Focal Utopia 2022 Review, Measurements
Nov 4, 2023 at 5:04 PM Post #1,711 of 1,914
@Atriya Do you live near any of the CanJam or other audio show locations? I'd recommend that you take your Utopia to a show and try it on different amps. For instance, both Ampsandsound and LTA tend to attend all the major shows. Even if the vendor is a headphone manufacturer, they'll normally let you try your own headphones on their gear to compare to their headphones, so you can use that as an opportunity try one of the amps they are using.

Reviews are useful, but at the end of the day, they're just opinions, to be used as data points. I happen to trust that particular reviewer from the linked review, because he's thorough in his testing, very detailed in his write-ups and also consistent. On the other hand, he and I have different preferences in sound and in music, so I tend to gravitate to different gear than him, but his reviews help me determine if I'm going to like what he likes.

This is very good advice. I'm not that far from Dallas (CanJam Dallas in a week). It looks like ampsandsound won't be there, but LTA will be.
 
Nov 6, 2023 at 4:14 PM Post #1,712 of 1,914
When I had the Yggy, I could turn the Nautilus' volume knob 2 clicks (from 6 o'clock to barely 7 o'clock) before it was too loud. With the XLR cables plugged into the attenuators, set to -15dB, I could comfortably reach past 12 o'clock. As far as degradation of sound, Justin (ampsandsound owner) recommended the attenuators because he didn't think it would be audible and I didn't hear anything, but I was just happy to have more than 2 clicks of volume.

I'm listening to my Utopia 2022 as I'm typing. with the Mojo Mystique X dac feeding the Nautilus using RCA cables, and I don't have any need for attenuation because I can turn the volume knob to 10 o'clock. Same with the Stellia.

I don't see any specs on the Mojo Audio website or my manual but I'm assuming my dac has the standard 2V SE output.


I tend to like both the Focal and ZMF house sound, and IMHO have found both LTA and ampsandsound amps to have great synergy with both brands. I've owned 2 amps by each manufacturer.

I bought the MZ3 at CanJam last year after plugging in both my Stellia and a ZMF Atrium into every amp I could get access to. I wouldn't say that the MZ3 is soft per se, because that sounds like a negative. The best description I ever read was in this review, which described the "edges of sounds as feathered a bit", which gives you hour after hour of pleasurable listening, because there's no harshness.

I upgraded to an LTA Ultralinear+ this year, partly because I needed more power for my speakers, not because I was disappointed in the sound of the MZ3. The UL+ is more detailed and doesn't have the "feathering", and although I prefer the UL+ to the MZ3 as an everyday listening amp, I often miss the sound of that MZ3, and I wouldn't be surprised if I buy another one.

The Ultralinear+ and Nautilus are both unbelievable amps, but I tend to use the UL+ more because the tube life is greater, so I can leave it on all day without worrying about my expensive tubes having the life drained out of them.

The big advantage of the Nautilus is it's ability to drive almost any headphone (I have not tried it with a Susvara, but it easily drove a HE6SE V2). Outside of the attenuation issue (which I no longer have), it sounds wonderful with both sensitive and harder to drive dynamics, and also has the current to drive planars. I also love all the different taps that Justin provided, which allow me to dial in the sound of the headphone to match my preferences. For instance, when I was testing the ZMF Atrium Closed, I found the bass a little overwhelming on some tracks when using the stock lambskin pads. Zach advised me to switch from the 100 ohm tap to 32 ohms, and bingo, the bass was both lower and tighter.

Would you say that the Ultralinear+ is a significant improvement over the MZ3 for headphone use? I noted you said that it doesn't have the "feathering" the MZ3 has.

Would you say that the UL+ is comparable in overall SQ to the Nautilus?

I'm leaning towards getting the UL+, now.
 
Nov 6, 2023 at 5:38 PM Post #1,713 of 1,914
Would you say that the Ultralinear+ is a significant improvement over the MZ3 for headphone use? I noted you said that it doesn't have the "feathering" the MZ3 has.

Would you say that the UL+ is comparable in overall SQ to the Nautilus?

I'm leaning towards getting the UL+, now.
I found the Z10 to bring significant improvements over the MZ3. I suspect the Ultralinear+ is even more betterer.

Per the designer himself:
The Z10 is a slightly different circuit than the MZ3. It's a full ZOTL circuit, which employs more tubes (two preamp tubes, two phase splitters, two input tubes, and four output tubes). The output tubes are EL84, if you're familiar with them, which offer a very sweet sound and overall the Z10 is probably more neutral than the MZ3, which is a bit warmer than the Z10.

