Focal Elear and Utopia Review / Preview With Measurements - Head-Fi TV
Jun 19, 2016 at 12:58 AM Post #451 of 5,630
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Its sad to see this thread become so bitter. People being rude to industry contributors, People being rude for stating opinion and what have you. I do not mind a person talking about cost increases but to repeatedly state that fact, then it becomes a form of nagging, which bores me to tears. I think Focal should be praised for adding three headphones to the marketplace. My only critic is of the beryllium, a cool.substance, but can be toxic if some how broken. We had a beryllium factory in my town. Its closed down, two small little hamlets had to be abandoned do to contamination. But this was do to broken powdered beryllium. I think the Utopia and Elear look very nice, especially the Utopia, but I am scared away by the price. But. Good positive reviews, might very well entice me to pull the trigger. However I am also tempted by the HD800S.. I hope this thread lightens up a tad. Hope everyone has a great time jammng out.
Rest assured that no one would use Be if it was dangerous after solidification. From here I leave you to the thread. I will add only that I feel the 800 & 800S are great cans and have a very reasonable price point. I also feel the Focal's are excellent in their price ranges and will be in high demand as you all get an opportunity to hear them. If I go based on sales this last week in pre-order and today's in store sales, they are going to be real popular headgear for some time to come. All you phone order guys, your product is on the shipping dock and ready to leave on Monday as promised.
 
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Jun 19, 2016 at 1:28 AM Post #452 of 5,630

ubs28

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I was listening to the Elear with Cavalli new TOTL prototype.

I found Utopia bass to be nicely weighed, tighter than the HD800S. Mid on the HD800S is a bit coarser when compared to the Utopia. High on the Utopia is crisp, and clear, I feel it's just a tad "better" than HD800S. Overall a very enjoyable headphones, at $2000 it would be a huge hit, still a lot of money but we are talking relatively here. $3000 would be the max I pay for it, I don't think the $4000 price tag is justified given HD800S can be had for an average of around $1500.

I crossed the Elair off of my list, I think it should be priced closer to HD650 given it performance.

 
How is the speed, clarity and soundstage of the Elair in comparison to the HD 650? Is it a big difference?
 
Also how is the soundstage and imaging of the Utopia in comparison to the HD 800 S and HD 800?
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 1:47 AM Post #453 of 5,630

chowmein83

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Hey everybody, I was at The Source AV today, and I got some decent listening time in with the Focal Elear and Utopia (especially towards the end, where there was less people).
 
Before I go any further, I'll say what systems I used for comparing which headphones.
 
I compared the Focal Elear and the Mr. Speakers Ether (open) using the AK500N as the source and DAC, and the Cavalli Liquid Gold as the amplifier. I was able to listen to the Elear and the Ether with balanced cables.
 
For comparing the Focal Utopia and the Sennheiser HD800S, I used the the Questyle "Gold Stack" (CAS192D DAC, CMA800P pre-amp, and 2x CMA800R paired in monoblock mode). I used balanced cables for both headphones in this comparison.
 
To compare the Focal Utopia and the Hifiman HE1000, I used the AK500N as the source and DAC, and the Cavalli Liquid Gold as the amp. I was only able to do this comparison in single-ended because there were unfortunately no balanced cables around for the HE1000.
 
I tried to do some volume-matching by ear when doing each comparison, but obviously this isn't going to be perfect. Also, the reason I used these systems was because out of everything there, I felt they brought out the best of the headphones.
 
Two more things: I actually own the HE1000 myself, and I prefer a neutral sound signature with perhaps a hint of warmth.
 
And one final disclaimer: YMMV, these are just my opinions, etc. (I'm saying this because I know there are going to be people who disagree with me on stuff like how I implicitly compare the HD800S and the HE1000).
 
