Focal Clear Mg Measurements, Analysis, Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Mar 20, 2021.

  1. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    I use a layer of PITTA foam face mask over the driver grill with the central hole cut out to exactly this effect (it's somewhere back in this thread, with velcro credit to @Hands). I personally don't notice any decreased dynamics and the tonality suits my preferences better, as I'm treble/shout-shy.
     
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  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I sure would hope it doesn't impact dynamics with a selling point like "Breathable and breathable."
     
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  3. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    [​IMG]

    As posted earlier, the loaner CMG convinced me enough to pick up my own pair. After enjoying an additional one week with my unit, I’ve collected enough thoughts to drop some in this post. The experience has been positive. In particular, I think CMG would be the most all-rounding pair of headphones I own. Furthermore, I dare to declare CMG is my reference of perceived neutrality. Or at least the closest implementation I've ever experienced.

    Aside: The statements above do not mean CMG dethroned anything else. I still prefer the Verite. But doubtlessly I regard CMG’s presentation more neutral and uncolored.

    As always, readers should be aware that my hifi philosophy and musical context can vastly depart from the consensus of SBAF. I always favor gears that can take care of the worst situations. By ‘worst’, I mean audio tracks whose treble is poorly treated or whose dynamic range is heavily compressed. This unusual focus might be associated with discordant preferential patterns in some criteria (if not all) -- thus, take as much grain of salts as possible in translating my assertions.

    Aside: I don’t think my perception is representative by any means. It’s quite likely things I feel neutral could sound off in others’ neutrality rubric.

    Soekris DAC 2541 and Schiit Jotunheim 2 were primarily used in my evaluation. From time to time I enjoyed some other pairings as well though -- Motu M4, Schiit Magni 3+, etc etc.

    Aside: Like I wrote in the profile post, I went for CMG Pro, rather than CMG Non-pro (Pro released roughly one month earlier). That's because (1) I found decent deals and (2) Pro comes with two pairs of pads which ensure better longevity. Between pro and non-pro, I couldn't identify meaningful differences greater than usual product to product variability. Thus, I will henceforth call both "CMG" without discrimination.

    I still stand by what I said previously. Let me reiterate. The tonality delta between Clear OG and MG is substantial on upper mids and lower highs. If you think COG (or Elex or Utopia in this respect) good in treble, chances are high that you perceive CMG’s presentation either too muted, laidback, or recessed. Anything below I positively describe assumes that you’re fine with such balance.

    Ok, now back to the sound quality evaluation. Also note that I am not a loud volume listener. I’ve never been bothered by Focal’s high excursion issues.

    When my first impression was posted, I thought CMG was a little lacking in bass impact. However, as more burn-in progressed on my pair as well as in my brain (lol), the difference initially heard got much smaller. Instead, I hear slightly more heft and meat on lower registers particularly around 30-50hz (pretty obvious to my ears when tested via low-f warble tones). Additionally, I found bass better articulated and nuanced overall in low DR context. Compared to Verite, CMG now seems to 95% catch up in nuance and texture, and arguably come with better transients/extension. Verite still hits harder and punchier though. Considering 40mm driver size, Focal might be successful in increasing emf while reducing driver weight. Very impressive bass performance to my liking. But I do hope Focal to come up with 50mm or larger drivers in the future (maybe they can’t do so because larger metal drivers would cause troubles in highs?).

    Speaking of midrange, general positive and negative characters still remain with CMG. Very enjoyable and realistic sounding like other Focal open-backs. Still nasal and honky but tad less so than COG or Elex. Also, possibly due to lighter and denser material, CMG’s drivers resolve micro stuff subtly better. Utopia still does this much better and more honestly, but CMG seems to nail it on mid-level discrimination. Timbre isn’t particularly natural to me, but still largely agreeable. No hint of metallic timbre (from non-metallic instruments) I occasionally heard with Elex. It’s also possible that newer dac or amp could benefit such traits.

    The treble region could be the most controversial and thus bipolarizing part of the show. To some CMG could be several steps backward whereas to me significant steps forward -- I’ve seen great variability across people about how to perceive this region. A good rule of thumb is to walk away from CMG if you never found Clear OG or HD6x0 hit/cross the northern boundary of your tolerance zone. As a person listening to lots of treble-harsh tracks, I couldn’t live with Utopia because of stronger bites than my capacity. Same thing can be said to Elex or COG to a lesser extent. CMG’s treble tonality is just right in the middle of my preferential zone. Response is smoother and better extended. All such are obtained with drivers unrestricted by front/rear damping, which I believe prevents them from losing natural transients.

