Open-back over-ear headphones
Focal Clear - Large over-ear headphones designed and built in Focal's Saint-Etienne, France headquarters
Focal Clear - Specially designed driver made of high grade materials, including aluminum and magnesium
Focal Clear - Drivers positioned in open-back headphone chamber to help emulate the sound of loudspeakers
Our take on the Focal Clear by Crutchfield's Jeff Miller
The Focal Clear headphones feature specially designed drivers made of premium materials.
Transparent headphone sound from the experts at Focal
Rarely is a product as aptly named as the Focal Clear headphones. These are some of the most pure and pristine-sounding headphones I've ever heard. Focal developed them in the mold of their other two high-end models — the popular Elear headphones and the company's ultimate statement piece, the Utopia headphones.
If you're aware of these earlier models, the Clear's form factor and driver design might look familiar. But Focal did make some major changes — including the silver finish and all-new accessories. And the materials used under the hood help these headphones sculpt a sound signature that is all their own.
They play well with a range of setups
These headphones are also a little more efficient than Focal's other big two, so you could conceivably connect them to a high-res portable player. Still, I found them most enjoyable when powered by a formidable headphone amp. They were such a treat through my normal rig at home — which includes the TEAC NT-503 amp — that I was forced to stop jotting down notes and just listen.
Open-air headphones with focus and precision
Focal, harking back to their loudspeaker roots, describes these headphones as "extremely near-field montors." 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 headphone 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. 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.
I found the form-fitting zippered case both attractive and practical.
Specially shaped drivers with pure copper voice coils
Focal employed their patent-pending “M”-shaped diaphragm domes, originally developed for the Elears and Utopias. This special design gives the drivers a more fluid movement, which greatly reduces distortion and phase problems. It is why all of Focal's flagship headphones sound so in control across a wide frequency range.
In the Clears, the domes are made from a sturdy blend of aluminum and magnesium — just like the Elears. These headphones also share the ability to deliver deep, punchy bass. The major step-up here is the all-copper voice coil, a more rigid material that provides better extension and detail in the higher frequencies.
Fashionable and functional accessories
I really love the form-fitting case that Focal includes here. It is a practical size for carrying along, and the included cables pack in neatly. Since the Utopias and Elears are the identical size, you could use it for them, too — if you're lucky enough to have more than one model.
You have a choice of three cables, each sporting a nice patterned cloth cover. One is average length and terminated with a 3.5mm mini plug. The other two are extra-long, so you have some slack to just lean back and listen (one is terminated by a 1/4” unbalanced plug, the other a balanced XLR plug).
How do they compare to the Focal Utopia headphones?
This is the natural question everyone asks: how do they stack up against Focal's $4,000 top-of-the-line headphones? We had to find out for ourselves, so our "Demo Days" crew set up a listening station with the Utopia and Clear headphones side by side. Both were powered by the Marantz ND8006 jack-of-all-trades source component, which has a robust headphone amp built in.
I discussed the comparison with some of my coworkers:
Jim Ralston, Crutchfield web editor: "I listened to a track from the electronica group Boards of Canada to compare the two. The Clears had a subtle sub bass extension that I didn't notice on the Utopias. Both sounded excellent, but I heard a higher level of detail in the Utopias. Still, the Clear headphones had a low-frequency emphasis that some listeners might prefer."
Me: "I agree. We're talking different degrees of great. I could actually see someone who like deeper bass reaching for these headphones and being completely satisfied."
Mike Colley, Crutchfield Creative director: "Both were super-comfortable. I could wear them for hours, I'm sure. At first, the Clear sounded quite a bit smoother than the Utopia to my ears. Then I started listening to some K-pop tracks which had a very wide range of sounds and energy levels for the headphones to deal with. I started to notice that the “less smooth” aspect of the Utopia was perhaps a good thing.
The Utopia was more precise and revealing. I noticed textures in the synths, reverbs/decays, plus separation between instruments and harmony vocal parts."
- over-the-ear, open-back design for focused, natural sound with controlled bass
- 40mm dynamic drivers made of high-grade materials
- specially-designed "M-shaped" aluminum/magnesium domes deliver wide-range frequency response
- frameless copper voice coil creates strong magnetic field for greater music detail
- 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
- 3 detachable oxygen-free copper cables:
- 9.8-foot cable with balanced XLR4 connector
- 9.8-foot cable with unbalanced 1/4" stereo plug
- 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: 0.99 lbs.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
What's in the Box:
- Over-ear headphones
- 48" Audio cable (with two 3.5mm plugs on the headphone end and a straight 3.5mm plug on the device end)
- Screw-type 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter
- 117" Audio cable (with two 3.5mm plugs on the headphone end and a straight 1/4" plug on the device end)
- 117" Balanced audio cable (with two 3.5mm plugs on the headphone end and an XLR-4 connector on the device end)
- Zippered storage case
- User manual
- Thank you card
The "cleanest" sounding headphone I've ever heard. Makes the Elear sound bloated. The Clear is an ethereal sound that, in my opinion, constitutes the price tag.
Anonymous, Bel Air, MD
Focal Clear Reviews
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Features and Specs
|Earcup Width x Height||3.772" x 4.188"|
|Mic For Taking Calls||No|
|Frequency Response||5-28k Hz|
|Cord Length||117" + 48"|
|1/4-inch Adapter Included||Yes|
|Parts Warranty||1 Year|
|Labor Warranty||1 Year|
Overview: The Focal Clear audiophile over-ear headphones utilize many of the same technologies found in the flagship Utopia and Elear headphones. Clear is designed and manufactured in St. Etienne France, and features an open back design to open up the listening space to let you enjoy the headphones' full-range speakers. Clear comes with balanced and unbalanced cables, and a handsome fabric-covered, zippered hard carrying case.
Drivers: Clear features large 40mm full-range inverted aluminum/magnesium alloy, "M"-profile dome drivers. The drivers are lightweight and highly rigid, with excellent damping properties. The unique shape of the drivers is the same as the ones used in the 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.
Open Headphone Design: Focal decided that the best way to deliver all of Clear'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.
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 features a specially designed solid aluminum yoke that is lightweight with a luxurious leather and perforated microfiber headband for maximum comfort.
Cable: Clear comes with three cables for use with all types of electronics. The cables have cotton-braided sheaths, with low-resistance 24-gauge OFC copper for maximum signal transfer. The headphones come with a 48" (1.2m) cable with a stereo 3.5mm plug for use with high-end portable music players, along with two 10' (3m) cables with balanced (XLR-4) and unbalanced (1/4") connectors. A screw-type 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter is included, so you can use it with the shorter cable. All of the cables have dual 3.5mm plugs with locking mechanisms 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: 3.772" W, 4.188" H, 2.459" D
- Weight: 15.7 ounces (without cable)
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Why did you buy this?
many reviews and quantitative analyses [ STEPHEN R May 21, 2018 ]