First up, the Elear vs. Ether Open comparison:
 
To begin with, while the Ether has a mostly neutral overall sound signature (perhaps some would consider the bass a tad bit bumped up), the Elear has a more U-shaped signature. For another comparison, I would say that the Elear (FR-wise) sounds a bit like the Fostex TH-X00. Interestingly, this doesn't really mean that it has more apparent bass, but it does mean that it is somewhat brighter at the top end. However, this is done in a way so that the Elear still has some pretty clear mids.
 
Speaking of the top end, personally I like the Ether's better. It's somewhat more restrained so it pretty much never gets sibilant. So the Elear (with its relatively higher treble) can sound a tiny bit sibilant and unrestrained with certain music.
 
As for bass, I would say that at first listen, the bass on the Ether and the Elear are pretty similar - they're both decently punchy, with similarly good extension and control. However, the Ether still has that textured, really solid planar bass that the Elear doesn't quite have. It's hard to explain, but I find the bass presentation of planar headphones to be different from that of dynamics, and the Elear doesn't buck this trend.
 
As for overall detail, they're similar, but I simply feel that the Ether is more clear, and thus notes and instruments sound more true-to-life. This is not a tonality thing - I feel that there is a very, very slight veil on the Elear that prevents it from being as transparent as the Ether. Again, I must emphasize the "very, very slight" part.
 
Related to what I just said above is the mids - this extra bit of clarity simply makes the mids more come to life for me on the Ether. It also doesn't help that with the Elear, mids are a tiny bit subdued in comparison.
 
I feel that the soundstage of the Elear is a major weak point (at least in comparison to other headphones). Simply put, while the Ether doesn't have the widest soundstage, I felt it was a bit wider than the Elear. But more importantly, the Elear is definitely lacking some depth to its soundstage - everything just sounds closer to you on the Elear, and this is the main reason layering (distinguishing far and near sounds) is somewhat tougher on the Elear. However, imaging capability on the Ether and Elear is quite comparable to each other. Also, separation ability on the Ether and the Elear is very comparable to each other, though it may be a bit more difficult on the Elear due to how sounds are just closer to you.
 
Ether is lighter than the Elear, no doubt about it. However, I must say that the weight distribution on the Elear is quite good, and didn't prove too fatiguing for me even though I have a weak neck. However, whereas Ether almost disappears from my head once I put it on, with the Elear I still feel the weight, though it really isn't that distracting.
 
Now, for the Utopia vs. HD800S and HE1000 comparison:
 
HD800S sounds a bit bright compared to the Utopia. To me, the Utopia sounds more natural. When compared to the HE1000, the Utopia sounds a bit brighter, though it is not a very big difference. HE1000 and Utopia are very comparable to me in terms of a realistic sounding frequency response.
 
As for the treble, the HD800S sounds like it has too much of it compared to the Utopia and the HE1000. Cymbals are somewhat unrestrained, and higher notes just seem a bit too sharp and exaggerated on the HD800S. The Utopia is definitely better behaved in this respect. Same for the HE1000. I don't find the Utopia and the HE1000 to be wildly different in the treble, but perhaps the Utopia does do a very slightly better job in maintaining a balance between detailed and restrained treble.
 
For the mids, again the HD800S sounds a bit exaggerated in its presentation compared to the Utopia and the HE1000. So less dry and more lively mids on the Utopia and HE1000 IMO.
 
As for bass, the HD800S actually does a pretty decent job. It extends down decently low, and is well-controlled and textured. The Utopia has more bass, but is no less detailed, textured, or well-controlled than the HD800S. Pretty impressive. I would rate it very similarly to the bass on the HE1000, which I think highly of. However, the HE1000's bass seems to have that extra bit of solidity to it that the Utopia lacks, though I must emphasize that is not a very big difference.
 
In terms of overall detail level, there's no doubt in my mind that the Utopia is more detailed than the HD800S. The Utopia manages to sound clearer than the HD800S by having less exaggerated treble (so you can actually hear the cymbal fade away instead of it ringing for a tiny bit too long) and simply being slightly less veiled and thus presenting more texture to the notes. Compared to the HE1000, I find the Utopia to be slightly behind. I'm not really sure how to explain it, but the Utopia seems to have a very, very slight veil on its notes compared to the HE1000.
 