    CMG’s upper and ultra high frequencies are very interesting, which seems to enable more air, ambience, and overtones. Exaggerated but very pleasing. This “boost”, confounded by actual air flux increase (possibly due to newer grill structure), enhanced the way I perceive soundstages. Some pushback and wraparound caused by upper midrange recession does additional tricks. Still CMG isn’t as dimensional as Verite, but has a much better sense of openness. Stereo images used to be small with focal open-backs, but I am recognizing a little bigger images with CMG. Note that everything I stated in this paragraph could be highly complicated by my dac and filter choice.

    To sum, I would like to conclude with two different takeaways. On one hand, out of all the headphones I heard or owned, with price no object, Focal Clear MG is my favorite tool for exploratory music/gear analyses. I really appreciate both technical capability and tonality. I can’t think of any single pair of neutral-ish headphones that do both better than CMG. On the other hand, however, I struggle to say whether or not I recommend it with a $500 higher price tag than the Clear OG (pre-orderable for $990 new). Cost-benefit math is pretty easy for myself, but not very much so for others. As always, YMMV.
     
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  4. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Adding some measurements on my end. Not very different from Marv's results posted earlier in this thread.
    Be aware that I am using the older SBAF compensation curve (v3). Only subtly different from the newest one (v3.2) though.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A comparative plot below. The difference shown in the plot all easily noticeable to my ears, too.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    For a whim I added LCD2 Classic's FR to CMG's plot. Results below.

    [​IMG]

    The overlapped graph may explain where and how CMG was "Audezified".

    Moreover, like Focal learns a thing or two from Audeze, recent LCD revisions also rumored about the other way around ("More Focalized Audeze"), which I think very interesting.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    As mentioned earlier with reasons stated by myself and others, the Clear will hit physical excursion limits below 35Hz when pushed hard. This is not any different from Elex, Utopia, etc. Whether this will affect you or not depends upon your recordings and how hard you listen. A few folks have mentioned issued with Utopia, although it should be noted that I have never had a problem myself even though I will listen at fairly loud levels.

    That being said, overall distortion pattern is nice. We don't see distortion rising massively as we go up in frequency and there are not distortion peaks anywhere (D3 at 200Hz is an artifact). Second order remains higher than third order. Third order remains well controlled except at the highest levels. Second order (D2) is good, gets a bit shaky at higher SPLs, but on the other hand very very good at lower SPLs. There seems to be a pretty wider disparity than usual with D2 between the loudest and highest SPL.

    Note: 200Hz spike in the 3rd harmonic is a measurement artifact.

    Clear Mg Harmonic Distortions (H2 and H3) at various SPL (1kHz)
    Traditional View
    upload_2021-4-5_23-28-33.png

    Clear Mg Harmonic Distortions (H2 and H3) at various SPL (1kHz)
    Alternate View
    The distortion is plotted at the frequency where the harmonic resides, that is where we hear it manifest, as opposed to the fundamental frequency of the harmonic.
    upload_2021-4-5_23-29-31.png
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Clear Mg Burst Response
    Attack and Decay Envelope
    upload_2021-4-6_0-8-0.png

    It's actually very similar to Elex. Bit of leading edge at the 500Hz, 1.5Hz, and 4.8kHz attacks for that "fast" initial transient thing. Decently fast decays in the lows and very good at 1.5kHz. Note lack of emphasis, no bump, on the 2nd and 3rd waves on the 4.8kHz attack. Usually when we see a bump at the 2 and 3rd waves = sandy, grainy, glarely timbre.

    Drop x Focal Elex burst and decay for comparison
    upload_2021-4-6_0-12-56.png
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    A big thanks to @Bloom. These are now on the loaner program.
     
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  9. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    I guess you don't have Clear OG around for a burst measurement? Can't find one in the OG measurement thread. Elex being so similar, I would guess OG and Mg would be even closer.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I hadn't finished the code and finalized the visualization and methodologies when I had the Clear OGs. The burst attack and decay are still relatively new and should be considered somewhat experimental.
     
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  11. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    A little follow-up after nearly 4 week of use.

    [​IMG]
    (Repasted for explanation purpose)

    Messing with EQ around 6khz, now I am almost sure lower-middle treble region was muted on purpose.

    Out of curiosity, I lifted those frequencies back to the level of clear og, then I easily noticed all the MG magic greatly reduced if not fully disappeared. Still there, but not to the enthusiastic extent. The result felt like just Clear v1.1, not v2.0.

    To be specific, I found recession resulted in better focus (= exaggerate) on the following Mg's real technical (i.e., due to better materialistic physics) improvements.

