Focal has always been at the top of the game when it came to high-end audio products, but before 2012 I had only ever had experience with HiFi speakers. The French company raised heads when they released the Spirit Headphones, and little did we expect things would escalate so quickly that we would now be sitting reviewing the Focal Utopia. The companies flagship audiophile headphone carries a hefty RRP of $3999. These headphones are for the niche buyer, but the way they sound and the technology behind why they sound so good somehow, strangely, makes them worth it.
The Focal Utopia has a gorgeous aesthetic design.
Before I even get into the specs, build quality or sound, I think we need to address the elephant in the room. These have to be one of the coolest looking headphones I have ever seen.
The headphones from to bottom scream luxury and are as pleasing on the eye as they are on the ears. A shiny visible weave carbon fiber headband is complemented by a matte finished leather padding on the headband and earpads, which itself is adorned through a girded perforation. The metal accents are tastefully color-matched to enhance the classic and sophisticated looks further.
The open back grilling gives sight of the driver to tease the 50mm diaphragm lurking beneath, and to top it all of, there is just a tasteful small Focal logo on each earcup so as not to get too pretentious and shouty.
There is no need to be shouty, the design language of all Focal’s headphones has become well known to audiophiles, and I can easily spot a set of these from the opposite side of a trade show in a matter of seconds. They are futuristic yet all class, and you can probably tell I think they look fantastic.
The Build Quality of the Focal Utopia is unmatched.
More than just the aesthetics, it’s when you get the Utopia in hand that you realize that beauty is more than skin deep. They feel like a premium luxury headphone with carbon and metal material choices keeping weight down but quality up. Nothing feels cheap or tacky. Nothing feels chintzy or rattly.
Finishing on them makes you want to keep looking at them as much as listening. The actions of the cups’ headband and swivel are robust and tempered with the perfect amount of resistance. Tolerances are high, and everything glides and pivots in just the right way. Even the cable connectors on each side of the Utopia give a satisfying click when a cable is inserted.
The generous covering of perforated leather on the headband and ear-pads are both internally padded with thick memory foam and combined with the perfect clamping force delivers a wonderfully comfortable listen. That perforation also ensures that your skin can breathe freely, and I experienced far fewer issues with the heat build-up and fatigue than on headphones with a flat grain leather earpad.
Where to buy the Focal Utopia Headphones?
The Utopia is for sale from many online vendors. High street availability will be more respected but some stores dedicated to high-end audio may have them in stock. Given the price and target audience, it is unlikely you will see them in large general electronic stores.
Current pricing varies depending on the seller despite the high RRP please feel free to check the links below for up to date pricing and availability.
What accessories come with the Focal Utopia Headphones
There is nothing too fancy about the included accessories. The cables are excellent quality and have a nice feel to them that flows well when moving around. They are also resistant to tangles. I see no need to change the cable to an aftermarket option unless you have worn through the ones included.
You have two options to connect to your source components. A 4pin XLR cable and a standard 3.5mm unbalanced line with which you can use the 1/4 inch jack adapter. It would have been nice to have seen a balanced cable included, but I was happy that the standard cable included a 3.5mm and not the 1/4 inch as this suits my listening with DAP’s and portable DAC/Amps much better.
To have a carry case included in the box was a very welcome inclusion. It’s surprising to see as most people who buy the Focal Utopia will likely use them at home. It’s a nice touch and very high quality and tastefully done. Somewhere you can safely store your headphones when not in use if you don’t want to use a stand.
How did we review the Focal Utopia?
This review of the Focal Utopia is not just based on a single run and gun. This is a headphone that I have become too familiar with over the past few years. With home trials and loans coupled with it becoming damn near the fold standard test headphones at trade shows. I have had hours and hours of pleasure listening to the Utopia on almost every source setup imaginable.
However, at home, I have been using my Oppo HA-1 and a few different DAPs like the YnLVMei A1 and Shanling M6Pro. Given the right amount of power and correct source material, the Utopia sound incredible.
What do the Focal Utopia Sound Like?
Right off the bat, I’m going to say that these are one of my top 5 sounding headphones in the world right now. Yes, you can go out and spend more money as the trend is for companies to move into deeper and deeper waters with the price. I don’t think that necessarily translates into better sound, though. The Utopia is a magnificent grand-sounding earphone that moves you, the beryllium drivers pumping outs refined sound with attention thrown at detail retrieval and deep textures.
The tonality is one that is balanced, and no frequencies get attention over another. Just sounding exactly how I want them to, not overly analytical and cold but ultimately revealing and delivering in the right areas at the right time.
The treble is fantastic and brings music to life while creating a sense of air to the presentation and greatly enhancing the sound stage’s appearance. High hats and upper-range wind instruments have great clarity in this area, but the treble air makes the notes hang and float on an open platform. No sibilance or discomfort was found at any stage of the review, but you will need to let your ears adjust for a few days before reaping the benefits of such a strong performance in this band.
The midrange is smooth and extremely detailed. Every note picked from stringed acoustic instruments has just so much more to it that is often lost on a lesser headphone. From the way the Utopia picks up on the finger slides on fretboards or the dampening pedals on pianos is impressive. The highlight, though, is the texture in most notes decay. When you pluck at a string, you shouldn’t just hear a tone and a fade. There are nuances and transitions within the decay of such notes that many people miss. Using Focal, you have the opportunity to pick up on these as the range of the driver doesn’t swamp the note with another sound.
Bass is unbelievably fun. I started the review by listening to a lot of classic rock where the bass is mainly derived from the bass guitar—a very linear sounding instrument with limited weight. The Utopia performed very well, but when I moved to Jazz and Classical, they came alive. Complicated tracks with multiple sources of bass notes from orchestras showed clear separation and definition. Imaging and realism were excellent, and the impact was weighty due to the volume of air the big driver was able to shift.
It didn’t end there because they also hide a secret. That secret is the versatility to deliver in any genre. That was when I turned to EDM and chose, of course, being Infected Mushroom’s standout album Vicious Delicious. Famed for making quick tempo music with hard-hitting basslines, IM sounded terrific. The headphones slam into action delivering a big smashing of sub-bass delight. They rumble and bang, and somehow amongst all the madness, the mids and treble are proud and prominent—absolutely mesmerizing low-end performance.
What are the negatives?
I cannot say a single bad thing about styling, construction, comfort, or sound quality. These areas premium headphones, as you will find on the market right now. The elephant in the room is, of course, the price. The Focal Utopia has an RRP of $3999 at the time of writing. That is a hell of a lot of money. Whether it is worth it for you comes down to how badly you want it. There are other options at a lower price like the Sennheiser HD820s, which I own, the sound is indeed close, but the Utopia feels special.
Does that justify a purchase? Well, it depends entirely on how you want to spend your money. People spend a lot of cash on many things, but if this gives you the satisfaction you seek, if you will get hours and hours of listening pleasure, then ultimately, I say yes.
Final Verdict on the Focal Utopia Headphones
There is a reason why these headphones are so well-loved. They are all-around fantastic performers who deliver on that high-end premium experience many people are looking for.
If you told me I could have one headphone for life, this would be right up there with just a select few in my final decision process—an excellent headphone from one of the biggest and most respected names in audio.
To read more about the Utopia headphones please see Focals Website.