by Kevin OBrien on October 7th 2017


Today was the second day of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the new gear on display and our focus was on Focal's newly released Clear headphones. What exactly does this latest creation from France include and what makes this new model different from Elear? Given the similar price point to their established Elear model headphone ($1000 MSRP), it was key to find out if the extra $500 was going to be worth it for the upgrade. 

At $1500 MSRP, the Clear sits above the Elear but is no where near the price of admission of the Utopia at $4000 MSRP. Setting the price at $1500 is important. Getting this hobby back where pricing should be is a good thing for all of us as recent street prices for models from various manufacturers has sky rocketed. It is important to get as many people into the game as possible and the Clear is doing just that. 

Is the Clear just another Elear but with a different finish? We found out the Clear comes with 3 different cables. Inside the packaging you'll find one short 4ft single ended cable with an 1/8" stereo jack, and two longer 10ft cables. One 10ft cable sports a 4-pin balanced connector and the other a single ended 1/4" stereo jack. This is nice. Focal is listening to feedback from customers who don't want a 13 foot cable. The balanced and single ended options give the listener flexibility and allows the Clear to be mated to almost any amplifier on the market.

As far as sound quality goes, the Clear steps up the midrange and treble information and keeps the bass response of the Elear but hits with slightly more punch. Clear does just what its name entails. It reminded us of a clearer, more detailed, and more refined version of the Elear. We went back and forth between the Clear and Elear models listening to the same test tracks and the Clear was definitely our preferred headphone. We also spent considerable time with the Clear and the Utopia. The Clear is about 80% of what the Utopia can offer as far as detail retrieval, air between instruments, and overall soundstage but with a better bass response. It appears the driver compliment used to bring out the reference presentation of the midrange and treble in Utopia does not do as well in the lower regions. The Clear was the winner when comparing the low end of the frequency response. Can the Clear touch the overall presentation of the Utopia? Nope. However, it positions itself right where it should be in the Focal over-ear line-up and pretty much makes the Elear obsolete. For $1500 MSRP, we think a lot of folks will want to bring a pair home, especially after comparing to Focal's reference, the Utopia.

Impedance for the new Clear has been set at 55 Ohms and sensitivity comes in at 104 dB. This allows Clear to be used with a wider variety of devices. Clear implements the same type of driver that Elear uses but with a new copper voice coil inside the driver. This updated voice coil along with an upgraded ear pad provides a more refined sound. Is the asking price justified in this case? We feel it is, especially when you realize what Clear includes that Elear does not. The Clear comes with both balanced and single ended options as well as a slick, hard shell portable carrying case. The Elear does not include either of these options. Focal has done a great job of listening to end user and dealer feedback. It's going to be a hard decision for me personally to try to justify the Utopia's cost when such a great performer can be had for such a comparatively small investment.

We suspect demand will be high for Clear based on what we've shared above. If you're wondering when Clear will be available, that's a good question. The very first batches of Clear are slated to be available on the 17th of November 2017. Once production ramps up, more pairs of clear should roll out but supply will be very limited. Focal states they will be as fair as possible by allocating an equal number of Clear to each dealer that wants them but with all products that are in high demand, it's going to be tough to get your hands on them. 


Thanks for reading.

- YFS Review Team