For soundstaging, like its sibling I find this to be the weak point of the Focal Utopia. I simply feel that the HD800S has a better soundstage. Not only is the HD800S' soundstage wider, it is also deeper (not by much, but enough). And at least for me, I more appreciate the somewhat more ethereal, Stax-like quality in that imaging on the HD800S is more effortless and notes just seem to appear around you. Also, due to the reduced depth, layering is harder to distinguish for me on the Utopia than the HD800S, though not by a big amount. As for the comparison to the HE1000, again I feel the Utopia lacks in width and depth in comparison. Again, layering is harder for me to distinguish on the Utopia compared to the HE1000, and imaging is more effortless on the HE1000 (though I don't believe the HE1000 beats the HD800S here).
 
Don't get me wrong, the Utopia also has very good imaging and separation abilities, but they're only very good and not exceptional.
 
And finally, the weight. The Utopia definitely feels much better on the head than any Audeze LCD headphone that I've tried - it's simply less heavy and it doesn't clamp as hard. If you can wear the HE1000 comfortably, you'll find no problems with the Utopia - they were about as comfortable as each other for me. Sennheiser HD800S is still the most comfortable to me due to how it tightly fits around your head without needing to clamp hard, and simply because it's the lightest.
 
Conclusions:
 
Elear: It's a decent headphone at the $1000 price point.  Personally, I liked the Ether better, and I would rather get that even if it is more expensive. However, I will say that this is somewhat due to my preferences in sound signature.
 
Utopia: This, to me, is now the world's best dynamic driver headphone. IMO it's better than the HD800S. Finally we have something using a dynamic driver that can really compete and to me, even beat Sennheiser's creation. However, I cannot really agree with the reports of it being better than the likes of planars and electrostats like the HE1000 and the Stax SR-009. Personally, I found that it couldn't beat the HE1000 (maybe tie it at best) and based on my previous experiences with the SR-009, the Utopia can't outperform that either.
 
(There was an SR-009 available for listen today, but the headband was broken so I didn't touch it.)
 
So is it worth the $4000 to me? No, it isn't. Personally, like @Khragon said I would prefer it to be around the $2000 to $2500 range, because I do feel that it does improve upon the HD800S (and the build quality of the Utopia really is excellent) but not by that much money.
 
Even if I'm not the most known and trustworthy person on Head-Fi, hopefully people find these impressions to be helpful!
 
EDIT: I added in that I compared the Elear to the Ether open, not the Ether C.
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 1:48 AM Post #454 of 5,630

Khragon

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How is the speed, clarity and soundstage of the Elair in comparison to the HD 650? Is it a big difference?
 
Also how is the soundstage and imaging of the Utopia in comparison to the HD 800 S and HD 800?


It's been very long time since I heard HD 650, it was own by my dad, that's why I shy away from making any direct comparison.  As for sound stage and imaging comparing to HD800S, I didn't spend enough time to make any detail, was too focused on overall sound enjoyment rather than specifics, I still find the HD800S to have larger sound stage though.
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 1:53 AM Post #455 of 5,630

ubs28

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It's been very long time since I heard HD 650, it was own by my dad, that's why I shy away from making any direct comparison.  As for sound stage and imaging comparing to HD800S, I didn't spend enough time to make any detail, was too focused on overall sound enjoyment rather than specifics, I still find the HD800S to have larger sound stage though.


Many thanks for the impressions so far. I think I might have my eyes on the Utopia, unless the soundstage and imaging is too far off from the HD 800 and HD 800 S. 
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 2:05 AM Post #457 of 5,630

ubs28

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  Hey everybody, I was at The Source AV today, and I got some decent listening time in with the Focal Elear and Utopia (especially towards the end, where there was less people).
 
