Focal Utopia General Discussion
Jul 24, 2022 at 11:41 AM Post #18,076 of 18,675
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Interesting which headphones would be considered more "wow" than Utopia. Found it rather vivid / dynamic side of things (at least on tubes) compared to many other headphones. Can image AB-1266 but haven't heard that one.
Depends on how you define "wow". I've heard several planars (Susvara, HE1000SE, Meze Elite) that were initially more subjectively impressive in certain details. And even my old HD800s really blow new listeners away with their soundstage and perceived detail retrieval.

But as an overall package the Utopia wins for me (although I'll probably get the Susvaras at some point).
 
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Jul 24, 2022 at 12:10 PM Post #18,077 of 18,675

iamoneagain

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You’d think Utopia’s punch would grab people but I guess it depends on what they listen to.

I am continually impressed with them everyday. They just sound right and never disappoint. But as said, I’m also using Danacable Reference, which sweetens the sound to my exact liking. If didn’t have the cable, I’d probably would have ended up with a tube amp to get similar results.
 
Jul 24, 2022 at 12:57 PM Post #18,078 of 18,675

r343

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Depends on how you define "wow". I've heard several planars (Susvara, HE1000SE, Meze Elite) that were initially more subjectively impressive in certain details. And even my old HD800s really blow new listeners away with their soundstage and perceived detail retrieval.

But as an overall package the Utopia wins for me (although I'll probably get the Susvaras at some point).
Thats true, depends on persons preferences combined with music style. Old HD800 truly impresses with details and soundstage, however if i go play some Children of Bodom with it experience can become thin and somewhat unengaging sound.

You’d think Utopia’s punch would grab people but I guess it depends on what they listen to.

I am continually impressed with them everyday. They just sound right and never disappoint. But as said, I’m also using Danacable Reference, which sweetens the sound to my exact liking. If didn’t have the cable, I’d probably would have ended up with a tube amp to get similar results.
Correct, for me if headphone doesn't have sufficient level of "punch" rest of the qualities can't really redeem it. Utopia seems to combine clarity/details/punch rather well.
 
Jul 24, 2022 at 10:45 PM Post #18,081 of 18,675

chrisnyc75

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Interesting which headphones would be considered more "wow" than Utopia. Found it rather vivid / dynamic side of things (at least on tubes) compared to many other headphones. Can image AB-1266 but haven't heard that one.
You could make a case for 1266 TC, Susvara, LCD-4, LCD-5, CRBN, SR-X9000, Solitaire P, and a handful of other contenders. But while each may out-"wow" Utopia in one way or another, as @Musicophilesblog eloquently & succinctly put it, Utopia is about getting it just right.
 
Jul 25, 2022 at 11:46 AM Post #18,082 of 18,675

iamoneagain

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Isn’t the other thing about the Utopia is it’s easy to have it sound right in more setups than some of the other TOTL headphones. At least for me, it was one of the reasons I chose it. I didn’t want to invest in a crazy setup.

I eventually did get the Dave/mscaler but sold it and now down to more reasonable Naim Atom HE. I do wonder how they sound on the cheaper but better performing setups ASR promotes. But at this point I’m more about what sounds most engaging than what has the best measurements.
 
Jul 25, 2022 at 3:09 PM Post #18,083 of 18,675

ClicketEKlack

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I do wonder how they sound on the cheaper but better performing setups ASR promotes. But at this point I’m more about what sounds most engaging than what has the best measurements.
They sound fantastic on my ASR-approved Topping A90/D90 stack. However, I added a Xduoo MT-604, using the A90 as pre-amp. I'm sure the MT-604 tests like garbage and would be laughed off that forum, but... now the Utopias sound even better. Having tested far more expensive gear, I'm not sure if anything would actually sound like a meaningful upgrade if at all. I wish more people would try the MT-604. It's a $170 game-changer. To be clear, it doesn't do a ton to the sound -- but what it does (tube pre + Class A) makes a huge difference with the Utopia.
 
Jul 25, 2022 at 4:33 PM Post #18,084 of 18,675

iamoneagain

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They sound fantastic on my ASR-approved Topping A90/D90 stack. However, I added a Xduoo MT-604, using the A90 as pre-amp. I'm sure the MT-604 tests like garbage and would be laughed off that forum, but... now the Utopias sound even better. Having tested far more expensive gear, I'm not sure if anything would actually sound like a meaningful upgrade if at all. I wish more people would try the MT-604. It's a $170 game-changer. To be clear, it doesn't do a ton to the sound -- but what it does (tube pre + Class A) makes a huge difference with the Utopia.
So without the tube amp, is the sound just too clean?

That’s my things about those measurements, what sound do they lead to? And I have no problem with what ASR does. If some companies claim to measure well and they don’t, people should know. I can’t even find measurements listed for the Naim HE. I know the non headphone Atom did not fare too well. But then at the end of most of these reviews they end claiming it has no or very little effect on what we end up hearing anyway. So not sure the point of all the measurements are unless there is a threshold of what above or below a certain level will matter audibly. I do know the Utopia is already very revealing, so should be easier to hear any changes.

