God-Tier Headphones? | Focal Utopia Review

hi everyone welcome to headphone.ph youtube 
channel today we’re going to be reviewing an  
ultra high-end summit phi headphone in 
focal utopia let’s get right into it
utopia needs no introduction this headphone was 
released sometime in 2016 and initially retailed  
for a whopping four thousand dollars they updated 
it last year by adding the same set of accessories  
as the focal clear and increase the price at 4 400 
dollars so this is definitely not for the faint  
of heart locally here in the philippines it’s 
available for over 200 000 pesos and is available  
on egghead audio hub as a foreground headphone 
let’s just say that it’s built like a four grand  
headphone or at least close to it lambskin leather 
ear pads and headband padding carbon fiber yolks  
here uh you get a metal mostly metal construction 
with some cleverly placed plastic trimmings here  
and overall this is a really well built 
headphone i would say everything feels  
nice in the hand and there’s that solid heft 
and solidity because this is a heavy headphone  
at 500 grams when the headphone first came out 
there was a report of squeaking in the build  
overall build of the headphone i wouldn’t say i 
i’m experiencing the same like i can hear some  
wiggling but it’s not

as uh as noisy as some of 
the videos that i’ve seen while the build quality  
of this headphone is fantastic i still wouldn’t 
say it’s as rigid as like a like odyssey headphone  
so if you hold it in one hand it you know jiggles 
quite a bit and uh it’s it’s not as like tank like  
built as say the odyssey lcd line aesthetically i 
like the look of the headphone it’s definitely not  
the muted understated type of look it’s a little 
on the splashier type of design but i still like  
it i don’t think it’s going overboard or it’s too 
much i i think it’s appropriately designed for a  
headphone of this price so the newer version of 
utopia from last year has more accessories than  
the initial release so it comes with three cables 
one of them is a balanced cable the other two is a  
single-ended cable and it also has the gorgeous uh 
carry case that was first introduced in the full  
calculator headphones and the specific unit that i 
have was the initial version so it only came with  
a very long uh single-ended cable so the cable 
of this one is uh it’s not your standard 3.5  
millimeter or mini xlr it’s in limo connector so 
uh aftermarket cables are naturally more expensive  
because it’s not a well-known type of termination 
comfort is great if you’re used to heavy  
headphones so i i said in the full calculator 
review that if you’re coming from a closed  
back portable headphone this is going to be too 
heavy initially but for me or if you’re used to  
a full-size headphone then this 
shouldn’t be that uncomfortable  
so the lambskin leather uh ear pads and headband 
padding are luxurious and definitely provides that  
nice comfort despite the uh heavy weight of 
this headphone this is how the headphone looks  
when worn um i would say that the 
headphone despite being heavy is  
evenly the weight is evenly placed on your head 
the padding at the top is ample and i i’m not  
really feeling any discomfort even after uh some 
long listening using this headphone uh the cable  
that i have the long one unfortunately adds 
up to the weight so if you have the long cable  
uh you may need to like roll it and place it on 
on top of your table so that it doesn’t tug the  
headphone that much being an open headphone the 
focal utopia leaks sound and i find that it leaks  
even more sound than the focal player so 
if you are in in an office and uh you’re  
listening to your favorite tracks definitely 
your co-workers can hear what you’re listening to  
now before talking about the focal utopia sound i 
want to share my source and amplification so that  
there’s proper context for the evaluation of the 
sound of this headphone personally i feel it’s not  
correct to make an evaluation of the headphone 
without really stating the gear and components  
used for the review so it’s definitely going to 
be unfair if someone makes a review of the utopia  
and say you know the utopia is a bright headphone 
but then it’s just plugged straight into a phone  
i also feel it’s helpful for viewers to know the 
source being used and the amplification because  
not everyone can afford like high-end setups and 
so if someone discloses they’re using this type  
of amp the user can easily triangulate from there 
and make their own conclusion on how the headphone  
will sound for their own setup having said that 
the sole dock that was used for this review is  
the [ __ ] modius which is a balanced dac i have 
a handful of amplifiers that i tested with this  
one initially the [ __ ] magne 3 plus which is 
an entry level amplifier the monoprice dhx887  
the head amp gsx mini and uh the [ __ ] ragnarok 
one so my evaluations are gonna be based off all  
those amplifiers i’m going to generalize it a 
little bit but i will make sure to point it out  
if some amplifier is has a distinct characteristic 
that was that is important to the headphone okay  
so the focal utopia is a very similar sounding 
headphone to the focal clears so if you look  
at the frequency response graph there are some 
minor changes really but as a whole the utopia  
is a less bassy and slightly brighter headphone at 
least totally and i think this is the reason why  
uh some people have favored the significantly 
cheaper clear over the utopia headphone there  
will be some quick sound comparisons with the full 
calculator throughout this review but there will  
be a separate video where i go into detail 
about the differences of those headphones so  
make sure to stay tuned for that so if i would 
summarize the tonal balance of the focal utopia  
i would say this is a neutral warm and bright 
headphone which is kind of unusual because usually  
warm and bright doesn’t really coexist but i’m 
going to explain why by going through each of the  
aspects of the sound so for the bass the utopia 
has an okay extension so it has a drooping  
like response so the sub bass is lower in level 
it extends into the sub bass area but just  
lowering level unlike some of the other competing 
headphones such as the lcd line despite that the  
bass punch and slam of the utopia just like the 
clear is exceptional so this is a very punchy and  
dynamic headphone and it more than makes up for 
the lack of elevation in the sub-bass area the  
bass transitions nicely to the mid-range with very 
little uh bleed and bloat i would say that the  
uh if you really want that extra thump in the 
base you can easily just eq the 100 hertz uh  
part of the response boost it by three to four db 
and you should get that increased bass response uh  
one thing that’s worth mentioning as well is that 
the base scales up with better gears so with the  
magni 3 it’s very the base was very anemic it 
did improve with the thx 887 and it improved  
further with the gsx mini maybe not so much 
the actual quantity but more of the dynamism of  
that part of the spectrum the mid-range is my 
favorite part of the frequency for the utopia  
it is quite even and behaved and you know there 
is some elevation in the upper mid range which  
some people don’t like but to me the the 
distinct quality of the mid-range of the  
utopia is that it’s liquid sounding liquidity is 
something that is associated with being smooth  
and resolving and that’s definitely something 
that i’ve you know felt with with the utopia  
in comparison to clear the clear has a a good 
mid range but it doesn’t have that same refined  
element in the utopia where the vocals the uh 
piano tones and guitar strums sound just magical  
for lack of a better word i would say the clear is 
still warmer uh comparing the two but the overall  
resolution of the mid-range of the utopia is on a 
whole nother level the treble is where i i’d say  
the preference kicks in so going from the slightly 
accentuated uh upper mid range the lower treble  
and just the treble frequency of the utopia in 
general is also a little elevated and slightly in  
slightly has more quantity than the focal clear 
the interesting thing though with its slightly  
elevated treble is that it maintains clarity 
and smoothness all throughout so nothing here  
sounds uh fatiguing or harsh or sibilant so 
the focal player i also like the trouble of  
the focal clear it’s uh has lesser quantity 
than the utopia but where the utopia excels  
is just in the overall refinement and resolution 
of the textures of the treble frequencies so so  
with the clear it’s not something that i that i 
noticed right away but some of the uh areas around  
the five to seven kilohertz area of the the focal 
clear is a little grainy now in comparison to what  
the utopia provides and overall the utopia 
just has a much you know glassier smoother  
texture to it than the like uh more of the grunge 
of the focal clear now don’t get me wrong the  
focal clear is a warm headphone and it’s still not 
i wouldn’t even call it bright still but just the  
textural differences between the two headphones is 
noticeable soundstage is typical focal headphone  
soundstage so it’s it’s uh not wide uh but it’s 
a precise sound stage it boils down to like the  
experience that you’re trying to get so you know 
the utopia gives you a headphone experience like  
you wear you wear it you listen to the music 
you know you’re listening to a headphone whereas  
some of the wider sound stages of the aria 
in the h800s gives you something that is more  
wide and and spacious if you’re coming from a 
closed headphone or an entry-level open-back  
headphone say these sennheiser hd600 the width 
of the sound stage of the utopia is still better  
and the imaging is still much much better it 
even benefits from a good uh synergy with your  
uh sources and amplification so with the [ __ ] 
magni 3 it’s the sound stage is very flat uh but  
i find that it increased as i went from the magni 
3 to the hx 887 and to the uh gsx mini where it’s  
a little more spacious a little more there’s this 
blacker background as they as they call it and  
overall it’s just a much more pleasant experience 
also the beauty of a not so wide sound stage is  
that the imaging is also easier to control so 
a lot of times we see headphones that have a  