Before I go any further, I'll say what systems I used for comparing which headphones.
 
I compared the Focal Elear and the Mr. Speakers Ether using the AK500N as the source and DAC, and the Cavalli Liquid Gold as the amplifier. I was able to listen to the Elear and the Ether with balanced cables.
 
For comparing the Focal Utopia and the Sennheiser HD800S, I used the the Questyle "Gold Stack" (CAS192D DAC, CMA800P pre-amp, and 2x CMA800R paired in monoblock mode). I used balanced cables for both headphones in this comparison.
 
To compare the Focal Utopia and the Hifiman HE1000, I used the AK500N as the source and DAC, and the Cavalli Liquid Gold as the amp. I was only able to do this comparison in single-ended because there were unfortunately no balanced cables around for the HE1000.
 
I tried to do some volume-matching by ear when doing each comparison, but obviously this isn't going to be perfect. Also, the reason I used these systems was because out of everything there, I felt they brought out the best of the headphones.
 
Two more things: I actually own the HE1000 myself, and I prefer a neutral sound signature with perhaps a hint of warmth.
 
And one final disclaimer: YMMV, these are just my opinions, etc. (I'm saying this because I know there are going to be people who disagree with me on stuff like how I implicitly compare the HD800S and the HE1000).
 
First up, the Elear vs. Ether comparison:
 
To begin with, while the Ether has a mostly neutral overall sound signature (perhaps some would consider the bass a tad bit bumped up), the Elear has a more U-shaped signature. For another comparison, I would say that the Elear (FR-wise) sounds a bit like the Fostex TH-X00. Interestingly, this doesn't really mean that it has more apparent bass, but it does mean that it is somewhat brighter at the top end. However, this is done in a way so that the Elear still has some pretty clear mids.
 
Speaking of the top end, personally I like the Ether's better. It's somewhat more restrained so it pretty much never gets sibilant. So the Elear (with its relatively higher treble) can sound a tiny bit sibilant and unrestrained with certain music.
 
As for bass, I would say that at first listen, the bass on the Ether and the Elear are pretty similar - they're both decently punchy, with similarly good extension and control. However, the Ether still has that textured, really solid planar bass that the Elear doesn't quite have. It's hard to explain, but I find the bass presentation of planar headphones to be different from that of dynamics, and the Elear doesn't buck this trend.
 
As for overall detail, they're similar, but I simply feel that the Ether is more clear, and thus notes and instruments sound more true-to-life. This is not a tonality thing - I feel that there is a very, very slight veil on the Elear that prevents it from being as transparent as the Ether. Again, I must emphasize the "very, very slight" part.
 
Related to what I just said above is the mids - this extra bit of clarity simply makes the mids more come to life for me on the Ether. It also doesn't help that with the Elear, mids are a tiny bit subdued in comparison.
 
I feel that the soundstage of the Elear is a major weak point (at least in comparison to other headphones). Simply put, while the Ether doesn't have the widest soundstage, I felt it was a bit wider than the Elear. But more importantly, the Elear is definitely lacking some depth to its soundstage - everything just sounds closer to you on the Elear, and this is the main reason layering (distinguishing far and near sounds) is somewhat tougher on the Elear. However, imaging capability on the Ether and Elear is quite comparable to each other. Also, separation ability on the Ether and the Elear is very comparable to each other, though it may be a bit more difficult on the Elear due to how sounds are just closer to you.
 
Ether is lighter than the Elear, no doubt about it. However, I must say that the weight distribution on the Elear is quite good, and didn't prove too fatiguing for me even though I have a weak neck. However, whereas Ether almost disappears from my head once I put it on, with the Elear I still feel the weight, though it really isn't that distracting.
 
Now, for the Utopia vs. HD800S and HE1000 comparison:
 
HD800S sounds a bit bright compared to the Utopia. To me, the Utopia sounds more natural. When compared to the HE1000, the Utopia sounds a bit brighter, though it is not a very big difference. HE1000 and Utopia are very comparable to me in terms of a realistic sounding frequency response.
 
