Focal Utopia General Discussion
May 7, 2020 at 11:00 PM Post #11,746 of 16,351

iamoneagain

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Oct 26, 2006
Posts
1,663
Likes
607
Location
San Diego
I had to adjust my upstream components. I'm happy now. I can now listen to those and other songs with piercing instruments without it being harsh. I was introducing problems by having my source volume at 100% (accidentally). I backed if off to 75% and everything got way better.

I think that could be the one drawbacks of the Utopia. They are so revealing that if you have any weakness in your system, they’ll find it. On the flip side, they’ll let a great system shine.

The other thing is they are a very energetic headphone, so maybe not the best headphone to relax to. I was always a fan of Grado’s upfront sound and the Utopia remind me of that in some ways but everything else at a much higher level. I haven’t heard any of Grado’s latest. This was the original RS-1 and the very rare PS-1I really liked.
 
Last edited:
May 8, 2020 at 3:47 AM Post #11,748 of 16,351

Frozen Rat

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 27, 2016
Posts
119
Likes
82
I have both Utopia and Stellia, not for the signature reasons but i need a good closed can as well
Having them both remind Me my HD800 vs Fostex th900 love them but still have them altough they are not getting much air time..

Kind of how I am. I want that Utopia sound whenever I can get it, but when I can go out and about again I absolutely must have a closed back headphone. What is better than the Stellia for that? Probably nothing at this point in time.

There are some songs that simply seem to be shine better on the Stellia. Most still sound best on the Utopia.
 
May 8, 2020 at 8:49 PM Post #11,749 of 16,351

XeNoNF50

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 11, 2020
Posts
195
Likes
164
Location
UK
Purchased a pair of these open box from a store in the UK at a good price. Arrives some time middle of next week. My first taste of this kind of class of headphones. Really looking forward to the experience.
 
Last edited:
May 9, 2020 at 4:59 AM Post #11,752 of 16,351

crazyhank

New Head-Fier
Joined
Mar 10, 2020
Posts
25
Likes
27
Location
San Francisco, CA
Hi,

this morning I auditioned at my dealer the following DAC-amps with the Utopia, during 2h1/2:
Questyle Twelve Master, Chord Dave, Benchmark DAC3, Chord M-Scaler -> Dave and Focal Arche.

The Utopia's was the dealer's demo version, but because he no longer had the same cable as mine,
I brought my own Utopia cable, Nordost Heimdahl 2, to which I am used. I only had forgotten to take the XLR-4 --> 6.35 mm adapter,
so the dealer borrowed the adapter which comes with the Hifiman HE6se for those devices having no headphone XLR connector..

At home, I listen to the Utopia with my RME ADI-2 Pro DAC-amp,
in full dual mono (2 x AK4490 DAC chips, one for the L, one for the R channel) 2 x 6,35 mm jacks --> XLR,
and with upsampling at 192 kHz with the RME driver on my PC (higher upscaling rates are possible but require using the NOS setting on the RME, I haven't tried NOS at high upscaling rates, I should try once, I normally use filters).

My test tracks are metal and some polyphony.
The metal tracks are much louder than the polyphonic ones, so I have to change volume and there is not much point for me with level matching.
Anyway I always try to listen as low as possible relatively to the ambient background noise (lower in my study at home than at the dealer; he says that he knows nobody listening as low as I do), so I am very sensitive to the noise floor produced by DACs, amps or headphones.
I was lucky being the only client in the store on Saturday morning.
I am not seeking audiophile enjoyment in the sense of euphonics, but only hi-fi (fidelity, realism, neutrality; no distortion or artefacts how pleasant these may be).

I am giving my impressions in the auditioning order (I didn't have enough time to switch back and forth), because the one audition was relative to the previous one.

Questyle CMA Twelve Master (XLR connection)
This unit was new, with only 50 hours burn-in.
With its gain setting I could not adjust to a proper volume (zero sound or already too loud), which is still unusual for me. This tells me this unit is for people who listen very loudly or want to drive headphones requiring a lot of amplification. The dealer had to change several jumpers at the bottom of the unit to set a low gain, and even there volume adjustment was not ideal for me.
This unit really changed a lot the sound of the Utopia, like I had never experienced before: dark, full and lush, and yet overemphasized hi-hats (e.g. in Manowar's Call To Arms track from the album Warriors of the World) and more relaxed. It reminded me of how the sound of the HD 800 was changed in a lush, audiophile manner (compared to my HD 800 at home) when listening to it driven by a Questyle DAP at a headphone event several years ago). For some people looking for such an audiophile pleasure this may be a great unit, but not for me. To me this was obtained at the cost of a loss of neutrality, resolution and noise floor, away from hi-fi. Even this lush sound, how pleasant it may be, didn't feel like an "authentic" reproduction to me.
So I didn't spend too much time with this unit, it is not what I am looking for.

Chord Dave alone (for combination with M-scaler see below)
The dealer's Dave is always on and ready. Listening just after dark, colored and lush sounding Questyle unit, the "audio processing modules in my brain" were offset and experienced by contrast the Dave as bright, dull, weak and thin, quite unlike in my memories (I auditioned the Dave several times in the past years, incl. with other headphones than the Utopia, it sounded heavenly with the Utopia and didn't use to sound like this), I needed to take some distance from the audition of the Questyle to readjust my audio judgement and anyway what I was interested in today was the combination M-Scaler --> Dave, and secondly the DAC3.

Benchmark DAC3
This is the first time ever I listened to a device by Benchmark.
The dealer had to take some time to prepare it (he had i.a. to unscrew and open the housing to change the gain setting to low).
It sounded very neutral, very resolved, very clean, very fast. To my surprise, it actually sounded even better than my RME ADI-2 Pro!
(so far the Dave was the only device I had found to sound better than my RME -- I never auditioned the Hugo TT2).
It is more expensive (but not too much, not like a Dave) than my RME,
but compared to my RME with its color display, screens, menus and countless settings, the interface looked so limited, almost "prehistoric" (there wasn't even a L-R balance). Independently from the price, even if I get a little sonic improvement with the DAC3, would that be worth it in view of losing the possibility of setting about everything as I can with my RME?

Chord M-Scaler -> Dave
This blew all my past experiences re. resolution, separation, yet without any harshness or fatigue, the jump was obvious.
It seemed so clearly to be the best of the best that I just don't have more to say...
Negative side is of course the huge price (a thorny issue with my wife...) and that, in addition to the unpractical (not stackable) housing of the Dave, another device is required.
[edit: re. this combination, I forgot to say that each time I changed to another track, I curiously heard a "click" sound. The dealer changed some delay setting in his streaming system, but that only shifted the click from the right channel to the left one. Strange. ]

Focal Arche (XLR connection)
This unit was brand new with zero burn-in.
I hadn't much time left, so I could only gather quick impressions. Even though I auditioned it after the M-Scaler --> Dave combination,
it still felt excellent with the default setting (no headphone preset), I mean I would put in the league of professional hifi with RME or Benchmark (although I would doubt that, had I had more time to test it, I would have found it to be as good as those?), I mean it seemed to me that someone purchasing it would not make any mistake.
The dealer managed to find out how to select the Utopia setting, I tested this a bit, but this was very short and I was getting tired from those intense, focussed auditions, I did not manage to notice a difference between the default and the Utopia settings.

That was it.
Hoping that this may be of interest to you, even if you listen at much louder volume levels than me,
I wish you a nice weekend,
bidn
Hey Bidn,
Thank you for the excellent walkthrough. I currently have the Focal Arche, which I chose over the Hugo 2 for its musicality and just more to my liking. But I find myself hearing the Dave and Mscaler are amazing, as you noted. I know your time on the Arche was limited, but what do you think I would get if I went for the Dave and Mscaler? Appreciate any insight because this is such a big high price purchase...and no returns on Dave with no Dave demos nearby me. Thank you for your help!
 
May 9, 2020 at 9:03 AM Post #11,753 of 16,351

emrelights1973

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Posts
647
Likes
253
Hey Bidn,
Thank you for the excellent walkthrough. I currently have the Focal Arche, which I chose over the Hugo 2 for its musicality and just more to my liking. But I find myself hearing the Dave and Mscaler are amazing, as you noted. I know your time on the Arche was limited, but what do you think I would get if I went for the Dave and Mscaler? Appreciate any insight because this is such a big high price purchase...and no returns on Dave with no Dave demos nearby me. Thank you for your help!
Get the dave and enjoy then upgrade it maybe? Arche is not a fair comperison to this duo... Dcs bartok is a good option as well
 
May 9, 2020 at 9:07 AM Post #11,754 of 16,351

iamoneagain

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Oct 26, 2006
Posts
1,663
Likes
607
Location
San Diego
Hey Bidn,
Thank you for the excellent walkthrough. I currently have the Focal Arche, which I chose over the Hugo 2 for its musicality and just more to my liking. But I find myself hearing the Dave and Mscaler are amazing, as you noted. I know your time on the Arche was limited, but what do you think I would get if I went for the Dave and Mscaler? Appreciate any insight because this is such a big high price purchase...and no returns on Dave with no Dave demos nearby me. Thank you for your help!

I’ve never heard the Arche but I was using my Utopia with Hugo 2 for a while and even used it was the original Hugo while I was waiting for the Dave to arrive.

The Hugo 2 alway seems a little lean in its sound unless you used the 16fs filters but then lost the extra resolution, so I stuck with the HF filter setting. But even with this setting it was lacking warmth and texture. When I used the original Hugo for a few days, it actually had a better tone and some warmth but felt closed in and like you were just hearing the dac.

With just the Dave alone with HF filter on, the Utopia’s come alive. The bottom end is now full and powerful, there is warmth and texture, layering, and depth. It’s a very euphoric sound. When you finally add the mscaler to the mix, the bass tightens up, the vocals and instruments are completely in their own space, there is more depth, and realism. You do lose a tiny bit of warmth because without it the bass is looser and has more bloom. But when you compare the two, the mscaler sounds real and the bass doesn’t bleed into the rest of the music. You also get rid of any digital hardness. I wouldn’t call it smooth sounding as much as it is natural and crystal clear. Smooth makes it sound dull and the Dave/mscaler with Utopia is anything but dull.

The one thing I found with the Chord dacs is using an optical connection is best. It somehow brings out better texture. This is true even going into the mscaler. I also just bought some inexpensive Blue Jean bnc cables to connect the mscaler and this brought out a little more sparkle in the highs.
 
Last edited:
May 10, 2020 at 11:09 AM Post #11,756 of 16,351

XeNoNF50

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 11, 2020
Posts
195
Likes
164
Location
UK
Welcome to the club. :)

Out of interest, where did you buy from? I'm also from UK.

Thanks - really looking forward to it!

I bought the ex-review open box with warranty on ebay from a seller called audioclear which seems to be the ebay store for one of Focal's UK distributors SCV Distribution (same registered address and my payment was to their paypal). They had the buy it now at what I would think is already a huge discount on a set of these, I put in quite a bit of a low ball offer from that, they countered close to it, I accepted and here I am!

They seem to have a pair of Stellia's on a similar discount vs a brand new set.
 
May 10, 2020 at 11:33 AM Post #11,757 of 16,351

Scrum92

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jan 30, 2019
Posts
292
Likes
127
Location
UK
Thanks - really looking forward to it!

I bought the ex-review open box with warranty on ebay from a seller called audioclear which seems to be the ebay store for one of Focal's UK distributors SCV Distribution (same registered address and my payment was to their paypal). They had the buy it now at what I would think is already a huge discount on a set of these, I put in quite a bit of a low ball offer from that, they countered close to it, I accepted and here I am!

They seem to have a pair of Stellia's on a similar discount vs a brand new set.

Nice one. Sounds like you got a great deal.

What will you be pairing the Utopia with?
 
May 10, 2020 at 11:39 AM Post #11,758 of 16,351

astrostar59

Member of the Trade: Aries Cerat Espana, Auriculares High-End
Banned
Joined
Aug 23, 2012
Posts
2,843
Likes
851
Location
Somewhere v hot
The DAVE has a great built in amp, and powers the LCD4 and Abyss TC superbly as well. Volume on the DAVE on my LCD4s is about -12dB and -3dB on the Abyss.
 
May 10, 2020 at 4:14 PM Post #11,759 of 16,351

jlbrach

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jun 4, 2005
Posts
5,048
Likes
3,787
the dave can drive some modern music on the lcd-4 reasonably well...on the abyss it is a real struggle....the abyss needs an external amp to shine...the dave is actually outstanding driving more efficient HP's
 
May 10, 2020 at 6:51 PM Post #11,760 of 16,351

XeNoNF50

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 11, 2020
Posts
195
Likes
164
Location
UK
Nice one. Sounds like you got a great deal.

What will you be pairing the Utopia with?

At the moment I have no idea what I'll land on. My current set up is SMSL SP200 THX 888 amp and Topping D50s DAC. I plan to upgrade to get more out of it but not sure what yet - open to suggestions.

Not looked much into what pairs well with this yet but I was looking at rme adi-2 or the upcoming topping a90 (with d90) which seems to measure well but isn't really out in the wild but I don't know. Ideally want to keep the pairing south of £1500 if buying in the near future.
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top