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 Audiophile™

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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 Audiophile™

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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 Audiophile™

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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 Super Friend

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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 Super Friend

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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 Super Friend

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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 Super Friend

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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 Audiophile™

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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 Audiophile™

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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.
     
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  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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  16. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    Looking at impressions and graphs it looks like Focal wanted a headphone that complements Utopia. In case anyone has Utopia and wants a headphone for some laidback listening then they have them covered in the product portfolio.
     
  17. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Focal Clear Mg Vs. Utopia Shootout

    I could conduct another petit shootout for Clear Mg vs Utopia today (with LCD-X added to the mix). The main purpose was to finalize my thoughts for this new Focal product

    Aside: This does never mean my CMG will be up for sale soon.. No never. I just meant some interesting loaner headphones are incoming and I wanted to clearly define my reference point(s) before any serious comparison in the future.

    This post will be short and concise. I may want to write up a longer and more detailed comparative report later though.

    Utopia is a wonderful masterpiece and I see there still exists a lot of fans/followers. However, I am disqualified to be an Utopia owner for a variety of reasons. And to such a modern and casual music listener like myself, Clear Mg seems to offer more competitive advantages that align better with my preference and taste.

    I found Utopia occasionally a little more clinical, sibilant, and less engaging by comparison. Clear Mg is a more entertaining, refined, yet equivalently capable to me. Surely I am far from senior audiophiles by all means. And of course YMMV likely based on your audiophile seniority or the portion of shitty recordings you listen to.

    Let me break down specifically (only for major areas I found they differed). Be aware that inequality signs below are all about my preference rather than hard assertions.

    Evaluation done with Macbook Pro, iFi Micro iDSD and Magni 3+ (as shootout done at my pal's office)

    Bass: CMG > Utopia

    Not too surprisingly to me, Utopia’s sub and mid bass is still too attenuated for such a hybrid bass head like myself. It had a good quality on the lowest register, but CMG can do it almost equivalently without annoying attenuation. CMG presents very clean and weighty bass around 40-50hz for small 40mm dynamic drivers.

    Interestingly CMG also had strength in the upper bass around 100hz. Utopia sounded tiny bit muddy and undefined to me. It did harmonize with its other bass reproduction (thus I am suspecting it a purposeful voicing), but CMG had better definition and punch, if not at the level of good Audezes.

    Mid: Utopia > CMG

    Both Utopia and CMG had subtle attenuation around 600-700hz followed by a little hype on 1.2khz. This could cause less full/rich/warm vocals in some tracks. CMG did present less such behavior by comparison.

    Both cans were excellent in midrange clarity and resolution well outperforming any other focal products I could recall. But Utopia’s Be drivers edged out CMG pretty easily in resolving microdynamics. Even with dsp-attenuation on lower highs (to rule out treble impact) I could hear better details and plankton with Utopia. Interestingly, with compressed tracks, CMG helped me better focus on hearing more plankton in spite of driver-level difference (note: I’m splitting hairs).

    Put differently, I can live with CMG’s mid quality to the extent I can’t say the same thing with Elex or OG, but not to an extent I’d ignore the next gen Utopia which will (maybe) have the same update as CMG.

    High: CMG > Utopia

    Now things get controversial. All the Utopia pairs have presented a very consistent pattern of annoyance to me. Utopia's mid trebles around 6-8khz are too much hyped or exaggerated, which often created unnecessary sibilance (particularly in many non-audiophile recordings). CMG solved this problem quite dramatically. Could be a little on the laid back side, but still way closer to neutrality in my perception. I quickly tried to develop dsp filters to Utopia but none worked as effectively as CMG.

    Also I found Utopia occasionally hype presence too much, which could work like magic during a short listen tho. Brings too many presence ranges forward, obscuring virtual depth. Eventually, stereo imaging feels a little uneven and could not translate to believable 3d imagination. CMG also had this issue (compared to the LCD-X or Verite which I believe excel in doing this) but more tolerable than Utopia.

    Utopia slightly extended better on and beyond ultra-high frequency. I still do think CMG does a way more impressive and fantastic job in reproducing the sense of air, openness, and ambience than OG or Elex, but Utopia was simply better in terms of something I’d like to associate with “realism”.

