The Mighty Utopia: Focal Utopia Revisted

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

  1. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    I missed it at first but just realized that the new Utopia price is 4999€/$... the sky is the limit i guess.
     
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  2. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    [​IMG]
     
  3. OJneg

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    Wow, quite the aesthetic downgrade in my view. Hopefully the sonics are intact.

    How are the justifying the price bump? Ye olde inflation?
     
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  4. netforce

    netforce MOT: Headphones.com

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    OG Utopia was released in 2016 at $4,000 so with inflation its around $5,000 now.

    I would imagine price increase likely inflation related plus accounting for how weak the Euro is right now. I didn't get a pure statement from Focal at CanJam about the price increase but spoke with other partners about new releases and upcoming stuff. One German partner of ours said everything at best is 10% more expensive.

    Lots of them were saying how the situation is pretty bad overseas and how some of their distributors are infighting over the prices of new products. Second some were saying how they didn't have to raise prices on existing headphones yet but other products they sell they did.

    One last thing customers asked which surprised me was if they pre-order a product now, is it going up in price when we actually get it in. To me I would say this is likely a calm before the storm or a sign of things to come in the coming months/next year.

    To me, had the Utopia 2022 in house for a few days after CanJam. It took one of the safest approaches to a sequel for a headphone sound wise. They took what was likely the biggest gripe of the Utopia, its treble sometimes being too peaky and smoothed that over. Was that worth a price jump, I am certainly not the biggest fan of that myself but understand it to an extent. For customers that were asking me if they should sell their OG for the 2022, I straight up told them unless you are out of warranty (Focal out of warranty repairs cost an arm and a leg) or the treble really does bother you, then stick with the OG you have right now.
     
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  5. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey User Requested Vacation

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    I'm looking for a pair of headphones with technicalities equal to or better than Clear OG, but with a timbre similar to HD600 or that can be EQed to be reasonably close. With a budget of up to $5K I was wondering whether the Utopia would get me there. I'm guessing they'd be a reasonably good match with my Phonitor SPL e which I find to be smooth with a very light touch of warmth.

    Just to give you an idea of my listening preferences: HE560 sounds wonky, but I like the spaciousness it offers over my HD600s. I find HD650 to be too warm and a bit dull. I enjoyed the imaging and speed of the OG Clears, but found them to be a bit bright on some tracks and grainy. Love the timbre of the HD600s. The HD800s were too bright the only time I heard them (about 10 years ago now). From about the same era, Audio Technica's W3000ANV were pleasant with acoustic and small ensemble music. Audeze LCD 2.1 were fun on some tracks, but too dark and not particularly resolving from memory. No good for classical/art music.

    One of the problems I had with the Clear was a grainy texture particularly noticeable on recordings of choral music. I couldn't get rid of it with EQ, but it was reduced by pressing the drivers closer to my head. Could someone please listen to the embedded clip below through Utopias and tell me if you detect graininess? I'm not hearing as much using my HD600s, except in certain passages, such as note attack in the alto voice through the left channel at about the 15 second mark.

     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2022
  6. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Hey, what’s your DAC and amp? A lot of times the grain you hear on revealing headphones can be from the DAC.
     
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  7. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey User Requested Vacation

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    I think you're right about the DAC, but my amp should be OK (SPL Phonitor). I'm just using the inbuilt DAC module (for convenience and space saving), which emplys the AKM AK4490. If I have change over from buying headphones (or speakers) I'll be spending it on a DAC. I seem to remember Marv commenting that a vivid sounding DAC would go well with the Phonitor. Any advice on this choice would be welcome too. I was eying off a Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro, but they've been replaced with a much more expensive DAC/Streamer product. I don't need or particularly want a streamer
     
  8. joch

    joch Friend

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    I would also suggest looking into your chain like EagleWings said. If you can get your hands on a decent DAC, it might answer your question.