As for the treble, the HD800S sounds like it has too much of it compared to the Utopia and the HE1000. Cymbals are somewhat unrestrained, and higher notes just seem a bit too sharp and exaggerated on the HD800S. The Utopia is definitely better behaved in this respect. Same for the HE1000. I don't find the Utopia and the HE1000 to be wildly different in the treble, but perhaps the Utopia does do a very slightly better job in maintaining a balance between detailed and restrained treble.
 
For the mids, again the HD800S sounds a bit exaggerated in its presentation compared to the Utopia and the HE1000. So less dry and more lively mids on the Utopia and HE1000 IMO.
 
As for bass, the HD800S actually does a pretty decent job. It extends down decently low, and is well-controlled and textured. The Utopia has more bass, but is no less detailed, textured, or well-controlled than the HD800S. Pretty impressive. I would rate it very similarly to the bass on the HE1000, which I think highly of. However, the HE1000's bass seems to have that extra bit of solidity to it that the Utopia lacks, though I must emphasize that is not a very big difference.
 
In terms of overall detail level, there's no doubt in my mind that the Utopia is more detailed than the HD800S. The Utopia manages to sound clearer than the HD800S by having less exaggerated treble (so you can actually hear the cymbal fade away instead of it ringing for a tiny bit too long) and simply being slightly less veiled and thus presenting more texture to the notes. Compared to the HE1000, I find the Utopia to be slightly behind. I'm not really sure how to explain it, but the Utopia seems to have a very, very slight veil on its notes compared to the HE1000.
 
For soundstaging, like its sibling I find this to be the weak point of the Focal Utopia. I simply feel that the HD800S has a better soundstage. Not only is the HD800S' soundstage wider, it is also deeper (not by much, but enough). And at least for me, I more appreciate the somewhat more ethereal, Stax-like quality in that imaging on the HD800S is more effortless and notes just seem to appear around you. Also, due to the reduced depth, layering is harder to distinguish for me on the Utopia than the HD800S, though not by a big amount. As for the comparison to the HE1000, again I feel the Utopia lacks in width and depth in comparison. Again, layering is harder for me to distinguish on the Utopia compared to the HE1000, and imaging is more effortless on the HE1000 (though I don't believe the HE1000 beats the HD800S here).
 
Don't get me wrong, the Utopia also has very good imaging and separation abilities, but they're only very good and not exceptional.
 
And finally, the weight. The Utopia definitely feels much better on the head than any Audeze LCD headphone that I've tried - it's simply less heavy and it doesn't clamp as hard. If you can wear the HE1000 comfortably, you'll find no problems with the Utopia - they were about as comfortable as each other for me. Sennheiser HD800S is still the most comfortable to me due to how it tightly fits around your head without needing to clamp hard, and simply because it's the lightest.
 
Conclusions:
 
Elear: It's a decent headphone at the $1000 price point.  Personally, I liked the Ether better, and I would rather get that even if it is more expensive. However, I will say that this is somewhat due to my preferences in sound signature.
 
Utopia: This, to me, is now the world's best dynamic driver headphone. IMO it's better than the HD800S. Finally we have something using a dynamic driver that can really compete and to me, even beat Sennheiser's creation. However, I cannot really agree with the reports of it being better than the likes of planars and electrostats like the HE1000 and the Stax SR-009. Personally, I found that it couldn't beat the HE1000 (maybe tie it at best) and based on my previous experiences with the SR-009, the Utopia can't outperform that either.
 
(There was an SR-009 available for listen today, but the headband was broken so I didn't touch it.)
 
So is it worth the $4000 to me? No, it isn't. Personally, like @Khragon said I would prefer it to be around the $2000 to $2500 range, because I do feel that it does improve upon the HD800S (and the build quality of the Utopia really is excellent) but not by that much money.
 
Hopefully people find these impressions to be helpful, even if I'm not the most known and trustworthy person on Head-Fi.

 
How did you test the difference in detail? The Shure SE846 is more dry and less clear / more veiled (depending on the filter) than the Shure SE535, but the Shure SE846 is able to retrieve things from the recording that the Shure SE535 doesn't. So I'm not sure if dryness and clarity / veiled can be used as an indication how detailed the drivers are. 
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 2:20 AM Post #459 of 5,630

XERO1

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Had a great time at The Source AV today.  A big thanks to Jason and everyone else who helped make it happen.
 
Utopia  -  Quite simply, this is a world-class headphone.  From around 50Hz on up, I wouldn't change a single thing.  Electrostatic-like midrange resolution and highs that were perfectly balanced and natural sounding.  What really impressed me the most was the way it allowed the best recorded songs to sound significantly better than I ever thought they could, while all the merely average-to-good sounding songs sounded not that much better than I had been used to hearing them.  This is a hallmark of a truly high resolution device.  The more you give it, the higher it goes.  My only complaint is that below 50Hz, they don't have quite enough output to really do justice to bass-heavy music.  While they have noticeably more low bass than the HD800/HD800S, they don't have as much as the HE1000 (which I consider the reference for low bass balance).  But I listened to them at a very high level with James Blake - Limit To Your Love (a real bass torture test) and I didn't notice any significant distortion, so the Utopia looks like it should have some extra headroom for EQing the low bass, if you should desire to.  Also, both the Utopia and Elear are very comfortable and their weight is very well distributed and was never an issue for me.
 
Elear  -  While they are really, really good overall, they are still a noticeable step down in resolution when compared to the Utopia.  I think this is primarily because of the way they have been tuned to have a somewhat boosted midbass range.  Even with this voicing, they still sound great and are definitely one of the best $1000-and-under headphones on the market, but I think they could sound even better if they had the same tuning as the Utopia.
 
Listen  -  These suckers rock!  They are pretty much the Mini-Me version of the Fostex TH-900!  For $250 bucks, these are a steal.  While their treble is definitely on the bright side, its not unpleasantly harsh (like the ATH-MSR7).  Also, they are the only low-cost, compact headphones that I've yet heard that have serious low bass output with zero audible distortion at high volumes.  Super impressed with these.
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 2:20 AM Post #460 of 5,630

chowmein83

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Thanks chowmein ,

Not sure how you say the hd800S has an exaggerated midrange, or consider it not as technically capable as the HEK but thanks for the the impressions.

 
It's only really apparent when you pit the HD800S against something like the Utopia. At first, I didn't think the HD800S suffered from this, but then I listened to the Utopia today.
 
As for the HD800S being as technically capable, well I'm not sure if the HE1000 is actually more technically capable overall. But to me, with the HE1000 I get more texture from the notes, and it simply sounds closer to real life to me. Perhaps its more of a frequency response thing for me. It's hard to say how I exactly feel. Again, this might be just my ears, and I'm not saying that the HD800S sucks in its technical level.
 
 
   
How did you test the difference in detail? The Shure SE846 is more dry and less clear / more veiled (depending on the filter) than the Shure SE535, but the Shure SE846 is able to retrieve things from the recording that the Shure SE535 doesn't. So I'm not sure if dryness and clarity / veiled can be used as an indication how detailed the drivers are. 

 
I paused there as well. Perhaps by more detailed he is referring to resolution of micro/macro-details, which would be an amazing feat indeed to overgo the HD800(S) as the hitherto dynamic king of resolution.

 
I simply think that with the Utopia, details more easily come out. Like with the cymbal example I gave above, with the HD800S it sounds there's a crash and it lingers. But with the Utopia, it lingers a bit less so you can now hear the cymbal fading away in the air. Same with vocals - the Utopia is less dry in this area, with more texture, which to me gives more nuance to the voice and thus more detail.
 