I’m not looking to sell but would be good to know what the cheapest, best sounding setup you can get for the Utopia nowadays is. Seems like performance levels have jumped up and price has gone done in the last few years. I know some will swear by their high end equipment but I don’t buy it. It’s not that the high end doesn’t sound good but I do think can pull off similar performance for much cheaper.
 
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Jul 25, 2022 at 5:31 PM Post #18,085 of 18,675

enragedlemon

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I’m not looking to sell but would be good to know what the cheapest, best sounding setup you can get for the Utopia nowadays is. Seems like performance levels have jumped up and price has gone done in the last few years. I know some will swear by their high end equipment but I don’t buy it. It’s not that the high end doesn’t sound good but I do think can pull off similar performance for much cheaper.
I wonder how something like the FiiO K9 Pro would perform with the Utopias? Admittedly I am a pretty big FiiO fan but I have found they make very good products and their house sound is slightly on the warmer and smoother side, so it could be a good pairing for those who want a bit more warmth from their Utopias. Due to COVID I haven't had a chance to try one out and the store that sold me my Utopias didn't have one in stock, but I am very intrigued by it. I'm also not looking to sell or buy so it it's just for curiosity's sake, but it's a third of the price of the Hugo 2 and less than a quarter of the price of of the Atom HE here. I suspect there are considerable diminishing returns.
 
Jul 25, 2022 at 6:42 PM Post #18,086 of 18,675

ClicketEKlack

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So without the tube amp, is the sound just too clean?
My perception is that the tubes smooth the top end without sacrificing detail and shape the sound from a flat L/R to more of a semicircle. The class A amp may also be kinder to the ears. And this is all by small degrees. The A90 is a superb amp with the Utopias.

If I had to guess -- based on a limited number of admittedly flawed comparisons -- that the best things to come out of the measurement craze are the inexpensive and excellent DACs. Having heard a Chord DAVE, I don't feel like I'm starved for resolution or texture with the D90. As much as forum dwellers mock Zeos Pantera, his recs have so far been completely spot on, and I wonder if his assessment of the Holo May as being indistinguishable from a cheap DAC is valid. (And yet I still find myself wanting to get one!)

As far as I understand amps, there seem to be two versions: those that color the sound and those that don't. To that end, I don't understand paying DCS Lina money for transparency. What can that amp do in the way of "getting out of the way of the music" that, say, a Singxer can't?

So for a budget rig for Utopias, an adjustable mix of transparency and coloration may be the sweet spot.
 
Jul 25, 2022 at 8:10 PM Post #18,087 of 18,675

BassicScience

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So without the tube amp, is the sound just too clean?

That’s my things about those measurements, what sound do they lead to? And I have no problem with what ASR does. If some companies claim to measure well and they don’t, people should know. I can’t even find measurements listed for the Naim HE. I know the non headphone Atom did not fare too well. But then at the end of most of these reviews they end claiming it has no or very little effect on what we end up hearing anyway. So not sure the point of all the measurements are unless there is a threshold of what above or below a certain level will matter audibly. I do know the Utopia is already very revealing, so should be easier to hear any changes.

I’m not looking to sell but would be good to know what the cheapest, best sounding setup you can get for the Utopia nowadays is. Seems like performance levels have jumped up and price has gone done in the last few years. I know some will swear by their high end equipment but I don’t buy it. It’s not that the high end doesn’t sound good but I do think can pull off similar performance for much cheaper.
The Utopia is a relatively high sensitivity headphone, so one important measurement to consider is noise floor. A lot of "high end" equipment features better ergonomics, build/parts quality, warranty, etc. as opposed to dramatically better sound quality vs. budget gear. Other "high end" equipment is simply overpriced. You should also know that tube amps and preamps are all over the map in terms of their distortion profiles and subjective impact on sound. Beyond the circuit topologies, different models and vintages of the tubes themselves can make quite a noticeable sonic difference. Typically, if you just want plug and play, solid state is the easier route, and I found my Utopia sounded quite musical out of the SS gear I drove it with when I owned it. YMMV, of course.
 
Jul 26, 2022 at 11:31 AM Post #18,088 of 18,675

Paul Noir Culte

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I could listen to the Utopia again this May at the High End Munich after a long time and I really liked it. But now the flagship from Focal has been on the market for over 6 years and a successor will come sooner or later. Is it still interesting to buy a Utopia at this point or is it advisable to wait?
 
Jul 26, 2022 at 11:35 AM Post #18,089 of 18,675

KelFab

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Who knows ?

6nyt5o.jpg


but I easily imagine that Focal must have a good laugh reading us and our guesses :D
 
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Jul 26, 2022 at 11:48 AM Post #18,090 of 18,675

helljudgement

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I could listen to the Utopia again this May at the High End Munich after a long time and I really liked it. But now the flagship from Focal has been on the market for over 6 years and a successor will come sooner or later. Is it still interesting to buy a Utopia at this point or is it advisable to wait?
While it is uncertain when Focal is going to release a new flagship, it is almost certain the new headphone is likely not going to have an exact same sound signature as the Utopia. Think hd600/650/660-800, LCD2-3-4-5, Stax 007-009-009s-x9000 etc. If you like what you're hearing your that should be plenty reason to get it imo. You don't often hear people clamoring for an upgraded Susvara even though they are released just a year after the Utopia.
 

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