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Focal Utopia - What amp/dac to use?


Which amp/dac should I pair with Focal Utopia's?

  1. Chord Hugo 2

  2. Chord Hugo

    0 vote(s)
  3. WA 8

    0 vote(s)
  4. Other not listed.

  1. onystyle
    I recently purchased my end-game, the Focal Utopia's. It is an absolutely lovely headphone, definitely better than anything I have ever had before. But it isn't perfect. The equipment I have simply can't bring out its true form. I am currently using an audioengine d1 dac and a Schiit Asgard 2 amp.The perfect headphone needs a sufficient partner for it to truly shine. And while they sound good, they can certainly sound better.
    I need an amp and dac, whether it be a 2 in 1 or two separate units.
    My budget is about $2000 and I am more than willing (would actually prefer) to get it used.
    I have done a bit of research (read as lurking some of the other focal utopia threads for amp/dac recommendations).

    I have seen absolutely fantastic things about the Chord Hugo 2, and that it is like a match made in heaven for the Focal Utopia's, being beaten by none other than the Chord Hugo TT 2, and of course the Chord Dave. Both exceedingly out of my budget.
    I have also heard good things about the WA8 Eclipse amp/dac, but nothing as good as the Chord Hugo 2.
    I have also done a bit of research into the Chord Hugo 1, and I know it is a great value, but I can't seem to find much on how it compares with the Hugo 2 besides that the Hugo 2 has 2x the taps and has filters that changes the tonality.
    So, with that being said, which option is the best? Are there other amps/dacs that I should be considering?
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
  2. robert766
    Is there a reason you are looking at portable amp/dac combo's? If you're looking for a stationary dekstop solution you could probably do much better without having to worry about battery issues (chord).

    Based on what I've read only an EC Black Widow or ECP Torpedo III would pair well with the Utopias. You could probably find one and then have enough money left for a Gungnir Multibit.

    For all in one solutions the ones getting the better reviews are the Holo Cyan, Crane Song Solaris, Soekris 1541 etc.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
  3. onystyle
    From what I read, the Chord Hugo 2 functions perfectly well for the Focal Utopia despite it being a portable solution. I have no intention of using it as a portable unit. I have heard that the dac is fantastic inside the Chord Hugo 2, and the amp is plenty good for the Utopia since the impedance
    I don't need portability, it is a useless feature to me. I plan to keep the Chord Hugo 2 plugged in at all times. I have also heard that the Chord Hugo 2 has a dac that compares to the Schiit Yggdrasil, while providing plenty of clean power to the low 80 ohms impedance Utopia. So, basically, I have heard that it is better than stationary options.
  4. robert766
    It's your money you should spend it anyway you like
  5. onystyle
    Thanks for the link you sent me, I think I will avoid Chord and try to find a better solution. Im currently looking into the EC Black Widow and the ECP Torpedo III.
    If people have other suggestions, I would love to hear them.
  6. boomhaur
    Out of curiosity have you just tried the audioengine d1 by itself to see how that sounded?
  7. onystyle
    I have, actually. To be totally honest, there was hardly a difference doing Focal>Asgard 2>audioengine>computer than just Focal > audioengine > computer.
  8. boomhaur
    If you can maybe try to see if any local audio shops have dacs and amps you can test out, or try from places that will let you audition them for awhile before you buy.
  9. PointyFox
    What makes you think they can sound better? Anything you spend more money for won't make them better. The only thing they might do is change the frequency response slightly.
  10. boomhaur
    That's actually my thought process and why I asked the op if he tried the d1 by itself and if he can find a way to test them before committing to buying.

    My theory is if it has a proper dac and properly amped (if required) your than chasing after extremely small gains and there may be measurable differences but the human ear is the weakest point. But the slight frequency response changes may make one sound better than the other and that's subjective to how you like it to sound.
  11. onystyle
    I don't believe my setup truly brings out the headphones' clarity. On my previous sennheiser HD 700's I used the current asgard 2 + audioengine, and compared it with my grandfather's amp/dac. And his was far superior. Much cleaner sound for sure. If my sennheiser hd 700's could be improved so significantly, then surely the Focal Utopia's would as well.

    When I tried just through the audioengine d1 and didn't hear too much of a change in quality, I interpreted that as the issue being with the audioengine d1. I have heard better amp/dac combo's (though not with these headphones) and compared it to my current setup, and the other setup was a far cleaner sound. So why wouldn't the same be true for the Utopia's?
  12. PointyFox
    Did you volume match when doing your first comparison?
  13. onystyle
    Yep. The clarity difference was very real. Could it really just be more of a dac thing than amp? The amp should provide plenty of power for the headphones, after all.
  14. PointyFox
    Doubtful. The only times you'll hear a difference between DACs is if they have poor SNR and you can hear a hiss or if they have treble roll-off.
    Might be an output impedance matching thing with the amplifier.
  15. onystyle
    So should I be looking for an amp that better matches the focal utopias? The impedance on the Utopia's are 80 ohms. I believe you ideally look for output at 1/8 of the impedance? So maybe something around 8-10(does 10 even exist?). Or is it really just unrealistic to get an improved sound? I have heard good things about Kenzie and Mogwai paired with Utopia's. But would it really change the sound much?

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