I don't know, maybe my definition of "detail" is a bit different - I do seem to place great emphasis on hearing texture and subtle nuances when I describe "detail." 
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 2:24 AM Post #461 of 5,630

grizzlybeast

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Thanks chowmein ,

Not sure how you say the hd800S has an exaggerated midrange, or consider it not as technically capable as the HEK but thanks for the the impressions.

 
It's only really apparent when you pit the HD800S against something like the Utopia. At first, I didn't think the HD800S suffered from this, but then I listened to the Utopia today.
 
As for the HD800S being as technically capable, well I'm not sure if the HE1000 is actually more technically capable overall. But to me, with the HE1000 I get more texture from the notes, and it simply sounds closer to real life to me. Perhaps its more of a frequency response thing for me. It's hard to say how I exactly feel. Again, this might be just my ears, and I'm not saying that the HD800S sucks in its technical level.
 
 
   
How did you test the difference in detail? The Shure SE846 is more dry and less clear / more veiled (depending on the filter) than the Shure SE535, but the Shure SE846 is able to retrieve things from the recording that the Shure SE535 doesn't. So I'm not sure if dryness and clarity / veiled can be used as an indication how detailed the drivers are. 

 
I paused there as well. Perhaps by more detailed he is referring to resolution of micro/macro-details, which would be an amazing feat indeed to overgo the HD800(S) as the hitherto dynamic king of resolution.

 
I simply think that with the Utopia, details more easily come out. Like with the cymbal example I gave above, with the HD800S it sounds there's a crash and it lingers. But with the Utopia, it lingers a bit less so you can now hear the cymbal fading away in the air. Same with vocals - the Utopia is less dry in this area, with more texture, which to me gives more nuance to the voice and thus more detail.
 
I don't know, maybe my definition of "detail" is a bit different - I do seem to place great emphasis on hearing texture and subtle nuances when I describe "detail." 

I gotcha buddy. I hear the hek as having more realistic texture as well vs the thin 800. How does the Utopia soundstage compare to the HEK?
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 2:31 AM Post #462 of 5,630

ubs28

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It's only really apparent when you pit the HD800S against something like the Utopia. At first, I didn't think the HD800S suffered from this, but then I listened to the Utopia today.
 
As for the HD800S being as technically capable, well I'm not sure if the HE1000 is actually more technically capable overall. But to me, with the HE1000 I get more texture from the notes, and it simply sounds closer to real life to me. Perhaps its more of a frequency response thing for me. It's hard to say how I exactly feel. Again, this might be just my ears, and I'm not saying that the HD800S sucks in its technical level.
 
 
 
 
I simply think that with the Utopia, details more easily come out. Like with the cymbal example I gave above, with the HD800S it sounds there's a crash and it lingers. But with the Utopia, it lingers a bit less so you can now hear the cymbal fading away in the air. Same with vocals - the Utopia is less dry in this area, with more texture, which to me gives more nuance to the voice and thus more detail.
 
I don't know, maybe my definition of "detail" is a bit different - I do seem to place great emphasis on hearing texture and subtle nuances when I describe "detail." 


Many thanks. I think I have a picture of what to expect from the Utopia now. Hopefully I will be able to audition it soon too.
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 2:39 AM Post #463 of 5,630

Stillhart

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  Had a great time at The Source AV today.  A big thanks to Jason and everyone else who helped make it happen.
 
Utopia  -  Quite simply, this is a world-class headphone.  From around 50Hz on up, I wouldn't change a single thing.  Electrostatic-like midrange resolution and highs that were perfectly balanced and natural sounding.  What really impressed me the most was the way it allowed the best recorded songs to sound significantly better than I ever thought they could, while all the merely average-to-good sounding songs sounded not that much better than I had been used to hearing them.  This is a hallmark of a truly high resolution device.  The more you give it, the higher it goes.  My only complaint is that below 50Hz, they don't have quite enough output to really do justice to bass-heavy music.  While they have noticeably more low bass than the HD800/HD800S, they don't have as much as the HE1000 (which I consider the reference for low bass balance).  But I listened to them at a very high level with James Blake - Limit To Your Love (a real bass torture test) and I didn't notice any significant distortion, so the Utopia looks like it should have some extra headroom for EQing the low bass, if you should desire to.  Also, both the Utopia and Elear are very comfortable and their weight is very well distributed and was never an issue for me.
 
