Focal Utopia General Discussion
May 6, 2022 at 11:49 AM Post #17,521 of 20,506
TLDR - another guy spent a lot of cash on this headphone and agrees 1) it was worth the money, and 2) if you listen mostly to digital then Naim Atom is the place to be.

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i am a year+ into Utopia ownership, majority of the time has been paired with Naim Uniti Atom HE (originally started with a vintage R2R > GXS Mini and then moved to the all-in-one).

*caveat - i have very high tolerance for treble and usually favor some added brightness at the top if it means getting extra detail... which probably means i was meant for Focal from the start.

while it didn't take more than a few hours to generally understand where Utopia's profile sits compared to my historical references (I moved up the path from HD580 > Elex > Clear OG the couple years prior) I am still enamored with the sounds and discover new genre strengths weekly. the two biggest surprises remain a midrange that is very, very close to reference Sennheiser (580/600) and the best bass/sub-bass i have ever heard specifically in terms of detail and accurate volume (zero bloat). every other strength (treble, detail, imaging, impact) is so thoroughly discussed at this point i have no point to comment on any of them other than to say i would agree that Utopia fills out end-game as hoped. i find the hivemind that Elex or Clear are anywhere close to Utopia is extremely overstated. i had Clear and Utopia together for 3-4 months and Utopia was better in every respect... more engaging and musical. Clear's midrange felt pretty lifeless. if i bought a lower end Focal again it would be Elex.

not too much to add for recent dialogue around Utopia + Naim Atom other than to say it's a no-brainer synergy. some independent feedback from friends on the Naim have been that it's a pretty warm sound for solid state. coming from GSX i didn't find it really much warmer but just more detailed, better separated. in either case i don't think you can do much better if you want as simple a desktop setup as possible. once you've acquired the combo, paying $10 a month for Tidal feels like a bargain. i most likely will revert back to Spotify if they ever f'ing get their crap together and push lossless just for ease of recommendations (i was on Spotify for 6+ years until i moved to Tidal because of the Naim).
 
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May 6, 2022 at 12:44 PM Post #17,522 of 20,506
May 6, 2022 at 1:16 PM Post #17,524 of 20,506
Doesn’t the Utopia come with that already? Mine did.
Sorry I’ll just chime in again. The early Utopia package only came with single ended rubber hose type cable. This is what I have.

As far as ordering from Danacable, you are not paying for a simple replacement to the stock, you are paying for improvements in sound quality. Save the argument of whether this is even possible. You could probably find a balanced cable for the Utopia for around $150 if just needing balanced.

When I first got the Danacable cable, mine was single ended, so I was comparing single ended to single ended stock directly into the Chord Dave. I was also able to do same comparison with the Focal Arche. I heard the same types of improvements, richer mids, more transparency, improved soundstage. After I got the Focal Arche, I sent the cable back to get the XLR connection. During that week, I was missing the rich mids the cable helped with. I never once missed the Chord Dave but I did miss the Danacable. Once back, the richness was back but I have no idea how the balanced connection improved anything. Possibly bigger soundstage but I didn’t have direct comparison and nothing stood out as different.

The stock cable sounds great and unless you have the funds or have a chance to try out different cables at a meet, shouldn’t bother. I originally got the cable as a way to improve the slight thinness of the Chord Dave with HF filter off. That was Rob’s recommendation when using the mscaler. The cable did not help with that issue. Turning the filter back on did. Selling the Dave for the Focal Arche did. And for fullest sound, getting the Naim Atom HE did.
 
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May 6, 2022 at 4:14 PM Post #17,525 of 20,506
Sorry I’ll just chime in again. The early Utopia package only came with single ended rubber hose type cable. This is what I have.

As far as ordering from Danacable, you are not paying for a simple replacement to the stock, you are paying for improvements in sound quality. Save the argument of whether this is even possible. You could probably find a balanced cable for the Utopia for around $150 if just needing balanced.

When I first got the Danacable cable, mine was single ended, so I was comparing single ended to single ended stock directly into the Chord Dave. I was also able to do same comparison with the Focal Arche. I heard the same types of improvements, richer mids, more transparency, improved soundstage. After I got the Focal Arche, I sent the cable back to get the XLR connection. During that week, I was missing the rich mids the cable helped with. I never once missed the Chord Dave but I did miss the Danacable. Once back, the richness was back but I have no idea how the balanced connection improved anything. Possibly bigger soundstage but I didn’t have direct comparison and nothing stood out as different.

The stock cable sounds great and unless you have the funds or have a chance to try out different cables at a meet, shouldn’t bother. I originally got the cable as a way to improve the slight thinness of the Chord Dave with HF filter off. That was Rob’s recommendation when using the mscaler. The cable did not help with that issue. Turning the filter back on did. Selling the Dave for the Focal Arche did. And for fullest sound, getting the Naim Atom HE did.
It's so tempting... But I just find it hard to believe a wire changes the sound so much. Not that it does, just the amount that I heard. Perfect world, you by the gear you want, for the sound you want. Cables should be 100% transperant. If I wanted a different sound, I would get different gear. I'm totally on board with quality construction and materials for good cables. But beyond all that... The only real reason I'm not giving it a try is the garden hose thing turns me off. Only thing.
 
May 6, 2022 at 4:27 PM Post #17,526 of 20,506
It's so tempting... But I just find it hard to believe a wire changes the sound so much. Not that it does, just the amount that I heard. Perfect world, you by the gear you want, for the sound you want. Cables should be 100% transperant. If I wanted a different sound, I would get different gear. I'm totally on board with quality construction and materials for good cables. But beyond all that... The only real reason I'm not giving it a try is the garden hose thing turns me off. Only thing.
Maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way. The stock cable is less transparent and the Danacable is showing you what the Utopia is fully capable of. It’s not magic.

So for me at the time I was grieving the death of both my parents within 3 mo of each other and got a nice inheritance. I wanted to get over that grief with an end game system. After I poured all this money into the Dave, I reluctantly bought the mscaler soon after. Thought I was done. Then someone commented that why would you use stock cable, not getting its full potential. So after already putting all this money into the system, I didn’t want it held back by stock cable. Way back when I do remember the Moon Audio Silver Dragon improving the HD650, so I already believed in headphone cables. After a little research, the Danacable came up as one of the best for the Utopia.

After almost a year with the Dave, I felt I made a mistake pouring that much money into a headphone system. I was turned off by the Dave thread with others going crazy with $5000 power supplies. I even almost bought $1200 bnc cables because that’s what everyone was saying to get. The Focal Arche had a deal for $1000 off, so I got it, liked it and sold off the Dave. I did test the Danacable a number of times but thought it was worth it to keep it.

The Naim Atom HE was only purchased because I wanted to downsize more and get rid of separate streamer and just have the one box. Just did good comparison to the Focal Arche. The biggest difference is the Naim just has more power behind it. It hits harder, has fuller sound, and more bass texture. The Focal Arche seems to do everything else equally as well. It’s also a lot cheaper and out of production
 
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May 6, 2022 at 7:54 PM Post #17,527 of 20,506
Maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way. The stock cable is less transparent and the Danacable is showing you what the Utopia is fully capable of. It’s not magic.

So for me at the time I was grieving the death of both my parents within 3 mo of each other and got a nice inheritance. I wanted to get over that grief with an end game system. After I poured all this money into the Dave, I reluctantly bought the mscaler soon after. Thought I was done. Then someone commented that why would you use stock cable, not getting its full potential. So after already putting all this money into the system, I didn’t want it held back by stock cable. Way back when I do remember the Moon Audio Silver Dragon improving the HD650, so I already believed in headphone cables. After a little research, the Danacable came up as one of the best for the Utopia.

After almost a year with the Dave, I felt I made a mistake pouring that much money into a headphone system. I was turned off by the Dave thread with others going crazy with $5000 power supplies. I even almost bought $1200 bnc cables because that’s what everyone was saying to get. The Focal Arche had a deal for $1000 off, so I got it, liked it and sold off the Dave. I did test the Danacable a number of times but thought it was worth it to keep it.

The Naim Atom HE was only purchased because I wanted to downsize more and get rid of separate streamer and just have the one box. Just did good comparison to the Focal Arche. The biggest difference is the Naim just has more power behind it. It hits harder, has fuller sound, and more bass texture. The Focal Arche seems to do everything else equally as well. It’s also a lot cheaper and out of production
Well in that respect, I was looking at it wrong. I was looking at color and opposite of transperant.

This has been a ride. I've had a few expensive hobbies, but audio takes the cake for sure. I am a gear whore, but perfectly resigned in the fact I'm not forking out money for unicorns. I really wanted a Naim Nova, but too spend at the time. Now I am past that. Hell, if what I'm doing doesn't cure me, I can sell it and consolidate to a Nova no problem. I would just have to live with SE. However, I really think I am done... Pontus/ZOTL. We'll see.
 
May 6, 2022 at 7:59 PM Post #17,528 of 20,506
Well in that respect, I was looking at it wrong. I was looking at color and opposite of transperant.

