This Focal Clear review will be our third and final article covering the stunning headphones from one of the world’s most renowned and loved HiFi speaker companies. Released in 2017, the Clear is in the upper midrange price bracket with an RRP of $1490 (discounts may be available through resellers). They are an open-back large circumaural audiophile headphone that borrows many design cues from their more expensive older brother, the Utopia. Competition is intense at this price point; I use the Sennheiser HD800s as my daily drivers, so given these sell in the same range, I was interested in trying them out because I like the design.
Focal Clear Pricing and Availability
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The Focal Clear has a fantastic price to performance ratio.
Swallowing the pill to drop around four thousand dollars on the Utopia would be a bitter one to take. The clear seems to give you a lot of experience with the same tonality with just a fractional loss in performance and materials. These are not cheap headphones in most people’s eyes, but they do straddle that boundary of offering exceptional sound quality while not being too far over the top with damage to your wallet.
You get a newly designed 40mm dynamic driver speaker designed to work specifically in the open back housing to create a detailed and expansive sound. It’s not as big as the 50mm on the Utopia, but the Clear has been tuned similarly. They also look very similar in the general shaping of the earcups and headband on the head; they have a very similar presence.
How is the Build Quality on the Focal Clear?
Build quality on all Focals headphones is fantastic. They raised the bar for many of their competitors when they came out with their futuristic but not over the top designs. These have a slightly more familiar look to them and don’t have the extravagant bling of the Stelia or utilize carbon fiber like the Utopia. What you do get are a solid metal yoke from which the generous earcups hang and a super comfy padded headband.
They feel super well made in hand, no creaks or rattles they look set to last you a lifetime. Pivot points and swivel mechanisms feel fine, and the headband slides smoothly and locks with enough resistance that it shouldn’t come out even if you are moving around a lot.
One thing I love is that they use a perforated microfibre for both the headband and the earpads. It lacks the premium finish of leather, but it’s equally as good a material when it comes to function. They are soft, well-cushioned, and breathable. I understand these will be available in the future from Focal direct if you ever need to replace them.
How Comfortable are the Focal Clear?
These are incredibly comfortable headphones, and they sit on the head very nicely. Incremental adjustment of the headband allows you to control the fit precisely and clamping pressure is on the medium to the light side, meaning no pressure spots developed during the review.
The earcups are enormous. Not only are they a complete circumaural design, but they are also very deep, giving plenty of room for all ears, large or small.
The room in the earcups works well in combination with the open back design and the perforated microfiber pads to ensure that the headphones offer maximum heat dispensation. I could listen for hours on end without having to take a break from hot or sweaty ears. It shouldn’t be overlooked, as in many cases, comfort can make or break a headphone no matter how good it sounds.
What does the Focal Clear sound like?
Open, detailed, and as the name suggests, clear.
As I mentioned above, these follow in the footsteps of the Utopia in terms of tuning. Focus on a smooth and detailed midrange complimented by the punchy fast low end and very clear treble.
Every bit a premium open-back headphone, they sound huge with a vast soundstage and grand presentation that wonders live recordings. The top endnotes are very detailed and crisp, communicating with incredible detail. It opens up the whole sound to make it more extensive than a lot of the similarly priced competition. Highs float of and decay rather than suffer from an abrupt halt that you get from a closed-back, and it furthers my opinion if you want to hear an excellent treble go open back.
The midrange is lush and smooth with a lot of micro-detail retrievable, especially in the upper range of this frequency. Female vocals were an absolute dream due to them standing so prominent and clearly defined from the threat of being swamped by too much information. Placement throughout the midrange in the most complicated and fast-paced songs was made easy. The driver’s speed was quickly able to deal with the imaging demands of classical and ensemble jazz.
The low notes are not forgotten. Performance from a technical standpoint is pretty much flawless, and the Clear can give lots of support for nuanced textured bass. When you focus on the quantity side by side with the Utopia, you realize the 10mm smaller driver is limited in the volume of the air that it can move. Don’t be mistaken. It is still some top draw bass, and it still has a substantial impact, but it is less impactful and violent that an all-out basshead may require.
Before we move on to this review’s conclusion, I want to talk about the sound’s overall presentation and why I think these are so promising. Technicalities are not everything that makes headphones sound good. Highly technical headphones like the HD800 (original not 820s) are not always the best to enjoy your listening. Great at revealing flaws and for monitoring purposes but for listening for pleasure, the Clear come into their own with a smooth and friendly tuning that can engage. At the same time, space and openness provide that wow factor many of us are looking for.
I always pay great attention to these reviews to the technical ability and fit into my system for pure and maximum enjoyment of my music. In that sense, Clear is one of the best at this price point, a wonderfully enjoyable device that makes you want to keep listening to more and more music.
Focal Clear Review – Final Verdict
The Clear is far more than a dumbed-down version of the Utopia designed to hit a price point. Instead, they appear to be built from the ground up to deliver the best possible performance for the money. Focal have down a great job of maintaining top quality build while substituting luxury materials like beryllium and carbon for cheaper alternatives. Smart choices were made with the switch to microfibre padding, which keeps them a very comfortable headphone for all-day listening.
Finally, keeping the sound in line with the tuning of the flagship Utopia was a smart move, and in doing so, they lose very little in performance. This makes it very easy for us to recommend that even if you are paying full retail, I think they are a solid buy.