It's always nice when manufacturers trickle down advancements from their leading-edge designs into more well-priced products. Although a $1,000 headphone might stretch the concept of affordability, the Focal Elear is directly descended from the Focal Utopia, an eye-watering marvel of high-end headphone delight priced at $4,000. The Elear even looks vaguely similar to the upscale Utopia, down to its lightweight headband frame and ergonomically perfect yoke engineered and built in-house by Focal at their St Etienne, France labs.
The Focal Elear sound also comes well within the realm of the magnificent Utopia’s massive openness and deep resolution power. Our headphone.com review team found the Elear to be perhaps lacking just a touch of the silkiness we heard in the Utopia’s world-beating transparency. It’s probably also not quite as dynamically lightning-fast or as expansively layered in soundstage image depth. And the Elear presented a bit larger bottom-end with slightly less texture compared to the Utopia’s perfectly focused, deeply detailed and textural bass response.
But these are relatively minor performance trade-offs since the Elear comes within a hair’s breadth of sounding exactly like one of the world’s very best headphones at a fraction of the cost. For listeners who can’t see themselves spending for the frightfully pricey Focal Utopia, we’d say the Elear gets you at least 85% to 90% of the way there at $3,000 less. Given that kind of serious math, the Focal Elear may be the best value going in audiophile high-end headphones.
One of the major money-saving alterations diverging from the Utopia design is the Elear uses drivers manufactured from a proprietary aluminum/magnesium metal alloy blend, instead of the incredibly expensive 100% pure beryllium drivers employed in the Utopia. The driver design itself remains unique to Focal with the company's newly devised “M” shape dome transducers, a concept that originated from Focal's scientific audio research performed during the Utopia headphone project.
The M-shape dome design provides a strictly linear pistonic driver excursion motion which minimizes low-level distortion artifacts, increases dynamic speed and delivers the highest quality detail resolution power. The superb acoustic qualities of their M-shaped driver allowed Focal to avoid the use of any crossover or passive filtering to achieve a frequency response ranging from a cranium-rattling 5Hz in the lows soaring to 23kHz frequency in the uppermost highs.
The sonic result is impressively realistic and fully dimensional, allowing the Focal Elear headphones to virtually "disappear" off the head with an openness of tone and dynamic punch that's hard to beat by other cans anywhere near this price. The precise clarity of pace and timbre in the Elear provides listeners with an engrossing, immersive headphone audio experience that we think is only exceeded by significantly more expensive audiophile headphones. It's not only a superbly accurate headphone with excellent acoustic faithfulness but the Elear is also very musical and emotionally engaging as well, an enticing combination that not every high-end headphone can claim.
What's in the box: