It's always nice when manufacturers trickle down advancements from their leading-edge designs into more affordably 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 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 supernatural transparency. It’s also probably not quite as dynamically lightning-fast or as expansively layered in soundstage imaging depth. And the Elear presented a bit larger bottom-end with slightly less texture compared to the Utopia’s perfectly focused, deeply detailed and tightly extended 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 those kind of numbers, the Focal Elear is clearly the best value going in audiophile 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 wholly unique to Focal with the company's newly devised “M-shape" dome transducers, a new concept that first originated with Focal's scientific audio research conducted during the initial stages of 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 upper 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.
What's in the box: