Focal Utopia General Discussion
May 12, 2022 at 3:34 AM Post #17,582 of 17,915

Roasty

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So far, I use hi gain, the loudest I listen is 45. That's loud. At 50 I can just barely hear something. (threshold) 75 is slight hum. 100, there is a hum.

what if u use zero/lo gain? is it insufficient? (I believe the lta amps have 3 options?)

always been curious about LTA but they're hard to find to demo.
 
May 12, 2022 at 2:57 PM Post #17,583 of 17,915

Orangutan

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Make sure you burn in the Naim for at least 50 hours to open up the sound. For me, this paring really gets the weight and balance right. There is warmth, power, punch, texture, great mid and highs with no fatigue. With other setups I’ve tried, the low end if not filled out quite as nicely. But yes, if lot of has to do with the Utopia’s themselves. Speed, details and transparency are always there. Transparency does change setup to setup but still always great.
Whoa Whoa..to be clear that is not my setup :beyersmile: so I am not doing any burn in on either of those beauties. The photo was taken at Canjam. Thanks for the advise and the info about the pairing. Interesting stuff.
 
May 12, 2022 at 2:59 PM Post #17,584 of 17,915

Orangutan

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Hi! Could someone with Utopias try this tone generator? https://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/

On my pair, 6100Hz-6800Hz sounds significantly tilted towards the left channel, as does 8000-8200Hz, while 7400-7800Hz sounds tilted towards the right channel. I don't think it's (just?) my ears, since my other headphones exhibit a different sort of imbalance in the high frequencies. (The 6000Hz range is fine, for instance.) Is this normal, or is something wrong with my pair?

(Admittedly, it still could just be my ears, since my other pair is closed back and has a very different signature, so it's hard to compare the two directly...)
Not that they are even relatively close, but I observed the same thing with my Elegias. Turns out one of the ear pads was not attached properly and the air gap was causing the imbalance. Worth checking earpads on both sides and pressing them to make sure they are firmly inserted.
 
May 12, 2022 at 3:25 PM Post #17,585 of 17,915

Powermankw

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what if u use zero/lo gain? is it insufficient? (I believe the lta amps have 3 options?)

always been curious about LTA but they're hard to find to demo.
Right... To be clear, I was on default which is zero gain. My headphones were on hi output. At zero gain and low output, it is silent. And on low output, 70 is as loud as I'll go.
 
May 12, 2022 at 4:07 PM Post #17,586 of 17,915

iamoneagain

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Whoa Whoa..to be clear that is not my setup :beyersmile: so I am not doing any burn in on either of those beauties. The photo was taken at Canjam. Thanks for the advise and the info about the pairing. Interesting stuff.
Oh, gotcha.

I have that same setup including the stand. Buying that stand was so hard for because it feels like throwing away money. But it just so nice and fits perfect. So there’s something to be said about having nice looking equipment. Sound quality alone is not everything. Ease of use, comfort, and even beauty can play a part in over perception of how you enjoy your music. Even the chair you listen in can make a difference.
 
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May 13, 2022 at 9:09 PM Post #17,588 of 17,915

Hoegaardener70

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No, I purchased the 2020 model which came with the long, somewhat stiff and rather unwieldy XLR cable, along with a 3.5mm single-ended cable I’ve never touched. My amp (the iFi Pro iCAN Signature) comes with dynamic impedance matching tech built in to both the 4.4mm balanced jack and the 3.5mm single-ended, unlike the balanced XLR output, and it is a major game changer for this headphone. It’s available as a separate adapter, which I’ll explain.

While I was waiting for the 4.4 cable I ordered to arrive, I used the XLR cable, and it gave me an inaccurate impression of what the Utopia can do. The amp outputs 14W at 16 ohms, which is obviously more than enough power—but with the cans at 80 ohms the resistance was obviously mismatched. The amp has three gain settings, and to achieve the appropriate volume range I had to set it on zero gain—and to my astonishment, at not unreasonably loud volumes the amp was often clipping—especially when I added any bass enhancement. I heard alarming pops as the headphone driver was bottoming out.

Then the 4.4mm balanced cable arrived, and when I first plugged it in I was puzzled because the volume was considerably quieter on zero gain—unbeknownst to me the impedance matching had kicked in. Then I kicked the amp up to +18db, and the headphones sprung to life—literally. The noise floor was non-existent, the harshness in the high end completely smoothed out, the bass slam and punch was kick-ass, and the amp wouldn’t clip no matter how much volume or bass I threw at it.

Impedance matching is a major factor in amplifier-headphone performance that I had previously unappreciated. IFi makes a 4.4mm ieMatch adapter that goes in line between the headphones and the amplifier jack, and it has adjustable attenuation settings that can be set by ear, or based on iFi’s headphone calculator on their website. It costs a measly $59, and for anyone who has cans with an impedance less than 120 or so, the difference it makes are well-beyond subtle—there is nothing gimmicky or snake oilish about it. For the Utopias I enthusiastically encourage folks to check it out!

https://bloomaudio.com/products/ifi-iematch-4-4mm
I read this with great interest since I am using my Utopia with the iCan Pro (not the signature) with a XLR-port using a 4.4mm adapter (since my cable is 4.4mm). Could somebody refine how the ifi amp's output is not correctly matched with the Utopia's 80ohms and what that means for sq?
 
May 15, 2022 at 2:35 PM Post #17,589 of 17,915

Petergrifindor

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No, I purchased the 2020 model which came with the long, somewhat stiff and rather unwieldy XLR cable, along with a 3.5mm single-ended cable I’ve never touched. My amp (the iFi Pro iCAN Signature) comes with dynamic impedance matching tech built in to both the 4.4mm balanced jack and the 3.5mm single-ended, unlike the balanced XLR output, and it is a major game changer for this headphone. It’s available as a separate adapter, which I’ll explain.

While I was waiting for the 4.4 cable I ordered to arrive, I used the XLR cable, and it gave me an inaccurate impression of what the Utopia can do. The amp outputs 14W at 16 ohms, which is obviously more than enough power—but with the cans at 80 ohms the resistance was obviously mismatched. The amp has three gain settings, and to achieve the appropriate volume range I had to set it on zero gain—and to my astonishment, at not unreasonably loud volumes the amp was often clipping—especially when I added any bass enhancement. I heard alarming pops as the headphone driver was bottoming out.

Then the 4.4mm balanced cable arrived, and when I first plugged it in I was puzzled because the volume was considerably quieter on zero gain—unbeknownst to me the impedance matching had kicked in. Then I kicked the amp up to +18db, and the headphones sprung to life—literally. The noise floor was non-existent, the harshness in the high end completely smoothed out, the bass slam and punch was kick-ass, and the amp wouldn’t clip no matter how much volume or bass I threw at it.

Impedance matching is a major factor in amplifier-headphone performance that I had previously unappreciated. IFi makes a 4.4mm ieMatch adapter that goes in line between the headphones and the amplifier jack, and it has adjustable attenuation settings that can be set by ear, or based on iFi’s headphone calculator on their website. It costs a measly $59, and for anyone who has cans with an impedance less than 120 or so, the difference it makes are well-beyond subtle—there is nothing gimmicky or snake oilish about it. For the Utopias I enthusiastically encourage folks to check it out!

https://bloomaudio.com/products/ifi-iematch-4-4mm
I think that the problem you described is the reason that I had such a poor impression the first time I heard the Utopias.

When I was looking to buy my first headphone hifi equipment, and I was quite a noob (still am), I tried the Utopias for the first time with what I considered to be a very high-end rig (Chord Dave+Formula S). And it was SUCH a disappointment... floor noise all around, all the instruments sounded off and very far away from me, it was terrible and I thought the Focals were to blame since all the other TOTL headphones I tried that day on that rig sounded like they were supposed to. To be honest, I left the shop thinking the Utopias were utter crap.

I finally went the Stax route for my home based rig.

Very recently I went to another shop looking for headphones that were easy to drive without an amp, looking for something portable, and I got to try again the Utopias with just the most basic rig ever, straight from an iPhone dongle. Long story short, now I have a pair of my own. Although I know that using them like this I'm not taking full advantage of its capabilities, they just sound wonderful, and a dedicated amp for them might be in the cards somewhere in the future.

Now I think the problem the first time was that I was using a monster of an amp to drive headphones that didn't need that kind of power. A device like the one you describe in your post would have been a good solution to tame the beast and make the rig a proper match.

I got lucky I gave the Utopias a second chance since my first experience with them was so off putting. Synergy in this hobby seems to be everything.
 
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May 15, 2022 at 4:30 PM Post #17,590 of 17,915

ClicketEKlack

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I think that the problem you described are the reason that I had such a poor impression the first time I heard the Utopias.

When I was looking to buy my first headphone hifi equipment, and I was quite a noob (still am), I tried the Utopias for the first time with what I considered to be a very high-end rig (Chord Dave+Formula S). And it was SUCH a disappointment... floor noise all around, all the instruments sounded off and very far away from me, it was terrible and I thought the Focals were to blame since all the other TOTL headphones I tried that day on that rig sounded like they were supposed to. To be honest, I left the shop thinking the Utopias were utter crap.

I finally went the Stax route for my home based rig.

Very recently I went to another shop looking for headphones that were easy to drive without an amp, looking for something portable, and I got to try again the Utopias with just the most basic rig ever, straight from an iPhone dongle. Long story short, now I have a pair of my own. Although I know that using them like this I'm not taking full advantage of its capabilities, they just sound wonderful, and a dedicated amp for them might be in the cards somewhere in the future.

Now I think the problem the first time was that I was using a monster of an amp to drive headphones that didn't need that kind of power. A device like the one you describe in your post would have been a good solution to tame the beast and make the rig a proper match.

I got lucky I gave the Utopias a second chance since my first experience with them was so off putting. Synergy in this hobby seems to be everything.

My favorite thing about the Utopia is the versatility -- you can throw them in their case with a decent DAP or dongle (in your case, an iPhone!) and get amazing sound on the road. I suspect Susvara owners need a second set of cans for travel.
 
May 15, 2022 at 5:52 PM Post #17,591 of 17,915

Ciggavelli

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My favorite thing about the Utopia is the versatility -- you can throw them in their case with a decent DAP or dongle (in your case, an iPhone!) and get amazing sound on the road. I suspect Susvara owners need a second set of cans for travel.
They do, and those second set of cans are the Utopias :beyersmile:

But you still need a closed back. It’s really hard to find 1 pair of headphones ideal for all situations. I’m my opinion, no such pair of headphones exist. There are always situation specific trade offs.
 
May 21, 2022 at 6:59 AM Post #17,592 of 17,915

Henrim

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I was always suprised at how good sources sounded with the Utopias. Made it hard to justify expensive DACs, although I did end up getting a yggy and then Qutest anyway!
 
May 21, 2022 at 8:34 AM Post #17,593 of 17,915

DJW50

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I was always suprised at how good sources sounded with the Utopias. Made it hard to justify expensive DACs, although I did end up getting a yggy and then Qutest anyway!
I agree, I've got the Qutest admittedly I have it powered by a LPS but have recently been trying DAC's at 4 to 6 times the price of the Qutest and so far have sent them all back and got a refund. Since my Auralic Aries G1 upscales my Amazon HD music to 358kHz 24 bit the Qutest sounds absolutely wonderful with my Utopia's.
Just to add by the end of this year I should have the funds to buy/try a DAVE, but who knows maybe a new model will be on the market by then, but it would be a clear oversight not to at least try a DAVE
 
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May 22, 2022 at 9:16 AM Post #17,594 of 17,915

Musicophilesblog

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Hi everyone, new member here, and first post. Joined the forum after recently purchasing a new Utopia 2020. My other head gear includes the original HD800 driven by an HDVA600, and a Beyer T90. Listening nearly exclusively to classical music and jazz.

I'm currently driving the Utopias off my Sennheiser HDVA600 (with the XLR cable) and actually love what I'm hearing. However, the upgrade bug is still around.

I've been perusing some (but not all) of the 1173 pages of this thread, and see a lot of different amp recommendations floating around.

I'm currently most likely to just purchase a Phonitor XE, as I always had a secret love for old-style VU meters. Unfortunately I cannot test-drive the Phonitor, as no dealer near me has it. Furthermore, a lot of the more boutique style amp manufacturers that are recommended here are US or Asia based and not east to get/serviced here in Europe where I'm based.

Therefore: What does the community think about the Phonitor / Utopia combo? Will it be a nice match, or is there anything else out there that I absolutely have to test? FYI, my local dealer where I bought the Utopias has a limited selection of amps to test & purchase, mainly the entire Chord range, the Burson Conductor, Moon 230, and the Naim Uniti HE (which he really doesn't recommend by the way).
 
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