Below are some original impressions I had saved on my computer, written on the day I returned to test the Focal Utopia at “The Headphone Bar” In Vancouver BC, Canada. It was an enlightening session, and I did end up purchasing the Utopia! Great Headphones, though not without their faults. I have not edited these impressions below, and they are about 1.5 years old. Some of my thoughts have changed a bit since then, regarding the Utopia. However, I wanted to share these impressions as they were originally written. I hope to obtain a pair for review to go deeper into their strengths and weaknesses, but until then, here are some quick thoughts 🙂
The Quick Impressions
“I went to my local headphone shop this morning to give the Focal Utopia another test listen. The last time I tried them was right around their release, about 7 months ago. I listened for longer this morning than I did last time, with a wider variety of music. Overall impressions? Very positive. I enjoyed them more than I remembered.
The first thing I would like to mention is the comfort of the headphones. They are so, so comfortable. This is a tiny detail, and it might not be intentional, but I really did notice it and the extra comfort it brought to the table. The ear pads are sumptuous, not too thick, and not too thin. One thing I made sure to test was the creak test of the carbon fibre yolks. This pair didn’t creak at all! I tried everything I could think of to get them to creak, and they were dead silent. This was a pleasant surprise, given what I have read and heard in Tyll’s video review. The headband sits comfortably right over the middle of the head (at least it did on my head, your head may be different I suppose) and the length of the yolks/earpieces is adjusted very easily. Although it is a heavier headphone than some, I am used to the LCD-4 and Abyss, so I really didn’t notice the weight at all. Maybe I have a strong neck.
The build quality of the Utopia is fantastic. I said this in my initial impressions, and I still think so. Beautiful carbon fibre, leather, and metal. It feels very solid in the hands, and on your head. Again, no creaking at all. I suppose this is dependant on the pair? Or perhaps it goes away with use? I really don’t know. The stock cable is overly long, but seemed to be well built and durable.
Now, onto how they sound. As this was a longer test with a wider variety of music, my impressions may have changed a little bit.
Bass: I tried them initially in total stock tuning, with no EQ applied. I am a bit of a basshead, so I did find it a little bit lacking in the low end. However, after applying a bit of low end EQ, I really found the headphones transformed to my liking. The tight, fast and accurate bass was still present, but there was more of it. More sub bass and rumble. I thought the Utopias were not for me originally, but this session may have changed my opinion. After a bit of EQ application, there was more than enough bass for me. Punchy and direct, the Utopias bass was very satisfying, especially in comparison to the HD800S.
Mids: The mids were as I remembered them. They are not lush and warm like the LCD-4, there is a clarity present that you don’t get with the Audezes. I tend to favour warmer and dark sound signatures, but I did really enjoy the Utopias mids. They aren’t scooped out sounding, and aren’t overbearing. I found they just sat right where they should, and sounded very cohesive.
Treble: Very good. No sibilance that I could notice. There is a beautiful clarity and naturalness to the Treble of the Utopias. It isn’t harsh, but it is very present. It is just really good and smooth sounding.
Soundstage: I am a fan of a big soundstage, which the Utopias don’t have. They are a more closed in sounding headphone. However, compared to my initial listening session months ago, the depth of the soundstage surprised me. Instruments seemed to layer within the soundstage very well. I think I need another listen to really get a handle on the soundstage of the Utopias, as it isn’t big like I usually prefer. Could I live with it? After my initial listen, I didn’t think I could. After today……I think I really might be able to.
Imaging: Pin point precision. Everything is where it should be. You can pick out each instrument easily.
The Utopias were a delight to listen to this morning. They really did impress me more than they did on the first go round months ago. The slight boost of the low end with EQ brought a fullness to the body of the headphones that I hadn’t heard before. They are a very nice neutral sounding headphone. I didn’t find them bright, or dark, or warm, or cold. They just sort of sit in the middle of all those descriptions. I enjoyed the soundstage a lot more than I did on the initial listen, to the point where I could see myself selling stuff to be able to own these headphones. The build quality is impressive, and the construction materials are even more so. All in all, if you can get your hands on a pair of Utopias to give them a listen, go for it. They may not be for you, but I think you will find at least one thing you like about them.”