    One byproduct of the newer treble voicing is this change made CMG very forgiving in gear pairing. Focal’s headphones driver is inherently very efficient, and without tonality issues, infamous amp-pickiness almost disappeared. I mostly drive it via Magni 3+ and honestly don’t want any fancier amplification in 99% of the cases. The level of perfection of this pairing far exceeds that with HD650K, not to mention Utopia.

    Conclusion

    Overall, I like Clear Mg over Utopia even without price consideration. Utopia still does many things impressively good, but all those don’t fully translate to my benefits. Maybe that Totl product could be tuned for higher end audiophiles. Clear Mg solidly scores in things that matter more to me or where I am more sensitive.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  18. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    I predict that the Mg will be an especially polarizing headphone, based on the individual user's tastes.

    I'm reading @Vtory's shootout and several times shaking my head thinking "no, that's not the case", but I realize much if not all of it is because we obviously prioritize different things in our sound journey (and associated equipment used during testing surely plays a big part in these impressions.)

    I'm gathering my thoughts (and notes) before posting further about the Mg, but I suspect this thread will eventually get spicy because opinions will be much more love or hate than "meh".
     
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  19. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    I received the Focal Clear Mg loaner but this is my second time listening. I had the opportunity to briefly demo a CMG at theSourceAV on the McIntosh MHA200 and at the time I was not impressed at all and thought it was the worst headphone I tried on that amp. However, now that I have had a chance to try the loaner on Jot 2 my views have amended, so much so that my chart is based only on the Jotunheim 2 pairing.

    [​IMG]

    Headphones: HD6XX, HD800SDR, LCD2.1, Focal Clear Mg
    Amp: Jotunheim 2 (BAL)
    DAC: Yggdrasil GS (BAL)
    Amps tried but not relevant to chart: DarkVoice 336SE (J-ISO), Mjolnir 2, McIntosh MHA200

    General comments
    I'm impressed but ambiguous about it. It is a spectacular performer but also amp dependent in terms of synergy and has a bold, intense flavor that's not necessarily always what is called for.

    Assuming we're only talking about the Jot 2 pairing, of all Focal headphones I've tried, the CMG is my favorite. Utopia was never an option for me because of its hot dry treble, but CMG drops the highs down to a level I can enjoy. CMG doesn't quite have the resolve of Utopia but it's still very detailed and whatever minor loss in plankton is well worth the trade-off for the preferable FR. The bass detail is some of the best I've heard and the soundstage, while not wide, surprised me with its height. Instrument discrimination and layering is great with tastefully balanced attack and decay making this headphone a rockstar on a technical level. That being said, the specificity of the amp pairing warrants some discussion.

    I didn't like Focal Clear Mg with anything tubes. It wasn't surprising that it didn't play well with the DarkVoice with CMG's low 55 ohm impedance, but the 336SE delivered truly flabby bass and high distortion that flat-out ruined the articulation and clarity of the CMG. With MJ2's hybrid topology I was expecting better results but that too had bad synergy with a non-cohesive FR that was weirdly shouty and a presentation that felt uncontrolled. On the 2.5 kilobuck MHA200, CMG's bass was the weakest of the half dozen headphones I tried and it was shockingly poor in all respects against the other flagships. So when I say Jot 2 was the best amp pairing I tried, I mean it by a parsec. Schiit's neutral, tonally thick amp muzzled some of the ebullient CMG energy with much needed focus, making for a solid pairing, maybe the most solid combo I've heard with Jot 2.

    That being said, even with Jot 2, I'm not an absolute fan. CMG can be a bit too exciting if you're looking for a chill listen like what you get with an HD6XX, or even the HD800SDR. While jazz and classical were tremendously engaging, CMG exceeded the ceiling of acceptable fatigue for me on EDM and heavy metal. There's still a bit of zip there, perhaps the 1khz bump is the reason, and that combined with soaring macrodynamics can make CMG+Jot2 a too intense experience. At reasonable listening levels though, the combo definitely impresses and I think it outperforms the HD800SDR in terms of resolve and blackground, although I prefer the Sennheiser for voices which sometimes seemed overly energetic on the Focal.

