The Mighty Utopia: Focal Utopia Revisited

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

  1. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Now that these remediation efforts have taken place, does Focal stand out as far as the number of warranty issues you have to deal with? In other words, how do they compare to Sennheiser, Audeze, Hifiman, Dan Clark, and/or any other HP brands you carry - do you process returns/repairs at a greater rate, about the same, etc.?

    If you don't want to answer the question directly I understand, but for most consumers all we get is an 'anecdotal' grasp of the relative quality of the various brands. My read is that Focal is no better or worse - just average, but then again what good is my read...
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
  2. netforce

    netforce MOT: Headphones.com

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    The way Focal has dealt with RMAs, by having the customer go through their dealer for service rather than going directly to them has led to more repairs with Focal. Another contributing factor for Focal having higher RMAs is just how many Focal headphones we have sold. Focal is by far our best selling brand.

    I for example have never needed to deal with RMAs with Hifiman or with Sennheiser minus some of their TWS. Sennheiser obviously has a superb record when it comes to reliability. Hifiman is quite notorious for the opposite, probably for all of my Hifiman cans personally I had to contact support for probably half of them.

    The difference I would say it that both make it fairly easy for the end consumer to contact and talk to their support directly. Its not impossible to get support from Focal, they just make it a lot easier for the dealer to handle repairs as it is a little bit of a process.
     
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  3. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Well, this was right on the money. There is a smoothness, a lack of grain, from this DAC that kept me up listening way too late last night. Is this part of what you meant by mellowness?

    It makes for super long sessions with DSHA3F and Utopia.
     
  4. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    @AdvanTech, are you still using EQ with the Wavelight in the chain?
     
  5. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Yeah. The DEQ2496 is still in the chain, though the curve is a lighter touch, now.

    541C27DC-9142-41D5-89BE-3C08BC5E5DEF.jpeg
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    What is your budget?
     
  7. smileraidcall

    smileraidcall New

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    I remember I once said I really liked my Mj2 Gungnir Multibit stack that I have been using for more than 4 years, a few post ago. Now I realized I was wrong.

    I am currently Schiit Mjolnor 2 and Gungnir Multibit with Utopia. Recently at a store I demo utopia with another amp , SPL Phonitor XE Headamp. Then I suddenly realized what was really meant by the Mjolnir 2 being very up front and in your face type of presentation. With the sound stage of the Utopia already being slightly smaller, I realized the Mjolnir 2 is mot really my ideal pairing. Music on the SPL Phonitor XE sounded less congested and there are more blank space between each instrument. Mj2 being much more agressive and made me felt tried after long music section with the utopia.

    Amp pairing is really important with the Utopia. Please share some more experience amp pairing with the Utopia.

    The MJ2 actually works well with my Hifiman HE1000.

    So I am currently in search for a amp that have a more layback presentation and thicker mids and XLR output for the Utopia. Both solid state or tube.
     
  8. BenjaminBore

    BenjaminBore Friend

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    If you’re using stock tubes in the Mj2 you may find what you’re looking for by trying some others. They’re pretty hazy and really hold it back, better tubes will sound cleaner. However as it’s a hybrid some of its character will always remain.

    After getting a ZDT Jr/Night Blue Mini I sold my Mj2. It does very well in compensating for the Utopia’s poor timbre and it opens up the staging. But it may be too laid back for you, and the bass is a backward step in terms of slam and resolution. It’s also SE. But it’s worth exploring as it is better overall, even taking SE from the Gungnir, but it may be more of a side grade for you. After that you’re getting into expensive tube amp territory, however if you read around the forum there have been some less expensive potential options turning up lately.

    EDIT: I literally just came across this post, it should be helpful to you: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...view-and-measurements.9897/page-2#post-318264
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  9. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    @smileraidcall, I wonder if the $199 Agard 3 might not be worth a try. I suspect it will be in some ways a side grade for various reasons, but it might get you a bit better separation & space as well...so a side grade but at a low cost that makes it worth exploring.
     
  10. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF's Mr. Bean

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    Why tf are you fixated with having a XLR out? Let me tell you that the only headphone I've heard that benefits from balanced drive is the HD800. That's it. All others, including planars and dynamics, did not benefit, with the only exceptions being amps that were specifically made to be run balanced (think Liquid Platinum).

