Focal Clear headphones Lab Report

In broad brush terms the Clear performs a lot like its siblings, the Elear [HFN Apr ’17] and Utopia [HFN Feb ’17]. In respect of sensitivity, bass extension, distortion and frequency response it is part of the family rather than a loner. But there are detail differences, of course. All three headphones have a sensitivity that’s a little lower than typical today, but account for this by having somewhat higher impedance. The Clear has the lowest minimum impedance of the three and also the lowest sensitivity, but 59.2ohm is still high for a medium-impedance headphone and 112.8dB SPL for 1V sufficiently generous for very high sound pressure levels to be achieved with most worthy partnering devices. Still, the Clear manifestly has significantly lower current sensitivity than either the Elear or Utopia.


Unequalised responses (L/R, grey/red; ave. 3rd-octave, black) show an extended bass and an unexaggerated presence. Note peaks at 6-8kHz


Third-octave freq. resp. (red = Harman corrected; cyan = FF corrected; green = DF corrected)

Because of the large range of the Clear’s impedance, which tops out at 320ohm at the 51Hz bass resonance, frequency response modification due to the finite source impedance of a partnering headphone preamp is higher than normal at 1.09dB for a 10ohm source and 2.78dB for 30ohm – enough to cause perceptible changes in tonal balance. Talking of which, the Clear’s uncorrected frequency responses [Graph 1] show, in common with the Elear and Utopia, an extended bass coupled with less ‘peaking’ at 2-3kHz than is conventionally considered necessary to achieve a neutral perceived tonal balance.

Not pictured here, the CSD waterfall shows the peaks at about 6kHz and 8kHz on the response trace are associated with (driver) resonances. The third-octave corrected responses [see Graph 2] show only a mild rise in the upper bass but the expected trough the presence band. The 100Hz peak is a little less than the Elear’s, a little more than the Utopia’s, and the presence band shelf-down splits that of the other models too, being larger than the Utopia’s but less pronounced than the Elear’s, particularly at 4-5kHz. KH

Sensitivity (SPL at 1kHz for 1Vrms input): 112.8dB
Impedance modulus min/max (20Hz-20kHz): 59.2ohm @ 1.1kHz / 320ohm @ 51Hz
Capsule matching (40Hz-10kHz): ±6.3dB
LF extension (–6dB ref. 200Hz): <20Hz
Distortion 100Hz/1kHz (for 90dB SPL): 0.1% / <0.1%
Weight (inc cable and 0.25in connector): 492g
Price: £1399

Supplied by: Focal-JMlab UK Ltd, Salisbury
0845 660 2680