Elear  -  While they are really, really good overall, they are still a noticeable step down in resolution when compared to the Utopia.  I think this is primarily because of the way they have been tuned to have a somewhat boosted midbass range.  Even with this voicing, they still sound great and are definitely one of the best $1000-and-under headphones on the market, but I think they could sound even better if they had the same tuning as the Utopia.
 
Listen  -  These suckers rock!  They are pretty much the Mini-Me version of the Fostex TH-900!  For $250 bucks, these are a steal.  While their treble is definitely on the bright side, its not unpleasantly harsh (like the ATH-MSR7).  Also, they are the only low-cost, compact headphones that I've yet heard that have serious low bass output with zero audible distortion at high volumes.  Super impressed with these.

 
Ha!  I agree that the Elear would be better with the voicing of the Utopia.  But amusingly, I've heard several people say the opposite -- they'd rather hear the Utopia with the Elear's tuning.  This is a great illustration on how people's flavor preferences influence this discussion.  There's is most certainly a family resemblance between the two headphones, but they're different enough that I think many people will have a clear preference of one over the other.
 
Regarding the Listen, I just got to hear it for the first time last night and I agree that's it's a pretty solid entry in the $250 price range.  What I like best about it is how the overall tonal balance is fun but not exaggerated to the point of being V-shaped.  Also the bass is admirably restrained for a closed headphone; it's got bass, but it's not that boomy closed-back bass that can get muddy and intrusive.  It's super easy to drive, it has a removable cable, has a mic and single-button remote in the cable, folds up small, etc.  It's a great portable option and I expect to hear more about this guy once the excitement over the big boys starts to tone down a bit.
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 3:53 AM Post #464 of 5,630

JayLam

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I do not understand why people here like to compare the Utopia with 800S. Even though i did not try this new flagship yet as well as the Utopia speakers.
From my friend‘s description, a Utopia speakers' big fan, Utopia's sound is so different from HD800...
I tried HD800 with the Siltech cable under the rigs:Wadia S7i+Eddie Current Balancing Act, The sound is perfect but still neutral...
Regarding the design, the producer is a speaker manufacturer, why no one compare the Utopia with the old cans AKG K1000, even no one mention them?
I would like some one to make a comparison between the two. Exciting!
 
Jun 19, 2016 at 3:54 AM Post #465 of 5,630
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  A 3 year old headphone selling for 75% of its retail price?!
 
Please see what has happened to HD800 and TH900 resale values.
 
In 3 years the market will move on and new versions of most current TOTL models would've been released not to mention new entrants.
 
I sold my 2 month old HD800S at an 28% loss compared to max retail price but I took less of a hit as I got a good discount.
 
Focal Utopias in summer 2019 will be selling for around $2000 IMHO.
 
That is unless they are limited in production or truly best all current headphones and nobody matches them for the next 3 years which I highly doubt.

HD800s isn't $4000. Used headphones in this range don't come up for sale terribly often, so it is hard to establish a baseline on price reduction. Also Sennheisers are common and sold in many retailers, the Focal Elear and Utopia will not be. Scarcity helps retain value, and you could never call a Sennheiser that doesn't have vintage or Orpheus attached to it terribly valuable due to rarity. MrSpeakers Ethers don't seem to depreciate much, and I think that HE1000s do fairly well, too. Audeze headphones above the EL8 seem to retain 60-70% of value. I don't think the depreciation of Sennheiser headphones is the right benchmark.
 

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