The Z10 is indeed more neutral, more expansive and overall more detailed than the MZ3. But, as mentioned by @PaisleyUnderground, the MZ3 has a 'special' sound and I could see myself buying another one down the line, if I ever move on from the Z10. Either MZ3, or the new Velo headphone amp that was recently announced.
 
Nov 7, 2023 at 9:46 AM Post #1,714 of 1,914
Would you say that the Ultralinear+ is a significant improvement over the MZ3 for headphone use? I noted you said that it doesn't have the "feathering" the MZ3 has.

Would you say that the UL+ is comparable in overall SQ to the Nautilus?

I'm leaning towards getting the UL+, now.
Here are some notes that I've made, from a comparison of the MZ3 and UL+, and Nautilus and UL+.

Noise:
Both LTA amps are dead silent. In contrast, the Nautilus has a low level hum with the Utopia when music isn't played (which isn't noticeable when playing music). I hadn't really noticed the Nautilus' hum until comparing to the LTA.

Power:
MZ3:

  • The MZ3 has more than enough power for dynamics. It sounds particularly good with ZMF Verite Open & Closed, ZMF Atrium Open & Closed and Focal Stellia.
  • My easy to drive planars (RAD-0 & Caldera) both had a nice tone, but both headphone have had a more energetic sound, with tighter bass on other amps, so perhaps the MZ3 doesn't have quite enough current for planars? (That's a question, not sure if it's true)
  • It had more than enough power for my Omega speakers, which are very efficient. The volume knob was at around 50 out of 100.
UL+:
  • The UL+ gives the RAD-0 and Caldera a bit more energy.
  • Tons of headroom for both headphones and speakers.
Pre-amp:
  • The MZ3 is an excellent pre-amp. It adds its sound to whatever it’s connected to, with no noise at all - it’s absolutely silent.
  • The UL+ should not be used as a pre-amp. It has subwoofer outs, which are fit for purpose to connect to a sub, but the noise floor is too high to be used as a pre-amp..

Sound:

  • The MZ3 has wonderfully rich mids. The bass is very tight when using dynamics.
  • The UL+ is more neutral, with a bigger stage, and is much more detailed in its presentation (no “feathering”). It sounds like a really good class A solid state amp, but with extra "tubiness".
  • The UL+ reacts well to tube rolling. I can make it bassier or brighter, soften the edges, increase the soundstage etc by using different tube combinations.
As an aside, LTA was kind enough to let me try both the UL+ and Z40+ at Axpona with my headphones. (Both amps were in 2 channel rooms). The Z40+ had a much richer sound in the mids, like a big brother to the MZ3. I preferred the more neutral, detailed sound of the Ultralinear but I can see others choosing the Z40.
 
Nov 7, 2023 at 10:29 PM Post #1,716 of 1,914
Here are some notes that I've made, from a comparison of the MZ3 and UL+, and Nautilus and UL+.

Noise:
Both LTA amps are dead silent. In contrast, the Nautilus has a low level hum with the Utopia when music isn't played (which isn't noticeable when playing music). I hadn't really noticed the Nautilus' hum until comparing to the LTA.

Power:
MZ3:

  • The MZ3 has more than enough power for dynamics. It sounds particularly good with ZMF Verite Open & Closed, ZMF Atrium Open & Closed and Focal Stellia.
  • My easy to drive planars (RAD-0 & Caldera) both had a nice tone, but both headphone have had a more energetic sound, with tighter bass on other amps, so perhaps the MZ3 doesn't have quite enough current for planars? (That's a question, not sure if it's true)
  • It had more than enough power for my Omega speakers, which are very efficient. The volume knob was at around 50 out of 100.
UL+:
  • The UL+ gives the RAD-0 and Caldera a bit more energy.
  • Tons of headroom for both headphones and speakers.
Pre-amp:
  • The MZ3 is an excellent pre-amp. It adds its sound to whatever it’s connected to, with no noise at all - it’s absolutely silent.
  • The UL+ should not be used as a pre-amp. It has subwoofer outs, which are fit for purpose to connect to a sub, but the noise floor is too high to be used as a pre-amp..