    • Better extended bass: As I spent more and more time in CMG, I am thinking this is one of the most beneficial deals MG brought to the table. Not night-day different, but 40hz downward is clearly better than any of previous focal headphones. And arguably my favorite sub-bass reproduction among dynamic headphones both in quality and quantity. I will update this when I get a chance to hear other well-hyped dynamic competitors down the road.
    • More linear and better resolving midrange: Even with mimicking OG-ish tonality, I could hear beautiful and more honest midranges in almost every track I throwed in. But the change was a bit too subtle and slight. With the CMG's original fr balance, I can better concentrate my hearing on recognizing this benefit. Very clever trick.
    • Airier airs and perceived openness: I still stand by my initial description that CMG present explosive airs. Like bass, this is one of the best expressions of ultra high frequency I could hear from dynamic headphones. Utopia's Be drivers could be more honest, but CMG's infused (yeah, sins of commission), ethereal and surreal feeling in this region is very unique experience to me.
    Some additional thoughts.
    • Self experiment made sure that I was sufficiently sensitive for 4-8khz. I honestly couldn't feel significant loss even with treble-shy tracks. The amount of information remained largely identical between eq (og-like fr) and non-eq.
    • 9khz peak in my measurement actually heard at a little lower freq. Likely 8.5khz, perhaps because of the discrepancy between real ear canal and EARS' oversimplified pipe. And this peak seems to greatly help to maintain proper level of clarity, vividness, and brightness. I tried to reduce this peak by 1-2db and didn't like at all -- the result suddenly too dull and anti-neutral.

    Also updating CSDs. One of the cleanest results I've ever measured.

    cmg_waterfall.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
  12. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    First knee-jerk response is a bunch of no.
    Here are the notes I've taken so far:
    Mg immediately makes me feel uncomfortable because it's denying me certain frequencies.

    I get that it's like the hd650, but don't tell me what I can't do.

    Basically this is just a JAR650 with more bite and actually the JAR650 does it almost as good without being as punchy.

    Has similarities to Modius which was rolled off up top and therefore I hated it.

    I get it, but Aeolus does it better without actually rolling anything off. Aeolus sometimes sounds like it's recorded in the next room, but it gives you everything regardless.

    Switching to Utopia gives me everything I am missing from Mg.

    Switching back to Mg, really, I wish I could say it's a super 650 but it's rolled off and it's very old-hifi. I don't like old Hifi. It's rolled off in the highs and fuzzy.

    This at least sounds punchy, but punchy like you're in a dream and you can't hurt anyone.

    Switching to Aeolus, it at least has bite. Aeolus is soft in presentation but it's not neutered like Clear Mg. It's damned enjoyable.

    Switching back to Clear Mg, when I don't need treble it's pretty good but I have other headphones that give me this cheaper. Like HD650 but this punches harder.

    Really I can't imagine someone paying $1500 for this. Get an Elex for $700 and have more frequency response.

    It still has all the Focal stuff and sounds like it's going on all around your ears, good front to back layering. It's just too damned dull for me.

    I wish for some neutral sound, which is really surprising considering I am pretty hooked on ZMF.

    All the signal comes through, for better or worse. Really, Focal wants to roll off the highs for some reason.
     
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  13. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Hahaha did you just call me? ;)

    Reading your impression (well put btw) I almost laugh because there's a mirror symmetry between your and my preferences. Actually I am quite sure that @Erroneous is closer to SBAF median.

    PS. I recently re-confirmed I am done with Utopia love. Utopia now is a EQ-must to me and with eq I don't think I can justify price delta. (Equalized elex didn't have finesse I want to hear)

    CMG just did 95-99% of what I fantasied from Utopia and surreal (meaning I believe in existence but never witnessed myself) amplification. I believe the rest 1% will be fulfilled when Focal releases 2nd gen Utopia.
     
  14. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    @Vtory I'm ready for day 2 and I realize I maybe shouldn't have even posted the initial knee-jerk reactions, but I think you like this headphone more than I do at this point.

    If you want Smooth City without any peaks or fault lines, Focal has you covered with the Mg. I like my meat a little more salted and I think SO FAR that this is a flavor can but we'll see how it unveils itself over the next few days.
     
  15. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    I'm in the same boat as you. I prefer the Elex because it has more treble energy and feel the Clear Mg is rolled off. It does resolve better than the Elex, has smoother mids, and the bass is tighter. If you found that the Elex was too peaky then this would be a good bet. I have a feeling it pairs better with leaner, brighter amps like the THX 789.
     

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