I get sent a lot of headphones. So much so, that it’s rare that I get truly excited about a new pair of headphones. That, however, happened when I got a package from Focal — a package that I knew included the Focal Utopia headphones.
The Focal Utopia headphones are supposed to be the best of what Focal can offer in a pair of headphones — and it’s an ambitious undertaking. Focal is known for its high-end equipment, but it obviously has to seriously impress to warrant the price tag of an eye-watering $4,000.
Of course, given the premium materials and high-tech design, they may well be worth the money — and we’ve had the joy of putting them to the test over the past few weeks to find out for ourselves.
Focal has been building high-end audio products for decades now, and it shows. Externally, the headphones are built with beautiful metallic silver accents, soft yet strong leather, and a premium look throughout. Focal even makes use of carbon fiber for a super-strong frame — and while we would never recommend using these as headphones you take out and about, a strong build helps ensure that the headphones last for years of day-to-day use and the accidental drop every now and then. Note: we did not drop-test the Focal Utopia headphones, and we recommend being ultra careful if you end up getting your hands on them.
While some like a lot of color, I appreciate what a sleek black build can offer. While the headphones do have a few silver accents in the form of the Focal logo on the ear cup and a silver speaker grill, apart from that, these headphones are black-on-black — and it’s beautiful.
Everything else about the headphones screams premium too. The cables are thick and professional-grade, and it terminates in a Neutrik 1/4-inch plug. There’s plenty of soft padding in the ear cups and under the headband, and that padding is covered with lambskin leather.
The design of these headphones extends under the hood. The big-ticket feature here is the beryllium drivers, which are mounted slightly off-center and deep into the ear cups, in an attempt to produce a wider soundstage. We’ll get into how they fare a little later in the review, but even with the driver design the ear cups aren’t overly thick. They’re big, to be sure, but not unnecessarily so.
Ultimately, when you’re spending such a huge sum of money on a pair of headphones, you want them to sound amazing — but a great design helps too. The Focal Utopia headphones look expensive — and they’re built with clearly premium materials too.
The soft padding, lambskin leather, and beautiful build successfully makes for a comfortable listening experience — which is good news considering the fact that once you put these headphones on, you won’t want to take them off. All the tech under the hood does make for a heavy pair of headphones, and these come in at 490 grams, or a little over 17 ounces, and that can be felt — but not as much as you’d expect.
Despite the heavy weight, we were able to listen to music on these headphones for hours on end, so don’t let the weight put you off too much. Coupled with the soft-feeling leather and good amount of padding, and you have a pretty comfortable fit indeed.
On to the main event — the sound quality. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the Focal Utopia headphones sound incredible. Coupled with a Feliks Audio Espressivo amplifier and at times an Audio Technica vinyl player, the headphones deliver an ultra-wide soundstage, beautifully natural frequency response, and a ton of detail. Audiophiles, take note — if you’re looking for arguably the best-sounding pair of headphones you can find, the Focal Utopia headphones may well be it.
Usually when we review consumer headphones we look at bass, midrange, and high-end individually, but there’s almost no point in doing that here — these headphones do it all well. It’s still worth a shot though — the bass response is punchy and quick. Some headphones react a little slower to the low end, but these headphones don’t really fall into that trap — which is a good thing. Bass response is also very natural. It’s not over the top, as consumer headphones might tend to get, but it’s still clear-sounding and detailed.
The word “detailed” may become a theme here. The midrange boasts plenty of clarity, with a natural-sounding warmth to the low-mids and a certain air to the high-mids that’s rare to find in the headphone world.
The high-end completes the picture. Transient response on the Focal Utopia headphones is incredible, while the imaging is extremely precise. The headphones have the uncanny ability to deliver dynamics with ease — quiet, sloppy, laid-back jazz piano sounds just as good on these headphones as a rock track that’s been cut to hell and back in recording.
The open-back design helps make for a more natural feel too. These headphones are built to be enjoyed at home, without much external noise, so don’t expect to be able to take these out in public.
In the end, the Focal Utopia headphones sound effortlessly incredible. Frequency response is tuned to near perfection, while the soundstage is huge and the detail is almost unrivaled.
So the Focal Utopia headphones are arguably a perfect pair — but there’s one other breathtaking thing about these headphones, and that’s the price. Are the worth it? Well, for most, no — but these headphones aren’t built for most. For the right person, the Focal Utopia headphones are absolutely worth buying. If you’re an audiophile wanting arguably the best-sounding headphones on the planet, and are willing to spend cash on a decent headphone amp and high-quality audio, then we recommend the Focal Utopia headphones without hesitation.
There’s no surprises here — the Focal Utopia headphones are one of the few pairs of headphones to get the Headphone Review Gold Medal. These are also the first pair of headphones to get a perfect score in sound — and that’s not something we do lightly.
|5Hz – 50kHz
|Active noise cancellation
|Total harmonic distortion
|Rated input power
|Maximum input power