Review: Focal Clear Headphones Offer Enrtry Point to Audio Luxury

FOCAL Clear Headphones

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Every audio product manufactured by Focal is aimed specifically at the highest levels of consumer luxury. Every speaker, component and set of headphones coming out of this French company is worthy of the top spot of the audio market.

The Focal Clear headphones stand one step above the bottom of the company’s price tree at $1,490. They’re designed for use with consumer audio sources for at-home or mobile enjoyment, and they look to work with that audio at a level of performance that rivals at similar price points or below can’t match.


The Focal Clear are “open back” engineered. For the uninitiated, open back means the headphones let air pass through the device’s ear cups to the speaker audio components. In open back constructions, air pressure doesn’t build up and change the incoming/outgoing sound, thus limiting echoes and other interference. That sort of assembly also makes the Focal Clear’s a little cooler on the head than some over-ear products.


What We Liked about the Focal Clear:

Anyone will love the sound quality of the Focal Clear. They come packed with a full-range speaker driver and an aluminum/magnesium dome shape. They’re engineered to act essentially as high-fidelity loudspeakers you clamp to your head, offering an audio sensitivity rating of 104 dB and a frequency response of five to 28k Hz.

FOCAL Clear Headphones FOCAL

Most Interesting Feature: A Friendship with the Focal Arche

While the Focal Clear have plenty going for them on their own, their marriage to another piece of Focal hardware brings out even more performance. The Focal Arche is an enhancer for Focal’s headphones, combining a digital-analog converter and two amplification modes designed especially for over-ear devices.

At $2,499, Arche settles in between digital music sources and audiophile headphones. The enhancer offers presets for every set of Focal High-Fidelity headphones — making its marriage with the Clear a special audio relationship.

While it’s true that the Arche doesn’t really “improve” Focal headphones, it matches itself to them – utilizing impedance optimization circuitry. It does not change the overall sound quality of the Clear units, but it improves the interaction between them and a digital music sources such as mp3 or streaming service.


What We Didn’t Like about the Focal Clear:

It’s disappointing to be predictable, but — like many mid-range audio consumers — we wish the Focal Clear were a bit more affordable. They come close to dropping below the four-figure mark, but still defiantly hang $500 above that mark. In the end, we suppose it just means a true audiophile might have to stash away a bit more money to move into uptown audio.


The Verdict: If you’ve got the lettuce, make this salad.

There are no technological or performance issues that would discourage anyone from buying a set of Focal Clear over-ear headphones. They sound tremendously good and anyone with a fully functional set of ears will love tucking said aural organs into the cups of the Focal Clear.

Designed more for personal use than professional monitoring, they match up very well with portable and streaming music sources. If you’ve got the resources at the moment, and consider yourself a true audiophile, there’s no smarter purchase.


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