The Mighty Utopia: Focal Utopia Revisited

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Aug 13, 2020.

  1. Boops

    Boops Friend

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    @purr1n where do you see EC AF (stock caps) in relation to Studio Jr and Stellaris for Utopia? I’ve been running mine from Gungnir Multibit A1 → AF with feedback on or off depending on the album. It’s been uniformly great although I haven’t heard these other pairings. I’m thinking my combo of DAC and NOS RCA 2A3s help round things a bit.

    In any event, interesting to see you revisit this after a good long while. Thanks.
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    I was never able to get the EC AF (with Jupiter caps) to play well with the Elex. The highs were too sandy, I couldn't get the bass slam that I wanted, and overall presentation was too dry. Part of this is because the CInemag OPTs on the AF are kind of dry sounding. Clear and black yes, but I wouldn't call them warm or rich sounding. However, I think you may have a chance with the warmer sounding Gungnir A1 (or Bifrost 2, Metrum, or similar kind of warm or dark sounding DAC with dense tone color). In retrospect, I never tried this kind of DAC on the AF. Also the vintage tubes I had were not necessarily warm sounding either. I know certain RCAs or Sylvanias can sound warmer than others. Mine were definitely not the warm variety. The Jupiter caps were also on the neutral side. Finally, I realized the Utopia is not the Elex. The highs of the Utopia are smoother, creamier, this played back on the same system.

    I don't know what stock cap you are running (the early AF with those cheap green caps were not my idea and I was like WTF when Craig put them in - this is why I banned that @Comzee when he accused me of f'ing up the AF - I had to tow the company line since Craig couldn't make up his mind after I thought we had decided on a final design). If whatever you have doesn't work, maybe @Hands could advise. I would suggest a bassier / warmer / darker sounding interstage cap with smooth highs.
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    More Utopia analysis. CSDs, first flate plate coupler and then the foam coupler.

    Focal Utopia
    CSDs
    Flat Plate Coupler
    FPC Utopia L.jpg
    FPC Utopia R.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    The following are from the foam coupler. I know this probably makes things more complex, with the above taking into account some internal cup reflections and the below without. Sometimes the foam coupler may result in more jumpy highs because of lack of damping, but the Focal driver likes to run in free air and isn't dependent on seal.

    The original V1 Changstar measurements were of the foam coupler. I think this measurement should be provided going forward and that I should have never gotten rid of it in the first place. There's just something in my gut that tells me that our brains are able to compensate (apply inverse curve) to a varying, but nevertheless, large extent the interactions among the earpads, internal cup, pinna, cocha, and head.

    The Utopia highs sound more like these graphs than the ones above.

    Focal Utopia
    CSDs
    Foam (Free Air Sim) Coupler
    -36db Floor
    FAC Utopia L.jpg
    FAC Utopia R.jpg

    Focal Utopia
    CSDs
    Foam "Free Air Sim" Coupler
    -45db Floor
    FAC Utopia L.jpg
    FAC Utopia R.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I recall finding the Audyn copper caps (not the max ones, which I haven't heard) to have a bolder, warmer sound than the Jupiters, while still retaining a good sense of clarity. The Miflex coppers are supposedly good too, but I think the Audyns are still warmer relatively.

    Now, if you're looking to replace the 10uF caps instead, what I used in the S7 and my 2A3 amps is not exactly a practical option. CDE SCRN224R-F, or you can parallel two SCRN222R-F for each channel. I can't take credit for finding these originally.

    Be prepare to drill some holes in the chassis to install some sort of mounting mechanism for the caps. They use big lugs + nut for leads, so not something you can just solder up like normal. Cover up the lugs when connected, and you may want to isolate the body of the cap itself from anything else it might touch.

    You'll find plenty of motor run caps on eBay, Amazon, etc. Most aren't going to be Hulk-sized like these and won't sound as good. You can find larger still, if you have room in the chassis. The specific caps I recommended, you'll likely need to find them used on eBay. Don't spent a shit load on them. Often you can't find them at all. If in doubt, look for similarly sized caps with lug leads, similar internals, similar voltage ratings, and hope for the best. Just avoid the puny ones with the quick connect tabs.
     
  6. AdvanTech

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    This is something I’m quite interested in, as pairing my Utopia with an Yggdrasil A2 + DSHA3F is incredible if I’m well-rested/not hungover/feeling good. I thought I’d ‘graduated’ to 2-channel for good, but once I spent some time with this amp and headphone, the sheer synergy and technicalities just sucked me right in.

    @purr1n thanks for the burst envelope measurements, because I think it explains why I might feel this way. I’m not going to give up the DSHA3F, so I’m trying to figure out what DAC might be a good pairing to somewhat counter that initial overshoot that also wouldn’t be too much of a step down from my current DAC.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Wavelight (with those components - again synergy), but $$$$
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  8. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    This is spot on, and I'm slightly embarrassed to say that it took me a few years to realize it.
     
