vs utopia.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 7:21 AM Post #3,893 of 10,312

doraymon

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Considering that the optimal/ideal amp's job is to provide the cleanest/least distorted signal amplification as possible, common sense would say the simpler the amp stage is the better. If you are looking at a very complicated amp design with lots of different parts, maybe you are actually into/expecting some sort of sound flavouring from the amp?

Of course there's nothing wrong with that, people buy amps for sound flavouring all the time. But that's a different thing to not having enough power driving ability.
Well said Sir!
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 8:42 AM Post #3,894 of 10,312

herrsmith

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Very often balanced amps produce more noise and distortion due to their architecture, you can check this article HERE for example.

The problem I have with that article is that it discounts correlated noise, which I understand to generally be the dominant source of electrical noise. If the noise is correlated, then a balanced amp (truly balanced, so fully differential) would actually reduce it (which happens in practice with certain noise sources such as 50/60 Hz power supply noise). They also offer nothing but hand wave-y arguments otherwise. It could very well be that a well-designed balanced amplifier is better than a well-designed balanced, but that article does pretty much nothing to convince me of that.

As for Bob Katz, in that article he does not say that single ended is better, rather that neither is inherently superior.

Balanced is strictly a designer's choice, not demonstrably superior (or inferior) to unbalanced—if the designers optimize the characteristics of each design.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 8:45 AM Post #3,895 of 10,312

nanaholic

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Yes having less distortion is desirable. And no I am not looking for more distortion.

My listening test proves otherwise. Better amp section gives a more believable presentation, more mind blowing moments. More justification of why the hps cost so much.

So I am in favour of using quality amps, especially with chord dacs. On paper they perform better than amps. But I would be hard pressed to differentiate high end hps on them like clear vs utopia.

"Believable presentation" is a very subjective description though.
Also consider example such as this: a headphone has very separate left/right channels which makes them not very "believable" compared to, say, a speaker system. Things like crossfade is technically distortion (or "flavouring", if you would rather prefer a less pointed description) which is introduce into the headphone system by feeding some of the right channel information into the left driver - and vice versa - to create a more "believable" presentation, but nevertheless, is flavouring (though perhaps a favourable/desired type of flavouring). So how can you be certain that the more "believable presentation" isn't something like this? This applies to "mind blowing moments" too - are you certain that your preferred amp is not flavouring the sound in ways which just sounds pleasing to your personal preferences in certain ways (eg. sounds more detail because there is a treble boost, or more "thump" because of a bass boost) rather than the amp actually being inadequate?

Again, I'm not saying you can't have a preference for certain flavouring in sound tuning, but you have yet to make the case that the amp section of a Hugo 2 is actually inadequate just because it doesn't produce a sound you subjectively like.
 
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Jun 10, 2018 at 8:56 AM Post #3,896 of 10,312

Phronesis

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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...

Definitely some psychological and social aspects involved with this stuff. If you tell Utopia owners that the Clear sounds nearly as good (to you), and actually better for some tracks, they'll tend to question your 'hearing ability' and the idea that a headphone which costs so much less could be nearly as good. If you make the same statement to Clear owners, they may be glad to hear it, but reluctant to agree with it, because they themselves would wonder how it could be possible given the price difference, and agreeing with it out loud could subject them to criticism also. The only way to get past these factors is to listen with an open mind, comparing the two as directly as possible, with factors like music track and volume level matched up.

I suspect that the Utopia being priced at $4K could be hurting sales of both the Utopia and Clear. At $4K, it may be out of reach for most people who want it, but then those people may be unwilling to settle for the Clear because they think something so much less costly couldn't be nearly as good, or even good enough. I'm reminded of this experiment:

 
Jun 10, 2018 at 8:59 AM Post #3,897 of 10,312

NickedWicked

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The problem I have with that article is that it discounts correlated noise, which I understand to generally be the dominant source of electrical noise. If the noise is correlated, then a balanced amp (truly balanced, so fully differential) would actually reduce it (which happens in practice with certain noise sources such as 50/60 Hz power supply noise). They also offer nothing but hand wave-y arguments otherwise. It could very well be that a well-designed balanced amplifier is better than a well-designed balanced, but that article does pretty much nothing to convince me of that.