    So, in summary, Focal Clear Mg is an incredibly impressive headphone with the right amp that can be superb for some genres and good for others for short periods and while it's likely not going to be something I add to my stable, it is worth recommending if paired with Jot 2.

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  20. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    While I had the Clear MG in on the loaner tour I had a friend over for a listening session. Here are his thoughts on the Clear MG:

    I spent a few hours comparing the Focal Clear MG with my Focal Clear Pro and my friend's Focal Utopia and have come to some conclusions. Before I share them, let me give you some of my background to help you understand how I listen and how I judge sound.

    My interest in sound quality comes from the sound production side. I recorded and mixed music and sound for film for many years at the amateur and semi-professional levels.

    I learned how to make drum kits sound larger, how to push and pull vocals backward and forwards in a mix, and how to judge how a mix would sound when someone took my CD and played it in their car, on their Sony Discman, or their home stereo.

    To do those things, I had to learn a lot about how humans hear and interpret sound based on time, phase, pressure level, and spectral (frequency) composition. All of that is to say that when I listen to headphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DACs, I listen for how they render the aspects of the music that the sound engineer tried to control to produce a particular effect. That may sound like a clinical way to listen, but I can assure you that it is not; a sound engineer's job is to make a song as engaging as possible, so I listen for how headphones do that, too.

    With all that out of the way, here are my impressions of the Focal Clear MG.

    Imaging:
    Sharp. I use tracks like Bubbles by Yosi Horikawa and Emergence by Trifonic to judge how well a pair of headphones places sounds in precise positions across the sound stage. Those songs contain loads of spatial information - reverb, head transfer functions, dynamic panning, and instruments that span a broad frequency spectrum - that immediately reveal whether a pair of headphones delivers all the information our brains need to be convinced that a sound originates from a particular point in space. The Focal Clear MG did not disappoint. It placed instruments in sharp focus across the soundstage, beating my Focal Clear Pro by a noticeable - if not significant - margin and keeping pace with the insane clarity of the Focal Utopia. That is saying a lot because the Focal Clear Pro has remarkably focused imaging.

    Sound stage:
    Wide, but slightly narrower than the Focal Clear Pro. Using tracks like Sucking Chest Wound from The Album Leaf and Emerald Hooves by Tipper that throw massive soundstages, the Clear MG spread them evenly from ear to ear and reasonably deep into 3D space. Soundstaging is mainly about the proportion of the frequencies that we associate with sounds being closer or further away from us and their interaction with boundaries when recorded or produced. That's because higher frequencies attenuate more quickly than low frequencies, so we use them to determine how far away a sound source is from us, whether forward or backward, or side to side, from us. The Focal Clear MG's imaging is sharper than the Focal Clear Pro, but it doesn't go as wide, which probably has something to do with its frequency response balance; bass light, which pushes high frequencies forward, making instruments sound closer. To my ears, the Clear MG is also narrower than the Utopia, but for a different reason: the Utopia produces so much high-end resolution that reverb tails last forever, giving the impression of a larger space. That brings me to the next topic: the frequency response.

    Frequency response:
    Aside from the bass being too light for my enjoyment, something is seriously wrong with the Focal Clear MG's frequency response. A ringing resonance around 5-6khz makes cymbals, and close-mic'ed string instruments like violin sound synthesized. I love synthesized music, but the problem here is that the Focal Clear MG makes the music sound like it's a mix between an acoustic instrument and a synthesized instrument that is limited to a very narrow frequency band. For example, Lindsey Sterling's deeply textured violin in her track Artemis sounded like a mix between an acoustic violin and an overdriven electric violin, but the electric violin was isolated to a narrow band around 6khz which sounded awful. I actually couldn't listen to most songs on the Focal Clear MG for more than 30 seconds without starting to squint. If anything condemns a pair of headphones, that is it.

    In conclusion, the Focal Clear MG is a big step backward for the Clear line. The Clear Pro is a far more enjoyable headphone to listen to than the Focal Clear MG. The Clear MG is also less enjoyable than the Utopia, for what that is worth. While the Clear MG has superior imaging to the Clear Pro, it's not enough of an improvement to compensate for its hollow bass and eyebrow-furrowing distortion in the low-high region. If you have a Clear or Clear Pro, don't bother "upgrading."
     
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