Sound:
  • The MZ3 has wonderfully rich mids. The bass is very tight when using dynamics.
  • The UL+ is more neutral, with a bigger stage, and is much more detailed in its presentation (no “feathering”). It sounds like a really good class A solid state amp, but with extra "tubiness".
  • The UL+ reacts well to tube rolling. I can make it bassier or brighter, soften the edges, increase the soundstage etc by using different tube combinations.
As an aside, LTA was kind enough to let me try both the UL+ and Z40+ at Axpona with my headphones. (Both amps were in 2 channel rooms). The Z40+ had a much richer sound in the mids, like a big brother to the MZ3. I preferred the more neutral, detailed sound of the Ultralinear but I can see others choosing the Z40.

Just ordered a UL+ for my Utopia 2022! It will be a month or so before it ships, but can't wait to try it!
 
Nov 8, 2023 at 1:24 PM Post #1,717 of 1,914
This is very good advice. I'm not that far from Dallas (CanJam Dallas in a week). It looks like ampsandsound won't be there, but LTA will be.
Hello, just got a head's up from @PaisleyUnderground who I know personally and he let me know you were in the market for an UL+ Int. I just posted one up for sale on USAM. I'm in the process of upgrading to an LTA Preamplifier and UL+ amplifier separate and selling the Integrated to fund partially fund that purchase. Feel free to ping me directly or just message me via USAM. I've got a long history of selling items there.


EDIT: HA! I just read your last post! Should have read through the thread before messaging you. Anyway, you won't regret the purchase of the UL+
 
Last edited:
Nov 10, 2023 at 1:31 PM Post #1,718 of 1,914
Tonight i think it's time for me to listen to the French once again 😎



IMG_8954.jpeg


NOMAX

PS.lol
 
Last edited:
Nov 11, 2023 at 4:53 AM Post #1,719 of 1,914
Tonight i think it's time for me to listen to the French once again 😎



IMG_8954.jpeg


NOMAX

PS.lol

How does the mjolnir perform with the utopias/in general?

It's a strange beast. Can't wrap my head around why a "portable" like this exists but I'm interested in it because of that reason!
 
Nov 11, 2023 at 5:33 AM Post #1,720 of 1,914
I think it is rather intended for those who are interested in an ALL IN ONE system that can accompany them for several years from one
place stationary to another place stationary without having to fool around
Plug & Pay in a few seconds 👍
Nomax Like...or not?
I need a little more time for testing that i can give my assessment here

NOMAX

PS.lol
 
Last edited:
Nov 11, 2023 at 9:26 AM Post #1,722 of 1,914
Does anyone who owns a 2022 Utopia also have a Clear or Clear MG they came from prior to purchasing the Utopia? Curious to hear of that specific upgrade path and differences observed
The differences are most obviously in resolution and timbre, but also the more spacious presentation of Utopia with pin point accuracy. Utopia is like going to 4k from 1440p from a Clear, and it has much smoother and more agreeable timbre.

I know a lot of reviewers have said Clear gets close. I have personally realised I hear things very differently to them and can now discount their opinions lol.
 
Nov 11, 2023 at 10:27 AM Post #1,723 of 1,914
The differences are most obviously in resolution and timbre, but also the more spacious presentation of Utopia with pin point accuracy. Utopia is like going to 4k from 1440p from a Clear, and it has much smoother and more agreeable timbre.

I know a lot of reviewers have said Clear gets close. I have personally realised I hear things very differently to them and can now discount their opinions lol.
Generally agree. Utopia is also superior in macro dynamics, micro dynamics, bass palpability, sub bass response, image accuracy, greater sound/note density and greater sense of flow and ease.

I also believe most reviewers know how to write well but don’t know how to listen critically
 
Nov 12, 2023 at 8:55 AM Post #1,725 of 1,914
I don't think the Clear or the Clear Mg come close.

I had a good listen to the Clear during the A2A Australian clear-out. I ended up walking away with a pair of Utopia 2022. The Clear just wasn't good enough. Everything that defines a high-end headphone (as described above) is better in the Utopia. Is it 3x better? No. Value for money is not $5000US. Do I love them? Especially having re-cabled it with a 4.4mm Norne Audio Vykari. Yes. They're the one I pick up the most. The Utopia 2022 tuning is more forgiving than the Utopia OG and less fatiguing listen. Whilst retaining the technically excellent aspects for when you want to stop and immerse yourself in the music.

Listening to the Utopia 2022 and the Top Gun Maverick Soundtrack. Hans Zimmer is just magic.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Back
Top