    The answers to your question depends heavily on budget. Marv already outlined the best you can get:
    The DNA Starlett/Stellaris fits the bill for the kind of sound that you're describing that you'reooking for. Starlett is not as good say as a Stellaris, but the synergy is absolutely there and the Starlett costs a third of what the Stellaris does, plus it runs on cheap tubes (Starlett is $2k, Stellaris I think is $6.5k).

    SW51+ is a good budget option, but leaves even more on the table compared to Starlett. Perhaps that's not fair though considering the SW51+ is a downright steal at the price.

    Not a bad suggestion, but I think the Asgard 3 leaves too much on the table in regards to Utopia.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Luxman P1u (used)
    ECP T4
    DNA Starlett
    DNA Stratus
    EC Studio Jr/B
    DNA Stellaris

    All are appropriate priced. You get what you pay for.

    ECP 3F dropped off the list because it may not meet your thickness and laid-back requirements.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  12. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Perhaps the first question @smileraidcall needs to answer is is he ready to leap over the "no man's land" between his Mjolnor 2 and the $2k and up list of purr1n's. If not, then a compromise/side grade (going for a SW51, Bachelor, Asgard 3, etc) might be for him worth the effort just for the different presentation and fit for his preferences. The Utopia is going to reveal the limitations of anything in the class, but still might be worth it. If he is ready to make the leap, then a ho-nutha-level opens up before him of course...
     
  13. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    Few things about the Utopia:

    Most of what's been said before still holds so I'll point out a few things that stood out to myself.

    Build Quality:
    In terms of a "wow factor" the closest I've felt to that was with the ZMF Auteurs. It feels solid, the wood is beautiful, and after using it for years it looks like it will hold up for several decades. The Verite (while gorgeous) has its own set of issues but that's a story for another day. Now the Focal Utopia looks and feels like a top of the line headphone. It's hefty/solid, aesthetically gorgeous, and just well put together like a high end car.

    Comfort:
    I'll be very critical in this area because of the price of this headphone.

    First, the weight and headband: While I don't have a baby neck, I find that wearing 1lbs+ of Focal machinery is quite uncomfortable. The headband doesn't distribute the weight evenly and I find myself with a small sore spot where it rests at the top of my head. Maybe my Spongebob head just isn't a right fit for this headphone but I've never experienced this with any other set of cans. ZMF's Blackwood Auteur are a very hefty headphone but the suspension that Zach uses makes it to where the weight isn't noticeable.

    Second, the earpads/headband adjustments: Again, this could be the shape of my head/ears but after going back and forth adjusting where it's on my head and adjusting the headband slider; it just never felt comfortable. The right earpad causes a sore spot at the top of ear. So comfort is something to look out for when thinking of owning these headphones. I don't hear much complaints in this area from other owners on this forum so I'll chalk it up to my noggin. Which is sad because I really like what this headphone can do.

    Resolution/Bass: Not everything is doom and gloom. In terms of resolution this headphone, to my ears, out resolves the Verite. It's not by a huge amount but enough where it's noticeable. In terms of bass, the Verite takes the cake on slam and body, but bass resolution on this headphone is wow. Bass is so nicely textured that it's opened up a can of worms. I never thought I wanted a headphone that resolved bass this well until I heard it.

    Synergy:

    EC Studio Jr 300B: The Focals play very well with the EC Studio Jr. 300B. The EC adds more depth and width to the headphone so it's not an "in your head experience". With the right tubes you can nip any sharpness from this headphone and come off with a natural sounding PRaT. The two compliment each other and shore up weaknesses. Feedback from the amp causes a hit on immediacy and can be heard when comparing it to the Pendant. Personally, I wouldn't pair this amp with the Bifrost 2 but something with more transient energy. The Matrix X-Sabre Pro combinations does great with treble extension without it ever being fatiguing. The Studio Jr gives enough body that it doesn't need any added.

    ZMF Pendant: The default JJ tubes have a bit too much energy when paired with the Utopia. Throw in a NOS Mullard driver tube (really any warmer tube) and you'll have an amp that plays on the strengths of the Focals. Snare hits, drums, cymbals speed, and clarity are all very satisfying. I really enjoy the Bifrost 2 with the ZMF Pendant as it provides more body and provides better microdetails. Also, the Pendant is stronger when it comes to note contrast but you throw in the Utopia and it really pops.