This has been a ride. I've had a few expensive hobbies, but audio takes the cake for sure. I am a gear whore, but perfectly resigned in the fact I'm not forking out money for unicorns. I really wanted a Naim Nova, but too spend at the time. Now I am past that. Hell, if what I'm doing doesn't cure me, I can sell it and consolidate to a Nova no problem. I would just have to live with SE. However, I really think I am done... Pontus/ZOTL. We'll see.
I heard for headphones the Naim Atom HE is the way to go. Nova won’t be as good. There are rumors that other Naim products might also be getting the headphone upgrade to be equal or even then the Atom HE. But that’s just rumors.
 
May 7, 2022 at 1:32 AM Post #17,529 of 20,506
I heard for headphones the Naim Atom HE is the way to go. Nova won’t be as good. There are rumors that other Naim products might also be getting the headphone upgrade to be equal or even then the Atom HE. But that’s just rumors.
Ya, I don't get it. They have their house sound. I look at Nova... "it has same HP section as Super nait 3"...but nobody can tell me what that means. I understand HE isn't fully balanced. But what is special to the HE that the Atom can't do? Why could they do the same with one with switched output like other amps.. HP or speaker or pre?.... Which, you could do Nova HE... More juise for speakers, and HP section like a HE. The absolute best desktop solution for everything. I really wanted Nova for power, but the Atoms 40w is plenty for my 707s. I need both Atoms, but only one streamer/DAC.

It was really hard between Atom and others. I would use SE cable... Sounded equal to Matrix mini. Maybe a bit richer, but not major... Read, not special. It's not exactly special with my speakers, my speakers just sound incredible... And I know it's not all the speakers. With Utopias, with speaker Atom... Sounds incredible... But it's definitely the Utopias.

It's not really about going on about Naim. Here at head-fi, we just talk about dedicated HP gear. Why can't normal integrated speaker gear be good HP gear. Hopefully by end of next week, I will find out if ZOTL is.
 
May 7, 2022 at 8:57 AM Post #17,530 of 20,506
Ya, I don't get it. They have their house sound. I look at Nova... "it has same HP section as Super nait 3"...but nobody can tell me what that means. I understand HE isn't fully balanced. But what is special to the HE that the Atom can't do? Why could they do the same with one with switched output like other amps.. HP or speaker or pre?.... Which, you could do Nova HE... More juise for speakers, and HP section like a HE. The absolute best desktop solution for everything. I really wanted Nova for power, but the Atoms 40w is plenty for my 707s. I need both Atoms, but only one streamer/DAC.

It was really hard between Atom and others. I would use SE cable... Sounded equal to Matrix mini. Maybe a bit richer, but not major... Read, not special. It's not exactly special with my speakers, my speakers just sound incredible... And I know it's not all the speakers. With Utopias, with speaker Atom... Sounds incredible... But it's definitely the Utopias.

It's not really about going on about Naim. Here at head-fi, we just talk about dedicated HP gear. Why can't normal integrated speaker gear be good HP gear. Hopefully by end of next week, I will find out if ZOTL is.
Well the Atom HE is their newest product and is dedicated for driving headphones. They completely rebuilt the headphone amp section specifically for the Focal line of headphones, since Focal and Naim are under the same company. But now that the Atom HE is a hit, seems to make sense that can take this headphone amp tech and put it in other products but this will take time. But it does go to show you how important the amp section is because the higher range stuff could have a better dac section but doesn’t sound that great with headphones compared to the Atom HE.

This also has me thinking about other brands that are integrated. I know Chord has a simple line out philosophy for their headphone out section but could that also be the problem driving different types of headphones? There are many high end dacs that include headphone out but how many are truly dedicated to the headphone out section as much as the dac itself. Maybe the dcs Bartok?
 
May 7, 2022 at 10:26 AM Post #17,531 of 20,506
I tried to find a NAC100 to go with a Atom HE, but couldn't. Other amps were big boxes, and I didn't want to go there. But now I'm there and will be getting a rack to reclaim my desk. Sometimes I'm a real crack head. I'm still searching for that thing, hopefully I'm there. All I know is the purety of the Utopia is essential.
 
May 7, 2022 at 11:09 AM Post #17,533 of 20,506
I tried to find a NAC100 to go with a Atom HE, but couldn't. Other amps were big boxes, and I didn't want to go there. But now I'm there and will be getting a rack to reclaim my desk. Sometimes I'm a real crack head. I'm still searching for that thing, hopefully I'm there. All I know is the purety of the Utopia is essential.
Think the only way to do a all in one solution with Naim right now would be Atom HE and active speakers. But does make sense they they release something that can power speakers and have same excellent headphone out. Just not sure if that’s possible in the current Atom box. But someone hinted something new is in the works. Who knows what that will be. I don’t have speakers, so I’m already set.
 
May 7, 2022 at 12:16 PM Post #17,535 of 20,506
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