wide or deep sound but then it doesn’t really 
transition well um so like that’s where you get  
the three blob effect we’re in like uh far left 
center and far right kind of thing whereas with  
the utopia it’s it the pa the panning of the 
instrument is precise and that you’re easily  
able to really distinguish the individual 
lines of the instruments uh within that small  
uh stage the utopia also has the best speed and 
transients of all the headphones that i’ve tried  
so obviously like i i don’t have access to a lot 
of high-end headphones so naturally this one would  
blow me away i recall listening to stacks 
some years ago and that one has a very  
like fast and zippy fuzzy sound but i 
can’t really like compare from memory so  
uh so for me like the utopia has exceptional speed 
and transient response and and it easily plays uh  
like busy passages of your music or um anything 
that has like a lot in the mix it’s easily able to  
like uh reveal the lower level information without 
throwing off the whole presentation so the utopia  
is not a hard to drive headphone it’s just 80 
ohms so if you have a an entry-level amplifier or  
even if you have a cable that converts a 
quarter inch to 3.5 millimeters you’ll be able  
to like play plenty loud from a portable device 
however this headphone is a summit phi headphone  
and scales well so my experience with the gsx mini 
has opened my eyes about the potential of this  
headphone with the gsx mini it really just took it 
to another level when comparing it to the hx887 so  
the gsx mini is a class am uh it’s a solid state 
amp which means you’re not going to get that  
that matching warmth of the tubes that most 
people prefer with the utopia but i find that it  
rounded some of the rougher uh like sharper 
edges of the the presentation of the utopia  
while also adding that nice depth and dynamics 
in the uh in the base and mids area just like  
any other summify headphones you know the utopia 
gets unlocked some more with better upstream gear  
and matching so that’s definitely something to 
keep in mind with this headphone so the utopia  
responds well to eq and there are many eq profiles 
out there that you can try there’s one from audio  
science review and there’s another from an audio 
engineer named oratory both of the eq’s are great  
and you can just tune it by ear personally there’s 
two key areas where you you know i see people  
making adjustments in this via equalization 
the first one is the sub base area where this  
is slightly lacking in quantity and the other is 
the treble frequencies were specifically the upper  
the lower treble and even maybe even the upper 
mid range where you may want to like reduce it  
down a little but overall even without eq and if 
i’m using it through a good like amplifiers like  
the gsx mini and the ragnarok i find that it is 
an enjoyable listening experience so i definitely  
enjoyed my time with the focal utopia and it gave 
me a pleasurable listening experience going back  
to uh cheaper headphones immediately gives me that 
inferior experience as well overall the utopia  
is a dynamic punchy fast crispy but still musical 
sounding headphone it’s forward in aggressive but  
still relaxing because of its overall liquidity 
and smooth sound just like every headphone it  
has its own set of flaws small stage slightly 
bright tonality lacking low quantity in the low  
bass and some people those qualities are not 
forgivable for a flagship headphone especially  
one that costs four thousand dollars i said it 
when i reviewed the clear and i’ll say it again  
when you go past the thousand dollar uh headphone 
everything becomes poor value so it all becomes  
about your love for the hobby and your willingness 
to uh put up with the flaws of the headphones in  
exchange for the benefits that you’re getting the 
good thing is the sound character of the utopia  
makes it easy for you to decide you value dynamism 
detail retrieval and musicality then the utopia  
is something that you like on the other hand if 
you want that large stage that enhances imaging  
capabilities deep and big bass and less of that 
treble quantity then the utopia is not for you  
if you ever decide you want to splurge in getting 
the utopia make sure to also set aside or save up  
for the rest after all the utopia is a flagship 
headphone which means it demands a flagship  
amplification and source and more importantly 
matching is important when getting a headphone  
uh this of this type if you have something 
modest like say a built-in dac and a 99 dollar  
amplifier like the shipmag3 that i mentioned 
then the focal clear or elex might be a better  
match but if you are looking to upgrade those at 
some point the dyotopia is definitely worthy of  
a look all right that’s about it for the review 
of the focal utopia i’d love to hear your thoughts  
about this insanely expensive headphone if you 
ever own one or have listened to it previously  
thumbs up the video if you liked it subscribe 
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headphone.ph for the text version of this review 
i’ll catch you on the next one bye for now

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