    SW51+: Yes, I had to :). Really, everything I mentioned in the ZMF Pendant relates to this as well. What you lose out is in head stage width while retaining the same depth and resolution. You'll get a in your head experience that's intimate. Notes pop, are immediate, with a good amount of body if placed on the High-Z out.

    Alright, time to take these off. The mistress is very abusive to me even though she's so seductive.

    I'll post some pics later (pics or it didn't happen).
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  14. insidious meme

    insidious meme Ambivalent Kumquat

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    If the Black Widow was still in production, would it have made this list? Just curious.
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yes.

    For solid state, also consider the Luxman P1u since BW is OOP.
     
  16. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I am either an outlier or on the edge of the distribution, but the Verite (I have closed) is closer to Clear than Utopia when it comes to resolve/detail IMO.

    ZMF's are just about all day comfortable. with the Utopia/Clear I need a break after about an hour or two, though I don't describe them as anything but comfortable - it's just that ZMF's (particularly with thicker pads) are superior. That said, the Focals are better for listening in bed as the ZMF's cups are just too bulky for good pillow comfort.
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Recommend Gungnir MB A2 or Burl B2 Bomber WRT Utopia. Gotta blow past the 300B'ness, or actually it's more the sound of the output transformer.
     
  18. murphythecat

    murphythecat GRU-powered uniformed trumpkin

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    I'll try to add a little about my experience with the Utopia. When I had the Utopia the first time around, I didnt really like them that much. I used it mainly with the Yggdrasil 1 dac and pro ican, and I found the sound overly crystalline and bright. The hd800 with bass boost and sdr+ sbaf sounded simply more natural and organic.

    this time around, with my MOS16 dac and the iFi stereo 50 el84 tube amp (and maybe even the Helmdall 2 cable), the Utopia ar as close to perfection as I ever heard. Sounds decay into thin air, truly a bit ethereal presentation. Purrin observation imo are spot on, no need to repeat.

    I find them very emotional, not clinical in the slightest (hello hd800) or slightly too laid back (hello hd650), or plain boring (hello Auteur), I find the Utopia transparency beyond anything ive heard, while retaining a sense of magic in the music. I get tons of goosebumps with music I know by heart andI feel for the first time I'm hearing things in tracks I know by heart. Truly like another layer of details just emerges.

    Speed: maybe the first thing that is obvious with the U. It reminds me of the immediacy of a wideband driver, and in fact, as far as i know, the Utopia are very efficient (just like widebanders). The Auteur really do sound like a 3-way 85 db speaker in comparison.

    Soundstage: smaller then hd800, but way more precise. the U separates a orchestra so well you can follow almost every musician if you wish, where as the hd800 seem to blend in sounds together slightly.

    Bye bye hd800 and hd650, the Utopia for me are just in another league.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  19. smileraidcall

    smileraidcall New

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    Thank you for all of your inputs with the amp selection for the Utopia.

    I would like to ask, is the up front presentation type of sound exist among most Schiit amps? Is it Schiit's House Sound? Does their DAC , Yggdrasil A2 have a similar upfront presentation? I am currently using the MJ2 Gungnir Multibit stack.

    Because I am planning to upgrade both the amp and DAC (with Yggdrasil A2 in mind for the DAC section) to pair with Utopia. I wanted a slightly more lay back presentation to make the Utopia sound less agressive.
     
  20. Darkstar1

    Darkstar1 Facebook Friend

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    Not to be too off topic... I just got a Utopia. Running them off Vioeletric v281 SE so really more like the v200. I am fine with the sound stage and the bass is enough for me due to the speed slam and detail of the bass.

    My one issue it the treble. Its weird as the headphones have maybe 10 hours on them. They have not settled in yet. Sometime the treble sounds great other times a touch to bright for me. Is this a recording thing or will they settle in brighter I am wondering. I totally love the musicality. I was one of those people who always respected but never loved the HD 800 SD with tubes or SS.

    Any feed back would be great. If the Utopia settles in a tad bit less bright the Utopia and v281 would be a good match for me.
     

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