New Focal Headphones - Any Naim Involvement in Design? Any impressions?

I've moved to a primarily headphone based system due to 2 young children under the age of 2 in my home and the need for a quiet environment around the house.  I had planned to move up to the Sennheiser HD800 S as one of my pending upgrades, but just heard about newly released statement Focal headphones, the Elear and Utopia.

Has anyone around here heard these yet, especially in the context of a Naim system?  Do you know what, if any, involvement Naim products might have had in the design?  Does the Utopia design mean a SuperNAHA is just around the corner?

So far the most I've found is a press photo for the Elear with a DAC-V1 in the background...

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I read about them on head hifi and watched the interview with the  engenier he did not mentioned naim at all, Hd800 is  the VFM headphone these days due to price hike of flagship headphones, I remember when it is first launched everybody was talking about its price, naim is not a very popular brand in head hifi unfortunately I can say the same about focal but with this move it may chance a little

Elenar seems to be a good option with more fun sound and decent price tag while utopia seems like a luxury item with a more detailed SQ and exotic materials, Elenar is on my "why not list"

They are both easy to drive with good looks.

I love naim brand, sound,looks and quality. It has been 15 years from my first kit, I changed 3 sets also I am a headphone guy, altough I bought everything naim in my stereo system from cd players to phono stages I never liked the headline very much there always been better options in the market for can heads unfortunately,  I was very hopefully with dac v1 but passed that as well so I will be very happy to see a Naim headphone amp/dac like moon audio 430ha

 

FWIW - I find it interesting that $4K HPs are being developed and sold with 32Ω impedance. Sign of the times maybe? I guess everyone assumes high end HPs will also work on their smartphone, although I have to wonder about the VFM discrepancy there. Maybe it makes demoing easier.

I'm starting to read some very promising reviews of these on other forums, especially complimenting their musicality and neutrality (things that often don't go together).  It also seems more of these are making their way into the wild with more dealers and and early adopters receiving stock.  Has anyone on this forum (who also has an appreciation for the Naim sound) had a chance to listen?  

Unfortunately, I have not found anyone local to me who plans to stock these...

Did anyone on the forum get a chance to hear these last weekend at the London CanJam?  I heard one of the amp pairings available was with the DAC-V1 and the few reports I've read have been positive.  Anyone with more of a Naim mindset heard them and have a view?

Hi Guys,

We are just about to dash off to the National Audio show to run the headphone department and I managed to get a pair of Elear's and Utopia's from Focal to take to the show even though they are not quite available yet, I have had a good listen to both  and I have to say that that both pairs really do raise the benchmark on what is possible at both price points, I would even go as far to say that the Utopia's could be the most complete headphone I have listened to yet with a very natural balance across the whole frequency, I am seriously thinking about moving on my Stax SR-009's to replace with the Utopia's.

I have just heard from Naim though that the Utopia's are going up in price from £3250 to £3400 from the 21st September but to be fair they are worth every penny.

Cheers,

Paul.

Paul@HiFi Lounge posted:

Hi Guys,

We are just about to dash off to the National Audio show to run the headphone department and I managed to get a pair of Elear's and Utopia's from Focal to take to the show even though they are not quite available yet, I have had a good listen to both  and I have to say that that both pairs really do raise the benchmark on what is possible at both price points, I would even go as far to say that the Utopia's could be the most complete headphone I have listened to yet with a very natural balance across the whole frequency, I am seriously thinking about moving on my Stax SR-009's to replace with the Utopia's.

I have just heard from Naim though that the Utopia's are going up in price from £3250 to £3400 from the 21st September but to be fair they are worth every penny.

Cheers,

Paul.

Thanks for the information, Paul.  Would you mind to elaborate on any synergy with the Utopia and Elear and either the HeadLine or the DAC-V1?  Even in the US, where these launched, it has been difficult to find a dealer that also carries Naim and can comment on the combinations.  I would be very interested in your feedback.  Thanks in advance.