As for Bob Katz, in that article he does not say that single ended is better, rather that neither is inherently superior.

From what I’ve read when I was researching single ended vs balanced is that excellent balanced is slightly better than a excellent single ended connection, but it really depends on the amp itself and what connection they have (or not have) skimped in the design. The single ended on some are far superior to the balanced one and vice versa.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 9:01 AM Post #3,898 of 10,312

Phronesis

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"Believable presentation" is a very subjective description though.
Also consider example such as this: a headphone has very separate left/right channels which makes them not very "believable" compared to, say, a speaker system. Things like crossfade is technically distortion (or "flavouring", if you would rather prefer a less pointed description) which is introduce into the headphone system by feeding some of the right channel information into the left driver - and vice versa - to create a more "believable" presentation, but nevertheless, is flavouring (though perhaps a favourable/desired type of flavouring). So how can you be certain that the more "believable presentation" isn't something like this? This applies to "mind blowing moments" too - are you certain that your preferred amp is not flavouring the sound in ways which just sounds pleasing to your personal preferences in certain ways (eg. sounds more detail because there is a treble boost, or more "thump" because of a bass boost) rather than the amp actually being inadequate?

Again, I'm not saying you can't have a preference for certain flavouring in sound tuning, but you have yet to make the case that the amp section of a Hugo 2 is actually inadequate just because it doesn't produce a sound you subjectively like.

In my experience, "mind blowing moments" are mostly a function of the music and my mood, rather than the equipment. And when we experience the positive emotions of those moments, it's easy to misattribute them to the sound quality. I'm not saying that sound quality doesn't matter, just that it can be difficult to determine how much our positive musical experiences are due to sound quality vs other factors, which can lead us to give too much credit to a difference in sound quality (to the extent that sometimes there's no difference in sound quality at all, but we think there is).
 
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Jun 10, 2018 at 9:06 AM Post #3,899 of 10,312

vaibhavp

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"Believable presentation" is a very subjective description though.
Also consider example such as this: a headphone has very separate left/right channels which makes them not very "believable" compared to, say, a speaker system. Things like crossfade is technically distortion (or "flavouring", if you would rather prefer a less pointed description) which is introduce into the headphone system by feeding some of the right channel information into the left driver - and vice versa - to create a more "believable" presentation, but nevertheless, is flavouring (though perhaps a favourable/desired type of flavouring). So how can you be certain that the more "believable presentation" isn't something like this? This applies to "mind blowing moments" too - are you certain that your preferred amp is not flavouring the sound in ways which just sounds pleasing to your personal preferences in certain ways (eg. sounds more detail because there is a treble boost, or more "thump" because of a bass boost) rather than the amp actually being inadequate?

Again, I'm not saying you can't have a preference for certain flavouring in sound tuning, but you have yet to make the case that the amp section of a Hugo 2 is actually inadequate just because it doesn't produce a sound you subjectively like.

Believable, as in a system should completely disappear leaving me completely immersed in music. Modern recordings have all the information to create this illusion effortlessly.


Thats what I want to achieve with a system. I am afraid my mojo standalone falls short of this by a good distance. Hugo 2 is better but not there completely.

This is what I perceive. If your hps has the synergy, maybe you can achieve this with hugo 2 standalone.

But I do feel utopia has quite a bit more to give than what hugo 2 gets from it.
 
Jun 10, 2018 at 9:18 AM Post #3,900 of 10,312

Phronesis

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Believable, as in a system should completely disappear leaving me completely immersed in music. Modern recordings have all the information to create this illusion effortlessly.

In my experience, it's difficult to get immersed in the music if I frequently direct my attention to evaluating sound quality. That task is analytical, and in conflict with enjoying music, so I need to flip a mental switch so that I pretty much ignore sound quality.
 

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