Focal's best gets better
There are few product names in the world of audio that carry the gravitas of the word "Utopia." It's come to symbolize ultra-premium Focal performance in car stereo, home loudspeakers, and certainly audiophile headphones. Since their debut, the Focal Utopia headphones have remained a favorite among personal audio aficionados. Now, Focal has updated the Utopia's look and made some savvy tweaks to their high-performance beryllium drivers.
The Focal Utopia wired open-back headphones offer a striking first impression.
I had a chance to give them a try and can report that the changes — while not radical — are indeed improvements. The headphones feel lighter on the head and can perform optimally with an even wider range of headphone amps. But they still offer much of what I know and love from the original Utopias — in other words, one of the finest headphone experiences available.
There's a certain "wow" factor to unboxing the Utopias. They are packaged appropriately for this class of headphones, each layer with a textured, keepsake-worthy feel. The headphones themselves sat inside a form-fitting zippered case.
I removed them to find that familiar Focal design motif — they were shaped just like the original Utopias, as well as the Clear MGs
, and Stellia
headphones. All sport an identical frame, built from lightweight, premium materials — in this case lightweight, yet sturdy carbon. (In a refreshing touch, this time around Focal uses recycled carbon.) Other striking design updates include a deep black chrome ring replacing silver on the original, and a splash of red beneath the outward facing driver grille.
High-grade drivers with beryllium under the hood
Like the drivers inside the original Utopia headphones, this update features domes made of pure beryllium. Focal drivers are known for their fast attack, and it's hard to find a material that's as light and rigid as beryllium. It can start and stop quickly to deliver lifelike, textured dynamics — perhaps the first sound characteristic you notice when slipping on these special 'phones.
Focal redesigned the inward-facing grille to match the shape of the drivers for better-controlled airflow.
Focal formed the beryllium foil into their now-famous, patent-pending "M"-shaped diaphragm domes. This special design gives the drivers a more fluid movement, which greatly reduces distortion and phase problems. You get incredible sound that spreads across a wide frequency range.
Top-notch sound dampening
Beryllium also has strong damping characteristics, which cuts down on reverberation and sound colorization that can especially muddy the midrange. I found that vocals, guitars, and other sounds in that area were very distinct and well-defined.
New voice coils for extended highs
Focal updated the voice coils for a few reasons, including more detailed and accurate highs. It's hard for me to believe you could get any more resolving than the original Utopias — if so, it was certainly beyond what I can hear at those upper frequencies. But that might be the point.
With stiff drivers like the ones in the Utopia, Focal stays mindful of the frequencies beyond human hearing. These new voice coils help ensure there is no distortion that can cause harshness in those upper frequencies. Focal builds the coils out of copper and aluminum to keep them durable and reliable over time.
Fashionable and functional
Focal premium headphones are always as pleasant to wear as they are easy on the eyes. This is by design. Focal uses the same shape, frame, and general make-up for all of their high-end models. A few years back we studied headphone comfort and asked Crutchfield employees to test the fit and feel of more than 50 models. Focal dominated the list of "Audiophile headphones."
The Utopias are large and heavy-duty for sure, but the weight is nicely distributed. Focal lined the thick ear pads and headband with soft, breathable lambskin leather. And the large, sturdy earcups are held together by smooth-sliding aluminum headphone yokes that helps keep the fit secure, yet relaxed.
refreshed design with new look, lighter materials, and upgrades to beryllium-based drivers
over-the-ear and open-back for reduced resonance and spacious, natural sound
40mm dynamic drivers made of high-grade materials like strong, lightweight beryllium
- specially designed "M-shaped" pure beryllium domes help reproduce a wide frequency range
- durable copper/aluminum voice coils ensure consistent movement and accurate performance
designed, developed, and assembled by hand in Saint-Etienne, France
drivers positioned in open-back headphone chamber to help emulate the sound of loudspeakers
- M-shaped grille follows the shape of driver for more fluid air flow
leather-lined headband and meshed leather ear pads
- 20mm memory foam padding on the headband and earcups
forged carbon headband yokes slide comfortably and sturdily into place
2 detachable oxygen-free copper cables:
- 10-foot cable with balanced XLR4 connector
- 3.9-foot cable with unbalanced 3.5mm stereo plug
each cable features two shielded Lemo® locking connectors for secure, high-quality connection
1/4" adapter included
rigid, form-fitting storage case with padded interior
frequency response: 5-50,000 Hz
sensitivity: 104 dB
impedance: 80 ohms
17.3 ounces (without cable)
warranty: 5 years