How's the comfort? To me that's the main thing. You can have the best sounding headphones on the planet, but if they don't feel right on the head, then they just become a nice looking object next to the hifi. Be sure to buy where one can return. Also, to the op, depending on how much and when you listen, you might want to consider budgeting in a pair of both open and closed headphones. I know I can't listen to my HD700's when the rest of the family is around. The bleed drives my wife crazy. Something to think about. FWIW, the HD700's I have sound brilliant on the DAC V1, and are the most comfortable I found other than the 800's (and wasn't going there). 

I listened to the focal headphones at a naim event at Basically sound - I don't recall the model name but they were the .c£3k ones and c£700 ones both were beautifully made and sounded fantastic - think they were played through naim DAC - if high quality headphones are in your mind I would definately demo them. 

Gary

ps comfortable too. 

I actually find, having tried both, the 700s are more comfortable and lighter than the 800s. The 700 have a more analogue presentation  than the over analytical, unforgiven 800s. Personal preference apart, whichever one chooses, they are some of the best cans on the planet. 

Sorry for the delay in replying guys, been busy trying to catch up after an extremely busy Headzone area which we run at NAS this weekend, the Focal Elears and Utopia's along with the MrSpeakers Ether Flow's were most definitely the stars of the show with nothing but universal praise for all 3 pairs.

Unfortunately I haven't had time to try either of the Focal's on a DAC-V1 or Headline at the moment, that will be my next job, for the time being I have been using a Chord DAVE on the Utopia's and a TT on the Elears and there is certainly a great synergy there.

As for comfort, when the Utopia's first came in last week I went round to our headphone shop for a quick listen and 4 hours later I had to drag myself away without the slightest sign of any discomfort, both the Elears and Utopia's are among the most comfortable headphones currently available.

To be fair both are quite difficult to criticise really.

Paul@HiFi Lounge posted:

 

I have just heard from Naim though that the Utopia's are going up in price from £3250 to £3400 from the 21st September but to be fair they are worth every penny.

Cheers,

Paul.

In my humble opinion not even real speakers should cost that lot cash

Talking headphones its quite silly, for 1/10'th the price or lower, one can get very good cans allready

However I wish you luck in selling these, there will allways be customers to silly priced audio, just thinking Super Lumina

Paul@HiFi Lounge posted:

Hi Guys,

We are just about to dash off to the National Audio show to run the headphone department and I managed to get a pair of Elear's and Utopia's from Focal to take to the show even though they are not quite available yet, I have had a good listen to both  and I have to say that that both pairs really do raise the benchmark on what is possible at both price points, I would even go as far to say that the Utopia's could be the most complete headphone I have listened to yet with a very natural balance across the whole frequency, I am seriously thinking about moving on my Stax SR-009's to replace with the Utopia's.

I have just heard from Naim though that the Utopia's are going up in price from £3250 to £3400 from the 21st September but to be fair they are worth every penny.

Cheers,

Paul.

That'll be £400 for the headphones and £3,000 for the grocer's apostrophe then. 

It's all relative I suppose. £3,400 for a pair of headphones sounds crazy, but when you compare it to two din to XLR leads for £3,000 it doesn't seem so bad. As you say, Emre, it's a different world, and once you compare it to the real world things get interesting, or morally indefensible from your point of view. A bit of wire, or feeding a family for a year  - it's a place that's hard to go. 

For me its perfectly ok for those who are in position to purchase at such prices

I am however sceptical if those cans claim to play that much better than say some Sennheiser, Beyer's or AKG's at 1/10'th price

Mind you a good matching amp cost a lot less but may be more expensive in manufacture, just guessing

Whats next ?

Statement headphoneamp $$$

Hungryhalibut posted:

It's all relative I suppose. £3,400 for a pair of headphones sounds crazy, but when you compare it to two din to XLR leads for £3,000 it doesn't seem so bad. As you say, Emre, it's a different world, and once you compare it to the real world things get interesting, or morally indefensible from your point of view. A bit of wire, or feeding a family for a year  - it's a place that's hard to go. 

and thats true for any other normal crowd but not for this forum kind of crowd  

Thanks to a local friend who has been away on vacation for the last week I have had my hands on the Focal Elear and Sennheiser HD800 S.  The Elears had about 150 hours on them and the Sennheisers had many more hours than that when I got them, so both a fairly well broken in.

