About the Focal Clear Mg
Striking headphones with transparent, deeply layered sound
The Clear Mg wired open-back headphones offer a striking first impression and rewarding repeat-listening sessions.
Striking headphones with transparent, deeply layered sound
Focal never ceases to amaze me. The French audio experts have released so many world-class wired headphones, you would almost expect (and forgive) a misstep at some point. But from the moment I unzipped the designer case containing the Clear Mg — their latest open-back offering — I could tell the high-end headphone "magic" is as strong as ever.
This update to their customer-favorite Clear wired headphones has a revamped driver system. It uses a similar engineering principal to the original — but with pure magnesium diaphragm domes. I found the sound was pure and pristine, with even better texture and more pronounced dynamics. (Just remember, to hear them at their best, you'll need a separate headphone amp or a portable music player.)
Deluxe, premium look and feel
Unboxing Focal headphones can be quite the memorable experience. The company takes a more artisanal approach than most to building headphones, and I could see and feel the difference as I pulled the Clear Mg from their case. The design is a beautiful blend of high-grade materials, interesting patterns, and thoughtful functionality.
These headphones share many of the attributes that have made Focal's Utopia, Stellia, and Celestee 'phones so popular among personal audio aficionados. They all sport an identical frame, built from lightweight aluminum. Here, they overlay it with an Instagram-ready chestnut and mixed-metal finish — that somehow looks even better in person than in photos.
A specially designed driver with lightweight magnesium domes delivers focused sound with a great deal of depth.
Magnesium-based drivers for powerful, nuanced sound with deep bass
In each earcup, you'll find Focal's fast-attack drivers, complete with their acclaimed "M"-shaped diaphragm domes. This special design gives the drivers a more fluid movement, which greatly reduces distortion and phase problems. It's why Focal headphones always sound so dynamic and yet controlled, across a wide frequency range.
Here, those M-shaped domes are made completely from magnesium — a first for Focal headphones. This gets them closer in performance to their highest-grade beryllium drivers (found in the Utopia and the Stellia). Magnesium is rigid and lightweight with strong damping characteristics, so there's less harmonics and sound coloration, particularly in the mids.
Open-air headphones with focus and precision
Focal, harking back to their loudspeaker roots, often describes their headphones as "extremely near-field monitors." The drivers are suspended within the large, open-air chambers to create a focused, lifelike soundstage for your music. I find the sound a little more forward than open-back headphones from other high-performance brands, which tend to be more spacious. But there is a great deal of depth and separation within the music.
The large earcups are completely open-back, and a honeycomb grille design allows air to flow freely. With no music playing, I could hear everything that was going on around me. While these headphones are realistically too large to use on the go, their soft, oversized mesh ear pads make them very breathable and comfortable.
My listening impressions
For about two weeks, the Clear Mg open-backs were my go-to headphones. I'll admit that I had other headphones to audition — work piling up — but it was so hard to put these away. Tonally, they're right in my wheelhouse with a nicely balanced sound that has subtle bass extension. I'll talk more in a bit about how they compare to the top-of-the-line Utopias, but I could see someone who likes deeper bass being completely satisfied with these headphones.
Focal includes two detachable cables. One is average length and terminated with a 3.5mm mini plug (and arrives with a 1/4" adapter attached). The other is extra-long, and terminated to a balanced XLR plug.
I used the balanced cable to connect to a Naim Audio headphone amp. Naim is a partner company of Focal, so they know what their drivers need in terms of power and damping factor. I found the sound was overall more analytical through this rig, which is great if that's what you're looking for — but I often prefer a warmer, more musical sound.
That's exactly what I got when I connected these headphones to my everyday home office listening rig: a stack of the iFi ZEN DAC connected to the ZEN CAN dedicated headphone amp. I switched out the cables to the unbalanced 1/4" option. I found the bass hit a little harder, vocals and percussion had more presence, and there was a smoother sound overall.
The Clear Mg vs Utopia
The extra smoothness here is probably the biggest distinction between these headphones and the Utopia. For sure, those beryllium-based drivers deliver a more precise sound. If you're looking for the absolute best resolution that Focal offers, the Utopia headphones still hold the crown.
But these magnesium-based drivers are closing the gap!
They are capable of retrieving details in the highs — and all frequencies — without sounding harsh. The track "Within You" from Memphis soul singer Valerie June (streaming in high-res 24-bit/44kHz on Qobuz) helps put this on display. Her smoky, twangy vocals seem to bounce between octaves over a consistent 2-chord strum of an acoustic guitar. It can sadly fall flat, or worse sound a little grating, through lesser 'phones. But I found it soothing and beautiful through the Clear Mg.
Smooth and multi-layered
Headphones this good can do wonders for your mood. I was having a particularly rough day at the home office, when I decided to sink into the Clear Mg for a bit. I played the folky, bluegrass-y album Fable & Fire from Andrew Marlin (24-bit/96kHz on Qobuz) and my spirits were lifted immediately.
