We review a ton of consumer-focused headphones here at Headphone Review, but every now and then we get access to something truly special. The latest of these headphones, and among the more expensive, are the Focal Elear headphones, which come with a hefty $1,000 price tag and aim to deliver an excellent sound quality with few compromises.
$1,000 is a lot of money, but audiophiles could easily spend more for even more expensive cans. Are the Focal Elear’s worth the money? We put them to the test to find out.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Focal Elear headphones is how big and bulky the box is, however that of course makes sense and isn’t a problem because of the fact that these are decidedly headphones that you’ll keep at home.
In the box, you won’t find much — but you don’t need much. The headphones come with a detachable cable, along with a small 1/4″ – 1/8″ adapter, as a reminder that these are hi-fi headphones — normally consumer headphones that come with such an adapter are 1/8″ – 1/4″, not the other way around.
Take the headphones out of the box, and you’ll be struck by how beautiful they are. The black color-scheme features silver highlights, and is really a work of art. On each ear cup, you’ll find a grill-like mesh cap, along with the focal logo. The headphones are built largely with metal, and while that certainly adds to the weight, it also helps them maintain a top-tier build quality — which is nice considering the price tag. Even the plastic that is used feels super premium, and the memory foam in the ear cups is soft to the touch. Last but not least is the leather head band, which looks and feels great.
Focal has clearly made a serious effort here to develop a top-tier pair of headphones. Sound is the most important aspect of an audiophile pair of headphones, but it never hurts when they look good too — and the Focal Elear headphones look phenomenal.
Thankfully, they don’t just look good — they’re nice and comfortable too. There’s plenty of foam on both the headband and the earcups, which is perfect for those long listening sessions. The foam is also very high quality — but we wouldn’t expect less than high-quality on headphones in this price range.
Of course, nothing’s perfect — and the biggest downfall with the Focal Elear’s is their weight. They come in at a hefty 0.99lbs, which is only a little less than the super-heavy Blue Ella headphones we reviewed a while back. It’s a good thing these carry top-tier foam, because otherwise they would get uncomfortable under all that weight.
This is the most important thing to consider when it comes to hi-fi headphones. After all, you’re not taking these out of your home, so fashion isn’t really an issue. Comfort is important, but it comes second to sound.
Let’s start with the bass, which deep, powerful, and present. Despite that, it never strays into sounding unnatural, and as such mega-bass fans may be better served with something a little more consumer-focused. These headphones use dynamic drivers, and the bass pumped through them has somewhat of a longer decay than what you might expect — but while on some headphones that may create a muddy feel, these headphones can’t be described as muddy at all. The bass is precise, but not overly so — the bass response could certainly be described as a little lazy, but it’s still a very nice feel.
The mid-range is a little bass-heavy, but not in a bad way. You’ll certainly feel a punch coming from the low-mids, especially in bass-heavy tracks like Eminem’s Lose Yourself, which already feature a pretty punchy bass sound. The high-mids are a little unruly, but they’re well-tuned. There does seem to be somewhat of a slight dip in some areas, which has an effect on some guitar and vocal tones, but a slight boost in other regions too, specifically around the 1kHz mark.
The high-end is definitely a strong suit for the Focal Elear headphones. It’s clear, concise, and sounds beautiful. That’s not to say it’s the most natural we’ve ever heard — it’s not. But it doesn’t overpower the heavy bass, instead complimenting that bass with enough precision to make most audiophiles happy. It works well across all genres too — the strings on Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 sounded beautifully present, while the hi-hat on AC/DC’s Back In Black was nice and crisp, thanks to the tuning of the high-end.
There are a few important things to address here. For starters, the Focal Elear headphones are open-back, essentially meaning that the audio can bleed out of the headphones and interact with your environment a little more. The result of this is a much more natural sounding headphone, and it shows in these. The downside is that outside noise is let in, so the headphones may be better for you if you can find a quiet corner to sit down and listen.
The headphones also have a relatively high impedance, so you’ll need a headphone amplifier to be able to properly use them.
In general, the Focal Elear headphones sound beautiful. They’re a little more consumer-friendly than some audiophile headphones, and those looking strictly for natural-sounding headphones may be a little disappointed. If, however, you’re willing to let the headphones take control of your music-listening experience, you’ll be very glad you did.
There’s not much to dislike here. The Focal Elear headphones look great, are generally comfortable, and they sound beautiful. Sure, nothing’s perfect — they’re a little heavy and there are some tuning issues. But overall the pros far outweigh the cons. $1,000 is a pretty steep price to pay for a pair of headphones, but it’s actually not that overpriced for audiophiles with a solid budget to devote to their passion.
Because of how well these headphones performed and the clear attention to detail here, the Focal Elear has achieved the Headphone Review Gold Medal — and is only the second pair of headphones ever to do so.
You can buy the Focal Elear headphones for yourself using the links below.
|Frequency response||5Hz – 23kHz||Active noise cancellation
|Driver size||40mm||Noise attenuation||Unknown|
|Sensitivity||104dB||Earpad material||Memory foam|
||80Ω||Magnet material||Aluminum Magnesium|
|Total harmonic distortion
|Rated input power
|Maximum input power
||No||Cable length||3m (9.8ft)|