The conclusion first: the hype around the Elears seems well-founded.  These will be my next headphones.  They appear to be a game changer in the sub-$1000 headphone market (and slightly above).

The sound of the Elears are very close to that of my Ovators - excellent PRAT, very good midrange, more than sufficient and very deep bass.  The 800S still has a little more clarity and much wider soundstage, but just is missing the fun factor compared to the Elears.  If I was mastering an album I might choose the Sennheisers, but for any other use I would clearly pick the Elear.

Potentially the greatest value of the Elear is how easy it is to drive.  They sound excellent with the HL/NAPSC combo, whereas the HD650 (my current cans) and the 800S needed the HCDR to come alive and really were almost unlistenable without it.  Adding the HCDR with the Elear almost seemed unnecessary in comparison and I think many people could happily live without it.  I imagine the Elear would perform phenomenally well with the DACV1, as well.

Now if I can only get my hands on the Utopia... 

Tried both the Elear's and the HD800s at the weekend, to my probably age restricted hearing, I thought the HD800s were the better across the board after 1-2 hrs auditioning.

And by far the more comfortable, the Elear's becoming distinctly noticeable after 10-15 mins listening.

But, that could of course have been my head in both respects .

KR, J

BTW the HD800s impressed me enough to make a purchase 

Dr_J posted:

Tried both the Elear's and the HD800s at the weekend, to my probably age restricted hearing, I thought the HD800s were the better across the board after 1-2 hrs auditioning.

And by far the more comfortable, the Elear's becoming distinctly noticeable after 10-15 mins listening.

But, that could of course have been my head in both respects .

KR, J

BTW the HD800s impressed me enough to make a purchase 

Fair enough.  I thought the 800 S was a great headphone, but needed the HCDR & Powerline on the HL just to be listenable and still was quite "clinical" sounding, especially in comparison to the Elear.  I felt it was a very hifi sounding headphone, but just didn't get to the heart of the music like the Elear did.  As I said, my prior reference is the HD650 and I preferred it (shortcomings, flaws and all) to the HD800 years ago and to the 800S now.  To me the Elear sounds like an HD650 with deeper, cleaner, punchier bass & slightly less grainy treble, better soundstage and imaging and substantially easier to drive.  If Sennheiser were to create a reference with the HD650 sound signature I feel the Elear is it.  I've logged about 10-12 hours on the Elear in the past week and had minimal comfort issues.

What headphone amp were you using?

HD800 are hard to drive where Elear is quite the opposite. You need something more adequate for HD800 to be at its best, powerful but warm sounding amp, where Elear is a joy with everything even with 272 headphone amp...

So it is not only the headphones but the match.... For Dac v-1 Elear or Fostex 610/900 are best matches in my humble opinion..

try to use other amplification than naim, i dont know if the new focal headphones were developed with naim headphone amplification, headline, dacv1...i have hd 650 and with dac v1 isn't briliant, you hear something but not all.  when used with dedicated headphone amp that's something else.

Adi Stefan posted:

try to use other amplification than naim, i dont know if the new focal headphones were developed with naim headphone amplification, headline, dacv1...i have hd 650 and with dac v1 isn't briliant, you hear something but not all.  when used with dedicated headphone amp that's something else.

Nothing wrong with Naim amplification, especially the Headline with a NAPSC, HCDR or SCDR.  The DAC-V1 is no slouch, either, but not to the same standard as the HL, in my experience.  However, the headphone amps built into the SU, SN, SN2 & 272 (those are the ones I personally have tried) all fall flat with high impedance headphones.  As Adi said, "you hear something but not all".

Since my original post I've spoken with a Focal NA rep and the flagship Focal dealer in the US.  Both said that the Headline & DAC-V1, among others, were used in the development and voicing.  I would believe it.  I will find it difficult to return the Elears after this week.  The holidays can't come soon enough for me.  If I don't find Elears under the tree I will be very disappointed.

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