This album features a wide mix of instruments, including mandolin, fiddle, standup bass, and guitar. And the track "Farewell to Holly Bluff/The Watch House" seems tailor made for these headphones. On the surface, you get an overall genteel, breezy — almost beachy — vibe. But pay closer attention, and you'll notice just how fast-paced, technically sound, and complex it is.
Fashionable and functional design
Focal premium headphones are always as pleasant to wear as they are easy on the eyes. This is by design. Focal uses the same shape, frame, and general make-up for all of their high-end models. Last year, we asked 20 Crutchfield employees to test the comfort of more than 50 headphones — and Focal dominated the list of most comfortable "Audiophile headphones."
These headphones are large and heavy-duty for sure, but the weight is nicely distributed. Plus they are generously padded. And the large, sturdy earcups are held together by smooth-sliding aluminum headphone yokes that helps keep the fit secure, yet relaxed.
- over-the-ear, open-back design for focused, tonally balanced sound with articulate bass
- 40mm dynamic drivers made of high-grade materials
- specially-designed "M-shaped" magnesium domes deliver wide-range frequency response
- frameless copper voice coil creates strong magnetic field for greater detail retrieval
- we recommend a separate headphone amplifier for optimum sound quality
- designed, developed, and assembled in Saint-Etienne, France
- drivers positioned in open-back headphone chamber to help emulate the sound of loudspeakers
- padded, leather-lined headband and micro-fiber fabric-lined earcups
- 20mm memory foam padding on the earcups
- aluminum headband yokes slide comfortably and sturdily into place
- 2 detachable oxygen-free copper cables:
- 9.8-foot cable with balanced XLR4 connector
- 3.9-foot cable with unbalanced 3.5mm stereo plug
- each cable features 3.5mm locking headphone connectors for secure, high-quality connections
- rigid, form-fitting storage case with padded interior
- 1/4" adapter included
- frequency response: 5-28,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 104 dB
- impedance: 55 ohms
- weight: 15.7 oz.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # FCLEARMG
What's in the box:
- Over-ear headphones (tan/brown)
- 9.8' Audio cable with dual 3.5mm plugs on one end and XLR-4 balanced plug on other end)
- 3.9' Audio cable with dual 3.5mm plugs on one end and a straight 3.5mm plug on other end)
- Screw-on 3.5mm-to-1/4" Adapter (attached)
- Hard zippered storage case
- User Manual
- Brand Content booklet
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More details on the Focal Clear Mg
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height||3.78" x 4.179"|
|Mic For Taking Calls||No|
|Voice Assistant Access|
|Frequency Response||5-28k Hz|
|Cord Length||47" + 118"|
|Parts Warranty||1 Year|
|Labor Warranty||1 Year|
Overview: Focal's Clear Mg open-back over-ear headphones deliver an incredible listening experience, using exclusive Focal technologies and craftsmanship. Clear Mg is designed and manufactured in Saint-Étienne, France, and features a unique M-shaped Magnesium (Mg) dome driver. Clear Mg comes with both balanced and unbalanced cables, and a rigid zippered carrying case.
Open Headphone Design: Focal decided that the best way to deliver all of Clear Mg's performance was to utilize a fully open headphone design to totally decompress the loudspeakers. The open design provides the lowest possible acoustic impedance to reproducing accurate and detailed bass frequencies, and gives you an extremely natural listening experience. The honeycomb grill on the outside of each earcup contribute to the headphone's open design.
Drivers: Clear Mg features large 40mm full-range magnesium, "M"-profile dome drivers. Magnesium is lightweight and highly rigid, with excellent damping properties. The unique shape of the drivers is the same as the ones used in Focal's flagship Utopia, offering high quality sound and blocking distortion. The speakers are angled directly toward your ear canals to allow you to hear details in your music that you haven't heard before, with great dynamics and depth.
Ear Cups: The plush (20mm thick) circum-aural memory foam ear cushions are covered with perforated microfiber fabric. Hundreds of 1 millimeter diameter micro-perforations surround the ear cups to provide the sensation of openness that you would have when listening in a room, instead of headphones. Clear Mg features a specially designed solid aluminum yoke that is lightweight and is molded to follow the curves of your face. The plush, padded headband is covered with luxurious leather and perforated microfiber for maximum comfort.
Cable: Clear Mg comes with two cables for use with all types of electronics. The cables have cotton-braided sheaths, with low-resistance OFC copper for maximum signal transfer. The headphones come with a 47" (1.2m) cable with a stereo 3.5mm plug for use with high-end portable music players. A screw-type 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter is included for use with your home components and pro audio gear. Also included is a 9.8' (3m) cable with a balanced (XLR-4) connector. Both cables have dual 3.5mm plugs that maintain a secure connection to each ear cup.
- Frequency Response: 5Hz - 28kHz
- Impedance: 55 ohms
- Sensitivity: 104dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1kHz
- THD: 0.25% / 1 kHz / 100dB SPL
- Ear Cup Dimensions: 3.78" W, 4.189" H, 2.395" D
- Weight: 15.95 ounces (without cable)