  9. neo_the_one

    neo_the_one Facebook Friend

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    @AdvanTech, looking at your signature - headphone: E22- DEQ2496 - Yggdrasil A2 - SA2X - DSHA3F - Utopia , I have a couple of questions

    1. DEQ2496 -> Is it better to use an EQ hardware? can we do a better job on computer with more memory/CPUs/GPUs?
    2. SA2X -> What problem does this solve in a digital chain?

    Thanks.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Some people prefer external physical EQ with buttons instead of computer EQ with mouse dicking and clicking. This is where the DEQ2496 comes in. I have found it quite transparent to source. That is it actually transmits the characteristics of the digital source (including cables if you believe in that stuff) to the DAC without much or any of its own. You don't need GPU for EQ, unless you want do to fancy linear EQ with as little latency as possible. I have a formal review pending for DEQ2496 - this is for over year now!

    Some people prefer to attenuate before the signal hits the input transformers on the 3F, hence the Goldpoint. Different sound vs using the pot after the input transformers depending upon the DAC. This something you need to play with and determine your own preferences. The pot on the 3F is perfectly fine. Don’t worry to much. Walk before you run. One step at a time. You will get there.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  11. AdvanTech

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    1. This thing is quite transparent, and you can really fine-tune your curve. I realize now that I thought I was using EQ to tame the Utopia’s slightly bright highs, but after seeing the burst envelopes I think I was EQ’ing to compensate for the transient overshoot that got stronger the higher in frequency the headphones go.
    2. It probably doesn’t make that much of a difference, but I’ve quoted a post from the amp’s designer below, and I have a Goldpoint, so why not?
     
  12. crenca

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    So I'm travelling right now but just before I left I plugged in my new Utopia into my usual two travelling solutions, a JDS Labs C5 dac/amp and an iFi idac 2. The Utopia, being a microscope into your upstream sources, revealed just how mid/low fi these two units are. Even with cans such as the Verite or 6XX they were always "ok", but they both were not tolerable with the Utopia. Is the Utopia just not that synergistic with these two oldish op amp boxes (the IFi is USB bus powered only), or does the Utopia really shine a light on dac/amp/usb weakness?

    I was thinking about this when I read this thread just now. Is upper mid/treble glare, "metallic" timbre, and weakness/problems in the bass the Utopia's fault, a result of (lack of) synergy, or simply the Utopia revealing what is really there in the upstream gear? I don't have any of these usual complaints in my GunMB A2 > Asgard 3/Bachelor chain (waiting for Starlett). On the contrary, the treble/upper mids are "liquid" and smooth, and the bass is tight, textured, and hard hitting as I have yet to hear (though not as "enveloping" as good planer bass). I admit sometimes, on some music, the Utopia's dynamics can wear on me after a couple of hours of listening.

    I brought the Eikons with me instead
     
  13. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    SA2X can split the signal from a signal from a single DAC to two amps for purposes of comparison \ level matching \ convenience; can attenuate the signal before the amp transformers as @purr1n mentions above. Great for use with monoblocks.

    Generally this is true but test it with each amp, some react differently.

    Some claim the goldpoints either enter noise in the chain or create a 'veil' over the sound. I've used them extensively and found neither to be true.
     
  14. beemerphile

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    Marv, RE: your personal top-five list, I'm curious why the Susvara didn't make the cut. I know you are not a big ortho fan, but the HE-5 and HE-6 at least made the honorable mention list.
     
  15. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Do these people also think it’s an active preamp?
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Susvara was very close. It does some things that approach e-stats, maybe too close. Hence I "reverted" back to the HE-5/HE-6. Ultimately, the main thing is that HE-5 and HE-6 could be modded to get it just perfectly right. LFF could never make the Susvara sound perfectly right, that is to his taste, which would also be my taste.

    Yes, that is exactly it. Once you hear Utopia from a top-flight system set up for it, when we plug in Utopia into a random whatever entry-level system, it like shit. It's relative.

    Like from history class, it's never one cause. It's multiple causation.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Focal Utopia
    Harmonic Distortions - Traditional View
    Flate Plate Coupler
    1kHz set to 100db SPL
    upload_2020-8-19_11-23-46.png
    upload_2020-8-19_11-26-49.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Focal Utopia
    Impedance
    YEL = free air
    GRN = on head
    upload_2020-8-14_17-56-29.png
     
  20. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Okay but hold up are these actually different channels? Only noticed on second look but these are basically copy/pasted down to minute artefacts! I'm both impressed and scared at the Utopia's matching haha.

    EDIT: Thanks! Dang they're still eerily close, but that should well be the case for headphones that cost as much as they do (heck, even cheaper sets).
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020

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