    Regarding the Clears, there are some easy mods like sticking some foam over the driver. You can try different thickness and shapes. I personally have circle shape foams over the driver (two-sided tape) from leftover packaging.

    Also: nothing wrong with just keeping the HD600 (or Clear)
     
  9. Cellist88

    Cellist88 Friend

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    @EagleWings focal are known to have that metallic timbre, so I don’t think changing the dac would fix the situation. You won’t make it sound less hashy even with R2r dacs
     
  10. EagleWings

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    Metallic timbre is different from glare and hash. The metallic timbre probably doesn't go away as it is inherent to the metal drivers. But in the case of glare/hash on revealing headphones that are not too peaky, the culprit usually is the digital section. And no, R2R DACs are not free of glare and hash issues either. I just moved through 2 R2R DACs, which I found to be quite glare-y and hash-y (Bifrost 2 and Wavelight). How much one is sensitive to this glare/hash is a different issue. Some folks seem to be more bothered by the metallic timbre than the glare. The fact that the OP found some glare on the HD600 here and there, is a sign that the issue might be coming from the upstream components. But then there is also the possibility that the OP is sensitive to the slightly bright treble of the 600 too. Regardless, investigating from the source is a good idea, when we are not dealing with very peaky headphones and I am on the right track with my investigation.
     
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  11. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    I have heard glare on AKM DACs, so there is definitely a possibility that your DAC might have it. But it is hard to conclude without trying out a DAC that is free of glare. The Matrix seems to be a great DAC. But being a treble sensitive person, I played it safe and avoided it. Whether it will work for you or not, unfortunately only you can answer that. We don't know what the new X-Sabre 3 sounds like. But the X-Sabre-Pro is SBAF approved and there is no harm in going for a previous iteration DAC, you also get to save some $$$ in the process. Many folks here run DACs from the 90s and 2000s.

    If you are a treble sensitive person, finding the DAC that works for you can get difficult, especially with the HPs in the picture. And with these HPs, the amp synergy also comes into play. Most folks prefer to pair these HPs with tube amps, as many SS amps, even if not tonally bright, can exhibit hardness, that these HPs can pick up. Unfortunately, there is no short cut outside trying the gear in your system and eliminating the ones that don't work for you.
     
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  12. Clemmaster

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    The Utopia does not have a "metallic timbre", unlike the Clear. It is a lot smoother across the board (no graininess, unless it's in the chain or recording).

    The issue with Utopia is that it requires that your chain is up to snuff, otherwise it might sound bright/etched. For sure it'll let you know if anything is not optimal in your chain, including cabling (even if you don't believe in this).

    If you want a timbre more similar to HD600, it might be worth looking into ZMF headphones. The Auteur Classic might be the closest to HD600 ish sound? The Atrium is certainly a more technically proficient headphone, though, and you might be able to tune it to your preference with pads and filter.
     
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  13. Maven86

    Maven86 Almost "Made"

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    I've had a different experience. With the Clears, it was more prevalent but was still able to be mitigated with tweaking upstream gear. With my Utopias, I haven't had too much of an issue and it's been in quite a few systems. The timbre can change more dramatically than the Clears but rarely has it ever sounded "metalic" except when using certain solid state amps or bright sources (e.g. Bryston).
     
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  14. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    FWIW, I own a pair of Utopia and an X-Sabre Pro, and I really enjoy them through a DNA Starlett. I also borrowed an SPL Phonitor X and very much liked that pairing, too. It's an incredibly detailed combo while still remaining very listenable and IMO not particularly fatiguing. (I am, however, rarely an all-day headphone listener and instead tend to do 1-2 focused hours at night. I'm rarely in a position to feel much fatigued.)

    I've not heard the Clear, but the Utopia beat everything else I have for sheer resolution and wow factor. That they resolve more than even than the HD800 is pretty remarkable, and they do so with a pretty good balance of top-end smoothness and incisiveness. I do somewhat hear the metallic timbre that some dislike, but it's never bothered me much.

    If it were me with a $5k budget, I'd look for a deal on the OG Utopia (not hard to find) and get a used X-Sabre. Or get the Utopia first and then audition DACs for the last bit of fine tuning. The only thing I can't speak to is how they compare to the Clear. But I generally think that Utopia can be end-game for many listeners. Or at least they are for me. Unless you really like the Clear--and some do--fine tuning around them seems a bit backward to me.

    If it helps, the HD600 are also among my favorites. Great tonality. The Utopia isn't as mellow--HD600 are great all-day phones--but they are better in every other category.
     
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  15. GuySmiley'sMonkey

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    Thanks everyone. Very helpful responses.

    I'm coming to see that if I'm getting a better resolving pair of headphones I need to improve my DAC as well. The Utopia is sounding like it could be a contender as a headphone champ for me. re tube amps, my wife has a particular aversion to them and I want her to remain an ally in my audio longings. To be honest, I really like the Phonitor and curiosity can be an expensive cat-killer.

    I'll head over to the DAC advice thread at some stage and might see some of you there.
     
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  16. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    The Phonitor X I had on loan had the built-in DAC. I think it was the older AKM chip. It wasn't great, a little gray, a little bland, but I think I would've been fine running it for a while. FWIW.
     
  17. crenca

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    So I have had the ZMF replacement pads for Focals for a few days but just got around to trying them on the Utopia:

    https://shop.zmfheadphones.com/collections/pads/products/zmf-focal-subs

    I like Dekoni replacement pads for the OG Clear, but not Utopia:

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/drop-elex-dekoni-pads.8802/#post-372510

    The ZMF's are better with the Utopia than the Dekoni's however. When I first pulled them out of the packaging I noticed how they are stiffer and place the driver farther from the ear (giving your ear more room in the cup) just like the Dekoni's and I thought "uh-oh". Thing is while they do bring up the bass a bit, it does not bleed into the mids like the Dekoni's, and the vocal region is unmolested. The micro detail in the upper mids and highs is also not attenuated like the Dekoni's.

    These are just first impressions but so far I'm liking them. Bonus that the comfort is significantly improved over the stock pads.
     
  18. PoochZag

    PoochZag The Shadow knows - Friend

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    I'm looking for a pair that gives the Utopia a small bass boost but leaves the forwardness of the upper mids (and mostly everything else) untouched. Would you describe these as that?

    Based on @cskippy excellent post below, I just bought clear pads. Really liking the bass but the upper mids are just missing that little extra zing that makes the stock Utopia pads so great. Also bought new stock as mine are 3+ years old and wanted to see what fresh was like, kinda regretting it now as I didn't know about the ZMF's and $$$ :/

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/focal-utopia-pad-rolling.6327/
     
  19. crenca

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    I'm going to give a tentative yes. Tentative because I have only been listening now for an hour or so while I work and need more time with diverse tracks, but yea the sins of commission of the Dekoni's that jump out at you immediately (bass boost that bleeds too much into the mids, upper mid/treble fuckery) are absent here, just a pleasant bass boast and extra comfort.
     
  20. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    My 2c on the clip, listening via the Utopias. I believe I am picking up the hardness on the note attack that you're referring to (around the aaah-ahahah-ahah or sometimes at the ends of notes). It does seem centered around the left channel in the opening vocalizations, so that makes me think it's mic overload, which can happen on those quick transitions or exhales that move the diaphragm out of the linear zone. So fair to say that much is on the recording, or it's something the compression algorithm is artifacting. The other hint is that the lower-toned male vocalists panned on the left channel seem to exhibit the same "grain" so it's not tone dependent.

    FWIW, my tubes lean warm and that is what I would consider a very slight grain in an otherwise very enjoyable recording. If you're that much on the edge you may wish to demo before you drop the dough.
     
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